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Amboise is in the department of Indre-et-Loire, Loire Valley. It’s a town that packs plenty of wow factor with not just one, but two famous castles. Plenty of restaurants, cobbled streets, walks along the river and wine tasting are just some of the things on offer when you visit Amboise.

Amboise town

Nestled on the side of the grand Loire River, the longest in France, Amboise has a mostly sleepy feel though it does get a bit more packed in summer as tourists throng to its castles. It’s easy to walk around but if you want to get your bearings, there’s a petit train in summer months (details at the tourist office).

There are bistros and cafés and a lovely main street over which a 14th century clock hangs. Don’t miss the lovely Bigot chocolate and patisserie, the terrace is just perfect for a spot of people watching!

Most visitors miss the Pagode de Chanteloup. This rather unusual French folly, an 18th century Chinese style pagoda is in the grounds of a former château that was demolished in 1823. Climb the 149 steps to the top for an amazing view of the countryside. It’s set in a park where you can take a boat ride, a great place to relax. It’s a 10 minute drive from the centre of Amboise.

Chateau du Clos Luce – last home of Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life living in this bijou chateau, a grace and favour home offered to him by French King Francis 1 who was a great admirer of the Italian genius. He died here in 1519 and his bones are buried just down the road at the Chateau of Amboise.

Visit this exquisite 15th century chateau today and you’ll almost believe that da Vinci has just nipped out to the gorgeous gardens and might be back soon. The chateau has been restored to look just as it did when da Vinci lived here. There is a beautiful study complete with sketches, paintings and artefacts. His cabinet of curiosities was filled with oddities and somewhat macabre. But, you don’t get to draw the insides of bodies of humans and animals by looking at the outside so it’s not a surprise to discover such bits and pieces.

The room in which he died is often enhanced with the castle cat, Minette, asleep on the four poster bed studiously ignoring tourists.

There are magnificent gardens at the chateau, filled with the designs of Leonardo da Vinci such as his tank and paddle boat. There’s a lovely cafe and restaurant where you can take a break and enjoy the scenery.

The Chateau du Clos Lucé is one of the most atmospheric da Vinci sites in the world and makes for a truly fascinating visit.

Chateau of Amboise

This beautiful Renaissance style castle is much smaller today than it was. At one point the chateau was virtually a city, not just a castle. There were wild animals in the moat, it had its own church, law courts and barracks. Today the castle is much smaller but incredibly beautiful. Over the centuries bits were pulled down or destroyed, but it retains an aura of greatness.

You enter via a ramp from the street. The tall walls and turrets dominate the town but give no indication of what you will see once you’re inside the castle gates. From the terrace there are magnificent views over the river and countryside, the restored gardens are truly superb.

Inside the Chateau there are rooms in late Gothic style as well as Renaissance. Some rooms are furnished with tapestries, paintings and furniture. Columns in the state room are encrusted with fleur de lys, a bust of Francis I looks down on all who walk through.

Leonardo da Vinci is buried in the Chapel of St Hubert, wedged against the ramparts. It was built by Charles VIII at the end of the 15th century for his wife Anne of Brittany. The chapel is an absolute jewel, with the sun shining through its beautiful stained glass windows, stunning carved doors and exquisite sculptures, it is sublime.

Why not stay in a chateau yourself in the Loire Valley… we have a great range of gites and chateau stays in the area. Just nip over to browse our fabulous selection of Loire Valley holiday homes – we love to make your holiday dreams come true.

When it comes to camping near the seaside in France, there’s a huge choice. From pitching your tent in the dunes, to a cool cabin right on the beach, glamping under the pine trees, parking up in your mobile home or renting a chalet. What’s not to love about the sound of the sea lapping against the sand, a glass of wine under the twinkling stars and the fresh air that always seems so much more pure at the coast…

Seaside holidays in Brittany

With its beautiful beaches, enthralling coastal scenery and family friendly campsites, Brittany is brilliant for seaside holidays. Explore the Emerald Coast which runs west along the north coast of Brittany from the legendary Mont-Saint-Michel. Or the Pink Granite Coast (top photo), which takes its name from the colours of its unusual rock formations, beaten into fantastical shapes by the weather and the sea.

You’ll discover a land of silky sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, a plethora of islands and secret bays.

When it comes to local produce, it’s hard to resist the famous pancakes of Brittany. They’re not like the pancakes we’re used to in the UK but, made with buckwheat flour and stuffed with fish, meat and cheese, they’re hearty, tasty and scrumptious. From the oysters of Cancale, cider, mouth-watering cheeses and the freshest sea food, indulge your senses in this gastronomic paradise.

Perfect beaches in Provence

Provence is a beautiful region, rich in history, gastronomy and wine, famous for its lavender fields, picturesque villages and vineyards. It’s also a playground for families and perfect for holidays with lots of sunshine. The coast of the French Riviera with its sandy beaches, swish resorts and beautiful old villages and towns is utterly alluring.

Take your pick of superb beach locations from lovely La Ciotat not far from Marseille to captivating Cassis. Or how about exquisite Eze near sunny Nice, famous for the stunning views over the Mediterranean from its hilltop perch, or wonderful Menton where orange and lemon trees grow alongside the main coastal route.

Seaside holidays in the Vendée

The Vendée, in Poitou-Charentes, on the Atlantic in southwest France is best known for its shining, soft sandy beaches. Around 70 miles of unbroken coastline, peppered with seaside towns are enough to please everyone. One of the best locations for seaside holidays is Les Sables-D’Olonnes, known as the “Pearl of the Ocean”. It’s a large seaside town with an enormous beach 1.5 miles long. This vibrant town has loads to offer. Plus there are lots of fabulous cafés, perfect for a refreshing after beach aperitif as the sun sets. There’s a thriving fishing port and a marina, watching the boats come and go is so relaxing. With five markets, ferry service, museums, the nearby salt marshes, boat trips and absolutely loads of activities – you’ll never be bored here.

Browse our thousands of listings of gorgeous holiday homes by the sea – we love to help make your holiday dreams come true…

The sunny city of Bordeaux nestles in a land of vineyards dotted with famous wine towns like Saint-Emilion and Medoc. It’s the famous wine of the area that has largely influenced how Bordeaux has evolved for the last two millennia.

The architecture of the city is mellow: neoclassical masterpieces built by rich wine merchants and traders. And, Bordeaux is home to the most wonderful wine bars which definitely adds to the happy and relaxed vibe in the city.

The Roman legacy

The Romans were the first to start making wine in Bordeaux. When they arrived they imported wine from Italy and Spain but in 1AD they planted the first vines, the ancestor of Cabernet Franc. There are ruins of an amphitheatre known locally as 'Le Palais Gallien' and a few towers but you can’t walk more than a few steps in the city without reminders of that monumental decision the Romans took. There are wine bars everywhere. The locals recommend Maison Gobineau, smart and elegant with tapestries and stained glass windows alongside contemporary style wine racks and an extensive wine list which starts at just €2 a glass.

Must-sees in Bordeaux

Cite du Vin

In the 18th century, rich city merchants began commissioning fabulous buildings in the neoclassical style. Today they contribute to Bordeaux’s status as a UNESCO world heritage centre. The Opera National de Bordeaux is a veritable landmark in a city of landmarks.

Miroir d’Eau, a water sculpture in front of the impressive Place de la Bourse, draws people day and night to marvel at and enjoy. On a hot day, kids splash love to splash in the water and cool down in the misty spray.

The great door or the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris was modelled on the doors of the 11th century Cathedral of Bordeaux where Eleanor of Aquitaine married Louis VII in 1137. In the 14th century, Bordeaux's Archbishop became Pope Clement V and moved the seat of Papal rule from Rome to Avignon.

UNESCO listed churches on the Camino de Santiago. You’ll see little brass floor plates as you walk through the city indicating that you’re on the Way of St James (Camino de Santiago). There are 3 UNESCO listed churches on the route.

Don't miss the magnificent Cité du Vin a superb win museum with innovative displays, high tech marvels, a most fabulous wine tasting area with panoramic views over the city. The superb wine store and gift shop are also worth a visit.

When your legs are weary from walking the streets of this wonderful city, just hop on a boat and take a tour to admire Bordeaux from its river, said to be one of the cleanest in Europe.

Eating out in Bordeaux City

With more than 3000 restaurants it’s not easy to know which are the best but these names crop up from locals’ recommendations:

Le Petit Commerce, traditional, friendly, great menu and full of locals. 22 Rue Parlement Saint-Pierre

Braderie Bordelaise “a taste of Bordeaux” is how the locals described it. If you’re a steak frites fan, you’ll love this one.

Seven at Cité du Vin. The 7th floor restaurant at the wine museum has a fabulous menu, brilliant wine list and absolutely stunning view over the city. It’s open for lunch, dinner, afternoon tea and any time for a glass of wine!

Useful website: www.bordeaux-tourisme.com

We have loads of lovely holiday rentals in and around Bordeaux – making your holiday dreams come true…

 

The department of Calvados in Normandy is blessed with historic towns, beautiful villages, wonderful countryside and a stunning coastline. Among the many jewels of Calvados are picturesque Honfleur, stylish Deauville and historic Caen. We take a look at some of the best places to visit and things to do in Calvados…

Calvados | Eau de Vie

Calvados the department gives its name to Calvados, a sort of apple brandy. This strong drink is created by distilling cider twice, maturing it in wooden barrels and blending it. Enjoyed with a coffee in the evening, it packs a powerful punch.

Discover more about Calvados at the Calvados Experience, a cross between a museum and an innovative show utilising the most up to date multimedia themes. You’ll enjoy a tasting at the end of your visit and there’s a great shop selling Calvados, cider and local products, plus there’s a picnic area and café.

Details: calvados-experience.com/en – you can take the tour in eight languages.

Deauville

Famous for its racecourse, casino, golf course and long sandy beach lined with beach huts named after American movie stars (in honour of the annual American Film Festival held in Deauville), called the Promenade des Planches. Here you’ll find the rich and beautiful promenading; wealthy, tanned old ladies lying under the colourful beach parasols and smartly dressed visitors enjoying the unique ambience of elegant Deauville.

Honfleur

Wandering around the harbour and up and down the wiggly cobble stone streets of Honfleur is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s one of the finest places in France for simply sitting and watching the world go by from a terrace café with a steaming bowl of moules mariniere and a glass of chilled wine. 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.

Caen

The port town of Caen is the capital of Calvados as well as William the conqueror’s last hometown. The old part of the town, Vaugeux district, is small but has some pretty half-timbered houses, lots of cafés, bars and restaurants where whiling away an hour or several isn’t hard. Don’t miss a visit to the monumental Abbeys in the town – the Men’s Abbey was built by William the Conqueror and the Women’s’ Abbey by his wife Matilda. There’s also a museum and Fine Arts Museum in the former Caen Castle. Around six miles from the city centre is the famous Pegasus Bridge, a major landmark and historic site of World War II which played a significant role in the D-Day Landings.

Bayeux

Bayeux is famous primarily for being the home of the Bayeux tapestry which depicts the Norman conquest of England. Almost 1000 years old, a real life Game of Thrones tale, captured in thread – it really is an extraordinary piece of work. The area around the historic cathedral is great for a wander and the old town is very pretty. Next door to the Cathedral, the Museum Baron Gérard is located in the former episcopal palace and houses an excellent collection which dates from prehistory to the 20th century. Visit the superb Memorial Museum of the Battle of Normandy to explore the history of the D-Day landings through to victory.

French Connections has loads of great holiday homes in Calvados including gites, apartments, cottages, villas and even chateaux and a watermill.

If you’re wondering where to enjoy your holiday in France and not sure where to go, we’ve got thousands of wonderful holiday homes all over the country. Whether it’s coast, city or a tiny village in the middle of glorious countryside, be inspired by our brilliant listings.

We also have some terrific special offers on holiday with immediate effect right through the summer months.

If you’re looking for a remarkable rate or a great escape that doesn’t blow the bank – check out our Special Offers section

Bargain breaks of all sorts in France

We’ve got plenty of discounts, reduced rate weeks and even free extra nights (e.g. 9 nights for the price of 7), throughout the year in all your favourite French destinations. Whether you’re looking for a romantic break for two, or a family holiday for 10 or even a get-away for a large group of friends, there’s plenty to suit. Country houses, chateaux, pretty cottages, comfy gites and gorgeous villas.

Some home owners even greet you with free wine or a welcome meal on arrival.

Whether you want to beat the summer crowds and go out of season, or wait for the sunny summer months to arrive, we’ve got a special offer to suit you.

Last minute holiday offers

Looking to take a holiday in France right now? Check out our holiday accommodation all over France to find the holiday that’s perfect for you. We list holiday homes available from next week to 6 weeks, saving you time when searching for that ideal last minute break.

Click here to discover our last minute holiday homes in France

Long Lets in France

Most people think long lets are all about taking an extended out of season or winter break but, if you’re lucky enough to be able to take time off year round, you’ll find we also have holiday home owners who offer long lets to suit your needs.

Click here to discover our long lets in France offers

Bonne Vacances!

French Connections love to help you make your holiday dreams come true. It’s very easy to find exactly what you’re looking for with our search criteria whether you want something suitable for kids, where pets are welcomed, with a pool or air conditioning and lots more.

Burgundy, in east-central France, is a region that’s renowned thanks to its vineyards, with wine producing villages like Chablis and Nuits-St-Georges known throughout the world.

Burgundy is a land of picturesque villages, rolling vineyards, medieval abbeys, the Burgundy Canal and historic cities. There’s so much to see that it’s hard to know where to start but Dijon, the capital city, should definitely be on your list.

What to see and do in Dijon

Dijon is probably best known for its mustard, However there’s far more to this ancient town than this piquant sauce.

It was once home to the fabulously wealthy Dukes of Burgundy who were more powerful than the King until their empire became part of France in the 15th Century. In their wake they left an architectural and cultural legacy that’s just mind-boggling. Dijon is amazingly well preserved and boasts over 100 hectares of magnificent monuments, medieval buildings and 100 hotel particuliers (grand mansion houses). The Palais des Ducs is stunning, built on the site of the Gallo-Roman castrum (a fortified building), the Roman influence is evident in its architecture. It was rebuilt in 1366 and then again in the 17th Century by architects Jules Hardouin-Mansart (Versailles) and Ange-Jacques Gabriel (Fontainebleau). The Palais has been home to the Musée des Beaux Arts since 1799, one of the oldest and most beautiful museums in France.

Climb the 15th century Tour Philippe le Bon for views over jewel-coloured tiled rooftops, crooked medieval streets, and, further afield, vineyards, forests and villages. The hundreds of stairs are worth the effort.

Visit the free Museum of Burgundy Life which has a quirky and eclectic and mix of objects as well as superb recreations of shops from the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

Finally, don’t forget to rub the owl! It’s a legend in Dijon that it will bring you luck to run the small stone owl on the wall of the 13th century church of Notre Dame. On top of the church is a 14th Century mechanical clock known as “Jacquemart” whose four figurines chime every quarter of an hour as they gaze over rue de Musette and the second hand book sellers on a Saturday morning.

Where to eat out in Dijon

There are hundreds of cafés and restaurants in the town. For views and a great ambiance, head to the Place des Ducs, or Place Francois Rude with its little carousel where mamans and papas sip coffee while their enfants play.

Les Halles, Dijon's main covered market, was designed by the famous son of Dijon - Gustave Eiffel. It’s excellent for food shopping and has a great café, perfect for people watching. (Market days are Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturday mornings).

You can’t really go to Dijon and not visit Boutique Maille. The famous mustard shop has hundreds of different mustards and a tasting bar.

At the end of the day, join the locals and relax with a kir. This typical Burgundian aperitif is made from local speciality, creme de cassis, (blackcurrant syrup) - and aligote (a Burgundian white wine).

We have a great selection of holiday homes in Burgundy, just head over to our listings pages and find one that’s just perfect for your holiday…

La Manche is a department in Normandy. It’s blessed with a long coast line and picturesque countryside. There are many museums and sites and it is one of the key areas for the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944.

We share some of our favourite things to do and see in La Manche:

Mont-Saint-Michel

The no. 1 must-see in Normandy, in fact it’s a top site in France, is the Benedictine Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel. It is one of the most incredible medieval feats of architecture in the world. From the 8th to the 18th century it was one of Christianity's most important pilgrimage sites. Now it’s one of the most important tourist sites. The Abbey consists of several stunning clerical buildings including a church, cloisters, refectory, monks' ambulatory and the gardens of what is known as the Merveille (marvel). It’s a steep walk to the top but worth it for the amazing views and buildings. Lower down is a charming helter skelter of wiggly winding streets lined with cafés, restaurants and shops.

Airborne Museum

The Airborne Museum is based in the square of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, just a few miles from the D-Day landing beaches. Through spectacular museography, the Airborne Museum takes you through D-Day alongside American paratroopers of the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

Barfleur – one of the most beautiful villages in France

Barfleur with its pretty and colourful port is officially one of the prettiest villages in France.

Climb one of the highest lighthouses in Europe

Situated two kilometres to the North of Barfleur, the lighthouse of Gatteville – 75 metres high – is the 2nd tallest in France and Europe. Walk up the 365 steps and enjoy a magnificent panorama.

Jardin des plantes de Coutances

The Jardin des plantes de Coutances is the oldest public plant garden in Normandy and the plant theme changes annually. Recent displays have been of food and sea life. It’s a great park for relaxing and a picnic.

Boat rides

Take a cruise on a passenger boat, yacht or old sailing ship. You can go island hopping to the Chausey Islands, the Channel Islands or Tatihou Island and other smaller, lesser known islands off the coast of La Manche.

Cathedrale de Coutances

The great gothic cathedral of Coutances was constructed from 1210 to 1274. Standing 80 metres tall, it dominates the town and can be seen from miles around.

Utah Beach

Utah Beach stretches from Sainte-Marie-du-Mont as far as Quinéville, about 5 km. It was the first of two zones selected for the American landings. Visit the Utah Beach Museum to discover more about the history of the D-Day landings.

Close by you can visit the German battery at Azeville which marked the beginning of the presence of the Germans on this stretch of the coast.

3 towns to visit in La Manche

Cherbourg is at the tip of the Cotentin Peninsula, the last stop before the high seas. There’s plenty to do and see here, from museums to fabulous sea food restaurants. Don’t miss La Cité de la Mer, a scientific theme park located in the old transatlantic harbour station of Cherbourg where you can see the submarine “le Redoutable”, take a virtual tour to the bottom of the ocean and discover sea life in the aquarium.

Granville, known as the "Monaco of the North", became a popular seaside resort at the end of the 19th Century. It’s an elegant city, great for a stroll, seafood restaurants and lovely beaches. Don’t miss the Christian Dior Museum. The couturier Christian Dior spent his childhood here and each year his former family home, now a museum, hosts an exhibition dedicated to the stylist.

Saint-Lô is home to the State Stud Farm, constructed under Napoleon. Visit to find out more about the horsey history of this area. The Musée des Beaux Arts is well worth a visit with paintings by some of the greats, including Boudin. Don’t miss the Norman Bocage Museum at a 17th century farm with a huge collection of traditional artefacts which depicts farm life in Normandy over the centuries.

Discover lots more to see and do in La Manche on the tourist office website: www.manche-tourism.com

French Connections has loads of fabulous holiday rentals in La Manche – take a look and make your holiday dreams come true