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  • France is famous for its many local festivals held through the year, but throughout Europe you’ll also find some of the strangest fest

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    France is justifiably famous for its summer festivals – not least because they are so imaginative, inclusive and beautifully staged. Here’s our pick of this year’s events in popular tourist areas across the country so you can plan to share the spectacle as part of your holiday.

    •    The Normandy Impressionist Festival showcases the Impressionist movement and its close links with Normandy. Runs throughout the region but activities concentrated in Rouen and Caen. Until September

    •    La Gacilly Photo Festival, Morbihan, Brittany, creatively displays hundreds of huge photographs in  parks, squares and on buildings. The theme is based on social and environmental concerns of our society. Until September.

    •    In Saint-Cloud, on the edge of Paris, Rock en Seine is the last big rock event of the summer in France. The concerts at are performed on 4 stages, set at the heart of historic gardens designed by Le Nôtre. This year’s line up includes Iggy Pop, Gregory Porter and French acts La Femme and Bastille. 26 to 28 August.

    •    Confolens Festival in Charente is a famous world music and dance festival, celebrating with passion and colour the traditions of France and other countries. 10 to 15 August

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    •    La Souterraine in Limousin hosts the Bridiers Historical Fresco, an exceptional show with 400 actors, cavalry, horse-drawn carriages, period vehicles, pyrotechnics and special effects. 5 to 8 August

    •    Carcassonne Festival in Aude has a varied line-up of sought-after international artists.  The beautifully preserved medieval city offers performances of contemporary music, theatre, opera and dance – most of them free. Until end of July.

    •    Sète, an unspoilt Mediterranean town in Languedoc-Roussillon holds the fun-filled St Louis Water Jousting Festival accompanied by shows, quayside bars, sports tournaments and fireworks. 18 to 23 August.

    •    In Dignes les Bains, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, the Corso of Lavender has day and night parades, two firework displays, a funfair and the wonderfully fragrant international parade. 5 to 9 August

    •    Menton Music Festival on the French Riviera, shown in photo above, welcomes top classical artists for outdoor concerts held in a magical setting opposite the port on the Forecourt of the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel. 29 July to 14 August

    Fancy attending a festival and not yet planned your holiday? There’s still time to find accommodation near all these festival locations and arrange travel.

  • The area around Lalbenque in the Lot Valley is famous for its black Truffles.

  • France is a fabulous destination in May and June. The weather has warmed up and can be hot in the South, yet without those searing days of high summer. The evenings are long and light and the sunset is often dramatic, making the perfect setting for strolling and outdoor dining.

    While Paris gets extremely popular at this time of year, the rest of France has so much space that it’s easy to find peace and quiet. Because the crowds have not yet arrived, both travel and accommodation are cheaper than in peak season and you may pick up a bargain holiday home with our special offers.

    With warmer weather, parks, gardens and the countryside are bursting with fresh growth, abundant with colourful, sweetly scented flowers. Special places to head for are Monet’s garden at Giverny, Normandy and the chateaux of the Loire valley with their exquisitely designed outdoor spaces, especially Villandry, shown in our photo.

    Attractions and museums are all open, so there are theme and water parks for the under fives and fascinating destinations for adults. We all know of Paris’s Pompidou Centre, but did you know there is also Pompidou Centre in Metz, Lorraine region, displaying the arts?  In Marseille is the ambitious Museum of the Civilisations of Europe and in the Ardèche the awe-inspiring replica of the Chauvet-Pont d’Arc caves with its prehistoric paintings.

    The festival season also gets going, with events dedicated to music, food, art and theatre. Try jazz in Le Mans or Normandy, the bull festival in Nimes, the film festival in Cannes or even tennis at Roland Garros. In France it seems that almost every city and town likes to put on its own show – and we love them for it!

  • Charente, our region of the month for August, is a land of sunshine, cognac, sunflowers and vineyards. Located in south west France and part of the Poitou-Charentes area, the region is named after the Charente river and offers a peaceful unspoilt landscape of rolling hills dotted with church spires, pretty medieval villages, forests, rivers, ponds and lakes.

    This means that, although there is no coastline, there are plenty of places to swim, making it ideal for a family summer holiday. The French are expert at creating attractive beaches with amenities at inland rivers and lakes – and Charente is no exception, as there are plenty of plans d’eau, aquatic centres and outdoor pools.
     
    Spend all day swimming and sunbathing at the beach at Aubeterre sur Dronne beside the Dronne river; take the children to the Nautilis Aquatic Centre at St Yrieux sure Charente, where they can ride the water slides and play to their heart’s content. For a quiet day out, you may choose the beautiful lakeside beach at Le Gours. Details and photos of these and many more are on the Charente tourism website – just follow the link below.

    The Charente is also a land of Festivals. All year, it moves, swings dances, draws, plays and sings… Among the more unusual are the Festivals Nuits Romans, when the most beautiful Roman churches are brought to life with street art, fire and music, all summer until 5th September.

    Angouleme, the region’s second city holds the Circuit International des Remparts 18 to 20 September, when it is transformed in the style of Le mans to create a city curcuit for elegant legendary vintage racing cars including Aston Martin, MG, Bugatti, Porsche and Lotus.

    The famous city of Cognac, shown in the above photo, celebrates exuberantly with the Coupe de Chauffe 4th to 6th September, when the streets are alive with music, dance and celebration – all completely free.

    And, of course, all through the year you can tour factories where Cognac brandy is made and take wine tours and tastings. There is even an informative Cognac museum and another devoted to the arts celebrating the famous drink. An interesting attrraction on a totally different theme is the Memorial of Resistance at Chasseneuil-sur-Bonnieure, very informative about the scale and nature of wartime resistance in France.

    We have a beautiful selection of great value accommodation at farmhouses, watermills, country cottages and gites, so check out our Charente listings and Info guide now for your last minute summer holiday or next trip to France!

  • We know that regular visitors to France love to discover new regions off the main tourist routes and our region of the month for October is a real gem. The Drôme (department number 26) is named for its river and located in the Rhône-Alpes, just north of Provence. In fact, the southern Drôme Provencal enjoys a Mediterranean micro climate and is abundant with olives, apricots, aromatic herbs and lavender fields stretching right to the foot of the mountains.

  • Our featured region this month is the Somme in Northern France.  Bet you didn’t know that there was such a potent mix of history, seascapes, fishing harbours, unspoilt beaches, sports and activities around an hour’s drive from Calais. Typical is St Valery sure Somme, shown in our photo.

    I first visited this area by train when staying in Le Touquet, a little way up the coast, and I really liked Amiens, the main town, for its Gothic cathedral and surrounding square and its walkways beside the River Somme. Abbeville was fascinating for its World War II history and museums.

    For some reason I particularly remember seeing in Abbeville a monument to a 19 year old boy who was shot shortly before the Revolution for refusing to salute a passing member of the aristocracy. No wonder French people so value their egalitarianism!

  • It’s that time of year again. The time when France invites you to get out and enjoy a memorable experience shared with fellow lovers of life, music, art, culture and artefacts. Here are our picks of some of the best coming up in the next few weeks:

    Jazz in Marciac, July 27 to August 22
    This celebration of swing at Marciac, in the Gers region of south west France, has become one of the most important summer festivals in Europe and is the major date for August, with visitors coming from around the world. In fact, the festival has become a model for rural development centred on a cultural happening. So what is the festival's magic formula? The secret lies in the programme which brings together both jazz legends and hugely talented up and coming musicians.

    Lavender, wine and opera festivals in Provence throughout August
    Most famous in Provence are the theatre festival of Avignon , often compared to the Edinburgh Festival, and the opera festival in Orange, the Chorégies, held in the Ancient Theatre on summer evenings. The performances are held in places where history has left its mark such as the Palace of the Popes and the Ancient Theatre of Orange.
    The sweet scent of freshly cut lavender permeates the Lavender Festivals in Sault and Valréas. Wine is celebrated in all four corners of the Vaucluse and the ‘Most Beautiful Villages of France, includins Roussillon and Gordes provide a natural setting for music festivals.

    Vineyards, wine and walks in the Loire, September 5 and 6
    Choose one of 15 wine tasting tours  and stroll from cellar to cellar in the Loire Valley with winemakers who unveil the secrets behind their expertise. Loire Valley wine tours at AOC Vouvray, Chinon, Touraine-azay-le-rideau and Saint-nicolas-de-bourgueil vineyards.

    Lille Flea-Market, September 5 and 6
    Bargain hunting on a grand scale at the Braderie de Lille, the biggest flea-market in Europe and is one of the most popular events on the French calendar. Enjoy your day at the market by hunting for the perfect item, getting some great bargains and of course immersing yourself in local culture. The event always creates festive ambiance as two to three million visitors take over the streets of Lille, with music and countless activities and events taking place from Saturday at 3pm to Sunday at 11pm.

    We have great accommodation and places to stay close to all these venues, whether you choose to go to festive France for a fortnight, a week or just a weekend.