Your Favourite French Regions

Mont St. Michel reflected in the sea at night

The Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel: one of the most iconic landmarks in France

France remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe and with good reason. This huge country offers a wide range of varied landscapes and holiday settings, added to that the lure of fine wine and food, and it is easy to see why France maintains its strong appeal. Whether you are looking for winter sports in the Alps, or summer sun in the Cote d’Azur, here at Cottages4you we have a huge selection of villas, gites and cottages across the length and breadth of this beautiful country to choose from. Here are some of our customer recommended French destinations for 2014.

Brittany

Brittany or ‘Bretagne’ on the North West corner of France shares many scenic characteristics with its cousins across the channel in Cornwall and Devon. Indeed, the historic Celtic heritage is shared with the British Isles the result of a legacy of a trading network going back centuries. The sheer proximity to the UK makes Brittany eminently accessible via Ferry and consequently one of the most popular destinations in the country. With such a large rugged coastline, the beaches here are the envy of Europe. Popular with surfers, the coastline is perfect for water-sports and walkers alike. The outdoor lifestyle reflects the laid back atmosphere in region fiercely proud of its history. The result is an ambiance distinctly ‘Bretagne’ in character, indeed many locals still retains this ancient language. Be sure to include Rennes, Saint-Malo and Auray on your ‘to do list’ on your next visit to Brittany.

Search for accommodation in Brittany

Amboise on the Loire River

Loire Valley

Known as the ‘Garden of France’, the Loire Valley for many represents the very essence of a French holiday. The patchwork scenery conjures images of vineyards and golden fields full of sunflowers, with the Loire River itself providing a timeless backdrop to beautiful chateaux across the region.  The favourable climate helps nurture grapes which produce some of the world’s finest and best known wines including Muscadet and Sancerre.  Set within the historic heart of France, the region retains much of its Medieval and Gothic architecture the source of inspiration for writers and poets across the ages.  Amongst the Loire highlights include the unforgettable Chartres, Bourges and of course Orleans, home to one of France’s most famous historic figures, Joan of Arc. With so many beautiful chateaux to choose from, visitors are spoilt for choice but the Renaissance castle at Chambord is one of the most impressive sights in France.

Search for accommodation in the Loire Valley

Normandy

The expansive 400 mile coastline in Normandy will forever have its place in history and this year marks the 70th anniversary of the D-day landings, the turning point in the Second World War. In contrast to its rugged Bretagne neighbour, Normandy less exposed Channel coastline is gentler in comparison to Brittany with rolling greenery bordering long sandy beaches protected by dunes.  Perhaps the most beautiful landmarks on this delightful coast, is the spectacular Mont Saint-Michel.  This imposing island is dominated by its 8th century Abbey, a world heritage site that looks out across a stunning tidal vista. The view from the top of the Abbey is unforgettable, and at night when the castle is illuminated against the backdrop of the sea, you are left with a magical impression of truly one of the most iconic landmarks in France.

Pas-de-Calais

Visible from the white cliffs of Dover, the Pas-de-Calais lies a very short hop across ‘Le Manche’ for holidaymakers from Britain. Particularly popular in the 19th century as the coastal summer retreat of choice for ‘city weary’ Parisians, the region retains a strong cultural association to its Flemish neighbour. With its proximity to Belgium, much of the local architecture retains a strong Flemish influence, particularly amongst some of the region’s most beautiful cathedrals. Indeed, the Pas-de-Calais geographically retains the character of it ‘lowland’ neighbours, with large expanses of flatlands extending east towards the border with Belgium. Today the Pas-de-Calais renowned for its vibrant flavour typified by a general celebration of life reflected in the varied festivals throughout the year. Perhaps the best known of which is the ‘Dunkirk Carnival’, a lively series of events which will take place each weekend through February and March.

Search for accommodation in the Pas-de-Calais

iStock_000002054266Small

Beynac-et-Cazenac

Dordogne and Lot

The seductive south west of France with its promise of summer warmth, culture and fine cuisine has all the ingredients for a perfect extended holiday in France. The departments of Dordogne and Lot have much in common, with beautiful countryside and both enjoying long hot summers and mild winters. For many the attraction of Dordogne revolves around its lush greenery and slow pace of life which in many ways represents an echo of France from another age. It is an image that has drawn Britain’s throughout the decades and indeed you may find echo’s from rural England too, as many have been so enchanted by the region that they have the Dordogne their home.  Be sure to enjoy the sumptuous local delicacies in the famed local markets that offer special artisan shopping experience a world away from all too familiar high street clones. Highlights include the caves at Lascaux, the gardens of Marqueyssac, the picturesque village of Loubressac and the Chateau de Bonaguil.

Search for accommodation in Dordogne and Lot

We’re at The France Show 2014

The cottages4you team will be attending the France Show at Earls Court in London on 17th, 18th and 19th January.

Whether you’re an existing French holiday home owner who wants to enjoy a taste of France in the capital, or someone looking to start a letting business and want inspiration and advice, visit our stand (211) and chat with our expert team. You can also come along to one of our seminars, which cover all you need to know about buying in France.

Break up the day with cookery demonstrations from top French chef, Jean-Christophe Novelli and award-winning food writer Clotilde Dusoulier, listen to bestselling author Carol Drinkwater, sample fine wines and champagne, visit the French market, play a game of petanque and enjoy the live entertainment!

The France Show

Tour de France Holidays – The Alps

iStock_000016144824Smalltour

Just a few short weeks following Chris Froome’s victory in the Tour de France, we are all ready getting excited about next year’s race which starts in Yorkshire. This supreme test of human endurance is a prized national institution for the French, but recent success has cemented Britain’s reputation at the forefront of world cycling. First Sir Bradley Wiggins and now Chris Froome, it is possible that the current British domination is extended into the next few years – and it is the formidable aspect of the personal challenge for riders that is so enduring.

Apart from the physical examination of racing across much of France, the Tour is a mental test that creates fascinating personal struggles from stage to stage as riders pit their wits against the differing challenges that each stage demands. For many it is the ‘climbs’ through some of Europe’s most scenic mountain terrain that best exemplifies the challenge of the Tour. This year’s event was dominated by the extended mountain challenge, with riders ascending summit heights totalling 35,441 metres (bearing in mind that Everest sits at a mere 8,848 metres) nearly double the total of last year’s race. These historic mountains play host to some of the most dramatic moments in Tour history, and of course continue to fascinate fans drawn to the unique challenge of Alpine cycling.

It is against this backdrop that hardy British cycling fanatics seek to test themselves following the routes of their heroes through the epic French mountains. Without the small matter of actually racing this is an exciting challenge but is a great way to get the most out of an active holiday. Apart from the appeal of an area shrouded in sporting legend, the French Alps exude the epitome of pristine natural beauty. The physical height is matched with a sense of spiritual elevation born out of the proximity to heavens. Surveying the horizon it is very difficult to escape a feeling of awe at the raw power of nature. It is perhaps this separation from the everyday reality that is so appealing about cycling, a basic communion with the natural world.

Whilst few football fans will ever get to play at Wembley cycling fans can follow in the ‘tracks’ of the professionals which simply adds to the exhilaration of a cycling holiday in the Alps. For holidaymakers this type of adventure does not need to be daunting as many routes have professional guided tours through scenery that has stunningly lakes, glaciers and forests. The northern Alps offer some of the most popular climbs with Morzine to Alpe d’Huez a particular favourite amongst Tour enthusiasts. Picture yourself leading the peloton as you ascend to an unassailable lead in the Tour and become ‘King of the Mountains’!

Meanwhile back on Earth, and if you have the stamina, the route from Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Grenoble includes one if the most challenging climbs in the shape of Col du Galibier one of the most revered in the Tour. This is a unique experience, which if you do not already have cycling in the blood will doubtless leave a lasting impression of an unforgettable holiday experiencing the essence of the mountain stages of the Tour de France.

Search for accommodation in the Alps

101 places to go – International Kite Festival, Berck-sur-Mer

iStock_000003690128XSmallkitedestival

We’re focussing on something light, bright and breezy for our latest entry. Where else, for example, could you stand on vast golden sands whilst above you the skies are filled with colourful creatures of different shapes and sizes, dancing through the air with incredible grace and beauty? We can’t think of anywhere like the International Kite Festival, Berck-sur-Mer, France, so its inclusion was something of a ‘no-brainer’.

For over 20 years people have visited Berck-sur-Mer in the springtime to witness blue skies bursting with a myriad of moving colours. The displays and intricacy of the kites is astounding, and each year promises something new that will astound over half a million visitors.

This year’s event runs from 13-21 April and boasts a number of wonderful displays, from aerial ballets and jousts to a parade of inflatable sea creatures turning the sky into a huge blue aquarium. And to spread the inclusive feeling there are a number of workshops to encourage the next generation to take to the skies with their wonderful creations.

The region itself possesses more than its fair share of beauty and history. It has a rich maritime heritage and its strategic position on the north coast has given it a colourful history that’s well worth exploring. But it’s undoubtedly the prevalence of long expanses of sand and gentle sloping dunes that has led to a large increase in visitor numbers. Still, with 12 kilometres of beach it can feel anything but crowded.

The International Kite Festival at Berck-sur-Mer really is the kind of one-off event that we love to promote and support at cottages4you. If you’d like to visit this beautiful part of northern France then take a look at our featured accommodation in the region.

If you have visited the Kite Festival before then please share your experiences by leaving a comment below.

The France Show

France Show Logo

Calling all Francophiles! cottages4you will be returning to The France Show again this weekend.  The UK’s largest celebration of France and French living will take place from 18th-20th January 2013 at Earls Court, London.

This is a great opportunity to meet new and existing property owners or just come along for a chat. We look forward to seeing you at our stand, number 139.  You can also find us on the cottages4you Petanque pitch – the perfect opportunity to try your hand at this traditional French pastime and we welcome anyone who would like to take part to join us for a game of boules.

What’s more, anyone looking for impartial advice at the show is invited to attend our ‘Making Your Holiday Home Work Harder’ seminar in the French Property News theatre, taking place at 1pm each day of the show.

For more information, please contact Katie or Gemma by email press@lucre.co.uk or by calling 0113 243 1117.

The Top Three Festivals in France

Festivals during summer have become ubiquitous in Britain, with a flourishing scene from Glastonbury in Somerset to the Latitude festival in Suffolk, whether there be rain or shine it seems that ‘us Brits’ can’t get enough. In many ways we are catching up with our European cousins who have for centuries used festivals to celebrate culture and preserve their way of life.  Whilst it may be easy to identify Britain’s most popular festivals, we are going to turn our attention to France to see what is on offer, just a ‘short hop’ across the Channel.

1. The Cannes Film Festival

If you are able to identify a festival in France, then the Cannes film festival is likely to be it. This annual international film festival is a showcase for new films, culminating in the award for the Palme d’Or, the highest award at the festival. The essence of Cannes is vibrancy, celebrating new ideas through film set against the seductive warmth of late spring in the French Riviera. The lure is strong and attracts some of Hollywood’s most prominent luminaries to a resort that has swapped fishing boats for multi-million pound yachts. Cannes is now synonymous with luxury and has the usual accoutrements to support the jet-set on their annual pilgrimage to what is one of the premier film events of the year.

Find properties nearby.

2. The Avignon Festival (Festival d’Avignon)

The Festival d’Avignon has become France’s most famous arts festival. With its origins going back to 1947 this festival has become the place to be for theatre lovers to enjoy a delightful three week sojourn every July.  A focus for contemporary dance as well, Avignon provides an enchanting medieval setting for this prestigious arts and entertainment festival. Indeed, Britain’s return annually in their droves to enjoy the intoxicating mix of theatre, delicious food, great weather and fine wine.  Ancient Avignon itself is situated in the south east of France by the Rhone in Provence.  This idyllic part of France enjoys a Mediterranean climate and boasts a rich cultural history epitomised by the festival itself. This is a very popular event and we recommend that you get organised and book tickets well in advance.

Find properties nearby.

3. Les Eurockeennes de Belfort  (The French Glastonbury)

If music is more your thing, then Eurockeenes may be just the festival for you. With echoes of Glastonbury, this festival embodies rock and Europeanism and hence the name ‘Eurockeenes’. This large music festival is held close to the Swiss border near Belfort in north east  France. Steadily growing in popularity over the past decade, Eurockeenes attracts many international artists (this year including The Cure) performing across multiple stages. Indeed, music is intertwined with Belfort which also holds a separate three day music festival in May, with 25) concerts (many free) across multiple locations as part of the Festival International de Musique Universitaire.

Find properties nearby.

Additional French festivals include;

Les Vieilles Charrues  (Music)

Angoulême Festival (Comic books)

Festival de la Tomate & des Saveurs (Food)

Have you been to a French festival? Leave a recommendation below!

Find a holiday cottage in France with cottages4you.

 

Summer Sun in France – Holidays in the Vendée

Summer in France never ceases to lose its appeal. The culture, the cuisine and the weather makes France an easy choice for sun starved Brits. The French too look forward to the July and August break and typically join an annual migration to the south. If you are perhaps looking for a less crowded option, the Vendée, located in the north western Atlantic coast, offers a great alternative a little closer to home. With a sunny climate to rival the Riviera, the Vendée, with hundreds of miles of beaches, beautiful river settings and a rich cultural history, offers a fascinating backdrop for your next French holiday.

Quite simply the Vendée is a beach lover’s dream. The locals are rightly proud of the vast expanses of sand and dunes which border the Atlantic at its beautiful azure best. Beach after beach carves out an exquisite seascape across the length of the region. Typically the beaches are long with gently sloping shelves and with the added attraction of the sun; this part of France is unsurprisingly a favourite with families. Arguably the most stunning and unique setting is the Plage du Veillon at Talmond-St-Hilaire. Meandering sea channels and wild dunes create a vista filled with a lagoon between the sand and the sea. There cannot be many more beautiful backdrops to while away the summer hours, whether that be basking in the sun or kite surfing across the shallows!

Whilst you may be forgiven for doing not very much on your holiday in the Vendee, those intent on a more activity based break will find a wealth of options to choose from. This part of France is famed for its good surf and its west facing coastline produces some of the best waves in France.  Perhaps the most recognized surfing  resort is La Tranche sur Mer which regularly hosts the world championships. However, if land based activities are more your style then the Vendée  is the ideal holiday base for a cycling  holiday. With over 1000km tracks throughout the area, with many following the coastline through woodland and following rivers,  there cannot be many more relaxing ways to take in the beautiful countryside.

One of the great allures of a holiday in France is the anticipation of the great cuisine. The Vendée boasts a wide range of restaurants with an exciting combination of local and international dishes on offer. A notable specialty is the regional ham, with gammon and Jambon de Vendée  favoured amongst the Vendeans.   Like many of the north/western regions in France, the food in the Vendée is heavily influenced by the sea with mussels, langoustines and  oysters also popular on local menus. Accompanied by a deliciously crisp French white wine, whilst relaxing on a long summer’s evening, suddenly all seems well with the world.

Find holiday cottages in the Vendée today.

Posted by Gareth McKillop, cottages4you.

La Bonne Vie

Whether it’s the je ne sais quoi, the café culture or the nonchalant shrug that best personifies the French way of life, it’s their relaxed approach that has led many to fall in love with the country time and again.

While only a short hop over the channel, our European neighbours are a gulf away in their attitude to life.  They are simply the masters at celebrating la bonne vie, or ‘the good life’,  to the envy of UK holidaymakers who do their best to soak up the spirit of the country over long summer evenings spent with friends over good food and wine.

We’re challenging lovers of France to embrace the laid back lifestyle and holiday like only the French can, and receive £100 in return!

If you’re planning on a family holiday to France this April and are interested in taking part in a light-hearted ‘holiday happiness’ challenge – simply send us your details, including your mode of transport and dates of travel, by emailing press@lucre.co.uk to apply.

France Fan Club – A Game Of Boules In France Changed My Life

We received this lovely little French story from Janine Marsh. If you’d like to share your pics, videos, tales or experiences of France then send an email to blogmaster@cottages4you.co.uk with ‘France Fan Club’ in the subject line. 5 lucky entrants will be randomly selected to win a bottle of wine!

Several years ago I went on holiday with my then boyfriend to the Vendée region of France.  Getting him to go was a bit of a struggle, he’d told me he didn’t like France or the French and had resisted my efforts to get him to at least go on holiday there to see if I could get him to open his mind.  I found his attitude bizarre as I have been a big fan of France since I was 14 and went to Paris on a school exchange trip and my dozens of subsequent visits all over the country had only left me wanting to experience more and with a growing fondness for the way of life and a distant dream of maybe owning a home there one day.

His antipathy was based on a 3 day trip he’d taken in his teens when he’d run away from home to join the Foreign Legion.  He managed to get from Paris to Lille to join up, got cold feet and went home but his experience of unfriendly people in Paris had left him with a poor view of our European neighbours.

In the end I simply rented a self-catering cottage for a week, booked the ferry and presented him with the tickets and the directions – fait accompli!

The cottage was gorgeous, the couple who owned it were friendly and unobtrusive, the weather was glorious, the beaches at Les Sables-D’Ollones stunning and having drinks at a little bar in La Rochelle were wonderful.

The boyfriend admitted – it’s a beautiful country, there’s a lot to see and do, the food and wine are to die for and yes he quite liked France.  By the end of the week he was a confirmed Francophile but it wasn’t these things that had done it.

The owners of the cottage invited us to a game of boules or la pétanque as it’s also called, they had a small boules area laid out in their garden and they’d invited some French neighbours along as well.  We started playing after lunch, we had absolutely no idea of the rules or the etiquette – but we had lots of willing teachers.  Everyone took a bottle of wine, the French neighbours bought along some slices of cold meat, bauguettes and fresh vegetables from their garden and we spent one of the most fun and relaxing afternoons I can remember.  As night fell the game ended and we sat chatting under a clear starry sky to our new friends, the English cottage owners talked of their life in France and the French neighbours worked their Gallic charm on my by then willing-to-be-persuaded boyfriend.

Ten years later – the boyfriend is the husband and we have bought a house in France and set up a website www.thegoodlifefrance.com. We aim to provide information to English speaking visitors and residents of France and help them to make the most of the good life in France whether it’s for a day, a week or forever and I happily chat about my life in France and all that entails – good and sometimes not so good!

That chance game of boules, that could so easily never have happened, led to entente cordiale, the opening of minds and for me ultimately – a dream come true.

 

How would you describe France in three words?

We asked our Francophile friends at The France Show to tell us which three words best describe France for them, and you can see the results below!

 

Thanks for submitting your comments and suggestions to our France Fan Club  so far, more ideas and inspiring memories to follow, including what happened when we joined dedicated fan of France, award winning travel writer Mary Novakovich, in the radio studio!