It’s the world’s most visited country. And with good reason! In the second instalment of our new weekly series, we bring the sights, sounds, flavours and colours of France to your doorstep. From Monet to the Musée du Louvre, let’s liven up your lockdown.
What’s one of the most special things about going on holiday? We think that a big part of the fun is getting to immerse yourself in a different culture. And just because we can’t leave the country right now, it doesn’t mean other countries can’t come to you! Each week we will be helping you to enjoy the quintessential culture of some of our best-loved countries – all from the comfort of your own abode. From food and drink to music and art, it’s ideal for bringing some fresh sights, sounds and flavours to your home.
Rapping on your front door this week is the culturally rich country of France. Just a short hop across the Channel, but there’s oh so much to explore. On y va? Allons-y!
The culinary capital of the world
France has a serious love affair with cheese, producing some one billion tonnes of it each year across almost 1,200 varieties. But it’s not just cheese that makes French food special. It’s the home of haute cuisine and whether you want fine dining or street food, your taste buds are in for a treat. Although we’ll say no to the escargot, thanks.
French onion soup is one of the nation’s quintessential dishes. All humble and gooey and comforting. Best of all, easy to make at home. Here’s a recipe that will act as the perfect starter to cassoulet – a tasty meat and bean stew – with a side of dauphinoise potatoes – thin slices of potato layered up and baked in cream. Bonus points for adding a grated cheese topping. Afterwards work it all off with a game of petanque in the garden. Bon appétit!
Something to drink?
Do you even need to ask? With vineyards that are revered across the world, wine is the tipple of choice in France. Whether you fancy a chilled glass of sweet rosé, a crisp white or a full-bodied red – and lest we forget Champagne – grab your finest glasses and have a glug. Santé!
The sounds of France
France is famous for pioneering the musette style. Listening to the accordion-based music – try Émile Vacher or Aimable Pluchard – it’s hard not to imagine yourself sipping an espresso in the sunshine and watching the world go by outside a corner café. Of course, there’s more to French music than the accordion. France has given us songwriters like Édith Piaf and Serge Gainsbourg, not to mention his daughter Charlotte Gainsbourg. Melody’s Echo Chamber and Phoenix are popular contemporary artists, while Daft Punk, Justice, Air, M83 and David Guetta have excelled in the electronic genre. Classical composers Erik Satie and Claude Debussy are world famous. Fire up YouTube or Spotify and get listening.
Art and architecture
While you’re listening, why not have a nosey around the home of Claude Monet? About an hour’s drive west of Paris in Giverny, the beautiful house shines a fascinating light on the life of the founder of the impressionist movement and one of France’s most celebrated artists. Take the online tour here. Or make like the man himself and get your impressionism going. Here’s a five-week painting course from Paris-based artist Rachelle Cunningham, offered on a pay-what-you-can basis. Or get your kids inspired with these Monet-themed activities for children.
Speaking of art in Paris, the French capital is home to some of the world’s most famous museums. You’ll find a huge collection of pre-nineteenth century masterpieces – including the Mona Lisa – in the Louvre, the most visited art museum in the world. They have no fewer than seven online tours to enjoy currently, encompassing everything from Ancient Egypt to an exhibition exploring the connection between art and politics. Oh and while we’re in Paris, it would be rude not to get a closer look at the world’s most visited paid monument. The views from the Eiffel Tower are as good as you’ve heard. Oui, oui!
The birth of the silver screen
Cinema? No problem. France invented it. Or rather two brothers from Besançon did. So before you settle down to your next blockbuster, doff your chapeau to Auguste and Louis Lumière. Now, if you’re keen to do your own version of the Cannes Film Festival, you’re going to need some content. Amélie is one of the world’s best-loved French films. Or for something a little different, try The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The 1964 film earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film and scooped the Cannes Film Festival’s highest prize, the Palme d’Or, with Catherine Deneuve as the female lead at the beginning of her ascent to become one of France’s most iconic film stars.
The written word
With more Nobel Prizes for Literature than any other country, France is a powerhouse of literary production. Victor Hugo is often regarded as the greatest French writer of all time. Often cast as France’s answer to William Shakespeare, he is the man responsible for Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, while Les Contemplations is regarded as a poetic masterpiece. As for literature for little ones, French writer Charles Perrault is a prolific creator of fairy tales and penned a number of classics including Puss in Boots, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Bluebeard.