Hello and welcome!
If you've landed here, it's probably for one of two reasons:
Either way, if you're a francophile, you're in the right place!
I've divided this introductory page into two main sections:
But before we get into the nitty-gritty, here's a pretty picture of Annecy, the city nearest to where I live.
To make things simple(r), Offbeat France is divided into several sections:
In case you're anxious to get started, I go into a bit more detail below.
Before I tell you stories about people and places in France, you have to get here.
That's why this site has plenty of travel tips about France and planning information on France travel.
Here is some of the practical stuff you'll want to know before you arrive:
And one that's at the heart of our visit: where should I go?
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?
There are two sorts of hidden gems: the unusual or offbeat stories behind the major landmarks, and offbeat places themselves.
France is full of surprises! Like...
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:
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.
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, it's time for another lovely photo, this time of lavender. Can't you just smell those rows?
Why should you believe a single word I say?
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 neighbors who know each other's 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.)
For example, in winter, my tiny mountain road can imprison me for days. But my farmer neighbor usually spots my predicament and trundles down with his tractor to clear a way for me.
And that's what neighbors are for!
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 whenever the cows and chickens become overwhelming.
The beauty of France is its diversity. It changes from village to village, and there is always something new to see. Or something odd. And that is good news, because it means the explorations will go on and on...
I mean it! I love hearing from you so don't be shy:
So many ways to stay in touch or ask questions! So... please do!