France is renowned as the country for die-hard romantics. Perhaps it is the elegance of the cities, chock-full of classical architecture, art galleries and bohemian, historical heritage. Or maybe it's the traditional, simple life promised by the rolling, green hills and golden fields of the countryside. It could be the ribbons of sandy beaches that typify the south coast or the world-famous wine country, with its acres of verdant and carefully tended vineyards.
Whichever of France's many faces you find the most enchanting, it's hard not to agree that there's a certain kind of magic in that French air. Here's how best to experience it:
The City of Light more than lives up to its name with the spectacular, twinkling arches of the iconic Eiffel Tower an essential sight to check off your list. But Paris is also the ideal place to treat yourself to the ultimate foodie experience that is the French bistro. Whether you discover an old-fashioned gem or one of the innovative neo-bistros, expect intimate tables, a bubbly crowd and the opportunity to sample traditional bistro cuisine such as steak tartare, coq au vin, onion soup and perhaps a decadent torte for dessert.
It would be a crime to come to France and not experience some of the world-famous wines of the country and for the ultimate drop of glamour in a glass, Champagne is the region to explore. Despite the fact that many of the big brands charge a steep price to tour their cellars, it is also possible to find smaller winemakers offering B&Bs and free tastings. The Fallet Dart cellars are located just 80km away from Paris whilst the Aspasie winery boasts a beautiful, 400 year old farmhouse – both can arrange budget tours with a call in advance.
For a coastal drive with views that will blow your mind, take to the Three Corniches and channel old-school, Hollywood glamour with the wind in your hair as you overlook the dazzling sea below. This trio of roads, carved into the steep cliff-side, stack on top of one another with increasingly breath-taking views. The uppermost route, the Grande Corniche, climbs to 550m above sea level – all the glitter of the French Riviera laid out before your eyes. Combine with a visit to one of the sweeping, sandy beaches, sit back and relax.
Nobody does an open-air market quite like the French. Provencal markets offer fresh fish, creamy cheeses, succulent melons and other colourful, seasonal produce in abundance whilst many also include budget fashion, household goods and jewellery. If it all becomes a little too over-whelming, take a break in a shady cafe and enjoy the action from a distance.
Take advantage of the resorts which offer the best late ski season deals to indulge in your winter hobby for a little longer. Tignes, based in the Rhone-Alps region, enjoys great winter sports weather through til May – enjoy the 20m of pistes on the Grande Motte glacier and drinks on the terrace with panoramic, mountain views.
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