Janine Marsh: 30 things I love about life in France

Janine Marsh: 30 things I love about life in France

To celebrate Living France magazine’s 30th birthday, columnist Janine Marsh shares 30 things she loves about France, from pâtisserie and Paris to work-life balance

I first read Living France in 2004 after I bought my run down old shack in the Seven Valleys, Pas de Calais, on a whim. I needed to get clued up fast on the essentials – Living France has been with me all the way. So, to celebrate a happy 30th birthday, here are 30 things to love about life in France.

1. Café culture and people watching, it’s a way of life in France.

2. Croissants: flaky, buttery, sweet and soft, the perfect start to the day.

3. Cheese: Camembert, Brie, Comté, Epoisses, Munster, Tomme – even Vieux Boulogne, officially the smelliest cheese in the world.

4. Cakes that look like jewels and taste like heaven made by master craftsmen.

5. Eiffel Tower: meant to last for just 20 years, the 130-year-old Eiffel Tower is one of the most photographed sites in the world.

6. Wine: red, white, rosé and even yellow wine from the Jura region. There is a wine to suit all.

7. Banks where you get to speak to a real person.

8. I love that French bookshops are still going strong. Nothing wrong with buying books online but there’s something reassuring about seeing books on shelves.

9. Champagne, of course.

10. Crêpes: thin, sweet and crispy or savoury galettes from Brittany, what’s not to love?

11. Paris. As in point five.

12. Brocantes, vide-greniers, marchés aux puces: flea markets are a national obsession and a cultural connection for visitors.

13. Two-hour lunch breaks being normal!

14. French language: croquer la vie à pleines dents literally means ‘bite into life with all your teeth’ but really it means, ‘To embrace life to the fullest.’

15. Baguettes: Tucked under your arm, sticking out of a basket, nibbling the end, smothered with butter – a taste of France.

16. The French passion for heritage and deep-rooted support for the arts.

17. Christmas Eve dinner lasting until 5am.

18. Community spirit in country villages.

19. Work-life balance – key to the good life in France.

20. Street markets being a way of life, ensuring local producers are supported and people can buy fresh, seasonal, local produce.

21. Shops that close at lunchtime and on Sundays, and are not open all night long.

22. Bastille Day or le Quatorze Juillet as the French call it: fun, food and fireworks.

23. Politesse (politeness): saying bonjour when you walk into a shop, shaking hands with everyone in the local bar.

24. French philosophy: Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup. It means eat well, laugh often, love abundantly… I think we all agree with that then!

25. Supermarkets that have an aisle dedicated to local produce.

26. La mairie (town hall) – the one-stop shop for all your questions about life in your village or town.

27. Beautiful châteaux.

28. Architecture: Baroque, Hausmannian, Le Corbusier, Auguste Perrett, French Renaissance, Gothic, Romanesque, Gallo-Roman, Beaux Arts, Belle Epoque and more…

29. Family values.

30. French people. It can take a while to make French friends, but once you do, it’s for life.

Janine Marsh is the author The Good Life France and writes a column for Living France magazine


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