In Aveyron, in southern France, you’ll discover a region that’s truly authentic, fairy tale pretty and has oodles of charm, a land that time forgot…
Ever since Peter Mayle put Provence on the tourist map, tourists have led a long procession to enjoy its charms but there is another south of France, a land that hasn’t been discovered by the hordes. Unspoiled, uncrowded and irresistibly pretty, Aveyron is hardly known outside of France.
There are great hiking and cycling routes, horse riding, kayaking and more. And this area is blessed with some of the most beautiful villages in France, the most glorious countryside and the tastiest food. Roquefort cheese is produced in the area, it’s truffle country, and dishes are flavoursome, rustic and utterly delicious.
Traffic free roads, the Millau bridge, marvellous markets and ancient towns and villages galore – this isn’t a region to be rushed but savoured and soaked up…
Must-sees in Aveyron ancient Santiago de Compostela pilgrim route
The jewel of the region is Conques, a captivating town on the ancient and most celebrated of pilgrim routes that lead to Santiago de Compostela. Conques is famous for its UNESCO listed 11th century Saint-Foy abbey church which has an ornate interior and is filled with treasures including stained glass windows by Pierre Soulages, France’s most famous living artist. The pilgrim's bridge that crosses the Dourdou River is also UNESCO listed as part of the World Heritage Sites (Route to Santiago de Compostela through France).
Rodez museum – an artist and a chef create a winning, inspirational combination at Rodez Museum. Pierre Soulages, internationally renowned artist, shows more than 500 works. Take a break in the museum restaurant where food meets art as 3 Michelin Star chef Michel Bras creates dishes that are themselves works of art.
Belcastel with its medieval castle is a “plus beaux villages de France” and is quite astoundingly beautiful, with the gentle tumble of water from the River Aveyron in the background and its steep, cobbled streets leading up to the castle. If you’ve got the time, have lunch at the Vieux Pont (a Michelin star restaurant in the village) and then walk off your indulgences with the climb (and it really is a climb) up to the castle.
Najac, one of the most beautiful villages in France…
Head to Villefranche-de-Rouergue, one of the region’s five 13th century “new concept” bastide towns with a distinctly southern feel. Every Thursday morning the rather sleepy town bursts into vibrant life as the market fills the main square, Place Notre Dame. Fruit, veg, spices, sticky sweets, warm breads and patisseries, herbs, flowers, meats slow turning on the spit and vast pans of steaming shell fish, all teasing and tempting you into the many backstreets where the market spills out to.
This is the France you imagine in your dreams, with ancient and impossibly gorgeous villages, magnificent houses, chateaux and churches that date back a thousand years. Here the culture of France is laid before you, wonderful local produce and authentic dishes, delicious wines from the local vineyards, historic buildings, arts and crafts and the nurturing of traditions.
French Connections has dozens of beautiful holiday homes in Aveyron – we love to help you make your holiday dreams come true…
To the southwest of the great city of Toulouse, Gers is a beautiful land of rolling countryside, vineyards and forests, peppered with tiny hamlets and medieval villages. The capital of the department of Gers, Auch, is also the capital of the historic area known as Gascony.
Auch is a small city but has plenty to do for visitors and it’s a classified “Grande Site Occitanie”…
What to see and do in Auch
Pop to the tourist office to find out what’s on in the town as it has a thriving events calendar including a major circus festival each October.
Start your visit at the great Gothic and Renaissance Cathedral of Sainte-Marie on the UNESCO listed route to Compostela. Building began in 1489 but it took nearly two centuries to complete. The oak stalls are a must see – over 1500 characters are represented and some of them are highly unusual (including nubile young women) and very detailed. The 16th century stained glass windows by Arnaut de Moles are fabulous and just as unusual as the wood carvings. The colours are dazzling and feature naked bodies galore as they tell Biblical tales from the original Sin to the Salvation of Humanity.
Auch was the birthplace of the musketeer D’Artagnan, made famous by Alexander Dumas in The Three Musketeers, immortalised on film and still a symbol of loyalty, military prowess and honour. You’ll find his statue on the Grand Escaliers, the monumental limestone staircase which links the lower and upper towns, right by the cathedral.
Wander the old town of this hill top city with its little alleyways and cobbled streets, Rue Dessoles is especially lovely, lined with authentic bars and bistros. Pop into the Musée des Ameriques to discover am extraordinary collection of pre-Columbian and South American art, local Gascon artefacts and Gallo-Roman remains.
If you’re in the town on a Thursday or Saturday, you’re in for a treat as that’s when the market is held in front of the Cathedral.
Enjoy a delicious lunch at La Table d’Oste (7 rue Lamartine) – food like a Gascon maman makes. Meanwhile at the Hotel de France, one of Gers’ most famous chefs runs the gastronomic restaurant that’s a local legend.
And of course pop into any bar or restaurant to enjoy a glass of the local tipple Armagnac!
What to see close by
The Gers department is home to some of the most beautiful countryside in France. It’s made for touring, visiting medieval villages and “Plus Beaux villages, some of the officially prettiest villages in France of which Gers, though small, has no less than 6. Fourcès, Lavardens, Montreal, Larressingle, Sarrant and La Romieu are all close together and wonderfully pretty. There are castles and abbeys, vineyards and Armagnac houses where you’re welcomed in for a taste. Fabulous cycling routes, hiking, boating and water sports. Wonderful markets and historic cities. You’ll never run out of things to fall in love with in the Gers.
Find out more to see and do in Auch and around: Tourist office: www.auch-tourisme.com
French Connections has loads of lovely holiday rental homes in Gers which you can see here.
After months of staying home, dreaming of being outdoors, of taking a longed for break in France – the summer is back on!
Whether you dream of cycling on traffic free roads through gorgeous countryside, lazing in the sun on a golden sandy beach, sipping wine in a vineyard, visiting castles, hiking in the pure mountain air or exploring picturesque villages – France has everything to make your holiday dream come true.
Book a stay in one of our gorgeous gites, fabulous villas, apartments overlooking the sea, beautiful chalets in the mountains, chateau rentals and more – we have thousands of listings in every part of France…
Getting to France
If you want to avoid air travel, there’s a great choice of routes…
Eurotunnel car train from Ashford to Calais takes just 35 minutes and you don’t even need to get out of your car en route. Just drive on one side, drive off the other.
P&O Ferries operates sailings between Dover and Calais – a journey of 1.5 hours.
DFDS Ferries operate sailings between Dover and Calais, a journey of 1.5 hours. They also operate sailing between Dover and Dunkirk (2 hours) and Newhaven to Dieppe (from 4 hours).
Brittany ferries operate several routes from the UK to Normandy and Brittany ports: Portsmouth to Caen, Portsmouth to St Malo, Portsmouth to Cherbourg, Portsmouth to Le Havre, Poole to Cherbourg, Plymouth to Roscoff, Cork to Roscoff.
All rail and ferry operators have put enhanced hygiene and safely protocols in place and have details on their websites.
Driving in France
The freedom of the open road in France means you can have adventures galore. Take the slow road and let yourself make unexpected discoveries with detours en route. Or take the efficient autoroutes to speed you on your way.
There are a few key essentials to remember.
You’ll need to have with you in the car at all times the following documents or risk a fine or confiscation of your vehicle:
A valid full (not provisional) driving licence
A vehicle registration document (V5c) - the original not a copy, called "carte grise" (grey card) in France
Motor insurance certificate
If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive.
You also need to have a GB sticker clearly displayed on the back (unless your car has 'Euro-plates').
And, if you’re driving in a classified low emission zone (Paris, Grenoble, Lyon, Lille) you’ll need to display a sticker which can be bought on line before you travel.
Find your perfect French holiday home
Now all you need to do is sort out your perfect French holiday home! Browse our thousands of listings all over France and use the filters to pick your ideal property from B&B to pet-friendly, wheelchair access, couples only and heaps more.
Welcome to summer in France…
Between the coast of southern France and Italy, Corsica lies in the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. With its sunny climate and diverse landscape, the island lures some 3 million visitors a year thanks to its reputation for the best beaches in Europe, historic cities, unique gastronomy and mountainous interior.
Reach it by ferry from mainland France or by air.
Where to go in Corsica
Corsica is part of the continental alpine system and is broadly divided into two parts. The dividing line between these two main parts runs roughly from St. Florent in the north, southwards to Corte, then southeast to Solenzara and the eastern coast. The island has two departments Haute-Corse and Corse du Sud.
If you’re after a beach holiday, you’re really spoiled for choice in Corsica. 1000km of coastline, some 200 beaches, white sandy bays, secluded coves, fishing villages, swanky resorts, sun-bleached cliffs and pretty pebble beaches that are perfect for a sunset stroll.
We love Palombaggia beach with its white dunes and background of shady pines, turquoise water tempting you in for a swim. And Calvi beach which has wonderful views across the bay. And Lozari beach which the locals love. There are just so many to choose from.
What to see and do
Lovers of the great outdoors will find plenty to keep them happy here. Hiking, cycling, golfing, horse riding and diving - you’ll never be bored. And for thrill seekers, there’s paragliding, kite surfing, rock climbing and even canyoning.
And for those days when you just want to chill, the alure of sunbeds at your villa or the sandy beaches await, or take a boat ride out to the Lavezzi Islands, a little paradise that many visitors miss.
The island’s stunning interior can be wild and dramatic, peppered with tiny hamlets and hilltop villages like medieval Sant’Antonino, classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Dsicover UNESCO listed Piana and photogenic Bonifacio, the historic village perched on a cliff, world-famous for its exquisite views over Sardinia.
There are cycle routes galore, and the GR20 hiking route is exceptional, its stages along a 200km trail take you through forests, alongside lakes and over mountains. Though you might not want to walk the entire length, a day on the trail will reveal some of the beauty of this magical island.
Or visit the Parc Naturel Régionel de Corse, with its tumbling streams and deep gorges
Culture vultures are not forgotten. The prehistoric site of Filitosa is fascinating with its carefully preserved 8000 year old standing stones. There are museums in several of the major towns; Bastia, Corte and Ajaccio boast fine collections.
Don’t forget to try Corsican wine, the rosés are perfect for sunny days. And Corsica is famous throughout France for its cheese and charcuterie.
Outstanding natural beauty, friendly folk, marvellous Mediterranean weather, breath-taking beaches, glorious countryside, mouth-watering gastronomy – Corsica is a holiday paradise…
Discover more to do on the island at the Corsica Tourist office website: visit-corsica.com/en
French Connections has dozens of stunning holiday homes in Corsica – take a look and you’re your dream holiday:
The Dordogne department in southwest France is one of the most popular places in France for British holiday makers. We’re not surprised, there’s loads to see and do in this beautiful area.
We take a look at some great things to in in the historic town of Périgueux in Dordogne...
In 1959 workers on a building site discovered the ruins of a Roman villa. When archeologists excavated the site, they found a wonderfully preserved Gallo-Roman dwelling, known as the Vesunna domus, dating to the 1st century AD. It’s now a museum, covered in a spectacular glass building designed by renowned French architect Jean Nouvel. Mosaic floors, painted plasterwork and innovative info screens, together with a collection of Roman artefacts, make this a must-see.
There are also temple ruins in the museum’s park. Local legend has it that Périgueux’s patron Saint Front, the first Bishop of Périgueux, chased demons out of the temple and away from the town.
The Jardin des Arenes is where a Roman amphitheatre once stood and in amongst the trees and flower beds you can still see the remains of pillars, walls and arches. Much of the original building was plundered for its stone which was used to build local homes in the middle ages.
And at the Chateau Barrière, amongst the ruins of the in the town, you’ll spot yet more remains of the Gallo-Roman wall which once protected the city.
Museums and monuments
History fans will enjoy the excellent Musee d’Art et d’Archeologie du Perigord. Located in a converted Augustinian convent, the display shows the ancient history and prehistory of Perigord as well as other regions of the world. The collection includes beautiful medieval art, a 13th century enamel statue of the Virgin Mary and stained glass windows recovered from a nearby 14th century church as well as fossills and Roman relics.
The Military Museum holds a prestigious Museum of France label. 1000 years of warfare in the region are covered, with around 12,000 objects including cannon, muskets, suits of armour and much more.
The 12th century Saint Front Cathedral bears a resemblance to St Mark’s Basilica in Venice on which it was modelled. It’s five symmetrical domes and a bell-tower dominate the skyline. If you’re lucky enough to be there on a day when the organ is being played or the choir is singing, you’ll have a memorable visit.
Marvellous market and scrumptious gastronomy
The Dordogne region is famous for its fruit and vegetables, walnuts, conserves, pâtés and jams, foie gras, truffles, wine and liqueurs and the markets at Périgueux are fabulous to shop for fresh, local, seasonal goods.
Market days take place Wednesdays and Saturdays. Gourmet night markets are held in summer. Truffle fairs are held in January and February.
Details of the markets and lots of things to do in the area can be found on the Périgueux Tourist Office website: https://www.tourisme-grandperigueux.fr/?lang=en
Saintes is one of those classic French towns that has loads to offer visitors, and yet it’s hardly known, even to the French.
In the department of Charente-Maritime, close to Cognac, Saintes was once an important Roman stronghold. To this day their legacy can be seen as Saintes has one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres in France.
What to see and do in Saintes
Don’t miss the Roman amphitheatre, it is an astonishing sight. Right in the middle of a housing estate, it has stone seats, tunnels you can enter and an atmosphere that really helps you imagine how it once was.
Alongside the river Charente which runs through the town, you can’t fail to spot the enormous Arch of Germanicus. From the café next to it, you’ll have a perfect spot for relaxing and enjoying the view of this vast Roman gateway.
Saintes also has a monumental ancient abbey, founded in the 11th century, it’s now a major music venue. It’s a great place to visit with audio tour guides available. There’s also an extraordinary carousel in the grounds. It looks like a space ship but it’s actually a mobile orchestra pit and the riders become the musicians. You can play the state of the art musical instruments as you ride. I don’t think there’s anything else quite like it in France, possibly in the world!
There are several museums, a really fabulous market, and a lovely old part of Saintes with cobbled streets and pretty little boutiques. Don’t miss the Church of Saint-Eutrope with its Romanesque crypt. Hardly touched for almost 1000 years it is wonderfully tranquil and ancient.
Discover the city by bike, there’s a Velodie (bike station) by the train station; and the tourist office, which is close to the Arch of Germanicus, has details of bike hire shops in the town.
What to see close by
La Rochelle is around an hour away by car. With its historic port, fabulous restaurants and beaches – it’s a great day out.
Head in the other direction to Cognac and enjoy the most glorious countryside, river rides and of course the local tipple!
French Connections has oodles of lovely holiday homes for rent in Charente-Maritime, pop over here to our search pages to browse them…
Enjoy a liberating holiday in the fresh air of the French Alps…
Summer in Savoy, French Alps
The Savoy department is a land of magnificent mountains, flower-filled meadows, crystal clear lakes and lush green forests. Peppered with tiny hamlets and beautiful towns, it’s the perfect post-lockdown holiday destination. Uncrowded, wide open spaces, unpolluted and beautiful…
Why we love summer in the French Alps
Sunshine. The average temperature in July and August in Savoy is 26˚C, perfect for a sunny vacation.
Mountains: Mont Blanc, need we say more. The sight of this striking mountain is enough to make your soul soar. The Savoy Alps range is vast with the highest peak being Pointe de la Grande Casse, part of the Vanoise National Park.
Activities galore from horse riding to hiking, hang-gliding (those views!) swimming in the clear lakes, canoeing, mountain biking, roller-skiing and cycling on roads used in the Tour de France. And a whole lot more. Or simply relax and enjoy the beauty of this region.
Savoy is famous for its cheese and dairy products produced in lush pastures. Fresh fish from the lakes and mountain streams, game from the forests and mushrooms from the woods. Orchards are planted with cherry, apple, pear and walnut trees, strawberries and raspberries grow abundantly in the glades. And there’s wine too! The wines of the Savoy have a long history, predominantly white wine but you’ll also find some local reds and even a delicious crémant de Savoie.
Towns and villages
Historic cities and resorts: Annecy, Aix-les-Bains, Cambery and Albertville are just a few of the beautiful towns you’ll find in Savoy. The ski resorts turn into a summer playground, and at the resort of Courchevel there’s heaps to do with festivals throughout the summer.
Villages that are so pretty you need to pinch yourself to make sure you’re not dreaming. Faverges with its wonderful Wednesday street market. Thones, where you can visit a Reblochon cheese farm and taste the delicious fromage at source. Talloires on Lake Annecy with its picturesque town. The choice is huge. Le Grand Bornand with its gorgeous chocolate box pretty chalets and views over the surrounding countryside. And lovely La Clusaz. There are just so many lovely villages that you’ll always want to return to this area to discover more.
Outstanding natural beauty, friendly folk and a wealth of activities make Savoy an idea sunshine, summer destination.
Check out our holiday home listings in Savoy here. Gorgeous chalets and gites. From a luxury stay with a pool, to a cosy just for 2 chalet. It’s the perfect location for a wonderful holiday and the summer break you crave…