My partner and I wanted to visit the wine growing regions of France but had little knowledge of where to go, or even how to go about it. A friend of my parents told us about the trip they'd taken a few years ago and this summer we also tried it, and loved every minute!
Exclusive Wine Tours is a tiny UK company who organise small tours of France by motor home. Being mobile and self-sufficient, they can travel around much wider areas than many wine tours and can stay in more interesting places. The trip covered 19 days and took in more than six vineyards/farms, and several historical towns and cities. At each vineyard there was an organised tour and tasting, often a meal with the owners, including wine produced by them, and camping on site.
The tour groups for each holiday are small (a maximum of 10 motor homes on each), and this helped make the tour more special: we could get to know all the other people and felt we were given more attention and time.
The organiser accompanies each group, often leading the city tours himself, showing a wealth of knowledge for the places and a deep love of France. The whole thing was laidback (we weren't made to feel like amateurs or outsiders because we'd hired a motor home instead of buying one!) but perfectly organised. The itineraries gave us space for ourselves if we wanted it, but also some fascinatng insights into wine production in France.
We'd definitely go again, but perhaps on one of the other tours they offer, to a different region.
Beautiful chateau hotel in Saumur in the Loire Valley. We stayed on our honeymoon. Not cheap, but not like a chain hotel.
The bedrooms are grand and full of antiques, family paintings and roll top baths (like staying with your wealthy grandmother!) The hosts are what really made it different; they're incredibly friendly and not at all snooty (as the people of Saumur are meant to be).
There's no restaurant but it is 15 min walk to the centre of Saumur where there are restaurants for every taste. The local Quincy wine comes highly recommended.
Saumur, Loire Valley.
Beautiful chateau hotel in a small village in the Loire Valley that we stayed in on our honeymoon. Not cheap, but the rooms are beautifully refurbished (contemporary take on traditional design and very well done) and the food is exceptional. Doesn't have a hotel feel and hosts very pleasant (felt like we were staying with wealthly friends!). Something to look at if you're looking for something quiet and quality. Good value we thought.
Reignac-sur-Indre, about 20 mins south east of Tours, on the way to Loches.
When driving up the last bit (with all the bends) to Meribel the weather conditions can sometimes be a bit tricky. This website has over 21 webcams in the Meribel valley making it ideal to check the conditions up front. It is also a lot of pre-holiday fun!
They have webcams in Meribel centre, Meribel Mottaret, Meribel Village and even webcams down in the valley in Brides les Bains. Giving you a total overview. Very handy and fun!
A magical day canoeing in the heart of the Herault enjoying beautiful scenery, a delight for nature lovers. We are fairly fit, up for it, 59-year- olds. We arranged things from the UK over phone and the English speaking organisers were very honest and helpful. When we met them in France, they couldn't do enough to check we'd chosen the correct river route etc and helped us travel from Montpellier, where we were staying. It was a wonderful experience.
The first Sunday of the month is free, as everybody knows. Therefore, to avoid the crowds, the best time to go is on the day before - everyone's waiting for the free entry the next day!
We went on the Saturday and had the place to ourselves, apart from the usual crowd that is always gathered around the Mona Lisa. We went again on the Sunday and it was hideously busy. We didn't have to queue though: a nice security guard spotted our pushchair and let us jump the queue! It's a surprisingly child-friendly place, and of course the advantage of the free Sunday is that you can take the kids (they are always free on any day) and you haven't wasted the cost of your ticket if their behaviour is such that you have to leave after five minutes.
This is a fantastic Chambre d'Hote run by an English mother and daughter who settled in France four years ago. It's a 250 year old rammed earth farmhouse with loads of character.
They offer a double room bed and breakfast with private access up large exterior granite stairs. South-facing room with beautiful rural views over fields of Normandy cows. Very comfortable and Sue (mum) and Laura (daughter) are very hospitable and have two very friendly dogs.
Excellent location for a stop-over en-route down south or to stay for a few days and explore the local region.
An incentive is that if you book for a week you can choose from a free professional aromatherapy massage, candlelight dinner for two, a complimentary 'crepes' meal in nearby Villedieu (10 mins by car) or a carton of Bordeaux.
They provide a welcome basket of wine, cider, local biscuits and chocolates. Use of a garden and orchard - lots of good local walks and bikes you can use.
Sue and Laura have restored the building themselves beautifully, and Laura, who is a qualified stone carver, has her workshop on site and runs courses in letter cutting.
Good price too - 35 euros for one person, 50 euros for two. I highly recommend La Lande and feel sure you won't be disappointed!
Lovely restaurant in the Citadelle/Terra Nova with fantastic views of the old port and boat activity. We could see Elba on a clear day. Food excellent, lunchtime 18 euro menu was very good value and interesting cooking.
6 Rue Ste Croix just below the Governor's Palace
Bastia Vieux Port and Citadelle (Terra Nova) are very attractive places to wander. You get very good views from the Citadelle, particularly from the Bar de la Citadelle. There's a 'petit train' which takes you around (and up the hill to the Citadelle which is good when it's hot) for six Euros and runs every hour from near the ferry port. If you understand French the tour is good.
Beach bar and restaurant. It's the best place to eat around the village. There is the wide variety of stuff you'd expect in a beach bar; pizza, salads, sandwiches, etc but also much more sophisticated and imaginative dishes, including lovely desserts which were hard to come by in this neck of the woods. It's also the best place to sit and watch the sun go down.
Half way down Aregno Plage, short walk from Algajola Village (dark on the way back at night but OK)
A barging holiday through Burgundy tasting the top wines and I mean top wines of the region. Prices are not for the faint hearted, but I have never tasted wines of this Calibre for six days in a row ever.
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
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