3 ways to enjoy the wide open spaces of France
Take a gulp of fresh air, escape the crowds and discover the wide open spaces of France. More than three times the size of the UK and roughly the same population, there’s plenty of room for everyone to enjoy their own space and explore glorious countryside and fabulous beaches.
Famous for its vineyards, Burgundy in east-central France is a land of wide open spaces, perfect for a tranquil get-away.
Morvan Regional Natural Park (Parc naturel régional du Morvan) is a protected area of woodlands, lakes and traditional farmland that covers a total area of 430,000 acres. Sitting in the centre of the region, the Morvan forest is considered a jewel in the Burgundy crown. Highlights of the villages include Anost, Château Chinon, Lormes, Montsauche-les-Settons, Quarré-les-Tombes, St-Léger-sous-Beuvray, Saulieu and Vézelay. Mountain bikers will love the 330km route the Grande Traversée du Morvan and there are wonderful hiking trails too.
Or why not follow the Dukes Trail for a trip back to Burgundy’s regal heyday: this trail takes in castles, towns and vineyards. Whether you’re travelling by car, bike or on foot, follow in the footsteps of the Dukes through stunning countryside. Details: www.burgundy-tourism.com/discover/travelling-in-and-around-burgundy
Just a short hop across the Channel, Normandy lies on the Northwest coast of France. It’s beaches stretchefor many miles from the UNESCO-listed Mont-Saint-Michel on the border with Brittany to the stunning chalk cliff formations of the Alabaster coast near Dieppe.
Inland, its verdant countryside offers something for everyone, from cheese and cider to cycling and châteaux, remembrance tourism and medieval towns.
There are more than 300 miles of cycle paths and routes to suit all levels of ability, a terrific way for the whole family to enjoy the great outdoors. Why not try cycling part of the 230km route that links the world famous sites of the D-Day beaches and the iconic Mont-Saint-Michel? It takes in some of the key sites in Normandy and runs through glorious countryside. Details: www.manche-tourism.com/cycle-route-landing-beaches-normandy
After all that activity you’re sure to have worked up an appetite and Normandy is truly a food lover’s paradise. There are plenty of local specialities to sink your teeth into, from a crisp apple tart to Mortagne black pudding or an eye-catching, mouth-watering seafood platter. As for the region’s world-famous cheeses – including Camembert, Neufchatel and Livarot – they are best enjoyed with a fresh, crusty baguette on a picnic blanket, washed down with a local cider or Calvados!
Authentic France at its best can be found in the Gers department, southwest France, also known as Gascony.
Famous for its Armagnac production, the wine of the Gers are also superb. And the food! Let’s just say, don’t go on a diet when you visit this region because you’ll be fed and watered like royalty. This is a land which has always had respect for the environment and there are endless possibilities to enjoy the natural beauty of its valleys, forests, lakes and vineyard. There are some 3,000 km of walking and hiking trails including the Ways of Saint-James and the Green Way of Armagnac and many of them are also accessible by bike.
The Gers is the perfect place to leave behind the pace of everyday life, reconnect with nature, enjoy fabulous gastronomy, water sports, wide open spaces and explore country trails.