This was inspired by a post on the very brilliant blog: https://bitaboutbritain.com/ I highly recommend that you have a look, especially if you are unfamiliar with Britain (or even if you are!)
The post was entitled ‘Ten things you really should do in Britain‘ and having read the suggestions, I felt inspired to write this post.
- Escape Paris
It is not surprising that Paris is top of the list for most first time visitors to France. It is a stunning city and it is where my love affair with France began.
However there are many other fabulous places to visit in the vicinity, if you have the time. Versailles and Fontainebleau are royal palaces within forty minutes of Paris. I have been to Versailles, in the winter and it was so cold that the fountains were frozen!
Depending on how much time you have, you could also schedule a trip to Giverny. I’m sorry to say that I have never been – yet. My mother visited and was enchanted by the place. Claude Monet, the painter who founded the Impressionist school lived in Giverny for 43 years.
These are just a small selection of the many fantastic sites that are close to the capital.
2. Sit at a Café terrace and have a drink
It really doesn’t matter what that drink might be, whether you are enjoying a coffee, a cold beer or an apéritif. It’s all about the experience. Sitting, preferably, in the sun and people watching. Perfect!
3. Visit a Château
Where do I start? You are spoilt for choice. The obvious place to begin is in the Loire Valley. I spent my time, as a student, in Tours. Not because of the plethora of castles but because, supposedly, this region speaks the purest French.
There are, reportedly, over 300 Châteaux in the Loire Valley. Among my favourites, out of the ones I have visited, are:
4. Spend some time on the coast
France has over 2000 miles of coastline, so there is plenty to choose from! On the North Coast, you have the sandy beaches of Normandy or the rocky and rugged beaches of the northern part of Brittany. When our boys were small, we had some wonderful holidays in Carnac which is on the southern coast of Brittany.
The Atlantic Coast is famous for its long sandy beaches, pine forests and sand dunes. The highest sand dune in Europe, the Dune du Pilat can be found on this coastline. It is over 300 ft high, and almost two miles long.
The Mediterranean Coast is made up of two parts, Languedoc and the famous Provence-Riviera. The Languedoc offers long, sandy beaches and warm seas whereas as you travel east, you will find a more rocky coastline with small coves and more shingle beaches, and beautiful landscapes. This part of the coast is well known for its resorts, including Saint Tropez, Cannes, and Nice.
5. Visit a market
I do love a French market. I always have and I still do! Wherever you are in France you will be able to find a market. Most towns and villages will have a market, at least once a week. Add into the mix, markets in coastal places which will often have more items aimed at holiday makers and Christmas markets which are different again. The point is there is always a market, somewhere in France, to explore!
Castelnaudary, where we have our French home, has a weekly market every Monday. I blogged about it here:
6. Eat steak-frites
Depending on where you look and to whom you speak, you may come across the suggestion that steak and chips is the most popular meal in France. Certainly, you can find it on many menus.
However, if you delve deeper or use a search engine (!) you will find plenty of other suggestions. I think this is because the cuisine, in France, is very regional. Cassoulet is very much the main dish where we have our French house.
7. Walk along a Canal towpath
I, may of course, be biased about this one because I love the Canal du Midi! Also, our back garden gate opens directly onto the towpath and we can walk into Castelnaudary, enjoying the peace and quiet of being off-road!
There is something very ‘mindful’ about walking alongside water and canals are generally calm and quiet. You will meet other walkers and cyclists and maybe entertained by the boats moving slowly along the canal.
The Canal du Midi is far from being the only canal to discover. There is a 750 mile network of French canals, including the Canal de Bourgogne, the Canal de Garonne and the Canal du Nivernais.
Apart from the stunning scenery, the other advantage to walking along a canal is because they are flat! This obviously applies to cycling as well.
8. Taste some cheese
With over 400 types, you really can’t visit France without trying some cheese! Almost 47% of the French eat cheese daily, which is not surprising when there are so many available. You can have your cheese in a baguette, as a sandwich, in a croque-monsieur as a snack or as part of your main meal.
In France, the cheese course comes after the main and before the desert. This always strikes me as very logical, as all your savoury tastes follow each other. Whereas, in the UK, cheese is traditionally served at the end of the meal.
You can buy your cheese from a supermarket, a traditional market or a specialist cheese shop. Even in the supermarket, if you go to the deli counter, you can try before you buy!
9. Climb a mountain
The two most famous mountain ranges in France, are the Alps and the Pyrenees but these are not the only ones. There are also the Jura, Massif Central and the Vosges.
I visited Chamonix quite some time ago but I loved the experience, especially taking the little red train which ran on a rack and pinion railway to the Mer-de-Glace glacier. The sight of Mont Blanc was equally stunning.
Of course the Pyrenees have a special place in my heart because we can see their snow covered tips ( on a clear day) from our front garden, in Castelnaudary.
10. Drink champagne!
I was fortunate enough to celebrate my 30th birthday in Reims which is the main city of the Champagne area. We were given champagne for breakfast, lunch and dinner and I do mean given!
Congratulations if you have made it to the end of this lengthy post! To be honest, I could think of many more things you really should do in France.
Do you have any further suggestions? Or maybe for another country? I’d be interested to know…