La Belle Vie: Reasons to move to France and the best affordable restaurants

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
La Belle Vie: Reasons to move to France and the best affordable restaurants
A photo showing the statue of Victor Hugo near the chapel in the courtyard of the Sorbonne university, in Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

From the reasons people love working in and retiring to France and affordable Michelin-grade restaurants to France's historic streets and figures, 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”.

Paris is ancient - the city dates all the way back to 259 BC, but its modern period is particularly interesting. If you were to travel back in time to before the mid-1800s - prior to Haussmann's rebuilding of the centre, which added large boulevards and avenues, as well as squares and park - France's capital would be almost unrecognisable. Plus, no Eiffel Tower or Tour Montparnasse.

These days, many of those large boulevards and avenues are named after influential figures. You've probably seen Victor Hugo's name pop up a few times, but there are some lesser known people who have been honoured with Paris streets named after them.

Which famous people are these Paris streets are named after?

Sometimes I forget how much history I am surrounded by in Paris. Each day, on my commute into The Local's office, I cycle past the Jaurès Metro station, named after the Socialist Jean Jaurès (1859 – 1914) who famously opposed French involvement in World War I, and was assassinated for his pacifist views in a café on Rue Montmartre. 


And on my lunch break, I enjoy walking along the Canal de l'Ourcq, which dates back to the early 19th century. 

Yes, a lunch break - one of the best aspects of working in France, in my opinion. You have the time to really digest your food rather than scarfing down a sandwich at your desk. 

There are a lot of other reasons to love working in France, from the famed 35-hour week to great job security.

12 reasons to love working in France

For those who are no longer of working age, there are several reasons to consider retiring to France, from schemes intended to help pensioners with home-help, renovations and even affordable train tickets.

While some countries make it very hard to move there without a job or existing family connections, this is not the case in France, and it is perfectly feasible for people to move here as retirees without having any family or financial activity in France. 

6 reasons to retire to France

For a lot of English-speakers considering retiring to France, places like the sunny Côte d’Azur sound particularly appealing.

If you want to plan a holiday to the beach or move to an area that has the ocean in close proximity, you are in luck: France has a lot of coastline (3,500km to be exact). On top of that, many beach resorts are easily accessible by train.

Where to find the best beach resorts in France

And delicious French gastronomy is another popular reason people move or retire here. 

In general, I've found that eating out in France is more affordable than in the United States, but France does have its fair share of expensive restaurants. If you want to have a Michelin-grade experience, you do not have to break the bank - just check out the 'Bib Gourmand'.

'Bib Gourmand': Where can you find France's bargain Michelin-grade restaurants? 

And finally, right now we're in an année bissextile so this newsletter is emailed out on the rare date of February 29th.


But I'll freely admit that we are a bit less unusual than the French satirical newspaper La Bougie du Sapeur. The paper (which translates as 'the soldier's candle') is only produced once every four years. It's a pretty big deal for crossword fans because they're only now getting the answers to the 2020 crossword.

The French newspaper that only appears once every four years



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