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Picture-book pretty towns, lush peaceful countryside, grand monuments, historic sites and beautiful beaches – Normandy has oodles of charm and loads to keep visitors happy and busy.

Rouen

The historic capital of Normandy sits on the Seine River. What makes this city unique is its incredible Gothic architecture coupled with more than 2000 half-timbered medieval street houses that blend effortlessly and its long, turbulent history whose traces can be seen in the present. This is of course the city in which Joan of Arc lost her life and there is a museum in her honour.

Must see: Gaze upon the monumental, gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame which the great French artist Claude Monet captured on canvas, mesmerised by its beauty. It is quite possibly the most photogenic cathedral in Europe.

Honfleur

This little town with its working port has bucket loads of charisma. Wandering around the harbour and up and down the wiggly cobble stone streets of Honfleur is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s a buzzing, vibrant, colourful and truly enchanting little place that is quaintly charming and full of character despite the high number of tourists.

Must see: The sight of the little boats going in and out of the harbour while you treat yourself to lunch, a steaming bowl of moules marinieres perhaps, at a terraced bistro.

Bayeux

Bayeux Tapestry © Ville de Bayeux

Grand architecture, fine restaurants, and boutiques galore will please visitors but it’s the Bayeux Cathedral which dominates on arrival. The historic old town of Bayeux dates back to Norman times and the Cathedral was consecrated in 1077 by Bishop Odo, William the Conqueror’s half-brother. It’s a lovely town to wander, winding little streets, half-timbered houses and historic sites abound.

Must see: The most famous tapestry in the world, the Bayeux tapestry. It is a magnificent work of art, with a UNESCO World Heritage rating. At 70m (230ft) long it is more impressive in real life than any photo can possibly show. Commissioned by Bishop Odo, to commemorate the Norman Conquest of England, it’s an awesome depiction of life (and death) in the 11th century.

Le Havre

Pic Le Havre: © F Godard, Normandy Tourist Board

Le Havre in Normandy is an ancient town with a contemporary footprint. It’s a UNESCO listed city, recognised for its extraordinary architecture.

Le Havre’s origins go back to 1517 when Francis 1 commissioned the construction of a port, it was known then as Francispolis. It was the birthplace of impressionism, it was here that Claude Monet painted his iconic “Sunrise, an Impression”.

These days Le Havre is one of the biggest of French ports, a vast, vibrant and buzzing city. Le Havre suffered enormous damage during World War II and afterward was almost completely rebuilt under the direction of Belgian architect Auguste Perret. The clean modern lines, wide avenues, and concrete buildings look more Manhattan than France, it was a blueprint for the future.

Must see: The Perret Show Flat showcases Perret’s extraordinarily advanced view of living spaces including all mod cons from fridges to washing machines in late 1940s-early 1950s.

Caen

It was largely due to William the Conqueror that Caen grew into a great city. William and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, each ordered a grand abbey, the Men’s Abbey for William, the Women’s Abbey for Matilda. Both buildings are hugely impressive places and open to the public and free of charge.

Must see: Caen Castle was one of the most important strongholds in the duchy of Normandy, and now houses the Normandy Museum and the Fine Arts Museum with a fabulous collection of 16th, 17th, 19th and 20th-century artworks.

French Connections has hundreds of lovely holiday rentals in Normandy, we just love making your holiday dreams come true.

Languedoc Roussillon is one of France’s sunniest regions and Montpellier is one of its most fascinating cities.

There are three parts to Montpellier. First, the old town with its wiggly medieval streets. And, there's the new bit of town which seems to change week by week. And finally, there’s the coastal part with its gorgeous sandy beaches.

The old city of Montpellier

Montpellier used to be a fishing village many years ago, now it’s a cool town with a hip vibe. The sun shines pretty much from spring through autumn and then some – 300 days a year on average.

Montpellier echoes to the sound of cigales in the plane trees. Wandering in the medieval town is stress-free, it’s a small city, easy to get your bearings and simple to get around on foot or via the excellent tram service.

The place de la Comedie or rather Place de L'ouef (Egg Square) as the locals call it thanks to its oval shape, is the beating heart of the city and a popular meeting point. The statue of the Three Graces is the most popular selfie spot in town. Don’t miss Café Riche in the square, it’s an institution, locals meet here for a Perrier tranche (Perrier water with a slice of lemon) or Perrier menthe (with a shot of mint). Perrier water is from a source located between Montpellier and nearby Nimes, so everyone drinks it here like… well, water! This big, vibrant café is also popular for afternoon tea, coffee and aperitifs and is the perfect people watching perch. There’s also lots of street entertainment with musicians, magicians and dancers, it’s not organised, just spontaneous and much loved by the locals and visitors.

On a hot day, cool down with a spot of culture in the air conditioned Musée Fabre. It houses an eclectic collection that spans several centuries of art, from 14th century religious masterpieces to the enormous and brooding art of Pierre Soulages, one of France’s greatest living artists. There are some fabulous and important works here including a Delacroix painting which inspired Monet, who called him the “Father of Impressionism”.

For a spot of food shopping, head to the market at Les Arceaux in the Peyroux district on the edge of the old town. It’s held underneath the arches of a magnificent aqueduct that looks Roman but isn’t.

There are loads of terrific restaurants but for something a bit different head to the contemporary art centre for Sunday brunch, you need to be there by 11.am as there’s no reservation system but for about 18 euros you’ll get a great cooked breakfast/lunch in a very unusual venue. The locals love this place and for an insider taste of Montpellier – it’s perfect.

The new city of Montpellier

Montpellier has a split personality architecturally speaking. The new part of town is spreading in a most remarkable social experiment that is designed to improve life for the residents. The New York Times has listed Montpellier in its top 100 architectural cities to see before you die.

The most innovative architects in the world have designed buildings here but the project has developed in a very organised way. It’s not just a mad mix of modern designs, there’s a consistent theme being woven through this new part of Montpellier. Architects have been given a free hand overall but keeping to a few rules. Wide open spaces are key, height restrictions are monitored, and the look has to a certain extent been controlled. The designs and colours are different but there’s a harmonious look.

The seaside

The famous French film Monsieur Helot’s Holiday was filmed in Montpellier. Follow in his footsteps and take tram line 3, the coaches are designed by Christian Lacroix, to the beach.

Montpellier makes for a great base for sightseeing in the area. The train service is very good and it’s a short distance to such legends as Narbonne, Carcassonne, Séte and even Barcelona, from the local station.

At French Connections, we love to help you make your holiday dreams come true with the perfect sunny home rental. See all our properties in and around Montpellier. 

Just across the Channel, Brittany is a world away from busy days and crowded streets. Spectacular landscapes and preserved nature, fresh sea air and authentic living, miles of coastline and picturesque villages… Brittany ticks all the boxes.

Relax in Rennes a city of art, history and retail therapy

Brittany’s administrative capital is a city of contrast. Narrow, cobbled streets in the medieval area alongside wide tree-lined boulevards. Half-timbered buildings dating back to the 17th century merge successfully with modern glass-fronted boutiques and up-market bars. Historic and avant-garde architecture blend, a timeless testimony to past and present.

Rennes Saturday morning market is the second largest weekly market in France and well worth a visit. French delicacies, crêpes, fresh bread, mouth-watering biscuits, cheeses, wine, and all manner of French delicacies will entice and tempt you. And, it’s the perfect place to take a break with a pot of steaming mussels and chips washed down with local cider.

Brittany’s Festivals

Festivals are big in Brittany. Over 1,000 are held each year. The annual Les Transmusicales de Rennes, one of the best festivals in Europe, known for pushing musical boundaries, takes place in Rennes every December. Every bar, café, and restaurant becomes a music venue where professional and amateur musicians merge their talents.

Whether its cultural, musical, sound and light, sporting or folklore, you’ll find a festival in Brittany that’s just right for you.

Celebrate the Route du Rhum's 40th anniversary

Since 1978, the legendary transatlantic solo race departing from Saint-Malo, Brittany to Pointe-à- Pitre, Guadeloupe has seen many talented sailors such as the intrepid Ellen MacArthur facing the challenges of the high seas. 2018 sees the 11th edition of the race promising an exceptional sports scene, with a hundred boats competing. On 4 November 2018, join the 200,000 people who come every four years to watch the boats depart from Saint-Malo.

Visit the breathtaking wonders of Brest Terres Océanes

Impressive lighthouses, steep cliffs, and spectacular tides are what you’ll find in Brittany - the 'Brest Terres Océanes' coastline promises big thrills. Experience the drama of nature on a grand scale here where you’ll really feel you’ve got away from it all.

Dive among shipwrecks

Brittany is famous for its natural and cultural heritage, but it also reveals many treasures underwater to those who want to dive there. Fauna and Flora abound and nestle in the 3,500 shipwrecks that history has left in the depths of the sea, leaving Brittany with a unique underwater heritage. Depending on the tides and their depth of immersion, shipwrecks are reachable for beginners also. Under the watchful eyes of a diving expert, Breton wrecks are fantastic playgrounds for all the living species that find shelter in them: anemones, sea sponges, blue lobsters, conger eels and even Jon Dory fish.

Find details for what’s on in Brittany and loads to do at http://www.brittanytourism.com/ideas/brittany-experiences

At French Connections, we’ve got hundreds of fabulous holiday homes in Brittany for families, couples and groups, head on over to our holiday property pages and find the perfect home from home for your Brittany break…

Valentine's day is approaching fast and there’s still time to book a last-minute break with your loved one. And, if you miss the big day, then France is one of the most romantic countries in the world so, go anytime to celebrate your love. Here at French Connections, we’re happy to help with recommendations and to get you booked into your perfect holiday home. Just browse the thousands of gorgeous properties on our website and contact the owners directly if you have any questions or contact us via the website.

Blissful Blois in the Loire

Situated on the banks of the Loire River, Blois is dominated by its legendary chateau, the scene of love affairs and dastardly deeds. In summer months this is the setting for a gorgeous son et Lumiere show. The cobblestone streets are brimming with delightful restaurants, cafés, bakeries, and boutiques. You’ll find opportunities to buy at vibrant city street markets most days (except Monday).

A trip to the Loire Valley is to discover a land of historic Châteaux, gorgeous gardens, fabulous vineyards and picturesque villages. Va Va Voom to the Loire Valley for a dizzying dalliance.

Woo-hoo (or where to woo your loved one): You’re spoiled for choice in Blois but don’t miss a trip to the chateau, the former home of 7 French Kings. In summer there’s a fabulous Son et Lumiere show in the spectacular courtyard.

Wine and dine: L’Hote Antique (5 rue Pont du Gast) is great for lunch or dinner. Comfy armchairs, exposed beams, friendly ambiance and best of all the menu is fabulous. Downstairs is lively and fun but book a table on the mezzanine floor for a more intimate atmosphere.

Romantic Reims Champagne

There’s not much that beats drinking Champagne in the capital of Champagne. This effervescent small city is sure to enamor you. There are loads to do from tasting the bubbles at some of the most renowned Champagne houses (don’t miss Mumm), to museums, the extraordinarily beautiful Cathedral of Reims where French Kings were crowned for centuries, a thriving café culture, fabulous shops and seductive chocolatiers, plus easy access to the famous vineyards.

This is the ultimate destination for those who love Champagne, glorious countryside, picturesque villages and medieval towns.

Woo-hoo (or where to woo your loved one): At one of the many terraced cafés, watching the world go by while you toast your love with bubbles.

Wine and dine: Brasserie Flo (96 Place Drouet d’Erlon). Located in a fabulous mansion house, decorated sumptuously, this is a restaurant to indulge in fabulous food made with passion by the friendly chef and of course, Champagne.

Pucker up in Paris

You can’t put a list of the most romantic places in France together with including the city of love.  

Strolling along the seine or the cobbled streets of Montmartre, browsing the second-hand bookstores, buying a bouquet at the beautiful flower market as the bells of Notre Dame toll, sipping hot chocolate at an iconic café, there are endless opportunities to soak up the atmosphere.

Woo-hoo (or where to woo your loved one): No doubt you’ll find your own special place, but the Jardins de Luxembourg is one of the most romantic gardens in France and the perfect place to hold hands and dream.

Wine and dine: For somewhere very special head to Les Ombres, a restaurant tucked away at the top of Musée du Quai Branly with incredible views of the Eiffel Tower.  It’s an expensive restaurant (lunch is cheaper than dinner) but the view makes it truly memorable.

We have many properties available in France to get your heart racing!

Every year on 2 February the French celebrate with a crêpe (pancake) for the Fête de la Chandeleur.

The name Chandeleur comes from the Latin candelorum festum, which means festival of candles and in the English language, it’s known as Candlemas. There is evidence that Pope Gelasius I (died in 496) helped to establish the festival of Candlemas and was said to have fed crêpes to the pilgrims who visited his church.

There are lots of fun legends and old wives’ tales about La Chandeleur and Candlemas:

If you can flip a pancake with one hand, whilst in the other holding a gold coin – your immediate family will prosper financially all through the year! Or flip and hold a coin and make a wish – catch it and your wish will come true!

If it is raining on the day of Candlemas – it will rain for the next 40 days. If it is overcast and cold – winter will last for another 40 days. If it is a clear day – winter is over.  Although having said that, there is also a saying that if it is sunny on Candlemas then winter will return and bring misfortune with it!

Eating lots of pancakes on the day of the fête de la chandeleur will ensure a good crop!

If you toss your crèpe on the armoire and it sticks – that is a sign of good luck and prosperity for the year (or a sign you need to get a cloth out and clean up!).

In the north of France, it’s traditional to use beer in the mix whilst in Normandy and Brittany people often add a swig of Calvados (apple brandy).

Wherever you are, it’s a good excuse to make pancakes and here’s a traditional and simple French crêpe recipe:

Ingredients for 6-8 pancakes

125g plain flour

pinch of salt

1 medium egg, beaten

300ml milk

25g melted butter

Directions

1. Mix the flour and salt in a basin, make a hollow in the centre and drop in the egg. Stir and add the milk gradually until you have a smooth mix. Add the melted butter and beat well. The consistency should be like single cream.

2.  Heat a small amount of butter in a frying pan until it begins to smoke. Then give the batter a stir and pour approximately 3 tablespoons of the mix into the frying pan. When golden brown underneath, flip it over and cook the other side.

3. You can serve your pancake as you like but it's traditional to sprinkle it with sugar and roll it or fold it into quarters. Serve immediately with honey, jam or lemon juice.

Bon appétit from us at French Connections!

Imagine wandering through the narrow streets of the old town in Nice. The sun is shining and it warms your skin. You stop at the market to buy a snack – maybe socca, the local specialty, a pancake made from chickpeas. As you reach the beach, the sound of the sea lapping gently is soothing... relax.

Nice is famous for its glitz and glamour, for being the playground of the rich and famous. Everyone from the Queen to world leaders and billionaires come here to play, party and soak up the sun that shines more than 300 days a year.

But what if you’re not a millionaire – can you afford Nice? Is it possible to take a break without breaking the bank? Well yes, absolutely, and in fact, it’s not at all hard to live on a budget here and enjoy life to the full!

Nice on a budget

Most people wrongly assume that Nice makes for a very expensive holiday – it doesn’t. First off, at French Connections, we have loads of fabulous property lets in the area and if you’re going for a bit of winter sun – we’ve got long let and out of season discounts to tempt you. Self-catering in Nice means you can take advantage of the wonderful markets and food shops and cook up a feast or fire up the barbeque at “home” which saves you money.

The food market at Cours Saleya is an experience in itself and surprisingly reasonable, thanks to the abundance of fruit and vegetables grown in the area and neighbouring Italy, just 20 minutes’ drive from Nice. There is also the Liberation Market (Av Malausséna - Place du Général de Gaulle Liberation tram stop) Tuesday – Sunday, which is where most locals go as it’s less touristy. Buy supplies and head off for a picnic in the sun.

And, if you want some wine to go with your picnic or to drink on your balcony watching the sunset, head to Les Caves Caprioglia  (16 Rue de la Prefecture). Take an empty water bottle (size your choice) and buy directly from the 700l casks of wine that line the wall and choose from white, red or the locals favourite rosé. A litre of the red will set you back a shade over 2 euros.

Fabulous authentic and great value restaurants in Nice

There are loads of affordable, authentic and scrumptious restaurants in Nice. Food is really important to the locals, it’s part of the heritage of this place. The street food is amazing, delicious socca, Pissaladière (a tasty onion tart) pastries, and snacks are plentiful and at just a few Euros a piece, you won’t need to spend much.

Plenty of restaurants don’t charge sky high prices and one of the best for local Nicois dishes is A Buteghinna (11, rue du marché). It’s only open for lunch but the three lovely Nicois ladies who run cook up a storm in a tiny kitchen. You won’t each much in the evening after one of their huge and scrumptious dishes! And, check out their snack bar for take away heaven!

Then return to the beach, read a book and savour a delicious ice cream. Afterwards head back to your French Connections holiday home to get dressed for an apero at a local bar, have dinner and wander the wiggly streets of old Nice listening to free music, soaking up the ambiance and people watching.

What to do in Nice for free or really inexpensive

The beach at Nice is stony – which is fine for most people but if you want a comfy sunbed, you’ll have to pay for it. You could though hop on the bus and for just €1.50 head to the sandy beach at gorgeous Villefranche-sur-Mer close by. (Get transport details from the tourist office).

Walking is, of course, free, and Nice is one of the nicest places to wander with parks, grand squares, the gorgeous streets of the old town and distinctive styles of district. Head to castle hill, via the free lift – or climb the steps if you’re feeling energetic. The views from here are stunning, there are shady areas perfect for a picnic plus beautiful gardens.

Stroll along the beachfront, wander in the Cours Saleya market. Cool down in La Promenade des Paillons, an enclosed urban park of 12 hectares where you’ll find fountains, bands, street food and somewhere to sit in the shade of a tree, on a bench and simply chill.

For just 10 Euros you can pick up a ticket from the tourist office that gives you access to all museums and galleries in Nice for 24 hours including the fabulous Matisse museum – a great saving.

Nice is the perfect place to wander, wonder, relax, chill, eat, drink and enjoy the joie de vivre in the sun.

At French Connections, we love to help you make your holiday dreams come true.

Despite the Pound’s weakness versus the Euro, France is still a wonderful place to take an excellent value holiday. Self-catering holidays mean you save on eating out costs and get to shop at the markets for the best of local, seasonal produce. The cheapest ingredients to have on your list include cheese, bread (those lovely crispy baguettes!), vegetables and sausages, not to mention the wine. These won’t require much cooking either, so it’s a lovely and simple way to eat like locals.

Entertainment doesn’t need to cost much either. From walks on the beach or in the countryside, wandering through historic cities and picturesque villages to flea markets and festivals – there are loads of free or not expensive things to do in France.

We take a look at some of the best and most popular budget holiday options in France for 2018

Normandy and Brittany

There are a number of options when it comes to affordable accommodation. Skip the hotels and check out the private rental options from gorgeous country cottages to farmhouses, and in the ever-popular areas of Normandy and Brittany, there’s a massive choice. Excellent value doesn’t mean skimping on the benefits though. The rental market in France is competitive which means owners have to ensure they’re offering the holidaymaker something to tempt them. Beautifully renovated, stunning locations and a cosy home from home base make a French Connections holiday rentals a great option – just nip over to our search pages to see for yourself.

Dordogne

Always a favourite with British holidaymakers, Dordogne has so much to offer. The French think of Dordogne as a river rather than a place and know Dordogne as Perigord. Perigord is defined by four colours: Perigord Noir (black) is named for truffles and chestnut trees. It’s an area that’s rich in enchanting castles, stunning countryside and includes the lovely medieval town of Sarlat.  Perigord Vert, is in the north, the green part of the department which includes beautiful Brantome, known as the “Venice of Dordogne. Perigord Blanc (white) takes its name from the chalky stone that built Perigueux. Perigord Pourpre (purple) is from the wines made from the vineyards around Bergerac.

Not overcrowded (except in peak summer season), with the most mouth-watering markets (the Saturday morning market at Sarlat is memorable) and breath-taking scenery. Just think Beynac-et-Cazenac with its soaring cliffs and tiny villages teetering high up in the sky. A lack of traffic jams, picturesque villages, the chance to mess about in boats and friendly locals make Dordogne ever popular with visitors.

There are numerous holiday properties available in the Dordogne, so for inspirational ideas take a look at our selection and happy holiday home hunting!

Holidays homes by the sea

France boasts some of the best coastlines in Europe. From the dramatic cliffs and golden beaches of the Opal Coast in the far north to the sunny beaches of the Mediterranean – there’s a massive choice. Whether it’s a romantic break, family holiday or friends’ fun vacation, there’s a beach holiday to suit everyone in France. And, with so many ports to travel to, getting there is easy.

A holiday in France doesn’t need to break the bank – take a look at the fabulous holiday homes on the French Connections website and book your dream holiday cottage…