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A French Holiday – Above & Beyond Paris!

A French Holiday – Above & Beyond Paris!

by Sally Goldenberg

France can be an elegant melange of the alluring, charming, provocative and sophisticated; and while these experiences vary depending on the traveller, it is safe to say that this is probably one of the most sensual countries in the world! Intriguing aromas of artisan perfumes, world renowned museums, delicious pastries and gastronomic delights, an endless choice of fine dining restaurants, divine wines and the mesmerising sounds of chanson - all tantalise with their promise to delight! And although Paris being the capital does offer a rich taste of France, there are so many more provinces and places to explore, from the stunning Côte d'Azur and Corsica, to skiing down the slopes in Courchevel, as well as visiting the renowned vineyards in Bordeaux and Burgundy!

Skiing in Courchevel

The moment the weather gets warm and the sun no longer lingers behind the clouds, Parisians leave their apartments en masse to head down to their family estates in Provence. Those “less fortunate” have the chance to feel like royalty by visiting Nice, a preferred destination of monarchs and celebrities alike from around the world. Start the evening with a casual stroll down the famous Promenade des Anglais stretched along the coast. Then, follow the recommendations of your Nice tour guide, and bet everything on black in one of the best casinos in South Europe, order in the real Nicoise salad at a café in Vieille Ville, sample one of the 60 types of whiskey offered at the restaurant De Klomp, and don’t forget to grab a fragrant bouquet at the famous Cours Saleya market.

Sunrice in Nice, France

The true way of exploring the rest of the French Riviera and paying it its due attention is by renting a car and cruising down the coastline, with occasional stopovers at its picturesque cities and towns. Further down from Nice, the quaint town of Antibes lures visitors with its youthful charm, while Grasse promises breathtaking landscapes and panoramic views along with fantastic perfumeries such as Fragonard and Galimard. At celebrity famous Cannes, enjoy the red-carpet promenade at La Croisette before making a detour to Port Grimaud, also known as the ‘French Venice’, to catch the colourful houses of the old village against a brilliant sunset. Then why not spend a lazy day at Saint Tropez, for a round of sunbathing at Pampelonne beach or rent a yacht to visit the nearby islands, before heading to the Polo club for a game.

Antibes Town, France

When visiting France in the winter, one must absolutely head to the majestic Rhône - Alpes region, centred on France’s second city Lyon. Here there are several options to choose from, whether it is the Aix-les-Bains and Evian, known for their Spa resorts and treatments, or the slopes at the Espace Killy, the Three Valleys and Portes du Soleil for skiing enthusiasts. This region offers a perfect balance between natural beauty, cultural heritage and historical landmarks, as well as a myriad of options to fit any budget. While Courchevel and Megève offer a luxurious abundance to the aristocracy, Chamonix and Meribel are more affordable options for those looking to improve their skills in winter sports.

Bora Bora (Pearl Beach Resort & Spa)

For those inspired by nature, there are magical places such as Aiguille du Midi, with its snow-capped peaks, hot springs, alpine meadows and forests, as well as the tranquil lakes of Annecy and Bourget. While there is a particular concentration of restaurants in the region, it is interesting that there are five 3-Michein star restaurants here, one of which belongs to Chef Anne-Sophie Pic, the only woman to have received 3 stars!

Tranquil lakes of Annecy

Visitors looking to improve their health and try out any inventions in the beauty industry can try out the famous Thalasso centres in Bretagne or the power of the mineral springs of Vichy in Auvergne. As any Vichy city tour guide would proudly claim, this region has some of the best spa resorts in the world! With the mineral springs that were appreciated even by the Romans, it does not come as a surprise that the largest baths in Europe can, in fact be found right here.

Grand Hôtel Loreamar Thalasso Spa

Bretagne, located on the stunning coastline, on the other hand offers the power of the sea. The most popular Thalasso centers are located in Saint-Malo and the Roscoff. Along with this, enjoy the oyster capital of the Emerald Coast in Cancale, the picturesque cliffs of Cape Frehel, the white sand peninsula, also known as Quiberon, as well as the village of Carnac where one can find the largest source of megaliths and dolmens in the world.

Cliffs of Cape Frehel

It is but common knowledge that French cuisine delights and fascinates the rest of the world in equal parts! Whether it is cheese, mustard, wines, any kinds of baked goods and without a doubt the very genuine champagne – this country has it all! Burgundy tour guides recommend its capital Dijon as the high point of beautiful architecture and cultural legacy, as well as first-class gastronomy. This distinction however is not only attributable to the most recognised mustard in the world, whose history dates back to the 9th century; few people know that this in fact is the birthplace of Cyrus cocktail, the base of the all-time favourite aperitif drink Kir Royal.

Dijon Architecture - eglise Saint Michel

French wines deserve a separate holiday plan, dedicated to exploring the vineyards of Bordeaux spread over the majestic Garonne, that produce up to 700 million bottles of wine annually. Here, visitors have the opportunity to try the wines and visit some of the most influential wineries in France, as well as learn the characteristics of various grapes and the different methods used to produce high quality spirits at the Museum of Bordeaux. Don’t miss the seasonal fair and festival dedicated to wine!

Brand new state-of-the-art Winery and Barrel Cellar in France

When in France, one absolutely must visit the place of the most expensive grapevines in the world, the Champagne region, which produces up to 300,000 bottles of this royal drink per year! While the weather is far from perfect, the conditions required to grow these ideal grapes cannot be found anywhere else in the world, a fact that can be appreciated over a glass of chilled exquisite bubbles.

The Champagne region, France

Another fantastic place to visit to quench the gastronomic thirst is the Cognac region, which produces the golden brown magical spirit, no other than the famous brandy. Daily tours listed  in the Cognac city tour guides introduce keen visitors to the distilleries that not only explain but also teach the art of drinking cognac.

Famous Cognac Brandy

Whether it is to fall in love with the charm of Marseille, get a glimpse of a royal lifestyle in one of the numerous castles in Ile-de-France, or witness the wild and misty plains of Alsace – a vacation in France can beguile visitors with its versatile sights and myriad experiences making them return time and again for more!

(Sally has been traveling the world since 2012 and loves writing about her insights from her globe trotting lifestyle!)

Image Details & Licenses: (Neil Wilkie, CC BY-NC 2.0), (Tatyana A., CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), (Pedro Szekely, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), (Olivier Bruchez, CC BY-SA 2.0), (Elsa Brunel, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), (RLasaosa, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0), (Jean-Marie Hullot, CC BY-SA 2.0), (CpaKmoi, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), (Dennis Jarvis, CC BY-SA 2.0), (Megan Cole, CC BY 2.0), (Joriel "Joz" Jimenez, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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