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Offbeat France: Start Here!

Finding information about France online is incredibly easy. In fact, there's too much of it.

So why add to the existing mountain?

Because much of what you read is the same – reworked, rewritten, but often pretty much what you'll find anywhere else.

Here, I'd like to present you with something different. This is, after all, Offbeat France, not Well-Trodden France.

There's nothing wrong with Well-Trodden France, mind you. But you can find it easily on your own. 

That doesn't mean you won't run into anything you know. For example, I won't ban the words Eiffel Tower or Riviera, but I will look at them differently.

Instead of describing the French people, I'll ask, why do people think the French are so strange? Instead of telling you how to get to the Eiffel Tower, you'll get some mouthwatering tidbits about what you'll find when you get there.

Offbeat France is about anecdotes, about history and unexplored corners, about the obscure and the unexpected. It's about my doing that extra bit of homework for you. I should warn you though - we French have a very different sense of humour than many. We can be rude, offensive even, caustic and acerbic. That's just who we are, weird and quirky, pushy and proud, but basically as human as you are.

how to navigate this site

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

  • the planning section: this is where all the practical stuff goes, about transportation, places to stay, driving, tipping - the nuts and bolts of your trip
  • the culture and history section: this demonstrates one of my personal biases - I love history, I love what makes societies tick, both the why and how things happen
  • the foodie section: this is about how and what we eat and drink (well, what is France without its food? And wine?) 
  • the artisan section: this is where I showcase unusual traditions and workers, ancient arts that are dying or hand-made crafts that take superb skill
  • the section about Ze French: yes, that's us, that's me. This is where you'll read about who we are, how we (mis)behave, and whether we are truly as crazy as people say.

My goal is to set you off on a journey of discovery: to places 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 sense of humour. You may or may not appreciate mine, but you'll be subjected to it nonetheless.

I'm French, I live in France, and while I've traveled to nearly 100 countries, I continue to be amazed by the richness of my own back yard. Each time I think I know everything about a certain place or tradition, I discover something new.

And so, this site was born: to dig behind the obvious and go beyond the usual, in part to bring you into a France few foreigners know and in part to quench my own curiosity and thirst for knowledge.

Of course I'll also show you practical things, the detail of travel in France.

And I'll also show you (despite my better judgment) France's top 10, best, most famous, ultra-superb whatevers, but I plan to show them all to you in a new light: through their stories and histories (and a few spicy behind-the-scenes anecdotes because this being France, there's always something).

first, a few basics about what to see, Do, Eat and Experience in France

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 Henri and Charles we have scattered throughout our history. 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.

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.

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 facade 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.

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.

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

What I love about this country is the overflow of lesser-known corners filled with fascinating stories. Did you know that...

These are just a few of the many stories I'll be sharing with you over the coming months. Of course I'll also talk about the Left Bank and the Eiffel Tower and the lavender fields of Provence... also, yes, but not only.

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'm going to help you discover la France profonde.

I may have been born in Paris but I've spent the past 30 years on the edge of southeastern France, a stone's throw from the Swiss border. Mine is a rural area, typical of deepest France, often forgotten even though it provides this country's backbone.

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 half an hour away, but for something serious I'd need to travel for nearly an hour.)

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate the city – not at all, I am absolutely a city girl! I love getting to my nearest town, Annecy (which many of us believe might well be France's prettiest). Or to Paris, the city of my birth, whose mysteries continue to captivate me because I've never actually lived there.

France is a country of many secrets and of many regions (you can find a list here), each different, each intensely appealing.

My job will be to take you by the hand and help you unwrap it all.