FRANCE – 7 unconventional experiences you should add to your itinerary

The Old Mill in Vernon ©Spiffing Images Media on Flickr.com - https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/

France is one of the most visited countries in Europe, welcoming millions of tourists every year.

The majority of them are attracted to Paris and its impressive landmarks and attractions. But France has got much more to discover. Each region is different and characterised by rich traditions, beautiful landscapes and delicious food.

This month we want to give you some ideas for innovative itineraries, including new ways of experiencing the perfumes and colours of one of the most incredible places on Earth.

Starting from Paris, we will go through beautiful regions like Champagne, Burgundy and Provence, visiting hidden gems and dining in unique places.

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1. Have an exclusive meal at Nicholas Flamel House (Paris) – According to the legend, Nicolas Flamel achieved immortality by discovering and drinking the Elixir of Life. It is also said that he achieved the ultimate goal of all alchemists, the creation of the Philosopher’s Stone, a magical rock that could turn every metal into gold just by touch. Famous authors continue to use the myth today: Flamel appears in J K Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum and other popular works. One of his houses is still in perfect conditions in the heart of Paris and it now hosts a lovely French restaurant. Do not miss the chance of having a delicious lunch in a place full of magic!

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Auberge Nicholas Flamel ©Guilhem Vellut on Flickr – https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

2. See a real flour mill painted by Monet – It is a 16th century flour mill constructed on top of an ancient bridge that once crossed the Seine River in Vernon (Normandy). The underside of the mills was equipped with a waterwheel that could be lowered or raised depending on the water level. The bridge is mostly gone now. The Old Mill, the last remaining of five, stands across the two extreme piers of the bridge on the right bank of the Seine. Claude Monet is just one of the many painters who have chosen to paint it.

3. Visit the Chateau that inspired Versailles – Located 55 km from Paris, Château de Vaux le Vicomte is the largest private owned castle in France, listed as a Historic Monument. It marked the beginning of the Louis XIV Style combining architecture, interior design and landscape design and it was the inspiration behind the more famous Chateau de Versailles (created by the same architect and designers). It has been also the filming location of several productions, like James Bond, The Man in the Iron Mask (starring Leonardo Di Caprio) and the TV drama series Versailles. Discover a panoramic view over all the estate from the lantern overlooking the central dome, culminating point over the château. A breath-taking view at 25 meters above the ground.

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Chateau de Vaux le Vicompte – Image by judyma from Pixabay

 

4. Lose yourself in the Jonas Caves, Saint Pierre de Colamine – Made from soft limestone, the Jonas cave system is completely men-made, with the first caves dating back to pre-history. In the Middle Ages, the caves were inhabited by Catholic monks who built chapels, living quarters and other rooms to create a sort of monastery right into the side of the mountain. Eventually, the caves were taken over by knights from a nearby castle and were used as military fortifications. Today the caves consist of around 70 rooms across five floors. Many of the rooms feature windows cut through the rock and many of the pillars and arches cut by the monks still hide several well preserved medieval religious frescoes painted in still vibrant red ochres and black coals.

5. Discover Le Palais Idéal in Hauterives (Lyon) – 30 miles south of Lyon, in the small town of Hauterives it is possible to admire a unique Palace, inspired by different styles and eras, mixing together Chinese, Algerian and Northern European influences to create a fantastic and completely original castle of grottoes. Guided tours are available to discover the history of the builder, Postman Cheval, and learn about the different techniques, materials, and sources of inspiration behind this incredible building.

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Palais Ideal – Image by Alex Olzheim from Pixabay 

6. Taste Ancient Rome wine at Pont du Gard – after visiting this ancient Roman bridge and aqueduct, still standing as a wonder of classical construction, taste some unique wines created using Latin recipes and harvesting methods from 2,000 years ago. The Roman wine, produced using ancient traditional techniques, has a surprising richness and flavour, unlike traditional French wines. The tasting is served at the “Les Terrasses sur Pont du Gard” restaurant, located facing the majestic ancient monument, and is accompanied by a selection of local products and regional specialties: tapenade, olives, aubergine caviar, cheese, etc.

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Pont du Gard – Image by Ira Gorelick from Pixabay

7. Look for truffles in Provence – Follow Robert Florent, a truffle grower by vocation, in his walk in the wood. You will learn more about the “cavage” (truffle hunting) technique in the wild, accompanied by his truffle dog named “Cannelle” (cinnamon). You could also find some truffles yourself! Subsequently, Robert invites participants for a wine and truffle tasting at La Bastide de Clovis, his estate in Gordes, listed as one of the ‘Most Beautiful Villages in France.’ With his son Gaël, he welcomes individual visitors and groups up of to 40 people in season (mid-November to mid-March).

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Mr. Florent with his dog ©Robert Florent

 

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