France is charming class. It’s the immaculate lady crossing the street in Paris, it’s the cities and landscape that grace thousands of films, the monuments that proudly define a skyline, needing no introduction. It’s the lavender fields and vineyards tended by proud countrymen where the mountains creep down to meet the sapphire Mediterranean sea. It’s the chic beach resorts mixed with cobblestone villages, perfectly kept, harking back to a time of glamour and sophistication. It’s the effortless grace in which the French pour a wine, drink a coffee, discuss a painting in the Louvre. France is a culture that has been spellbinding visitors with her “je ne sais quoi” for centuries. Let us plan your trip to France!
“It is not what France gave you but what it did not take from you that was important.”Gertrude Stein
Before You Go to France
Most major international airports and airlines (Air France, Delta, American, KLM) offer flights that go directly to Paris, and from Paris, there are plenty of daily flights into the country’s regional airports such as Nice, Marseille, Lyon and more.
The country is well-connected by fast trains (TGV) making major distances between cities extremely easy and comfortable. We consider France a very safe “self-driving” country as there is so much to see in the various countrysides, but we can also provide English-speaking, well knowledge drivers should you prefer to just watch the scenery and not the road.
France is made of many distinct regions that include the sea/ocean on three sides, three major mountain ranges, incredible canyons to explore, so many cheeses we lost count! As fans of the slow travel movement, we recommend giving yourselves the right amount of time to enjoy each destination. For example, you could easily spend a week in Paris and still just touch of surface of all it has to offer. If you plan to combine Paris with our French destinations, do make sure to allow a minimum of 3 full days in the City of Lights just to get a taste. First-timers should consider adding on Normandy and Burgundy as a Northern France experience (10 days minimum) or head south to the Provencal countryside and finish up on the French Riviera (14 days preferably). For wine lovers, don’t forget the lovely city of Bordeaux and its surrounding varietals, not to mention its easy proximity to the western coastal towns of Biarritz and St. Jean de Luz. Children and romantics alike will enjoy a few days in the Loire Valley castle region. These are all great add ons for 3-day/2 night experiences.
Many people take a trip to France for its eno-gastronomic pleasures alone. There are over 200 indigenous wine varieties–from the well-known Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon to very rare grapes like Prunelard and Savagnin, and more than 300 official wine label names. The top 5 wine regions include Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Loire Valley, and Alsace. As for food, you have choices ranging from locally produced, seasonal dishes from the farm kitchen up to the very best of “haute cuisine”, boasting the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurants in the world.
No visas are necessary for North Americans to travel to France for less than 90 days.
When You Go
As the saying goes, “It is always a good time to visit Paris” and so much can be said for a good chunk of the rest of the country. It all depends on what you are looking for. Paris is a year-round destination (even flurries in February cannot stop one from enjoying its museums, restaurants and architecture) and usually a must for any first-time trip to France. It is also truffle season which can be enjoyed throughout the country. The spring brings out the best of weather and is the perfect time to visit the countryside before the high season begins. July and August are peak seasons and can be quite hot and muggy depending on where you go, but if you enjoy the ritzy crowds and beach hedonism. it is a “must” for visiting the Riviera. Fall leads you into mild temperatures, hearty food and wine harvest season.
Where You’ll Stay
Take your pick! There are accommodations for everyone’s taste and budget, although, at BVT, we concentrate on the formidable principles of charm, comfortable, location and of course, that extra special touch of French ambiance. There are still many wonderful guesthouses perfectly situated in the rural areas of the country. Wake up in a castle if you like, enjoy the rustic elegance of a “mas” or “bastide” in the Provençal countryside or go with the absolute TOP with world-class hotels in Paris, Saint Tropez, Biarritz, the Alps and beyond.
Memories You’ll Make
- Art at its finest – The museums to visit are endless (the Louvre, D’Orsay, L’Orangerie, Centre Pompidou, Versailles, Musée Picasso, Musée de Cluny – and that’s just a few in Paris!). But imagine doing so with your own private guide after hours and/or VIP entrance allowing for an intimate experience allowing you to soak up the detail, history and passion of each piece of art you visit.
- Taste the Wine — Along with our hand-picked local wine experts and sommeliers, visit the best known cellars in France, vineyards and wineries of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, or enjoy a whole new breed of varieties by touring Bandol, Belet, Languedoc and Jura.
- Make a Pilgrimage to Mont Saint-Michel – Soaring above its perch on a rocky island off the Normandy coastline, the Abbaye du Mont-Saint-Michel appears as if a vision from heaven. The village and abbey can be done as a (long) private day trip from Paris, but we recommend combining it with a stay in Normandy, leading us to…
- Learn a chunk of WWII history in Normandy – World War II’s successful Operation Overlord took place on the Normandy coast. Although there were heavy Allied casualties, this invasion turned the tide in the war and helped lead to the fall of Nazi Germany. Today this 50-mile piece of coastline includes Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah beaches, collectively known as the D-Day Beaches. Our local guides can give you a history lesson not to be forgotten visiting a number of these landmarks along with museums, memorials and cemeteries that are spread out alongside the coastline. Again, this can be done as a day trip from Paris, but the region of Normandy has so much to discover, we suggest a minimum of 3 full days here.
- The “Sweetness” of Paris – One simply cannot visit the city without experiencing its finest mouth-watering sweets and with our local food exerts and guides, it will be a heavenly gastronomic affair! Explore charming neighbourhoods by foot while devouring local delights ranging from macarons to éclairs, from “gaufre” to pain au chocolat. Your tummy will be happy you did!
- Get Lost in Provence – We affectionately refer to “getting lost” as truly a way to stop programming and start experiencing. The classic villages and winding roads of the Luberon and the Alpilles are the perfect place for this. Whether you do some wine tasting or market visits along the way, the Provençcal countryside will lead you to a slower pace of French life allowing you to soak up the local atmosphere at an “escargot” pace. Our favorite places and sites include Gordes, Saint Remy, Les Baux, Carrières de Lumières, the lavender fields at Sénanque Abbey, the red village of Roussilon, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Market, Sainte-Victoire mountain and the Pope’s Palace in Avignon.
- Stroll through the Charming Old Quarters of Paris – There are several incredibly charming neighbourhoods to explore in the City of Lights and with our private guides it takes the experience to another level. The Quartier Latin, the Île Saint-Louis, and Le Marais and Montmartre are charming neighborhoods, where you can soak up the ambience of old-world Paris.
- French cuisine done right – We choose Burgundy and Nice as two of our favorite learning spot! Cooking classes provide an immersion into the Burgundian lifestyle and culture, with visits to local markets to shop for ingredients, instruction in preparing traditional specialties, and then savoring the delicious meals. We are also partial to our market tour and cooking class in the heart of Nice’s old town with our very special local expert and chef.
- Swim in the heavenly “Calanques” – Straddled between the city of Marseille and the seaside village of Cassis, no visit to the South of France would not be complete without a private boating tour through the idyllic calanques (creeks) of Sormiu, Sugiton and Morgiou. Surrounded by turquoise water, the smell of pine trees and the sounds of the cicadas, you’ll loose yourself in the magical natural beauty of corner of paradise.
- Bike Bordeaux – The Bordeaux region boasts some of the most attractive scenery in France: vine-covered rolling hills, grandiose castles, and quaint historic villages. Cyclists (from beginners to professional level) can enjoy a plethora of cycling itineraries with our private biking guides. Recommended routes include the Roger Lapebie bike path in the Entre-deux-Mer region for its lush natural landscape and the 50-kilometer ride (done in a couple of days) from Bordeaux to Saint-Émilion, a beautiful pastoral village that is designated on the UNESCO World Heritage List because of its historic monasteries and churches plus and the 29-kilometer route from Bordeaux to Margaux, a village known for its gastronomy.
France Itineraries for Inspiration
We invite you to peruse our sample itineraries for your next trip to France, which can be fine-tuned to your travel wishes…