Everyone wants to see Paris and Provence...
But what about the sights the locals love? Little-visited departments and towns that are off the beaten path? The ones you may not have heard of?
Here at Offbeat France, I'd like to show you some of the places you might not have thought of.
As for France's favourite destinations and must-see landmarks, I'll cover those too, of course, but with a twist: I'll try to tell you the stories behind them.
Castles of the Loire, certainly! But did you know the steamy love stories that built them?
Museums, naturally – we are in France after all... but in addition to the Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay, there are hundreds of quirky or secret museums to discover.
Culture and food... wouldn't you like to know what we French really eat, or how to avoid the most common faux-pas?
Let me help make your France vacation memorable by unveiling sights and stories that will surprise you.
To make things simple(r), Offbeat France is divided into several sections:
My goal is to set you off on a journey of discovery: to places that people don't visit as often, foods that may be unfamiliar, or stories behind the stories you may not have heard before.
I hope to make you gaze in wonder, but also to laugh out loud because (contrary to popular belief) we DO have a (slight) sense of humour.
You may or may not appreciate mine, but you'll be subjected to it nonetheless.
Before I tell you stories about people and places, I have to get you here, and so this site has plenty of travel tips about France and planning information on France travel, enough to make sure you can navigate around without too much difficulty.
This is the practical stuff every visitor needs, at least in the early days, things like...
and so much more!
In other words, this section is the nitty gritty of travel.
Some of you may be smitten with French culture (come on, fess up, there's no shame in it!). Or you may be fascinated by the many kings called Louis and Henri and Charles we have scattered throughout time.
I too have survived the tedious recitation of dates and battles from my school days but history does not have to be like that at all. In fact, I'll prove it to you by bringing history alive through the places we visit:
We've mentioned the landmarks... but when it comes to going off the beaten path, France is full of surprises! Here are some delightful places to visit:
Are you a foodie? We French not only have particular table manners, but we have a hugely diverse culinary tradition. In fact, there are those who come to France just for the food!
We have a long tradition of handicrafts and manufacturing, of artistry in many fields. Not only do we build huge aircraft and overwhelming bridges, but we make delicious chocolate, craft fine jewellery and create high fashion. So yes, we like to make things, and showcase the French artisans who make all this happen. Like these:
Oh yes, I'm sure you've heard a lot about us or if you've been here before, you've probably had the chance to meet us in person.
We are a delightful people, n'est-ce-pas? No? Not always? Sometimes maybe?
Never mind, I understand, meeting your first French can be daunting but only for one reason: because we are unfamiliar and you do not know us.
What I love about my country is the abundance of lesser-known corners, filled with unexpected beauty and fascinating stories.
Did you know that...
These are just a few of the many stories I share with you here on Offbeat France.
I'd like to help you discover la France profonde, that deep France we all love once we stumble upon it.
I was born in Paris but spent most of my youth abroad. I returned in my thirties and have since had a home base on the edge of southeastern France, a stone's throw from the Swiss border. Mine is a rural area, typical of that deepest rural France, often forgotten even though it is this country's backbone (and has more cowbells than honking horns).
This is a France of rolling hills and cooperative tractors and of neighbours who know each others' business because, far from the government infrastructure, we often have to call on one another for help. (My nearest tiny country hospital is more than half an hour away, but for something serious I'd need to travel an hour or more.)
That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the city – on the contrary, I am absolutely a city girl! I love getting to my nearest town, Annecy (which many of us believe might be France's prettiest). Or to Paris, the city of my birth, whose mysteries continue to captivate me because each time I visit I feel like a tourist. Or to Lyon, which is just over an hour by train and where I go to get my urban fix when the cows get to be too much. Or any of these, among France's most beautiful...
France is a country of many secrets and of many regions (you can find an overview here), each different, each intensely appealing, and all of which we'll discover together.
You can do that in so many ways...
So many ways to stay in touch! So... please do!