Hauts de France
Bourgogne - Franche Comté
Provençe - Alpes - Côte d'Azur
France seduces travellers with its unfalteringly familiar culture, woven around cafe terraces, village-square markets and lace-curtained bistros with their plat du jour chalked on the board.
Food is of enormous importance to the French and the daily culinary agenda takes no prisoners: breakfasting on warm croissants from the boulangerie, stopping off at Parisian bistros, and market shopping are second nature to the French – and it would be rude to refuse. But French gastronomy goes far deeper than just eating exceedingly well. Its experiential nature means there is always something tasty to observe, learn and try. Be it flipping crêpes in Brittany or chinking champagne flutes in ancient Reims cellars, the culinary opportunities are endless.
French landscape weaves a varied journey from northern France's cliffs and sand dunes to the piercing blue sea of the French Riviera and Corsica's green oak forests. Outdoor action is what France's lyrical landscape demands – and there's something for everybody. Whether you end up walking barefoot across wave-rippled sand to Mont St-Michel, riding a cable car to glacial panoramas above Chamonix or cartwheeling down Europe's highest sand dune, France does not disappoint. Its great outdoors is thrilling, with endless opportunities and the next adventure begging to be had.
France’s refreshing Nord-Pas-de-Calais (Today is a part of the Hauts de France Département) has been overlooked by travellers for too long. The region has embraced the jokes about chilly weather and yokel locals while quietly transforming into a world-class destination with a daring arts scene, clutch of historic sights and irresistibly rugged charm.
The country's most important fishing port, Boulogne-sur-Mer makes a pretty good first stop in France, especially if combined with a swing north along the Côte d'Opale. The Basse-Ville (Lower City) is a bustling but uninspiring assemblage of postwar structures.
Although it was as early as 637 that a monk called ‘Omer’ after whom St Omer is named, was sent to evangelise Therouanne, it was not really until the 13th Century that it rose to some degree of prominence, becoming as prosperous as Bruges, another medieval town surrounded by water. The work which began on the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral at that time took three centuries to complete.
With Celtic origins, Béthune is thought to owe its name to “Bé” meaning “near” and “Thune” meaning hedge or bush. The Year One Thousand marked the beginning of the lineage of the Lords of Béthune.
The town centre was the symbolic target of the shelling and was almost completely destroyed by May 1918. Modernity and tradition were to be the key words behind the Reconstruction in the 1920s and 1930s.
Trévoux is a tiny, quiet place situated at the banks of River Saône with an astonishing number of buildings which illustrate its status in times gone by. We have booked us into the hughe camp ground right aside the river. This was the starting point for our explorations in this city, other places and the region we visited for the first time. Trévoux once was the capital of the Duchy of Dombes and belonged to the Roman Empire of German Nation. During the 18th century it was the place of the regional parliament. Today here it's «only» a wonderful place, quiet with friendly and relaxed people living here who even stay cool in the daily routine traffic jam in the morning.
Villars-les-Dombes is a tiny, quiet place right in the middle of the Dombes region with nicely kept old houses, the city hall opposite church and school with all the bustling children and the lake district in the neighbourhood. In this area called «The Land of the 1,000 ponds» you'll find an enormously streching birds park offering a hughe car park even suitable for camper cars.
Whether I drive around on the mountain pass roads, sunbathe on the beach, or tumble at the weekly markets, Provençe and the Côte d'Azur are sun-drenched and seductive.
Provençe has attracted legendary painters, such as van Gogh, Cézanne and Picasso, to the hilly lavender fields, rustic villages on the tops of the hills or because of its supernatural light. Across the region, I found something else that can't be captured on canvas and framed.
If you are looking for bling-bling in Toulon, you are wrong here. But if you want to stroll through the cozy alleys of the old town for some window-shopping or to get into the one or another art dealers' to let your purse have some slimming cure, is dead right here.
At the foot of a dramatic rock formation, crowned by a 14th century château, now a hotel and accessible only to guests, the small fishermen's village cuddles up to the natural harbour bay and radiates its charm to all the many tourists who pile up in the small old harbour with its lively restaurants.