France

PARIS – pt 1 – updated 2017

This guide has new material and has been re-edited for 2016 with extra content added.  Paris is truly an elegant and romantic city with world-class attractions. The iconic Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Orsay Museum, the old Opera House and of course Notre Dame. Tim visits all of these in this guide to the mainstream Paris “must do” things. He uses Les Cars Rouges open top bus tours and relies on the Eyewitness guide to “see” what’s out there. There are many “oiff-beat” places to visit. Like the Catacombs where tens of thousands of skeletons were re-buried after Baron Haussman’s redesign of Paris. Plus don’t miss the graves of Chopin, Edith Piaf and Oscar Wilde. This first Paris guide runs to  twenty-four minutes.

PARIS – pt 2 – updated 2017

This second part of three Paris guides is full of sparkling interviews and insights. It has equally compelling places to visit like the Chateau de Chaillot on high ground opposite the Eiffel Tower – then we look at the building of the Tower itself – stop off at the Louvre and then find out about those underground tours where you visit Paris’s sewers !  We’ll also take a walk through Montmartre. We end up in the legendary Pere Lachaise cemetery – a great monumental tribute to prominent French people and international celebs who died and are buried in Paris – like Jim Morrison, Chopin and Oscar Wilde. This guide runs to 25 lively, informative minutes.

PARIS – pt 3 – updated 2017

Part three of our tour of Paris takes us to the Catacombs where skeletons were moved and reburied underground as Haussmann was rebuilding the elegant centre of Paris we see all around us today. They emptied medieval graveyards and had to put the bones somewhere ! The visit is NOT smelly or frightening !  We take a walking tour of the quaint Marais district… discover some unusual shops (one sells nothing but products from France’s monasteries and convents!) … and get some important tips on getting around the city… bikes, the Metro, taxis. It’s all made on location and with help from Barbara, an excellent guide at www.frenchadventures.com. We’ll enjoy a lively street market on the Boulevard Raspaille and drop into La Coupole – one of the iconic, art deco restaurants of Montparnasse where the literary and arty crowd gathered in the 1920s and 30s. We’ll also stop for a drink in Harry’s American Bar a popular hangout for ex-pats like Cole Porter and George Gershwin in the late 1920s. This guide runs to thirty minutes.

ARLES

Sunday afternoon in the French-style bullring … no blood; fine Provencal cuisine; Excellent local lamb and fish; history from Roman era onwards. Arles amphitheatre Built by Julius Caesar; people lived in the Roman arena in medieval times; Vincent van Gogh lived here, went mad here, died here. There are lots of Vincent van Gogh locations to visit. Aix-en-Provence festivals not far away; Avignon papal schism history; Camargues evening photo safari; brilliant beaches.

BAYEUX – Normandy

Bayeux – home to the eleventh-century tapestry recording the events running up to the Norman invasion of Saxon England – has much more of interest for tourists as well. There’s the cathedral and Europe’s first ring road – cleared by British bulldozers in 1944 when army engineers refused orders to clear and widen roads through the historic centre ! Bayeux has good shopping and eating too… and is an ideal inland base from which to visit the Landing Beaches from June 1944 – see our other guide on that and neighbouring Caen. This guide runs to 25 minutes.

BEZIERS – pt 1 – updates for 2017

Beziers is one of the most attractive and ancient cities in the south west of France. The historic centre sits on a bluff towering above the River Orb, which is itself crossed by France’s oldest working canal – the Canal du Midi – with its remarkable flight of seventeenth century locks at Fonserannes. From a distance the old fortified cathedral of St Nazaire dominates the skyline. Beziers dates back to Roman times and it still retains an ancient centre of narrow streets, but with the elegant Alle Paul Riquet linking the older city to the spacious park – the Plateau des Poetes. The city has a population of around seventy thousand and is just six miles from the Mediterranean. Tim Richards has been exploring Beziers on foot… these guides run to twenty and twenty-four minutes. Do enjoy them and your visit to Beziers !

BEZIERS – pt 2 – updates 2017

Beziers is one of the most attractive and ancient cities in the south west of France. The historic centre sits on a bluff towering above the River Orb, which is itself crossed by France’s oldest working canal – the Canal du Midi – with its remarkable flight of seventeenth century locks at Fonserannes. From a distance the old fortified cathedral of St Nazaire dominates the skyline. Beziers dates back to Roman times and it still retains an ancient centre of narrow streets, but with the elegant Alle Paul Riquet linking the older city to the spacious park – the Plateau des Poetes. The city has a population of around seventy thousand and is just six miles from the Mediterranean. Tim Richards has been exploring Beziers on foot… these guides run to twenty and twenty-four minutes. Do enjoy them and your visit to Beziers !

CAEN – Normandy

Caen is the cradle of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. It was William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy’s base. It’s castle still dominates the city but there’s a lot more on offer – the two Abbeys William built and other fine churches. Plus a classy modern art museum, a pleasure port and stylish old entertainment districts. You can even sail your yacht into the heart of the city – or if you don’t have one – you can take pleasure boat trips downstream to Pegasus Bridge, which was the first place in Europe to be liberated from the Nazis in 1944.

This guide runs to just under twenty minutes.

CALAIS – pt 1

Calais is one of those European port cities which is so easy to tear straight through as we drive to a ferry or away on our holidays. But Calais has a long history at the centre of battles between France and England. There’s interesting old industrial history of lace making too … of World War II occupation and nowadays a major retail offering. Out of town La Coupole was where the Nazis built their “revenge weapons” the V2. The two-part guides run to twenty-nine and twenty-six minutes.

CALAIS – pt 2

Calais is one of those European port cities which is so easy to tear straight through as we drive to a ferry or away on our holidays. But Calais has a long history at the centre of battles between France and England. There’s interesting old industrial history of lace making too … of World War II occupation and nowadays a major retail offering. Be sure to drive a few miles south tio see the amazing Nazi-built La Couploe – a giant concrete dome under which the Germans manufactured their V2 rockets. The two-part guides run to twenty-nine and twenty-six minutes.

Calvados Distillery , near Pont l’Eveque

Drouin are the aristocrats of Calvados – the traditional apple brandy of Normandy. They were distilling for twenty years – to age their product properly – befiore they sold a single bottle. You can tour and taste at their distillery near Pont l’Eveque. It’s housed in a series of beautifully restored Norman farm buildings – and the Calvados ain’t ‘arf good too !

CANAL DE BOURGOGNE – pt 1

This is a two-part guide taking the upscale Belle Epoque canal barge operated by European Waterways ( a British tour operator trading from www.gobarging.com ) for six days through rural Burgundy. It is a joy of a trip with extremely impressive food, wine and crew on board and visiting fascinating plays from day to day. Including the village of Flavigny where the Juliette Binoche / Johnny Depp film “Chocolat” was filmed … to the world heritage site of Fontenay Abbey… for a fine restaurant lunch in Chablis and the ancient site of the battlefield of Alesia where Julius Caesar finally defeated the Gauls. All in all an excellent break. the two parts run to 29 and 30 minutes.

CANAL DE BOURGOGNE – pt 2

This is a two-part guide taking the upscale Belle Epoque canal barge operated by European Waterways ( a British tour operator trading from www.gobarging.com ) for six days through rural Burgundy. It is a joy of a trip with extremely impressive food, wine and crew on board and visiting fascinating plays from day to day. Including the village of Flavigny where the Juliette Binoche / Johnny Depp film “Chocolat” was filmed … to the world heritage site of Fontenay Abbey… for a fine restaurant lunch in Chablis and the ancient site of the battlefield of Alesia where Julius Ceasar finally defeated the Gauls. All in all an excellent break. the two parts run to 29 and 30 minutes.

COGNAC

Cognac the home of the world’s finest brandy – Cognac is defined by a small geographical region. Tour of Courvoiser Cognac house. Cognac town is very historic – has a wonderful indoor market and some attractive parks. What is Pineau de Charente and should you drink some ? Eating at Michelin starred La Ribaudiere on the banks of the Charente river. Staying at quite idyllic Logis de Fresnes … walled farmhouse and farmyard redesigned with extraordinary elegance. Duration 16’34”

D-DAY INVASION BEACHES – Normandy

It’s now more than sixty years – indeed fast approaching seventy years since British, Canadian and American forces landed in Normandy to try and end the tyranny of Nazi Germany across Europe. In this guide you’ll visit the main D-Day museum in Arromanches, visit other invasion beaches, look at major German artillery blockhouses, go to Pegasus Bridge – the first piece of Europe to be liberated – and visit a war cemetery. The guide runs to twenty-five fascinating, historic minutes.

DIJON pt 1 – NEW CONTENT 2017

Dijon is a gloriously civilised and arty city, in east central France, which in its heyday as the capital of historic Burgundy was more powerful than Paris. The Dukes of Burgundy controlled lands not only in eastern France but on into the Low Countries centuries ago. So Dijon has charming old medieval buildings. It was hardly damaged in World War Two because it was not a manufacturing city or major rail hub. The palace of the Dukes of Burgundy spreads across the city centre with galleries and other historic buildings. But Dijon is also the capital of the Burgundy wine region with all those famous names like Nuits St Georges, Gevrey Chambertin and Vougeot close to the city. Gustave Eiffel – yes the Tower man – he came from here. And there are quirky food connections too… Dijon mustard is known globally… you can buy it draught from the Maille shop, from things like beer pumps. And don’t miss the gingerbread makers with their nineteenth century shop – Mulot et Petitjean… these guides run to 40 minutes and 37 minutes… which I think is excellent value…

DIJON pt 2. Updated 2017

Dijon is a gloriously civilised and arty city. Gustave Eiffel – yes the Tower man – he came from here. And there are quirky food connections too… Dijon mustard is known globally… you can buy it draught from the Maille shop, from things like beer pumps. And don’t miss the gingerbread makers with their nineteenth century shop – Mulot et Petitjean…The Dukes of Burgundy controlled lands not only in eastern France but on into the Low Countries centuries ago. So Dijon has charming old medieval buildings. It was hardly damaged in World War Two because it was not a manufacturing city or major rail hub. This second guide takes us out by road to the wine country around Gevrey Chambertin, Nuits St Georges and Clos de Vougeot. So in addition to the city we visit Clos de Vougeot, a major cheese maker and the excellent Cassissium where cassis and other cordials are made. A good tour there too. These guides run to 40 minutes and 37 minutes… which I think is excellent value… .

DORDOGNE VALLEY

This is one of the truly beautiful areas of Europe physically and with a rich and very visible heritage of history and fine cuisine. Tim and Liz are based around Sarlat and La Roque Gageac and find out all about the River Dordogne, some attractive villages like Domme and also take to the air in a hot-air balloon. This piece runs to thirty minutes… see also the two-part guide to the neighbouring Lot Valley and the Aveyron…

Fontenay Abbey, Burgundy

This is a UNESCO world heritage site. The buildings are historic – this was the first working iron factory in Europe – but it is also an exquisite monastic complex. Just visit it ! This is a small part of my Canal de Bourgogne guide with the excellent European Waterways company from the UK.

GRYON – Vaud – summer Switzerland

Gryon is a pretty little village sitting on a high balcony above the Rhone Valley in western Switzerland. Its summer gondola service takes you to the high alpine delights of Les Chaux and Tavayanne – old-style hamlets with places to eat and drink in idyllic mountain locations. Gryon has plenty of facilities for kids too and an autumn Mushroom Festival ! This piece runs to 22 minutes.

GUERANDE – area guide – Brittany

Guerande is a tiny, medieval walled city just north of the mouth of the River Loire in southern Brittany. It has stacks of its own character and history but is bordered by huge salt marshes which make one of France’s top two brands of sea salt. These you can visit and find out how it’s evaporated. It’s also close to the pretty Breton seaside resort of Le Croisic – served quite miraculously by TGV from Paris !! Just north of Guerance are vast, freshwater marshes and the regional natural parc of La Briere. This is where you’ll find unbelievably unspoilt villages and most of France’s thatched cottages. These two guides run to fifty-three minutes between them.

GUERANDE – town guide – Brittany

Guerande is a tiny, medieval walled city just north of the mouth of the River Loire in southern Brittany. It has stacks of its own character and history but is bordered by huge saltmarshes which make one of France’s top two brands of sea salt. These you can visit and find out how it’s evaporated. It’s also close to the pretty Breton seaside resort of Le Croisic – served quite miraculously by TGV from Paris !! Just north of Guerance are vast, freshwater marshes and the regional natural parc of La Briere. This is where you’ll find unbelievably unspoilt villages and most of France’s thatched cottages. These two guides run to fifty-three minutes between them.

HONFLEUR – pt 1 – the town. NEW CONTENT 2017

Honfleur is probably the most attractive coastal town in France. The Vieux Bassin has been featured in hundreds of paintings and photoshoots. The whole town is worth exploring – and it’s also home to a fine art gallery where you can see “Impressionism” developing. These two Honfleur area programmes will take you to see Calvados apple brandy made, visit the beautiful greenery of the Pays d’Auge and travel the Cote Fleurie. Together they both run to around fifty minutes of lively, on-locations reportage.

HONFLEUR – pt 2 – Pays d’Auge updated 2017

Fresh conent added for 2015. Honfleur is probably the most attractive coastal town in France. The Vieux Bassin has been featured in hundreds of paintings and photoshoots. The whole town is worth exploring – and it’s also home to a fine art gallery where you can see “Impressionism” developing. These two Honfleur area programmes will take you to see Calvados apple brandy made, visit the beautiful greenery of the Pays d’Auge and travel the Cote Fleurie. Together they both run to around fifty minutes of lively, on-locations reportage.

La Coupole, Nazi V2 base, nr Calais

This place officially called La Coupole or the dome is just outside St Omer in northern France – just off the A26 from Calais south. It’s simply frightening to look at the vast concrete dome built into the side of a quarry where V1s – the Doodlebugs – and much faster V2s were built for Hitler’s revenge attacks on London. Excellent visitor experience. This guide runs to twelve minutes

LA ROCHELLE and BORDEAUX

Historic and attractive, lively port of La Rochelle. Good quality shopping in the old, arcaded town. History mixes with modern-day yachting and boating activity. Port area has a wide range of tourist standard, but excellent, characterful restaurants. Cruising out to see and visit Fort Boyard – known globally for its adventure TV show. Also visit superb, new aquarium and maritime museum and Jacques Cousteau ship. Then via the Royan Ferry to Bordeaux., a very elegant French city based on the wine trade. Narrow streets of the old city. Museum of Acquitaine covers the Roman period. Top wine merchants’ premises in city centre. Good eating complements the world-class wine.
Duration 11’15”

Le Don de Fel ceramics

Le Don de Fel is a fabulous phenomenon. It’s architecturally unusual – huge, terra cotta coloured steel drums on a south of France mountain top… but also has brilliant ceramics displayed, made and sold within. Well worth a visit if you are in the Aveyron department and around the Lot Valley.

LOIRE CHATEAUX

This guide visits in detail the ultimate classic Loire chateau at Chenonceaux and then moves on to Cheverny and includes an interview with the Marquis who owns Cheverny. These are two of the classic Loire chateaux but Chambord and others get a mention. The other Loire Valley guide includes Amboise and the castle of Sully. Cheverny is gaining a reputation for its annual Jazz festival held in June. This guide runs to twenty seven minutes on location.

LOIRE VALLEY – motoring tour

In this programme you’ll be travelling around Orleans ( south west of Paris and on France’s greatest river – the Loire – and on westwards towards the Atlantic. Orleans is where Joan of Arc led her successful campaign against the English occupation of parts of France in medieval times and before she was burned at the stake. Equestrian activities too on the banks of the Loire. The historic and beautiful Chateau de Sully. Quality local dining – magic and escapology museum – the Chateaux of Chambord and Amboise where Francois 1st lived. Francois lured Leonardo da Vinci to live his final years here and Leonardo died here in 1519. Duration 14’22”

LOT VALLEY and THE AVEYRON – pt 1

This is a fabulously beautiful area of France – a little south and east of the Dordogne – but less well known. But it deserves a much greater reputation. It’s a wonderful blend of high, but very verdant plateau country and steep, wooded river valleys like the Lot itself and the Truyere below. Towns like Entraygues, Mur de Barrez, Estaing and Espalion are a great pleasure as is the local excellent but unknown wine. There are two parts to the Lot Valley guide which also include the Roqufort cheese country further south and of course that modern miracle of engineering the Millau Viaduct. Both guides run to around twenty-five minutes each. See also the Dordogne guide to an equally wonderful holiday area to the north west.

LOT VALLEY and THE AVEYRON – pt 2

This is a fabulously beautiful area of France – a little south and east of the Dordogne – but less well known. But it deserves a much greater reputation. It’s a wonderful blend of high, but very verdant plateau country and steep, wooded river valleys like the Lot itself and the Truyere below. Towns like Entraygues, Mur de Barrez, Estaing and Espalion are a great pleasure as is the local excellent but unknown wine. There are two parts to the Lot Valley guide which also include the Roqufort cheese country further south and of course that modern miracle of engineering the Millau Viaduct. Both guides run to around twenty-five minutes each. See also the Dordogne guide to an equally wonderful holiday area to the north west.

NANTES – pt 1 updated 2017

Nantes is one of Europe’s most creative and arty cities. It has re-created itself after the loss of its naval maritime role. It has history as the capital of medieval Brittany with a mighty castle, fine and historic cathedral – and an enormously vigorous life along the banks of the River Loire. But above all make sure you take a boat trip across to up-beat Trentemoult and on no account miss the amazing Machines of the Ile de Nantes including the world’s most amazing and fabulous Elephant puppet – all forty feet tall of it ! These guides are both just short of thirty minutes each in length and capture the life of this vibrant city.

NANTES – pt 2

Nantes is one of Europe’s most creative and arty cities. It has re-created itself after the loss of its naval maritime role. It has history as the capital of medieval Brittany with a mighty castle, fine and historic cathedral – and an enormously vigorous life along the banks of the River Loire. But above all make sure you take a boat trip across to up-beat Trentemoult and on no account miss the amazing Machines of the Ile de Nantes including the world’s most amazing and fabulous Elephant puppet – all forty feet tall of it ! These guides are both just short of thirty minutes each in length and capture the life of this vibrant city.

NIMES – Roman city

Nimes is a gracious, elegant and historic city developed by the Romans and still a real gem for a break or as the base for travelling more widely. You can’t miss the Roman Arena – the best preserved in Europe or the Maison Carre temple. There’s good eating, quality shopping – the Pont du Gard with its fascinating museum of the Roman water industry ( no honestly !) and you have the Camargues with its white horses, fighting bulls and birdlife. Nearby are other intriguingly medieval towns like Aigues Mortes. Good wine country around Nimes too. Duration.. 30’01”

ST MALO – Culinary Tour

St Malo’s pleasures and activities are obvious and many and covered in the main guides on this France page … This is a new culinary walking tour around St Malo taking-in four really interesting food shops – spices, butter and cheeses, wine and Breton cider, and a fantastic patisserie chocolatier ! And then restaurant information too. It runs to sixteen minutes.

ST MALO – pt 1 – Brittany

St Malo is one of the most attractive walled cities in France. It stands on a rocky coast in Brittany known for its oysters and shellfish. The town is powerfully built of grey granite and is full of restaurants, fine food shops, art galleries and above all – full of Breton character ! These two guides will take you out to Cancale, on a St Malo culinary walking tour, cycling the coast by electric bike, out on a sailing boat and even having a try at sand-yachting. They run to a total of just over an hour on location !

ST MALO – pt 2 – Brittany

St Malo is one of the most attractive walled cities in France. It stands on a rocky coast in Brittany known for its oysters and shellfish. The town is powerfully built of grey granite and is full of restaurants, fine food shops, art galleries and above all – full of Breton character! These two guides will take you out to Cancale, on a St Malo culinary walking tour, cycling the coast by electric bike, out on a sailing boat and even having a try at sand-yachting. They run to a total of just over an hour on location!

SWISS CHOCOLATE TRAIN

This is a marvellous day trip up from Montreux on Lake Geneva and into the Alpine uplands around the extremely picturesque village of Gruyere. Stop at a cheese-making dairy, visit the castle of Gruyere and the amazing HR Giger museum and bar ( he designed the Alien film sets) and then rejoin the Belle Epoque carriages of the train to Broc where Cailler make superb Swiss chocolate.
Here’s a delightful fifteen minute programme.

VAR – Bargemon – Provence

Bargemon is a delightfully attractive little hill town in the peaceful countryside behind the glitzy Cote d’Azur. IUt has a clutch of restaurants, a couple of art galleries and interesting food and wine producers in the hills around. It’s also home to David and Victoria Beckham who live a very un-celeb lifestyle locally in their posh estate. Bargemon is one of sixteen communes in the Dracenie district which include Callas and Claviers. It’s a lovely area for walking, horse riding and other outdoor sports. You can drive to the amazing Gorges du Verdon or down to St Tropez within the hour even in summer. This guide runs to 21 minutes.

VILLARS – LES DIABLERETS – summer Switzerland

Villars sur Ollon, Les Diablerets, Switzerland in summer. Walking in alpine pastures with those cowbells still tinkling in the 21st century… fabulous views and meals in mountain restaurants… golf on offer… visit a dairy at breakfast time to see Gruyere cheese made … loads of family entertainment too. Runs to thirty minutes of evocative fun in the mountains…