Living in France truly is the good life defined. From Paris to the vine-covered countryside to the beaches on the Atlantic and the Mediterranean coasts, the lifestyle options on offer here are many and varied, but all your choices mean Old-World living at its best.
Foodies and wine lovers know that to live in France is to be at the center of the universe. Whether it’s paté de campagne and a rustic Beaujolais, grilled salmon with a rosé d’Anjou, or caviar and a fine champagne, the French are past masters at pairing wine with food. After all, they’ve been doing this since the Middle Ages.
France’s long and fascinating history can be found in every corner of the country. Dating back to the prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux, through the Roman and Frankish invasions, the royal house of the Bourbons and the reign of Napoleon, and up to the present, each era has left its mark here, in the cuisine, the architecture, the arts, and in fashion.
For the culturally minded, life in France is rich indeed. In Paris alone you can find over 130 museums, including the world-famous Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the National Museum of Modern Art at the Centre Pompidou. The number of galleries showcasing fresh, new works is truly bewildering, and since the days of the Renaissance, French philosophers, authors, and playwrights have enriched all our lives.
Living in Paris, with all its culture and charm, can be a very expensive proposition. That said, it’s also true that your cost of living can be hugely variable and highly controllable (in Paris and most anywhere else).
In Paris, you can live easily without a car, walking nearly anywhere you’d want to go. The butcher, the baker, the grocer, the wine shop, a half-dozen busy cafes, and as many lovely parks and gardens are all less than 15 minutes’ walk from almost any point in central Paris. And, when you want to venture beyond your quartier, the Metro will take you from restaurant to nightclub, from museum to cafe for around US$2.
Burgundy offers many attractive bargains if an old stone cottage in wine country is your vision of life in France.
The town of Dijon enjoys a lively atmosphere while avoiding the hassle, traffic jams, and the pollution usually associated with city centers. The Palais des Ducs et des Etats de Bourgogne is home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the market hall here is a wonder of glass and steel designed by Gustave Eiffel. If you enjoy shopping, food, culture and nightlife, Dijon has you covered.
The village of Carnac in Brittany is home to the seaside resort of Carnac-Plage, one of the most popular sites on this coast, with five beaches stretching for a total of nearly three kilometers. Saint-Colomban is a magnet for windsurfers and the area also offers a thalassotherapy center. (Thalassotherapy is a wellness regimen believed to have originated in Brittany utilizing sea water in hydrotherapy, seaweed wraps, and other applications.)
France correspondent Abby Gordon shares a snapshot of life in the Marais in Paris. Here’s a typical day…
7 a.m.: Wake up, stroll over to La Favourite on Rue de Rivoli to grab a cup of coffee, OJ, and a croissant, and catch up on my New York Times subscription via iPad and La Favourite’s super-speed Wi-Fi.
Or, if the weather’s nice, maybe I grab a croissant at Aux Désirs de Manon on Rue Saint-Antoine and take advantage of the free Wi-Fi in Square Georges Cain on Rue Payenne.
8:30 a.m.: Head over to the public pool at Saint-Merri for a swim. Don’t forget, speedos (not shorts) are obligatory for men, and bathing caps are obligatory for all.
10 a.m.: Stop by BHV (the Bazaar de l’Hôtel de Ville Department Store) on Rue de Rivoli to buy lightbulbs, batteries, and other DIY items from their Home Depot-esque basement.
11 a.m.: Depending on the season and what’s on, maybe take in a museum, an art gallery, or a photo exhibit.
12:30 p.m.: The French eat lunch at exactly 1 p.m., so I try to beat the crowds and grab a table at one of my favorite restaurants early. Pamela Popo on Rue François Miron is my choice for sautéed scallops.
2 p.m.: Volunteer for a couple of hours with the SOS Helpline, answering calls from English speakers in need.
4 p.m.: Make a few calls back to relatives in the United States before they leave for work (it’s free from your landline in Paris).
4:30 p.m.: Pick up a poulet rôti (roast chicken) from one of the vendors on Place Saint-Paul, cheese from fromagerie Pascal Trotté, and a baguette from Paul. Swing by the supermarket for veggies and toilet paper (not everything in Paris is romantic).
5 p.m.: Meet a friend for a quick apéro at Les Philosophes on Rue Vieille du Temple.
6 p.m.: Head home for a rest and to catch the latest news on CNN or BBC World.
7 p.m.: Throw the chicken in the oven to warm it up and prepare some sides. Dining at home tonight.
8:30 p.m.: If it’s a clear evening, maybe a stroll down to the river then along the quai to the Hôtel de Ville to enjoy a night view of this architectural marvel.
10:30 p.m.: Bonne nuit…