We love FRANCE and to commemorate our Spring edition, we bring you the crème de la crème of what this diverse and vibrant country has to offer, from the best city break destinations to adventure holidays and exciting events, there are plenty of ways to celebrate la Vie Française.
Paris is truly world class. From the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe to the Seine, around every corner there’s a cultural highlight or an architectural stunner. All at once romantic, sophisticated, bohemian, it’s an essential destination.
On the banks of the Garonne, Toulouse is a city with verve and confidence. Not only does it have a rich cultural history, it’s looking to the future with its role at the centre of the European aerospace industry and space programme. It’s undoubtedly a city on the up.
The ‘City of Art and History’, Bordeaux boasts some fantastic architecture. The last 10 years have seen it refreshed to its former glory. Famous for its wine, no visit is complete without sampling a bottle of claret!
The largest city in southeast France has an identity all of its own and a unique style that its people are rightly proud to celebrate. Marseille has more than its fair share of museums, art galleries, and a youthful, vibrant air that sets it apart from its Riviera rivals.
Near the German border, Strasbourg is literally the ‘town at the crossing of roads’, and the German influence can be seen in its architecture and cuisine. As home to the European Council and the Court of Human Rights, the city also plays an important role.
The capital city on the Côte d’Azur, Nice attracts millions of visitors every year due to its pretty beaches, clear sea sand legendary Promenade des Anglais. The city is no longer the reserve of the rich and famous – its charms can be enjoyed by everyone.
Lyon is “gastronomic” heaven for anyone after unbeatable gourmet food, shopping and culture. Its Renaissance architecture forms the back drop to a selection of fantastic restaurants. It’s the French capital of gastronomy. It is also the city of filature. Nowadays there is not much left of the silk industry there but historically Lyon was the biggest silk provider to French monarchs – for garments and interior design.
BARGE HOLIDAY IN BURGUNDY
Hiring a barge is a supremely relaxing experience as you glide slowly along, taking in the countryside and villages along the way. Enjoy the local food and wine and, just for a while, getaway from it all.
Montpellier is fast becoming the favoured French Mediterranean destination, with its abundance of historic buildings and picturesque gardens. It’s only a few miles from the coast, so you’ll have the best of every aspect of life right at your fingertips!
Having escaped the devastation of various wars, Dijon is perhaps most notable for its varied architectural styles – many dating back as far as the 12th century. Being the capital of the Burgundy region, expect wine to be flowing when you visit. And, of course, when in Dijon don’t forget to purchase the popular Dijon mustard.
Dating back to the 10th century, Rouen has a fascinating heritage to uncover. It’s the perfect spot to immerse yourself in some French (and English!) history and to admire its famous cathedral.
ADVENTURE SKIING IN THE ALPS
Get your adrenalin pumping at one of the world’s most famous mountain ranges. There are dozens of resorts in the Alps, including the ever-popular Les Trois Vallèes and Portes du Soleil. Take to the slopes, then reward yourself with the all-important après-ski.
DISNEYLAND RESORT PARIS
Orginally known as the ‘Euro Disney’, the renamed resort has become one of France’s major tourist attractions, celebrating its 18th anniversary this spring. As the name suggests, this is more than just a simple theme park with its rides, shops and hotels.
You can’t get better than the southwest village of Messanges, with its 5km long clean, white beach for swimming, boogie boarding and summer surfing and volleyball tournaments. The villlage is also surrounded by a cres of forest just crying out to be explored.
DIVING IN CORSICA
Take the plunge and go diving off the beautiful, unspoilt island of Corsica. Enjoy the clear, warm waters and explore the wreck of a WWII bomber at Calvi or the marine reserve of Bonifacio.
CYCLING IN THE LOIRE VALLEY
With its incredible châteaux, picturesque river, breathtaking countryside, it’s little wonder the Loire Valley is known as the ‘Garden of France’.Cycling is the best way to experience it at your own pace.
WALKING IN THE AUVERGNE
Pull in your walking boots and head for Volcano country! There’s a choice of walks to embark on, but heading to the top of the mountain range is a must – just take plenty ofthe local mineral water with you.
SAILING IN NICE
Leave the land lubbers behind on the beach and set sail from the popular Riviera town for a splash of nautical fun. Nice has several sailing centres, and the Club Nautique has a handy training school next door with beginners’ courses for both adults and kids.
HORSERIDING IN THE CAMARGUE
Tehnically an island due to being surrounded by water, the Camargue is a vast area of wet land. It’s home to its own eponymous breed of white horses – the best means of transport to explore it.
YURT CAMPING IN THE ARDÈCHE
Located on top of the Ardècheriver gorge, the yurt tents at this particulars ite come furnished with beds, linen and towels, so you can enjoy an active day safe in the knowledge that you’ll have a good night’s sleep afterwards.
HERITAGE MONT ST-MICHEL
Just off the coast of Normandy, it has played a unique part in France’s history since the 6th century. The dramatic World Heritage site was orginally a ‘tidal island’, cut off from the mainland with each high tide. It really is a sight to behold.
ST-JACQUES DE COMPOSTELLE
Mix adventure with culture and follow in the footsteps of the pilgrims, who have been travelling the ‘Way of St-James’ between France and Spain for over 1,000 years. The route traditionally begins in one of four towns in southwest France, the most popular of these being Le-Puy-en-Velay, itself one of a string of World Heritage sites along the way.
PALACE OF VERSAILLES
Between 1682 and 1789 this magnificent château was the centre of power in France. Louis XIV ordered the creation of the Hall of Mirrors – recently restored to the tune of €12million. The impressive grounds form one of the biggest formal gardens ever created.
Roussillon is noted for its ochremines, from which are built many of the 300-year-old buildings, with their striking pinkish-red hue. Head to the top of the village to take in views of the Provençal countryside.
One of the most beautiful villages, Locronan in Brittany is known for its exquisitely well-preserved buildings that draw the crowds – and film makers too. The village featured in Roman Polanski’s “Tess” and Jean-Piere Jeunet’s “A Very Long Engagement”.
The D-Day landings remain to this day the largest seaborne invasion in history. Remember those who gave their lives by visiting the vast, immaculately kept cemeteries, the museums and memorials, and the beaches where it all happened over 60 years ago.
Perhaps the finest example of French Gothic architecture, Notre Dame is one of the most famous cathedrals of the world. Though hard to believe town planners considered demolishing it in the early 1700s after it fell into a state of disrepair. Thankfully, interest was raised by Victors Hugo’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” – and restoration began in 1845.
THE CAVE OF LASCAUX
Montignac in southwest France is the home to some of the earliest art known to man. Sadly, in 1963 it became clear that the paintings were deteriorating and the cave was closed, but there is a replica display – Lascaux II – which has been open since 1983.
Nestled in a forest near the town of Treigny in Burgundy, this unique project is bringing history to life. Guedelon is a medieval castle being built from scratch using 13th-century techniques and tools. You can watch as the craftsmen toil away to build a living piece of the past, due for completion in 2020.
THÉÂTHRE ANTIQUE D’ORANGE
This breathtaking Roman theatre is one of the best preserved examples of its type, with a vast auditorium seating 9 ,000 people. Today’s visitors can experience the full splendour with each summer’s Opera Festival.
FOODIE ‘PAUL’ PATISSERIES
While in France, a visit to a patiserrie is essential. Paul is a family business established over 100 years ago which has 240 traditional-style bakeries across the country serving everything from fancy breads to cakes and desserts, and now available in England!
Founded in 1862, this patisserie is famous for its egg white-almond gâteaux that the French call macaroons. It is a true Parisian philistinism and sophistication symbol well-known all over the world.
Beautiful countryside, luxurious drinks – combine them both with a tour of the Champagne region, discovering the complex production methods of this uniquely French product along theway.
AUBERGE LA FONTAINE
This charming Pays-de-la-Loire farmhouse with ocean views is a great way to experience French food. Taste the dishes cooked on the traditional fireplace and walk the gardens, bursting with fruit, vegetables and flowers.Visit www.auberge-la-fontaine.com
Grape Escapes specialises in winetours, taking in the French vineyards, presses and cellars with plenty to sample along the way! Learn all about the production of your favourite variety and impress your dinner party guests.Visit www.grapeescapes.net
Fresh bread, delicious wine – there’s only one thing missing, and that’s a great French cheese. So head to the Norman village of Camembert to taste its famous, eponymous, creamy offering. A picturesque village in its own right, it’s perfect to the cheese connoisseur.
SNAILS IN BURGUNDY
The snail is a French delicacy and something everyone should be able to say they’ve tried. The Burgundy variety is perhaps the best known, traditionally smothered with parsley and garlic.
For genuine French seafood,Brittany is the place to be, withmussels and oysters in abundance.The local speciality is Cotriade, astew made from a variety of fish andpotatoes, usually served on toastedbread.
LOUIS XV RESTAURANT, MONACO
Chef Alain Ducasse’s Louis XVin Monaco makes the most of the local Mediterranean produce. The menu has distinct themes, such as the sea, the garden and the pasture, with a range of impressive dishes.
Unique to Lyon, the bouchon is a type of family-run restaurant which serves up local, traditional food and is known for its lively atmosphere and old-fashioned style. The emphasis is often on meaty dishes such as pork, served up in hearty portions. There’s no nouvelle cuisine here!
POULETS DE BRESSE
The Bresse chicken was the first animal to be granted an appellation – in other words, their reputation is as protected as France’s fine wines and cheeses. Known by many as the fourth gastronomic wonder of the world, they enjoy conditions far and above most other bird stock and therefore have a fuller, deeper flavour.