We have just returned from a picturesque week in Burgundy and Paris. This week was proof to me that it doesn't take long to fall in love with France. I seriously can't stop daydreaming about the memories we made. In my mind's eye, the moments stretch out extended and leisurely like the meals in Parisian restaurants. I feel like all my memories are glazed with a sparkle; maybe a glisten is the better word. France feels like a dream that I never want to forget. The dream is romantic and historic and idyllic.
So, for the sake of my own memories and in order to convince you to book a flight, I give you my top 5 reasons why you should visit France.
1. Quiet, Fairytale Villages
"Little town. It's a quiet village. Every day like the one before. Little town full of little people waking up to say...Bonjour!"
What girl doesn't want to feel like Belle every once in a while? I was worried that we would have to search long and hard to find the quaint beauty that I wanted to find in French towns, but, in fact, nearly every town we visited in Burgundy felt like something out of a storybook. And while I haven't spent time in many other regions, it's my understanding that this is true across France.
One of the reasons we chose Burgundy was for its peace and quiet and to have a distinctly different experience from tourist-heavy Paris. And we got just that. There were a few towns we visited where I could count on my two hands the number of other people we saw...and where we were the only Americans in earshot.
One day, we were walking up a little hill in Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. As we strolled past muted pastel houses covered in flowering vines, I said with a sigh "this is a moment I never want to forget."
Favorite small towns we visited:
- Beaune (a little bit larger town with every bit of small town charm)
- La Rochepot
2. Beautiful Food
Food is an art form in France. It's a beautiful, time-honored, highly regarded art form that you can taste and see. Every boulangerie (bakery), patisserie (pastry shop), cafe, and restaurant seems to take pride in not only the flavor but the presentation of their food.
We have visited Italy where food is also as much a part of the fabric of society as language, and the food was equally as delicious, but nothing compares to the beauty of French cuisine. I wanted to stop at every patisserie window and take a picture of the eclairs, tartes, and macarons lined up like little ballerinas ready for their debut.
I can hardly believe I'm saying it, but I wish I had eaten more eclairs.
French food favorites:
- Creme Brulee
- Chocolate Croissant
3. Leisurely Dining
"Dinner is not what you do in the evening before something else. Dinner is the evening." - Art Buchwald
There are many notes I think Americans ought to take from the Europeans, and the art of leisurely dining is one of them. One thing I loved about our France experience is that ordering a preset four-course menu creates a naturally long dining experience all in one price. Also, as is true in most European countries, waiters aren't paid by tips. American waiters have an incentive to make your meal shorter because the more tables they serve, the more tips they receive. It's not a fault but simply a reality. In France, it's considered rude to bring the check until you ask for it. They expect you to spend hours dining.
We ate several multi-course, 2.5 hour meals while we were in France. As the minutes turned to hours and each course was delivered to the table, I could feel the tension of life being released from my shoulders. There is time to reflect, to talk, to laugh, and to savor. It didn't hurt that we were on vacation and had our cell phone service turned off. We just enjoyed being served and having time together.
I've often thought that it's a shame in American restaurants that even when spending quite a bit of money on a nice meal, we are in and out in less than an hour and a half. When you visit France (or really any European country), take the time to savor your dining experience.
Favorite dining experiences on our trip:
- Pierre et Jean // Chagny, Burgundy
- La Place Royale // Le Marais, Paris
- Cafe Constant // Rue Cler, Paris
- Le Cafe de L'Odeon // Latin Quarter, Paris
4. Castles Everywhere
The french say "Chateau," but I can't help but say Castle when I see the dozens of elegant mansions that dot French landscapes. We didn't even visit the Loire Valley, which is known for its Chateaux, but we still saw our fair share of stunning "Castles." In fact, we even stayed in a Chateau turned Bed & Breakfast, the Chateau de Melin.
One of our trip highlights was a tour of the Chateau de la Rochepot along the Route des Grands Crus in Burgundy. We were the only tourists in the entire place, and my sister and I flitted around like Disney Princesses and climbed the tower to look out over the vineyard dotted landscape.
I'm proud to be an American, but it isn't too often that you see a castle on a U.S. roadtrip. Just sayin'...
5. Iconic History at Every Turn
I am a self-identified history nerd. Almost nothing grabs my attention quite so much as learning about an era of history that interests me. Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by the everyday lives of people in the past. I especially love European history because it has such a direct and integral tie to American history. Being in France (as with so many other places in Europe) makes me feel like I am walking through the pages of a beautiful, 3-D history book.
One thing I love about Paris specifically is the way that history is so beautifully integrated into modern life. Modern stores are built into historic buildings without losing the character of days gone by. Every flower box, iron balcony, and mansard style roof seems to evoke the past.
Paris is also the backdrop for so many movies and photos that walking past iconic sights like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre can't help but feel important.
There are so many more reasons to love France. So, what are you waiting for? Roundtrip tickets to Paris aren't hard to find for a steal. Save your pennies, book a flight, and immerse yourself in the magic of the French culture.