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La Belle Vie: The best cheese, trams and monuments in France

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
La Belle Vie: The best cheese, trams and monuments in France
AOP cheese during the AOP fair in front in 2019 in Paris. (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

From the best cheese in the world to the delicious meals you can cook using French cheese and where to travel on France's new rail pass, this week's La Belle Vie newsletter offers you an essential starting point for eating, talking, drinking and living like a French person.


La Belle Vie is our regular look at the real culture of France – from language to cuisine, manners to films. This newsletter is published weekly and you can receive it directly to your inbox, by going to your newsletter preferences in “My account”.

This may come as little surprise to anyone who is a fan of France's gastronomy, but French cheese has topped the ranks again. Earlier this week, in Tours - a lovely town along the Loire river not far from some of France's best châteaux and wineries - the international cheese competition crowned its winner.

As part of the Mondial Fromage et des produits laitiers, dairy experts narrow down 1,500 cheeses into a top 12 list. Only one cheese comes out on top, and this time it was a French cheese from Burgundy that would pair very nicely with a glass of Chablis.

Meet the best cheese in the world (yes, it's French)

The judges had to taste hundreds of cheeses from across the world, judging them on texture, taste, smell and more. Every group of three jurors was responsible for ranking between 14 to 18 cheeses, which I find to be quite impressive. Recently, I tried out a short-term 'cheese-box' subscription that allowed me to test out three to four different types of French cheese a month, and even learning the names of a couple cheese a month felt like an accomplishment.


But when it comes to French cheese I barely scratched the surface. Many different estimates fly around when it comes to the exact number in existence - some will reference an old quote from Charles de Gaulle where he mentions '246 different types of cheese' but others estimate that there are many more.

Reader question: Exactly how many different types of cheese are there in France?

The main benefit of the cheese box was being able to figure out my own cheese preferences - I learned that I love cheese from Auvergne and that I prefer goat over cow's milk. I also learned that three to four cheeses per month can sometimes be a surprisingly large quantity of cheese if you are not sharing with anyone (or if your partner does not like cheese).

As a result, I found myself doing a fair share of googling to figure out what dishes I could make to use up the remaining cheese in the fridge. A lot of the traditional French cheese dishes are most enjoyable when it gets to be a little chilly out, so these are some that you can note down in your recipe book as the autumn temperatures start to arrive.

The six best French dishes made with cheese

And France has started falling in love with trams again. Did you know that France is actually home to more than 10 percent of the total number of tram networks in Europe?

Most of France's big cities have them, from Strasbourg to Toulouse via Reims and Rouen, and now there are dozens of projects to extend tram networks in smaller towns and cities.

Why France is falling in love with trams again

Transport has been a big topic in France this fall. The transport minister announced that a combined ticket for travelling by ferry and train between Ireland and France will be available next year, and France will try to copy Germany's popular €49-a-month train ticket.

In Germany, the ticket was a huge success and led to a real uptick in public transport usage, as well as regional travel within the country. The goal is for the French version to have the same effect, and personally, I am excited to spend more time exploring France via the TER (regional) train service. High-speed trains will take you between large cities, but the benefit to the TER is that you can see parts of France that the TGV would just whizz past.

How will France's version of the German €49-a-month train ticket work?

And on the topic of travelling to unknown parts of France, earlier this week the French public voted for their favourite monument. Each region had to decide on one to represent them, and on Wednesday the 13 regions (plus one representing France's overseas territories) went head to head. 


I was a bit surprised when I initially saw the top 14 list - a lot of the monuments were places I had never heard of or thought to visit. 

IN PICTURES: Discover France’s 14 favourite monuments


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