The village of Monpazier in Perigord
The easiest way to find the best boulangerie or off-the-tourist map market is to go with the French. Otherwise, just follow the scent of freshly-baked pastries and restaurants packed with jovial, babbling locals tucking into authentic salade nicoise and quaffing local beaujolais like it’s going out of fashion. There’s no place for reserve when getting into the French spirit – plunge in and do the country like a local with our tips for sourcing the best spots in France.
Eat like a local
Sweet colorful macarons
Really, what all travellers are thinking about is lunch. Bucket-list stop-offs at the Arc de Triomphe and Palace of Versailles are all well and good, but what truly gets us queuing for that flight to French lands is the promise of a perfectly cooked coq au vin or a glass of chilled Chardonnay at the end.
Market stalls will ply you with wonderful regional produce such as French truffles and foie-gras, while following your nose to a proper patisserie will lead to a bounty of baguettes, kouign-amanns and croissants. For a mille-feuille experience like no other – pay a visit to Pierre Hermé’s baked-goods-sanctuary in Paris.
For blow-out dinner, in-the-know locals will tell you to head to Chateau des Monthairons in Lorraine. Just a 15-minute drive south of Verdun, this is a bona-fide castle you can sample imaginative French dishes such as confit pork cheeks in a saffron and mustard sauce and glazed ice cream with poached pear, red wine and spices. Of course, it’s only right to get du vin to accompany – this is the place to sample a bottle so good, you’ll want to marry into the family of the vineyard owner.
Shop like a local
Monpazier is one of the most beautiful village in France and the most famous bastide
Every town in France has a market, from Paris’ oldest covered market, Le marché des Enfants Rouges, to the fresh-food-paradise of Quintin’s market in Brittany. Locals make a beeline to Provence in the summer for the Thursday night market, La Motte-d’Aigues. Jazz and rock music fills the air between cherry trees, vendors selling merguez sandwiches and rosé-in-hand revellers; but you’ll also be able to find some unique finds in its stalls.
Travelling the Pyrénées region is another must for markets. To the south you’ll find a raucous oompah-fuelled affair in the petite town of Collioure – drive a few hours into the Midi-Pyrénées and you’ll find Monpazier, one of France’s most beautiful villages packed with charming shops. While you’re there, spend the night in 19th-century manor Hotel Edward 1er, with 17 exquisite rooms and a wanderlust-worthy pool:
Talk like a local
Don’t have time to talk? A lesser-known French holiday spot is in the Burgundy’s historic district of Beaune. Ditch Dijon and its capital-flocking crowds and stay in a former Cistercian 12-century abbey instead: Abbaye de Maizieres is a boutique hotel and restaurant in the heart of wine country. If you can leave your utterly luxurious bedroom, follow the spiral staircase for dinner in the stone-walled cellar, dining on traditional Burgundy fare.