Restaurants in France may be good but we have found that wonderful and cheap meals can be had simply by shopping at local markets and shops. Local food is always fresh and each Region of France has their own speciality. Supermarkets always have a wine and spirits section – perhaps a more limited beer section. In summer, lunch and dinners of ham (jambon), cheeses and fresh salads are easy to procure and delicious….. add a local rose and you’re set!
France is the home of Haute Cuisine and you may be keen to try their restaurants during your trip but, we have found that buying local products and having a simple dinner can be better value for money than dinners out at some restaurants.
Bread , Cheese and Wine are fantastic in France. Here are two PDF files giving some information about some of the great things to try.
Butchers often have a selection of ready made dishes such as beef bouginion, potatoe dauphin and salad rapid (grated carrot with light dressing) in addition to their range of meats. Some items can be eaten cold and others need to be heated – always ask. A good selection of olives is often also available.
Wines from the local area can often be purchased at the butchers. These are often great value for money and you get to learn a bit more about the area you’re staying in.
Bread shops sell their best baguettes and breads early in the day – so don’t leave it too late to buy your bread or you may find that the only bread you can get is at the supermarkets..which is definitely Not as good!
Large supermarkets such as Intermarche, Super U, etc will have extensive deli and cheese sections.
What to do when not riding – or resting!
History is everywhere in France – from ancient pre-history to the Celts, Romans, Medieval and Modern leaders. It can be an awe inspiring moment to see and touch places walked by such famous people as Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard The Lionheart, Evil King John (not so evil after all), Jeanne d’Arc, numerous Kings of France and Napoleon. To see and walk/cycle the World War battlefields or visit the Australian War Cemetry at Villers Brettenau is a humbling and moving experience.
Galleries & Museums
Many larger towns have excellent Art Galleries & Museums which are worth spending significant time in. It can be a surprising and pleasant surprise to see a real Van Gogh, Picasso or Monet just hanging on a wall in a little gallery. When you arriving in a new town, ask at the Office de Tourism about available museums and whether there is a combined pass – these are usually great value.
Taking a slow walk around Botanical Gardens is a relaxing and pleasant way to pass a rest day and many larger French towns have considerable, shady and very old gardens usually with a boules court in one section where large numbers of locals gather to play endless slow games.
Tacky Tourist Shops
Tourist Shops all have Tea Towels, lavender, T-shirts, etc and can begin to get very monotonous but – hey, you’re a tourist, so go and make them happy.
Markets, Farmer’s Market and “Brocante” Markets
Most towns and villages have a weekly Farmer’s market where fresh vegetables, meats, cheeses, wines and fruit can be purchased close to the source of production and from the grower. Larger towns will have a covered market which is open most days of the week. Every so often, villages have various Flea Markets and/or Brocante Markets where cheap clothes, footewear, watches, jewellery, handbags, books, antiques, etc are available….. worth a l00k through although we dont buy.