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Offbeat France: Start Here!

This is your place for all the fascinating, titillating, beguiling stories and legends about the people and places that make up my country, France.

how to navigate this site

To make things simple(r), Offbeat France is divided into several sections:

  • the planning section: for all your practical needs, from transport to driving to accommodation and tipping - the nuts and bolts of your trip
  • the culture and history section: to feed your deepest curiosity about our past, who we are as a country and what made us this way (and why we try so hard to hang on to it all!)
  • the foodie section: to help you discover our delicious foods and inspiring drinks (well, what is France without its food? And wine?) 
  • the section about places: this divides France up into regions and départements and lists offbeat places to see and things to do.
  • the section about Ze French: yes, that's us, that's me. This is where you'll discover our foibles, how we (mis)behave, and whether we are truly as crazy as people say
  • the shopping section: this is where you'll find souvenirs and products to assuage your nostalgia for France or to extend your experience!

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.

And now, A LITTLE MORE detail about each section

Planning your trip to France

Before I tell you stories about people and places, I have to get you here, and so this site will have information about planning, enough to make sure you can navigate around without too much difficulty. As I mentioned above, you'll find more information about that on my planning page.

The culture vultures will love this section

Now 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 Louis and Henris 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.

This section will unveil our culture and history in ways you'll find entertaining – just as it should be, from Louis XIV to Napoleon through to the Belle Epoque, and everything else I'd like to share with you about our tremendous past.

France for the inveterate foodie

Are you a foodie? If you are, another important jumping off point for you is the entry point into my culinary section, because we French not only have strange table manners, but we eat weird things too. Yet nothing can match our French desserts and pastries, don't you think? If you're in Paris and looking for something offbeat, try one of the Paris bouillons, 19th century eateries with phenomenal Art Nouveau decor.

We like to make things

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, especially beautiful things or things that taste good.

And then there's US, ze French

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. Behind that abrupt façade lies a warm people with a big heart – so I'll show you how to get beyond those first impressions and start getting to know us.

Off the beaten path: France as you've never seen her before

What I love about MY country is the overflow 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. Of course I'll also talk about the better-known places, like the Left Bank or the Eiffel Tower or the lavender fields of Provence... but only a little bit, and about their unusual side whenever I find one.

lavender fields Senanque Abbey in ProvenceThe lavender fields around the Senanque Abbey in the Lubéron region may well be in the top 10 places to visit in France - but did you know that the abbey contains a fabulous library with a collection of books on Provence, French history, religious architecture and historical novels? It's a wonderful place to hide away and discover...

I'd like to help you discover la France profonde, that France we all love once we discover 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 France, often forgotten even though it provides this country's backbone (and with 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 for an hour or more.)

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the city – no, 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.

France is a country of many secrets and of many regions (a reminder that you can find a list here), each different, each intensely appealing, and all of which we'll discover together.

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