Banish those winter blues with a spring break in France….
Spring sees the return of a warm sun in France. Vineyards are flourishing, the beaches are enticing, the countryside is filled with the scent of blossom from cherry, almond, lemon and orange trees. Shops and patisseries are filled with drool-worthy sweet things like edible works of art.
Where to spend Spring in France
Whether you’re dreaming of a foodie break, a dose of culture or a blow-the-winter-blues-away walk on a beach, spring is the ideal time to visit France before the summer crowds arrive. We asked the experts at French Connections to share three of their favourite French secrets for spring visits…
A firm favourite with British visitors, Dordogne is perhaps at its best in Spring. It’s the perfect time for cycling along country lanes or bobbing about in a boat on one of the many lakes and rivers, chateau and vineyard visits and exploring the medieval town of Sarlat.
David Knight who has a gorgeous holiday home rental in Sarlat says “Surrounded by beautiful countryside, walking has to be near the top of the list for spring activities. There are hundreds of kilometres of marked paths where you can walk, often hardly meeting another soul, it’s so tranquil…”
Sarlat, one of the most beautiful towns in France, is central to many of Dordogne’s jewels including Domme, Cenac, Roque Gageac and Beynac. David recommends visits to the Chateau des Milandes, once the home of Josephine Baker and to Chateau Commarque a very ancient ruin being painstakingly restored in the heart of an equally old and mysterious forest.”
With grottoes, the internationally renowned Lascaux 4 prehistoric caves and gorgeous gardens such as Les Jardins d’Eau at Carsac Aillac, Les Jardins de Marqueyssac and Les Jardins Panoramiques de Limeuil which overlook the confluence of the rivers Dordogne and Vézére, you’ll never run out of things to do.
Top tip: Sarlat’s gastronomic scene is legendary. David recommends: “The Regent in the Place de Liberté for great French food and people watching. Le Presidial – high end but exquisite dining. Le Bouchon for Tapas and super wines including the local Pecharmant – a wonderful full bodied red wine from a little known appellation within the Bergerac region of the Dordogne.”
On the western coast of France, Charente-Maritime is a department of beaches and vineyards, ancient towns and picturesque villages. Home to La Rochelle, the Ile de Ré and Royan, there’s loads to do all year round, especially spring. John Lewis, owner of Chez Gallois, a dreamy country holiday home rental in lovely unspoiled and tranquil St Genis de Saintonge, not far from the Roman town of Saintes shares his favourite spring events in the area:
“Each April the wonderful old city of Blaye, just 40 minutes away in neighbouring Bordeaux, holds a wine fair within the walls of the Citadel. The wines come from the local appellations which offer amazing value for money. Tastings which continue for the 2 full days, are free of charge. There are numerous locations for the tastings and lots of choice of café food, snacks and serious food in the local hotel…all overlooking the Estuary. There are always other forms of entertainment such as chefs demonstrating how to cook local specialities. White wines start at 4 euros and red from 5 euros upwards. You can purchase at the fair or arrange to collect from the Chateau, which usually leads to another tasting! There is a small entrance fee which includes a programme and a glass.
At the end of April, don’t miss the Asparagus Fair in the small village of Etulieres, a short drive north of Blaye. There’s live music, stalls – offering asparagus and local food items plus local wines, pineau and cognac. Lunch is enjoyed on large tables situated around the main square. Oysters and other shellfish, asparagus and various local dishes start the meal with grilled duck breasts with French fries being the most popular main course though numerous others are available. Local chefs hold cooking classes and the general atmosphere is one of non-stop fun and laughter. Sunday is quieter than Saturday but at midday the local chefs make their world famous omelette which includes 5000 eggs. It is great fun to watch though not always a great culinary success.
In April the annual Kite festival takes place at Chatelaillon Plage. There are literally 100’s of kites flying over the local beaches, many being larger than any of the cars parked nearby. This is a wonderful event for photographers both experienced and otherwise as the scene of a sky full of kites designed as sharks, whales, horses, pigs, giant birds and many pink elephants is a sight to remember.”
The lot really does live up to its name. There’s so much to see and do from the ‘Cité Médiévale’ of Gourdon to the astounding pilgrim site of Rocamadour. Local holiday rental owner Bob McNeil says this is a great area for families with steam train rides at Martel and flying demonstrations with eagles near Rocamadour and nearby, the Foret des Singes wildlife park where you can walk with the apes. At Gramat the zoo is one of the largest in France with over 1000 animals. And at Insectorama you can see many strange creepy crawlies – the kids will love it. There are also adventure playgrounds and the Aquaparc at Quercyland.
Bob says “visit in the spring when the crowds are less. Don’t miss a detour to the hilltop walled village of Domme where the views are fantastic. There are several lovely restaurants to suit all budgets. The market day is on a Thursday with lots of local specialities on sale and art and crafts and other shops to visit. And, the Ice creams from the shop at the top of the village are to die for!”