As winter starts to retreat, it’s time to think about a spring break in France. The days get longer, the birds sing louder and the sun gently caresses the land. It’s the perfect time for a breath of fresh air and a re-energising French holiday.
Spring in Avignon
After a bit of a sleepy season when visitors are scarce, Avignon, the capital of Vaucluse in Provence awakens with a burst of colour. In March cherry trees are blossoming, the sun is warm, the air is fresh. In April the poppies start to bud and by May they’re in full swing. Then the roses start to burst into colour up and down the land.
There are plenty of events throughout spring, the tourist office has a full list. On years ending with an even number the big May event is the Alterosa, an homage to roses. The Palais des Papes, the giant gothic palace once lived in by the Popes in France is filled with roses, there’s a rose parade and a giant picnic.
If the joys of spring get to you, dance on the Pont d’Avignon like in the famous nursery rhyme. Grab a basket full of delicious cheese and baguette from the local market Marche les Halle. Then enjoy a picnic in the beautiful Rocher des Doms garden, next to the Palais des Papes and overlooking the Rhone river.
Spring in Bordeaux
This UNESCO world heritage status city is a joy in spring. Spectacular sunrise and sunsets reflect off the enormous water sculpture the Miroir in front of the impressive Place de la Bourse.
It’s a great town to wander and at night it should be warm enough to sit outdoors with a light coat to enjoy an aperitif before dinner. With hundreds of restaurants to choose from, you’re spoiled for choice. Perhaps the Wine and cheese tasting lunch will be something you’ll enjoy. Book at the tourist office and for €29.30 you get a choice of 12 cheeses to pair with 3 wines in a vaulted cellar at restaurant Chez Baud et Millet.
Wine lovers will adore the Printemps des Vins festival which takes place in nearby Blaye. To make it a real event, take a boat cruise to Blaye from Bordeaux and arrive in style. And, don’t forget to take a visit to the Cité du vin and enjoy the views from the tasting bar at the top.
Take a trip to the verdant vineyards of Saint Emillion close by. Enjoy a river cruise or maybe a spot of shopping in one of the longest pedestrianised shopping streets in Europe Rue Ste Cathérine.
Spring in Beaune, Burgundy
Beaune is the unofficial wine capital of Burgundy and in spring the vine leaves sprout and the town starts to come to life after its winter slumber. You don’t have to go far to enjoy the best vins this area has to offer, there are plenty of caves that offer tasting in the centre. The Marche au Vins is a great place to introduce yourself to local wines. You’ll find it opposite the historic Hospices de Beaune. In this former Church dating back to the 13th century, you can tour the cellars and enjoy a fabulous tasting of up to 11 great wines. Take a tour of the Hospices before you try all those wines, or you may not appreciate just how fabulous it is. Built in 1442, it is the most popular attraction in Beaune. It’s a must see for its glazed tile roof, fabulous works of art and ancient interior complete with hospital beds showing what this ancient in its day state of the art hospital looked like.
Spring in Lyon
Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France so when it comes to eating out the only challenge is – which restaurant to choose. In the old town go for a Bouchon Lyonnais, the traditional restaurants which are easily distinguishable by their red and white check table cloths.
Burn off some calories with a leisurely spring bike ride to blow those winter cobwebs right away. You can hire a Velo’V city bike, which has hundreds of stations in Lyon, the first 30 minutes of use on each new trip are free.
Take a picnic to Le Parc de la Tete d’Or which is home to the largest botanical garden in France. Located on the banks of the Rhone, it covers an area of 105 hectares, and was modelled on the archetypal English garden. It includes a 16-hectare lake created in an arm of the Rhône.
Tour the winding streets of Old Lyon and the Croix-Rousse district which is famous for its historic silk workers industry. And don’t forget modern Lyon. Head to the magnificent Musée des Confluences, which aims to explain the history of everything. Architecturally stunning, the collections are fabulous, and the onsite restaurant is very good.
Spring in the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley is made up of orchards, vineyards and farmlands, châteaux and picturesque villages. In spring the fruit trees burst into colour when they begin to bloom, and so do the chateaux gardens.
Tours is a great base for touring the Loire. Place Plumereau is the perfect square for an aperitif, in fact it was once voted the place most loved by the French for just that reason! Lined with half timbered buildings of the 15th century and plenty of lively bars, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. There are several museums in the town including the fabulous Centre of Comtemporary Art Olivier Debré.
Close to Tours you’ll find several of the most gorgeous chateaux in the Loire, where in spring the gardens are as pretty as chocolate box lid. There are loads to see but these three are truly special:
Domaine de Chaumont sur Loire: the International Garden Festival starts in spring and goes on until the beginning of November. It’s like a French Chelsea Flower Show with dozens of temporary garden designs. There are also permanent gardens and a gorgeous chateau.
Chateau du Rivau: A fairy tale Renaissance Chateau with magical gardens which in spring are filled with the scent of roses.
Chenonceau: The castle of flowers is a must see any time and in spring its filled with colour and scent from the famous gardens one loved by Catherine de Medici.