Even after 12 years spent living in France, I’m still thrilled to wake up every morning in this beautiful country. Over time, I’ve come to fully appreciate my adopted home, and each year brings with it new discoveries—whether it be trying new French dishes, a visit to an off-the-beaten-track village, or a chance to learn about a regional custom or tradition, there’s never a dull moment at our home in belle Provence.
Here’s a list of some of the things that I find absolutely fabulous about living here. Of course, the list keeps growing every year, and I hope to feel as excited as I do in the next 12 years to come:
1. Cheese, Cheese, and More Cheese.
How can you have a best of France list without mentioning cheese? I’m still amazed at the size of the cheese aisle—make that aisles—that seem to go on forever. I’ve dabbled in goat cheese, comté, and the soft cheeses of the Alpes, but have yet to settle on a favorite. They’re all pretty incredible and quite inexpensive compared to the prices we have back home.
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2. Hilltop Villages.
I’ve had friends visit from the States and we’ve taken them to several of our local hilltop villages. They almost couldn’t believe how pretty they were – as if we were on a Hollywood set and a perfect, fairytale, cobblestoned world had been created just for us. I’m reminded of what a special place it is.
3. The Smell of Fresh-Baked Bread on a Sunday Morning.
Walk through a village on a Sunday morning and catch the smell of fresh bread wafting from the local bakeries—no better form of advertisement, and it’s no wonder those bakeries have lines out the door.
4. Really Good, Cheap Wine.
Whether you buy it at your local winery or your local supermarket, you can get absolutely wonderful wine for a song. We like an organic (call bio in French) rosé that can be found at the supermarket for around $7—a real splurge in comparison to some French wines!
5. Everywhere is Beautiful.
Our travels around France have taken us to the Dijon region (and the small villages around Burgundy), to Annecy in the Haute-Savoie, Colmar in Alsace, Paris, the Lorraine, Corsica (an absolute dream!), Beaujolais, and of course, the south of France. I’ve yet to find an “ugly” corner of France. Quite the contrary, the country seems to be loaded with beautiful spots
6. Festivals of all Shapes and Sizes.
We love going to food festivals, wine festivals, arts festivals, you name it… And in France, festivals and food go hand-in-hand, so you can expect to find delicious eats wherever you go. At many of these events, you can get a 3-course meal with wine included for around €35 ($40).
7. French Pastries.
Thank goodness that some French pastries are a bit pricey, otherwise I think I could eat one every day. There are so many great pâtisseries to try in our area (like Béchard in Aix-en-Provence), but we especially love Matyasy—who makes a chocolate pastry with chocolate mousse, almond “cookie”, and a crunchy praline center. One bite and you’ll never want to leave!
There are some bumps and hiccups in the system, but you can’t beat the level of good, inexpensive, and modern care that you receive in France. As expats, we get access to the system after only two months of living in the country.
9. Fresh and Inexpensive Fruits and Vegetables.
This could go right at the top of the list for me. The quality of the fruits and vegetables in France, the ones you find at the outdoor markets, is exceptional. You might have to visit a few stands to find exactly what you’re looking for, but once you hit on the right one, it’s golden. It’s no wonder the French are in such good shape—with fruit so fresh and sweet, who needs dessert?
10. Having the Time to Cook Every Day.
This goes hand-in-hand with the fresh veggies, but also with the slow(er) pace of life – especially in the south of France. Even though I work full-time, I still have plenty of time to shop and cook every day and I find real pleasure in it… as I think most French people do.
11. French Cafés.
What a lovely lifestyle, to sit in an elegant French café and watch the world go by—over your favorite café, pastis, or glass of rosé.
12. Long, Weekend Lunches.
Spending half the day eating (and drinking a bit) in good company is one of the absolute joys of living in France.
13. Visiting Paris.
I really love living in Provence, but goodness, if it isn’t wonderful to take a trip to Paris for a few days. The museums, the cafes, the restaurants, shops, world-class monuments, even the really “touristy” things to do, Paris is the place to be. Given that France is quite the same size as Texas, it’s easy to visit the City of Light from wherever you decide to hang your hat.
14. The Tour de France
Even if you’re not a cycling fan, the Tour de France is one of the highlights of the year. Since the route always changes, you have the chance to see, from the comfort of your home, some of the most beautiful scenery from across the country.
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