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.
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….
In the Loire Valley, 2019 is all about the Renaissance. Exhibitions, shows, and tours... The region’s chateaux and other monuments will showcase a fascinating period of cultural and artistic renewal.
In 2019, the Loire Valley will celebrate a milestone date of the French Renaissance: 500 years since the death of Leonardo da Vinci, the first stone being laid to build the Chateau de Chambord, and the birth of a Renaissance Queen of France, Catherine de Medici. This year is your chance to relive this period of flourishing arts and culture through a rich and varied programme of events.
Festivities are high on the list of events at the bijou and beautifully restored Chateau du Clos Lucé which was the last home of the Italian genius’ last residence. From June to September, visitors can enjoy an exhibition entitled “Leonardo da Vinci, his students, the Last Supper, and François I”. A tapestry of the Last Supper, copied from Leonardo da Vinci’s mural, will leave its home at the Vatican to go on show in France for the first time. Throughout the summer, Clos Lucé will be brought to life through a series of events based on the gastronomy and great discoveries of the Renaissance.
A short walk away at the Royal Chateau of Amboise, an exhibition entitled “1519, Death of Leonardo da Vinci: building a legend” will be held. Poignantly, da Vinci is buried in the beautiful Chapel at this gorgeous chateau (from May to August).
Château de Chambord
At the stunning Chateau de Chambord Chateau, a Renaissance jewel of architecture, the past meets future with “Chambord 1519-2019: from utopia to reality”, an exhibition running from May to September. It looks back at the chateau’s history and its virtual transformation into a 21st century utopia by international architects. From 28 June to 13 July, the 2019 edition of the Chambord Festival will also celebrate the chateau’s 500th anniversary.
Catherine de Medici will be celebrated in an exhibition entitled “The Queen’s tapestries", at the Chateau of Chaumont-sur-Loire (September to December). You can also discover a restored version of the Queen’s apothecary at Chenonceau Chateau where she liked to spend time with her herbalist, Nostradamus.
A range of events will shine the spotlight on how people lived in Renaissance times. The “Children of the Renaissance” will take place at the Royal Chateau of Blois, and “Renaissance Living” at the castle of Châteaudun, both running May to September. In Bourges, the “Artisan Curiosity Shop" will teach visitors about Renaissance crafts, while botanists will be feted at Grandes Bruyères Arboretum, in Orleans Forest.
Azay le Rideau
From May to October, the Chateau of Valençay will celebrate its own renaissance through a series of events and tours as well as the Chandelles de la Renaissance, the exquisite gardens lit by candlelight.
Visit the Chateau of Azay le Rideau throughout July and August to see it lit up and looking stunning. The Chateau of Villandry will host “Nights of a Thousand Fires”, candlelit nights in the gardens, first weekends of July and August.
Details of all events can be found at: https://www.vivadavinci2019.fr
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…
April is the perfect month to get out and about, take a well-deserved break and enjoy the spring sunshine in France.
A sight that you’ll never forget will greet you as you arrive at the little northern French seaside resort of Berck-sur-Mer (Pas de Calais). For almost 10 days, the sky will be filled with thousands of kites – the biggest and the best in the world as the colourful International Kite Festival takes place on the beaches. This is one for all ages with lots to do and see but – the kites are certainly the stars here! Details: www.cerf-volant-berck.com/
Head to the historical theme park Puy du Fou (Vendée) which opens its doors in early April. This extraordinary park puts on the most amazing shows, from the fall of the Roman Empire to the Vikings and upwards, immense performances, animatronics that are world famous, period villages, animals and a whole lot more. www.puydufou.com/en
The Nantes carnival is fun and fabulous (Loire-Atlantique). While you’re there, don’t miss a trip to the Les Machines de l’Ile – steam punk meets the imagination of the great French writer Jules Verne as a giant elephant roams the streets and rides featuring enormous shellfish cause open-mouthed wonderment. https://www.nantes-tourisme.com
La Rederie d’Amiens in Amiens, Picardy takes place for just 2 days each year - April and October. It’s the second biggest flea market event in France (Lille Braderie in September is the biggest). Thousands flock to the flea market in the shadow of the famous Cathedral of Amiens and it’s a great day out - plus you may just find the bargain of the year if you go early in the morning! Details: www.somme-tourisme.com
La Fête de la Coquille St Jacques, Brittany sees two days of festivities honouring the humble scallop! In April, the ports of Saint-Quay-Portrieux, Loguivy-de-la-Mer and Erquy hold a festival in honour of the queen of the sands. Boat rides, concerts, special menus and tastings. Details: www.erquy-tourisme.com
All over France, gorgeous gardens will spring into bloom but if you’re seriously into glorious green-fingered beauty head to the International Garden Festival at the Chateau de Chaumont, Loire Valley. Kew Gardens meets Chelsea Flower show with a lot of French flair. Stunning permanent gardens, contemporary art exhibitions, a beautiful, historic chateau and each April, the opening of the International Garden Festival. This year’s theme is “Gardens of Paradise” – heavenly… www.domaine-chaumont.fr/en
We have thousands of fabulous holiday homes all over France, nip over to our search pages to find your ream holiday rental for your next French break…
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…
When it comes to renting our your gite, B&B, cottage, in fact any form of holiday home rental in France – you’ve got competition.
There are literally hundreds of thousands of holiday homes on the market in France all wanting the same thing - to fill as many weeks as possible with paying guests.
You need to work at it to make what you offer guests stand out from all the others. Making your holiday home look its best is just one aspect. Having a great presence on the internet, being proactive on social media… there’s so much you can do to help fill the weeks with paying customers.
One way you can really stand out, is to truly understand the needs and wants of your guests. If you don’t already, it really is worth spending some time on this topic. For instance, if you have a large gite with several bedrooms - your target audience is likely to include families. If that’s the case, do you offer what families need? Toys for the garden, a cot and high chair for toddlers and babies, protected access to the pool for safety, free Wi-Fi access for teens who can’t be separated from their mobiles and tablets.
What is your USP - your Unique Selling Point - for families? Are you near a fabulous theme park, beaches, historic towns, water parks, rivers with sports activities?
Guests want properties that are clean, comfortable and attractive. When it comes to families, they want to be sure that they’re going to have the sort of holiday where they can relax knowing that their kids will have plenty to do as well as being safe. For example, when it comes to pools, a fenced off pool with a gate will be more attractive than one without that level of security.
You need to look at what you’re offering through your customers eyes, inviting friends to test your property rarely works as they usually don’t want to upset you. You have to be tough, go through every room and the garden. Look at what your competition is offering and how they present the benefits.
Keep your information for customers updated and make sure you include even the smaller details. It might not seem important to you to have a fenced in garden, but it will be to most parents.
Families are of course just one niche, so consider other areas – if you’re near a lake, you might appeal to anglers. If you’re near a spa, you might appeal to groups of friends.
Once you start thinking about who your target audience might be, you can work out what your USP is, and how that differentiates you. From here you’ll find it easier to figure out how to appeal to the various types of holiday makers, understand what they need, as well as what they want and start filling the weeks with happy guests… and you’ll no longer be judged on price alone.