France can be divided into six regions for tourism purposes, each with different characteristics and appeal. When planning a trip to France, don't stop at just Paris. Get out to other areas of the country and you'll be pleasantly surprised.
Thoughts of a trip to France immediately bring the icons of Paris to mind, with the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night, wandering the art-filled rooms of the Louvre or the towers of the Notre-Dame Cathedral along the Seine river. However, as any traveler knows, an entire country can’t be summed up by visiting just one city. Plus large city travel isn’t for everybody, especially those who want quiet, solitude, and a slower-paced trip. Luckily visitors to France aren’t short of options to get them outside the capital, especially since baguettes and streetside cafes are found across the country.
Here are three regions of France you must experience:
Though no secret to tourists, the Normandy region is a must-see for history buffs. Visiting the beaches home to the historic D-Day battles of World War II is a powerful experience for those looking to connect to the past, especially to the military community or those with veterans in their family who may have a personal connection. It’s also a great way to teach children about more “modern history” vs cathedrals and castles that are often so popular during European vacations.
Another Normandy destination is the amazing Mont-Saint-Michel which is part abbey, part ancient city, and a unique French landmark that becomes an island during the high tide. It’s easy to lose a day meandering the cobblestone streets, knowing that on an island one never truly is lost. Mont St. Michel is the type of place you leave wondering if it was truly real.
Another favorite region of mine in France that is a joy to travel around by car is the Alsace, along the eastern border and the Rhine river. The pace is night and day from Paris, with the town of Colmar’s canals flowing through the streets, flowers tumbling out of window boxes, and quaint wooden signs above shop doors inviting customers to view the antiques, crafts, and food. Paired with the small villages surrounding it, such as Eguisheim which welcomes storks to nest upon their village roofs every summer, or Kayersberg which is overflowing with rustic charm, this area makes you feel as if you’re walking inside the set of a movie.
A stop in Strasbourg is highly recommended for it's college town atmosphere, wonderful French-German inspired cuisine, and one of the best Christmas markets in Europe.
Alsace is even home to quite a few vineyards and tasting rooms. For a special experience along the Alsatian wine route, take a private tour of the quaint villages in a Tesla complete with a castle visit.
Of course one can’t mention French wine without suggesting the famous Bordeaux region, along France’s western coast, which is waiting to pour some of the world’s best wines for its guests. With nearly 300,000 acres of vineyards, a true wine lover could spend their entire trip just in Bordeaux!
TAKE A WINE RIVER CRUISE
Whether you are a wine novice or an oenophile with your own wine cellar, board one of hundreds of river cruises dedicated to Europe's most celebrated wine regions. These wine-themed European sailings provide a unique and delicious dimension to already enticing itineraries—with enhanced epicurean experiences included in the price of the cruise.
France also delivers some remarkable beaches and seaside views along its southern coast, known as the French Riveria. Here you can find everything from extremely upscale holiday resorts to mom-and-pop shops, with many small seaside towns being connected by walking paths or hiking trails. It’s even possible to combine a beach vacation with time in the Alps, in a picturesque city like Chambery or Aix-de-Bains, since the topography of France changes so quickly. Of course, a winter vacation could also mean an opportunity to enjoy winter sports in the Alps as well, a lovely and unexpected treat that many don’t think of when imagining France.
I sailed the French Riviera in October and had a fabulous time. Read my review about my luxury cruising experience on board Seabourn.
This just a taste of the amazing options for travelers in France, so put on your beret and get ready to venture outside Paris. For more suggestions, tips, and expert advice to book the perfect French vacation, I am ready to help you.