From the gorgeous rooftop of the Hôtel-Dieu to cobbled lanes, delve into the details of the city of Beaune. It’s often referred to as the wine capital of Burgundy.
Stroll the elegant Old Town streets of Dijon, once a mustard-making mecca. I left this pretty town with several specialty jars of mustard. They don’t just offer the yellow stuff there. I came home with a raspberry version and one with basil notes.
Regardless if it’s spring, summer or fall, visit Giverny, Claude Monet’s garden and home, which inspired some of his most famous work (think lily pond and Japanese bridge paintings). I’ve been to Giverny in the spring and summer, and someday hope to see the garden dressed in autumnal hues.
Grand-Est-Region (formerly Alsace)
Spend the day exploring Colmar, known for its flower-bedecked, half-timbered homes, picturesque canals, wine culture, and link to Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who created the Statue of Liberty. A tiny replica of Lady Liberty stands guard in a roundabout on the north side of Colmar.
Climb to the top of the Strasbourg Cathedral, which was the world’s tallest building for more than two centuries. Watch the celebrated astronomical clock inside the church toll at noon.
Stroll through Petite France and admire the picturesque quarter’s half-timbered homes whose flower boxes overflow with red geraniums.
Glide past Strasbourg’s most well-known attractions in a covered glass boat.
Pop into quaint, family-owned wineries and try popular Alsatian grape varietals like Riesling, Sylvaner, and Gewürztraminer.
From Saint Hippolyte, journey about 7 km to the Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg, a mighty medieval castle. The drive has some hairpin turns, but the scenic views from the fortress make the effort worthwhile!
Soar to new heights in a hot air balloon. The Loire Valley views are – unsurprisingly – incredible. Our pilot even turned up the fear factor by tickling the treetops with our basket.
Avoid ‘château fatigue’ by visiting diverse castles. Our top picks: The Château d’Azay-le-Rideau (where we attended a quirky sound and light show), Clos Lucé (once Leonardo da Vinci’s residence), and the Château de Villandry (because of its incredible formal gardens plus its utilitarian herb garden). Though the Château de Chambord was a bit too flamboyant, its expansive grounds and ornate flair were impressive. My favorite feature was the double helix staircase, supposedly designed by da Vinci.
Occitanie & Provence
Marvel at the incredible Pont du Gard, and the picturesque natural surroundings. We enjoyed a picnic on the grounds, and viewed the ancient Roman aqueduct from varied angles before exploring the museum.
Explore 2,000-year-old Roman sites in Nîmes. The Arena and Maison Carrée temple are the star sites, but the Tour Magne and Castellum Aquae (end of the Nîmes aqueduct) are interesting too, particularly if you like Roman history.
Pop into the fresh market in the beautiful town of Uzès; you’ll find everything from dried herbs and essential oil, to tantalizing tapenades.
Explore the Cité de Carcassonne. By day, this medieval citadel overflows with visitors, but by night – the mood is calm and the fortress is dramatically bathed in floodlights.
Savor wine. We enjoyed the trying the world’s so-called “first bubbly” in Limoux (Blanquette de Limoux Methode Ancestrale and the less-sweet Blanquette de Limoux Brut). Closer to Nîmes, we sampled rosés and reds in Lirac and Tavel.
Dance beside Avignon’s famous bridge (while singing the famous song of the same name, of course!), then tiptoe through quieter districts. We stumbled upon a charming Sunday flea market on the sycamore-lined Rue des Teinturiers.
Whether at a winery or poolside, sip Bordeaux’ fine wine. One night at dinner, the local winemaker sitting next to us even insisted that we try his own wine. He then poured glasses for all to enjoy.
Saint-Émilion (Bordeaux) – Along with Shawn’s parents, we spent two wonderful nights at the Hotel Au Logis des Remparts (affiliate link). We loved the boutique hotel’s pretty courtyard, where breakfast was served. (I especially enjoyed the fresh yogurt. Served in little glasses, it felt as though it came straight from an artisanal creamery.) We spent many many happy hours taking a dip in the hotel’s swimming pool, then enjoying Rosé wine from Provence, poolside. La vie en rose indeed!