France is a brilliantly diverse country and it isn’t hard to find plenty to do considering it is twice the size of the UK with a similar sized population. This guide tries to steer away from the typical suggestions you would receive when heading to this beautiful country.
Taste authentic France in Lyon
In Lyon, several bistros can be found scattered around Opéra Nouvel, their famous opera house. If you are looking for a cosy atmosphere surrounded by exposed stone walls, a wooden bar, low lighting with tightly packed in tables and good food, give bistro Pizay a try. Do as the locals and instead of buying a bottle of wine order a pot of cotes du Rhone instead.
Take in the breathtaking cave art of Lascaux
In 1940 four teenagers discovered the famous Lascaux cave in the Vezere Valley, it has been closed since 1963 and its iconic great hall of the bulls and painted gallery have been reproduced at Lascaux II, with over 800 drawings and engravings, and a monument sculpture of horses, bison and deer. Admission to some of the site may be limited so it is best to book in advance.
Taste the chocolate coast
The historic port of Bayonne is situated in the Basque Country. One of Bayonne’s lesser-known claims to fame is as the birth place of French chocolate, but it’s still a business here. Many Jews expelled from Spain and Portugal during the inquisition in 1609 settled here with the know how to transform the cocoa bean, making hot chocolate a fashionable drink, introduced into court circles by Anne of Austria, consort to Louis XIII.
Follow the champagne trail
Champagne tasting in France is all about swallowing not spitting so as you drive along the route du Champagne keep steady behind the wheel. There are three drives that you can follow. Renowned for the high quality of their champagnes the Montagne de Reims and Cote des Blancs circuits are great to follow. Yet if you want something a little more sweet the nearby Vallee de la Marne circuit is known for the best prices and some of the fruitiest champagnes. Maps for the circuits are easily downloadable at www.tourisme-en-champagne.com.
Breathe in the scents of jardins
The Paris botanical garden houses more than 10,000 species and includes tropical greenhouses. It is an enchanting place begun by Louis XIII’s doctor for medicinal purposes it was opened to the public in 1640. The formal garden running between two avenues of tree’s is like something from Alice in Wonderland, with trees planted as early as 1636.