If you want to see great views of southern France, try this cycling holiday based in a fabulous farm setting with gourmet food is. This is the second year my wife and I have been to John and Aileen's. They also run wine tasting weeks and various trips around the Lot and Dordogne areas. They also do B&B in their stylishly converted barn.
A truly wonderful place for relaxing. Everything about it is conducive to a nurturing atmosphere. The sunny, country location. Crisp sheets, cosy rooms, deliciously nutritious vegetarian food. The yoga room has its own special energy and the salon a tented Moroccan feel. The pool was fresh on a very hot day! The hosts Alex and Adrian are friendly and warm and their attention to detail amazing. I wish I could bottle the smells of the beautiful garden, the wafting incense and the spices of the yoga tea. If stressed I could inhale and be transported back to paradise. This centre shines out as an example to all others.
A quiet and calm holiday retreat with fantastic seafood in local restaurants and supermarkets and local markets(La Tremblade). Worth the nine hour drive from Calais with weather that always breaks through even on cloudy days. Mostly clear blue skies but not oppressing heat due to constant gentle winds from the Atlantic. Near to Cognac, La Rochelle, Royen, and not that far from Bordeaux.
There's a variety of accommodation from campsites with mobile homes available for hire (air conditioning and all mod cons available), touring, camping and apartments. The estuary by Ronce Les Bains beach gives access to oyster and muscle farms when the tide goes out. Then there is 3ft of warm sea water to swim in when the tide comes in.
Around the corner and down the Atlantic coast you will find more exciting bathing and surfing. St Palais Sur Mare provides a larger seaside town and a challenging golf course. If you like a quiet, relaxing holiday with wine, seafood and cheese and bread you really couldn't ask for more. I have holidayed with children from three to 18 and they all love the experience.
It's definitely worth the extra three hours south of the Vendee.
Ronce Les Baines is near La Tremblade, 35 miles south of La Rochelle.
Google map: tinyurl.com/38k5hjz
Just north of the main SNCF station is the Place Liberation. It's a pretty if busy traditional square opposite the facade of the old Gare Du Sud (the new station has relocated a few hundred yards west). There's a terrific market that's a lot cheaper than the tourist trap that is the Cours Saleya and there's a proliferation of non-touristy cafes and bars as well as an excellent seafood brasserie on the corner of the Boulevard Jean Garnier. For a taste of real urban France in a city obsessed with bling, it's a real find.
The new tram stops there although it's perfectly walkable from the SNCF station.
Google map: tinyurl.com/2vqqhe6
A haven for lovers of real beer, A traditional, basic boozer, Mori's is a real treat right in the heart of the city. There's plenty of choice from Scotland to Belgium to America on offer and - apart from nighclubs thronged with the fashionably sad - it's open after 11pm. You can also laugh at the more conceited French as they mince past.
5 Rue de France, Nice, France 06300
+33 (0)4 93 87 69 03
Google map: tinyurl.com/2w5q8gy
Escape the tourist hordes and take a short walk from Place Kleber, along Rue de l'Outre, to Brasserie Flo, a cousin of the famous Paris institution, ironically one of the original fin de sicle "Alsatian" Brasseries which transformed the eating habits in France's capital. It attracts Strasbourgers for lunch and dinner inside a faithful copy of the Paris original, from cafe chairs outside to leather booths, stained glass panels and ceiling inside. The main menu replicates the original too, and the changing seasonal menu is an attractive deal at two courses for under €20, or €26 for three, the starters include a slab of delicious foie gras served with sweet mango ‘chutney', or choose oysters, rillettes or goats cheese. The mains offer a freshly chopped steak tartar, spiked with shallots and capers, a substantial and tasty lump of raw beef, served with chips and salad. The choice runs to choucroute, bouillabaisse, lamb chops or salmon followed by - if you have room - a selection of traditional desserts and cheeses.
From the cathedral city of Strasbourg the Alsatian canal network sprawls out into the valleys and mountains of this historic region. This 25 km cycle path runs parallel to the Canal de la Bruche, built in the 17th century to transport stone into the city. The beauty of this route is that it's completely flat - ideal for beginners and families. The canal slides through pretty Alsatian villages, fields and lochs and there are plenty of picnic spots along the way.
The path starts on the Quai de la Flassmatt, just off the Route de Schirmeck in the Montagne Verte area of the city. The nearest tram stop is Montagne Verte, line B or C.
Google map: tinyurl.com/357cvzm
Breton Bikes have been providing cycling touring holidays for over 20 years. They offer a variety of excellent routes and you can choose between camping and hotel options. We chose the hotel option on their Carnac or Bust tour. We stayed in small family run hotels, each one individual and comfortable. The cycling is between 24 and 51 kms on quiet Breton lanes, tow paths and cycle routes. After the tranquility of central Brittany and stopping for lunch in the village cafe and not a tourist attraction in sight, it is something of a shock to arrive in the relative bustle of shops and bars on the coast. Breton Bikes is run by an English couple who are also cyclists and live and work in central Brittany. They provide you with all the equipment you need, including fantastic bikes and back-up.
We ate in the house of the owners Monsieur and Madame Chauvigné and the meal was certainly one of the highlights of the trip. They did say that we were the first of their English guests who had chosen to eat with them. The food and wine were of the highest quality.
The cost for 7 of us at La Fiouzaire was 290 euro. Not to be missed if we are ever back that way.
900 mile cycle journey - best holiday ever. The European Bike Express makes it possible to cycle from the Channel to the Mediterranean (Manche à Mer has a similar ring to Coast to Coast) by dropping you off at Calais (not a scheduled stop, but if you ask them nicely) and picking you up at Narbonne. In our case the return date was 29 days after the drop-off, giving us a few days by the Med. We found the CTC information, Alastair Sawday’s French Bed and Breakfast Guide, IGN 1/25,000 scale maps and local tourist office guides invaluable. We mostly booked the day before except when our overnight destination coincided with the Tour de France. As we were getting on a bit we avoided the Massif Central. Among the many highlights were: being pressed to take food, drink and an orange for the journey by Licques cycling club (we met their club outing food stop), watching Le Tour go by, staying at the Chateau Larra and dining with the Baroness and her family. We took no spares (just puncture repair kit) on the premise that we’d never be too far from a cycle shop in France. Others may not want to risk it, although we only suffered two punctures in 970 miles. It all added up to one of the most memorable holidays we have had.
P.S (can be included if this doesn’t make it too long:
Our overnight stops were Bois-en-Ardres, Montreuil. Chépy, Gaillefontaine, Les Andelys, Evreeux, Maletable, Bonnetable, Pontvallain, Saumur, St Jean de Thouars, Parthenay, St Maixent, Angouleme, Biras-Brantome, St Sauveur, Villeneuve-sur-Lot, Valence d’Agen, Castelsarrassin, Moissac, Larra, Villefranche-en-Lauragais, Castelnaudary, Marseillette, Gruissan –Plage.
Anyone contemplating a trip to a French wine producer will be able to identify independent producers who operate under the umbrella of "Vignerons Independant",
I have visited a few of the many producers around Beaujolais, they are fiercely independent and are rightly proud of their wines. They may not speak much English and their wine will not necessarily be cheap, but it will be different from the standard wines produced by the negociants and the experience is worth it.
Bear in mind that the producers are understandably keen to sell and your reception will depend on your perceived willingness to buy.
Also consider when you buy, if you buy in summer on the way out your wine is likely to suffer from prolonged exposure to heat.
Some villages run annual Foire aux Vins, if you happen to find yourself in the vicinity of one it should be worth a visit, it is a long time since I visited Vouvray but I have very happy memories of the Foire which is held over a week-end every August, enquire at the local tourism office or perhaps the Guardian could produce a definitive calendar. I would be happy to assist with any research on the ground!
The Marennes region is an area of France surrounding the beautiful town of Marennes on the west coast. I recommend it because I spent several months there in the summer of 2009 and adored everything it had to offer. There are beaches in abundance and many exciting things to see and do, including the Île d'Oléron, France's second largest Island.
Link - www.lovetoescape.com/spps/Charente-Maritime-1314.html
I went to Cannes in the French Riviera and that was wonderful! I rented a flat, 50m from the beach, at a budget price.
The owner is a lovely granny who rent for a month or more. That's really hard to find in the French Riviera.
We could go to the beach on foot and wash after at the flat, it even has a bath for the children. We had breakfast seeing the sea and we had dinner on the big balcony (weather is blamy at night in this area).
I really recommend it. It was a great holiday.
The flat: Avenue de Lérins, 06400 Cannes, France
+336 627 548 34
It's a hotel based on natural, artisanal and handmade furnitures. The atmosphere in the hotel was really peaceful, with linen curtains and sheets, natural coconut fibers bed and wooden parquet flooring. The breakfast was amazing, full of organic products and very tasty.
A very romantic hotel with starry lights in the room,very friendly and helpfull staff, I recommend it for lovers. This design boutique hotel is very famous in Paris.You can even choose the fragrance of the room and the color of the lights.
We spent 12 months in 2009 and 2010 travelling around southern Europe in our VW campervan. On our blog is a full list of all the camp sites we stayed at, as well as other useful information for anyone planning a similar trip and lots of photos of the beautiful places we saw in Italy, Slovenia, Austria, France, Spain and Portugal.
Restaurant selling huge quantities of mussels. Might look like a tourist trap but continues to attract locals in large numbers.
Moules frites cooked four or five different ways at sensible prices. Service brisk and pretty friendly towards visitors.
Located on a main shopping street opposite Galeries Lafeyette.
34 rue de Bethune Lille
+33 3 20 57 12 46
Google map: tinyurl.com/3xoszxn
In a beatiful peaceful spot, a maneagable drive from Cannes / the A8 motorway, this restaurant/auberge serves truly excellent food in a quasi-medieval setting, complete with donkey and farm animals visible from the restaurant (the other side of glass fortunately!). A change from more conventional settings. The owner even has a museum on the upper floor that claims to trace the 'history of love through the millennia', if you want something a bit different after coffee!
Route du Village, Auribeau-sur-Siagnewww.vignettehaute.com/
Alsace is a great place for wine tasting. We based ourselves in St Hippolyte, a small village in the foothills of the Vosges. Our hotel was surrounded by vineyards, and from there, we could walk to neighbouring villages along paths through the vines. Our favourite was Rolly Gassmann, based in Rorschwihr. The tasting room is behind large folding doors just off the little main square. We were treated to numerous fabulous wines, ranging from light, delicate Pinot Noirs to rich sweet Gewurztraminers. The interaction was a little stilted, since Mme Gassmann speaks little English, and our French is equally limited, so greater emphasis had to be placed upon the oohs and aahs of delight at each vinous gem we were offered. We gave up at the twentieth sample, much to Mme Gassmann's disappointment!
Rolly Gassmann, 1-2, Place de l´Eglise, Rorschwihr (+33 3 8973 6328)
Domaine Marcel Deiss, 15 route du Vin, 68750 Bergheim, FRANCE
Tel: 03 89 73 63 37
Zind-Humbrecht, 4 Route de Colmar, Turckheim
Tel: +33 (0)389 27 02 05
DOPFF AU MOULIN, Vins et Crémants d'Alsace, 2 av Jacques Preiss, 68340 RIQUEWIHR - France
Tel: +33 3 89 49 09 69
Perched in a little corner of Aveyron, (Midi-Pyrenees) is a village named Le Fel. The dramatic setting of vines clinging courageously to the dramatic hillside overlooking the Lot river near Entraygues is spellbinding, and so are the wines to be tasted at Domaine Mousset. They're made from the Mansois grape, heady and never to be forgotton. Remember Le Fel!
Le Fel, Nr Entraygues, Aveyron
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