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Inspirational pursuits: Make the most of your holiday in France

Inspirational pursuits: Make the most of your holiday in France

22 Jan 2016 BY Dominique Wells

Whether you want to step up the pace or slow it right down, France has more than enough to keep you entertained for days, however you want to spend your time.

Being spoilt for choice is one of life’s luxuries, particularly when you’re in France and it’s all about how you spend your sun-filled, fun-filled days. Here are some of our favourite ways to unwind, region by region. All you have to do is set the pace…

CÔTE D’AZUR


GENTLY DOES IT...
Beach life: From pebbly to sandy, the coastline has a hundred coastal treasures for those who prefer to stay horizontal in the sun.
A Calanques boat tour: From the water, you can take in the magnificence of the dramatic fjord-like inlets and little beaches, sheltered by limestone cliffs.
Seaside cafés and restaurants: From chic hangouts with harbour views to low-key, family-friendly coastal towns, choose your view, your table and your pick of the world-famous cuisine.

STIR THE SENSES
The Picasso Museum, Antibes: An extensive collection of paints and sculpture – and if modern art isn’t your thing, the views are just as impressive.
Flowers and fireworks: From Menton’s lemon festival to Grasse’s rose and jasmine festivals, there are plenty of fragrant opportunities to celebrate.
Nice Jazz Festival, July: One of the biggest events in Europe with an impressive line-up of international stars.

FIND THE PULSE
Massif de l’Esterel: Away from the fashionable resorts, you can go back to nature with hikes over the dramatically rugged mountain terrain.
Le Jardin Exotique d’Eze: These gardens, like the medieval village itself, are high on a hilltop and come with exhilarating views.

ACCELERATE THE HEARTRATE
Canyoning: Les Alpes Maritimes offer a spectacular setting and the Côte d’Azur is one of the world’s top canyoning sites. Go with a professional guide.
White-water rafting: With all equipment provided, why not take in the spectacular southern scenery at a pace?
Mountain biking: France is of Europe’s top biking destinations and the Portes du Soleil a favourite for two-wheeled exploration.

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PROVENCE


GENTLY DOES IT...

A Gorges du Verdon boat tour: France’s Grand Canyon offers photo opportunities everywhere you look. Go on a clear day for maximum visibility.
Gourmet restaurants: If you like your meal with plenty of French flair and maybe a few Michelin Stars, Provence’s smartest eateries won’t disappoint.
The famous lavender fields: You’ll find them in the valley about 4km from Gordes near the simply beautiful 12th-century Abbaye de Sénanque.

STIR THE SENSES
Grasse perfumeries: Create your own fragrance in the perfume capital of the world, home to the flowers that go into the creation of Chanel No5.
Carrières des Lumières: An audio-visual spectacular in Les Baux-de-Provence that takes you into the world of art across the ages.
Arènes: Near Nîmes, this is the best-preserved Roman amphitheatre in the world and now, instead of gladiators, expect musical events.

FIND THE PULSE
Musée du Bonbon: Otherwise known as the Haribo museum, this tribute to confectionary is a worthwhile adventure if you’ve got little ones.
Roussillon’s ‘Ochre Path’ quarries: The village has a good selection of cafés and souvenirs, but it’s the rich orange-red of the landscape that truly impresses.
The Route Cézanne: Explore the artist’s favourite haunts on the road from St-Rémy-de-Provence to Montagne Ste-Victoire.
Pont du Gard: Northeast of Nîmes, this UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed three-tiered Roman aqueduct is illuminated after dark to spectacular effect.

ACCELERATE THE HEARTRATE
Wild swimming: Waterfalls, lakes, pale turquoise waters and jumps for the more adventurous turn a cooling dip into an adventure.
Cycling Mont Ventoux: A stretch used as part of the Tour de France, it’s an ascent that’s definitely not for the faint hearted!
Canyon Forest, Villeneuve-Loubet: An adventure park with ropes, zip lines and bridges high up in the trees. Four levels of difficulty make it accessible to everyone.

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THE SOUTH WEST & THE DORDOGNE


GENTLY DOES IT...

Gardens of Marqueyssac, Vezac: The neatly manicured gardens are perfect for a peaceful stroll and the summer candlelit evenings are a magical treat.
Dordogne boat trips: Winding your way through picturesque valleys and fairy-tale castles is a blissfully relaxing way to experience this iconic landscape.
Dinner in the night markets: The marchés nocturnes are an atmospheric way to dine, often with a little musical accompaniment on the side.

STIR THE SENSES
Wine tours and tasting: For lovers of the grape, this is a chance to enrich your experience with a taste of the history and tradition of winemaking.
Musée du Foie Gras, Frespech (Lot-et-Garonne): Find out more about the centuries-old tradition and treat yourself to some delicious cassoulets and pâté, as well as the famous delicacy itself.
Moissac Abbey, Tarn-et-Garonne: Founded in the 7th century, the church and cloisters are now a World Heritage Site.

FIND THE PULSE
The famous châteaux: Of the region’s many castles, medieval Castelnaud is one of the most popular. It’s a steep climb from the valley but the views are worth it.
The Lascaux Caves: Southeast of Montignac, France’s most famous pre-historic cave paintings, up to 17,000 years old, are simply breathtaking.
Vide-Greniers: A little like car-boot sales, these events are held throughout the summer, taking over towns and villages with tables of antiques and bric-a-brac.

ACCELERATE THE HEARTRATE
Canoeing/kayaking: The 170km stretch of the Dordogne River from Argentat to Mauzac offers easy paddling, with just a few gentle rapids to challenge you.
Bergerac Aquapark: With a bowling alley, karting track and the historic town of Bergerac nearby, you can turn and adventure park into a day trip.
Rock climbing: Get up close and personal to the wild terrain in the regions dramatic granite gorges and earn some amazing views across the undulating landscape.

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THE VENDÉE & THE LOIRE


GENTLY DOES IT...

The Atlantic Coast beaches: A coastal stretch of 250km is two-thirds made up of gently shelving, golden beaches with many Blue Flag winners among them.
Hot-air ballooning: What better way to see the Loire River and its historic châteaux than from high above?
River fishing: The river is home to bream, tench, pike and carp, but until you land one, you can enjoy the quiet stillness that sitting by the water offers in abundance.

STIR THE SENSES
Boating in Marais Poitevin: Also known as Green Venice for its canals, this lush wetland also features picturesque villages and historic abbeys.
Birdwatching: Known as The Garden of France, the Loire is home to many species of bird that you won’t see in the UK from black kites to black woodpeckers.
Visit an oyster farm: Find out more about the rearing of this famous aphrodisiac and try a few, fresh from the water.

FIND THE PULSE
Puy du Fou: This award-winning theatrical spectacle stages a series of impressive shows taking you back in time in impressive style.
The National School of Horsemanship: If you visit Saumur’s elite riding academy don’t miss the Cadre Noir presentation – a stunning show of talent.
Château de Chambord: A showcase of Renaissance architecture, this opulent castle began as a hunting lodge for François I in 1519.

ACCELERATE THE HEARTRATE
Futuroscope: Travel in a time machine, dance with robots and enjoy evening performances created by Cirque de Soleil in this award-winning theme park.
Learn how to sail: If bobbing about in a boat isn’t enough for you, learn how to take control with an accredited sailing school.
Loire Valley hikes: Touraine is one of France’s favourite hiking spots and the GR3 follows the river for 1,250km. Of course you don’t need to walk it all!

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