The Beatles said all you need is love. Well, they should take a lesson from the French. Yes, love is one option but good wine, decadent cheese and prime picnic spots are another way to go. France’s couples and singles really know how to live the good life. Whether they’re eating alone or in a rush (very rarely on-the-go), meals aren’t wasted on crappy food and when they drink something, they enjoy the hell out of it. Many times in France, my palate was blown away in ways I had never experienced in picnic locations straight from a postcard.
When I was invited to join my CouchSurfing host and his friends at a lakeside beach near Lyon, I had time to hit up the market before we left. I found my usual go-to cherries, then perused the freshly baked breads and the discovered the most memorable camembert cheese I’ve ever had. After sitting in the intense sun for two hours at the beach, it was soft, gooey and oh-so-delicious. One guy said I was almost a French woman, I was just needed wine. Seriously, I will never forget this cheese.
My stay in Le Lude, a small village north of Tours, was highlighted with an outdoor dinner next to the village castle and under a sky full of shooting stars. The five of us went through a few bottles of wine and then continued on to bison grass vodka, brought by the two Polish CouchSurfers, and homemade cherry eau de vie from our host’s candlelit cellar. Eau de vie literally translates to ‘water of life’ and it’s a very strong fruit brandy. This homemade version I tried still had the fruit in it so if you didn’t want to drink the brandy, you can just eat the alcohol-soaked fruit!
A day trip from Saint-Malo to Mont Saint-Michel brought fantastic views of the bay and a multitude of picnic choices on the abbey walls. My usual cherries with an apple, sandwich and mineral water were spiced up with caramels au beurre sale, salted butter caramel candies. The cows near Mont Saint-Michel graze in the salt marsh meadows, so their milk is salty and is used to create the delicious salted butter caramel unique to this area of Normandy. Upon return to Saint-Malo, my CouchSurfing host and I ventured into the city walls for people-watching and enjoyed a pre-dinner gelato followed by galette bretonne, a savory crêpe filled with ham, egg and Ementaler cheese. Of course, it was followed by a glass or two of wine back home.
The picnic locations in France are endless. Some provide stellar views of beachgoers, some of shooting stars and others of striking sandy bays. Regardless of where you picnic, beauty can be found in France and with the right attitude, wine and cheese, you don’t need anything more.