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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Les Trois Glorieuses wine auction in Beaune, Burgundy

Every year, on the third weekend of November, the pretty town of Beaune, Burgundycelebrate one of the most famous French wine festivals, Les Trois Glorieuses. The name means “The three glorious days” and that is exactly what it is: three wonderful days full of events, good food and excellent wine.

The Hospices de Beaune Museum
It all started in mid-15th century when Nicolas Rolin, Chancellor to Phillipe Le Bon, Duke of Burgundy, with his wife founded the Hospices de Beaune to care for the poor. The hospital continues to serve the area, albeit in more modern buildings, with the old one being turned into a museum. Over the centuries the hospital received vineyards as charity donations accumulating about 150 acres. In 1851, the first auction was organized to sell the hospital’s wines and the tradition continues to the present day. 

Inside the Hospices de Beaune
Les Trois Glorieuses starts with a street fair where artisans and artists sell their creations. Local wine cellars open their doors for wine tastings, a marathon race through the vineyards nearby is organized and a grand black-tie dinner is held in the Chateau de Clos du Vougeot.

The world-famous Wine Auction starts on Sunday morning with buyers bidding for the Hospices’ wines in barrels, each containing approximately 280 bottles. Bidders have a Burgundy negotiant lined up who will mature the wine and bottle it. Each bottle will have a unique Hospices de Beaune label with the appellation, the name of the person who donated the land and the name of the bidder. 

The Wine Auction
The Wine Auction in Beaune is the oldest and largest charity auction in the world with the latest one in November 2015 having raised over 11 million euros. The money goes to the new Beaune hospital, the museum maintenance and a chosen charity of the year. 

The weekend finishes with a huge lunch (paulée) in Meursault with winegrowers where tables groan under the weight of hearty local food and rivers of Burgundy wines flow.

Photos via Flickr by: Marcel Musil, Pierre Metivier, Hervé Corcia.

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.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Versailles, the old city of the French kings

The small town of Versailles is famous across the world for its majestic Château de Versailles, which attracts millions of visitors every year. Only a small number of tourists realizes that the town itself is a real gem. 

Once a tiny humble village, Versailles changes dramatically when Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, decided to turn into the French court’s headquarters and built the lavish palace. Louis XV and Louis XVI continued expanding the city adding new districts with elegant avenues, large squares and magnificent mansions. Today, Versailles is retains its splendour and is a real pleasure to explore. 

The Notre Dame District, Versailles’s oldest, was created by Louis XIV and is a great place to start your tour into the town’s past. The 17th century Church of Notre Dame retains its original façade approved by Louis XIV while the majority of other building were embellished and rebuilt over the later centuries. A short walk from the church, you will find the lively local market, Marché Notre-Dame, considered the region’s finest. Even Parisians come here to stock up on cheese, truffles, meat and snails and other delicacies. Do not miss the former King’s Stables that house the Academy of Equestrian Arts where you can admire the beautiful old building and the horseshoe-shaped courtyard and watch the daily workouts and performances given by the riding school students.

King's kitchen garden
In the Saint-Louis District check out the King’s kitchen garden spread over 22 acres. It was created to feed the entire royal court and remains virtually unchanged. Another must-see sites here are the graceful Baroque Saint-Louis Cathedral with stunning paintings and the Carré Saint-Louis, charming 18th century urban complex.

Church of Notre-Dame
As any self-respecting French town, Versailles has plenty of excellent restaurants. The elegant Le Valmont located in a 17th century mansion serves mouth-watering traditional fish and meat dishes. In Le Boeuf à la Mode bistrot you will find more rustic French fare such as beef bourguignon, veal kidneys and onion soup.

Photos via Flickr by: Wally Gobetz, Joy Weese Moll, Guillaume Speurt

Monday, October 12, 2015

Exploring Nice, the capital of the French Riviera

Nice, the capital of the French Riviera has it all: the old-day glamour and sleek modern architecture, high-end restaurants and cozy old-fashioned cafés, beautiful beaches and mild climate all year round.
To explore the city and soak in its atmosphere you need at least a few days as there are plenty of things to do in Nice. Start from the Promenade des Anglais, or, as local call it, La Prom. It stretches for five miles along the Bay of Angels (Baie des Anges) adorned by palm trees, cabanas and bright blue chairs. On Sundays, it get very busy with local jogging, skateboarding, cycling and relaxing. 

Nice View
Before British aristocrats chose Nice as their favourite destination in the 19th century, local life was concentrated in the Old Town (Vieux Nice) with its narrow streets, ochre coloured buildings and colourful markets. Check out the famous Cours Saleya where apart from its old-fashioned charm you will find freshly cut flowers, seasonal produce, local delicacies and bric-a-brac. 

Le cours Saleya
Nice boasts some spectacular religious architecture: the Russian Orthodox Cathédrale Saint Nicolas with its colourful onion-domed cupolas built in the days of the tragic Tsar Nicolas II, L'Eglise de l'Annonciation and Chapelle de la Miséricorde in all their Baroque splendour. 

The city is an embarrassment of riches for art-lovers. In the stunning interiors of the Musée des Beaux-Arts you can admire works by Picasso, Rodin, Bonnard, Fragonard ad Monet. The Musée Matisse has an excellent collection of the artist's paintings, drawings and engravings. The Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall houses some of the most stunning biblically themed works created by the master. If you are into contemporary art head to the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain with its impressive display of European and American modern art.

Cathedral Saint Nicolas
If you are feeling energetic, climb up the Castle Hill for spectacular views over the bay and city roofs.

Since the 13th century, every February, Nice celebrates the famous exuberant Nice Carnival with costumed parades, colourful floats and flower shows.

Photos via Fickr by: Thomas Dimson, Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, Janet McKnight.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Grasse, the perfume capital of the world

When the coastal towns of the French Riviera get crowded a trip to Grasse, a short drive away from Nice, provides a welcome break. 

Grasse became the world’s perfume capital some centuries ago and still firmly holds the title. Flowers for some of the most famous fragrances are grown and harvested here, including Chanel 
N°5. Several perfume manufacturers based in the town are open to the public. The Fragonard Perfume Factory, Galimard, the oldest parfumerie in Grasse, and Molinard offer tours around the premises, demonstrations of some techniques used by perfume makers nowadays, and, in spring and summer months, visits to the nearby gardens and fields of roses, jasmine, violets, lavender. Some of the perfumeries offer short workshops where you can created your own be-spoke fragrance.

Grasse View

To learn about the history of perfume-making head to the International Museum of Perfume (Museé International de la Parfumerie) with the exposition taking visitors 3,000 years back when humans started discovering the world of fragrances. 

Explore the charming Old Town in Grasse with its pretty squares, elegant palaces and steep staircases. The main cathedral, 11th century Notre Dame de Puy houses precious paintings by Rubens and Fragonard. If you are in the mood for some frivolous French Rococo art check out the beautiful Jean-Honoré Fragonard Villa-Museum where the famous French artist lived. Another art stop that is worth visiting is the Musée Fragonard where you can see other paintings by Fragonard as well as works by Marguerite Gérard and Jean-Baptiste Mallet.

Boutique Fragonard

Other delightful attractions in Grasse include the elegant City Hall, austere Saracen Tower and colourful Jardin de la Princesse Pauline. If you do not feel like walking, there is small train that departs from the Cours Honoré Cresp and goes around the historic centre from April to October. 

Every August Grasse celebrates Fête du Jasmin, a beautiful flower festival with spectacular floral floats, fireworks and folk music.  

Photos via Flickr by: Ivan Matthieu, Etienne Valois.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Giverny, the town of Monet and beautiful gardens

Giverny is a small village in Normandy, France, that has been a place of pilgrimage for millions of art lovers for over 100 years. The Impressionist master Claude Monet spent the last 43 years of his life here creating numerous masterpieces that put tiny Giverny on the international artistic map.

The main attractions in the village are The Monet House and Gardens. The beautiful pink house with green shutters has been restored to its former glory and is exactly the way it was when Monet lived here. Inside the house, apart from delightful colourful interiors, visitors can admire a rare collection of Japanese engravings that Monet collected. 

Although Giverny is pretty all year around, the best time to visit the Monet bloom-filled gardens is in spring and early summer when they burst with colours. When the artists set off to create a small Water Garden (Jardin d’Eau) with a its trademark lily ponds and Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, some locals were not very happy as a stream had to be shifted to supply the water. Little did they know that the garden would make the village famous across the world. Here, in the garden, blooming water lilies inspired Monet’s finest paintings from the series Les Nymphéas. 

Lily Ponds
Another garden created by the artist, Clos Normand, occupies the space in front of the pastel-coloured house. In spring daisies, daffodils, irises and tulips fill it up with a riot of colour with poppies, roses and sweet peas following them in summer.

Only a short walk from Maison de Claude Monet is the Giverny Museum of Impressionisms set up in partnership with the Musée d’Orsay where you can see works by various artists who studied and painted in Giverny.

Japanese Bridge
The old pretty church of Giverny is also worth a visit. Claude Monet and a few members of his family are buried there. After an exhausting day of artistic pilgrimage you can re-fuel at The Hôtel Baudy, where in its heyday famous artists such as Cézanne and Rodin stayed. Today it is a cosy café-restaurant serving excellent local dishes.

Photos via Flickr by: Jean Pierre Belot, Poul-Werner Dam, Joy Weese Moll.

What to see on the French Riviera

The Cote d'Azur, or as it is known in English the French Riviera, is synonymous with glitz and glamour. The stretch of the Mediterranean coastline in the southeast corner of France that also including the of sovereign state of Monaco has long attracted artists, writers, royals and jetsetters. However, you do not need to have a yacht and an off-shore bank account to enjoy the glorious sunshine, sparkling-blue sea and stunning landscapes of this picturesque part of France. Here is a brief list of places to see on the French Riviera that, we hope, will send you packing your suitcase.


The old elegant city of Nice is a great place to start your tour of the Cote d'Azur. The bustling colourful local market at the Cours Saleya, breathtaking vistas from the Castle Hill (La Colline du Château), relaxing walks on the promenades, the refined architecture of The Old Town, numerous bars and restaurants serving delicious fare will make you dizzy with happiness. And don’t forget the famous exuberant Nice Carnival that has been celebrated in the city since the 13th century.


One of the largest ports in the Mediterranean, Antibes is abuzz all year unlike many other resorts of the French Riviera. Its perfect sandy beaches, daily markets, magnificent historic ruins and excellent restaurants will keep you busy. For the culturally minded there is the Museum of History and Archaeology with Greek, Roman, and Etruscan artefacts as well as the Picasso Museum with an exceptional collection of paintings, sketches, and ceramics.

Saint Tropez
Saint Tropez

Brigitte Bardot and her husband Roger Vadim loved frolicking here and it still attracts the rich and famous in droves. A trip to Saint Tropez would not be complete without some celebrity spotting, however, should you get tired of that, check out the Musée de l’Annonciade with its superb collection of Impressionist paintings, the imposing Citadelle and, naturally, the towns excellent beaches.

Do not forget, there is more to the French Rivera than just the sea. The old villages of Èze and Grasse, hill towns of St. Paul and Vence offer an exciting break from the beaches.

Photos via Flickr by: Kurt Bauschardt, Dhinal Chheda, Jakob Montrasio

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Discovering laid-back Aix-en-Provence

The relaxed elegant city of Aix-en-Provence in the South of France is all about l'art de vivre (“the art of living”). You will not find many monuments or archaeological sites here, only spacious squares, lush gardens, many fountains, art museums and galleries.

The grandiose Cours Mirabeau, a wide avenue lined by large trees, graceful fountains and dignified buildings, separates the old historic centre from modern districts. The centre of the city’s café life, the avenue is dotted with myriads of cafes where you can sip pastis or local wine and indulge in people watching. 

City Street

Provence's finest market takes place the historic centre every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The ancient squares fill up with sellers of the most exquisite food in the world: cheeses, charcuterie, olive oil, fresh fruit, oysters, fish and wine, - here you will find the best produce that France is famous for. 

Cours Mirabeau

Post-Impressionist painter Paul Cézanne was born in Aix-en-Provence and there are several museums dedicated to the venerable citizen: his childhood home, Jas de Bouffan, and his last studio Atelier Cézanne. His works are also displayed at the Musée Granet, which has an excellent fine art collection that includes masterpieces by Rembrandt, Anthony van Dyck, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, Monet, Van Gogh, Picasso and many others.


Make sure you make time for being pampered in one the city’s celebrated spas with natural hot springs built on the old Roman baths. 
In the evening join the locals for a long indulgent dinner at one of the city’s excellent restaurants to devour pan-fried foie gras, hearty veal chops or slow-cooked daube de boeuf Provençale. The elegant L'Esprit de la Violette serves exquisite thyme smoked veal and braised veal. In La Cave d'Yves you will find classic brasserie food and fine local wines. 

Aix-en-Provence is the city for a hedonistic traveller who wants to unwind and luxuriate in douceur de vie. 

Photos via Flickr by: Henrik Berger Jørgensen, Ivan Herman, Luis Montanez.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Visit Bordeaux: the world capital of wine

Known as the world capital of wine, the city of Bordeaux in France has it all: fine food, world’s best wines and stunning architecture with a UNESCO World Heritage status.

Bordeaux is often called a “little Paris” for its magnificent 18th and 19th century architecture, large squares and elegant boulevards. The city’s monumental heart lies between the spacious boulevards Cours Clemenceau, Cours de l’Intendance, Allées de Tourny that replaced narrow medieval streets and dark buildings in the 1700s. The neo-classic grandeur with vast open spaces declared the Bordeaux’s commercial and political role in the country. Very few cities in the world manage to interweave historic heritage and sleek modernity with such success. Place de la Bourse is a fine example of how it is done in Bordeaux. The 18th century sumptuous royal square is flanked by palace-like façades combined with the modern day creation Mirroir d'Eau are the most-photographed site in the city. A great expanse of shallow water on granite slabs reflects the buildings to a mesmerizing effect.

Bordeaux - Place de la Bourse

One of the iconic buildings in the city is the ornate basilica of St Michel, which took 200 years to complete. Its 114 meters high freestanding spire is the tallest building in Bordeaux. Climb up to the top for spectacular views over the cityscape. Stroll around the Saint Michel quarter surrounding the church to soak up in the relaxed atmosphere of this colorful and atmospheric neighborhood with its charming markets, cafes and restaurants.

Bordeaux - Basilica of St Michel

The monumental Grand Théâtre features twelve colossal Corinthian columns and elaborate statues of nine muses and the goddesses Juno, Venus, and Minerva. Everyone who steps inside is awestruck by the Inside the theater, visitors are awed by opulent foyers and grand staircases. 

Bordeaux - Grande Theatre

Covering thirty-one acres, the Place des Quinconces is the largest city square in Europe that will leave you speechless and… helpless unsuccessfully trying to fit its expanse in one photo. 

If you fill overwhelmed by Bordeaux’s grandeur and splendour, you can always escape for a relaxing visit to one of the region’s excellent vineyards in the countryside.

Photos via Flickr by: Stanislav Georgiev, Genevieve Ducret, Bertrand Duperrin.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Visit the beautiful castles in the Loire Valley

The group forty-two fairy-tale châteaux in the Loire Valley is one of France's most popular tourist destinations. Visiting them all can be a daunting task, so here we pick the five most spectacular castles for you.

Château de Chambord
The largest chateau of the Loire Valley, Chambord boasts 156-metre façade, 440 rooms,  282 fireplaces, 77 staircases and a beautiful park stretching over 13,000 acres. The castle was built by François I who was only 25 years old when he commissioned the construction. Château de Chambord was never furnished as it served as a hunting lodge for short stays and all the necessities were brought by the king’s entourage that consisted of up to 2,000 people. During World War II, some of France's most valuable national treasures and works of art, including the Mona Lisa, were housed in Chambord.

Château de Chambord

Château de Blois
A former residence of seven Kings and ten Queens of France, Blois consists of 564 rooms in total, 75 staircases, and 100 fireplaces. The oldest part of the castle dates back to the 13th century where the spectacular Salle des États (Hall of States) is located. Three wings, built over centuries feature gothic, Renaissance and classical architectural styles. Today the castle houses Blois’ Fine Arts museum as well as various temporary exhibitions in the lavish decorated royal apartments.

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau
Nestled on a small island hidden by centuries-old trees, Château d' Azay-le-Rideau is one of the most romantic castles in the Loire Valley. Although significantly smaller than many other castles in the area, Azay-le-Rideau packs a punch with its richly decorated drawing rooms and stately apartments boasting a splendid collection of of Flemish tapestries from the 16th and 17th centuries.

Chateau d'Amboise
A favourite of many French kings, Chateau d'Amboise witnessed some gruesome events: King Charles VIII died here in 1498 after hitting his head on a door lintel; in the 16th century 1200 Protestants who had tried to revolt were hanged on iron hooks on the castle’s walls. A few hundred metres from the castle stands Le Clos-Lucé manor where Leonardo da Vinci spent final years of his life.

Château de Chenonceau

Château de Chenonceau
Famous for its arches spanning the River Cher, the Chenonceau castle has opulent furnishings, beautiful formal gardens and an impressive art collection, which includes masterpieces by Rubens, van Dyck, van Loo).

Photos via Flickr by: Dimitar Denev, Mark Weston, Andrea Schaffer.