A sneaky, cheeky break in the sunshine in France can really perk you up. Hop on a plane in the UK, hop off in France, pick up a hire car and enjoy a few days of fantastic French food and wine, sight-seeing and culture.
Here, we recommend five brilliant short breaks in France for that perfect weekend escapade:
Short break in Dordogne
It’s a short flight to the new Brive Airport from London or Stanstead and you’ll arrive in the heart of the beautiful area known as the Perigord Noir. Within minutes of drivingout of the airport you’ll feel as though you’ve been plunged into the most amazing adventure. Beautiful landscapes, picturesque villages, unique rocky towns perched high over the River Dordogne. This is a place to browse the magnificent markets like Sarlat or Brive on Saturday mornings, indulge in delicious food – cheeses, walnuts, foie gras, truffles and wonderful wines – even for the French this place is a foodie paradise. For a real touch of luxury take a hot air balloon ride and admire the area from your seat in the sky…
Nip to Nice
Nice has been one of the most popular places in France for centuries for a very good reason – located at the heart of the Cote d’Azur it is one of the most beautiful seaside resorts in the world. Fly into Nice-Cote d’Azur international airport and prepare to revel in the art of Mediterranean living. Enjoy the city highlights and then head up into the hills and along the coast to find authentic southern France -traditional restaurants, olive farms where you can try the amazing oil, seafood bistros and vineyards…
Just ten minutes’ drive from Nice airport, a dozen or so vineyards form 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 and friendly welcome and a fabulous tasting of some unique wines from the land where grapes have been grown for 2 millennia.
Have a lovely time in Lyon
Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France and some say, the world. To find out why, visit the market at Quai Saint-Antoine on a Sunday morning and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere, the sights and scents of the best food in France. Pop into the famous Les Halles de Paul Bocuse – a shopping mall of high-end produce, to be seriously impressed by amazing cheeses, cakes, bread and more.
You’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to dining out – from traditional to fusion and the first restaurant in France to offer allergen free menus (www.monhistoiredanslassiette.com). You can even learn how to make something yourself at the cake school www.gateau-ecole.com in the company of a famous Lyon chocolate maker.
The countryside around Lyon is where you must go for great wines at source – head to Beaujolais or Macon, where the white grapes start and even Burgundy just an hour’s drive away. In the other direction head up into the impossibly steep hills overlooking the Rhone.
Make the most of La Rochelle
La Rochelle is like a slice of maritime history in one of the most charming ports in France with its two distinctive round towers. Explore the lively town and wander the elegant streets of the old town, stop for a traditional lunch or pick up picnic essentials from the daily food markets.
The historic town of Cognac is about an hours drive away and here you can take a tour around the historic wine cellars – and take a little home with you along with some fabulous French cheese!
If you want to really wind down, cross to the Ile de Ré known as the “White Island” via a 3km bridge from La Rochelle. The little streets are lined with white houses decorated with green shutters. Glorious sandy beaches, vineyards, salt marshes and a relaxed way of life await you. Beware that in peak summer months some villages on the island are closed to traffic.
Relax in Normandy
Normandy really does have something to suit everyone’s taste with its fascinating history and a ton of culture. Discover the natural beauty of the Etretat on the wild Albâtre coastline, wide sandy beaches, picturesque villages and glorious lush green countryside. Don’t miss Mont St Michel, the medieval walled town on an island and one of the wonders of the world, the Bayeux Tapestry and the many museums and sites which commemorate D-Day.
Foodies can follow the Camembert trail around the Pays d’Auge region and visit the Camembert museum in Virmoutiers. Or perhaps the 40km cider route with 20 cider distilleries and a host of charming villages en route will appeal.