Dreaming of France

  • The Pic du Midi de Bigorre is located in the Hautes Pyrénées department and the Occitanie Region. The observatory perched on top of the 2877-meter summit allows for panoramic views across the 300 km mountain ranges that run along the French and Spanish border. Visitors reach the Pic by cable car and then can visit a history museum inside or dine at the restaurant which features everything from fast food to local dishes fit for gourmands. One can also choose to come in the evening, gaze at the stars through various telescopes, and then spend the night in one of the observatory’s cozy rooms.…

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  • La Drôme is found in Southeast France, with the Rhône River running along its western border and the city of Grenoble just to the east. Within this incredibly diverse corner of France, one can see mountains just to the east, as well as some of Provence’s famed lavender fields. In between, there is remarkable camping and hiking, including the Huguenots Exile Trail and the Val de Drôme. La Drôme’s most renowned tourist attraction is the Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval or the Mailman Cheval’s Ideal Palace. This is an astounding piece of folk art built meticulously over 33 years by local mailman Ferdinand…

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  • The Pyrénées-Orientales is the far eastern part of the mountain range that stretches across the French-Spanish borders. Having once been part of Spain, it still clings to those roots in calling itself Pays Catalan. Indeed, the Catalan flag is as common as the French flag in this region. At that far eastern edge, there are spectacular beaches. But during a two-week trip last summer, we spent most of our time exploring its natural wonders further inland. This includes some of the best thermal baths we have found in France. Not only did we visit a couple of thermal stations, but we also wandered out…

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  • Tucked between Cannes and Nice along the Mediterranean coast, the Cap d’Antibes peninsula has a spectacular coastline that connects the neighboring resort towns of Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. Antibes is known for its old town center that is surrounded by ramparts and a marina, and is overseen by Fort Carré. Juan-les-Pins is famous for its nightlife and an international jazz festival. Both have a variety of beaches that make it easy to find a stretch of coast to suit any taste.

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  • Just 90 minutes southeast of Paris, the city of Auxerre (pronounced Aussere) is located in the Yonne Department and the Bourgogne-Franche-Comté region. Or, what is simply known to most English-speaking visitors as the Burgundy region. Auxerre’s highlights include the Abbey of Saint-Germain d’Auxerre sitting along the Yonne River, just one of several churches in the town worth visiting. The Medieval city center features a stunning astronomical clock. The city has both a natural history museum and a digital arts museum. And, of course, its many local restaurants allow visitors to experience Burgundy’s famed culinary delights. But Auxerre, Burgundy’s fourth largest…

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  • Brittany remains one of France’s most untamed and vast territories. We spent a lovely two weeks camping there in 2017, and we still only saw a couple of tiny corners. One of the striking things about the Brittany coast is that it conjures a sensation of standing on the edge of the world. You can stay in Brest as a hub for discovering the region. But step away from the mainland to visit one of the islands off the coast…and you’ll really feel like you’re standing on the precipice. One of the best islands to get this experience is Ouessant…

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  • It might be tempting to describe the Ardèche department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region by its proximity to other more famous places in France. Just south of Lyon. Just northeast of the Cévennes. West of Grenoble. Hugging the Rhône river that flows along its eastern border. Ardèche isn’t home to any great cities. But what this sparsely populated territory does have is some of the nation’s most spectacular scenery. That includes Les Gorges de l’Ardèche, a 30 km canyon in a natural reserve that runs along the Ardèche river that has carved deeply into the region’s limestone. You’ll find here the…

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  • Maybe you can’t travel here. But you can begin fantasizing about your next visit. One stop to consider: Chartres. We visited this city about an hour southwest of France over the winter holiday which is known for its artistic bent and the spectacular stained glass windows of its Notre Dame Cathedral (La cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres). I’ll write more about this soon. The photo above is just a glimpse.

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  • All that snow got me thinking about the Pyrénées. It’s still unclear whether we’ll be able to get up there this year. But I’ve been thinking about an amazing week we spent in the Pyrénées in March 2019 that included a hike along the Pont d’Espagne. Located at about 1,493 meters up, the Pont d’Espagne was once upon a time a trading route between France and Spain. Located in the Pyrénées National Park in the Hautes Pyrénées Departement, the valley now is a pastoral wonderland in the summer that leads to Lake Gaube. But in the winter, it’s another world where people…

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  • The ski season in France may be gutted, but I still can’t stop thinking about a trip to the mountains. Maybe the forced separation has made me even a bit more obsessed. I had a chance to speak with some local tourism officials during a two-day conference last week to get the scoop on regions I have yet to visit. Those destinations now on my list include La Clusaz, a ski resort village in the Haute-Savoie department in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. It’s nestled in the corner near the Swiss and Italian borders, and just to the west of the more renowned Mont Blanc.…

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