Skip to content

France From the Heart

There’s a theory that suggests you must do something for 10,000 hours before you really master it. By conservative math, Trufflepig co-founder Jack Dancy has been planning trips to France for about 30,000 hours. Ooh la la.

This partly explains why he’s so good at it and why he was once again named to Conde Nast Traveler’s list of Top Travel Specialists—a distinction we’re simultaneously proud and appreciative of (it’s a remarkable field of 161 trip planners).

The other half of the equation is that he absolutely and completely adores the place. I mean, he doesn’t just like the country, he doesn’t merely think it’s quaint and wonderful. No, this is amour. Jack loves France and everything about it. I recently asked him to count the ways. Here’s what he told me:

1. Because it’s beautiful. There are countless sites and landscapes where you simply couldn’t be anywhere else – you know instantly it’s France. No better example of course than the Eiffel Tower – this was the view from my apartment for several years and it never got old. It’s no coincidence that the original French meaning of the word ‘cliché’ is quite different from the way we use it – it just means ‘picture’. Because it’s almost impossible in France to take a cliché which isn’t a cliché. That’s true whether you’re talking about the well known classics in Paris…

2. …. or lesser known spots in the countryside, in this case the village of Cestayrols in the Gaillac region. You may never have been here, but you know instantly where it is.

3. I love them because of their penchant for rules and regulations. This sign means ‘no truffle hunting’. Seriously, just in case you were thinking of engaging in a spot of truffle-hunt trespassing. But if there’s one thing a Frenchman loves more than rules….

4. … it’s breaking them. The absurdity of putting a no smoking sign next to an ashtray has here received the gallic shrug off that it deserves.

5. I love France for how it looks after its traditions and cultures. This may be another cliché, but what I love about pétanque (boules) courts across the land is that they’re full of old people and young people alike. Always men, mind you. I don’t know where they get the time. This is the pétanque court reserved for the Amicale Sportive of the Jardins de Luxembourg in Paris, surely the greatest sports club in the world.

6. But those traditions are not set in stone – where do we get the phrase avant garde after all? Here, a watermelon passes for contemporary art at the FIAC show in the Grand Palais. Sculpture? Installation? Piss-take? I wonder if in 500 years time it will be in the Louvre. But one thing is sure: no cobwebs here.

7. That said, I love France for its respect for the old. The little plaque with the tricolor in front of the lawn in this photo belongs to the tree, not the chateau: it’s carries the label ‘Arbre Remarquable de France’, of which there are about 200 in the country. This one is a plane tree in the Chateau Le Kinnor in Fervques in Basse Normandie, the oldest  in France, about 500 years of age.

8. And its love of the new. A bedroom in the Hotel Sezz in Paris. Yes, the decoration has been finished and the hotel is open.

9. I love French markets. The simple, and here in France easy habit of buying ones food from the person who grew it. A supply chain of two: farmer and me. Seasonal, local, fresh, good. It may not be why I moved here, but it’s why I can’t leave.

10. And then of course I don’t mind the supply chain of three: farmer, 3-star Michelin restaurant, me. When they take their food seriously, they really take their food seriously.

11. They do a pretty serious line in booze as well, let’s not forget. This Bas Armagnac at 46% volume shouldn’t get much closer to that open flame. It’s not all about wine.

12. Actually, sometimes it is all about wine. Quite often in fact. This wine manifesto at the Chapeau Melon caviste in the 12th arrondissement in Paris is funny because it’s not funny. No one takes his wine seriously like a Frenchman.

13. And while we’re at it, I have my particular favourites: the Montrachet vineyard in Burgundy. As good to look at as it is to drink.

14. At the other end of the agricultural spectrum from the wine-makers who farm Le Montrachet is this car-park chicken sale in Caussade. Who doesn’t love the sheer rusticity of the French countryside?

15. And in France even rusticity has its heirarchy of excellence. Some may see a cow in a field; a Frenchman sees an appellation controlée Aubrac cow munching on summer pasture that makes it the finest beef in the land.

16. It’s not all food and wine, though. A tee-totaller vegetarian would love the French countryside for the walking. Endless trails connecting endless villages, for year round exploring.

17. And the only thing I like more than walking is biking. And the best biking in the world, by far, no contest, is in France.

18. Finally, I love France because it doesn’t care to try to please. It is what it is. Unashamedly French.

I love France because it doesn't care to try to please. It is what it is. Unashamedly French.

Destination Details