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French Connections

Find Holiday accommodation in France

  • Banyuls-sur-Mer

    If, as we found on a recent trip to Languedoc, the weather proves a little unpredictable and you are searching for an indoor interest, there is always the Aquarium in Banyuls-Sur-Mer.

  • Celebrating one of our first French holiday homes

    The Chateau de Bussas at St Jean du Gard, near Ales in the South of France, is ID 36 on our site. This means that owner Meg Campbell runs one of the first ever holiday properties to join us back in 1996 when Glynis and Michael started French Connections. We really value our team’s personal knowledge and connection to many of our holiday rentals and their owners – and we’re proud and pleased that the chateau is still going stronger than ever.

    This beautiful rural gem is set in its own 200 acres of spectacular scenery. The Château dates back to 1197 and today its medieval courtyard provides entry to four individual comfortable apartments for self-catering holidays. The Bread Oven House and the newly converted Clede, both on the edge of the chateau, each provide accommodation for two.  Walkers, writers, painters and poets have all enjoyed the inspiration of Bussas. There is a games room, swimming pool, barbecue, childrens’ play area and a river for swimming and fishing.

    Meg has obviously seen many changes over the years, but she has held fast to the idea of excellent customer service for visitors. Here are some of her principles:

    1.We have a really friendly French couple who have lived on-site as caretakers for 25 years and our guests love them. It helps to keep the ambiance French rather than British.

    2. We advertise online but still insist on telephone contact with possible guests to ensure the personal touch.

    3. We’re in the Cevennes National Park and I encourage guests to enjoy the stunning views, bird watching and walks. Mountain biking, canoeing, horse riding and tennis are all available locally.

    3. I keep our rates at excellent value and would never ask guests to pay extra for bed linen and towels.

    4. We create a homely, personal feel with books and pictures so that visitors feel like welcome guests in our home. 
         
    5. We move with the times to match the standard of peoples’ own homes and expectations. I aim to make the chateau look modern and comfortable with good facilities but still in keeping with the period character.

  • Discover the glorious Gard this summer

    If you love to take a sunshine holiday that offers relaxing by the pool or on the beach and a whole lot more besides, then the Gard just might be your perfect destination for the summer. It’s our featured region of France this month and has culture, excitement and activities to keep all ages happy. I first discovered the Gard when driving through France from Toulon to Normandy. It’s officially a part of Languedoc-Roussillon but also lies next to Provence, and I was enchanted by the palm trees and pink-washed buildings so evocative of the Mediterranean.

    In the elegant town of Uzès, the colours break out into a stunning display as you wander narrow medieval streets and come across squares with stalls selling luscious tomatoes or local crafts. In Nimes you can discover the amazing aqueduct of the Pont du Gard and the Roman arena – and even catch a bull fight.

    In the north, the Gard takes in part of the Cévennes National Park. Here, winding roads climb upward through a majestic display of rocks and sky in the subtlest, ever-changing shades until, with awe and wonder, you reach what feels like the roof of the world. Deep, dramatic gorges provide a canoeing and kayaking playground and this is fantastic country for cycling, climbing and horse riding.

     

  • Guide to Collioure in Pyrénées-Orientales

    Collioure in Pyrénées-Orientales is a pretty little town nestled in a picturesque cove on the Cote Vermeille, a stone’s throw from the Spanish border.  It has been the subject of international squabbles on number of occasions between the French and the Spanish.

    17th Century Fort Miradou to the north is still used by the military:

    http://www.fortified-places.com/collioure.html

    Indeed, whilst we were visiting, army manoeuvres were evident as a speed boat sped across from the fort to the beach and disgorged a number of soldiers, in full military regalia complete with guns, giving opportunity for the tourist to snap away with their cameras.

    In the early 1900’s a group of painters known as ‘Les Fauves’ and who included Matisse and Derain, made Collioure their summer base.  Follow the ‘Chemin du Fauvisme’ around the town, a trail of 20 reproductions of paintings by Matisse and Derain placed on sites where they were painted. Fauvism being a style of modern art using bold colours and simplified drawing with expressive, bold brushwork.

    For those whose interests are more of a culinary inclination, an open market is held in Place du General LeClerc (Wednesday and Sunday mornings at time of writing).

    There are many restaurants, some overlooking the sea, where you can linger over lunch of freshly caught fish and in particular, Collioure’s speciality, Anchovies.   The lanes also have boutiques offering everything from clothes to brightly coloured gifts and souvenirs to take home.

    A word of warning. This town is very popular particularly in the height of the season. There is a large car park within easy walking distance, however, it does tend to get filled up quickly, so you are advised to visit early.  Especially if you want to be sure to get a table at 12.00 in one of the many enticing restaurants.

    Click here for holiday accommodation near Collioure.

  • Holiday Heaven in the Aude

    It’s February and here in northern Europe, winter still has us in its icy grip. So naturally our thoughts turn to long, lazy days in the sunny south of France, to glorious Mediterranean beaches and forests fringed by mountain views.

    Here at French Connections, our thoughts are turning especially to the Aude in Languedoc Roussillon, for this is our region of the month. Typically for its Mediterranean location, the Aude enjoys long, hot summers with temperatures topping well above 30C, so no wonder we consider it a holiday heaven.

    The coastline stretches for a full 50km and is positively bursting with beach resorts, so there’s plenty of swimming and sunbathing. Further inland lies a blanket of wheat fields and vineyards as far as the eye can see, with the magnificent backdrop of the Pyrénées mountains, guaranteeing you scenery with constantly changing light and drama.

    The landscape is unmistakably Mediterranean with wild, rocky hills and hot, stony plains – and the wine is warm and southern too, for this is the territory of the gorgeous Minervois and Corbières. I recently enjoyed a delicious glass of Corbieres de Nimes - on offer at the supermarket - and the name, label and taste all transported me immediately to the warmth and history of this area of France.

    Deep forests offer a cool, quiet retreat and are a hiker’s paradise. And the history! From the 13th century, the Cathars have left their mark in the Aude, especially in the capital Carcassonne, surely one of France’s most romantic cities. Stroll the winding streets, explore the sights, languish at a pavement café and finish with a dinner of superb local food and wine in one of the many restaurants that ooze warmth and welcome.

    Where to stay in the Aude? You’ll find mouth watering traditional stone farmhouses with shutters and vine-clad terraces, village houses for a real taste of local life, beachside apartments and lovely country auberges with every luxury laid on. Check out accommodation ideas in our guide to the Aude and our guide to Languedoc Roussillon

    Our photo shows the breathtaking view from Les Gascous, a spacious 12 bedroom farmhouse set in five acres of garden with a salt water swimming pool. This tranquil setting is only 10 minutes drive from the medieval city of Mirepoix, where there’s plenty to see and do.

  • Holidays in Aude, the sunny south of France

    The Aude is a small area that seems to encapsulate all the best of France. A hot, sunny climate, miles of low-key Mediterranean coastline, the majestic Pyrenees mountains, vast vineyards producing iconic wines, colourful markets selling luscious local produce, picturesque farmhouses to stay in – oh and the capital, Carcassonne, is one of France’s most romantic historic cities.

    No wonder the Aude is our region of the month. Located in southern central France, in Languedoc-Roussillon, it’s a popular choice for holidays and we have a really good selection of accommodation, from seaside apartments to chateau gites and family villas in peaceful countryside.

    This is Cathar country, so there is plenty of history to discover. Amongst  a rich heritage are medieval castles, ‘Citadelles du vertige’ (literally ‘head spin’ citadels), sites of the 13th century Cathars who were so persecuted, romanesque abbeys and cloisters, prehistoric caves and the Roman city of Narbonne.

    This territory is ideal for viticulture and the Aude contains the biggest and oldest vineyard of France.  Fitou, Corbières and Cabardès are among the wine making areas and, when it comes to food to accompany such delights, gastronomy here has been taken to the level of a fine art.

    Aude offers a wide range of outdoor activities in spectacular and varied landscapes, not least walks under century-old trees bordering the famous Canal du Midi, the miracle of engineering that forms a 360-km network of navigable waterways that are such fun to cruise. Then there is hiking, water sports, cycle touring, mountain biking and cave exploration.

    festival mairie Carcassonne

     

     

     

     

     

    Carcassonne really is a must-see. Once the inspiration for ‘The Sleeping Beauty’, the city lies inside imposing medeival ramparts with 52 towers and is a maze of narrow streets, memorable views, fascinating sites and reminders of Cathar history. When you get tired of sightseeing, just wander into one of the 50 restaurants located inside the central Citadel area.

    In July the city celebrates two popular festivals - the Festival de La Cite and the Festival de la Bastide. The first features concerts of classical and pop music by world renowned artists, while the second combines opera and dance, music, theater and performance, both traditional and experimental.

    See more about the region and find your perfect holiday accommodation at our complete guide to the Aude.

    Canal du Midi photo by Paul Palau, Aude Tourism

  • Setting standards at a bijou cottage for couples in the Aude

    Linda and Bernard Devine own and run La Petite Maison Devine as a stylish, luxurious one bedroom retreat for couples. This private 18th century terraced cottage is set in the quiet medieval village of Laurac le Grand in Aude, Languedoc-Roussillon.

    Originally a farmer’s property, the cottage has been renovated by a British architect to a very high standard, combining original features with the best of contemporary comfort. A truly enticing highlight is the private terrace with a spa pool, fabulous views and all day sunshine.

    The spacious accommodation is set on three floors, with a kitchen-diner at ground level and a salon with Juliet balcony on the first floor. A light, airy master suite takes up the whole of the top floor.

    Places to explore while staying at La Petite Maison include the Canal du Midi, the historic cities of Albi and Carcassonne and the beach at Narbonne.
    The Devines have many years of experience in the hospitality trade. Linda also has a business background of sales, marketing and customer service with exclusive London hotels while Bernard has engineering and building skills – all of which are put to good use running their holiday let.

    “The biggest things I’ve learned about being a host are communication with guests and the importance of excellent customer service,” says Linda. “We like to go the extra mile and ensure that our guests have a truly great holiday.”

  • The Caves of Les Grandes Canalettes

    If you are of the mind “seen one cave, seen them all” you might be persuaded to think otherwise after visiting Les Grandes Canalettes, a network of caves near the medieval town of Villefranche de Conflents near the Pyrenees.

    These caves form part of 3 cave sites known as 3 grottes.  The Grottes de Canalettes was opened in 1954 by the Castillo family. In 2003 it merged with the Grandes Canalettes that were opened in 1984 by the Delonca family.  Now, the Cova Bastera owned by Bernard Castillo has joined the other two caves creating a unit out of these three different and complementary caves which is unique in Europe.

    Les Grandes Canalettes

    A self-guided tour of the 1 km trail is quite different from most grottes,  not least because the caves are, well…..cavernous.

    There is a defined trail taking you through a series of caves that are spacious in both width and height and manageable, even for those who usually fear confined spaces.  Little chance of banging your head here or having to squeeze through confined dark spaces!

    The steps leading to each cave are purpose built iron steps rather than fashioned from the rock itself and are therefore easier to negotiate.  Each level is never more than around a dozen steps at a time.  The placing of platforms and seating along the route make it possible for those less agile or of a less robust constitution to manage at their own pace and to rest and enjoy the splendour of the caves.

    Each cave with its stalagmites and stalactites has been given a name according to how the calcifications appear.  For example there is one named after La Sagrada Familia Basilica, after the famous architect Antonio Gaudi in Barcelona. Those who have visited or who are aware of this famous Basilica, will recognize the resemblance of the shapes and formations made by the stalactites and stalagmites to Gaudi’s unfinished masterpiece.

    At one point you are confronted by a lake, which on first appearance looking down from one of the platforms, could simply be continuation of the stalagmites and stalactites until you realise it is only a reflection in the still and shallow water.  Under the water are calcifications referred to as ‘cauliflowers’ as they do indeed resemble a mass cauliflower growth beneath the illuminated water.

    This and all the other caves are effectively lit by strategically placed coloured lighting that fades and luminates to enhance the view of the differing shapes and sizes of the calcifications that have formed over 395 million years.  Add to that the sound of dripping water and atmospheric music including a rendering of Ave Maria and the experience is hauntingly beautiful.

    There are son et lumiere productions at various times of the year so do check out directly with the websitefor further details including prices.

    It may have helped that at the time of our visit (early June) we had the caves to ourselves but I was pleasantly surprised to find myself enjoying the caves as if this was my first experience of such phenomenon. If you fancy visiting, there is a wide range of rental accommodation in the area.