Departmental capital: Troyes
Main cities/towns: Troyes, Romilly-sur-Seine, La Chapelle-Saint-Luc, Saint-André-les-Vergers, Sainte-Savine
Deep in champagne country, the rural, sparsely populated department of Aube, with fewer than 320,000 residents in an area about half the size of the entire Ile-de-France region and its 12.2million inhabitants, is a 90-minute train ride from the capital – and a world away in almost every other aspect.
Aube, in the Grand Est region, is a green and pleasant land of rivers and lakes, forests and wide-open spaces under big skies. Three artificial lakes, created to regulate the flow of the Seine into Paris and beyond, were built in the 1970s and are now major tourist hubs.
The department may be landlocked but it has its fair share of beaches.
As for the weather, it is relatively mild and wet here in the colder months but generally dry and pleasantly warm when summer comes around.
This is not a well-trodden part of France despite its obvious advantages for lovers of the gentle outdoors. You might even be tempted to call it a hidden gem.
There is a rail link to Paris, which is also just over two hours away by road, so main airports and train stations are reachable, but you will not be disturbed, for example, by regular aircraft noise.
House prices have been rising recently but because it is off the beaten track, you will still be able to find a traditional house in the medieval prefecture town Troyes for an average price of €1,808 per m².
A similar property in Romilly-sur-Seine could even set you back as little as €1,196 per m². Worth a look, perhaps, if you want to live the French dream on a budget.