French Connections

Find Holiday accommodation in France

  • Discover lakes and mountains in the Haute-Savoie

    High in France’s Rhone-Alpes region, the Haute-Savoie department is a world of lakes, waterfalls, caves, gorges, glaciers, nature reserves, perfect ski slopes and, of course, majestic mountains. Back in the 18th century, the English came to Haute-Savoie to admire the glaciers. Now, this beautiful natural landscape is a top destination for tourists.

    The town of Chamonix is probably one of the most popular Alpine ski resorts, having played host to the first Winter Olympics in 1924.  Nestling in a valley, it is surrounded by stunning mountains – including the famous Mont Blanc - with nine ski areas that offer some of the best skiing in Europe.

    The capital of Haute-Savoie is Annecy, an elegant, fashionable city with a friendly ambience. Annecy’s network of canals make it a truly romantic setting – think Venice plus crisp mountain air and snow-capped Alpine peaks! A 15km long lake adds to the romance and is a great setting for hiking, gliding or cycling.

    In the north of the Haute-Savoie lies Evian-les-Bains, close to Lake Geneva. Yes, this is the Evian famed for its springs, where water is bottled and sent around the world. A visit to the factory is a must as you can sample the famous water at its source. Also on the lake is the enticing medieval stone village of Thonon-Les-Bains.

    Find accommodation in Haute-Savoie

  • Discover Savoie for skiing and summer holidays

    High in the snow covered peaks of the Rhone Alps is the Savoie - a land of wild, majestic beauty and our region of the month. For skiers, this area is a Mecca, and superlatives abound. It is home to Mont Blanc, the mother of all French mountains, contains Les Trois Vallées, one of the largest connected skiing areas in the world and features L'Espace Killy, known as the most beautiful ski centre in the world.

    There’s been plenty of snowfall recently, so the ski season will extend well into April, giving you time to book a self-catering stay at one of our traditional ski chalets and apartments. Chambery is the region’s capital and plenty of ski resorts are within a short driving distance of its airport. You can also get a low-cost flight to Lyon and drive south from there. When booking, don’t forget to ask owners for tips on travel.

    When the weather gets warmer and snow leaves the lower slopes, Savoie is also a great destination for walking, cycling and boating, for enjoying clear mountain air, breathtaking scenery and wide open spaces. If you’ve never been to the French mountains in summer, you have a treat in store. Grassy slopes and meadows with snow-topped peaks, stunning lakes that evoke a sense of deep peace, a magical landscape with views that you just want to sit and soak up.

    Our photo shows views of glaciers from Ste Foy, a charming, unspoilt ski resort that is home to Chalet and Apartment Morion.

    And all year round you can savour the local cuisine – fish and game dishes, fabulous cheeses - and discover some delicious local wines exclusive to the area. The very names make you want to try them – white wines include Altesse, Chasselas and Roussane while Savoie reds have a ring to their names of Mondeuse and Persan. Salut!

  • Enjoy a magical Christmas in France

    Fancy doing something different this Christmas? Make the festive season a really feel-good time with a trip to France. Pop across before the event to savour the delights of Christmas markets and pick up some wine bargains; spend the holiday in traditional style in the countryside or a  French town; take family and friends for a fun New Year celebration.

  • Escape the ski crowds in the Hautes-Alpes

    Set between Grenoble and the Italian border, this sunny corner of the Alps has a wealth of friendly villages, some spectacularly high peaks and fantastic winter sports. Yet the Hautes-Alpes are delightfully unspoilt and offer less crowded ski holidays than better known ski areas of France.

  • Fantastic snowfalls mean early start to French ski season

     

    The ski season in France is off to an early start this year, with exceptional falls of snow right across the Alps. Local ski professionals are saying it’s the best snow and earliest start to a season that they have seen.

    In the ski resort of Tignes, which is at relatively low altitude, the glacier was open in early October and now snow lies thick on the slopes below it. Chamonix, Montgenèvre and Val Thorens are also popular resorts that have already opened their slopes for skiing.

    France is a great ski destination, with easy access by car, snow train services and a choice of flights and airports. There is a wide choice of resorts that are family friendly where facilities for skiers of all ages and abilities are of a very high standard.

    Travel experts are predicting that skiiers will be looking for maximum value this year. At French Connections we have a great choice of chalets, gites and apartments to rent, suitable for couples, families and groups. These self-catering properties offer really attractive prices, space and facilities when compared to hotels.

    Much of our accommodation is in the Haute-Savoie region – and several chalets here are offering £100 discount plus a champagne reception for bookings made before January. Enjoy a stay in a buzzing resort or choose a peaceful, traditional village where you can enjoy a typically French winter holiday with great food, drink and charming apres-ski events. Find your ski holiday property in Haute-Savoie now.

  • French Cassoulet

    December is the start of the ski season in France and the Alps in particular are a favourite destination for ski lovers. However, the French have a secret which is less well known here in the UK and that is if you are considering a skiing holiday, maybe you would enjoy your break in the Pyrenees.

    The Pyrenees are to be found in the Midi-Pyrénées, one of the largest regions of France which has eight departments – Ariège, Aveyron, Gers, Haute Garonne, Hautes Pyrénées, Lot, Tarn and Tarn et Garonne.

    Why would you choose the Pyrenees rather than the Alps? Well, for one thing they have more snow than the Alps and this is a factor well worth taking into consideration. It is also a cheaper option as it is a fraction of the price for a skiing holiday compared to the Alps yet the piste is set in beautiful countryside in an area much less crowded. They have twenty five ski resorts, also in the Aveyron department and the season is often open from the end of November until April.

    From beginners to the most experienced skiers there is something for everyone and family holidays are fun and exciting. The weather is great in winter due to the proximity to the Atlantic coast with frequent falls of fresh snow and beautiful blue skies making it so pleasant and welcoming.

    The people here are warm and friendly and have a lovely southern sing-song accent. They are also big rugby fans and this is what my rugby loving husband thinks is so special about this area! They are very passionate about their rugby which in some ways is more of a culture than a sport.

    They love to socialise and getting together for a party or a good meal with friends and family is very important and part of the culture as in many regions of France.

    If you travel about two hours away from the Pyrennes you will arrive at Toulouse the capital and the largest city in the area with about 439,000 inhabitants.  It also has the third largest university in France and is said to have a most excellent quality of life.

    In December of course the traditional Christmas market with its little wooden huts is to be found in Place du Capitole in Toulouse and is worth a visit for its atmosphere, roasting chestnuts, mulled wine and the most beautiful Christmas gifts.

    You can be in the midst of this buzzing city with all it has to offer and yet you are only twenty minutes away from the most beautiful countryside. Of course you also have the Canal du Midi crossing Toulouse which is one of the Heritage sites and a trip on a canal barge here is wonderfully relaxing or if you prefer, a bike ride is another option along its pathways.

    No holiday in France can be had without good food and this region is no exception, for the food is truly wonderful with all the local produce available from the simplest yet tastiest of soups such as garbure (a soup of fresh greens and vegetables) to aligot (a cheesy potato dish), mountain cheeses, the finest fois gras, AOC mutton and the most heart warming of dishes the famous cassoulet which was once the staple diet of the region.

    The cassoulet was a dish that the farmers’ wives would make for the farm workers and it would last all week for the family with the addition of more ingredients and simmered in the oven by the fire. You will be able to sample this traditional French dish in many places in the region and it is really satisfying so you will probably not want to eat a heavy dessert following it.

    If you are longing to take a break for the Christmas holidays what better place to be than in France in the Midi-Pyrénées. There are many places that will welcome you for the season or for any of the winter months, for long and short periods, you will find them at www.frenchconnections.co.uk.

    With this in mind I thought that you may like a taste of your own Cassoulet using the recipe here which is not quite as authentic but is very tasty none the less. I believe that the traditional recipe, if indeed there ever was an exact recipe, did not have tomatoes in it but here they are included and give it a good colour. I think the main thing about this dish is that you will need lots of patience as it is so much better when it has been simmering for a long period of time, however, you will love the aroma in your kitchen as it is cooking and it is well worth waiting for.

    Cassoulet

    Ingredients

    • 1 lb (about half a kg) haricot beans, soaked overnight
    • 8 oz (225gms) garlic sausage
    • 1 lb (about half a kg) shoulder of mutton or lamb
    • 4 oz (125gms) streaky bacon
    • 2 cloves of garlic
    • 1 med onion with 2 cloves stuck in it
    • Small bunch of parsley
    • 2 fresh tomatoes de-seeded
    • 4 oz (125gms) breadcrumbs
    • 2 oz goose fat or oil if you prefer (enough to brown the meat)

    And:

    8oz (225gms) of preserved goose (confit d' oie) or if you cannot obtain this (from speciality food stores/or online) you can add more lamb or mutton, pork or even more sausage or a small duck! Use whatever you prefer or can obtain. The preserved goose does make a difference but it will still be fabulous!


    Method

    • • Prepare the haricot beans by draining them, then place in a large saucepan with cold water and boil vigorously for 10 minutes. (instructions are usually on the packet). This is where I cheat and buy the canned beans!
    • Drain the beans and place in a heavy bottomed stockpot or marmite. Add enough cold water or to cover and bring to the boil, then lower to simmer.
    • Simmer for about 1 hour.
    • Now melt the goose fat in a heavy bottomed pan and cook the diced meat until it is brown on all sides.
    • Add the meat, the sausage, the tomatoes and the parsley tied in a bunch to the beans.
    • Add the onion stuck with the cloves and put a lid on the pot.
    • Simmer for about 2 hours.
    • Chop the garlic and streaky bacon together and add to the beans.
    • Cook for another 1 - 2 hours.

    Now it is almost ready to serve.

    • If it has thickened too much, add a little more water.
    • Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the cassoulet and put in a pre-heated moderate oven and cook for another 30 minutes.
    • As the breadcrumbs turn brown and crisp, break them up and allow the juices to mix in with them.
    • Allow the breadcrumbs to crisp again and serve immediately.

     Bon Appétit and a Joyeux Noël

  • French Connections ski chalet in Your Luxury Lodge magazine

    Your Luxury Lodge is a new magazine devoted to holidays in timber lodges with all mod cons in both the UK and Europe. Issue three, on sale now, features our Chalet Morion, a traditional ski chalet located in the gorgeous, unspoilt village of Ste Foy, set high in the French Alps.

  • Get to know the gorgeous Haute-Garonne

    hautegaronne3

    Our region of the month is a little known area of France that’s well worth discovering. Not only does it boast plenty of sunshine, lakes, mountains and a rich abundance of both culture and colourful produce, this is also a great place for food, history and outdoor activities all the year round.

    Haute-Garonne lies in the south west corner of France in the Midi-Pyrénées. In the north is the buzzing city of Toulouse, often called the pink city after the rose coloured stone of its buildings, and in the south are the beautiful lakes, forests and valleys of the Pyrénées mountains. Also in the south is the border with Spain.

    There is plenty of opportunity to relax by or on the water here as both the river Garonne and the famous Canal du Midi run for miles through the region. And lovers of history and landscape will not be disappointed by the prehistoric shelter of Aurignac, the Gallo-Roman villa of Montmaurin, the Lespugue Gorge and Bonnefont Abbey.

    hautegaronne

    For anyone who loves the great outdoors, Haute-Garonne is a paradise. In summer enjoy walking through stunning natural areas of conservation or cycling, canoeing and kayaking. In winter there are great opportunites for skiing on slopes as beautiful as the Alps but less crowded.

    Travel is easy, either through Toulouse airport with a good choice of flights, or an eight to nine hour drive from Calais. For accommodation in Haute-Garonne, check out our beautiful gites, farmhouses and villas or stay in one of several stunning chateaux.

  • Hautes-Alpes for skiing, sleigh rides and mountain holidays

    The beautiful, unspoilt region of the Hautes-Alpes is perfect for those who like their winter sports or mountain holiday in an authentic traditional village with chalets, snowy pastures and sleigh rides, all surrounded by breath taking natural scenery.
    Hautes-Alpes is our region of the month and it lies between Grenoble and the Italian border. Here, the sun shines for 300 days a year and the terrain includes spectacularly high peaks perfect for all types of skiing – even parachute skiing.

    There’s a wide variety of winter sports activities on offer, with cross country skiing, ice climbing, snowshoeing and the exhilarating sport of ski jöring, which involves being pulled on skis by a horse. Those who like their Alpine holidays less strenuous can bask in the warmth of thermal springs.

    The region boasts two conservation areas - the enchanting Écrins National Park, with its rivers and lakes, and the Queyras Regional Nature Park, with panoramic views of peaks and glaciers. Main towns are Gap and Briancon, a picturesque delight of steep, narrow streets, tall church spires and a dramatic river bridge.

    For summer mountain holidays, this is an equally extraordinary destination where fields of lavender wave in the breeze below the year-round snow and the ice of glaciers. Beautiful valleys provide the perfect venue to get away from it all and, whether for skiing or summer, you can choose from our great accommodation options of chalets, apartments and cottages.

  • Let it Snow! - Photo Friday 24 December 2010

    A Christmassy picture of snow in the French Alps.