We catch up with Liz Rodgers, managing director of Holiday France Direct and confirmed Francophile since youth…
What is your earliest memory of visiting France?
My earliest memory of France is taking part in a school exchange trip to Lyon. We travelled by ferry and it was a very different experience to the one we know and love today. Brittany Ferries’ customers can enjoy fabulous food and comfortable cabins! I stayed with a lovely family and we visited Annecy, Chamonix and Mont Blanc – I could even see the Alps from my bedroom window! In quieter moments, I sometimes scroll through the Holiday France Direct properties in this region: the pictures bring back wonderful memories for me.
How often do you visit the country?
I visit France as often as I can. Although I regularly stay in northern or western France, due to their easy reach of the ferry ports, I have also travelled extensively throughout the country, staying in various Holiday France Direct properties and Brittany Ferries cottages and hotels.
Tell us about your most cherished memory of France
I have many memories of France; some of my most memorable are the time our car caught fire as we crossed the Rance dam, and bumping into my French teacher whilst on holiday in the south of France with my family! Another of my favourite memories is discovering a fabulous road in the Pyrénées when we were travelling from Carcassonne to Ax-les-Thermes with hairpin bends and passing through many beautiful French villages and past herds of cows wearing traditional cowbells.
France can be a bit of a culture shock. What surprised you most about French culture/habits at first?
Whilst I was on my French exchange trip, we visited the family’s grandmother at her farm in the Jura mountains. There was only one tap, no toilet, and there was a shed full of white rabbits that the grandmother used to breed. Then, at lunchtime they brought out rabbit casserole! I also remember trying some garlic soup which was wasn’t to my taste – I can still feel my mouth burning.
Tell us about a secret place you love
My three favourite secret places in France are Ploumanach on the fabulous Pink Granite Coast, the island of Saint-Honorat just off the coast of Cannes, with its stunning monastery that is still inhabited by monks, and the beautiful village of La Roque-Gageac perched above the Dordogne river.
It’s impossible to choose just one!
If you decided to move to France permanently, where would you buy a house and why?
If I was to buy a house in France it would have to be on the Crozon peninsula in western Brittany because of its beautiful scenery and close proximity to the Brittany Ferries port of Roscoff. I’m a keen walker and there are plenty of great walking and coastal paths to explore, and the Breton food and hospitality has become a favourite of mine after over 30 years at Brittany Ferries!
What is your favourite French phrase?
My favourite French phrase is Brittany Ferries’ motto of ‘Mer et Terre’. It celebrates the connection between the sea and the group of French farmers who founded the company to transport their produce more than 40 years ago. And now, it celebrates the transportation of passengers to explore everything France has to offer. This phrase is also personal to me as I grew up in Portsmouth and have worked for Brittany Ferries for 34 years, being responsible for their deal direct advertising product, now known as Holiday France Direct, since it was launched 20 years ago. So I have always had a strong connection to the sea.
Liz Rodgers is the managing director of Holiday France Direct, which offers one of the largest portfolios of independently owned holiday property in France and Spain www.holidayfrancedirect.co.uk