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The cuisine of France is renowned for many reasons – across the country menus offer tempting regional dishes. The taste of the south though is very different from that of the north, influences from neighbouring Italy, from Spain and North Africa, have left their mark.

The sun-drenched French Riviera, lapped by the Mediterranean Sea, is a melting pot of tasty dishes as all those influences come together to create some truly breath-taking flavours.

The gentle climate lends itself to al fresco dining for most of the year, even in winter, and here you’ll enjoy bold flavours like garlic, olive oil and herbs that give the food a unique quality and make it among the best in France.

Here’s a must-try list of fabulous gastronomic delights for you to discover the exquisite flavours for yourself…

Visit a Market

Cours Saleya credit @ A.Issock, Nice Tourism

The markets of the south of France are famous for their vibrant atmosphere, fresh seasonal produce and colourful characters.  Visit the Nice market, the Cours Saleya, and relish the endless stands of local Socca, Pissaladiere and Salad Nicoise served in a bun as a snack called a pan bagnat. As you enjoy the scent of sea salt olive oil and smoke wafting around you,  you’ll definitely be tempted by the exotic spices, fresh local fish, organic honey and home-made jams, flamboyant flowers and juicy fruits, soothing, deliciously scented lavender and local arts & crafts.

Fish and Pastis in Marseille

The world's greatest bouillabaisse is made in southern France and Marseille, in particular, is famous for the flavoursome fish stew. Almost every restaurant, from Michelin-star venues to tiny cafés will serve their own version. Check out the ‘Panier’ area, the famous old district for great people watching from the pavement and terraces.

Before your meal though, enjoy sipping a Pastis like the locals (who call it Pastaga). This aniseed flavoured and very strong liqueur should be enjoyed with ice, and perhaps a little water if you want to keep a clear head!

Divine Wine visits

Porquerolles, credit @ Julien Maucery, Hyeres Tourism

There are masses of choice for vineyard visits all along the French Riviera. Much loved by the locals are the wines from the vineyards of Bellet. Just ten minutes’ drive from Nice airport, the dozen or so vineyards from one of the smallest Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) regions in France. Located high in the hills, requiring a drive up some very steep and winding roads you’re guaranteed a warm welcome and a fabulous tasting of some unique wines from the land where grapes have been grown for two millennia.To go even more off the beaten track, visit Hyeres-

To go even more off the beaten track, visit Hyeres-les-Palmiers, a little town outside of Toulon which boasts over 8,000 palm trees. From here take a 15 minutes cruise to the island of Porquerolles to see its vineyards and savour liqueurs while you have a game of petanque. Try Domaine Perzinsky for its wonderful views and shady terraced tasting area.

The allure of Antibes beach restaurants

Antibes has lured many admirers over the years, from Picasso to Miles Davis, drawn by the dazzling blue sea, the warm architecture and the culture. This is a place of fishermen’s districts and wharves, markets and pine groves where the living is good. Head out to the surrounding villages like Vallauris for an authentic taste of Mediterranean cuisine in a gorgeous surrounding. Here, beach restaurants and traditional brasseries are plentiful and you’ll find the prices are much lower than in the main tourist areas.

There isn’t much that beats dining at a restaurant along the sea’s edge at night when the air has cooled and the sky is filled with stars. Watching the twinkling lights of the boats, listening to the soft sound of jazz being played on the beach and the gentle waves lapping the beach as you dip into a freshly made tapenade made from sun dried tomatoes – priceless!

French Connections has oodles of fabulous villas, gites, B&Bs and apartments all over the south of France, just perfect for your any time of the year gourmet visit!

The old city of Carcassonne dates back to 1st century BC but these days there’s a fabulously restored hill top castle and a beautiful medieval town that’s fully functional with around 50 inhabitants. As you enter through the main gates of this fortified town you’ll be caught up in a warren of cobbled streets on different levels (tip: wear comfy shoes). The entire town, surrounded by 2km long walls and 52 towers is a UNESCO listed monument and, every street and corner reveal traces of its fascinating history.

Fun for all the family

In the citadel, there are loads to do and see and you can easily spend a whole day there just wandering. There are daily displays of jousting in the summer months and it’s easy to stroll with a stroller. The streets, for the most part, are free of cars throughout the day with only limited access allowed for people operating their businesses or living in the city. You can also take the little train, a 20 minute, multi-language sightseeing tour of the turrets and ramparts. There are lots of little shops, many of them touristy which some people complain about but, we’re tourists in Carcassonne right, so a little souvenir is always good. Some of the shops are fabulous, shoes, clothes, and bags will definitely tempt! If you like to eat where the locals go, take a break at the bottom of the Citadel in Bloc G (112 e Barbacane), it may not look much from the outside but the food is amazing, home-cooked, seasonal produce with serious servings of flavour.

Gastronomic delights in the Bastide St Louis

The area is famous for its cassoulet and there are plenty of restaurants in the old city. Don’t though, miss the so-called “newer” part of town which dates back to the Middle Ages! In the Bastide de St Louis, you’ll discover a rectangular grid of streets which join the old city to the Canal du Midi. Here you will find a terrific selection of bars, restaurants - Le Bistrot d’Alice (26 rue Chartran) is popular with locals for luscious home cooked local dishes, friendly service, and a great ambiance. There’s a fabulous market in Place Carnot with its local pink marble pavement and it’s is lined with places to watch the world go by.

For a real end of day treat, dinner at the award-winning 2 Michel Star Franck Putelet restaurant Le Parc (80 Chemin des Anglais) just outside the old city, is truly memorable.

Canal du Midi

Opposite the train station at Carcassonne, you can take a boat ride on the UNESCO listed Canal du Midi. Drift through the stunning countryside where the canal paths, great for cycling, are lined with regal plane trees. Le Cocagne boat company run guided tours of an hour plus which give wonderful views of the old city of Carcassonne.

There’s never a bad time to visit Carcassonne. There’s always plenty going on. Festivals, concerts, Christmas markets, it’s a town that’s good for your bucket list all year round.

Check out our properties in the area – we have thousands of fabulous holiday homes all over France and we love to make your holiday dreams come true with the perfect accommodation for you…

Avignon is the beating heart of Provence, a small city with a big presence.

Must-sees in Avignon

The main attraction in Avignon is the enormous Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes). The UNESCO listed former Papal home is incredible, with a majestic presence and light stone walls that reflect the sun and make it shimmer. Built in the 14th century, seven popes in succession ruled Christendom from here. It takes your breath away today to visit both inside, where you’ll see magnificent frescoes, furnishings and lush décor, and outside where a walk around the soaring walls will impress. Hosting art exhibitions and concerts plus a fabulous son et Lumière show from mid-August until the end of September.

Number 2 on the must-see list has to be the famous Bridge of Avignon, the subject of the well-known song “sous la Pont d’Avignon” about dancing on (or rather under) the bridge. To this day people do dance on the ruins of the ancient bridge though for selfies predominantly! The river crossing came about after, in 1177, a 12-year-old shepherd boy claimed divine voices told him the bridge needed building in Avignon.

The Old Town of Avignon

Avignon has one of the most pleasant old cities for strolling and simply ogling the gorgeous buildings, enjoying cobble stoned streets and for taking a break at a terraced café. Leafy squares, bright streets festooned with bunting and a stream with water wheels are just a few things that make this a beautiful city.

Head to the perched park of the Jardin des Doms next to the Palais des Popes for fabulous views over the countryside and to the Ile de Barthelasse, the largest river island in France. If you want to visit the island, there’s a free shuttle bus from near the Pont d’Avignon, take a picnic and enjoy the countryside air.

If you don’t have much time or it’s too hot to trot, simply hop on the little tourist train from outside the Palais des Papes. It’ll carry you round town taking in all the key sites and makes for a fun tour.

Dining out in Avignon

This is a town that loves its food and there’s masses of choice for restaurants, bars and bistros. The Place de l’Horloge is a grand, vibrant square that’s popular with locals and tourists for its numerous restaurants. Or head off to one of the side roads or smaller squares like Places des Corps-Saints for the restaurants the locals love and visitors often don’t discover.

Did you know pastis was invented in Avignon? The word comes from the Provencal “patisson” meaning mixture. What better place to enjoy the oh-so-French liqueur than in its place of birth!

Don’t miss the chance to visit Les Halles, the local covered market. Chocablock with regional products - from luscious olives to herbes de Provence, cheeses, charcurterie and bread, it’s the perfect place to stock up on gourmet goodies.

French Connections have loads of rentals in Provence – just pop over to our listings pages to see what suits you for your dream holiday in the sunny south of France.

Credit: @ Bordeaux Tourisme

5 French regions that are perfect for autumn vineyard visits

In Autumn, the weather is still warm and dry in France and without summer crowds it’s the perfect time for a trip, especially for wine lovers. Here are 5 of our favourite vineyard visits to enjoy in the autumn sunshine:

Bordeaux

Half the city of Bordeaux is a World Heritage Site. The centre of Bordeaux, flanked by its three boulevards is a hive of activity with the focal point being the Place de la Comedie with the imposing and architecturally stunning Grand Theatre. The huge square, Esplanades Quinconces, is home to statues of local philosophers such as Montaigne and Montesquieu. Along the riverfront is the bridge of Pont de Pierre from where the view of the city is truly impressive on an autumn day. A visit to the famous vineyards of Bordeaux is easy to do from the city centre. Don’t miss taking a tour of nearby beautiful St Emilion, whose town is built like an amphitheatre.

Burgundy

Beaune is the capital of this fabulous wine region and the pretty, medieval town is surrounded by the Cote d’Or vineyards. It is renowned for its annual wine auction which takes place on the 3rd Sunday in November at the 15th Century Hotel-Dieu museum. The Route des Grands Crus, known as the ‘Champs Elysees’ of Burgundy is well worth a visit. Chateau du Clos de Vougeot is an architectural and cultural masterpiece, an absolute must-see for true wine fans, and a wonderful place to visit in the autumn sunshine.

Champagne

Take a visit to the impressive city of Reims with its magnificent Cathedral. Enjoy Champagne tasting at Maison Mumm or the Grande Maison de Champagne Taittinger or Veuve Clicquot. A drive or stroll along the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay, just 15 miles from Reims, is a must. And it’s here that you’ll find the famous Maison de Champagne of Moët & Chandon. The colours of the rolling hillsides surrounding the vineyards are breath-taking in the autumn.

Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is an exceptional place to visit in the Autumn. The sight of chateaux looming out of the early morning mist surrounded by miles of countryside and vineyards is stunning. And, as the Loire is home to some of the best wines in France such as Sancerre, Pouilly Fume and Saumur, a visit to the vineyards and wine cellars will make your trip extra special. The grapes are normally picked between September and October and many chateaux including Chinon, Chambord and Chenonceau along with the Gardens of Villandry are located close to wine domains. Combining a wine and chateaux tour is a great way to give you a real taste of this beautiful region.

Paris

It might surprise you to know that Paris has a secret vineyard…

It was the Romans who first introduced vines to Paris, the lush green vineyards stretched for miles right up to the slopes of the Butte Montmartre – at 130m high it is Paris’s tallest hill and a district of northern Paris. The area is more famous for its cafés, boutiques, art galleries and studios, nightlife, and the Moulin Rouge. However, each October, once the grapes have been picked and pressed, a grand festival takes place that’s one of the most popular with Parisians. The Fête des vendanges de Montmartre celebrates the art of food and wine. You’ll enjoy dozens of free concerts, exhibitions, parades and tastings in the heart of the city. There’s even a quirky “singles” event in which single-dom is celebrated. It’s called a non-marriage ceremony and couples may state their love and be declared engaged for eternity.

Why not enjoy an autumn break – check out our thousands of fabulous holiday rentals in France – we’re here to help you make your dreams come true all year round.

Going to flea markets in France is a national hobby.

If you’re on holiday in France, going to a brocante, vide grenier of marché aux puces as they’re called, is a terrific way to experience the culture of an area and get to know the locals.

Browse, bargain and buy

Flea markets generally take place on weekends and national holidays. They might be held just in the morning, all day long, or at night. If we’re talking about the Braderie Lille in northern France - that one goes on for some 36 hours non-stop and is the biggest flea market in Europe with around 10,000 stalls.

Some flea markets are regular affairs like the famous Monday antiques market of Nice, held in the colourful Cours Saleya. Isle-sur-la-Sorgue in Provence is a whole town of antique shops that are open year-round. In Paris there are several regular flea markets such as the Marché aux Puces at Saint-Ouen where there are around 2000 shops and dealers spreading out over 10 miles.

Find a flea market

A wander round a local flea market will generally reveal the contents of a local loft or cellar and then some. Professional antique dealers might also be present (and more costly of course). You’re sure to come across plenty of tat but you might just find something that will be the perfect souvenir to take home.

Textiles, table cloths, pieces of lace, antiques, glass, tin coffee jugs, copper utensils, giant clocks, books and magazines – they’re all common sites at a flea market, plus a whole lot more. If kitchenalia is your thing, then a flea market is bound to float your boat. Old furniture, paintings, kids’ toys, hundred-year-old posters, ancient postcards – you never know what you’ll find at flea market.

Usually there will be a barbecue or street food, somewhere to rest and grab a bite or a glass of wine in the shade and watch the browsers. It’s a great way to spend a few hours and get to know a place better.

If you want to know how to find a flea market near where you’re on holiday, ask your host or check on the French website brocabrac.fr… and leave some room in the car to take home your French memento! 

At French Connections we like nothing more than helping you make your holidays dreams come true – check out our fabulous gites, b&bs and chateau stays…

The beginning of September marks a unique event in France – la rentrée. It signifies that the long summer holidays have come to an end, and it’s time to return to work, to the office, to school and normal life.

Just what is La rentrée

La rentrée literally means the return. It’s a time of optimism and renewal, new stock in the shops, new TV programmes, new books being released. There are new exhibitions and cultural programmes galore all over the country. It is about energy in social lives. Shops and restaurants open and you might think that odd, it having been the summer holidays and all. But, bizarrely to us non-Frenchies, even though the summer season is the busiest time of the year, many venues close for a week or two in July and August. Sometimes they’re shut for longer so that the French owners/workers can have their holiday too!

In Paris for instance, it’s estimated that 40% of Parisians take time off during the summer months leaving the city to those who can’t take a break - and tourists. The majority of French people take their holiday in France – and why not, there’s a massive choice of destinations and you could spend a life time of holidays here and never see it all.

With la rentrée, throughout the country, there is a feeling of joie de vivre and enthusiasm.

The perfect time to visit France

It’s also one of the best times to take a break in France as there are less French holiday makers and fewer tourists all round. Prices come down as it’s not high season. The weather is usually mellow – warm in the day with cooler evenings.

Whether you head north, south, east or west in France, a visit in September and October will reveal a quieter side of the country after the lazy, hazy, hot days of summer. So, if you fancy a dip in the Med, relaxing on a quiet beach, visiting a market without bumping baskets, strolling down the most popular streets in peace (as in the photo of Riquewihr, Alsace), being able to book a table at the restaurant of your choice and a whole load of other fabulous things – now might be just the time to do it.

To tempt you even further – head on over to our last-minute deals section for some brilliant offers. And don’t forget we have a discount and special offers section too.

Bon Voyages and bonne rentrée…


La Rochelle @ credit La Rochelle Tourism

La Rochelle is the essence of French charm and style. It’s known as la Ville Blanche, the white city, thanks to the many limestone buildings that reflect the sunlight. There’s a pretty harbour surrounded by cafés and stalls plus one of the largest private leisure ports in the world. Historic towers that are hundreds of years old stand watch and usher in the Atlantic. Ancient covered arcades that line narrow streets are home to fabulous cafés, shops and bars.

There’s plenty to do for the whole family in this lovely little corner of Western France.

La Rochelle aquarium

The aquarium is a bit of a must. Just to the left of the harbour as you look out to sea, it’s one of the largest aquariums in Europe. It’s privately owned, has 83 individual aquariums and takes about two hours to do the whole thing. It explores the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean and the Indo-Pacific oceans and seas.

http://www.aquarium-larochelle.com/en

Trip down memory lane

Take a wander down those historic narrow streets with their timber framed houses and quaint little boutiques. You’ll discover pretty, shaded squares, polished flagstone pavements and beautiful grey-white mansions.

Sail to Fort Boyard

If you’ve got kids, you may well have seen the hit TV show, Fort Boyard. You can take a boat ride to view the 19th-century fort which is oval shaped, 68 metres long with walls 20 metres high and just off the coast of La Rochelle. You can’t actually go into Fort Boyard but it is an impressive sight and the over dramatic commentary of the boat’s speaker system adds to the fun.

Gastronomic paradise

The freshest of seafood and a plethora of delectable bars and restaurants make this a foodie’s paradise. One of the most delicious and fun places to eat at is the brasserie Bar André (5 Rue St Jean du Pérot) whose plateaux de fruits de mer have been pleasing guests since 1947. Watching the sun set over the yachts clinking in the harbour will create memories to cherish.

If you fancy a sojourn in the area, check out the fantastic range of French Connections holiday rentals, we’re happy to help you make your dream holiday come true…