- Wine Tastings at a Burgundy Vineyard: Where better to taste a Burgundy wine than in the vineyard where it was made? The average producer in this region manages just 8 hectares (20 acres) of vines and many offer the opportunity to sample their nectar on site. Ask at the tourist office for details of visits for individuals—otherwise we recommend booking a trip with a specialist tour guide.
- Whiling Away an Afternoon in a Parisian Cafe: There is something quintessentially Parisian about doing nothing in a public space, especially when that space is a cafe. You can read a book, look out the window, chat with a friend, sip some wine, or simply ponder the mysteries of life. Better still, no one will attempt to dislodge you from your cafe chair, even if you sit there for hours.
- Breaking the Bank at Monte-Carlo: The Casino de Monte-Carlo has been the most opulent place to have a flutter for over 150 years. Its creation by architect Charles Garnier (of Paris Opera House fame) in 1863 transformed Monaco from a provincial port into a world-class tourist destination. Expect frescoed ceilings and wealthy, well-dressed clientele from as far afield as China and Russia.
- Ogling the Pomp of the Pope’s Medieval Party Pad: Those medieval popes knew a thing or two about interior design. Avignon’s Palais des Papes, or Pope’s Palace, is a moneyed medley of Gothic architecture and vast banqueting halls. The Châteauneuf-du-Pape papal vineyards just north of Avignon still produce some of the most noted wine in France.
- Eating Boeuf Bourguignon: Burgundy is as well known for its gastronomy as its wine. One of its most famous dishes is boeuf bourguignon, ideally made with Charolais beef (from the famous white cows which originated in the Charolais area near Mâcon) slow cooked with onions and mushrooms in a regional red wine.
- Buying Your Daily Bread: That cute little boulangerie just down the street? Depending on where you are, there’s likely to be another—or several—a short stroll away. The daily baguette run is a ritual for many French people. Get your coins ready (1€, give or take 10 centimes) and join the queue. To really fit in, ask for your baguette chewy (pas trop cuite), or crusty (bien cuite).
- Shopping at a Market: Markets are one of the best ways to explore French towns like a local. We recommend the open-air market in Arles, one of Provence’s most authentic destinations. A colorful line of vendors sells olives, fresh bread, cheese, and local ham underneath the city ramparts, a few blocks from the town’s Roman amphitheater. Alternatively, French covered markets are time machines—visiting one is like taking a trip back through the centuries. Bordeaux’s vast Marché des Capucins offers not just good things to take home, but great things to eat on site from various stands, including Chez JeanMi, where you can enjoy oysters straight out of nearby Arcachon Bay, or the newly-opened Café Laiton, where owner Gaëlle serves up freshly brewed cups of Columbian, Brazilian, and Kenyan coffees, along with some delicious pastries, at the entrance to the market. And in the Rhône Valley, local gourmands crowd the covered market of Lyon’s Les Halles to stock up on high-quality Lyonnaise specialties, from creamed fish quenelles to sweet bugnes—either round and doughnut-like, or flat and crunchy.
- Shucking Fresh Oysters: The French adore oysters and there’s no better place to get the freshest than in Cancale, Brittany. Today everyone has access to these jewels of the sea—once a favorite of King Louis XIV—perfectly paired with a crisp white wine down by the old port.
- Strolling along the Seine: The lifeblood of the City of Light, the Seine is at the center of Paris’s history, which becomes obvious when you stroll along its banks. Just about every major monument can be seen from here, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, and the Louvre. And now that many of Seine’s embankments have become pedestrian-only, promenading along them is a delight.
- Château-hopping through the Loire Valley: An excursion to the châteaux dotting the valley’s rich fields and forests will familiarize you with the French Renaissance’s architectural aesthetics and the intrigues of the kings and their courts. Visit the main castles, such as Chambord or Chenonceau, and then stop in at some lesser-visited ones, like Chaumont or Valençay.
- Touring the Villages along France’s Oldest “Wine Road” (Alsace-Lorraine): More than 60 villages line the famous Alsatian wine road. Enjoy their medieval town squares and half-timbered houses while stopping in at the local vineyards.
- Taking a Trip on a Gabarre down the Dordogne River (Dordogne): Gabarres are traditional flat-bottomed boats that used to ply the shallow Dordogne, taking goods from one town to the next. Today they are used for guided river cruises, offering tourists a unique way to experience this unspoiled waterway.
- Wandering through Europe’s Greatest Fortress City (Languedoc-Roussillon): Carcassonne was built for war with its fortifications, imposing citadel, and double ring of defensive walls. But even its massive towers didn’t keep it safe from conquest and re-conquest during the endless feuds of catholic vs heretics and medieval power politics. Its inevitable decline was reversed in the 19th century with a massive restoration, and today Carcassonne is one of the great sites of Europe.
- Skiing Chamonix (The French Alps): The place where skiing came to the masses—and French skiing came to the world, during the 1924 Winter Olympics. More affordable than nearby Megève or Courchevel, this is the people’s ski resort and party town.
- Getting Bubbly at the Moët et Chandon Champagne Cellars (Champagne Country): Go straight to the source to learn the secrets of one of the world’s most prestigious Champagne houses. The tour includes an explanation of the méthode Champenoise as well as anecdotes about illustrious clients including Napoleon Bonaparte. In Epernay, 90-min. from Paris by train, this also makes for a great rainy-day Plan B.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.