The smell of a just baked baguette, people watching and cakes. Everyone has their own ideas of what makes them fall in love with France. We asked Julia Girard-Gervois, French-born owner of TripUSA France who now lives in the US, to tell us about her favourite French things…
Since I moved from southern France to the US about 10 years ago, I realized that there are things that I miss a lot and that I love to get reacquainted with when I go back home. Some important ones, some more simple things or even very little details that trigger my memories and bring me joy when I think about France.
Outdoor summer wine festivals in Southern France where you enjoy delicious local wine almost for free (2 euros a glass or 10 euros for a bottle). Food trucks with traditional dishes or fresh seafood such as oysters and mussels along with live music while watching the sunset. Each town or village has its own wine fest, all on a different evening of the week, so that you could enjoy one every day for the entire summer. La belle vie!
Medieval cobblestone villages
Strolling through them reminds you how old the world is and how beautiful and peaceful life can be. At least nowadays… 700 years ago probably not as peaceful!
In the same concept as above, everywhere you go in France there is something old, sometimes very old! For example, I like to kayak down the Gardon river near Uzès. Each time I find it beyond belief to be able to paddle underneath a masterpiece of ancient architecture: the Pont du Gard, a 2000 years old aqueduct. Its major arch gap of 25 meters high (82 feet) makes it one of the largest aqueducts ever built by the Romans.
Shopping at the local markets
In my hometown in France, a farmer’s market is held twice a week. This is your chance to refill on fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, local cheese and charcuterie and maybe also some flowers. I love the proximity between the local producers and the customers, if you come regularly they will greet you by your name!
The work-to-live lifestyle (and not the opposite)
Most French people work 35 hours a week and have at least 5 weeks of paid vacation. This allows us to have a lot of free time to enjoy life as much as possible.
People watching at cafes
Sitting at a terraced café, on a busy street. All the tables and chairs are facing the street so you can watch in comfort. Sit, relax and enjoy the surroundings.
Eating meals together
We take this very seriously. Dinners at my parent’s house can last hours. Enjoy multiple courses and pauses during your meal while talking and being social with your family and/or friends. According to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) the French spend the most time eating and drinking with an average of 2h13m per meal!
The sound of the cicadas
The sh-sh-sh sound of the cicadas immediately reminds me of sunny summer days in Provence with friends. We play Petanque (French bocci), enjoy a Pastis (anise liquor) and grill under the warm dry sun of the South. Do you wonder what the French grill at barbecues or as we call it “grillades”? Merguez (lamb sausages), Chipolatas (pork sausages with herbs)… And Camembert (oh yes, cheese is always involved, and yes we grill it). Plus veggies like pepper and onions. We rarely grill burgers, and never hot dogs.
Affordable delicious wine
I spend an average of $6 per wine bottle for some delicious wine at the grocery store or local wine shop. You can spend more for a special occasion! Or even find some secret gems for less.
Freshly baked bread
It is part of our daily routine to walk to the nearby bakery to buy some freshly baked bread. I miss the smell of the warm bread filling the entire neighborhood and walking home with a baguette or two under my arm which I will be munching on until I get home.
Julia Girard-Gervois runs fabulous, authentic tours of southern France and Normandy at TripUSAFrance