A potted guide to ‘La Belle France.’

streets of paris during winter

As one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations, France has much to offer. With a rich cultural history, fantastic scenery and some of the best food and drink to be had anywhere on the planet, there is so much more to be seen that just Paris. So where else should you go to experience this marvellous country?

The Mediterranean Coast: You don’t need to be a billionaire with a pad in St Tropez or Monaco to enjoy the French Mediterranean.

Marseille has a reputation as a bit rough and ready, but the city has a charm all of its own. As a port with connections to North Africa, the cosmopolitan nature of the city is evident not just in its people, but it’s food and lifestyle. Take a stroll around the Vieux Port (old port) and sip a pastis as you watch the ships sail and then try a Bouillabaisse (fish soup) or genuine Berber tagine just off Canebiere boulevard.

Just down the road is Avignon, previous home of the Popes (before the Vatican). The city boasts fantastic Medieval forts as well as the famous Pont de Avignon (Bridge of Avignon).

The area around cool and trendy Montpellier is where the French come for their summer holidays. Long sandy beaches, cool coastal towns, and a genuine ‘laissez-faire’ vibe are the reasons to hit the beach here. Montpellier itself is a beautiful little city full of winding alleys lined with boutique shops.

Visitors to the region should also visit the Camargue, a vast protected natural area home to flamingos and other migratory birds.

The East and the Alps: Fans of winter sports don’t need to be told of the fantastic opportunities to be had in the French Alps. Popular resorts such as Chamonix, Alpe de Huez and Courcheval have a reputation as some of the best skiing in the world and rightly so. No matter if you’re a learner or more advanced there will be something for everyone.

The region around Alsace and Reims is more famous as a farming heartland and where some of France’s most famous produce comes from. Reims is the centre of the Champagne region and is surrounded by beautiful lakes and farmland. The Alsace region provides some of the county’s most famous cheeses as well as exceptional beer thanks to the Germanic influence.

Normandy and Bretagne: The rugged north of the country is home to some of the most famous sights and food too. The stunning castle on the island of Mont St Michel is found close to Rennes or St Malo and is one of France’s most picturesque sights. The region of Bretagne (Brittany) is stunning and dotted with small fishing villages and rolling hills. After a day spent strolling the rugged coastline grab a crepe or a savoury galette (pancake) and wash it down with some local cider.

The Atlantic Coast: Bordeaux is a sleepy city world famous for it’s wine. Like most French cities it also has a host of exceptional museums, ancient churches and cathedrals and more than enough food to keep the most demanding gourmand happy.

In the furthest south-west is Biarritz in France’s Basque country. This pretty little town is famous for being the surf capital of France but has a distinct character thanks to it’s Basque influences.

If you’re looking for art, great food or adventure no matter where you head in this great country there will be plenty to keep even the most world-weary traveller happy.

The amazing city of Carcassonne
Continue Reading