Enchanting chateaux and fascinating museums, sensational restaurants, new hotels and fabulous wines, a beautiful bay, award-winning theme park and a whole lot more. We have loads of excellent reasons you’ll want to visit the Pays de la Loire…
A truly spectacular artistic, cultural and touristic project in Nantes. Steampunk meets Alice in Wonderland as giant creatures roam the streets and whimsical rides keep kids of all ages enchanted. Details: lesmachines-nantes.fr
The arty party city of Nantes reopened Nantes Art Museum in 2017, after 4 years of renovation. 10,000 exhibits, a fabulous restaurant, shop, and auditorium with tons of wow factor. Details museum.nantes.fr
Stay at: Perfect for family and friends, sleeping 15 the Chateau Cendrillon at Beaupreu near Nantes has a heated outdoor pool and is beautifully decorated. It’s a Vill’otel, which means you get the privacy of your own villa with the comforts of a hotel – magnifique! It’s centrally located for visits to Puy du Fou, Saumur and Angers.
The 13th-century chateau of Angers, with its 17 duo-tone towers, is one of the best-preserved fortresses of its era in France. It is home to a magnificent tapestry, one of the oldest in France, it has survived from the 14th century and is second only to the Bayeux Tapestry. However, there is another tapestry in the town, Le Chant du Monde, a series of ten tapestries that represent the crowning achievement of artist Jean Lurçat (1892-1966), a modern wonder. It’s housed on the north side of the river, in the Hospital Saint-Jean, itself a masterpiece of Plantagenet Gothic architecture.
Saumur Chateau was built in the 12th century, you can see it from miles around on its elevated position looking over the town and the River Loire. You won’t find much furniture inside, there’s a small collection but go for the view over the town and the river – it is stunning. In July and August, there are free shows in the gardens.
Credit @ Puy Du Fou
This award-winning Vendée theme park, twice voted best in the world, was honoured with the 2016 THEA award for “Best Original Creation”, awarded for La Dernier Panache, an innovative show with a 360° rotating spectator platform. Celebrating four decades of dazzling entertainment, this unusual theme park presents history, culture and awesome adventure for the whole family. Details: PuyduFou.fr
An 85km towpath exclusively for cyclists and walkers connects Mayenne to Daon. Considered to be one of the most beautiful greenways in France, it is absolutely perfect for lovers of nature, fresh air, and beautiful countryside.
Close to the vibrant town of Laval centre you’ll discover the quirky Robert Tatin Museum. If you fancy a gentle cycle ride, rent a bike in Laval and take the route along an abandoned railway track from the town right to the entrance. An extraordinary artist who created an extraordinary home, now museum. Filled with giant artworks, complex paintings and a gorgeous garden, largely inspired by the artists travel in South America, it is fabulous. Details: www.musee-robert-tatin.fr
Stay at: Maison de Vacances, St Laurent des Mortiers, the Bijou and gorgeous home dates back to the 16th century and sleeps up to three. Close to all the facilities including a fabulous golf course with lovely tranquil gardens, it’s the perfect relaxing retreat.
Head for the seaside and La Marine restaurant on the island of Noirmoutier, famous for its beautiful sunsets. The 2 Michelin Star Chef, Alexandre Couillon was named "Chef of the Year 2017" by Gault & Millau. It’s worth going to even without the fabulous golden sandy beaches and great activities.
Chateau de Brissac at seven stories is the tallest castle in France. It has a fabulous interior, lovely wine shop, and gorgeous gardens – well worth a day out any time of the year.
The annual June event is the oldest and most prestigious endurance motor race in the world, it’s a not-to-be-missed event for all motoring enthusiasts.
Situated halfway between Angers and Le Mans in the Sarthe department, La Fleche is a colourful and buzzing little town that nestles on the banks of the River Loir. It’s a great place to visit with a fabulous zoo, great water sports, a wonderful market (Wednesday/Sunday), chateaux nearby, surrounded by forests, vineyards and idyllic countryside peppered with picturesque villages.
Stay at: Cottage les Lilas in Conflans-sur-Anille – A choice of rooms and suites in an aristocratic chateau or a cosy cottage to yourself. Located in an area of outstanding natural beauty, exceptional wine producers, delicious little auberges, and restaurants. You can also book archery, French and cooking lessons, rent a vintage Citroen car, take a hot air balloon, visit the chateau of the Loire and lots more.
We have loads of lovely holiday rentals in the Pays de la Loire, pop over to our search pages to find your dream holiday home…
Credit: D. le Nevé Champagne Tourism
Troyes is the former capital of Champagne and there are loads to see and do in this lovely, vibrant and historic city.
Troyes is an ancient city, once a Roman town with a direct road from Milan and onwards to Boulogne-sur-Mer in the north of France – the route for the invasion of Britain. The powerful Counts of Champagne built a palace in Troyes and fortified the town with walls which, even though Champagne the drink didn’t exist at the time, took the form of a Champagne cork.
A huge fire in 1524 destroyed many of the ancient wooden buildings which were replaced with brick buildings, many of which are still there to this day. Visiting Troyes is like stepping back in time. Every street seems to have its quota of half-timbered houses and there are cobbled streets and tiny alleyways that create a mesmerising maze in the centre of the old town. In the little ruelle des Chats (Cats Alley) it’s so narrow that the houses lean in and touch via a central gutter at the top and cats could cross from houses on both sides of the roads.
Everywhere you go you’ll discover traces of history from hundreds of years ago, quaint, quirky and irresistibly charming…
Credit: D. le Nevé Champagne Tourism
There are nine museums in Troyes including the Maison de l’Outil et de la Pensée Ouvrière, an unusual and charming museum dedicated to hand tools dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. Located in the rather unique Hotel de Mauroy there is an impressive collection of 20,000 tools ranging from the ornamental to the practical.
The Hôtel-Dieu-le-Comte houses a fabulous collection of pillboxes, medicine boxes, and jars for lotions and potions in an apothecary that just as it did when it was created in the early 18th Century.
Troyes is known as the” town of ten churches” and is famous for its magnificent Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul. Its Gothic splendor, begun in the 12th Century remains unfinished, the tower of St Peter completed, the tower of St Paul never started. It doesn’t matter, the 180 amazing stained-glass windows, created over four centuries from the 1400's won’t fail to impress.
Troyes is home to a unique collection of stained glass windows going back a thousand years, it has earned it the nickname of the "holy town of stained glass".
One of the largest retail outlets in France is just outside the city. Savvy Parisians flock to shop in Troyes, and when the sales are on in January it is very popular. Troyes was the French capital of hosiery in the 1800s and still a centre for production, known for its lingerie shops.
Troyes is broken up into eight areas: Saint-Jean district or the Champagne Fairs district, Canal district, Arts district, Les Halles district, Saint-Nizier district, the old Jewish quarter, Cité district, Madeleine district. Pick up a map from the tourist office, wear comfortable shoes and explore this lovely city.
The very popular Saint-Jean Quarter is brimming with lively restaurants and brasseries ranging from haute cuisine to homely fare. The andouillette de Troyes is much loved by locals who’ll tell you it is a delicious sausage, it’s made from tripe (offal) and some find it’s a bit of an acquired taste.
There are some wonderful bakeries, patisseries, cheese shops and charcuteries and you’ll find a market every day of the week in the town as well as the 19th Century Halles (indoor covered market).
French Connections has loads of great holiday rentals in the Champagne area, nip over to our search pages to find your dream holiday home…
If you’ve been glued to the TV-loving Escape to the Chateau and Escape to the Chateau DIY – we’ve got some great recommendations for you to have your very Escape to the Chateau holiday, but without the work!
Who hasn’t fallen in love with turrets reaching up to the sky, moats sparkling in the sunshine, views from shuttered windows over vineyards and gorgeous gardens? Chateaux come in all shapes and sizes in France, from the grand fancy castles of the Loire Valley, fairytale castles in Burgundy and thick stone castles in the south, guaranteed to stay cool in hot summers. Oozing history, filled with atmosphere and decorated with style, a chateau stay is inspiring and special, a great way to channel your inner aristocrat.
At French Connections, we’ve got loads of chateaux holiday homes, from B&B to self-catering, across France. Some are huge, some are Bijou, all of them are fabulous.
It might only be for a week or so, but we all deserve a little bit of luxury in our lives and there’s nothing ordinary about these chateau holiday homes.
We’ve picked a few we think you’ll love but click on the link above to see a whole load more.
Great for the whole family: Le Castel du Plessis Gerbault in Indre-et-Loire is perfect if you’ve got kids. It has a swimming pool, huge garden, well-equipped kitchen, barbecue area and comfy rooms. It’s just 2km from Chinon in the heart of the Loire Valley, aka the Valley of Kings thanks to the number of gorgeous chateau there are. This is a self-catering rental and sleeps up to 7.
Celebrating a special event and want all your friends there? Then the Chateau et Gites Saint Gervais in Normandy might just be perfect… This is a charming castle with typical Normandy style annexes from the 12th, 15th and 16th century. The castle and two-holiday homes are surrounded by a park of 70 hectares, with views over the 'Vallée de la Calonne'. The beach of Deauville is just 30 km away and the D Day sites an hour’s drive. There’s something in this area for everyone from castles and horse riding to beaches, culture and gorgeous towns and villages, even Monet’s Garden at Giverny and stunning Honfleur to name just a couple of highlights. Sleeping up to 35, this chateau is great value too.
Oh so romantic and perfect for two in the Loire Valley: The Chambre Bleu is a king size room with luxurious decoration in this family chateau owned by the Count and Countess Vanssay in Sarthe. Furnished with silk fabrics, antique oil paintings and precious Louis XV antiques. There’s even a Juliet balcony overlooking the garden and park. A truly spectacular area of France with loads to do and see year-round. What’s not to love…
Luxurious and truly special: The Chateau de Saussignac in Dordogne offers a gorgeous 17th-century apartment in the right wing of the castle. Antique tapestries, rugs and stunning Baccarat crystal chandelier complement the rich, wooden paneling in the salon. Tall French windows on both sides of the building allow all day sun to stream through. The 4-metre ceilings with exposed beams, large working fireplaces and mirrors add an elegant and inviting feel to the downstairs living area, while upstairs there are two well-appointed bedrooms with antique furniture and modern beds, a bathroom, toilet, laundry and TV area. There is also a sunny south-facing private garden. Self-catering sleeps 6 and set in the heart of a small village surrounded by vineyards… you won’t want to leave!
See more fabulous chateau rentals here
Check out our gorgeous Manoir houses for rent here
Want more – these lovely Maisons de Maitre will melt your heart!
Toulouse Credit: Toulouse Tourist Office Boigontier
Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, known as La Ville Rose (“the pink city”). There are no stone quarries nearby so rich local clay is used to make pinkish terracotta bricks which many buildings are made of. It’s also known as the home of the European Space industry and of Airbus.
About an hour from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, close to the Spanish border, blessed with lots of sunshine, Toulouse is fast becoming one of the most popular cities in France.
Making for a great base, the Grand Hotel de l’Opera is slap bang in the middle of the city on the vast Place du Capitole. It is one of the classic mansions of the city and boasts two restaurants, both sharing the same courtyard. Les Jardins de L’Opera is the gastronomic home of Michelin starred chef Stephane Tournie. The more affordable Brasserie de L’Opera run by chef Gratien Castro is excellent.
Place Charles de Gaulle is a good starting point for a visit to the city to find out what’s on. Pick up a one-day Toulouse Pass Tourisme at the tourist office which will give you free entry to the museums and reduced rates at many of the city’s attractions. It also includes free travel on public transport, metro, bus, tram and airport shuttle bus. And, it includes a guided tour of the city and a free cruise along the River Garonne.
The walking tour of Toulouse starts from the tourist office housed in the historic Donjon du Capitole. This much-loved building houses the Hotel de Ville, the Theatre Nationale Orchestra, and Opera House. It is well worth a visit to see the dramatic wall murals depicting the seasons of Toulouse.
You can’t help but notice that all over the city are two symbols, a twelve-pointed cross, and the scallop shell. The cross is The Occitan Cross also known as the cross of Languedoc, it is the symbol of Occitanie and appears everywhere. The place du Capitole has a huge brass one set in the floor, designed by Raymond Moretti in 1995, each point is a symbol of the zodiac
A short stroll through streets lined with buildings of pink bricks brings you to the Basilica of Saint-Sernin. This was an important stop on the Way of St James, one of the routes of Santiago de Compostela. This explains the appearance of the many scallop shell symbols in Toulouse (pilgrim’s motif).
Don’t miss the massive Jacobins Convent, it may not be the most beautiful building from the outside but inside the light is extraordinary and the with massive pillars and palm-tree-like ribs reaching huge heights are truly impressive. The cloisters are a welcome cool place to rest up from the heat of the city.
Place St Georges Credit Toulouse Tourist Office P Nin
Place St Georges is one of the locals’ favourite squares in the city, ringed with cafés and restaurants. It is the perfect place to spend a relaxing evening watching the world go about its business. You couldn’t do much better than head to Monsieur Georges for a tasty dinner. The duck profiteroles are divine, washed down with a glass of perfectly chilled rosé.
Many restaurants serve the quintessential dish of the region – cassoulet, though, on a hot sunny day, the robust bean, sausage, and duck stew might be a bit heavy, wait until the sun goes down for this dish.
Toulouse is the sort of place where you can leave your maps and guidebooks, GPS and phone in your hotel room. Just dive into the city and got lost in its streets. There are shops to suit all tastes, great cafés, and restaurants to fit all budgets. The food markets are excellent and there’s even a man-made beach on the banks of the Garonne, the perfect picnic spot. There really is something for everyone in this fabulous city.
Find loads of lovely holiday rentals near Toulouse on our search pages – we love making your holiday dreams come true…
If you’re a lover of gorgeous gardens then you’ll be truly spoiled for choice in France. From the gardens of chateaux to public parks, private gardens open to the public and even an entire village awarded “Remarkable Garden” status, you’re sure to find a garden to fall in love with wherever you go.
Here are just a few of our favourites:
The artist Claude Monet’s house and gardens are open to the public from April to October and entice around 500,000 people to the little town of Giverny in Normandy each year. Visitors flock to admire the pretty pink house where Monet lived until his death in December 1926. All fall in love with the magnificent gardens that everyone will recognise from his luminous paintings. Whatever month you visit during that time, the garden is an absolute feast for the eyes and the scent is dazzling. This garden is an exquisite patchwork of colour, almost like stepping into the heart of one Monet’s paintings. Go early in the morning or late afternoon in summer months to avoid the crowds.
The Chateau of Chenonceau is famous for its floral displays. Every room is exquisitely decorated with scented, utterly stunning bouquets made by a master florist in the Chateau’s floral workshop.
It wasn’t until the renaissance days that flowers were grown simply to look good and to decorate the interior. Previous owners Diane de Poitiers, mistress of Henry II and Catherine de Medici, wife of Henry II, both loved to have flower displays in the chateau. Records tell us that some of them were “monumental” taller than a man, flamboyant, colourful and showy.
Diane’s Garden, as it’s called, is on the right-hand side of the chateau. Catherine’s garden is on the left-hand side. Exquisitely maintained by head gardener Nicholas Tomlan, an American, and his team who grow 130,000 plants each year.
One of the most beautiful gardens of France is to be found in the grounds of an ancient abbey in Berry Province, Loire Valley. At the Prieuré d’Orsan, the medieval monastic style layout are based on 12th century records. Every year the gardeners grow 2,500 saplings to make the gorgeous and inspirational wooden structures that are peppered throughout the gardens. Visitors can enjoy the gardens from April through September, and there’s a charming shop on site, full of covetable gardening paraphernalia.
The equivalent of the Chelsea Flower Show in France is The International Garden Festival at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire.
Each year a series of conceptual gardens are created chosen from hundreds of submissions from designers from all around the world and put on show in the Chaumont Festival over a period of six months. More than twenty amazing gardens – the most innovative, original, beautiful and sensational designs are brought to life in this fabulous part of the Loire Valley.
There are also permanent gardens open year-round, set off by a stunning chateau in which art installations enhance the ancient décor.
Chedigny is a sleepy little village that gently resides in the heart of Touraine in the Loire Valley. You might miss it if you blink as you go through even though it is incredibly pretty and quintessentially French. However, every year the tiny town bursts into life and becomes one of the most popular places for rose lovers in the Loire thanks to the ravishing roses that fill its streets and gardens.
Chedigny is unique, the whole village is a classified “jardin remarquable” (remarkable garden). In May the roses bloom and on the last weekend of the month the village holds a 2-day ‘Festival des Roses’ that draws thousands to its streets to relish the fragrant fete with its workshops, artists and even to buy some of the beautiful rose bushes.
Next time you’re in the Loire Valley, drop in and smell the roses in this lovely village.
Details of the festival of roses in Chedigny: www.chedigny.fr
We’ve got loads of lovely villas with gorgeous gardens all over France – helping you make your holiday dreams come true.
Provence is a dream destination of picturesque villages, glorious landscape, fabulous food and wine and much much more. With sunshine more than 300 days a year, it’s an ideal holiday destination year-round. If you’re looking for a break with beautiful landscapes, fabulous gastronomy, and local wines, untamed countryside, and sun, the Provence might just be the destination of your dreams.
Here are a few towns that are top of our list:
The hilltop town is enchanting. There’s a large car park from which the views over the ochre coloured cliffs are stunning but take the short walk into the town to discover its delights. Pretty cafés, flowers cascading from window boxes, quirky art and wine shops and cobbled streets that wind around offering the most spectacular vistas.
The roads around Grasse lead to tiny picturesque villages via hair pin bends and mountain passes. The perfume capital of France is pretty but the real lure is being able to visit the perfume markers and being assailed by the extraordinary scents they create. Get off the beaten track and head to nearby Cabris. This authentic Provençal hilltop village overlooks the Mediterranean Sea will delight you with the smell of lavender and rosemary in the air and old stone villas with worn blue shutters. The locals gather in the square drinking pastis and playing pétanque and allow time to just pass while they enjoy the moment.
Quiet roads, long sandy beaches and just a few miles from Cannes, this lovely place is simply intoxicating and very relaxing.
Credit: Office de Tourisme d’Eze
For breath-taking views, the perched village of Eze fulfils all your dreams. Close to the sunny city of Nice, it’s famous for its stunning panoramas over the Mediterranean Sea, gorgeous gardens and pretty streets. It’s also very close to Monaco, Menton, Villefranche-sur-Mer and a whole host of southern French beauties.
Another hill top beauty, in fact, one of the most beautiful in France. It’s inspired artists through the ages who have fallen head over heels for the special light, the wiggly cobbled streets and ancient fountains.
Head on over to our search pages to find the holiday home that suits you in Provence – we love helping to make your holidays dreams come true…
The small city of Orange in Provence has bucket loads of charm that has been built up over the centuries quite literally - for the Romans were here 2000 years ago and the town is proud of its ancient legacy.
You can’t go to Orange and not see the UNESCO open-air Roman theatre. It has a 37-metre high wall and a stage facing a rounded auditorium of stone benches, the top seats gleaming against the azure blue sky.
When Louis XIV visited Orange, he said of the theatre that it was “the most beautiful wall in my Kingdom.
High up is a statue of Emperor Augustus – looking down on everyone. From the ground, you’d never know that he’s actually 3.5m tall.
In the 19th century, in some areas of France, town architects began pulling down ancient buildings to make way for new. The Roman theatre survived when Prosper Mérimée, an inspector with the newly formed Monuments Historiques, implemented an extensive restoration campaign. The Roman theatre was finally restored to its former glory and wowed the public.
To this day, the theatre at Orange continues to inspire and delight audiences - just as the Romans intended.
Many of the concerts at the theatre are free and it’s an experience that shouldn't be missed if you're in this lovely town. You can get tickets during the day at the theatre reception desk.
In 1869 the theatre hosted what was then called “Fetes Romaines”, the theatrical performances were an immediate success. This became an annual summer event renamed Chorégies and it attracts internationally-renowned artists to perform in front of crowds of thousands, all squished in on those ancient stone benches. The acoustics are stunning, the location is wonderful, the ambiance is exquisite. Classical music, ballet, opera, pop, rock and more, definitely an experience not to miss.
You can also take an audio guided tour of the theatre.
Details of events and tours: www.theatre-antique.com
Next to the Roman theatre is the Roman museum de cadastre. It's a great little museum with an eclectic collection and a very famous map. The Roman survey map of an area between Orange and Nice dates to the second century AD.
A short distance from the theatre is yet another souvenir of the Romans - a grand triumphal arch. This immense 2000-year-old monument was until recently, a place that cars drove Thankfully the authorities have seen sense and have begun a programme of preservation, placing the arch in the centre of a roundabout and directing traffic around it as well as creating a way for visitors to get close to it as it deserves.
The centre of Orange is an easy place to get around on foot with plenty of shops, restaurants and places to while away hours in the sun. For a Roman vibe, try La Grotte, a restaurant built into the Roman Theatre wall, it’s very popular with the locals. And for people watching, Au Salon du Charlotte is just right.
Orange is more than its Roman legacy, the town is lovely too and great for spending a day relaxing, spoiling yourself with fabulous food and enjoying sitting in the sun watching the world go by.
Pop over to our holiday home search pages to discover loads of lovely holiday rentals in Provence – we love to help make your holiday dreams come true…