When I was younger I was always searching for adventure and nine times out of ten a trip across the Channel to France did much to sedate my appetite. These days my adventurous spirit shows no signs of abating however, when it comes to pre-tour preparation I probably pay more attention than I used to do.
With this in mind, I’d like to recommend four regions of France that I think are perfect for lovers of adventure and the great outdoors. From vineyards and chateaux to rivers and coastline, there’s nothing like one or two weeks away to keep your lust for life alive.
Ideally situated between Paris, Brussels and London, the northerly region of Picardy is an excellent option if you’re looking to combine historical sites with outdoor activities. From the great monuments of the Somme to some of the finest chateaux in Europe, a trip here will prove to be as educational as it will be enjoyable. Thanks to a rich and verdant landscape walking trails and cycling routes are exceptional and no matter what you’re looking for: long sandy beaches, shady pine forests or rolling pastures, Picardy has the lot. The local cuisine is not to be sneezed at either and with the delicious tarte maroilles in most patisserie windows; you’ll find ample fare for an exceptional French picnic.
Long revered as a ‘must visit’ location for UK tourists thanks to its proximity to the Channel, Brittany never fails to provide a rich tapestry of beaches, countryside and fresh local produce. The outdoor life often centres round a camping trip and opportunities to experience cultural festivals, bustling village markets and sea-food suppers are plentiful. Thanks to a mild climate cyclists, walkers and fishermen will be in their element and cultural tourists, hoping to find out more about the Breton history, will be spoiled for choice. As mentioned, sea food is always high on the list of things to do and you won’t be disappointed. From moules mariniere to cotriade (fish stew) all washed down with a glass of local cidre, you’ll discover plenty of respite at the end of a busy day.
Situated on the sunny side of central France, the Loire provides a quintessential insight into what is commonly thought of as one of the country’s premier wine regions. What the Loire misses in coast it more than makes up for in tranquil river banks and if you can picture yourself idly supping a glass of Muscadet-Sèvre et Maine, as life floats by, then you’ve made the right decision. Of course you’ll need an accompaniment with your drink and from fruits such as cherries and apples to vegetables, which include: artichokes and asparagus, your trip promises some gorgeous gastronomic delights. Whatever brings you to the Loire: wine, food, UNESCO World Heritage sites or a cycling holiday in France is the ideal location to experience la vie bonne.
With a succession of incredible landscapes including: mountains, valleys and plateaus, the Ardéche is a must for outdoor enthusiasts looking to sample one of France’s most exquisite regions. Whatever your pace, be it: trekking and walking past vast swathes of agricultural land or the thrills and spills of taking on a fast-flowing river, the Ardéche is heaven on earth for lovers of outdoor pursuits. Although the area is well-known for sports it is also regarded as a must for geologists as there are numerous caves, rock-formations and impressive gorges which present some classic case studies. After a good day of activities respite comes in many guises including: thermal spas, medieval markets and delicious local food, all you have to do is fit it all in.