France has always been keen on cycling – the annual Tour de France is probably the biggest cycle race in the world, covering over 3000km in 3 weeks each July, yet there are an increasing number of dedicated long-distance France cycle routes, mainly on dedicated cycleways, alongside rivers/canals etc;
- The Veloscenic Cycle Route from Paris to the Mont St Michel – over 450km of well-signposted cycle tracks, greenways and country roads, transporting you from Paris to the Mont St-Michel, passing by the Eiffel Tower, Chartres Cathedral, or even the Château de Versailles.
Velo Francette from Caen to la Rochelle – 615km from the English Channel to the Atlantic coast via Domfront (61 Orne, Normandie), Angers (49 Maine-et-Loire, Pays de la Loire)
La Vélodyssée from Roscoff to Hendaye on the Spanish Border – 1400km along the Atlantic coast
And that’s not all:
From London, you can cycle to Paris thanks to the Avenue Verte cycle route. It connects London to Paris over 400km through a mosaic of landscapes. The Veloscenic and the Avenue Verte share the same end (or starting) point, at Notre-Dame de Paris !
The Loire à Vélo trail – the oldest French cycle route. Tourists can cycle along the Loire river over 800km The Loire à Vélo trail is part of the Eurovelo 6, which connects 10 countries over 3600km, from France to Romania! You’ll soon be able to cycle from the Veloscenic to the Loire à Vélo trail following the V44 from Alençon to Saumur or the V43 (Manche/Atlantique) from Domfront to Angers.
Tour de Manche 1200km from Cherbourg to Roscoff following the coastline of Brittany through the famous Pink Granite Coast and Cap Fréhel. It links up Brittany and Normandy to Dorset and Devon.
Lille (59 Nord, Hauts-de-France) has joined ranks of inland French towns and cities which create a summer beach in town. Often by riversides or in parks, with imported sand, deckchairs and all the paraphernalia of the seaside.
and will have a different theme each week – from Beach Rugby, watersports and dancing.
For more info see www.lille.fr/
Eurostar London direct to Lille in 80 minutes with Rail Europe
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26-28 January 2018 the France Show returns to London’s Earls Court, where francophiles can get a mid-winter taste of all things French.
2020 Show CANCELLED
You can expect top-notch tutored wine tastings, inspirational cookery demonstrations, a lively French market and live music to indulge your love of France. Get information on buying property, learning the language, holiday ideas and hear about real life experiences of relocation in our enlightening talks. Those interested in making the move to France will love browsing through the thousands of properties for all budgets in the UK’s largest French property exhibition. There will be so much to see and do at the show that one day there may not be enough!
Book early for special offers – www.thefranceshow.com
By Train to London with Rail Europe
Rain Heron of Sweet French Cottages near Entraygues-sur-Truyere (12 Aveyron, Midi-Pyrenees) shares her thoughts about France at Easter:
Easter is known as Pâques in France. Although it is a religious holiday, nowadays, it is treated as mostly a secular holiday and enjoyed mainlyby the French children. The children— as in many other countries— receive a gift basket, resembling a bird’s nest, containing colourfully decorated eggs and chocolates.
The French like to begin their Easter season several weeks before Easter arrives. The shop windows, particularly those of chocolatiers and confiseries as well as patisseries and boulangeries, are adorned with elaborately decorated eggs (les œufs de Pâques). Shops, even the butcher and the fashion boutique, also display bunnies, chickens, bells and fish, often created as edible works of art in either white or dark chocolate.
The symbol of flying bells (cloche volant)is also part ofthe French Easter tradition. Most village churches, many of which date back to the 12th century, have a bell, which is rung throughout the year to mark certain events and the passage of time. However, on the Thursday before Good Friday (vendredi saint), all the church bells are silencedthroughout France in acknowledgement of Jesus’ death.
It is said that the bells fly away to the Vatican in Rome on Holy Thursday (jeudi saint),and the bells carry with them all the misery and grief of those who mourn Jesus’ crucifixion. On Easter morning, the bells return to France from Rome and ring out in celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, declaring that Jesus is alive again. In some villages, people kiss and embrace one another when they hear the bells ring out.
French children are told that the church bells miraculously fly to visit the Pope in Rome and that the cloche volant will return to the villages on Easter morning in time for the Easter festivities. Les enfants de France are also told that if they’ve been good all year, that the bells will bring them goodies such as decorated eggs and yummy chocolates.
Barely able to sleep, French children greatly anticipate Easter morning. Parents wake up early and hide les oeufs de Pâques for their children in the gardens, playgrounds or homes. The chocolates (and sometimes, other candies) are usually placed in the baskets, and are typically hollow and shaped as eggs, bunnies, chickens, bells or fish.
Most Easter games played by French children involve eggs. Some of the games include rolling raw eggs down a gentle mountain slope. The surviving egg is declared the victory egg. There is also the egg toss, which requires tossing raw eggs up into the air and catching them on their way down. The first child to drop and break his egg is the loser, and in some versions of the game, must pay a penalty by giving up a piece of his Easter candy to his brothers or sisters.
French Easter fish, known as poisson d’avril are often presented by village chocolatiers or confiseries who create delicious and decorative chocolate fish for Easter, although Poisson d’avril is celebrated on the first day of April and is the French equivalent of April Fool’s Day.
French children stick a paper fish onto the back of as many tolerant adults as possible and then run away shouting “Poisson d’avril!” which means, of course, “April Fish”! This ritual dates back many centuries to 1564, yet its true origin is not known. One popular belief is that it has evolved from a trick where an unknowing French person was sent off to market to purchase freshwater fish when it was not in season. (Proof that almost everything has to do with food in France!).
There is usually an elaborate lunch with family (or friends) on Easter Sunday. In this area of France, an Easter menu might include a starter of baked, poached or scrambled eggs followed by a main dish of roast leg of lamb (gigot d’agneau), served with new potatoes and early spring vegetables. A cheese platter with an assortment of local cheeses would follow the main dish. And, finally, to “cleanse the palate”, as the French like to say, the meal would finish with a wonderful dessert such as chocolate fondant or a fresh strawberry tart with a dollop of crème fraiche and a sprig of fresh mint.
The following day, Monday (Pâques de lundi), is declared as a national holiday in France so everybody enjoys a three-day weekend, which is time often spent with family. Schools observe a two-week spring holiday, usually around Pâques; however, the school holiday periods differ slightly for the children in accordance with their designated school zone.Since there are so many families taking holidays in France, the French have devised a special system where they stagger certain school holiday periods into three zones. Easter is one of these popular travel holidays so a child in the Aveyron enjoys a different holiday time than a child in the Loire. This, as the French rationalize, is done to share and manage the flow of French tourists!
Easter marks the beginning of the tourist season in many places in France with smaller hotels and restaurants making their annual debuts. While many restaurants in Paris and other large cities typically close for Easter, here in Entraygues-sur-Truyere and in other resort villages, many of the local restaurants open their doors for the first time in the new year and offer a special Easter menu to local families and tourists alike.
Plus, to tempt you to this enticing part of France, there is a special offer for Easter at one of the Sweet French Cottages
**SPECIAL HOLIDAY OFFER**
Book a Cottage for Easter Week (April 3 – April 10)
& receive 15% off our usual Holiday Rates!
Bonne Fête et Joyeuses Pâques!
For more info see www.frenchduck.co.uk
Lonely Planet have recently released an updated version of their guide to Cycling France . The French tend to be much more velo-friendly than much of the rest of Europe, as evidenced by their passion for the Tour de France and numerous initiatives and investments to promote cycling for everyone – e.g. the number of dedicated cycle routes throughout the country.
There are ambitious schemes along much of the Loire Valley as part of a very long-distance cross-European cycle route (see www.loire-a-velo.fr); the construction of a tarmac route alongside the Canal du Nivernais from Auxerre to Clamecy and on to Decize; Canal du Midi, the numerous city cycle-hire schemes such as Velib in Paris; and the ease with which you can take a bicycle on many French train routes – see Rail Europe
So the new guide might just tempt you to combine your trip with some cycling to improve your fitness and to enjoy the French landscape, sights and sounds at a more leisurely speed than that of the car.
Bien sûr, you know how beautiful France is. Well, consider this: it looks even lovelier when seen from two wheels. The soaring Alps…the château-dotted Loire?even surprisingly cycle-friendly Paris – no wonder cyclotouristes have been coming here since the 19th century.
Whether you want a gourmand’s tour through vineyard and farmland, or to conquer the principal climbs of the Tour de France in the High Alps, this guide gives you the best of France on two wheels.
Itineraries to suit all fitness levels
Elevation charts and detailed maps
Comprehensive listings for sleeping, eating and facilities along the way
Comprehensive coverage of Corsica
For more info see Cycling France (Lonely Planet Cycling Guide)
If you are looking for a delightful way of exploring deepest France then cycling has to be an attractive and cheap option. Throughout France there is a network of “Green Routes” (voies vertes) which can offer tranquil, flat(tish) pathways and minor roads which are ideal for walking and cycling etc and give you an opportunity to explore the depths of the French landscape and countryside away from the tyranny of the motor car. There is a national website with details of all the Voies Vertes at www.voies-vertes.info/ with a helpful location map (albeit in French). One route (of many) which looks interesting is the route from Beziers to Portiragnes-Plage in the Languedoc which runs for 15km alongside the Canal du Midi.
There is a good and well-illustrated guide (in French)La France des voies vertes : Cyclistes,
In English there is always the Lonley Planet Guide Cycling France (Cycling Guide)(new edition published July 2009) “Here’s a sampling: in Paris you can take the bike paths along the Seine or all the way to Monet’s gardens in Giverny. The Loire Valley offers intimate excursions by sandstone villages, magnificent chateaux and scenic waterways. Take the tiny, winding roads of Provence to see perched villages and spectacular panoramas of the Cote d’Azur, or dip into Champagne for the terraced vineyards of Dom Perignon. For those up to the challenge, there’s the dramatic volcanic landscape of the Massif Central, with its steep climbs and sweeping descents. The Guide includes a chapter on the island of Corsica with its rugged coastal scenery and prehistoric sites.”
It was in the hot days of late June that we had the chance to call in on Caroline and Sean Feely at Chateau Haut Garrigue in Bergerac (24, Dordogne, Aquitaine), a warm and welcome memory on cold miserable winter days. An unlikely combination of Ireland, South Africa and rural France has created an organic vineyard which is rapidly gaining a reputation for the quality of its wines – and an innovative approach to promoting both the appellation and the organic ethos.
Also running under the banner of Wild Earth Vineyards, Caroline is passionate about encouraging people to appreciate and understand her organic wines. With a delightful gite (holiday rental accommodation) enjoying stunning views over the Dordogne valley and the vineyards, regular vineyard walks (which include other local organic vineyards), tutored wine classes (in Bergerac and Ireland!), longer vineyard walking holidays in Bordeaux, St Emilion & Bergerac – and other wine experiences which include trying your hand at being a winemaker for a day! – they offer plenty of ways of getting to know the wines and vineyard well.
Happily, all this “tourism” is secondary to the main focus, which is to produce great wines – and they do. We were hugely impressed by their clean, bright aromatic dry Sauvignon Blanc, but their other whites, rosé and seriously good red wines are also excellent and rated highly in the press and elsewhere:
‘Its gorgeous’ is what the Irish Times says of our La Source red wine. We also have our methode traditionnelle sparkling (the real thing) and 2006 saussignac available to you.It’s not just the taste that is superb. When you buy from us you are supporting:
– organic farming giving you a healthy product that does not have herbicide/ pesticide residues
– a very low carbon footprint (we do much of our vineyard work by hand, we favour natural processes rather than intervention and we have an oak forest to offset our CO2 emissions) giving us all a better future.
Well worth a visit if you are in the region, you can also order online for delivery to your door in the UK and Ireland.
Caro has now published a book on the development of Chateau Haut Garrigue – Grape Expectations: A Family’s Vineyard Adventure in France
And vineyard holiday accommodation and wine courses are also on offer – see frenchvineyard.co.uk
Interestingly many of the small independent vineyards in the Bergerac appellation are going organic – and not just for the “feel good” factor or as a marketing ploy – sustainable vineyards and a healthy environment are needed to support the complex combination of factors (e.g. soil, climate, rootstock and people) which have to come together to produce consistently good wines.
I can understand the attraction of fishing, but have never dabbled, always arguing that I do not have enough time to indulge in an activity which is so quintissentially time-consuming. Like all the best leisure pursuits, I suspect fishing enables you to escape into another world which is virtually timeless and far removed from the pressures of modern life.
To be able to pursue this interest in the heart of France in a beautiful setting, dominated by a fine chateau, looks even more tempting – and this is what is on offer at the Chateau de Tigny at Pouilly-Sous-Charlieu (42 Loire, Rhone-Alpes) north of Roanne near Charlieu.
Here Tony and Lorraine Dicks bought the chateau some 18 months ago, since when they have been renovating the chateau, preparing and stocking the lake and coping with French bureaucracy. The result looks to be stunning, with some gite acccommodation also coming on stream.
The charming medieval village of Charlieu is steeped in history and was founded in 875 by Benedictine monks from the Touraine. Charlieu has many attractions such as the Abbey Benedictine, a beautiful church, museums, plus many bars, shops and restaurants. Surrounded by country lanes and woodlands Charlieu is an idyllic place suitable for walking, cycling and enjoying the fresh country air. There are many local town markets open during the week so there is always plenty to do.
The enchanting Chateau de Tigny is a 16th century French Bourguignon style castle complete with two towers and a beautiful pigeonnier. The Chateau is surrounded by a moat on three sides.
Situated in front of the Chateau is a tranquil, 12 acre lake stocked with large Carp making Chateau de Tigny a most desirable place for Carp fishing holiday’s. The lake is for 1- 6 anglers.
Either stay in the luxury bed and breakfast accommodation or you can choose the “Drive-and Survive” package. The Chateau offers two luxury suites of accommodation. The Queen Ann suite has a romantic four-poster bed and the Rococo suite, comprising of a double and two single beds, which can sleep up to a family of four. The rooms are both en-suite and a continental breakfast is included.
And, whilst the main attraction may be the carp fishing for some, there is plenty for non-anglers to enjoy. There are resident barn owls in the front Tower, red squirrels , eagles and hawks around the grounds with kingfishers on the lake, ducks on the islands and the occasional deer in the fields behind the lake – ideal if you are in to photography, painting or just enjoying the tranquility of the French countryside!
For more info see Chateau de Tigny
For more info on Charlieu see www.ville-charlieu.fr
Now here’s an opportunity to spend several months in one of the most beautiful and unspoilt parts of France next summer – near Entraygues-sur-Truyère (12 Aveyron, Midi-Pyrenees) in the upper Lot Valley. The American owners of Sweet French Cottages are looking for some help in setting up and running their gites in return for board and lodging.
Lance and Rain would like to “hire” some young and able individuals – or possibly a couple — to come and live for free in France (room and board including most meals) for 3 months during the spring/summer 2009 in exchange for working with us.
We’re looking for individuals or a couple that can help us get our properties ready for high season 2009. From maintenance such as painting, staining, planting, gardening to cutting/stacking firewood and moving rocks to helping with dinners for our cottage guests, laundry, cleaning, etc.
We’re asking for 6 hours per day of work, 5 days per week. Some knowledge of French would be great, but is not entirely necessary.
I could be tempted myself, but may not qualify as “young and able”. Seriously though, you could pay good money to spend time in such a place – almost a “retreat” from the hustle and bustle of the modern world and a long way from the nearest MacDonalds. Wonderful landscapes, river valleys and natural splendour but with easy access to a charming little town with all the important facilities such as shops, cafés, banks etc good food and very drinkable local wines – and the owners are really “cool” in the nicest possible way – and in no way “typical Americans”.
For more info contact firstname.lastname@example.org
For more about these Sweet French Cottages see Sweet French Cottages