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3 Unique Festivals to See in France

When thinking of a journey to France, many travelers daydream of sipping wine under the Eiffel Tower, cruising in a boat along the French Riviera, or maybe touring some of the most enchanting castles in Europe. But there are also plenty of other reasons to set one’s sights on France. Several people visited to experience the riveting collection of festivals each that celebrate many french traditions. From mega art extravaganzas and world-class carnivals to music festivals you’ll have to see to believe, France is loaded with celebrations you will never forget.

Festival d’Avignon

Travelers can have breakfast in Paris, coffee in Lyon, and still be ready to hop right into the fun of Festival d’Avignon by lunchtime. This french festival is less than three hours by rail from Paris and only an hour south of Lyon. The gorgeous medieval city of Avignon is easily one of the best destinations in France. It is especially alive for three weeks in July during one of the oldest and respected arts festivals in the country. Since its birth back in the late-1940s, the festival has blossomed into a sprawling, multifaceted event. It features an astonishing range of different artistic expressions that appeals to several different appetites.

Theater and More

At the center of the festival, visitors turn up for plays and other live shows at the immense stone courtyard of the Palais de Papes. The Palais is the city’s iconic palace. It was the home of the Pope back in the 14th century and remains one of the city’s main attractions. Theater was one of the essential art forms in France during the festival’s conception. Different varieties of shows can be seen at dozens of different venues around Avignon during the festival. You’re likely to find more household names performing at the bigger events at the festival. However, actors from local theaters and independent artists perform on the streets.
Theater is not the only attraction at the festival either. There are plenty of musical and dance performances, art displays and film screenings. Despite its enormous size, however, Festival d’Avignon is actually easy to navigate for visitors. Most festivalgoers can walk to nearly all of the different performances spread around the city’s center. Festival producers also recommend the self-service bikes (vélopops), that will quickly get you from venue to venue. If you need a break from the festival, there are plenty of options to escape for the afternoon. You can take a day trip to the scenic village of Cabrières-d’Avignon to catch the stunning purple fields of lavender just before the close of the season.

Fete de la Musique

There are a handful of great Parisian festivals worth considering, including Paris Quartier d’été, Rock en Seine and Bastille Day. But you’ll also have a hard time topping the Fete de la Musique. This street-music festival that brings about 100,000 patrons to the streets and buildings of Paris on the summer solstice. What started as a small street-based festival in 1982 has grown into a phenomenon. It takes over not only the streets but public gardens, courtyards, and even some museums and churches. In short, there’s simply no containing musical expression, and all styles and genres of music are welcome.
Although the festival is mainly celebrated throughout France, similar events have popped up in other countries as well. However, Paris remains the place to be if you love vivacious music festivals. Designed to be an extremely inclusive experience, Fete de la Musique also encourages musicians of all different experience levels. This makes it a hot spot for undiscovered talent. Amateur musicians will often find a crowd and break out into spontaneous performances. Whether you come to captivate those around you or to be captivated, the Fete de la Musique is a place that inspires musicians and spectators alike.
If you miss the Fete de la Musique but are still hoping for a festival experience, try the Paris Quartier d’été. During the summer, it showcases a terrific range of art forms and is another excellent chance to see Paris from a fresh perspective.

Carnival de Nice

The Nice Carnival has existed since around the 1290s. Each year, the beautiful city of Nice into astonishing displays of extravagant parades. The carnival is a testament to the artistic soul at the heart of the city and an excellent excuse to see one of the gems of the French Riviera. Taking place from mid-February to the early part of March. The carnival includes a renowned flower parade, various light parades, and a very popular parade dedicated to the main theme of the carnival.
Many of the top parades also take place right within the parameters of the Place Masséna. Place Masséna is Nice’s famous city square that hosts a variety of different public events during the year. Jaw-dropping artistry and intricate floats dominate the carnival. Each year the goal is to top the spectacle of the previous year. Throughout the two weeks of the carnival, the city of Nice carries a party atmosphere. There is an influx of both locals and visitors pouring in from all over for the main events.
If you need a breather from the crowds, there are a variety of different beaches to visit and seaside walks like the Promenade des Anglais. Although you won’t see too many brave swimmers in the water in late-February, the city’s temperate climate still make the beaches extremely inviting. With centuries-old traditions and endlessly clever slate of rolling artworks The Nice Carnival is a must see.

Other terrific festivals worth considering

If you want to be entertained, France is sure to have a festival that’s up your alley. World-famous events like the Cannes International Film Festival are well worth the effort and certainly live up to the hype. However, there are many other ways to delve into the festival circuit. Anyone looking to dive headfirst into a terrific French tradition, the Bastille Day celebrations on July 14 are an amazing display of cultural pride. While the summer is full of great festivals throughout France, winter stands out. Winter festivals in France like Lyon’s Festival of Lights in December and a major carnival in Menton in February are also great celebrations to experience.
Choosing the right festival can be the perfect way to upgrade your French vacation and allow you to stray away from the guidebook. The biggest problem you’re likely to have is that you’re going to want to come back again next year.
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Germany Destination Guide—Tips and Highlights

With medieval castles, baroque churches, and picturesque villages, Germany boasts a vibrant historical legacy. Germany exemplifies natural beauty, culture, history and art. Here’s a destination guide for your trip to Germany.

Top Highlights of Germany

With over 2 millennia of history, Germany is one of the world’s most dominant economic powers, whose cultural influence has shaped the European landscape. One of the top attractions of Germany is the Bavarian countryside, home to the 19th-century fairytale Neuschwanstein Castle. The Bavarian region also houses Germany’s most popular auto touring route, the Romantic Road, weaving through spa towns like Baden-Baden, and well-preserved medieval towns like Rothenburg ob der Tauber.
Two of Germany’s most outstanding cathedrals are located roughly an hour away from each other. One of Europe’s largest cathedrals, the Cologne Cathedral is a stunning example of High Gothic architecture. It is also Germany’s most visited landmark. Built by Emperor Charlemagne, the Aachen cathedral served as the seat of coronation for 31 German kings and 12 queens. It is known for its exquisite mosaics decorated with gold leaf and precious stones.
Museumsinsel (Museum Island) is easily one of Germany’s top destinations. Located in Berlin, it is home to some of Germany’s oldest museums such as the Pergamon and the Neues Museum. Visitors can admire unique treasures including the bust of Queen Nefertiti, the Ishtar Gate of Babylon, as well as the world’s largest collection of Etruscan art.

Geographical Landscape

Being Europe’s seventh largest country, Germany’s geography is extremely variegated and diverse. Towards the north lies the North European Plain, characterized by flat, low lying areas filled with bogs, rivers and streams. It is now used predominantly for agriculture.
The coastline along the North Sea is full of marshes, wetlands, mudflats and islands. But Germany’s largest island Rugen is found off the Baltic Sea coastline. The area is a lot hillier than the North Sea coastline and has many steep and jagged cliffs.
During the last Ice Age, the glaciers retreated extensively, leaving behind dry and sandy terrain and a great number of small lakes. Lying south of Berlin, this topography rises to form giant landforms such as the volcanic Harz Mountains, the forested Rothaargebirge Mountains, and the Rhine River Valley.
The Rhine River is Germany’s longest river. At the southwestern border of the Rhine River with France lies the Black Forest. The river Danube rises in the Black Forest, travels across central Europe, and ends in the Black Sea.
Along the southern border with Austria, the highest mountains of Germany are found, the Bavarian Alps. Germany’s highest point, Zugspitze, is also found here.

Things To Know Before Visiting Germany

Best Time to Visit

While May through September is peak tourist season, the best time to visit Germany for those seeking the outdoors and less crowds is April and October. Winter is also popular for its beautiful Christmas markets and alpine skiing adventures.

Weather

Germany has a temperate seasonal climate characterized by warm summers and mild winters. Rainfall occurs throughout the year, more prominently in the summers.

Languages Spoken

The official language of Germany is German, but most locals study English as their foreign language of choice. French is also a common second foreign language.

Currency

Germany’s official currency is the euro. Germany is one of the most cash-intensive countries in the world. From parking and gas stations to museums and restaurants, cash is the preferred and sometimes the only mode of payment.

Electricity

The electrical sockets in Germany are of type F. The standard voltage is 230 V, while the standard frequency is 50 Hz. If traveling from the US, visitors will need a combined power plug adapter and a voltage converter.

Traveling around

Germany is known for its extensive and efficient public transportation. The high-speed trains can cost a bit, and it is recommended to book in advance or opt for the slower, intercity trains. Visitors have to both pay and validate their tickets. There is €60 fine for not doing so. Note that while there is no security personnel or gate at train station entrances, there are ticket checkers in plain clothes.
The widespread train network means that visitors can explore the other wonders of Germany. While big cities like Berlin and Munich attract the most crowds, Germany is a country of many treasures. With a valid EU driver’s license or International Driving License, visitors can also choose to rent a car and hit the beautiful countryside and historic towns.

Visitor Facilities

Like many countries in Europe, toilets in Germany are pay-to-use. Pay toilets average around 0.50 to 1 euros. It is also not uncommon to find attendants of the opposite gender in the toilets.

Opening Hours

Germany has some of the strictest laws in Europe regarding opening hours. While eateries like cafes and restaurants are open throughout the week, other places like stores, supermarkets and pharmacies are closed on Sunday. This concept of making ‘taking a day off’ a legal requirement is dear to the Germans, who call it ‘Ruhetag’ (resting day).

Respect the Rules

Germans are known for following the rules. Behavior which is common in other countries (example: jaywalking, cutting in line, arriving late, etc.) will earn tourists disapproving looks and nods.

Food

Germany is the ideal destination to try unique cuisines. German dishes are traditionally heavy in meats, sugar and breads. Local favorites include schnitzel (breaded and fried veal), weisswurst (white sausage), apfelstrudel (apple strudel), currywurst (grilled sausage), spargel (white asparagus), and Schwarzwälder kirschtorte (Black Forest cake).

Oktoberfest

Held every year in Munich, Oktoberfest is the world’s most popular beer festival. The huge beer halls, most famous of which is the Hofbräuhaus, attract tourists from all over the world. Men and women are dressed in Bavarian Lederhosen and Dirndl, and there is live music, parades, and traditional German cuisine.

Christmas Markets

Dating back to the Late Middle Ages, Christmas markets radiate the festive spirit of the holiday season. The beautifully decorated stalls are lined with local handicrafts and woodwork such as the famous nutcracker. Visitors can also savor German beer, as well as the delicious aromas of baked goods like stollen (fruit bread) and lebkuchen (gingerbread). There are more than 150 markets in Germany alone, but the Christkindlesmarkt of Nuremberg and the Striezelmarkt in Dresden are the most popular.
Germany is a country whose roots travel far beyond the Middle Ages. The landscape is steeped in history, as reflected in its many museums, monuments, and squares. It is also a country of natural beauty as can be witnessed in the green valleys of the Rhine River and the majestic snowy caps of the Alps. It is also a country of wonderful cultural traditions, as can be savored in locally brewed beer, delicious cuisine, and handcrafted woodwork, textiles, and pottery. All of this together makes Germany one of the top destinations in the world.

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5 Festivals in France You’ll Never Forget

France offers visitors an abundance of urban sophistication, pastoral beauty, and cultural attractions. If you want to make the most of your trip, you can time it to coincide with one of the country’s many exciting festivals. France has quite a few festivals throughout the year, some famous and others not so well known. The following are some suggestions for attending France’s most fascinating festivals.

Cannes Film Festival (May)

The Cannes Film Festival is probably France’s best-known festival. While dedicated to featuring the world’s best new cinematic releases, it’s also a place where you can experience the beauty of the South of France, and possibly spot some celebrities—not only from the movie industry but all walks of life. If you want to attend, make your plans well in advance. It’s best to arrive a day or two early. That way you can fly into Nice (or, if you prefer, take the train from Paris) and arrive before things get too hectic. You can also fit in some sightseeing around Nice before the festival.
When attending Cannes, your location is crucial. Some people book their hotels or Airbnb outside of town to save money. This is a viable strategy for visiting this region any other time of year. Although be aware of traffic during the festival which can be intense and you could spend a good portion of the day commuting back to screenings and other events. Finding a room close to the Palais so you can walk to everything is the ideal option.
The Cannes Film Festival is a glamorous industry event. If you’re not part of the movie world, you won’t be admitted to exclusive events such as screenings and parties. Fortunately, there are also quite a few events that are open to the public that makes going to Cannes during this time worth the trouble. For example, there are outdoor screenings at the Cinema de la Plage on the beach where you can enjoy some great movies. The Cannes Film Festival typically runs for a week in at the end of May.

Paris Fringe (October)

Fall is one of the best times to visit Paris, and if you’re there in October, Paris Fringe is one of the city’s most entertaining festivals. This is one of France’s newer traditions, with the annual festival in mid-October. The concept is an amalgamation of art forms, including theater, music, comedy, and visual arts. The emphasis is on the creative and experimental, making this the ideal place to encounter up-and-coming artists of all kinds. While the festival spills out into the streets throughout the city, the center is at the Théâtre de Verre in the 19th arrondissement.
Paris Fringe was conceived as an international festival, so there are events in multiple languages with the majority of performances in English. The concept of the Fringe festival started in Edinburgh in the 1940s. There are now fringe festivals in major cities around the world, including New York, Amsterdam, and Sydney. The vibrancy and cultural diversity of Fringe, however, fits perfectly into the landscape of Paris.
What’s nice about Paris Fringe is that it’s an informal festival with many free events happening all around the city. There are quite a few reasonably priced performances, workshops, and talks that are worth the extra cost. Thus, even if you don’t reserve tickets, you can still enjoy the festival as you explore the city.

Chablis Wine Festival (November)

For wine lovers, a trip to France is a pilgrimage where you can sample some of the world’s most renowned wines. Chablis has been producing wine since the village was settled by monks centuries ago. The Chablis Wine Festival, a tradition since 1949, takes place in a town famous for creating wine. In addition to sampling many varieties of Chablis, you can enjoy a variety of events and celebrations. You’ll have a chance to learn more about the wine-making process, taste the latest vintages, and sample some of the region’s distinctive cuisine at food stalls and local restaurants.
Chablis, in the scenic Burgundy region of France, is a beautiful destination any time of year. In addition to attending the festival, you can explore the quaint medieval town and many local wineries. There are also some nearby towns worth visiting, such as Auxerre and Noyers.

Rock En Seine (August)

If you want to hear some of the leading rock stars of today along with thousands of others, head to the Rock en Seine festival in Château de Saint-Cloud’s Park, near Paris. This festival, which debuted in 2003, has grown into one of Europe’s largest and hippest annual music events. It’s typically at the end of August and is expected to attract more than 100,000 fans.
You can attend Rock en Seine for one, two or three days. One-day tickets sell for between 39€ and 59€. A three-day pass is 139€. Because the festival is right outside Paris, you can easily commute by bus, Metro, or car from the city. If you want to stay more than a day, you also have the option of camping on the festival site.

Festival of Lights in Lyon (December)

If you’re fortunate enough to be visiting France during the holiday season, the annual Festival of Lights in Lyon is a must-see in early December. While this longstanding tradition revolves around the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, you don’t have to be religious to appreciate the spectacular lights and festivities that last for four nights. This is a citywide festival that you can enjoy as you wander around Lyon.
The city is lit by a colorful mixture of candles and lights from homes and shops and professional installations created by artists from around the world. The festival dates back to 1852. Today, it’s thoroughly modernized by laser shows and multimedia art shows. Some especially impressive places to watch the lights are St. John’s Cathedral and the Bartholdi Fountain.
Lyon is another destination that has lots to offer aside from the festival. Often considered France’s second major city, it rivals Paris in beauty and cultural sophistication. One of the highlights of Lyon is a cathedral that rivals Notre Dame in Paris, the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere. Wine enthusiasts will want to explore the nearby Beaujolais wine growing region. The Festival of Lights is the perfect way to get into the holiday spirit as you explore the attractions of Lyon.
These are some of the most exciting festivals you can find in France. Whether you’re a fan of music, movies, theater, wine, or fantastic light displays, there’s a festival to suit your tastes. As long as you’re planning a trip to France, why not include one of these festivals in your itinerary.

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Best Easy French Mussels Recipe

French mussels not in your normal dinner rotation? It should be, and with this easy French Mussels recipe, you’ll bring the taste of France straight to your dinner table faster than you can say fantastique! Here is my take on Moules Marinières—French Mussels in white wine sauce. It’s a super easy recipe that is super delicious, plus I’ll give you a recipe hack to make it even easier.
Don’t be intimidated by this mussels recipe at all. You’ll feel like a true french chef and your dinner guests will be delighted (and you’ll be delighted at how easy it was).
This meal is a wonderful choice for a summer evening paired with a Sauvignon Blanc (I prefer Sancerre, but it’s up to you!). Give it a try and leave a comment about how it turned out or what your guests thought.

The Jist

Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Difficulty: Easy-peasy
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh Mussels
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 scallions
  • 4 tablespoons European-style Butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • 2 vine-ripened tomatoes
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh parsley, chopped, 1/2 cup
  • Crusty french bread
  • 2 cups dry white wine (I prefer Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1 small can tomato paste & a dash of heavy cream
  • Hack: you can use about a half cup of tomato-cream pasta sauce or vodka sauce instead of the tomato paste & heavy cream

Preparation

Step 1: Finely mince the onion, scallions and garlic, keeping the garlic separate.
Step 2: Dice the tomatoes into small pieces
Step 3: Wash and de-beard the mussels.
Step 4: Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

Cooking

Step 1: Take half the butter and melt in a saucepan at medium-high heat; add the onion and scallions and saute for 5 minutes until translucent, stirring to prevent them from browning.
Step 2: Add the garlic to the saucepan and stir into the mixture. Saute for another minute.
Step 3: Add the mussels, tomatoes, white wine, garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.
Step 4: Add the remaining butter, tomato paste and healthy dash of heavy cream to give just a bit of body to the sauce (you can substitute your favorite tomato-cream pasta sauce or vodka sauce here instead).
Step 4: Saute for 15 minutes until all of the mussels have opened, then add a few squeezes of lemon juice and stir.
Step 5: With about 5 minutes left on the mussels, pop the bread into the oven on a sheet tray to warm.
Serving: There are several ways to serve this dish. I usually serve straight from the saucepan. Alternatively, you can place in a large bowl, or plate the mussels and sauce with slices of warm french bread to sop up all of the delicious tomato wine sauce.
There you have it, French Mussels in white wine sauce, my take on Moules Marinières.
Bon appetit.

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Bordeaux, France Beyond Wine

One visit to Bordeaux and I am hooked. Even if the vineyards disappeared, the chateaux dotting the countryside vanished and the wine merchants across the city center started hocking imported American Cabs, Bordeaux might still be my favorite city in France, if not the entire world.
To the uninitiated, the simple six-letter word France evokes images of love, wine, and food. Young couples kissing on the Eiffel Tower and rolling countryside hills of golden wheat. All of that is true and I’ve probably seen too many couples who think social norms need not apply simply because they’re in France.
To those who truly love wine, not just drinking it, but knowing it, each region of France has its own lifetime of secrets to uncover. From the famed Loire Valley to the lesser known Jura, France, food, wine, and love are synonymous. For me, you can’t top a chilled glass of Sancerre on a warm spring day, but for most, the Bordeaux region of France sits like the Sun King inspired by the heavens, on top of them all.
When you say Bordeaux, you may be referring to the wine producing region in the southwest of France made up of several towns and villages surrounding the cultural and economic hub of Bordeaux. For today though, I’m referring to the actual city of Bordeaux. It has that certain feeling for me that it is just meant to be. Going beyond the wine, you’ll find that Bordeaux is a city with rich culture, incredible architecture, with a vibe that I’ll call Continental-Casual: comfortable, but just sophisticated enough to remember where you are.
In short, it is the amazement of Paris, without the hype. It is the good kind of crowd, the kind that only pops up in places where you want one. This is my Bordeaux, but here’s a secret, it can be your Bordeaux too. Maybe even our Bordeaux?

Getting to Bordeaux

Arriving to Bordeaux is easy enough. The airport receives air service from most major European hubs (Paris, Amsterdam, London, etc.). I last arrived by train after a few days’ stopover in Paris and found it to be the best experience. From Paris’ Montparnasse station to Bordeaux St-Jean, it is about a two hour and fifteen-minute journey, just enough time for a snack, or for me, a snack and a cocktail. The French TGV is efficient and the countryside views and brief chats with the overwhelmingly local crowd on board made for a really enjoyable journey. Once you arrive, there are taxis waiting outside of the station to take you to your hotel, apartment rental, river cruise ship or anywhere else you may want to go.
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Word of warning: pay attention when your departure time nears. They only give you about ten minutes from announcing your train platform number until the train begins chugging away from the station. Don’t miss it!

Loving Life Like The French

Bordeaux offers a wealth of options to pass the day, but on my first day (in almost any city), I find there are generally two things I like to do and Bordeaux had me covered either way I choose: get a lay of the scene hanging out for a spell at a local cafe or restaurant or hitting the local market—the very best way to immediately immerse yourself in local living. Call me nosey, weird, or even a culinary voyeur, but I find that a stroll through a market examining the contents of the shopping baskets tells me more about local life and the differences from my hometown than almost anything else.
Today though, cafe first. Bordeaux has loads of spots to just sit, be present, and watch the people. Whether you’re traveling alone, as a couple, or in a group, a street-side cafe table at Le Regent on Place de la Comedie is a fine spot to get your bearings. Many years ago, during my first visit, I discovered that ‘un cafe’ in France is not a coffee. It is essentially an espresso, served in a small cup, black with no cream or sugar, and simply wonderful. (Note: for a full espresso ask for ‘Un café serré‘).

Enjoying my table at Le Regent, I pass an hour or so, enjoying conversation and the sights of French living. Just across the street is Opéra National de Bordeaux, a charming square with shoppers strolling along, and just a few steps in the other direction, the mouth of the famed Rue Sainte-Catherine—the longest shopping street in Europe.

Visit Bordeaux’s Rue Sainte-Catherine

A few tourists dot the immense crowd of this famed street, but generally, it appears to be mostly locals. As the economic hub of the region, the French version of the county seat if you will, many inhabitants from surrounding towns make their way into Bordeaux for shopping. There are a lot of people on the street, a lot, but somehow it doesn’t feel too crowded. This is one of those good kinds of crowds.
My first stop is Galleries Lafayette, a French department store. Similar to visiting the local market, department stores are like a looking glass into the culture of everyday life. I peruse the men’s department and make a few mental notes of what may be fashionable back home – in two or three years. Moving on to the homewares, I’m delighted to find an entire display of different varieties of foie gras, a fattened duck or goose liver, and wonder why they don’t sell foie gras back home at my local Target (dear Target legal department, no need to respond, I know why you don’t sell it, but it is delicious).
And we’re moving, I step back onto the busy street and make way past a cool variety of international fashion labels, local specialty merchants, and yes a few American fast food joints. Rue Sainte-Catherine is a street buzzing with activity and you can spend several hours just walking around watching the families do their shopping.  Little vein-like streets and alleys jut off Rue Sainte-Catherine to the left and right and I duck into one to see what kind of trouble I can find.

Trying to Get A Little Bit Lost

Bordeaux is the kind of place you can wander the streets and find it pretty hard to get lost, as long as you remember which way the river is. Trying to get a little bit lost is a great way to explore the city. Off Rue Sainte-Catherine I head west on Rue des Trois-Conils and wander in a short zigzag, spotting what I soon discover to be the spire of Cathédrale Saint-André de Bordeaux. Constructed about 1,000 years ago, the Romanesque cathedral sits and watches over much of Bordeaux. Still in use today, the Cathedral is a great landmark to regain your bearings. I meander through the city, stopping occasionally to pop into a store or two, generally without agenda or care in the world. This is what is meant to be living in France and all in all, a great way to spend an afternoon.

Marches des Quais

It’s Sunday and that means market day in Bordeaux. The smell of freshly baked bread will lure you in, and then, you see it and you’re hooked. Along the banks of the Garonne River atop a recently revitalized river walk, over 70 vendors display the many fruit of the land and sea. Cheese from local producers, oysters and other ocean delights fresh from the mouth of the Garonne River where it meets the Atlantic Ocean, simmering escargot, a merry-go-round of fresh and smoked meats, fresh produce and Caneles, a decidedly fantastic Bordeaux pastry creation made with rum and vanilla that has a caramelized crust with a soft and tender custard center.
Check out this great, easy recipe for French Mussels in white wine sauce inspired by most recent visit to France.
I enjoy a plate of fresh oysters with lemon and baguette capped with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The sun is shining, the merchants are friendly, and the crowd of locals and tourists are smiling (and eating and drinking). What’s not to love? At one of the boulangerie carts offering an amazing assortment of breads and pastries, I chat with Appoline in half broken-French mixed with English and learn that her family has been in the baking business for over 100 years. Well Appoline, it shows. If you are lucky enough to visit Bordeax on a Sunday, the Marche des Quais is your must-stop destination. Explore the market and you’ll find your own treasure—that I can promise you.

Bordeaux is to France as Tuscany is to Italy

bordeaux_landscape_worldviaPop culture elevates Tuscany to be the romantic, wandering Neverland that all of us should aspire to set foot to its gravel roads at least once in our lives. Tuscany is terrific and the many books and movie portrayals don’t have it entirely wrong, but I think over the coming years you’ll hear more about the little big city of Bordeaux. I’ll go out on a limb here and say to you that before you leave this spinning rock for the farmer’s market in the sky, be Bordelais at least once.
For more on the sights and experiences in and around Bordeaux, check out the upcoming articles on Bordeaux’s Architecture and History, and Local Events.

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The Top Romantic Getaways Around France Outside of Paris

Romantic France Getaways Outside of Paris

Here’s a guide to three of the best regions outside of Paris to consider for an unforgettable romantic excursion.

The Underrated Masterpiece of Colmar

Only a couple hours by train from either Paris or Zurich, Colmar is an eye-popping collaboration of European traditions that is extremely easy to fall in love with. Thanks to its canal-spanning bridges, vintage houses lining the waterways, and pristinely preserved old town area, you could easily think that you’re in Amsterdam or Bruges, but the picturesque village also has a unique persona of its own. It’s even the centerpiece of the scenic Alsatian wine region, offering plenty of worthwhile day trips scattered throughout the area.
But it all starts in the historic old town, a quaint village center loaded with half-timbered houses that seem transported from a storybook. Whether you mainly get around by water taxi, bike, or by foot, the rows of little shops and cafés give off a classical European vibe and you can easily get happily lost wandering the old town area without any sort of actual plan. As a town that was part of Germany for a stretch in the 19th century as well as during WWII, Colmar showcases a unique hybrid of French and Germanic food and culture, which is perfect for hopping around sipping cocktails or eating local delicacies like cheese croquettes and tarte flambee.
There are also plenty of landmarks to see as well, starting with the Unterlinden Museum. Formerly a medieval convent, the beautiful Unterlinden has a collection of some of the finest modern art in the country and is actually one of the most visited museums in all of France (outside of Paris). The cobbled streets of Colmar will lead you to other architectural standouts like the Maison Pfister building, the Renaissance-influenced House of Heads, and old-fashioned street fountains that add a little extra character. Colmar is also an ideal place for a day trip into wine country, where you can sip the flavors of the renowned Alsace region and visit other visually sumptuous medieval villages like Riquewihr and Eguisheim.

A Wealth of Things to do in Dordogne

Good luck trying to narrow down your list when you get to Dordogne, a breathtaking region in southwest France that seems tailor-made for romantic excursions. An easy starting point is the Chateau de Beynac, an elevated 12th-century fortress that looks down over the Dordogne River and curvy green countryside. Even if perusing centuries-old frescoes, tapestries, and dungeons isn’t your idea of romanticism, the cozy surrounding village of Beynac is filled with classically French restaurants and little shops that will take you to a different era. Beynac’s preserved architectural wonders and timeless vibe has also been captured in several prominent Hollywood films, including Chocolat and the Dustin Hoffman version of The Joan of Arc Story.
Only an hour by car from Beynac, Brantome is another couples favorite complete with quiet canals and stone-arch bridges that have brought comparisons to Venice. A relaxing cruise or kayaking session along the River Donne is one of the best ways to tap the scenery in the area, as you’ll see long stretches of forests that are deep green in the spring and summer and flushed with orange and red in the fall. And for the true romantics, a night’s stay on the banks of the Dronne at the ivy-coated Moulin de L’Abbaye – a converted 16th-century mill – is all you need to capture the mood. Founded by Charlemagne more than a millennium ago, Brantome’s small village feel and gorgeous vantage points make it a must-stop for anyone heading to Dordogne.

The Lavender Fields and Quiet Scenery of the Luberon

Come to the Sénanque Abbey (Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque) in the middle of summer and you’ll see flowing fields of deep purple lavender to go with one of the most peaceful and scenic lands in the Luberon region in the south of France. Founded in the mid-12th century as a Cistercian abbey, Sénanque has some ancient charm on the interior and is perfect for having a picnic lunch in the serene valley that surrounds the main building. Onsite, monks can be seen tending to honeybees as well as to the lavender fields, which exude a deliciously sweet smell during the peak of the season.
Those who can’t get enough of the great outdoors also might want to try Roussillon, where you can find immaculate hiking and biking trails to explore. The dramatic orange and red cliffs of the Ochre Trail bring visitors from all over the world, making it an excellent opportunity to escape with a loved one for some of the best views in the Luberon. The Parcours de L’Art is another worthy hiking trail to try out and the very small town of Roussillon also has some nice stops on its own, including a couple of beloved art galleries run by local artists.

Other Amazing Sites Worth Considering

Sitting in eerie isolation atop the sprawling mudflats in Normandy, Mont Saint-Michel is a national treasure and one of the most visited places in France. Not only is a visit to the famous abbey worth your time but the area also is an amazing place to simply walk around and enjoy the unique scenery of the northwest coast of France. For romantically inclined travelers who love architecture, a trip to Bordeaux can be a once-in-a-lifetime getaway thanks to its long list of impressive historic landmarks scattered throughout the city. Meanwhile, the scenic vineyards, the beautiful country chateaux, and the group of quaint old villages of the Loire Valley make the area another great spot for romance.
While there’s certainly no reason for a couple to avoid Paris, anyone who gets an opportunity to explore the rest of the country has a nearly endless carousel of opportunities to see why France is considered the pinnacle of romantically-tinged travel.