This One Photo Totally Sums Up France! … No, Not This Quadtrych, It’s The One at the End, Below the Near Misses

I thought it would be easy to look through my photos and find the one that screamed “France!” The quintessential photo of France. The one that would bring back a flood of memories.

It turned out to be anything but easy. First of all, I have a lot of photos. Hundreds, more than a thousand. Maybe 2,000. So many memories, so many great photos. Several spoke to me, whispering sweet nothings in my ear, reminding me of the sights and sounds, the smells and tastes and bike rides of France. How about this photo, of a crepe? That’s pretty darn French, right? And delicious.

Nah, not quite. Why a crepe, and not a croissant? France and French cuisine is so much more than crepes. And croissants. Or a baguette or my favorite, tarte tartin. Darn, this is making me hungry.

Susan took this one. It’s great, really artsy in a French kind of way, and something you see all the time, everywhere you go …

I love this photo, and these rusty, old metal chairs are everywhere. So classic French. Then again, have you ever sat in one? They’re really not very comfortable. And hurt my back after 46 seconds. And, you could get tetanus from one of them. That’s how two of the four musketeers died! So, no. I must continue my quest.

Wait a second. How about this one … anyone and everyone who’s spent time in France knows what this is, and is quite proud of themselves when they figure out the proper procedure for the first time …

OK, I couldn’t resist, and am only partially serious. While this photo really is quite French, there’s more to France than its many and varied forms of toilets. Which reminds me: Steve, do a post on the many and varied forms of toilets in France.

Wait, the coq! Yes, the mighty, proud Gallic rooster, the symbol of France. He’s on the shirts of the French national football team and led them to victory in 2018! What could be more French than this proud bird? Plus, I remember I have a great coq photo …

This brave and angry rooster sits atop the World War I memorial outside the cathedral in Ste-Croix-du-Mont, in the Bordeaux region. Bordeaux is all about wine, and France is all about wine, so this one, right? I can still remember the long, steep climb up and up the hill to get to town, and the panoramic views down to the valley below from behind the cathedral.

Oh, so close, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Frustration was starting to set in and then, this one …

Seguret! Our beloved, little stone village in Provence. We love this place, and hiking up, way, way up to the ruins of the old castle above town. And the cafe with the view of the vineyards in the valley. Yes, this is it, France!

“But it could be Italy or Spain,” Susan said. “I love that photo and fountain too, and we know it’s Seguret, but someone else could think it was somewhere else.”

She was right. They do have old stone villages in Italy and Spain. We’ve seen them. And have photos much like this this one. Damn. So close.

I love this one, but …

It could also be Italy, Spain or even England. It’s actually Luxembourg Garden in Paris. Did you immediately think LuxGar? Maybe. Maybe not. Plus, I’ve changed. If I would have done this photographic quest in the 1980s, when Paris was the epicenter of my French visits, this photo would be a finalist. Or maybe one of Notre Dame. But, not now, then the countryside is where it and I’m usually at. On my bike.

“This is an impossible mission,” I thought to myself. France is too varied and vast to sum it all up in one photo.

And then … voila! I found it. In the Loire, just a little south and east of Angers, along a quiet road in the middle of farms and vineyards and fields of crops was this totally, completely French sight …

I think I nailed it. I see these wooden, charming, full-of-character windows everywhere I pedal in France, all over the countryside … and this is one of the most beautiful. So simple, so elegant, so darn French. Just look at the lace curtains! They must be 100 years old. I can imagine the great, great mother of someone living here now saving up her money for months and months so she could buy them. I can picture someone sticking their head out, first thing in the morning, looking out across their fields, a cup of coffee in his/her hand. And the latch, look at that rusty, old latch. It’s got to be the original latch that came with the window, back in 1???. This is not a latch from the Bricomarche outside Angers.

What do you think? Is this the one? Agree, disagree? Do you have you have your own version of the quintessential, perfect French photo. If so, I’d love to see it. Bet you can’t pick just one! It’s really difficult.

Here’s the link to my five biking France books (the Loire, Provence, Bordeaux, Normandy and the Dordogne). They’re all half off, so please take a look. They have lots of photos!


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