Chic getaway: Saint-Tropez, the star
Less than an hour and a half from Toulon, the small and cult fishing port of the 1960s is an obligatory stop. Stronghold of Parisian elites and summer jet-setters, it becomes a pleasant off-season haven when narrow streets and beaches take on their charm of yesteryears, emptied of the summer crowds. Make a find on the place des Lices market, stop at a terrace on the harbour in front of gorgeous yachts – café Sénéquier for instance, easy to identify with its red front –, experience the Pampelonne beaches and restaurants to jump in the water just when dessert comes in... Here you go, you are on holidays! For a wilder kind of promenade, follow the walking trail that runs alongside the coast. The view is simply breathtaking.
Gastronomy: discover a traditional Lyon bouchon
In famous Michelin-starred chef Paul Bocuse country, indulge in a culinary getaway in the purest French tradition. Start scouting the aisles of the covered market. One of its kind, it gathers the tastiest specialities produced in the region and houses some of Bocuse's suppliers (the Mère Richard and Maréchal cheeses, the Pupier fish stall or the Colette Sibilia cooked meats). All these wonders will whet your appetite and you will end, like many food lovers from all over the world, in a bouchon, typical restaurant from the region. But not just any bouchon. The one we recommend is run by women, just like at the time of the ‘Lyon Mothers'. Lean on a chequered tablecloth and try a beef stew with fresh vegetables or the famous pike quenelle (dumpling) with a Nantua sauce for an unusual experience.
Lyon covered market - Paul Bocuse
102, cours Lafayette
+33 (0)4 78 62 39 33
Le Bouchon des Filles
20, rue Sergent Blandan
+33 (0)4 78 30 40 44
Exploration: the promenade des Anglais
Nice is the French Riviera's entrance door, where everyone talks about cinema. Since always, the promenade des Anglais has evolved in sync with the inhabitants, be they the sportive or blue armchair lover kinds. The presence of a beach in the city gives out a feeling of perpetual holidays. Seeing the horizon line over the sea soothes the soul, and locals need it to recharge their batteries. We invite you to walk over the 4 miles of Prom', re-enacting Jacques Demy's Bay of Angels, shot on location in 1963. Walk over palaces, such as the Royal or the Negresco, before exploring the old town and the famous flower market. End that trip on a high note and head over to Cannes, where the biggest movie stars walk up the Palais des Festivals' red carpet each year.
Le Royal Hotel
23, promenade des Anglais
37, promenade des Anglais
Out in the open: Sormiou rocky inlets, the calanques
Coming from Marseille, you have to follow the road that meanders along the passes and goes down to the sea. The view is sublime and the rocks and wild maquis will take you back to the pages of a Marcel Pagnol novel. The soft blue waters gradually reveal themselves beneath the barrenness of white rocks and heather plants. This striking spectacle really makes you want to take a dip. If you're not wearing your bathing suit, you should at least stay for a trendy picnic prepared beforehand. Once in Sormiou, walk up to the beach and make yourself a place in the sun between fishermen houses. Truly magical!
Calanques de Sormiou
Change of scene: the Isle of Beauty
Discover the preferred island of the French: a wild and sublime land divided between the sea and the mountains. As soon as you land, take a deep breath of herbs and maquis smells, and gaze at these wonderful perched villages. In Calvi, climb up the citadel that offers a 360° vista over the Balagne hills and the bay, where faraway mountains crash into the sea. We recommend that you visit the village of Lumio, stronghold of French actress Lætitia Casta... another type of beauty. South of the island, make a stop at the Cauria archaeological site, displaying an impressive set of menhirs and dolmens and finally enjoy the baths of Caldane, only a few miles away.
Cauria archaeological site
Plateau de Cauria
Baths of Caldane
Mountains: see the Mont-Blanc from Megève
Megève is an enchanting ski resort, offering charming mountain cabins and horse-drawn carriages running through the villages like in the 19th century. Luxury shops are also a high point, as they always make for a pleasant outing. The area is perfect for putting on your ski shoes in winter and tickling the small white ball in summer. Golfers and trek lovers often meet around the lakes, in a postcard landscape. Whatever the season, this mountain halt will offer you an unrivalled change of scenery, especially when considering that the Mont-Blanc is within your reach. It dominates the valley, but you can admire it from a higher ground. When the Jaillet gondola lift arrives at its destination, you'll settle in the Face au Mont-Blanc refuge, small genuine cabin with an exceptional view of the massif. In the summer, the outdoor swimming pool awaits you for a sunny dip in front of the mountains. Outstanding!
Face au Mont-Blanc
7310, route du Jaillet
+33 (0)4 50 21 06 51
Wine tourism: Alsace wine route
Coming from Strasbourg where you've admired the Cathedral, renowned gothic art masterpiece, you can discover the typical Alsatian villages scattered through the listed vineyards of this splendid region. From Colmar (capital of Alsace wine) to Obernai and Riquewihr (one of the most beautiful French villages), you'll be charmed by the genuine timbered houses decorated with flowered balconies. Aligned like little doll houses, their façades kept the charm of old and offer you a travel back in time. All along the wine route, you'll make culinary experiences at several wine producers, each time an opportunity to savour the various riches of an exceptional land.
Wine tourism: thousands of vintage wines
Pétrus, Margaux, Haut-Brion, Cheval Blanc, Latour, Mouton-Rothschild… These great Bordeaux wines are the stuff dreams are made of. From the city of Bordeaux, it is very easy to explore the vineyards and surrounding castles where these famous designations are being bottled. Before fabulous wine tastings, take the opportunity to talk with wine growers to learn about their passion and about the winemaking process, from vine to cellar.
However, if you only have a few hours ahead of you, you should rather head to La Cité du vin. You'll be able to learn everything you need to know about the godly beverage, from its origins to the present day, through an open circuit covering 20 themes. End it up at the Belvédère, an exceptional place located on the 8th floor and offering an unobstructed vista onto the city, the river and the surrounding vineyards. You'll love those few glasses of vintage wines, and maybe bring the ones you preferred back with you.
La Cité du Vin
1, esplanade de Pontac
+33 (0)5 56 16 20 20
Architecture: the Cour Carrée of the Louvre Museum
You'll be sure to meet Parisians who use it as a shortcut on their way, as well as photo lovers, for the most beautiful art is not always inside the museums. Proof is the sublime Renaissance façade of the Cour Carrée, the oldest of the Louvre. François I ordered architects Pierre Lescot and Jean Goujon its construction in 1546. To better feel the beauty of this majestic creation, we recommend entering just before dusk, when the illuminated 160-metre long quadrangle takes another dimension. For a striking spectacle, enter through the South door from the Pont des Arts and stop in the centre of the Cour to admire the glass pyramid through the Sully Tower porch. When the sun goes down and appears to slide over the famous tetrahedron, you'll probably be in position to take the best picture of your entire Parisian trip.
Palais du Louvre
+33 (0)1 40 20 50 50
Unusual: a painter's garden in Montmartre
Paris is a puzzle of which pieces are villages. Montmartre is the nestled one, where vines still grow, paved stones still resist and artists still live. If you lose yourself in its narrow streets, you will discover old mansions, painters' workshops, traditional staircases and street lamps. If the Place du Tertre and its cartoonists are already famous the world over, we recommend you discover one of the nicest secrets there. Head over to the Montmartre Museum to explore the current temporary exhibition in the oldest house standing on the Butte. Built in the 17th century, this Bel Air house sheltered Auguste Renoir and his workshop, as well as Suzanne Valadon, Emile Bernard and Raoul Dufy's. Your mind will effortlessly believe you live in the year 1880. Whilst taking a break in the museum's surrounding gardens that overlook the vines, you'll be able to picture Renoir painting Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette, Le Jardin de la rue Cortot or The Swing... Said swing is still in place, a century and a half later.
Musée de Montmartre
12, rue Cortot 75018 Paris.
+33 (0)1 49 25 89 39