Driving from London to the Cote d'Azur with my wife and daughter I decided to break the journey by getting hideously lost in Brittany. I asked some local gents if they knew of a decent hotel for the night, but they insisted we stay with them at their French cooking school in Kerrouet. English was the main language spoken, although people were from all over the place and the atmosphere was great. It was a perfect base to visit the main spots in Brittany, like Dinard, St Malo, the Inter Celtic Festival at Lorient and the ancient stone alinement at Carnac. We never did get down to the south of France but had a splendid time in Brittany and I can now cook a mean Moules a la Creme!
I saw this bistrot recommended in a 2008 Guardian article as one of the 'Top 10 Paris bistrots on a budget'. I can gladly say that it continues to please. We were superbly attended to from start to finish by the friendly owner/ waiter making us feel very welcome. We ordered the three course menu (€18.50-very reasonable for an evening meal in Paris) and let the owner suggest a wine, which went perfectly with the fish we ordered. A constant supply of chilled water was brought to the table and baskets of wonderful fresh bread. The chocolate pudding and the tiramisu were delicious. As a digestif we had the excellent homemade Vanilla rum (€4.50).
30 Rue Pierre Leroux, 75007 Paris
+33 (0)1 42 73 28 34
Google map: bit.ly/l0TGpp
A very pretty small town, with good hotels and restaurants. This place is a bit of an oasis among the busy stretch along the Calais coast. But the location is perfect for anyone who wants to stay overnight on a day trip or shopping trip to France via the ferries or Channel Tunnel. It sure beats hanging around Calais!
Tourists may be queuing up in front of Ladurée for its famous macarons but Parisians often shlep to the bucolic and authentic Daumesnil quartier to get the best Mille-Feuille in Paris, at Vandermeersch’s. A Mille-Feuille (literally, thousand leaves) is a landmark of French patisserie. Its « leaves » must be light and crispy and its cream delicately perfumed with vanilla and a touch of rum.
278 Avenue Daumnesil, Paris 12th
+33 (0)1 43 47 21 66
Google map: bit.ly/kxdncA
The Album bookshop is a temple dedicated to the art of Bande dessinée, an extremely successful art form in the Francophone world, which has no equivalent in Britain or the USA. In Anglophone countries, comic strips are considered a mere entertainment mainly targeted at children. The expression graphic novel had to be coined to appeal to a more mature readership. In France, Belgium and Switzerland, dozens of young authors’ names and unique visual signatures catch people’s eyes whenever they pass a bookshop. Asterix alone has sold 326 million albums since its creation in 1961 and has been translated in 107 languages and dialects.
You won’t have to pass an exam to get a room at Hôtel des Grandes Ecoles, just make sure to book in advance. This hotel, ensconced in an impasse with a garden, right in the heart of the Latin quarter, opposite where Hemingway lived in the Twenties, has affordable and lovely hotel rooms, some with Toile de Jouy wallpaper which will no doubt colour your dreams. Room from 118€. It is not cheap but worth the investment!
It's a very good French restaurant. Firstly, I can pronounce his name without shame.
His food is great and people are so nice and lovely.
And last but not the least, the ice creams are awesome!
5 rue des Teinturiers, 84000, Avignon
+33(0)8 99 23 02 18
Google map: bit.ly/isytlj
Located in the heart of the Somme, five minutes from Newfoundland Park, I have nothing but praise for this fantastic, rural, privately owned guest house, tea rooms and history centre. As one of a party of 12, we were all thrilled by the homely welcome, accommodation and excellent food.
Owner Avril Williams, her son and his partner run this well-oiled operation and they certainly put their heart and soul into it. If you plan to stay, the accommodation is spacious, comfortable and there is plenty of room to relax in the lounge.
Being 'true-Brits' we all enjoyed our English breakfast complete with free-range eggs straight from Avril's own hens. Being a farmyard, Avril also has a number of sheep, cats, and a dog; but we were stunned to hear from Avril herself how one customer complained because of the "sheep poo" in the garden! Some people ...
The garden contains a section of genuine World War One trench which was excavated by the Royal Air Force Regiment and there are many finds displayed around the tea-rooms, house and in Ocean Villa's excellent private museum. With an entrance to the cellars of the old, war-time house directly from the trench and garden, Ocean Villas seeps you in the history of this important historical wartime site. On the cellar walls it is possible to read the WW1 graffiti left behind over 100 years ago. Many of the solders who left their mark have been identified and Avril can tell you the story of them all.
Across the road is Avril's Great War museum which (and I have visited most of them) is possibly the best privately-owned museum on the whole of the Somme. It is a must-see whether you drop in to the Tea Rooms or not.
Thank you Avril, this was a holiday and a half!
This Bed & Breakfast offers wonderfully friendly accommodation with optional evening dinners close to St Cere. The rooms are very comfortable and well decorated but it is the hosts that make this place worth visiting. Nothing is too much for them and the evening dinners are delicious (they provide vegetarian meals for those who want them). It is a renovated farmhouse in a beautiful location perfect for exploring the area around St Cere and the Dordogne Valley. Excellent value.
This superb Belle Epoque building with painted frescoes in the heart of Les Lilas, a little village North-East of Paris (métro Mairie des Lilas), is also an art house cinema. Parisians in the know flock to Les Lilas to see films, in style.
181 bis, rue de Paris, Les Lilas 93260
+33(0)1 43 60 41 89
Baker Pascal Barillon won this year the prestigious Best Baguette Award for his baguette 'tradition'. He got a score of 19.5/20. He is also known for his patisserie creations such as L’Abbesse, a chocolate mousse and orange peel on a truffle paste. Now, run!
6, rue des Abesses, Paris (18th) 75018
Google map: bit.ly/ldezGo
Here is an authentic local café with formica tables and a tasty menu du jour. If you’re a football fan, you’ll be able to discuss with the sportive owner. This café sits on a very poetic corner of Paris, it is precisely where Rue de la Fidélité becomes Rue du Paradis. I often wondered if the Haussmanian city planners did it on purpose.
Corner of rue de Paradis and rue du Faubourg St Denis, Paris (10th)
If you're planning to drive in France, consider avoiding the toll roads and taking the local roads instead. Toll roads are quick but they are deadly boring and expensive - they add a lot of euros to the price of your holiday. Local roads are more interesting to drive and allow you to discover France's best hidden gems: ancient churches, vineyards and olive groves, winding rivers and fantastic bakeries. Be careful though: exploring the backroads could be so much fun that you don't leave time to reach your final destination!
It's possibly the coolest place I've ever been. Sitting in my VW campervan, surfboards everywhere, drinking cold beer and listening to the ocean crash a few metres away - you can't go wrong. I made friends at this place that I'll have for the rest of my life. It's less than a minute walk to the beach where you can see that most spectacular sunsets and eat fresh fish until you explode. Although it's off the beaten track and basically unknown to most people, it really is a wonderful place where everyone will feel at home.
The Saline Royale (Royal Saltworks) is a historical building at Arc-et-Senans in the department of Doubs, eastern France. The architect was Claude-Nicolas Ledoux (1736–1806), a prominent Parisian architect of the time. The work is an important example of an early Enlightenment project in which the architect based his design on a philosophy that favored arranging buildings according to a rational geometry and a hierarchical relation between the parts of the project.
After visiting the Royal Saltworks, you
can stay at the Château de Germigney which is a wonderful place with a one star gastronomic restaurant.
We stayed at the Hotel Les Tetes in Colmar in February and can highly recommend it, particularly for its central location in the middle of the medieval old town, its historic building status (it's a tourist attraction in its own right) and the attached gourmet restaurant. The broccoli soup was unforgettable!
Here's a list of other recommended places to visit in Colmar:
Little Venice: the network of canals in the old town
Quai de la Poissonnerie: a lovely medieval street
Unterlinden Museum: featuring the famous Isenheim altar piece
The Dominican Church: with the painting Madonna of the Rose Arbor
The Bartholdi Museum: dedicated to the designer of the Statue of Liberty
Toy museum: specialising in animated toys
Can't believe this hasn't been recommended? Perhaps it's because most people that post here are tourists! [ouch - editor] Anyway Bois de Vincennes. Great park in the east, busy when the sun shines but massive enough to get lost in/find a quiet spot. Also next door to the aquarium and the Museum of Immigration.
On the buzzing Rue Faubourg Saint-Denis, this bar is a lively and fun local. It's opposite the now uber-trendy Chez Jeanette, but offers a much more chilled out and party atmosphere than its neighbour. And much friendlier staff! Prices are reasonable, the music is great and you can even order a curry from the many Indian restaurants in Passage Brady next to door and have it served to you in the bar!
Always packed with young locals, this is the bar (and street) that the dispels the myth that Paris's nightlife is dead.
46 Rue Faubourg St Denis, 75010, Paris
+33(0)1 44 79 06 42
Google map: bit.ly/kR5Gkd
Encompassing the best of contemporary Parisian culture, this great music venue was the staging ground for my initiation into Paris nightlife. Nestled between the Seine and the urban sprawl of north east Paris this venue caters to a young, arty crowd. In the day the Point Ephemere acts as a gallery showcasing installation art and photography. However, my girlfriend and I stumbled upon this place at night at which point the venue kicks into a higher gear letting rip with some of the best dance and electro music in Paris. We got down to a live set from Freestylers and witnessed a blistering gig with a frenzied crowd that was less propelled by booze and more energized by the atmosphere and people around them. For lovers of big beats, an electric atmosphere and friendly crowds the Point Ephemere is a must and should be your first stop on a night out in Paris.
An amazing Roman amphitheatre nestled above Lyon. You have amazing views of the stage and the city from every seat. This year's line up includes the Arctic Monkeys, Sting, Lou Reed, Two Door Cinema Club and Bryan Ferry.
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