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Montpellier, southern France, is a dynamic city with a rich heritage. An expanding new town is famous for its innovative architecture, and it’s just a tram ride from the gorgeous beaches. But the old town of Montpellier is where most visitors head.

Here’s our head’s up on some of the best foodie experiences in Montpellier…

Trendy bars in Montpellier

In this lively city, there’s no shortage of bars to choose from. If you’re looking for somewhere with a relaxed vibe and great wine list, L’Atelier Bar a Vin in Place de la Canourgue is pretty hard to beat. Locals love it but visitors rarely find this romantic square, the oldest in Montpellier, from where you have a wonderful view over the St Pierre Cathedral.

For sheer glamour, the terrace of the Hotel Mercure is perfect for an aperitif in its lush green courtyard (you don’t have to be resident to enjoy it).

Any visit to Montpellier must include the Place de la Comédie, the beating heart of the city nicknamed L’Oeuf (the egg) thanks to its oval shape. Here you’ll find Café Riche, an institution as much for locals as for tourists, and for people watching – it’s perfect.

Where to eat out

Authentic: Halles Laissac

Market fans will adore the covered market Halles Laissac which opened at the end of 2018. With its vibrant stained glass dome designed by a student and teacher team from the MoCo (Montpellier Contemporary Art ecosystem) Ecole Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, this emporium of food is open daily. You’ll find a delicious array of food including macarons made by a master pâtissier, cheeses, Corsican specialities, charcuterie and fresh baked bread. There’s a bar here and one of the best things about Halles Laissac is that you can buy your food and then dine at the tables and chairs provided inside and out - the perfect market picnic.

Trendy: Café Joseph

Café Joseph on Place Jean Jaurès in the heart of Montpellier is the place to go. The locals know it as Café Jo and it’s open seven days a week (many restaurants close on Sunday and Monday in Montpellier). Waiters dash about deftly managing trays of food wafting the sort of fragrance that induces nostril quivering anticipation. It’s good for lunch and even better for dinner when lights twinkle overhead and buskers perform in the animated square and the air is filled with the sound of happy chatter. Here you get that special feeling you only get when you’re on holiday and totally relaxed. Great for people watching and the menu is terrific - dishes that are perfect for summer days and nights (the tapas and salads are especially delicious), and the cocktail list is irresistible.

Charming: La Place

In a tiny square hidden in the backstreets of Montpellier, Place Saint-Ravy is a magnet for locals in the know. Once the Palace of the Kings of Majorca who, many hundreds of years ago were also Lords of Montpellier, stood here but now the medieval buildings have been converted to restaurants including La Place. Dine outside at tables placed around a tinkling fountain - it’s the ideal place to get a feel for ancient Montpellier whilst enjoying truly scrumptious dishes. Dine inside and enjoy the cool stone and vaulted ceilings in an intimate dining area.

Don’t miss: Le Grillardin

If you only have time to go to one restaurant in Montpellier, then make it Le Grillardin in the little Place de Chappelle Neuve. In a shady square surrounded by beautiful old buildings with pastel blue shutters of a shade of the most perfect blue, faded over decades, perhaps centuries. It’s a divine setting which nourishes the soul as much as the delicious dishes satisfy your inner gourmet. Tables spill out from the restaurant onto the square. Servers dash about explaining (in English if required) what’s on the menu. Tables fill quickly here so book in advance or get there for 7.30 when service starts. It’s loved by the locals and no wonder…

Montpellier tourism: www.montpellier-france.com

Find out more about what’s on and where to visit in France: https://uk.france.fr/en

France is easy to reach by train, plane and boat – and for 2020, more flights than ever are planned. Plus, there are some great, green initiatives.

New Flights to France in 2020

Jet2:

London Stansted – Bergerac, from 23/05/2020 until 19/09/2020, summer only

London Stansted – La Rochelle, from 23/05/2020 until 19/09/2020, summer only

Birmingham – Nice, from 09/03/2020 until 30/10/2020, all year

East Midlands – Grenoble-Alpes-Isère, from December 2019 to April 2020

Jet2 flights to France from UK: www.jet2.com/en/flights/france/

Easyjet:

Bristol – Lyon, from 12/12/2019 until 28/03/2020, winter only

Easyjet flights to France from UK: www.easyjet.com/en/cheap-flights/france

TUI Airways:

London Gatwick – Chambéry, winter only

Bristol – Toulouse, from 29/12/2019 to 08/03/2020, winter only

TUI flights to France from UK: https://www.tuifly.fr/en/destinations/france

Ryanair:

Dublin – Marseille, summer only, five per week

Dublin – Toulouse, summer only, daily

Bristol – Grenoble-Alpes-Isère, from December 2019 to April 2020

Ryan Air flights to France from UK: www.ryanair.com/flights/gb/en/flights-to-france

Air France:

Cork Airport – Paris-Charles de Gaulle, addition of a new early morning flight from Cork and a late evening service from Paris, complement the existing daily schedule, from April to October 2020.

Air France flights to France from UK: www.airfrance.co.uk

Brittany Ferries new green ship

Named after the picturesque port on the Seine estuary, the Honfleur will arrive in the spring of 2020 and serve Brittany Ferries’ most popular route from Portsmouth to Caen-Ouistreham. This LNG-powered ship will carry up to 1,680 passengers, has 261 cabins, two cinemas, several restaurants, passenger lounges and boutique shopping. Honfleur is the future of sustainable ferry transport and will soon be the greenest vessel regularly operating on the English Channel. Details: www.destinationhonfleur.com/en

Air France Horizon 2030: offsetting all domestic flights

Air France says it will proactively offset 100% of CO2 emissions from domestic flights starting in 2020 as part of its environmental objectives. Labelled ‘Air France Horizon

2030’, the airline’s sustainability roadmap will see it voluntarily offset emissions on all flights within mainland France starting on 1st January, through participation in environmental projects. According to Air France, this represents an average of over 450 flights per day and in excess of 57,000 customers. Details: corporate.airfrance.com/en

Discover more about France at uk.france.fr/en and www.thegoodlifefrance.com

All of us at French Connections would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

We hope you have a relaxing, happy and fun Christmas and we very much look forward to help you make your holiday dreams come true next year…

Our office will be closed on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day.

With best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the whole team at French Connections,

Izzy, Laura, Julie, Donna and Janine

 

Jazz a Juan photo: JAJ-AMBIANCE © G. Lefrancq

With a record number of more than 90 million international visitors, France was the most visited destination in the world in 2018, representing a whopping increase of 4.3 million visitors since 2017.

The UK remained the main source market for inbound travellers to France in 2018 with 13 million tourist arrivals, representing a 2.4% increase on 2017.

We love it for so many reasons, from the diverse landscape, wonderful beaches, mountains, countryside and cities – to the famous French cuisine. Who can resist a crispy baguette, a just baked golden croissant, a piquant cheese or a cake that looks like a jewel box?!

We also love France for the sheer number of things to do. Here’s a peak at just a few of the fabulous new events coming up in 2020…

THE DRAGON OF CALAIS, THE NEW ADDITION TO LA MACHINE COMPANY Calais

In 2020 don’t miss the ‘Dragon of Calais’ a magnificent creation conceived by La Machine de Nantes and built by La Machine Company. The giant dragon will carry visitors through the town and along the seafront. By 2023, other fantastic creatures will arrive in Calais to create a unique urban universe. A permanent creation, the dragon is 15 metres high and can carry up to 60 passengers at a time. Book your ticket to ride a dragon here: compagniedudragon.com

REOPENING OF PALAIS GALLIERA, Paris

Four years after closing for renovation, Paris’ Palais Galliera fashion museum will reopen in April. It will be home to the first permanent fashion exhibition in France, exclusively sponsored by Chanel. Located in the basement of the Palais Galliera, the 670-square-metre area is dedicated to the history of fashion from the 18th century to the present day. The project also includes the creation of a learning workshop and a bookshop. The ground floor of the museum will be dedicated to temporary exhibitions.

THE BASSINS DE LUMIÈRES OPENING IN BORDEAUX

After huge success with the Atelier des Lumières digital art museum in Paris, the city of Bordeaux will open Bassins de Lumières within its famous submarine base, a remnant of the Second World War. This enormous bunker is five times larger than the Atelier des Lumières in Paris – covering 11,000 square metres. Opening in April, it will become one of the world’s largest multimedia installations. Details: www.culturespaces.com/en/bassins-lumieres

COLLECTION PINAULT, PARIS

French billionaire and art collector François Pinault is due to take over a new hot Parisian spot to display his art collection. Located at the heart of Paris, the Bourse de Commerce (Stock Exchange) will open in June to house the new exhibition space for the Pinault Collection. The historic building has been fully restored and transformed into a museum by famous Japanese architect Tadao Ando, including an auditorium and 3,000 square metres of contemporary art exhibition. Details: www.collectionpinaultparis.com/en/

MODERN ART MUSEUM AT FONTEVRAUD Pays de la Loire

A new museum of modern art will open at Fontevraud Abbey in May/June 2020 following a vast donation by private collectors Martine and Léon Cligman. It includes 19th and 20th century works by renowned artists Corot, Dubuffet, Degas, Toulouse-Lautrec, Derain and Delaunay. The museum will open in the former stables. Fontevraud is the largest collection of monastic buildings in France, burial place of three English royals – Henry II, Richard the Lionheart and Eleanor of Aquitaine – and a world famous cultural centre. The on-site hotel has a Michelin-starred restaurant and hotel guests have access to the abbey all night long. Details: www.fontevraud.fr/en/

FRANK GEHRY’S TOWER AT FONDATION LUMA, Arles, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Frank Gehry’s vertiginous, twisting tower at LUMA Arles is taking shape on its 16-acre site in Provence. Due to be 56 metres high when completed in summer 2020, the tower will support a variety of functions including research facilities, workshops and seminar rooms, and artists’ studios. Details: www.luma-arles.org/en

Don’t miss: THE ARC DE TRIOMPHE, WRAPPED Paris

From 19 September to 4 October 2020, in partnership with the Pompidou Centre, the Centre des Monuments Nationaux (CMN) will be creating a temporary exhibition entitled ‘The Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped’. The work will be created by Christo, who famously ‘wrapped’ the Pont-Neuf in Paris, the Reichstag in Berlin and the Gates of Central Park in New York. Details: www.paris-arc-de-triomphe.fr/en/News/The-Arc-de-Triomphe-Wrapped

NARBO VIA, NEW MUSEUM IN NARBONNE

Opening in Autumn 2020, the Narbo Via museum will be the new landmark of the city of Narbonne in Southern France, once an important Roman port. It has been designed by Norman Foster who also created the Musée de la Romanité in Nîmes, which opened in June 2018 and the Millau Bridge. The new 8,000-square-metre antique museum will house the town’s remarkable archaeological collection, charting its antique heritage and displaying as many as 25,000 individual exhibits. It is one of France’s most important ongoing contemporary architectural projects.

60TH ANNIVERSARY OF JAZZ A JUAN FESTIVAL Juan-les-Pins, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur

Antibes-Juan-les-Pins' iconic jazz festival will celebrate its 60th anniversary from 5 to 23 July 2020 Listening to jazz in the Pinède Gould overlooking the Mediterranean is a unique and unforgettable experience. This year's special edition will last even longer than usual to celebrate the anniversary. Details: www.jazzajuan.com/en-us/home.aspx

50TH YEAR OF FESTIVAL INTERCELTIQUE DE LORIENT, Brittany

Every summer, around 700,000 people from all over the world invade the Celtic town of Lorient for the Festival Interceltique. From Galicia to Scotland, the best of Celtic music can be found here and there’s a fabulously festive atmosphere. 200 events and shows and 5,000 performers will take part and celebrate this 50th year. Takes place: 7 to 16 August 2020. www.brittanytourism.com

Discover more events at: https://uk.france.fr/en

Lille in the department of Nord, Hauts-de-France, has cultural venues by the bucket load. Cobbled streets and dazzling architecture make it feel a bit like a miniature Paris, but with a flamboyant Flemish vibe. And if you’re a foodie – you’ll be hard pressed to find anywhere better for eating out.

Culture in Lille

Lille was European City of Culture in 2004 and has never looked back. There are more than a dozen museums and galleries covering art from antiquity to contemporary.

Lille’s Palais des Beaux Arts ought to be much better known than it is. This grand palace holds one of the largest museums in France. It has the second biggest collection of fine arts outside of Paris with exhibits from antiquity to contemporary, including all the greats from Rubens, Goya and Monet to Van Gogh, Picasso and Chagall. Full of incredible collections, it’s also very innovative with contemporary exhibitions and a willingness to present things in a different way.

Tip: Head to the basement to discover a unique collection of 17th century miniature models of towns such as Ypres in Belgium (it was used as a blueprint for rebuilding Ypres after WWII) and Lille. They were used by Louis XIV to plan military tactics.

Don’t miss the medieval Hospices de la Comtesse museum which hosts exhibitions. Founded in 1236 by Jeanne, Countess of Flanders to care for the poor and the sick it has a fascinating collection depicting Flemish life from the 15th to the 17th centuries.

And hop on the tram or Metro for a short journey to Roubaix where world class Museum La Piscine in a former art deco municipal swimming pool is absolutely astounding.

Wander in the city

The Vielle Bourse was the old stock exchange building and it’s right in the centre of Old Lille on the edge of the Grand Place. Go in the afternoons when the second-hand book market is held in the inner courtyard with its stunning Renaissance frescoes. Go on a Sunday night in the summer and join in the tango dancing under the stars.

Old Lille is made for wandering, cobbled streets, pretty little squares, ancient buildings galore. The Place des Oignons is particularly pretty and lined with quirky shops, bars and restaurants. In the centre of the city it has a villagey vibe!

Eat out in Lille

You really are spoiled for choice here with hundreds of superb restaurants ranging form Michelin star to authentic estaminets, the Flemish name for a tavern. Don’t miss the Barbue d’Anvers restaurant in a 16th century building tucked away being a tiny cobbled courtyard off the Grand Place. They serve local dishes like carbonnade, a beef stew made with brown sugar and beer – absolutely delicious! For funky eats, head to Le Bistrot de Saint So at the former Saint Sauvers goods station. Now an arts venue, the restaurant is absolutely superb, and on a sunny day, the terrace, looking over a giant baby with a tail, is full of locals in the know.

Meert, a patisserie and chocolate shop which was opened in 1761 and looks like it’s never changed, has a sweet tearoom in a courtyard. Nibble on one of their famous waffles, created for a King!

Find more info on places to visit in Lille at: en.lilletourism.com

Discover our great range of holiday homes in Nord, Hauts-de-France…

 

Happy New Year from all of us at French Connections.

We love to make your holiday dreams come true, to help you create unforgettable holidays and take you to new destinations as well as old favourites in France. And we’re looking forward to assisting you next year.

Whether you’re seeking a chateau break, a gorgeous villa, romantic cottage, B&B with style or a great value holiday – we’ve got thousands of holiday home listings right across the whole of France.

If you’re looking for a holiday for two or for twenty-two – or more, we’re here to help

New year – new holiday! Ski resorts, seaside resorts, city or countryside breaks - browse our huge list of holiday homes, chat to us on Facebook, feel free to contact us for help.

Wishing you a very Happy New Year, from all of us at French Connections:

Laura, Izzy, Donna, Julie and Janine

Amiens in the region of Picardie (now called Hauts-de-France) northern France is known as the “The Green Venice”. 65km of waterways lie in the shadow of France’s biggest Gothic Cathedral. It’s a truly surprising city…

The Hortillonnages of Amiens

The hortillonnages are floating market gardens on the edge of the city. They’ve been cultivated since the Middle Ages on a maze of canals, thought to date back to at least the 13th century. The best way to experience this historic heritage site is by guided electric boat tour (from April to October). It’s incredible to see the city’s Cathedral spire in the background while you spot wild birds and lazy fish on the tranquil waterways. The perfect way to spend a couple of hours away from the bustle of the city.

The beautiful water market of Amiens

The weekly Saturday morning market along the pretty Quai Belu in the old district of St Leu with its pretty half-timbered houses in the shadow of the Cathedral has a festive atmosphere. The market on the water as it’s known, is where the market gardeners of the hortillonnages sell their produce and have done so for centuries. Almost everything here comes from the hortillonnages or around the Somme area - from flowers and vegetables to wild herbs, cheese, honey, charcuterie and even beer. It’s a must-see on a weekend visit.

Amiens Cathedral

The great Gothic UNESCO listed Cathedral of Amiens celebrates its 800th anniversary in 2020. It’s vast interior is filled with statues and frescoes, the soaring vaulted ceiling is mind-boggling. This is the biggest Cathedral in France.

During summer months and December, a stunning sound and light show takes place, lighting up the façade of this majestic building and bringing it to colourful life. Details: www.amiens.fr/Vivre-a-Amiens

Visit Jules Verne’s house

Surely everyone has read Around the World in 80 days, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea – or seen the films! Jules Verne wrote dozens of books and thrilled millions with his adventure stories. He lived in Amiens for 18 years and his old home, where so many of our favourite books were written, has been restored to look just as it did when he was there. There’s a fascinating collection of his artefacts, books and items which illustrate his tales.

https://www.amiens.fr/Vivre-a-Amiens/Culture-Patrimoine/Etablissements-culturels/Maison-de-Jules-Verne

Eating out in Amiens

There’s plenty of choice for great restaurants and if you like authentic, local and seasonal French food – you’re in for a treat. Le Quai Restaurant alongside the Canal in the old St Leu district is friendly and delicious. Further along the Canal Au Fil de l’Eau serves fabulous authentic dishes including a Ficelle Picarde, a Picardy pancake. On a sunny day, head to the terraced garden for wonderful views over the water. And if you really want to push the boat out, Brasserie Jules, a traditional bistro which specialises in fish dishes, is legendary in the city. Photos of Jules Verne adorn the wall and look on approvingly as you feast on the freshest of shellfish, prepared in a glass booth Parisian style.

Discover more things to do in Amiens and northern France: www.french-weekendbreaks.co.uk

Check out our listings for holidays homes in Picardie here