France, five destinations for foodie

Here are some itineraries that combine scenic beauty and culinary specialities

Home Life Lifestyle travel France, five destinations for foodie

France is the most visited country in the world and for a good reason. And it is not only because of Paris, a much-loved capital city and tourist destination with few rivals. France offers a range of places like few others if not only for its size, being the largest country in Western Europe. The Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the castles and the most navigable rivers of the Continent, the Alps and the Pyrenees, green forests and plains stretching as far as the eye can see. And there is history everywhere. It is no chance that this is the birthplace of Europe. Paris is a world apart and this is why we have decided to suggest five itineraries away from the Ville Lumière.

Burgundy, the wine lovers paradise

A land that amazes at every turn and every moment. The best way to visit it is by car, losing oneself in the breathtaking views driving along country roads and the quiet ancient abbeys, or lingering in the narrow streets of a medieval village. Burgundy is a paradise for wine enthusiasts and full of charming chateaux that have nothing to envy from those of the nearby Loire. It is an area to be experienced by sampling the mood permeated with the flavour of culture, wine and good food. Major destinations include the Benedictine abbeys of Cluny and Fontenay, the basilica of Vézelay, the Hotel Dieu in Beaune, the castles of Cormatin, La Rochepot and Ancy le Franc, and the medieval villages of Noyers sur Serein and Semur-en-Auxois. Also worth mentioning are the Wine Roads, winding through the hills with vineyards stretching as far as the eye can see. You can stop in one of the many caves to taste the red wines made from Pinot Noir grapes, the noblest and most delicate crus and the fantastic Chardonnay-based white wines. It is a continuous journey into the past where charming landscapes meet with tradition, enhanced by the levity of bien vivre.

The sea of Brittany

Brittany has many different aspects – from wild nature to prehistoric sites and spectacular medieval towns – that make it unique in Europe. Almost on the border with Normandy is Saint-Malo, the corsair city, a bite of the legendary history of this land. The picturesque town of Dinan has retained its medieval beauty intact and is as enchanting as Quimper, Rennes and Vannes. The half-timbered houses of the perfectly preserved old town centres and narrow alleyways of the towns make visitors step back in time. Brest is decidedly more modern, focusing on its maritime vocation and modern culture. Mythology lovers will be attracted to the Paimpont Forest where here every lush corner speaks of King Arthur, Merlin and Morgan. Carnac is one of Europe's largest archaeological sites, with over 3000 perfectly aligned menhirs. Brittany has an oceanic vocation. The love for the sea of this region is obvious in Cancale, the home of oysters, and Concarneau, a small fortified citadel. Finally, unmissable and majestic, the Pink Granite Coast is the jewel of the entire coastline. Here the sea and the wind have modelled the rocks into extravagant and bizarre shapes that glow at sunset with their special colour. It is crossed by the famous Customs Officers' Path, a loop for touring the whole of Brittany on foot.

Lyon, everything and more

It is the second-largest city in France, the stage of more than 2,000 years of history, with a remarkable cultural heritage. By extending eastwards over the centuries, without destroying existing sites, Lyon has managed to preserve and encompass the 500 hectares of its historic centre as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking along its streets means taking a journey back in time, from the ancient site of Fourvière to the traboules of the Renaissance Vieux-Lyon, through the steep alleyways of the Croix-Rousse hill and its Empire-style buildings. Lyon is home to several important institutions, such as the Lumière Museum (where the cinematograph was invented by the Lumière brothers in 1895), the Textile Museum (which traces 2,000 years of textile history) and the Gadagne Museum, dedicated to puppets around the world and the history of the city. Time-honoured workshop of taste and innovation in the field of gastronomy, the city is overflowing with venues. From the traditional Bouchon Lyonnais, to the fifteen or so starred restaurants and centuries-old brasseries to international cuisine, there is something for all tastes and prices.

The Rhine, wines and Alsace

Alsace is a bilingual region on the border with Germany and Switzerland, crossed by the Rhine River and famous for its culinary specialities. The main natural attractions of the area are undoubtedly the Alsace plain and the huge Parc régional des Ballons des Vosges. Highlights include Strasbourg, with its picturesque Petite France district (UNESCO World Heritage Site), and the small medieval towns of Colmar, Eguisheim and Riquewihr, which are genuine architectural gems. A trip to Alsace must include a stop at the Écomusée d'Alsace, an unusual open-air museum in Ungersheim and the Castle of Haut-Koenigsbourg, between Obernai and Colmar. Two other important stops are the seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, and the Cité de l'Automobile in Mulhouse, the world's largest museum dedicated to cars. Alsace is also crossed by the famous Wine Route that runs from Marlenheim to Thann, parallel to the Rhine. Three of the best-known French wine varieties are produced in this region: Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Pinot gris. There is also no shortage of great traditional products on Alsatian tables, such as sauerkraut, flammkuchen and gugelhupf, a cake made with sultanas, almonds and cherry brandy.

Wild Camargue

This portion of land on the edge of the Mediterranean is a world away from the better-known Provence but the two regions are charmingly complementary. It may not feel like Europe but it is. Camargue is a strip of some 75,000 hectares of sand, marshes, ponds and rice paddies, an immense wild and unspoilt park, a riot of colour and untouched views, where humans still seem to be temporary guests. This is a place that speaks to the heart because of the harsh character of its nature and its inhabitants, who are still deeply attached to their traditions. It is not unusual to come across old ladies in traditional costumes, cowboy guardians donning black felt hats, flowery shirts and neck scarves or gipsies plucking on the strings of a guitar. There are many unmissable experiences, like admiring the typical pink flamingos that laze placidly in the ponds of the Parc Ornithologique du Pont de Gau or taking a long bike ride on the Digue à la Mer or a horseback ride on the white beaches at sunset. You can also watch a non-violent bullfight called a feria, held in Arles and Sainte-Marie de la Mer, one of the most beautiful towns in the area. The perfect end of a long day is a traditional meal with bull meat or fish dishes in one of the many mas in the area.