I went into our 3 week trip through france and italy with a few preconceived notions. First, I heard a lot of people say that the French people, in general, were snobby, cold, and looked down on others. Has anyone else heard this?? Well, here’s what I learned in our first few hours in France:
A good eclair can teach you everything you need to know about what the French people are truly like.
My first eclair in Blois, France
Our first stop was to the Valley of the Kings, the Loire Valley. After an overnight flight, we were jetlagged and hangry so Stephen pulled off on a side road when we got to Blois and found a Patisserie. He recommended that I try an eclair.
Hold on. I thought an eclair was a bready dunkin donut, filled with vanilla pudding and dipped in chocolate. I was pretty sure I hated eclairs and balked at the idea of eating one. Stephen waved my concerns away and ordered one for me in French.
What an eclair taught me about french culture
My first bite of a real eclair was the perfect way to frame this trip in France. The eclair, like the entire country, was nothing like I thought it was going to be! It was perfect to look at, a little cool at first, but there’s so much more than that. It was mind-blowingly delicious and, as I stopped in wonder and then took a tentative second bite, I realized that I might like this country more than I thought I would!
The Laissez Faire Culture
France is not the same as America, so it should go without saying that some things are just done differently. Laying aside direct comparison gives experiencing a foreign culture a fair chance to be appreciated.
What people describe as “cold or snobby” I think is actually the laissez faire approach, one that’s engrained into the french culture and based on the premise of a "hands off" approach to business and life. Understanding this is key to appreciating french culture.
The people we met were warm, considerate, neat and thoughtful. They were helpful and informative giving us all the information to make a decision and then backing off, respecting the decisions we made. Like the eclair they were meticulously put together and precise, but inviting and wonderful.
Our stay in enchanting Amboise, France
For our first stop, we stayed in an ancient farmhouse in the charming medieval town of Amboise. We ate eggs from the farm, croissants from the local bakery, and duck confit like it was going out of style. Oh...and at this point, I was fairly obsessed with eclairs. We poked around in sleepy medieval towns and got lost on tiny country roads amid enchanting woods, idyllic vineyards and groves of olive trees, sleepy rivers, and fields of corn and grain.
This is one of my favorite stops from our trip because, as a childhood lover of all things disney, I found that this particular region of the French countryside was incredibly enchanting! From english ivy wrapped trees, to hearing owls and turtle doves in the hushed forest, to the castles tucked all through the valley, I was completely awestruck.
I’d call that a fairly successful start to a pretty unforgettable adventure!