Food, wine, art, philosophy and coastal culture are the very essences of life in France. With its fields of lavender, sun-kissed vineyards producing world-class wines, charming old villages, olive groves and sparkling azure coastline, France has long been a go-to destination for lovers of gourmet food and wine and amazing cultural experiences.
Luxury Escapes’ Head of Content, Emily Rayner, is keen to give you the inside tips on where to eat, drink, play and stay in France’s hottest spots.
Nice – Visit a Market and Pack a Picnic
Enjoy a morning stroll around the Cours Saleya market in Nice which overflows with fresh produce, cheeses, olives, herbs, flowers and charm. A veritable kaleidoscope of sights and smells, it’s bursting with history, ambience, and culinary inspiration. Get your picnic supplies and head to The Chateau Nice viewing point. The Chateau doesn’t exist anymore, but you can still climb the hill where it once stood. It’s well worth the effort as the views are phenomenal from the top. One side overlooks the Baie des Anges, while the other overlooks the port and the daily ferries and cruise ships.
Courchevel – France’s Newest Three Michelin-Star Restaurant
A dining experience at 1947 at the Cheval Blanc Hotel in Courchevel ski resort is like no other. The name refers to a legendary vintage of Cheval Blanc, a collectors’ wine that currently has a market value of over £18,000 a bottle, and the restaurant opens only in the ski season (December to early April) so getting a table can be tricky. You’ll feel like you’re in a James Bond movie dining on the tasting menu which starts at a princely sum of €395 but the bragging rights at your next chi-chi dinner party might make it worthwhile.
Paris – Wallet-Friendly Gastro Bistrots
If you prefer humble, honest French fare, check out the new offerings on order at the new look gastro bistrots (equivalent of gastro pubs) of Paris. Try out the ‘help yourself’ menu at an unassuming ‘Cave’ in Paris’ left bank, La Cave de l’Os à Moelle, voted Best New Gastro Bistro by Time Out. Rustic starters include terrine, grated carrot, eggs, smoked herring and red cabbage salad, while mains span fish soup, a salt cod brandade, chicory and ham, tripe, ratatouille and polenta.
Visit a Vineyard in a Château
Visit one of Bordeaux’s most prestigious vineyards – Chateau Pape Clement, famous for its Grands Crus Classés wines. Enjoy a tour of the chateau, the vault and the barrel cellars before an unforgettable wine-making workshop. Immerse yourself in all things ‘vin’ and make and label your very own bottle of wine, self-blended to your exact specifications. This is a hands-on and great fun experience, expertly guided by a master sommelier. After class enjoy a wine tasting before enjoying a private alfresco lunch on the rooftop of the lavish 12th-century neo gothic chateau, surrounded by 60 hectares of vines.
Drink Beer in in Bistro in Lyon
Le Bistrot des Fauves does really good beer and the locals love it. With an outdoor terrace on the street you can watch the world go by or keep it quiet and head out to the one in the back of the bistro. Enjoy your beer with a delicious plate of cheese and charcuterie and listen in to tales of local Lyon life with the boho clientele.
Dance with the green fairy in Montmartre
Absinthe is known for its hallucinatory powers, and in 19th-century life drinking it daily became a national obsession. The green, anise-flavoured spirit is associated with many of France’s most famous and debauched artists – like Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec – but it was banned in France in 1915 for its alleged harmful effect. In 2011 the ban was overturned and the drink saw a surge in popularity. You can try it for yourself where it all began at Lulu White bar, Located on Rue Frochot, neighbouring the winding streets of Montmartre. This sumptuous art deco bar, specialising in absinthe-laced cocktails, takes its name from the New Orleans brothel madam and procuress Lulu White.
Live Like a King at Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is one of the most popular attractions in Europe, and has been a UNESCO World-Heritage Site for 30 years. It stands as a stunning example of 18th-century French art. Constructed in 1623, it was transformed and expanded by Louis XIV before becoming the centre of political power during the French Revolution. It’s a huge site to get around in one day so plan an itinerary to make the most of it.
Ski the Slopes of Val d’Isère
If keeping everyone happy is on the agenda for your next ski holiday, check out the world’s best ski resort: Val d’Isère. Families love the fantastic Children’s Village at the base of the slopes; the seemingly endless intermediate ski area will keep those who like their skiing on-piste and seriously smart lift system and powder fanatics will enjoy some of the finest lift-served off-piste in the world.
Taste Bayonne: the Chocolate Coast
Bayonne’s claim to fame is as the birthplace of French chocolate, and its still big business. Check out Cazenave chocolate shop. They have been using the same machinery to make chocolates since 1850 and keep up the tradition of hot drinking chocolate, served under a mound of hand-whipped frothy milk, served in porcelain at its posh period tearoom.
Hotel Burdigala – Mgallery by Sofitel – Bordeaux
One of the best addresses in the city, Hotel Burdigala – Mgallery by Sofitel makes it easy to explore the river, the Opera house and the famous Place de la Bourse with its stunning architecture and fountains. Whether it’s a local wine bar, rustic bistro or Michelin-starred dining room, Bordeaux has it all.
Hotel Dress Code – Paris
From the world’s most glamorous boutiques to the city’s best restaurants and top attractions, Hotel Dress Code sits on the doorstep to one of Paris’ most popular areas and within easy reach of numerous metro stations to connect you to the rest of the city. Lovers of art and culture will find the Théâtre Édouard VII, Comédie-Caumartin Theatre, Opéra Garnier and Théâtre des Mathurins within walking distance while the world-famous Louvre Mueseum and Tuileries Garden are just a short drive away.
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