It doesn’t matter if you’re a keen cyclist who likes a challenge, a cyclist who like to pootle about enjoying the scenery at a leisurely pace or a family where everyone is at a different level of ability – France is perfect for cycling, for everyone.
The back roads are quiet, the weather is usually pleasant, fuel for hungry cyclists is delicious from French brioche, camembert and red wine to baguettes, scrumptious cakes, and cider, and you’ll always find a fabulous picnic spot. Whether you decide to visit vineyards or battlefields, châteaux or cathedrals, the country that is home to the Tour de France is the perfect cycling destination.
We’ve put together some top tips to help you make the most of cycling in France
1 Comfortable clothes and shoes
The weather is generally pleasant in France from Spring to Autumn but it’s not always predictable and rain and cycling are not a pleasant combo. Take waterproof clothing that won’t get too heavy while you’re cycling.
Whatever time of year, you’ll need comfortable footwear, and if possible take a spare pair to give your feet a rest and in case of rain.
Finally, bright coloured clothes will increase your visibility but if you don’t fancy lurid shades, you could hang a brightly coloured scarf or flag from your rear basket.
2 Take a helmet
While it’s not the law to wear a cycling helmet in France, accidents do happen and in fact, it’s exactly because you’re in a foreign place with roads you don’t know that accidents are more likely – wearing a helmet is recommended.
3 Map and compass
Yes we know Google has the answer to everything but in rural areas its common that you won’t get a signal. Take a map with you. It may be old-fashioned but it’s the best way to ensure you’re never lost and that you have something to point to if your French is less than perfect. A compass is the simplest tool around, its lightweight and needs no power.
4 Health Insurance and Important Documents
While cycling is beneficial to your health, don’t forget that accidents can happen and travel insurance vital in case of emergencies.
A French phrasebook is also handy to have as well as a few key phrases to hand such as “I am lost, can you please tell me the way to XX “. It happens!
While France is not known for high levels of crime, it’s still advisable to secure your bike when it’s out of sight, especially in cities. Make sure you take a good lock with you and don’t let someone spoil your holiday.
For loads of inspiration about cycle routes all over France - by the coast, rivers, and vineyards, taking in the countryside, culture, and chateaux, and lots helpful tips check out the France Velo Tourisme website: en.francevelotourisme.com
Wherever you choose to cycle in France, French Connections has thousands of wonderful holiday rentals – just pop over to our search pages and find your dream home from home…
There’s a little pocket of France which remains one of its hidden gems – Charente-Maritime. It hovers across four departments - Vendée, the Deux Sevres, the Charente and the Vienne, right on the cusp of where north meets south.
It’s a place where shops shut for lunch and where one minute there are rolling green hills and thick, lush woodland and then in the blink of an eye, you’re driving across burnt orange planes dodging the melon stalls. Sunflowers morph into vineyards, and huge lazy rivers transform into a vast network of orderly canals making up one of the largest marshlands in France.
A holiday here offers something for everyone…
The mesmerising maritime town of La Rochelle is the capital of Charente-Maritime. It has beautiful buildings and streets, a picturesque port and plenty for visitors to see and do, not to mention the best seafood in France.
The channel leading into the old port is guarded by twin sixteenth century round towers that you can climb and enjoy fabulous views out to sea and over the town. At the foot of the towers is the brasserie of the Bar André, whose seafood menu has been pleasing the punters for more than 80 years.
Behind the ornate medieval Gate of the Grosse Horloge (big clock), colonnaded streets of grey-white mansions and shops and polished flagstone pavements are a legacy of the wealth generated by a millennium of ship-building, banking, and trading.
Visit the Musee Maritime to learn more about La Rochelle, spend a fun few hours in the city’s aquarium, lounge on the beach, take a boat ride, cycle the paths and enjoy the old town – there are loads to do here.
La Marais Poitevin
The Marais Poitevin consists of 18,553 hectares of waterway network. It is entirely man-made, close to the Atlantic coast, a little south of the Loire estuary in the Vendée. It is popularly known as ‘La Venise Verte’ (‘The Venice of the North’) thanks to its multitude of canals and the bright green duckweed that cloaks many of its waterways. The 970 sq km expanse of the Marais Poitevin ranks after the Camargue as France’s second largest wetland.
With more than 850-km of safe, way-marked and well-maintained dedicated routes, bicycle touring is popular here. Hiking, canoeing, bird-watching, and angling are also on offer as are boat rides on the canal. It’s the perfect holiday spot for nature lovers.
Theme Parks Galore
Credit @ Puy du Fou
Dotted amongst the cornfields, valleys, and rivers of the area, all sorts of interesting things are going on. The world-famous, award-winning Puy du Fou theme park is to the north. Here you’ll find historical enactments on a dramatic scale: Viking boats rise out of the waters, fires stream out of a moving chateau and huge birds of prey swoop so close their feet almost scratch your cheek. You know it’s not an ordinary theme park when you’re warned that dangerous animals are in amongst the audience and not to eat while you’re watching the show. And that’s before you get to the gladiators (photo above)!
Further south there’s the Indian Forest of Adventures (tree top adventures taken to the next level) and in a similar vein half an hour north of Fontenay there’s the Parc D’Adventure; high octane Go Ape at half the price. There’s also a zoo at Mervent where you can walk with some of the animals.
In Nantes, Les Machines de l’île is a fascinating park in the old dockyards. Here you can ride on a 12-metre-high mechanical elephant or a 4-metre ant. The concept is described “as visualising a travel-through-time world at the crossroads of the “imaginary worlds” of Jules Verne and the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci” and that definitely captures the spirit of this place.
At the other end of the spectrum and just a couple of hour’s drive to the east, is Futuroscope, with all that is modern and high tech.
French Connections has hundreds of rental properties in this area – why not take a look and choose your dream holiday home from home for a fabulous break in Charente-Maritime…
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
At last, spring is here and soon too is the Easter break – it’s the perfect time to take a trip to France.
With so many places to explore and so many things to do we thought we’d share a few inspiring ideas for the perfect French spring break and where to get a scrumptious chocolate fix!
By spring, the sun is warm, the sky is blue and coats can be put away during the daytime, though you might need a jacket for al fresco dining in the evening.
The old town is not too busy this time of the year and you’ll be able to stroll the famous Cours Saleya market without crowds. Treat yourself to lunch at the fabulous La Rotonde bistro at the iconic pink domed Negresco hotel. Decked out like an 18th-century carousel complete with horses that rise and fall the restaurant is kitsch, fun and gorgeous and it’s a surprisingly affordable menu for such an iconic establishment.
Nip to the tourist office to find out what’s on during the spring season, concerts, Easter Egg Hunts and loads more await. Don’t miss a visit to Maison Auer for your sweet treat. This beautifully decorated shop with its painted ceiling and mirrored walls opened in 1820. A 5th generation sweet shop where Queen Victoria used to shop when she was on holiday on the French Riviera. Utterly lush chocolate covered almonds and crystallised fruit deliver memorable sugar hits.
CREDIT: © Penn Graphics, Office de Tourisme Sarlat Perigord Noir
The countryside of Dordogne bursts into colour in spring. The grass is emerald green, the forests of walnuts and oaks sprout leaves, there are bluebells and meadow flowers and for nature lovers, it’s a great time to visit. The towns of Dordogne also burst into life and in Sarlat, a pickled in the past gem of a town, there’s loads going on during the spring season. If you’re there at Easter with kids, join in a giant Easter Egg Hunt in the streets. Head to the Bovetti Chocolate Museum nearby to try the most delicious tasting of specialty chocolate and learn more about the sweet stuff.
We can’t mention chocolate in France and not talk about this lovely little village in Burgundy where the film ‘Chocolat’ by Joanne Harris was filmed. Flavigny sits high on a rock and is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France. The origin of the town goes back centuries when it spread out around a Benedictine Abbey founded in 719. The Abbey is still present but part of it is used now as a factory producing Anise pastilles based on a recipe created by the monks' many hundreds of years ago. You can buy them in beautifully printed tins exclusively featuring the village.
There are wiggly, hilly roads lined with medieval houses, walk the castle ramparts and enjoy magnificent views and indulge in the local wines. Surprisingly perhaps, there’s no chocolate shop in the town but the anise pastilles make up for that. And, not far away in the town of Montbard which is also well worth a visit, you’ll find several chocolate shops including Tentation (Temptation) which makes simply irresistible chocolates.
French Connections has hundreds of wonderful holiday rentals in these areas, nip over to our home page to start your search.
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 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.
There is a little town in Provence that is famous for its antique shops and weekly flea market. No ordinary flea market venue this, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue has oodles of charm, an ancient history, gorgeous good looks and for bric-a-brac lovers, it’s a little bit of paradise.
But there’s more to it than antiques…
It’s an easy going, tranquil, even sleepy sort of a place most of the time except on Sunday when the flea market stalls line the streets and the crowds flock to ogle the goods or haggle for a bargain.
Long ago Isle-sur-la-Sorgue was a hive of production, known for its silk, wool and paper production. These industries were enabled due to the Sorgue river which runs through the town from its origins at the nearby Fontaine de la Vaucluse.
To this day you can admire the 14 waterwheels which remain, and which once helped to produce the goods. Now covered in moss, they are charismatic magnets for tourists looking for the ultimate selfie spot.
It’s an easy town to wander and makes for a great base for visiting the local area, it’s close to Avignon, the capital of the department. There are loads of fabulous cafés and restaurants, art galleries, and boutiques in the most picturesque of surroundings. Sitting outside the Café de France, opposite a beautiful ancient church, watching the world go by and sipping something chilled in the sun is one of life’s true pleasures.
Well worth going to for its pretty and lazy charm, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue also attracts an international audience thanks to its antique fame. It’s the third largest antique centre in Europe, and the most enchanting.
There are over 300 permanent antique dealers in the town with shops ranging from tiny to warehouse size. Specialists abound and whether you’re after aircraft memorabilia or a Louis XIV armoire – you’re likely to find it here, and then some. Art deco, furniture, Renaissance art, high-end objets d’art, linens and just about every antique you could ever dream of with a mainly French theme can be found here. Most of the goods are not cheap but on Sundays when the street flea market takes place, you’re bound to find something a bit more affordable and the perfect souvenir of your time in Provence.
The Sunday flea market spills from one road to another from 08h – 18h
On the last Sunday each month, there is additionally a second-hand book market
Two major international antique fairs take place each year: Easter and mid-Summer (August) Details of dates on Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Tourist Office website.
French Connections has more than hundred rental properties close to Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, head on over to our search pages to find your dream temporary home in Provence…
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!