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Our Favourite Things in France: Armchair Travel to the Hexagon

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe and many of us are in quarantine, we reached out to our contributors to share some of their France favourites. So that even if you’re stuck at home for the time being, you can dream about the Hexagon. What are some of your favourite places and things in France? Share in the comments section below.

Etretat

“How could one not be intrigued by the cliffs and sea of Etretat, after so many artists captured its spirit in so many different ways? In the off season especially, it is a small town that turns into a painting … inviting walks where you can lose yourself in the sunset colors or the morning mist … in the footsteps of past creative souls.”

Meredith Mullins [1] is an internationally exhibited fine art photographer and instructor based in Paris.

The Fast Trains, the Light

“The TGV and how fast and smooth the ride is. The excitement of getting on the train, the stations across Paris all having their own history and charm, but then alighting the train, one is whisked away so quickly. That steely, bright, harsh light of France (the cover of grey has always comforted me) above such varied landscape, from fields of neon colza flowers to small villages with stone farms and three cars in total.

Beaulieu-sur-Mer, where I was married, is my all time favourite place in France. From its open market in the town square, to the bay overlooking Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (a walkable distance), to looking back at Beaulieu from the beach, where soaring, rocky mountains meet the Mediterranean, it’s unsurpassably beautiful.”

Daisy de Plume [2] is the founder of THATMuse [3], which stands for Treasure Hunt at the Museum.

The beach at Collioure. Photo credit: Mary Nicklin

The Colours of Collioure

Near the French border with Spain, Collioure is like a colourful Henri Matisse canvas. In fact, this picturesque port town was a source of inspiration to the famous painter; it’s where the fauvism artistic movement originated. Edged by mountains and the Mediterranean, this corner of French Catalonia is simply magical.

Mary Winston Nicklin is the web editor of France Today.

The French Riviera

“Early mornings in Nice, listening to the sounds of the city waking up. The cries of seagulls. Metal shutters opening. Delivery trucks.

Rows upon rows of blue chairs. Waves lapping lazily on rocky beaches.

Deliciously fragrant air, rich with the scent of the sea, fishy and briny. Sounds of boats coming into the harbour of Villefranche-sur-mer. Fishermen’s nets, full of the day’s lunches and dinners that will be served in all the cafés by the port.

The French Riviera. Photo: Renata Haidle

Seafood salad at Loco Loco. Pizza from a roadside truck in Vence. The Tarte Tropézienne at Pâtisserie Palanque. The ubiquitous Salade Niçoise. Socca. Pan bagnat. 

A glass of Côtes du Rhône on the beach after dark.

The brocante market and all its treasures: old books, old shoes, silverware, porcelain, gilded mirrors, tea cups, dolls, doilies, illustrations. 

Colors of Provence. Glazed pottery in reds, oranges, purples, and yellows. Textiles, spices, preserves, calissons, olives, clumps of dried flowers, heart-shaped sachets of lavender everywhere.”

Renata Haidle [4] is a Billings, Montana-based travel, architecture, and fine art photographer. This is an excerpt from her book. [5]

The French Riviera. Photo: Renata Haidle

The Quality of Life

“The reasons why I moved to France are as relevant today as they were five years ago. Relaxing, chilling out, getting to see the beautiful countryside and villages. Nothing in Normandy is deemed urgent, which takes awhile to get used to but is in fact quite nice in comparison to the UK pace of life.

Take a seat in a café and simply people watch. For a real taste of France visit the smaller village markets, taste the local cheese before you buy. The museums of the D-Day landing beaches are certainly worth a visit, as is the picturesque town of Bayeux.”

Ray Jackson is part of the FrenchEntrée property team [6]

Monet’s garden. Photo: Sarah Fauvel

Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny

“I have been countless times to Monet’s gardens in Giverny. When I visit, it’s like entering a living painting of the great Master. The Japanese Bridge and the Water Lilies are undoubtedly imbued with the aura of the founder of Impressionism.”

Sarah Fauvel [7] hails from Rouen, Normandy and has developed communication and writing expertise in different fields over the course of her career.

The Delights of Deauville

“Established in 1875 on the Côte Fleurie in Normandy, Deauville is a chic resort town famed for its famous boardwalk, its horse culture and of course its colourful beach umbrellas. I always enjoy taking a long walk along the vast sandy beach at sunset to the sound of the rolling ocean and the whispering wind.”

Sarah Fauvel has a lifelong passion for photography, writing and travel.

Colourful umbrellas in Deauville. Photo: Sarah Fauvel

Open-Air Markets

“J’adore the local, open-air markets that you find in every part of France. Seeing the friendly faces, local produce and vibrant colours of the stalls as you walk past. Then popping off to a delicious side-walk café and people watching as the locals browse the markets.”

Malisa Kelly is digital marketing assistant at France Media Group.

Listening to the French Language

“One of my favorite things to do in France is to hear French spoken. And that is actually something we all CAN do right now! You can watch French films, listen to French news, or hear interesting discussions on radio stations like France Culture (and many others…) And you can read about France! Here is a link to some of my favorite books about France [8].”

Janet Hulstrand [9] is an editor, writer, and author of “Demystifying the French: How to Love Them, and Make Them Love You.” [10]

Rosé in the garden

“That first lazy afternoon in a French country garden, listening to chubby bees harvesting the lavender pollen. Preferably with a crisp rosé in hand.”

Elena Barnard is content manager at France Media Group.

People-watching at a Café

“The first thing I do when I land at a French airport, drive off the ferry on the “wrong” side of the road or step off the train at the Gare du Nord is think “YESS! OUI!” and then normally head straight for a café to order a drink and people watch… What do I love? The patisseries, boulangeries, frites, flowers, culture, a waft of smoke in the air, apéros, shop windows, cobblestone streets, and time for a little kir?”

Alison Joyce is Senior Media Consultant at France Media Group.

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