Experiencing The Regional Cuisine On Barge Holidays In France
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Barge holidays in France traditionally not only offer some great on-board catering but also the chance to dine out at lunchtime or in the evening on some of the finest local cuisine.

However, some people say that the notion of distinct regional variations in cuisine is dying out in the country – so what’s the reality?

The French & food

Just as the British are reputed to love spending all their time talking about the weather, the French have a similar reputation for being great gourmands and enjoying nothing better than an in-depth discussion on the intricacies of fine food. Of course, such stereotypical generalisations are notoriously inaccurate. Not every French person has an encyclopaedic knowledge of French cuisine and fine wine, nor should the devastating effects of fast convenience food be assumed to have entirely passed the country by – they haven’t.

However, few unbiased observers would dispute that, typically, the French are very conscious of what they eat and how they eat. Most towns will have a large number of restaurants and café-bars and you'll also typically see French people studying the menu outside a restaurant before they enter. They’re not just there to eat - as in ‘consume’ - but also to savour and enjoy.

Even in days of financial uncertainty, the French still eat out more frequently than their British cousins. That’s partly because it is a stronger tradition and partly because it is, on the whole, considerably more affordable.

Whilst all this is true, it doesn’t say an awful lot about whether or not regional cuisine is surviving – and the food (as a major part of the overall experience) is something that's typically important to many people contemplating barge holidays in France.

The regional cuisine legacy

France has always been at the forefront of efforts to try and protect, by legislation if necessary, local regional traditions. For example, it put into place laws to ensure that certain products could only be made in certain localities long before such a thing was even on the radar in the UK. What this means is that certain produce you will see in both shops and restaurants can only be made in their original regions.

The position with dining tradition has undoubtedly become more complicated since the mid-twentieth century. At one time it would, for example, have been difficult to find, say, Alsatian delicacies outside of Alsace-Lorraine (in the eastern part of the country). Today that is less the case and it’s possible to find, say, Breton-style restaurants in the south or Provençal cuisine near Calais. That’s largely to do with commercial development and an increasingly diverse public demand for various tastes – although you may still find that cuisines other than French or Italian are difficult to come by, at least in authentic guise, outside of the bigger towns and cities.

All that said, don’t dear that the idea of regional cuisine is dead and buried - far from it!

Regional emphasis

What you will find is that restauranteurs in a given region typically will give far greater weight to local tradition and local ingredients than you might normally find in the UK.

For example, barge holidays in France travelling through the Loire Valley might typically offer up the chance to explore many restaurants that serve dishes with their origin in the local area and centuries of tradition. Yes, you may be able to find restaurants providing food more commonly associated with the other parts of the country too, but it is still possible to see very significant differences in the culinary traditions as you pass from one area to another.

If you're thinking about embarking on one of the barge holidays in France and looking forward to the chance to try genuinely local cuisine, be assured that it is still alive and well and a very important part of French culture.

Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways. We can provide you with luxury, all-inclusive barge holidays in France to enjoy the sights of the country's most picturesque waterways.


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