1. Lavender fields of Provence
The luxurious aroma of lavender is world renowned for its calming properties, but no amount of bath gels or scented candles will ever truly bring that glorious fragrance to life. Have you ever walked through a field bursting with the gorgeous violet flowers in bloom, tossing their rich fragrance into the air? Have you touched the tiny velvety petals with your fingers, heard the bees buzzing as they flit from flower to flower, gazed upon an endless field of purples? If not, Provence in summer is the place for you.
Lavender fields in Provence are a true sensory delight. Photo Credit: Michael Blanchette / Flickr
2. Medieval hilltop towns
France is known for its stunning collection of gorgeous little medieval towns, often perched on hills and surrounded by breathtaking natural scenery. Take your pick from one of the dozens of little towns listed by the _Les Plus Beaux Villages de France _association for a visit – some of the most spectacular include Saint Cirque Lapopie, Rocamadour and Gordes.
No trip to France is complete without a visit to stunning medieval hilltop towns like Rocamadour. Photo Credit: Cees / Flickr
3. French Riviera
Don’t leave France without having laid eyes and body upon the golden beaches of the Côte d’Azur – which means Blue Coast in French (often referred to as the French Riviera in English). A glittering resort district, the French Riviera’s gorgeous beaches and crystal-clear seawaters are the playground of the rich and the beautiful – so don’t be surprised if you bump into celebrities, models, business moguls and other spectacular human beings in the sparkling coastal towns of Saint-Tropez or Cannes.
The sparkling waters and resort towns of the French Riviera await. Photo Credit: Anik Messier / Flickr
4. Ancient fortresses
Besides gorgeous medieval towns, the French also made their ancient citadels and castles creations of beauty as well as military might. Visit Carcassonne, one of the continent’s most famed medieval citadels and a UNESCO World Heritage site. The citadel has been standing for more than 2,000 years, but is one of the best-preserved, largest and most beautiful historic forts of Europe.
Explore the ancient fortress of Carcassonne, still standing after 2,000 years. Photo Credit: Jean-Marc 1976 / Flickr
5. River kayaking
Sometimes it isn’t enough just to gaze upon great natural beauty – one feels the urge to get involved in the scenery as well. If you’ve ever felt that weird pull to jump into the picture, scenic regions in France are perfect for you – there’s usually an activity to do there.
Head to either of the country’s stunning river gorges, the Gorges de l’Ardèche or Verdon Gorges (often known as the Grand Canyon of Europe) if you’re a lover of water sports. There, you can spend an idyllic day following the dreamy meander of a sparkling blue-green river in a kayak, going through deep canyons surrounded by lush greenery and steep rock cliffs. The occasional rock arch, waterfall and shimmering rock pool may make an appearance as well. Pull over to a sandy bank and hop into the clear water to cool off with a river bath.
Follow nature’s path through the Verdon Gorge in a kayak. Photo Credit: Kris.L / Flickr
6. Horseback ride in the Camargue
If France is the last place you’d associate with cowboys, then you’ll be surprised by the Camargue region. This vast river delta – the largest in Europe and a UNESCO biosphere reserve – is home to French Provencal cowboys (called gardians) as well as a native breed of indigenous white horse, specially adapted to survive in the wetlands and traditionally used to herd local cattle.
If images of flowing white manes and horseback rides in the water at sunset are now floating in your mind’s eye, well, your mind’s eye isn’t far from reality. Go for guided horseback tours through the expansive, ruggedly beautiful delta with a native gardian, and keep your eyes peeled for local wildlife like pink flamingoes and black bulls.
Explore the ruggedly beautiful Camargue river delta on native white horses, led by French cowboys. Photo Credit: hisdream / Flickr
7. Ski or hike on Mont Blanc
Start your adventure at the stunningly beautiful Chamonix, a small mountain town nestled in the valley at the foot of Mont Blanc. There you can grab cable cars up various sides of the mountain to access some of Europe’s most famous ski runs, crystal clear alpine lakes, panoramic viewing platforms, ice caves, glaciers and more.
Picture-perfect alpine beauty – the White Lake at Mont Blanc. Photo Credit: Bertrand Monney / Flickr
8. Parisian pâtisseries
No one does pastries quite like the French. To leave France without having tasted fragrant, crumbly baguettes and croissants fresh out the oven at one of Paris’ many charming pâtisseries would be a cardinal sin, so make sure a Parisian patisserie features somewhere in your itinerary.
It’s hard to go wrong even with the average streetside pâtisserie in Paris, but if you’re looking for a fool proof gastronomic option then head to Pierre Hermé for macarons. Famous for his seasonal creations that feature flavours you won’t see anywhere else, be warned – these tiny bites of heavenly taste and texture may haunt your dreams for years to come.
Don’t deprive your taste buds of the explosion of flavour each Pierre Herme macaron can give. Photo Credit: Nicole da Rosa / Flickr
9. Wine from local wine regions
After to-die-for pastries, continue the indulgence with France’s to-die-for wines. This is the country in which one can have a glass of Bordeaux wine in Bordeaux, and a glass of champagne in Champagne. With so many wine regions scattered around the country, wine lovers will be spoilt for choice – tasting tours are readily available in Alsace, Bordeaux, Reims, Burgundy, Champagne, Epernay and other major wine-producing areas.
Have a round of wine directly at the vineyards of wine regions like Epernay. Photo Credit: broadswordcallingdannyboy / Flickr
10. Bouillabaisse in Marseille
‘Bouillabaisse’ isn’t an easy dish to pronounce (it sounds a little like boo-yah-behs), but your tongue will be rewarded for the effort when this seafood stew arrives at your table. Made with French spices and multiple types of seafood (usually a combination of fish and shellfish), the intensely-flavoured bouillabaisse is one of Southern France’s most iconic dishes. Be sure to have a bowl of this delicious stew in Marseille, widely credited as its birthplace, before you depart France.
Don’t miss a steaming bowl of bouillabaisse in its native land, Marseille. Photo Credit: Mikiko Hara / Flickr