From the Tourist’s Mouth: The Simple Pleasures of French Holidays
If you’ve never been to France and can’t imagine trading it for Spain or Greece as your summer holiday, then I’m going to go out on a limb and say you just haven’t quite been introduced properly. France is perhaps like one of those people in your office block, whom you notice and recognize but you’d feel weird waving at.
Well, no more. Today is the day you see France for what it is, a charming place where your holidays (outside of the vibrancy of Paris) are reduced back to simple and sorely missed factors.
You know, like spending time with people.
Or spending time with your own thoughts, away from your phone…
No, don’t be alarmed it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds.
As an avid France goer, I have stayed in many a rustic villa or cottage with my family and friends in some of the most rural areas of France. The kind of places where you can walk five miles and see no one but the odd cow or horse and when you do venture into those places that are technically ‘towns’, the most you’ll see is a handful of folk strolling around with bread ready for lunch or else sitting outside drinking coffee.
There isn’t a parade on every street corner nor a cinema just a mile away, you won’t find countless theme-parks and if you’re hoping for a kicking night scene you’ll be disappointed in most of the areas I’m talking about, places like Normandy, Pays-de-la-Loire, and Aquitaine.
But, as a twenty-something female who has travelled a great deal, I can honestly say I adore France, it’s given me some of my most memorable holidays and it's high time it got the recognition it deserves.
I know, I can feel the trepidation coming off you all in waves, well, bear with me as I show you four ways that France is the perfect place to reconnect with people and also with what holidays are actually about.
Meals around big French dining tables that are littered with five types of cheese, cold meats, and possibly one or two half-empty bottles of vino are some of the best meals I’ve had. Not just because French food is exquisite, but because it’s one of the rare times where lunches and dinners can last anywhere from two hours to four purely because you’re talking. Invariably of course conversations that start as thought-provoking and meaningful are reduced to nonsense such as ‘why do you never see teenage pigeons?’, but that’s neither here nor there, the fact is it’s truly enjoyable to just sit back and engage with each other in such a simple way.
Time seems to run a little slower out in the rural outskirts of France, time is set aside to sit together to eat properly, instead of the frantic scarfing we’re all too used to back home. And because you're sat down and taking time to eat you have time to actually talk to your fellow humans.
This can be a drawback of course if you come to the horrifying realisation that your particular set of humans are dull but that’s not a fault you can pin on France.
No, not Pacman or whatever the kids are doing nowadays, but proper games, like cards. Cards (at least for me and my lot) is the quintessential French game and if you aren’t sleeping, eating or preparing the next meal, you’re sipping some cold sauvignon and beating your opponent in the most brutal fashion possible. Because you know, that’s what bonding is all about.
Truly though, how often do you really get to play games with your family and friends? Even saying it sounds a little archaic right? There may well be some of your number that resist but if you can coax them to the table and get them playing whatever it might be, then you’ll likely find they become the most animated of the bunch.
Word of warning though, whatever you choose to play, DO NOT, no matter how dire, play Monopoly.
No one walks away from that unscathed.
Yes, yes, I know, it sounds so…plain. Like toast with just butter or a movie in black and white. But walking in the lovely French countryside for hours at a time is once again one of my favourite things to do. You stroll along with one or many of your number, once again engaging in either the big questions like where your life’s going or the much smaller ones like ‘what constitutes as good mould on cheese?’ and it’s just so peaceful. It can seem like you’re the only people left in the wonderful wilderness and when you eventually stumble back, pleasantly tired, you can have a bowl of cassoulet or a hearty salad and start dealing out the cards for the third time that day…
I know it’s not everyone’s hobby, but if you are a bit of a bookworm then you’ll love the quiet corners of France. Either lounging by the pool in the summer or curling up by the fire in the winter, the opportunity to start a new trilogy or revisit an old favourite is wonderful. It’s not that snatched reading you do on your lunch break or on the tube, it’s not the half-hearted delving where you realise you aren’t truly taking it in, it’s the proper sinking into another world where you realise hours have passed and you’ve barely moved.
It’s simple and fulfilling and you’ll find yourself talking about what you’re all reading at dinner, all equally as enthusiastic as each other.
These all sound easy, child's-play, things that can exist without the backdrop of France. And you’d be right in thinking that. Yet somehow, these simple things can get lost in fussier holidays and they sure as the sunrise can get lost in the day to day of life. Rural France doesn’t only lend itself to these simple pleasures, it also makes no apologies about it.
Whether you’re a family or a group of friends or a nice mix of both, France gives you the time and space to just find a little bit of inner-peace and a whole lot of fun with your nearest and dearest.
It also has fantastic wine so there’s always that too.
Fancy finding yourself in France? Who wouldn't right? Take a look at our fantastic range of chateaus, villas, and cottages and prepare for a holiday like no other.
Any personal stories about France? Any little nooks that are worth a mention? Drop us a comment we love to hear from you all.