Vive La France: Our Top 5 French Regions for Summer 2014
France is hard to resist, which is why it always makes our holiday list, no matter what up-and-coming destination flashes up on the travel radar. Rent a car in France and you’re free to explore Europe’s most diverse nation, with everything from dizzying mountains to a coastline without equal, layered in between with lush forests, pristine rivers, chic cities, and those achingly elegant chateaux. Can’t decide where to hire a car in France? Let us help:
France is the embodiment of all things chic and sophisticated, and they don’t get more stylish than the Cote d’Azur, a haven for the artsy elite and the pleasure-seeking Everyman since the late 18th century.
Think you can’t have a glitzy holiday on an unglamorous budget? Look around and you’ll find bargains galore. One of the best restaurants in Nice, for example, is the Voyageur Nissart, where you can enjoy authentic nicoise cuisine from just €15.90 for the set menu.
Worried about the crowds? Simple – just hop in your rental car and make for the de l’Esterel, the Corniches des Maures, or the hills behind Menton and Nice. Winding your way around the hairpin bends, you’ll soon leave the buzz behind and escape into a wilder, rockier world.
You’re not going to find much room to yourself in the A-list Provence towns of Aix, Arles, and Avignon, but drive your rental car to the Lure mountain or the Vaucluse Plateau, and you can easily escape the crowds. Best known for its romantic images of the quintessential French countryside – think fragrant meadows, pretty villages, and sun-kissed cobbles – this region is essentially a rugged wilderness that has withstood the excesses of tourism with style.
We prefer to venture across the Rhone to the Languedoc-Roussillon region, where you won’t find holiday hordes, despite the endless sandy beaches, exceptional seafood, and great family-friendly atmosphere in places like Le Grau-du-Roi or Argelès. Drive a short distance inland, and the scenery changes significantly, with vineyards making way for sunbaked hills layered with garrigue scrubland.
For an alternative beach holiday, head to the Aquitaine Coast in France’s South Atlantic region, where the beach extends more than 150 miles south from the Gironde Estuary to Bayonne, presenting a vast expanse of icing-sugar sand (nearly a mile wide in places) backed by towering dunes and lush forests. The area encompasses Soulac, Cap Ferret, Arcachon and Biarritz, creating a vast paradise for surfers, with powerful Atlantic waves pounding the flat sands.
Further south, where France touches Spain, you can enjoy the fascinating Basque influence in everything from the music to the food. And when it comes to refreshment, you won’t go home hungry – or thirsty. The wealth of vineyards along the Gironde’s west bank includes such gems as Medoc, Saint-Estèphe, St Julien Beychevelle, Pauillac, Cantenac, and Listrac. Wonderful restaurants line the streets of every town and village, so consult a gourmet guide – or just stop and sample wherever takes your fancy.
Now that it’s no longer a medieval stronghold, Burgundy is best known for its fabulous wines. There is more to it than the wine trade, but if you enjoy a glass, you’ve come to the right place. Particularly in the Cotes-de-Nuit and Cotes-de-Beaune, you will find dozens of picturesque villages centred on the wine business, many of them lining the Nivernais canal. Cruising in Burgundy is a lovely way to see the region.
If you drive southwest to the Dordogne, you can bypass the crowds of British tourists to find a calmly mellow landscape of traditional farming, hearty food (be prepared for foie gras everywhere), mature woods, and arcaded village squares. The place appears to have been overlooked by mainstream France, but prehistoric France is a different story: Take your rental car through the Vezere valley and you’ll find an abundance of ancient artefacts, including cave drawings.
Brittany has a cultural identity unique to the rest of France. Moulded by Celtic influences, wild seas, and an untamed landscape, Bretons display some fascinating traditions, particularly in their music and dance, and in their distinctive cuisine. (Don’t miss the Cancale oysters). Arrive in the first 10 days of August to experience the Interceltic Festival at Lorient.
Head north from the Pays-des-Abers to the Pink Granite coast and on to St Malo for coastal scenery like no other. Venture over the border to Normandy to visit Mont-Saint-Michel, a magical rock-island abbey. In the same area, you’ll find the D-Day beaches, still redolent with harrowing history. One of our favourite Normandy experiences is to drive inland to Pays-d’Auge, where hamlets of half-timbered houses dot a lush, pastoral landscape and calvados is the tipple of choice. (Once you’re parked for the day, of course).
Don’t just take our word for it: Rent a car in France with Nova Car Hire today, and you can plan your own great French escape.