Travel Five overlooked corners of France to discover in 2024

Five overlooked corners of France to discover in 2024

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Sven Chariter, formerly a starred chef in Paris, runs Oiseau Oiseau with his wife Marianne, a traditional-meets-cosy restaurant in Préaux-du-Perche, recognised by the Michelin Guide for its quality. In Saint-Cyr La Rosière you’ll find Après l’école, a café/bar, antiques market and cultural spot rolled into one, set in a former village schoolhouse. The area is particularly well known for its second-hand shops and fairs in charming villages like Bellême and La Perrière. There are also local food markets more or less every day of the week in one of the villages. Above all, Parisians appreciate the area for its bucolic charms. Consider going on a long walk or bike ride, punctuated by over 100 former manor houses and stately homes.

Where to stay and when to go

Book a weekend at Maison Ceronne, a hip renovated farm designed as the perfect weekend retreat for urbanites. Think clean design, a cosy spa and pool, a hearty restaurant serving seasonal fare and even a cinema and karaoke facilities. When to go? Le Perche has something to offer any time of year.


Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Burgundy

If you are a wine lover, you may already be well acquainted with the attractions of the Burgundy area. This year will abound with excuses to enjoy its rich culture of the vine. In nearby Chenôve you’ll find the mediaeval wine press of the Dukes of Burgundy. Wine-lovers will also be in heaven at the Auction of the Hospices de Beaune, a prestigious wine sale and celebration that takes place in November; in 2021 the one-day auction achieved its highest ever sales total of over 29 million euros.

The mediaeval wine press of the Dukes of Burgundy


Jura

Head a little further east in the region and you’ll come to Jura, the relatively small wine-growing area around the mountains of the same name that spill across the Swiss border. Wine-growers like Pierre Overnoy were producing natural wines here long before the phrase “pet nat” was a twinkle in a Clapton hipster’s eye.

France, Jura

In winter, the mountains are appreciated for cross-country skiing; it’s hiking and watersports on the lakes in summer, fuelled up by the local Comté cheese, naturellement.

Where to stay and when to go

Telegraph Travel expert Mary Lussiana recommends Hotel Montrachet, a 4-star country-house hotel in Puligny-Montrachet. Spring and early summer is a fine time for walking and hiking; the autumn is wine harvest season.


Camargue, South of France

One of the things that makes France so alluring as a travel destination is the sheer variety of its geographies and terrains. The Camargue, the stretch of low-lying land between Arles and the Mediterranean Sea, is a fine example of this. Bisected by the Rhône, this pocket Le Sud is one of Europe’s largest river deltas and the biggest wetlands in France. It is a bird enthusiast’s paradise, with over 400 species including various egrets, herons and the famous pink flamingo. You’ll also find Camargue bulls and the mystical-seeming white Camargue horses, which roam free across the area.

Camargue horses on a gravel road in the Camargue in southern France

Produce here is abundant, from wine to tomatoes to rice, and in recent years international foodies have flocked to the Camarguais countryside for La Chassagnette, an exquisite Michelin-starred restaurant with its own market garden, owned by Maja Hoffman, the person behind cultural additions in Arles such as the Gehry-designed Luma Foundation. Amid all this regeneration, residents speak fearfully of rising tide levels, wondering how many generations more this unique land will still be here in this form. Visit it while you still can.

Where to stay and when to go

The south of France meets Route 66 at Les Cabanettes, a renovated former motel sure to delight lovers of the Mid Century aesthetic. For maximum exploring, try spring or autumn as the summer down here is very hot; saying that, the annual Arles Rencontres photography festival every summer is a great excuse to get down here; cool down on the rugged beaches of the area.

Hotel Les Cabanettes


Nimes and arrond, Occitanie

Not far from the Camargue, but quite a different vibe, we’re heading now to Nîmes, the Occitanie city known for its fabulous Roman architecture, including the imposing amphitheatre which (rightly or wrongly) still hosts bull events. In autumn 2023,  the Maison Carré (square house), a Roman temple dating from the second century AD, became a Unesco World Heritage site, recognised for being remarkably well preserved.

For 2024 only, the Tour de France route will adapt to avoid Paris (busy with the Olympics) and instead finish in Nice, taking in parts of southern France including this city. Head there in July during the final week of the Tour which starts with a race from Gruissan to Nîmes. This summer also marks the 30th anniversary of the Jeudis de Nîmes, weekly outdoor entertainments across the city’s sites. For art-lovers, there’s the first-ever edition of the Contemporaine de Nimes, a youthful contemporary art festival, which takes place between April 5 to June 23, linked to the Carré d’art contemporary art museum. The surrounding area is now more accessible than before to those without cars thanks to the Occitanie Rail Tour route, which links up different spots across the region from Nîmes in the east to Lourdes the west (€10 per day for all routes).

Nimes, France

Where to stay and when to go

According to Telegraph writer Anthony Peregrine: “For posh, it should be the five-star L’Imperator (doubles from £311); for historico-characterful, the Margaret-Hotel Chouleur (doubles from £137) and for budget, L’Amphitheatre (doubles from £79).” Visit in spring for the Contemporaine and summer for the Tour de France and summer festivals.


Le Grand Paris, Ile-de-France

Paris is not exactly lacking in publicity, it’s true, but this Olympic year offers the opportunity to do it a little differently. The Olympic Village will be housed in Saint-Denis, the sometimes maligned suburb town to the north of Paris. The cluster of close suburbs that make up this part of “la petite couronne” are now more accessible than ever thanks to the new Line 14 Metro. There is no shortage of cultural and artistic activity in the area, from the antique markets of Saint-Ouen, the urban farm Zone Sensible in Saint-Denis or the canal-side bars of Pantin, dubbed  “the Brooklyn of Paris”. With sky-high hotel prices in the city centre and plenty happening up this way, it’s the perfect time to discover ‘le Grand Paris’.

Paris, France, St. Ouen flea market

In fact, there have been some exciting developments all over the Parisian region. Another option: combine your city trip with a sojourn at a bucolic boutique hotel, like the food-focused Le Doyenné in Essonne to the east of Paris, Le Barn in Rambouillet past Versailles or the fabulous Chateau de Rosa Bonheur with its enchanting guest rooms and artistic heritage in Thomery, Fontainebleau.

Where to stay and when to go

Try the cool Mob Hotel in Saint-Ouen right by the historic flea market. There’s plenty to do in Le Grand Paris any time of year, but of course summer is the time of all the Olympic festivities. Spring is an ideal time to visit the near countryside.

This story was first published in December 2023 and has been revised and updated.

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