Vil­lage préféré

Which villages are favoured by the French and which are beloved of the Brits? Ruth Wood in­ves­ti­gates

French Property News - - Contents -

The French and Bri­tish vote for their favourite French vil­lage

Some­times you can barely round a bend in France with­out stum­bling upon a heart-stop­pingly beau­ti­ful vil­lage. Here a square of colour­ful half-tim­bered houses proudly frames a Nor­man church, drip­ping gera­ni­ums and sup­port­ing hol­ly­hocks. There a cob­bled street, barely changed since the Cru­sades, spi­rals up a rocky hill­top or snakes along a river where homes morph into lime­stone cliffs.

You might think the French would be blasé about this em­bar­rass­ment of riches. Mais non. They have an of­fi­cial list of the Plus Beaux Villages de France (155 and count­ing) im­mor­talised in a Miche­lin map. And every June for the past six years, mil­lions have tuned into a TV show to vote for the na­tion’s favourite vil­lage: Le Vil­lage Préféré des Français.

“Hap­pi­ness is a vil­lage,” wrote its pre­sen­ter Stéphane Bern in 2013. “At a time when glob­al­i­sa­tion threat­ens to crush all that is unique and spe­cial, I be­lieve in the im­por­tance of the vil­lage as an an­chor of our iden­tity.”

Of course, Le Vil­lage Préféré des Français would be an ex­tremely long pro­gramme if it show­cased every sin­gle beau­ti­ful vil­lage in France. So the pro­duc­ers whit­tle down the con­tenders to an an­nual short­list, with each of the 13 re­gions rep­re­sented by one com­mune.

Here we look at the par­tic­i­pat­ing villages of 2017 and find out which won the hearts of the French view­ers – and whether or not our Bri­tish read­ers agreed with them! Novel­list Terri Hale is not sur­prised that Kay­sers­berg vaulted to a re­sound­ing vic­tory in the French viewer vote.

She first stum­bled upon the Al­sa­tian vil­lage of some 2,700 souls while on a fam­ily hol­i­day 15 years ago and im­me­di­ately fell in love with its quaint cob­bled streets and colour­ful half-tim­bered houses.

“It’s a mag­i­cal place,” says Terri, who hails from Texas. “You feel like you’re in a fairy­tale be­cause of the medieval build­ings and the flow­ers and the ring­ing of bells and the smell of crois­sants and choco­late and sweets waft­ing up to your room from the bak­eries below.”

Terri and her hus­band rent an apart­ment in the vil­lage when they are in the area as part of their work for a youth or­gan­i­sa­tion; and Kay­sers­berg was the in­spi­ra­tion for Terri’s sec­ond novel, a medieval fan­tasy for young adult read­ers.

She par­tic­u­larly loves the set­ting of the vil­lage, 45 min­utes from the Ger­man bor­der and at a sim­i­lar lat­i­tude to cen­tral Brit­tany,

though slightly milder and drier thanks to its shel­tered po­si­tion.

“It’s ab­so­lutely beau­ti­ful,” said the writer, whose first novel The Stone Manor is set in Scot­land and the United States. “You are sur­rounded by vine­yards and on the edge of the Vos­ges moun­tains.”

Be­cause Al­sace has al­ter­nated be­tween French and Ger­man con­trol over the cen­turies, the peo­ple of Kay­sers­berg are com­pletely at ease speak­ing French, Ger­man and their own di­alect Al­sa­tian, and Terri says she hears more Ger­man voices than An­glo­phone. “They are just such won­der­ful, de­light­ful peo­ple,” she says. “I feel like we have made friends there that we’ll have for­ever.” Av­er­age house price – €1,859/m2

Au­thor Terri Hale has made friends for life in Kay­sers­berg

Our poll re­vealed our Bri­tish fol­low­ers pre­ferred La Garde-ad­hé­mar

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