Lessons in Living a French Life

Bringing a touch of French culture to everyday life

Today's Weekly Voilà: Exploring the art of "slow travel" 😊💕✨✈️🐌🇫🇷

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." - Marcel Proust

Imagine spending a long weekend in a little French cottage, buying fresh fruits and vegetables from the market, bread from the boulangerie, sipping a café au lait from a vintage bowl on your private terrace, taking leisurely day trips to neighboring medieval, hilltop villages, exploring the nearby château and museums, learning how to use simple French herbs to make the perfect tisane. It sounds magical, n'est-ce pas?

Currently, I am planning the type of destination I want to create for guests visiting our home in southwest France. I don't want to establish another chambre d'hôtes or bed and breakfast. France has plenty of those. Rather, I want to create an intimate event that encourages creativity, shares my love of French culture, and wraps individuals in the relaxing French countryside. This fits perfectly with the new trend toward "slow travel" and destination workshops. 

My children make a slight groan when they think about their first trip to Europe. It was 2007 and I wanted them to see every important historical sight. Think 4 countries in 7 days. Crazy. Now I know that travel is not about ticking off boxes for famous places. When I took this photo of my family enjoying a rest in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris a couple years ago, I realized that the best travel experiences cannot be rushed. 
Slow travel is a mindset. It's about experiencing the culture up close. Trying out a new language, eating new foods, engaging with the local community. It's about making a connection. This can be a challenge; for, it pushes you out of your comfort zone and requires you to take on new perspectives and discover new things. But the rewards are great. You will meet a variety of people. Learn new customs. Taste delicious meals. And be left with a lifetime of special memories. 

Slow travel means that you maximize your vacation time by choosing experiences over sights. The French are famous for choosing quality over quantity in almost every facet of life. This idea is applicable when planning your next vacation. Plan less and experience more.
I had the pleasure of traveling this summer with my belle-mère (mother-in-law). It was her first time to Europe and while I had so many ideas of places I wanted to take her and things to do, she reminded me that a glass a wine, a good book, and a French café is sometimes all one needs for a memorable afternoon.
When my mother and I visited Lake Como, we took the ferry from one side to the other in order to explore a new village. There was a group of students on the boat and I asked in my limited Italian if they were on a school trip. A simple question led to a group of kids practicing their English and sharing 20 minutes with a couple of travelers. It is a favorite memory.
Slow travel means going off the beaten track and trying new foods like little candied crab apples on a stick. Traveling for 3 weeks in China on our own meant we had the flexibility to do what we wanted, when we wanted without being tied to a tour schedule. One of our best trips ever.
Today's travelers are looking for ways to connect with different cultures, have meaningful interactions with locals, and feel like they are more than just a tourist. It's a shift in perspective and provides an opportunity for self-reflection and growth. I find that when I travel slowly, I see the subtly of a culture and am open to learning new things. Upon returning home, I implement this knowledge into my daily life. The way I prepare my green tea is exactly how I experienced the process in a small shop in Xian, China. The owner brought out his favorite, antique cups and carefully went through each step of preparing his finest tea for the two of us. Warming the teapot. The first wash of the leaves over the cup. The slow sipping of the quickly brewed tea. I did not speak Mandarin and he did not speak English. No matter. It was a shared, unexpected moment that is now a part of my daily life.

I want to create those special moments and memories for our guests who travel to France. An experience that is authentic, relaxing, and offers a creative environment to explore French culture. The desire is to inspire, teach, and pamper. To offer, if only for a weekend, a French slow way of living.

Turn off your "bucket list" this weekend and consider a new place you would like to explore and do so slowly.

À bientôt mon amie,

Karen 😊💕✨🐌🇫🇷