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Tips and Advise for visiting France by Road to Travel Inc.

Monday, November 16, 2015

What to do in the Champagne region in France

Despite its proximity to Paris, the Champagne-Ardenne region is not over-run by tourists. Hop on the TGV high-speed train and in 40 minutes you will see gentle hills covered with neat vineyards where some of the most famous French wines are made. Here is our list must-dos in the region.

Enjoy the bubbly

The area around Reims and Epernay is home to the top champagne houses. You can visit such grand producers as Veuve Clicquot, Krug, Moët & Chandon, Taittinger to learn how the sparkling wine is made, see the impressive ancient caves where the wine is matured and taste some precious bubbly. There are many small producers in Epernay, who also offer champagne tours and degustations in a more intimate atmosphere.

Discover a gem

The small town of Langres, in the south of the region, is often called the "Carcassonne of the North", although fewer tourists know about this beautiful place. The charming Langres is picture-perfect with its ancient ramparts, beautiful churches, elegant palaces and a slow pace of life. 

Chateau de Sedan
Visit Château de Sedan

The formidable early-15th century fort is the biggest in Europe. It covers covering an area of 35,000 square metres with some walls 30 metres thick. It has seen many battles and sieges and today houses a museum and hotel.

Watch birds at Lac du Der 

The largest artificial lake in Europe covering 19 square miles is an important area on the migration routes of water birds. Birdwatchers and nature enthusiasts from all over Europe come here to see spectacular flocks of cranes, geese, egrets. 

Le Park Restaurant
Enjoy fine dining

The region has some of France’s best restaurants. L’Assiette champenoise boasts three Michelin stars and offers an unforgettably delicious dining experience. For classic French cuisine head to the famous Le Parc, at the historic Les Crayères hotel, in Reims where you will be treated like a royal to an exquisite menu of veal, white truffles, sweetbreads and other delicacies.

Photos by: Krug/Facebook, Gerard Feron/Flickr, Château fort de Sedan/Facebook, Domaine Les Crayeres/Facebook.

Monte Carlo, the playground for the rich and famous

Chic boutiques, mega-yachts, fancy cars, opulent casinos, - all these and more can be found in Monte Carlo, the playground of for the rich and famous. However, you do not need to be of royal descent or a Hollywood star to enjoy the glitz and glamour of this tiny monarchy on the French Mediterranean coast. 

Port Hercule
Stroll along the Monte Carlo Harbour, Port Hercule, lined up with picturesque cliffs and docked mega-yachts of the super-rich where scenes for the James Bond movie GoldenEye were filmed. Above the harbour sits the spectacular royal palace, Palais du Prince, home of the Grimaldi dinasty for the last 700 years. It opens for public tours from June to October and guided tours of the luxurious state apartments are offered in various languages. In the palace, apart from opulent interiors you can also admire Prince Rainier III's collection of Antique cars, from horse-drawn carriages to classic and sport’s cars. Do not miss the ceremonial changing of the Monégasque Guard in front of the Palace daily at 11.55 am. Go for a leisurely wander in Monaco-Ville, the Old Town, to get lost in its charming cobbled streets and elegant palaces. Pop in to the imposing Cathédrale de Monaco where the modest grave of Princess Grace is.

Cathedrale de Monaco
There are five casinos in Monaco, but the most famous one is the lavishly decorated Casino de Monte Carlo. If you have some money to burn, it is a fascinating place to spend an evening! 
Monte Carlo is a great for quality shopping. High-end shiny boutiques sell big brands such as Hermes, Prada, Louis Vuitton, Yves Saint Laurent. In Boutique du Rocher (1, avenue de la Madone), opened by Princess Grace in 1966, you can score hand-embroidered tablecloths, artisan ceramics, and other locally crafted housewares. All proceeds from sales go to local charities. For luxury tableware and porcelain candy boxes with the Prince of Monaco's personal seal head to Manufacture de Monaco.

Chocolates from Chocolaterie de Monaco
At La Chocolaterie de Monaco, the official chocolate maker of Monaco since 1920, you will find delicious handmade chocolates with lavender and other beautifully packed local delicacies. 
For a relaxing aperitif, sit down at the Belle Époque Café de Paris with the Monte Carlo Imperial cocktail in hand and watch Bentleys, Maseratis and Lamborghinis whooshing past you.

Photos by: Salvatore Freni Jr/Flickr, Christian Teillas/Flickr, Chocolaterie de Monaco/Facebook.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Vallauris: Napoleon, Picasso and the bitter orange

Tucked inland between Cannes and Antibes the small town of Vallauris Golfe-Juan reveals its charm to those who are prepared to look beyond a few shabby buildings. 
For those in the know Vallauris is synonymous with Pablo Picasso who lived here for seven years. The artists moved here in 1948 to learn the secrets of local pottery makers who had been perfecting their craft since the 17th century.

Vallarius Golfe-Juan
Picasso single-handedly revived the dwindling craft as numerous visitors and artist friends followed him to this quiet backwater town to see and learn about the local art of ceramics. While in Vallauris, Picasso created a monumental work “War and Peace” that can be seen in the chapel of the Castle National Museum. Do not miss his other masterpiece, the bronze statue “Man with a Sheep” (“L'homme de mouton”) donated to the town. Walk along the avenue Georges Clemenceau to see lovely pottery shops and artisan workshops, some of which invite visitors to see how local ceramics are made.

Man with a Sheep by Picasso
Vallauris is also famous for the fragrant bitter orange that grows here. It is used for making delicious traditional jams and essential oil known as Néroli that is utilized in the French perfume industry. If you are visiting in May you can enjoy the local Orange blossom festival and see how the oil is made. Another colourful festival that is worth a visit is Fête des paysans in August during which decorated farm tracks take over the town’s streets.

Hstoric re-enactment in Golfe-Juan
A short walk from the old town is the seaside resort of Golfe-Juan with its beautiful sandy beaches where you can stroll or perfect your tan. This area is well known for being one of the warmest and most sheltered on the Mediterranean coast. Napoleon made this small corner of the Riviera part of the French history annals by disembarking here in March 1, 1815, intent on re-conquering France. Every year the locals remember that day in a spectacular historic re-enactment. 

Photos by: Florian Pépellin/CC, Ola Berglund/Flickr, Alessandro Baffa/Flickr.