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 and so do the chateaux gardens. Intoxicating detours are plentiful in this region but not to be missed are these three historic towns:
Angers: Lively, buzzing and festive, this remarkably compact city is one of the greenest in France. The massive Chateau d’Angers, a Plantaganet stronghold, is home to a unique masterpiece: the 14th century Tapestry of the Apocolypse. Just as extraordinary is the modern version, Le Chant du Monde. A series of ten tapestries by Jean Lurcat, it is housed at the Gothic Hopital Saint-Jean close by. Wine lovers will enjoy the smallest vineyard in Angers, within the castle walls.
Tours: The city makes for a great base for touring the Loire. Place Plumereau, voted best place in France for an aperitif though it always seems to be buzzing with life throughout the day. Lined with half-timbered buildings of the 15th century with plenty of lively bars, it’s easy to see why it’s so popular. There are several cultural venues in the town, markets, boat rides and heaps more.
Chinon: A magnificent royal fortress, in which Richard the Lionheart was born. It sits majestically watching over its domain, located high on the banks of the river Loire, right in the centre of the city. In the old town medieval houses line winding cobble stone streets, rue Voltaire is particularly beautiful. Place General de Gaulle is great for restaurants and it’s close to the elevator that takes you up to the chateau, saving you a climb.
Spring in Provence
In winter visitors are scarce, but in spring, Avignon, the capital of Vaucluse in Provence awakens with vigour. March sees the cherry trees blossom under a warm sun. And in April the poppies start blooming. By May the roses explode into colour including at Avignon’s most famous landmark, the giant Gothic Palace of the Popes. It’s the location for a celebration of roses called Alterosa, a must for flower lovers (19-21 May 2018).
If the joys of spring get to you – why not dance on the Pont d’Avignon like in the famous nursery rhyme. Don’t miss a visit to the newly opened Carré du Palais. Here in an 18th century mansion house, a stone’s throw from the Popes Palace, is one of the most elegant wine bars in Provence. It’s the perfect location for an introduction to the wines of the Rhone Valley. Buy a tasting card with a refillable glass. This gets you a taste of some of the most delicious rosés, whites and reds. And you’ll get guidance from the onsite sommeliers.
Take the pace down a notch and head to Gigondas via Carpentras and Sorgues, both worth a stop off. It’s a tiny village nestling amongst vineyards which produce some of the finest red wines of Provence. Don’t miss a visit to the Lencieux Chocolate shop (2126 Chemin de Lencieu) and indulge in handmade chocolates that taste like heaven.
Lyon in springtime
Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France so when it comes to eating out you’re utterly spoiled for choice. In the old town go for a Bouchon Lyonnais, the traditional restaurants which serve classic Lyon fare. You’ll notice they have red and white check table cloths, one of the defining factors that gives them the status of Bouchon.
Burn off the calories with a leisurely spring bike ride. Hire a Velo’V City Bike and burn off the calories! There are hundreds of bike stations in Lyon, the first 30 minutes of use on each new trip are free. If you want something a little more relaxing, hire an electric bike from the tourist office.
Chill with a picnic in the sun at Le Parc de la Tête d’Or, home to the largest botanical garden in France. And, don’t forget to pack an intoxicating chocolate cake from the legendary patisserie Bernachon (42 Cours Franklin Roosevelt).