Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Where to go in France for fabulous food;a great village


Abra
 Share

Recommended Posts

I agree with everyone regarding the Alsace region.

We based in Ammerschwihr, in a gite there, for two weeks.

No one spoke English, and they were very surprised that an "American couple" stayed for so long. Their experience, if they have any Americans visiting at all, is that they only stay one night in the region. Beautiful area, lots of wine, and great restaurants. The Germans drive over on the weekends, fill their trunks up with wines from Alsace, and drive back to Germany....

Sete, a small island south of Montpellier, was also neat recently. Great local oysters and seafood, quaint island with some good restaurants. A few local wines too. Although it is an island on the Med Sea, and you said you don't want to be on the water.

We stayed in Nolay, in a valley just outside of Beaune. We joked that it always rained in Nolay, even if it was sunny in Beaune. Pretty little village. Lots of pretty villages around there. And, good restaurants. Chalon Sur Saone, good market town near there.

Philly Francophiles

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Lots of interesting suggestions. I have spent extended periods of time in Alsace, Champagne, Brittany, the Loire and Provence. I have to say that, without any hesitation, I would choose Provence. It is not hard to find a lovely village that is not too touristed. And if you're spending a whole year, you will find that even the most touristy of villages are quite empty of foreigners for 8 months of the year. I love the Luberon (I know it's rather cliche), and there are so many beautiful villages. If I had a year to spend in France I would look for a village house in Cucuron. This is a working village with lots of services, beautiful surroundings and lovely weather (Like Abra, I am from the Pacific Northwest, so I love the idea of an area with little precipitation) Some other villages in the area that I think are ideal are Saignon, Cadenet, Vaugines, Ansouis, Tour d'Aigues. I would happily pack up my family for a year and unpack in any one of these villages. I am also intrigued by Haute Provence. Forcalquier or Banon sound like great choices. We are heading to the Luberon for the month of July, I can't wait.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ahright, since we're brainstorming; altho' I've already written about it, there's a little known island off Noirmoutier/Fromentine (I know, you've had it with water, but this is special) called the ile d'Yeu, where there are fewer than 1000 folk, was the tuna fishing fleet base, thus great fish, and has not only wonderful farm(ed) products (haricots verts, chevre, oysters) but great coasts (rugged South, beachy northeast) and is so small one can (with one's children and grandchildren) easily bike around it and, and, and a refugee from Paris's resto scene Nicolas Vagnon whose new place is great. Talk about heaven.

John Talbott

blog John Talbott's Paris

Link to comment
Share on other sites

As has been discussed elsewhere, French Markets can be a mixed bag, with small local farmers often obscured by larger commercial enterprises that buy produce from a wholesaler or the many stalls selling bootleg African pop music, provencal "hancrafts" and so on.

What you just described is a popular French market.

They're all over the country. You just have to be careful about the Provençal handicrafts but basically it's at those markets that you will find the best stuff. It will take some picking and browsing, but that's what market shopping is about, and those markets are where the locals shop.

I'd be suspicious of a provincial market that wouldn't have the bootleg African music, cheap clothes and acrylic blouses, hardware and knives, roast chickens, cut-price china stalls, with all the interesting stalls mixed in, and would put on an "authentic" or "artisanal" look (I am not mentioning the "marchés biologiques" which are a different matter), for that one would be more likely to be the tourist trap. And, as has also been discussed elsewhere, not all stalls at markets have to be owned by producers. Stuff bought from local wholesalers can be perfectly decent.

I love every kind of French market -- the only point I was making is that in a market like Isle Sur la Sorge (where I bought a nice pair of shorts but passed on the CDs), it can be harder to zero in on the local growers with the best cherries and melons among the zillions of other stalls surrounding them.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Ile d'Yeu sound like a heavenly vacation spot, but I think we'd want a bit livelier place.

So much depends on my being able to locate, from afar, a suitable and available place to live. So far I have possibilities in Cognac, Saignon, Uzes, and Terrasson. If you were coming to dinner at my house (and i hope you will!) in one of those towns, where would we eat best, meaning the best food in the most beautiful surroundings?

Edited by Abra (log)
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Abra,

I am not familiar with all the towns that you've mentioned, but I do know Uzes and Saignon. You would be able to eat exceptionally well in either of those places. Uzes is more of a town, where Saignon is a quiet hill top village. Saignon is not too far from the most amazing farmers market at Velleron. It opens in the evening and farmers come and sell produce that they have grown and picked themselves. The quality, freshness and passion for their product is amazing. Have you checked out a site called slowtravel (www.slowtrav.com). This is a great, well informed community of people, not unlike egullet, where you could get a wealth of information and it also lists rentals. I have found that many people who have vacation rentals are very willing to negotiate a good price if you are willing to stay for an extended period. Many would rather have their house occupied at a cheaper rate for twelve months, than at an inflated rate for 3 months.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wow! I see lots & lots of good advice here. Must be difficult to choose a place.

For what its worth I would remind everyone that visiting some place is not at all the same as living there. Great vacation spots don't necessarily work well for all seasons. If you are to be somewhere for a year your criteria are somewhat different. The day to day practicalities of life loom a bit larger. Let's face it we don't go out to top of the line restaurants every day.

So, my advice is to pay quite a bit of attention to the basics of living. ( does that charming village house have central heating? Is there a good hot water system? Is the house a year round place or some body's summer holiday home?) Other than a few obvious spots you will find good food, markets and charm all over France. Its hard to go wrong.

I've stated my preference for the South West, but there are plenty of other areas that are almost as nice.

Keep having fun with this. When are you actually planning to come?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't resist putting in a plug for Najac, a substantial village that's hiking distance from Dave's domicile in Aveyron. The photo tour on their rather antiquated website will give you some idea of what it looks like. There are no great shops, no great restaurants, it's tortuous to get to by car--but all these negatives mean that it's not overrun with tourists and the sleazy enterprises that corrupt a village's ambiance and bleed the punters dry.

Michael Raffael, describing the village perché Saorge, used the perfect descriptive phrase which I would apply to Najac, though it doesn't do justice to the ruined castle: "no special places of interest worth visiting except for the place itself".

John Whiting, London

Whitings Writings

Top Google/MSN hit for Paris Bistros

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I can't resist putting in a plug for Najac, a substantial village that's hiking distance from Dave's domicile in Aveyron. The photo tour on their rather antiquated website will give you some idea of what it looks like. There are no great shops, no great restaurants, it's tortuous to get to by car--but all these negatives mean that it's not overrun with tourists and the sleazy enterprises that corrupt a village's ambiance and bleed the punters dry. 

Michael Raffael, describing the village perché Saorge, used the perfect descriptive phrase which I would apply to Najac, though it doesn't do justice to the ruined castle: "no special places of interest worth visiting except for the place itself".

John - Good suggestion. Najac is pretty special. Although no great restaurants the 2007 Red book gives two of the local eateries a Bib Gourmand rating, not bad for a small place. We happen to like the local pizza place which serves not only good pizzas, but all the traditional local dishes.

The bakery is very good & Villefranche de Rouergue is not far away for heavy duty shopping. There is also a small, but nice market during the summer months. Can't remember which day, perhaps Saturday.

PS: You flatter my hiking abilities, but Najac is only about 15 kn. The problem is the series of steep hills in-between us.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agreed on Najac - a lovely little town, perched on the spine of a hill. We had lunch at L'Oustal del Barry when we visited last year. Lunch was decent and reasonably priced, spoilt only by the four brits sat at the next table who did not understand a word of french, even though one couple had had a holiday home there for the best part of 10 years... :hmmm:

We're heading back to Gaillac for a week's hols in July (third time in three years - as this suggests, we really like the area), to be followed by a stint in the Pyrenees. Really looking forward to it. :smile:

Philip

PS

Edinburgh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Agreed on Najac - a lovely little town, perched on the spine of a hill. We had lunch at L'Oustal del Barry when we visited last year. Lunch was decent and reasonably priced, spoilt only by the four brits sat at the next table who did not understand a word of french, even though one couple had had a holiday home there for the best part of 10 years...  :hmmm:

We're heading back to Gaillac for a week's hols in July (third time in three years - as this suggests, we really like the area), to be followed by a stint in the Pyrenees. Really looking forward to it. :smile:

Philip

L'Oustal del Berry is the other place that got the Bib Gourmand from Michelin this year. They've been very up & down over the past few years, but are up now. Let's hope the chef stays!

Whilst around Gaillac you could do worse than having a meal at Chateau Salettes. New chef there who is pretty with it.

Have fun!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I've had great fun reading through this thread -- while not an entire year like Abra is doing (and I have to apologize that I never read the original thread, Abra, that explains why/how you are going for an entire year), I am looking at a six-week stay this late fall; October and November. Right now, the BF and I are really up in the air -- between France and Italy. He is fluent in French and I have spoken the language in 25 years so I will need to start from scratch. He wants to learn Italian and that would be a "from scratch" language for me.

We also have the consideration of a cat. We know we can bring a cat to Italy, but how about France?

I've been perusing sites like those below and just have too much to choose from!

HomeAway.com

interhome.us

Rentvillas.com

luxuryrentals.com

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can bring cats to France, and in fact, we are agonizing about doing just that. Seems like a lot of hassle for 6 weeks, though. And there actually is no explanation for why we're planning a year in France other than "because we can." I know, lame excuse!

Will whoever has an opinion about Cordes sur Ciel be so kind as to express it here. There's a very interesting opportunity there.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

You can bring cats to France, and in fact, we are agonizing about doing just that.  Seems like a lot of hassle for 6 weeks, though.  And there actually is no explanation for why we're planning a year in France other than "because we can."  I know, lame excuse!

Will whoever has an opinion about Cordes sur Ciel be so kind as to express it here.  There's a very interesting opportunity there.

Thank you, Abra! For a year, I would definitely bring along my cat. Six weeks we are debating (and probably will not -- my little guy has been with me 15+ years and is getting on in age).

Actually, since my initial post (what - three, four hours ago?) we decided on Avignon and have already e-mailed a few inquiries regarding apartments there for the entire month of October. We are considering book-ending a week on either side for traveling elsewhere in Europe.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Will whoever has an opinion about Cordes sur Ciel be so kind as to express it here.  There's a very interesting opportunity there.

As you know we live about 1/2 hour from Cordes. It is truly an enchanting place. The views are stupendous, there are interesting shops, several decent restaurants as well as one one star.

The good!

Beautiful & very lively and full of tourists in the summer. Lots going on, a very good theatre season, a classic music festival and more. The weather is good and you are in reach of interesting places, Albi, Toulouse, Montauban, plus pretty villages.

The bad!

Winter is pretty dead. Most of the shops close for the winter & there just aren't a lot of people around. These medieval villages can be very cold & dank in winter.

The fact that Cordes is full of tourists in summer can be a pain, nowhere to park, everything crowded.

All in all though I can think of many worse places to spend a year. Use winter to do lots of short breaks all over France. If the rental is good (I'm thinking mod cons as well as charm) it could well be worth a try.

Your cat would be no problem. We brought our 13 year old poodle over when we moved here 5 years ago. We flew him from Boston to Paris (this was after in incredible amount of training by my wife, but that's another story) and Air France couldn't have been nicer. He loved it here, especially being able to go to the restaurants with us. I'm sure it prolonged his life.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whilst around Gaillac you could do worse than having a meal at Chateau Salettes. New chef there who is pretty with it.

Have fun!

Thanks Dave

We has a very good meal at Chateau de Salettes last year and it's only ten minute from the gite we stay in, so I'm sure we'll give it a visit this time as well.

Cheers,

Philip

PS

Edinburgh

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Curious about your status on this, Abra. Have you further narrowed the field?

P.S. Can I stow away in your suitcase? :laugh:

John DePaula
formerly of DePaula Confections
Hand-crafted artisanal chocolates & gourmet confections - …Because Pleasure Matters…
--------------------
When asked “What are the secrets of good cooking? Escoffier replied, “There are three: butter, butter and butter.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, we've been doing a lot of planning and it looks like it's really going to happen! The big hangup has been that my husband takes an experimental cancer drug being trialed by Amgen, and we had to get them to say they'd let him switch to a French Amgen study. But on Friday they said they will, and so off we go.

The thing is, he'll have to go to Paris (Villejuif to be precise) once a month. That's kind of changed our thinking about places in the South, although not for certain. There is TGV, but it's still a longish trip from a place like Uzes, and expensive for two people to TGV once a month.

So right now I'm mounting a huge campaign to find a house in Burgundy - near to Paris, untouristy, and full of great food and wine, not to mention old medieval beauty. But because it's not so inhabited by ex-pats, furnished rental homes are harder to come by. I'll find one, though, maybe tomorrow.

And then we'll head on over, after we find someone to live in our house for a year and do a ton of organizing foo. We're starting to think that October is more realistic than September, but that's the timeframe. I am so excited!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Abra, when you're looking at Burgundy, check out the Morvan. It's a parc naturel, in the heart of Burgundy, with a very distinct landscape and beautiful old villages ,for instance, Autun. The cathedral in Autun is one of my favorite churches in the whole wide world.

We've been on vacation there a couple of times and found it quieter than the rest of Burgundy, possibly because there is no winegrowing going on - but ofcourse the winegrowing areas of Burgundy are never far away.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Abra, when you're looking at Burgundy, check out the Morvan. It's a parc naturel, in the heart of Burgundy, with a very distinct landscape and beautiful old villages ,for instance, Autun. The cathedral in Autun is one of my favorite churches in the whole wide world.

We've been on vacation there a couple of times and found it quieter than the rest of Burgundy, possibly because there is no winegrowing going on - but ofcourse the winegrowing areas of Burgundy are never far away.

I agree with Chufi. Autun is a nice place. Great Roman amphitheatre.

At least one nice restaurant that we sampled.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I like Beaune for many reasons.

It's the largest town outside of Dijon and it's pretty central to everything. There's a direct TGV from Paris, the A6 goes right by it, it's small enough that you can walk it and may not need a car all the time and you get the "country" feeling but big enough that there are almost always things going on and you shouldn't get too bored. The food and wine are amazing, the market makes me drool even now as I sit here in NYC, and the countryside beautiful.

I go several times a year on business and absolutely love it.

BUT...

Winter in Beaune is an exercise in utter stillness. It is dead in January/February, though I am sure if you have local contacts you shouldn't have any problems.

Houses are very cheap, I usually rent a place when I go. So far I've rented a duplex in the center of Beaune and a house on the road between Meursault and Monthelie.

Remember that if you're living in the countryside you will absolutely need a vehicle, there's not much public transportation that I know of.

I'm jealous!

Cheers! :cool:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...