Franco File Friday: Chez Loulou

Jennifer Greco, Chez Loulou

The South of France isn't unlike the American South - the pace is slower, the people are friendlier, and the lifestyle is relaxed. I've always associated both regions, both in the U.S. and in France, with summer vacation - a place to recharge, soak up rays and catch up on reading before eventually leaving it behind until the following year. But live there full time? Could I do it? Could you?

I know someone who could - who turned a dream into her reality. After throwing myself into Jennifer Greco's blog Chez Loulou a couple of years ago, which documents life in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France, I was quickly seduced by the lifestyle she depicted. The calm and quiet, simplicity and cheerfulness. Although I'm not convinced that southern living is for me at this stage, I can't deny how appealing her life sounds.  So how did this former New Orleans resident end up in a tiny village in the South of France?

She and her American husband moved to France 10 years ago because.... well, they wanted to. Evidently this was before the French government made it next to impossible to move over here without a European spouse, job offer, student visa or international celebrity status. Sure, she went through her own obstacles, particularly to obtain French nationality, but she become a homeowner and a resident (relatively) smoothly. Now, this lifelong Francophile earns her living as a writer and works in tourism during the high season. Today, she tries to 'sell us' le sud......

Describe what you love about France in three words. 
Joie de vivre.

beaufort, France

Best advantage to living in the South of France vs. Paris and why? 
We live in a very small village so it's hard to compare it to Paris! One advantage is the gentle pace of life. If you're looking for peace and quiet, then this is definitely the place! Also, the weather (in general), the friendly people and the stunning scenery all make it a wonderful place to live.

Most surprising or amusing encounter with the French? 
After the election of President Obama, our neighbors, and even some strangers who know about "les Américains" living in the village, would stop us in the street, at the café, and in the épicerie, some with tears in the eyes, to congratulate us on such a proud moment for America. It was truly a heartwarming experience.

Canal du Midi, France

Why should other Francophiles visit the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France? 
If you love Provence, you will love the Languedoc! Many consider this region to be an "unspoiled" version of our neighbor to the east. The Languedoc is usually less crowded and often less expensive than Provence and it offers pretty much everything a Francophile could ask for.

There are sandy, Mediterranean beaches, vineyards and olive groves, the Canal du Midi, deep river gorges for rafting, mountains for hiking and skiing, vibrant cities such as Montpellier and quaint towns such as Collioure (where Matisse and Dufy lived and worked). Then of course there is the fabulous wine and regional dishes like Cassoulet and Bourride. I could go on and on....!

Galette du Larzac cheese

Type of cheese you most recommend to neophytes? 
These three are typical to the region and would make a good introduction to French cheeses. The first is Gloriotte - a light, fresh fromage de chèvre from the Loire Valley.  Next is Le Crémeux du Mont-St.-Michel - a buttery and rich cow's milk cheese from Normandy. My final recommendation is Galette du Larzac, a delicious and soft, mushroomy ewe's milk cheese from Aveyron, the region where Roquefort is produced.

Favorite French novel (or novel set in France)? 
The Virgin Blue by Tracy Chevalier... I highly recommend it!


Thanks Jennifer! Check out her latest feature in this month's France Magazine (HERE), follow her on twitter and sign up for her blog updates. Oh and keep an eye out for her, you might just see this French cheese expert working in (or owning her own?) fromagerie someday...!

{All photos courtesy of Jennifer Greco}
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