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FRENCH GASTRONOMY

A family buying fruit in a market

Exploring French food on holiday

France is known for many things; the beautiful countryside, its many fairytale châteaux and the swathes of unspoiled beaches. But perhaps the one thing that France is most famous for is its food. Good food is at the very heart of French culture.

How fortunate, then, that all this good food is on our doorstep. Brittany Ferries set sail from three UK ports regularly for France, meaning that you’ll be eating baguettes and French cheese before you know it. 

Family market cheese

Cheese tasting at a family market

Travelling with Brittany Ferries, you have the whole of France, and all its food, to explore. With daily sailings you can be in Brittany, Normandy, the Loire and Western France in no time.

If you want to explore Southern France then Brittany Ferries also sails to Spain, saving you driving time. With both daytime and overnight options, you will be dunking your croissant in your coffee in next to no time.

French eating culture 

Meals are celebrated and seen as something special to be shared with family and friends. Food plays such an important role in fact that in 2010, the ‘Gastronomic Meal of the French’ was declared a ‘World Intangible Heritage’ by UNESCO. This means that it’s a protected tradition in France and shows that the social side of a meal is as important as the food itself.

Family outside a restaurant looking at the menu board

The French do have some quirks when it comes to eating traditions. In most towns and small cities, small businesses and shops shut down for two hours from midday so that workers can enjoy a leisurely lunch. Similarly, restaurants and cafés have very set meal times; there is no point arriving for lunch at 1.58pm and expecting anyone to serve you in France.

Famous French food & traditional meals

But as we all know, there’s more to French gastronomy than fromage. Some of the country’s most well-known dishes include classic moules frites, coq au vin and escargot and you will find these at restaurants throughout the country. But what’s really fun about driving through France is discovering all the regional specialities.

A photo of a dish of mussels

Moules Marinière

Every province has its own local dish from carbonnade flamande, (beef braised in Flemish beer) in Northern France to bouillabaisse in Provence. Most of these dishes have humble origins, having been created with whatever ingredients were on hand to feed farmers. Today, however, they are some of the best food that you will eat in France. 

THE FOOD OF NORMANDY

Much of what you eat will depend on where you decide to visit in France. Seafood reigns supreme in Normandy so it's not surprising that one of its most famous dishes is marmite dieppoise, a rich and creamy fish stew. And even if you’re not eating seafood, the region’s proximity to the coast influences other dishes.

Agneaux de pré salé (meadow-salted lamb) is lamb from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel that has grazed on fields naturally salted by ocean water. The region is also famous for its cheeses, as well as cider and calvados. 

THE FOOD OF BRITTANY

For a dish that can be served both sweet and savoury you must travel to Brittany, well known for its sweet Breton crêpes and savoury Breton galettes. The crêpes come with a wide variety of toppings and the savoury buckwheat pancakes are best served with melted cheese, ham and a fried egg.

A galette complête from Brittany © Emmanuel Berthier, BRTC

A galette complête from Brittany © Emmanuel Berthier, BRTC

Brittany also has a reputation for excellent seafood. Make sure to try oysters from Cancale, scallops from St Brieuc and sardines from Concarneau while there.

THE FOOD OF THE LOIRE VALLEY

The Pays de la Loire is famous for its butter biscuits, including the Petit Beurre LU cookies. Other specialities include rillettes, a type of coarse pâté and fleur de sel, salt that is harvested from the salt marshes on the west coast. In restaurants you’ll find freshwater fish on the menu served with delicious beurre blanc sauce, as well as mussels and the Vendée Atlantic oysters.

Rillettes, a type of patê from the Loire © Shutterstock

Rillettes, a type of patê from the Loire

French markets & food

One of the best things about driving in France is that you can stock up with local produce bought at the market. Most cities and large towns have a market at least twice a week, sometimes every day. Smaller towns and villages tend to have a weekly market.

There are plenty of markets selling seafood but the stalls at Talensac, the biggest and oldest market in Nantes, are particularly impressive. You’ll also find some excellent sweet shops in town, with the rainbow-coloured, pyramid-shaped berlingots nantais being a particular local favourite. 

BRING HOME YOUR FAVOURITE FOODS

Wherever you choose to travel in France, getting home is just as easy as arriving with Brittany Ferries. The only difference being that with a car packed full of local cheeses and liquors, as well as pâté, biscuits, and macarons, you may be a little more laden down than when you arrived. 

If the thought of endless French food gets you dreaming of a holiday then you are in luck! Holiday with confidence with Brittany Ferries. Our 2021 selection of ferry-inclusive package holidays come with free Covid-19 cover and free amendments too.

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