Everyone has a different reason to fall head over heels for France. The great food, the wine, the long history, culture, museums, chateaux and gateaux, the friendly people, the language. The list is long and it’s different for everyone.
Joanna Leggett, Marketing Director of Leggett Immobillier lives in Dordogne and has lived in France for around 20 years. We asked her what she loves most about France…
‘Since the very first time I crossed the Channel as a teenager, I’ve always loved France. Now I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else! I could write a book about my favourite things – I may yet – in the meantime, here’s my top 20!’
Landscapes and long meals…
1. Luscious, open sweeping landscapes, breath-taking scented fields of Lavender in Provence; field upon field of sunflowers in the Charente; magnificent lakes below the French Alps.
2. Long relaxed summer meals in the garden as the sun goes down – or seated around long tables beside a large open fire at lunchtime in the winter.
3. The joy of dining in France is taking the time to talk as well as eat.
4. It’s also about adopting the idea of living to eat, not eating to live. The French eat smaller courses, then sit and digest properly.
5. Expanding my culinary repertoire! Neighbours have promised to show me how to prepare Foie Gras following a long discussion about exactly how many minutes it should be cooked à vapeur!
Paris and chateaux…
6. I adore Paris – it’s a compact city to get around and just so beautiful. I love visiting its food and flower markets discovering new things around every corner.
7. The glorious ocean beaches of the South West Atlantic coast. My absolute favourite is St. Jean-de-Cap-Ferret, a beautiful bay opposite Arcachon not far from Bordeaux – Arcachon, of course, is famed for oysters!
8. While on the subject of seafood, the sheer joy of sharing a freshly caught plateau of Fruits de Mer while overlooking the sea in a quaint old port in Brittany – heaven!
9. The beautiful gardens everywhere in France – my favourite time is May when gardens are full of an early summer bloom and heady with the scent of roses.
10. Beautiful buildings, châteaux with fairy-tale pointed towers, ancient churches, old golden stone houses – mine dates back to the 13th century – the joy of opening bedroom curtains in the morning to look over a sea of ancient russet-coloured tiled roofs.
Dogs and travel…
11. The French love dogs, each time I take mine for a walk around my village, someone always stops to talk. As I pass, I hear classical music from one house, and wonderful cooking smells from another! It takes dog walking to a whole new level!
12. Ease of travel – the great roads (few potholes!). And by TGV it takes just two hours from my local station in South West France to Paris.
13. The French are incredibly polite and always greet you with a handshake or ‘bises’ (kiss on the cheek), just how many depends on which part of the country you live in!
14. The beautiful light – especially in Provence – no wonder the Impressionists loved to paint there!
15. Discovering regional foods and dishes – so many to try, so little time!
Wine tasting and ballet…
16. Wine tasting with friends in Saint-Émilion, especially with someone who knows good wine!
17. Feasting on the ballet in Bordeaux, shopping in the Chartreuse, browsing antique shops and then choosing between fabulous restaurants for lunch.
18. Visiting brocantes, finding all sorts of wonders from tables and chairs to armoires, beautiful old carved beds and things to upcycle.
19. I love the changing seasons, watching the migration of the cranes (Grus) which fly right over my garden.
20. And finally, coming home to my lovely ancient house and my garden – my parents, loved my home from the moment they first visited, for me it’s a love affair which continues!