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off the beaten path France: Start Here!

Hello and welcome!

If you've landed here, it's probably for one of two reasons:

  • you're planning a trip to France and are searching for ideas and answers
  • you're not planning a trip but you love France and you're thirsty for information

Either way, if you're a francophile, you're in the right place!

I've divided this introductory page into two main sections:

  1. Planning your trip to France: this is the 'how-to' information
  2. The offbeat side of France: this is about the people, lifestyles, offbeat places, culture, history, foods... the stories behind France.

But before we get into the nitty-gritty, here's a pretty picture of Annecy, the city nearest to where I live.

palais de lisle annecy

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

  • the planning section: for all your practical needs, from driving to weather to accommodation to itineraries - 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 section about places: this divides France up into regions and départements and lists offbeat places to see and things to do.

In case you're anxious to get started, I go into a bit more detail below.

Planning your trip to France

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?

Off the beaten path France

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?

The 'hidden gems' of France

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...

For culture vultures

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:

France for the inveterate foodie

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 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, and showcase the French artisans who make all this happen. Like these:

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 – and shed your stereotypes along the way.

What you'll find on this site

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?

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...

And finally, a bit about this site's owner, Moi

Why should you believe a single word I say?

Because:

  1. I'm French.
  2. I live in France.
  3. I'm passionate about my country.
  4. I spend every spare moment traveling, exploring, discovering.
  5. I shall smother you in meringue if you don't!

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...

Please stay in touch!

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!

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