The antidote to the cold, grey days of winter? Trip planning! With the start of a new year, the France Today editors are struck with a serious case of wanderlust. As we plot our adventures for 2014, we’ve come up with some unusual vacation ideas. Even if you’ve climbed the Eiffel Tower and sun-bathed in Saint-Tropez, there is always more to discover in the vast hexagon of France.
Escape the hurly burly of everyday life in this hideaway deep in the Périgord-Limousin national park. Built out of reclaimed timber and sitting on its own private lake this would make the perfect bolt-hole for a spiritual retreat or to write that novel you’ve been planning.
A chance to learn the art of perfume making in the Provençal town of Grasse. On this three-day tutored course you will study the history and science of perfume, learning to blend different “notes” to create your own fragrance. Evenings can be enjoyed in town whilst staying at a charming local hotel.
Ever wanted to drive a classic car on some of Europe’s most scenic back-roads? Classic French Escapes now have two rental areas – just South of Paris and also on the Mediterranean coast near Cap d’Agde. Choose from a range of great voitures classiques including 1960’s sports cabriolets like the MGA, Austin Healey, E-Type Jaguar and Alfa Spider.
Devolu is an enormous four bedroom two-deck houseboat moored in a quiet part of the Seine and just a 20-minute tram ride to central Paris, offering you the best of both worlds. It boasts a living area, kitchen and dining area as well as an attractive terrace from where you can sit and watch the river meander by as you cook your dinner outdoors. No car necessary.
5. Caveman Deluxe in the Loire
Stay in a unique four-star hotel with rooms and pool partly-created from 12th Century troglodyte dwellings. Clinging to the slopes of the Loire, the hotel is close to Fontevraud Abbey, Saumur and Montsoreau making it a great base for touring the Loire. Modern comforts in an ancient and unusual setting!
With the centenary of the Great War in 2014, this could be the moment to see parts of France that were most affected by the events of World War One. A three day tour of the battlefields will leave from Paris and take you to all the significant monuments, memorials and museums.
7. Modern Painters on the French Riviera
Stay in Nice for a week and enjoy an extraordinary art tour of the Côte d’Azur, where history, colour and art de vivre provided inspiration for some of the world’s greatest artists such as Renoir, Bonnard, Matisse, Picasso, Chagall and their successors César, Klein, Arman and Niki de St-Phalle.
Burgundy is home to some of France’s greatest wines such as Puligny-Montrachet, Meursault and Nuit-St-Georges. An expert guided visit to the famous villages of the region will allow you to see independent family domaines and taste red and white, Regional, Village, Premier Cru and Grand Cru wine across a range of vintages.
If you have a little more time on your hands why not consider house-sitting in France? There are over 200 opportunities listed on TrustedHouseSitters. It’s ideally suited to mature, responsible couples especially if you are animal lovers, because often you will be looking after the house AND dogs, cats, geese, ducks, chickens or even alpacas. There are some amazing properties in all kinds of interesting locations.
Le Moulin de la Tuilerie, formerly an 18th Century mill, was once the weekend residence of the British Duke and Duchess of Windsor. It sits in the countryside at the mouth of the lovely Chevreuse Valley, just southwest of Paris. Many of the glitterati of the 1950s and 1960s were entertained here, including Maria Callas, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Now available to rent.