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There Is No English Word for Bon Appetit

French Cheese

On my first trip to France fifteen years ago I learned something important about myself. After returning recently for a seven-week visit, I became more certain than ever. I was French in a former life.

Every time I come to France I’m struck by how completely at home I feel. And it’s not just the thousands of châteaux that dot France’s lush landscapes or its seemingly endless supply of picture-perfect towns that I adore. It’s the culture that calls to me. It’s the way people live their lives and the way they set their priorities that just seems right to me.

How so, you ask? Well, let’s set the table, as they say (because what could be more French than that) with a few pertinent facts.

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Chambord Spiral Staircases

Like Shooting Chateaux in the Loire

Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau

With hundreds of châteaux dotting France’s sprawling Loire Valley, finding one is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Choosing which of the magnificent dwellings to visit, and which to leave for another time, is a far harder task. Here’s how we managed to decide.

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French Lessons Included

La Maréchalerie

A side of French lessons came with the morning meal at La Maréchalerie, a bed-and-breakfast in the Loire Valley.

We don’t often talk about lodging places here on EverywhereOnce because so often they’re just not that memorable. We generally choose basic places to sleep and shower and to use as a base to explore an area. But staying at La Maréchalerie was almost as much of an experience as touring the surrounding Loire Valley.

Our stay began with a warm welcome from our host, Danny, who immediately offered us coffee, tea or a glass of locally produced wine. One glass of wine turned into several as Danny engaged us for over an hour, taking a genuine interest in our travels as well as sharing his near encyclopedic knowledge about the region and its history. Slightly inebriated we eventually headed to our room, clutching a specially-created binder burgeoning with maps and other information for crafting an itinerary in the Loire.

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Finding the “Real” France, Online

Country guesthouse in France

“How did you find this place? This is the real France.”

A fellow lodger at a guest house in the French countryside north of Cognac seemed surprised to find us at the breakfast table. His tone was curious, with a shade of condescension, as he asked how we had possibly found this charming family farmhouse in a tiny village that had no obvious tourist enticements.

He was there by happenstance. An Englishman on a solo walking trek to Spain, he had injured himself the day before and decided to find lodging in the area and recoup for the evening.

We were there by design. I wasn’t sure how to break it to him, but the out-of-the-way farmhouse in the real France is listed on Booking.com.

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