Renowned for fine cuisine and even finer wines, France is the considered destination for visitors the world over. And it is a great country to spend a short break in if time constraints dictate. The most obvious destination for a short break is Paris, but there are many other just as attractive alternatives.
Located on the French Riviera and close to the border with Italy, Nice has a true Mediterranean climate where visitors can soak up the sun every day. The famous Promenade de Anglais has delighted those wishing to be seen for almost 200 years and stretches nearly 6 kilometers. This is thronged with bars and restaurants and provides spectacular views over the sea. In Nice you will also find a beautiful old town dating from the medieval period, imposing architecture and some excellent museums.
Add to that a splendidly diverse selection of bars, restaurants and cafes and it is easy to see why Nice is such a favorite. Spending a few days here is a relaxing experience, whether strolling by the sea or browsing the narrow streets of the Old Town.
For anyone wishing to explore the cuisine of France Lyon is the city to visit. Situated about halfway between Paris and Marseille the city sits between two rivers, the Rhone and the Saane. The Vieux Lyon is the old medieval city which is situated on the Saane`s west bank at the base of the Fourviir Hill. This beautiful part of the city has cobbled streets galore and medieval buildings at every turn. No wonder it`s a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
For hundreds of years Lyon has been heralded as the gastronomic capital of France due to it being home to many of the country`s finest chefs. The city boasts many Michelin star restaurants and is the home to the bouchons, restaurants serving local wines and local dishes.
Wine, in particular Beaujolais, is very much appreciated here, due mainly to the fact that two of France`s best wine-growing regions are situated nearby. Beaujolais lies to the north of Lyon and the Cotts du Rhone to the south and both are worthy of a visit.
Wine is a principal industry of France and nowhere more so than the port city of Bordeaux, situated in the southwest on the Garonne River. Wine has been produced here since the eighth century and some of it is the most expensive in the world. The region has over 116,000 hectares of vineyards and is home to some 13,000 grape growers. There are over 10,000 chateaux producing wines to further tempt visitors and their palates!
One of the finest medieval walled cities in the world is the fortified city of Carcassonne. Founded in the fifth century, Carcassone lies in the southwest corner of France in the Aude department which used to be Languedoc province.
The Aude River bisects the medieval city from the Ville Basse via the Pont Vieux. The Ville Basse dates back to the Middle Ages and contains the manufacturing and retail parts of the city.
The fortified city is quite simply breathtaking. It consists of two outer walls with barbicans and no less than 53 towers to withstand attack. The castle has a drawbridge and a ditch leading to a central keep. It is amazing to discover that until the 19th century this huge edifice had fallen into disrepair. It was considerably rebuilt and improved upon after there was uproar at the suggestion it should be demolished.
The region of Auvergne is another beautiful part of France to visit as it contains numerous volcanoes, the last of which erupted probably over 6000 years ago. These are now extinct and have grassed over to form attractive hills in this rural region. Situated in the heart of France, the Loire and Allier rivers both run through the region with the Allier carving out spectacular gorges.
The landscape in this region is beautiful with huge oak forest and freshwater lakes and ponds. A short break here is an opportunity to see nature at its most unspoilt.