La Manche is a department in Normandy. It’s blessed with a long coast line and picturesque countryside. There are many museums and sites and it is one of the key areas for the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944.
We share some of our favourite things to do and see in La Manche:
The no. 1 must-see in Normandy, in fact it’s a top site in France, is the Benedictine Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. It is one of the most incredible medieval feats of architecture in the world. From the 8th to the 18th century it was one of Christianity's most important pilgrimage sites. Now it’s one of the most important tourist sites. The Abbey consists of several stunning clerical buildings including a church, cloisters, refectory, monks' ambulatory and the gardens of what is known as the Merveille (marvel). It’s a steep walk to the top but worth it for the amazing views and buildings. Lower down is a charming helter skelter of wiggly winding streets lined with cafés, restaurants and shops.
The Airborne Museum is based in the square of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, just a few miles from the D-Day landing beaches. Through spectacular museography, the Airborne Museum takes you through D-Day alongside American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.
Barfleur with its pretty and colourful port is officially one of the prettiest villages in France.
Situated two kilometres to the North of Barfleur, the lighthouse of Gatteville – 75 metres high – is the 2nd tallest in France and Europe. Walk up the 365 steps and enjoy a magnificent panorama.
The Jardin des plantes de Coutances is the oldest public plant garden in Normandy and the plant theme changes annually. Recent displays have been of food and sea life. It’s a great park for relaxing and a picnic.
Take a cruise on a passenger boat, yacht or old sailing ship. You can go island hopping to the Chausey Islands, the Channel Islands or Tatihou Island and other smaller, lesser known islands off the coast of La Manche.
The great gothic cathedral of Coutances was constructed from 1210 to 1274. Standing 80 metres tall, it dominates the town and can be seen from miles around.
Utah Beach stretches from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont as far as Quinéville, about 5 km. It was the first of two zones selected for the American landings. Visit the Utah Beach Museum to discover more about the history of the D-Day landings.
Close by you can visit the German battery at Azeville which marked the beginning of the presence of the Germans on this stretch of the coast.
Cherbourg is at the tip of the Cotentin Peninsula, the last stop before the high seas. There’s plenty to do and see here, from museums to fabulous sea food restaurants. Don’t miss La Cité de la Mer, a scientific theme park located in the old transatlantic harbour station of Cherbourg where you can see the submarine “le Redoutable”, take a virtual tour to the bottom of the ocean and discover sea life in the aquarium.
Granville, known as the "Monaco of the North", became a popular seaside resort at the end of the 19th Century. It’s an elegant city, great for a stroll, seafood restaurants and lovely beaches. Don’t miss the Christian Dior Museum. The couturier Christian Dior spent his childhood here and each year his former family home, now a museum, hosts an exhibition dedicated to the stylist.
Saint-Lô is home to the State Stud Farm, constructed under Napoleon. Visit to find out more about the horsey history of this area. The Musée des Beaux Arts is well worth a visit with paintings by some of the greats, including Boudin. Don’t miss the Norman Bocage Museum at a 17th century farm with a huge collection of traditional artefacts which depicts farm life in Normandy over the centuries.
Discover lots more to see and do in La Manche on the tourist office website: www.manche-tourism.com
French Connections has loads of fabulous holiday rentals in La Manche – take a look and make your holiday dreams come true
Bergerac in the Dordogne, Aquitaine, is famous for its wine and fabulous gastronomy, rolling hills and fields of sunflowers, castles and pretty villages. With a pleasant climate year round and fabulously sunny summer months, it’s the perfect holiday destination for those who love to experience the best of authentic France in the most gorgeous surroundings.
Here’s why we at French Connections love Bergerac…
On the banks of the Dordogne, Bergerac’s medieval old town is a jumble of narrow and winding cobbled streets that slope down to the river. Take a wander here and you can’t help but feel like you’ve stepped back in time. Half-timbered houses, pretty boutiques and galleries, shaded squares lined with bars and cafés – it’s the perfect French town for a relaxing break.
Aquitaine is one of the richest agricultural areas in France and is renowned for its cuisine. Head to Bergerac market (Wednesday and Saturday mornings) for a terrific choice of fresh food – perfect for self-catering holidays.
Spoil yourself with a meal in one of the many excellent restaurants. You’ll see a lot of duck and goose on menus, and plums and walnuts are grown liberally in the Dordogne, so expect to see them in both sweet and savoury dishes. Try Landes Pastis while you are here (a divine apple tart and one of the region’s most popular dishes).
It goes without saying that the region produces some wonderful cheeses, such as Cabécou, a small round tasty goat’s cheese. Bergerac is also a wine lover’s paradise. Regional cheese with a regional wine and a hunk of French crusty bread is mandatory when you holiday in Bergerac and it couldn’t get any better than here!
Two of the best places for a tasting are the Chateau de Monbazillac and the Wine Centre in the town.
Around 10km from the centre of town the 16th century Chateau of Monbazillac is fairy-tale pretty. Owned by the Monbazillac Cooperative it’s a great place to spend a half day touring the grounds and interior which is beautifully furnished. Afterwards enjoy a wine tasting and the wine shop – delicious!
The Wine Centre is located in the Récollets Cloisters in Bergerac. It’s a magnificent group of monastic buildings from the 17th century. There’s an exhibition about the Bergerac vineyards, film and tasting experience. Concerts are regularly held in these lovely surroundings – check the website for details: www.vins-bergeracduras.fr/en
When French King Louis XIII entered Bergerac in 1621, he stayed in the 16th-century Maison Peyrarède. The house, with its cantilevered tower and Renaissance mullioned windows, is now the home of the Musée du Tabac. It might surprise you to know that Bergerac has one of the last tobacco plantations in Europe. This quirky museum - which in no way promotes tobacco, presents its history dating back more than 3000 years when the plant was first cultivated. There’s a fascinating collection of ivory, bronze and copper pipes and other smoking paraphernalia.
For something really different, seek out the Grottes de Maxange. Discovered by accident in 2000, during dynamiting in an adjacent quarry, the caves are extraordinary. Off the beaten track, hidden in the hills upriver from Bergerac they have masses and masses of crystals covering almost every surface, it is eerily beautiful.
During the summer months you really would be missing out if you came to Bergerac and didn’t take a trip on the river. Rent a canoe or kayak to discover the beauty of the surrounding landscape from the water. Or, for something more relaxing, take a pleasure boat ride on a traditional gabare (a traditional flat bottomed wooden boat). Enjoy a swim in the lake, try water skiing, charter a pedal boat, a picnic on the river banks… the potential for fun is endless for water babies!
Find out more about what to see and do on the Bergerac Tourism website
French Connections has hundreds of fabulous holiday homes in and around Bergerac, click here to see a terrific selection.
If you love picturesque villages, historic towns, lavender fields, Roman ruins, quaint cobbled streets, scrumptious restaurants, head-turning vineyards and the most divine gastronomy, then Vaucluse will make you truly happy.
Vaucluse is a department in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in the south east of France. It’s named after the Fontaine de Vaucluse, a famous spring with fast flowing water which feeds the river Sorgue. It’s home to many of the most beautiful villages of France and is peppered with breath-takingly pretty hamlets and a lush landscape which turns purple in summer when the lavender blooms.
Avignon: The capital of the department of Vaucluse, Avignon is a former Papal city and home to the monumental Palais des Papes. Explore its winding streets lined with boutiques and restaurants, museums, boat rides and a stunning garden with views over the river Rhone which is crossed by the famous Pont d’Avignon.
Gorgeous Gordes: Listed as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”, Gordes is a captivating hilltop village that looks like something off the front of a postcard or chocolate box lid. From its dramatic position on a steep slope, Gordes is dominated by a 16th-century Château. It’s a town that has inspired artists through the centuries from Van Gogh to Picasso.
Roman ruins: In the small town of Orange you’ll see some of the most impressive archaeological sites in France. The most famous is the UNESCO-listed Théâtre Antique (ancient Roman theatre) that dates to the 1st century AD. It’s incredibly well preserved and hosts multiple public events from pop concerts to Shakespeare.
Abbaye de Sénanque: It’s one of the most scenic abbeys in France, and an iconic site of Provence when in summer, it’s surrounded by fields of lavender from the end of June through to the beginning of August. Founded in 1148, the Abbey of Sénanque is still a working monastery for Cistercian monks.
Carpentras: This sunny town has rather an exotic air with its terracotta roofed buildings and winding alleyways. At the centre is the flamboyant Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Siffrein, built between 1406 and 1519. There is a superb weekly market in the town (Friday mornings) which spreads out through cobbled streets. Don’t miss a chance to visit the cheese shop Fromagerie Vigier run by Claudine Vigier, master cheese-maker!
The antiques capital of Provence: Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was once a tranquil fishing village, which developed along the watery arteries of the Sorgue River which gives it its nickname of the Venice of Provence. It’s fabulously pretty, a vivacious sort of place where antiques fans will be in seventh heaven. There are seven “antiques villages”, more than 350 antique dealers open all year round, a weekly antiques market (Sundays) and several big antiques events each year. Leave room in your suitcase for that must-have souvenir when you come here!
Fountains and fortifications: Pernes-les-Fontaines is a lovely medieval town with a relaxing ambience and many ancient fountains. Old stone houses, cobbled streets and medieval town gates = lots of olde worlde charm which make it the perfect location to sit and watch the world go by from a café, especially on Saturday – market day!
We’ve got loads of exquisite holiday homes in the Vaucluse area, just click here to take a look and discover your dream holiday home…
Saint Rémy de Provence is just 12 miles south of Avignon, the capital of the department of Vaucluse in Provence. It’s a small town that’s buzzy and vibrant from spring to autumn and a bit sleepy in the winter months. The boulevards and narrow cobblestone streets that wind through the old city make it a living photo opp on every corner, and the plane trees that are such a feature of Provence grow tall and splendid. The central shopping area and stone fountain dedicated to the town’s most famous resident, Nostradamus, are picture perfect.
We highlight 5 must sees in St Remy:
South of St-Rémy lie the magnificent ruins of Glanum and Les Antiques. Les Antiques is a cenotaph rather than a sepulchre, as originally thought. It stands next to a fine triumphal arch, giving access to the city of Glanum, built over 2,000 years ago. It’s a worthwhile and well-interpreted diversion – don’t forget to look for the fossilised shells in the limestone pavements.
The artist Vincent Van Gogh was treated here in the psychiatric centre a few minutes south of St-Rémy. He stayed at the Monastery Saint-Paul de Mausole after he relieved himself of one of his ears. It was here that he painted The Starry Night, one of his best loved works. Surrounded by peaceful gardens, parts of the monastery are open to the public and you can see works of art by Van Gogh hanging above the main staircase. You can also see the room where the artist was confined while undergoing psychiatric tests.
During the time that Van Gogh spent in the monastery, he created almost 300 pieces of art. Follow in his footsteps on the Van Gogh route to take a journey through his painting, from the fields and through a landscape that’s recognisable. Details http://www.vangoghroute.com/france/saint-remy-de-provence/
Visit the Moulin du Calanquet, a family owned company of five generations which produces olive oil and other delicious gastronomic products. You can do a tasting, see a film about olive oil production and, it’s the perfect place to shop for a delicious souvenir.
Built in 1814, the original fountain featured a bust of Louis XVI. It was replaced with a bust of Nostradamus, in 1859. Nostradamus, whose full name was Michel de Nostredame, was a French physician and astrologist, famous to this day for his predictions of the future.
If you’re there at the right time (May or June) you’ll witness the annual Transhumance. Every year, sheep farmers prepare their flocks to leave the warmer, lower fields and sheds and move to the upper slopes. Here they spend the summer grazing on wild herbs in the cooler air. It’s quite a festival to see 4000 sheep, lambs, rams, goats and donkeys, herded by shepherds in traditional costume marching through the town on their way to summer pastures.
St. Remy is a great base for excursions to dozens of quaint little towns like Gordes, Roussillon and Uzes as well as larger, more populated towns like Aix, Avignon and Arles. And, if you go once, you’ll always find yourself longing to return…
French Connections has loads of fabulous holiday homes in Provence, browse our selection and discover your dream holiday….
Brittany has 1,700 miles of glorious coastline. Discover the Pink Granite coast and hidden coves in the north to the idyllic beaches of Morbihan which seamlessly follow on from one to another - Brittany has something for everyone.
Inland, the unspoiled countryside is dotted with fascinating towns and villages steeped in history and culture with bustling markets and quirky boutiques and museums.
We pick 3 of our favourites in Brittany:
The picturesque fishing port of Cancale is located on the borders of Brittany and Normandy, just 9 miles from St-Malo and 31 miles from Mont-Saint-Michel. It’s the oyster capital of the Brittany coast and there’s not much that beats taking a stroll by the harbour or relaxing at a café slurping oysters with a chilled white wine. If you’re a real fan, why not visit an oyster farm, there’s lots of choice in the area.
You’ll find idyllic sandy coves and small family-friendly beaches with rock pools close to this vibrant little town.
Must-sees include: Take a walk along the GR34, Chemin de Ronde (the round road). It starts at Cancale and there’s a great walk to Pointe du Hoc which offers the most fantastic views over the bay, town and port. On clear days you’ll see right over to Mont St Michel and when the tide is out you can see the oyster farms from the walkways. There are picnic benches en route, take food and drink with you as the nearest restaurant is at the end of the walk.
No trip to Cancale would be complete without sitting at the seafront market and eating the freshest of fresh oysters. At the market try 5-6 different types sold by local producers and enjoy them with a squeeze of lemon, sitting on the seafront wall whilst you soak up the views and the fresh sea breeze. When you’re done, throw the empty shells on a pile down at the front and watch as the seagulls come and check for leftovers.
Morgat lies on the Crozon peninsula in Western Brittany. It makes for a relaxing coastal break and a great base for exploring the surrounding area. The coastline is dramatic - from rugged cliffs to sandy beaches and enchanting coves which form part of the 420,000 acre Parc Regional d'Armorique.
If you love beaches, then Pointe de Saint-Hernot, a short way from Morgat, is worth the detour to discover a little piece of secret sandy paradise.
The area has lots on offer from water sports to boat tours and mountain bike trails.
Must-sees include: Visit the little church on the edge of the port at Camaret-Sur-Mer (about 12 km). Ancient and weather beaten, it was built in the 11th century and today functions as a mariner’s chapel. It’s a lovely spot to explore and don’t forget to take a break at one of the authentic cafés as you watch the boats going in and out of the port. It’s a timeless scene and very relaxing, like a window into Brittany’s past.
Explore the Vedettes Sirenes (Grottes Marines de Morgat). Take a boat tour to see these natural wonders of the sea caves of Morgat or get closer still by kayak.
Just 17km from Saint-Malo and 10km from Dinard, Saint-Briac-sur-Mer, nicknamed the "Pearl of the Emerald Coast is a small, traditional Breton fishing port. Winding streets, ancients buildings, beaches and walkways make this tranquil village a haven for those looking for a relaxing holiday.
There are lots of water sports and the coastal walkway offers breath-taking views of Dinard.
Must-sees include: Dinard market which takes place three times a week is a huge bustling affair where you’ll be able to shop for fabulous local produce and much more.
Visit the town of Saint Malo to discover truly scrumptious restaurants and some of the best seafood platters in France.
Mont-St-Michel is just 40 minutes’ drive away and one of the wonders of the world, the medieval island town is fabulously preserved and breath-takingly pretty.
We’ve got lots and lots of pretty villas, cottages and gites in Brittany, just browse on our search pages to find your dream holiday home…