“To all the English tourists out there, this is France and in France we speak French.” So says the radio DJ to hysterical laughter from his co-presenter on The French Can Be Twats FM (I guessed this was the name of the station because this was the only English I heard in a two-hour session). It was so befitting the cliché of the arrogant Frenchman, I had to laugh.

But despite the occasional cocky DJ, it’s difficult not to be charmed by France. Nowhere is this more the case than in the rural areas where the landscape is stunning, the food tasty, the drink intoxicating and the people warm and friendly – for the most part. While Paris can rightly claim to be one of the great cities of the world, it is really only the brightest jewel in the bling crown of France.

To fully appreciate all that is wonderful about a country that gave the world Monet, champagne and the croissant, time must be spent exploring the rivers and valleys of the countryside where the nation’s spirit flows freely.

Here are a few tips about how to make the most of rural France.

» Drive it
If you want to see the best of the French countryside, having a car is a must. While you could battle away with public transport, you’d spend hours each day trying to get anywhere. A beautiful place to drive, the curling roads lead to villages hanging impossibly off cliffs and vineyards the size of a small English county.

If you’re hiring a car, consider nominating at least two drivers. If you’ve only got one, they’re going to get sick of driving the crew around after vino lunches and winery visits.

» House it
Replace the sound of hustling cars with meandering cattle and it doesn’t take long to figure out how much a stay in a farmhouse can recharge your batteries. They are littered across French paddocks and can be rented out for as little as £175 per week sleeping six people. Many have a pool and a rural charm, which means having a day kicking about the house is a day to be celebrated.

» Eat it
For all the glory of Parisian restaurants, you haven’t experienced the best of France until you’ve cooked for yourself with local produce. The bread alone makes anything you’ll eat in the UK look like prison food.

Whether you shop in street markets or the local supermarket, the French emphasis on quality
is a highlight.

» Drink it
Everything you’ve heard is true. Not only is French wine delicious, much of it is also inexpensive. Along with the chateaux, which dot many regions like pubs dot London, supermarkets will once again be your best friend. Most stock wine native to the region you’re in and will sell it for a steal. You can pick up good wine for as little as €4 and it won’t even come in a silver bladder.

Aside from being good for the hip pocket, the cheap prices encourage experimentation making drinking as much an education as a pleasure.

» Krysten Booth travelled to France with Bowhills Farmhouse and Villa Holidays (0870-235 2727; www.bowhills.co.uk). Bowhills lets villas and farmhouses across France from £175 per week.

Worth the trip

When it comes to seeing the best of rural France there are plenty of options. Here are a few suggestions.

» Provence
With the attraction of both coast and country, Provence is a well-trodden path for summer tourists who start in central France before working their way down to the Mediterranean. A visit to this part of south-east France is quite likely to have you falling for that oft-forgotten drop – Rosé.

» Quercy
A beautiful area filled with historic villages and scenic drives, Quercy’s highlights include St-Cirq Lapopie and Rocamadour, two small towns perched on cliffs with magnificent valley views. It’s also worth taking the time to hire a canoe to paddle along the River Lot.

» Bordeaux
One for the real wine buffs, you could drive for days in this region and visit nothing but cellar doors. While teeming with tourists, St Emilion is a gorgeous village and a wonderful place to enjoy a long lunch in the sun.

» The Pyrenees
Not just for spandex-wearing cyclists and snow bunnies, the Pyrenees are the beautiful mountains that separate Spain and France. For those with a religious bent, a trip to Lourdes should be high on the agenda where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared in the 19th century.