Just north of Pau is the region of Gascony, if you are into wine and food there are some great places to check out.
The easiest place to find tasting rooms wise is in Saint-Mont. A tiny village with a nice winery in the center of town called Plaimont. Just outside of town is a place called Château de Sabazan.
We stayed at a little gite called Chateaux Projan – simply amazing, with great meals every evening and it’s haunted (and I did hear weird sounds at night).
There are loads of other regions to look at as well – most importantly Madiran. Madiran produces big reds that go well with duck - be prepared to eat nothing but duck when in the area.
If you do drive through these areas of Gascony you will most definitely be stunned by the sheer beauty of the rugged terrain. It's basically miles of vineyards, dotted with ancient, forgotten châteaux. One of the most untouched areas of France and truly picturesque.
The first time I went to Menton this place was closed. The second time (2009) it was opened and what a great experience.
Although small this collection is wonderful to see. As I entered the building after lunch (2pm) the wonderful air-con was such a joy. Obviously with so many original paintings it had to be kept cool in the searing heat and it was.
Be careful when you go up the steps not to miss the paintings on the walls. The upstairs gallery gives an interesting incite into Mr Cocteau.
They all left me feeling quite inspired as I left. A lovely way to spend an afternoon in Menton IMO.
A booking agent that is dedicated to Chamonix Mont Blanc. We needed an apartment for just two days and while most people wouldn't help us Snow and Soleil gave us plenty of options and made our stay possible.
This is the most elegant (and undiscovered) shop in Nice.
Down by the port near the antiques district, Anne and Bertrand Vignes work quietly away in this chic little boutique making fabulous frames, wallets, belts, bags and jewellery with wonderful exotic leathers.
Jewel coloured crocodile and stingray skins are crafted into cuffs and necklaces - simply stunning. Expensive - yes - but worth saving up for as you won't find anything like it anywhere else on the Cote. And check out Anne's personal style - she always looks amazing.
16 Rue Emmanuel Philibert
I had to go to Annecy to watch the time trial at Tour de France today and was really late arranging it. I got a flight at the very last minute and found that I needed to get from Geneva to Annecy in a hurry. I called Alpine Cab up and they picked me up at the airport and took me right to where I wanted to go in Annecy, They were fantastic, quick and polite (and they spoke English)
A basic Southern Indian restaurant specialising in parathas (stuffed pancakes) located in the heart of Paris's little visited Indian quarter. It is cheaper and more relaxed than the now all too touristy falafal in the Marrais.
The Masala Paratha at just €4.50 includes a large gently spiced Paratha with a fiery dahl along with a couple of dips. There are selections of authentic Southern Indian snacks which you can buy to take away. Friendly service and the sure fire sign of quality - largely frequented by the local Indian population.
Quick, filling and perfectly placed for a pre or post Eurostar meal it is the best value meal I know of in Paris.
189 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Martin
75010 Paris, France
+33(0)1 40 34 30 70
Google map: bit.ly/lTygle
After a walking through the very chic neighbourhood of St Germain where cash is king, switch to the Quartier Latin for a meal solely based on tartes. It is cheap, very cheap, it is cheerful and above all, the chocolate and raspberry tarte is so good it may make you tear up.
53 Rue Mouffetard, 75005 Paris, France
+33(0)1 43 37 21 89
Google map: bit.ly/gN0ak3
There are some huge, very well equipped, teeming and expensive campsites in the Loire Valley. There are also many small and cheap campsites run by the municipality - some in the most delightful places (one at Nazelles Negron near Amboise runs wine tastings and has a pizza van some evenings). We paid around 7-8 euros a night for two of us and a tent, and enjoyed a shady riverbank. There's also one we didn't stay on right next to the chateau at Chenonceau.
This restaurant is tucked discreetly in the corner of the square in Lannepax a sleepy village off the Vic Fezanzac - Eauze road. It's an old and traditional restaurant which has been there for many years. There are new owners. The food is little short of magnificent and not the more usual confits and steak. Here I had lamb's brains in chervil cream sauce, shredded chicken in a pot with hints of North African spices, and the usual desserts.
The wine is local and is included. Not the usual slightly ordinaire but good local red and rose.
Service is fun, attentive but never over the top. On complimenting our waitess I asked the secret of their successful melange of food and spice. "The secret is that the kitchen is led by women," she smiled and when I checked that service was included she told me it was but that the smile was not.
The meal on the terrace was delightful and for four, including coffee the price was 58 Euroes. Head for Lannepax and a simple and delightful gastronomic discovery.
Place de la Mairie, Lannepax, 32190
To get the true feeling of being in Paris, then leave the main tourist trail and head for the water- no, not the Seine, but one of the Parisian canals.
The canal cruise I would highly recommend is called "Old Paris" on the Saint Martin Canal it takes 2.5 hours and is simply heaven. It leaves from Paris Arsenal Marina and goes to Parc de la Villette It is a romantic trip and gives you the opportunity to hear the history of the true Paris.
Cruise along the tree lined canal while admiring the old, yet beautiful footbridges. You will also pass below the Bastille. You can also enjoy going through several locks and a couple of swing bridges. You will watch as people go along the canal banks with the many retro shops and cafes-it is truly a view of Paris you will adore.
During the cruise I went on, they played old French songs - which may sound off putting, but on this occasion I found it added to a glorious experience I long to repeat. And the cost is 15 euros for adults and eight euros for children.
The Velib 'free' bicycle system in Paris is really a great idea. I went for a five day extended weekend with my partner and checked my credit card statement the next month to discover to my delight that I had been all over the city; to the Eiffel Tower, along the Champs Elysees, a scary whirl around Place de la Concorde at rush hour (not recommended for the faint-hearted!) and all over the Grand Boulevards and along the Seine and had spent a massive total of six euros.
The system is user friendly and self-explanatory, you can do it in a range of languages. You tap in your credit card details for a small flat hire rate (no more than five euros, as far as I recall), then hoik the rather clumsy, heavy bikes out of their stand. The bikes are a little uncomfortable and it's important to examine which number bike you'll take before you select at the controls, because some have flat tyres, wonky seats that won't budge, or rattling chains. The bikes have - ostensibly - three gears. These are 'slow', 'slower' and 'snail's cycle-rate' and it can get hairy attempting to belt across a junction will a line of irate Parisian drivers attempting to turn right and cut you up.
If you dock the bike back into another station before 30 mins are up, the ride is free. Interestingly, my partner's credit card statement showed one euro more expenditure so perhaps he had docked in a second or two after me.
However, it's an excellent way to see Paris and a lot of fun.
All over Central Paris
The vast majority of skiers and snowboarders travel by air. Typicaly, that means getting up in the middle of the night to get a charter flight from a crowded airport. But Tignes is one of many resorts that can easily be reached by train - a journey that is comfortable, easy, good value and surprisingly quick. You'll be able to find more information about these train journeys at a new website, www.snowcarbon.co.uk.
Brunch/lunch café. Menu serves (among other items): fruit cocktails and smoothies, home-made muffins, salads, packed massive sandwiches, veggie maki and my favourite: delicious, taste-bud exploding gazpacho. Oh yum. Free coffee if you eat in-house.
All is organic, all is vegetarian, all is fun as you banter with the service (they love it).
We visited Chamonix for the second year in a row and stayed in an apartment in Les Periades we rented from prime-accommodation-chamonix.com.
The views were absolutely glorious and we were almost right in Chamonix city centre. It was also a pretty good deal, considering the busy summer season.
If you are travelling to Chamonix and are after a good value one bedroom apartment, we would strongly recommend them.
The gardens which surround the Musée du quai Branly in Paris are free to enter. They are beautifully designed with lots of nooks and terraces. They even host parts of museum exhibitions such as the current TARZAN! exhibition which has sound effects hidden in the garden - great for kids. You can also view the Eiffel Tower whilst sat eating a lovely chocolate cake in the museum cafe also in the gardens.
musée du quai Branly
37, quai Branly
75007 – Paris
tuesday, wednesday and sunday : 11am . 7pm
thursday, friday, saturday : 11am . 9pm
- metro : Iéna (line 9), Alma-Marceau (line 9), Pont de l’Alma (RER C), Bir Hakeim (line 6).
- bus : line 42 Eiffel Tower stop; lines 63, 80, 92: Bosquet-Rapp stop; line 72 Musée d’art moderne – Palais de Tokyo stop
- river shuttle : Eiffel Tower stop (Batobus, Bateaux parisiens et Vedettes de Paris
For the best value lunchtime meal, find a country restaurant that has a few commercial vehicles outside it eg blue vans from EDF or GDF. The food will be local and good - these people drive miles to meet up there at lunchtime.
The third weekend in September is the Journees du Patrimoine when France flings its cultural doors open wide and squashes many entrance fees! If you're in Vaison la Romaine head for the Roman ruins or the mediavel citadel for guided tours.
The cathedral in Beauvais is extraordinary. It remains unfinished; having been started in 1227, the work stopped in 1578. Had it been completed on the scale originally proposed it would have been the largest Gothic cathedral in the world.
The chunk which was built measures 72m long and nearly 50m high. The choir alone is 37m long, and when you stand inside gazing upward you grasp the enormous scale of the existing building and sense what might have been.
The builders had terribly bad luck (or weren't very good) because right from the start bits kept falling down, and the 153m high spire collapsed in 1573.
Beauvais centre was destroyed by incendiary bombing when the Germans invaded in 1940 and consequently lacks any old buildings. But the cathedral survived and is well worth visiting. The modern town has attractively laid out streets and squares, with many good places to eat and drink. Fans of French cathedrals could see Beauvais, Amiens and Rouen easily over a couple of days. All three (cathedrals, not fans - there must be more than that surely) are extraordinary and beautiful.
Beauvais is halfway between Abbeville and Paris, off the A16, and south of Amiens.
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