Corinne Marietosello Perfumer In Grasse

Corinne Marie-Tosello has two routes to work one through olive groves, the other through fields overlooking the sea. Most people would revel in the view, but Corinne revels in their smells. Corinne is chief training officer at the prestigious Grasse perfumery Fragonard (see below). She is in charge of the 'olfactory education' of the perfumery's staff (scent identification, production process, types of perfumes etc) and she runs sought-after perfume workshops where perfume fanatics get a shot...

Fashion Emporia

There are fashion shops offering creations and accessories from a variety of cutting-edge designers. Abou d'Abi Bazar (Map pp132-3 01 42 77 96 98 10 rue des Francs Bourgeois, 3e (St-Paul S2-7pm Sun & Mon, 10.30am-7.15pm Tue-Sat) This fashionable boutique is a treasure trove of smart and affordable ready-to-wear pieces from young designers including Paul & Joe, Isabel Marant, Missoni and Antik Batik. APC (Map pp126-7 01 42 781802 112 rue Vieille du Temple, 3e (Chemin Vert S 11.30am-8pm)The...

Rgf

Abbey Bookshop (Map pp126-7 01 4633 16 24 www.abbeybookshop.net 29 rue de la Parcheminerie, 5e Cluny-La Sorbonne S10am-7pm Mon-Sat) This mellow Canadian-owned bookshop not far from place St-Michel is celebrated for its free tea and coffee (sweetened with maple syrup) and good selection of new and used books. Les Mots la Bouche (Map pp126-7 01 42 78 88 30 www.motsbouche.com, in French 6 rue Ste-Croix de la Bretonnerie, 4e H tel de Ville S11am-11pm Mon-Sat, 1-9pm Sun) 'On the Tip of the Tongue'...

Selfcatering

Pick up fresh picnic supplies at the food market ( S 8am-1pm) adjacent to the train station. Supermarkets include E Leclerc (224 bd de la Plage S 9am-7.30pm Mon-Sat, 9.30am-12.30pm Sun) and Monoprix (46 cours Lamarque de Plaisance S 8.30am-12.30pm & 2-7.30pm Mon-Sat). Frequent trains between Bordeaux and Arcachon ( 9.90, 50 minutes) coordinate with TGVs from Paris' Gare Montparnasse. Free electric ho buses A, B and C loop around town. Buses can be hailed anywhere along the route the tourist...

Mont Stmichel

It's one of France's most iconic images the slender towers and sky-scraping turrets of the abbey of Mont St-Michel rising from stout ramparts and battlements, the whole ensemble connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. Fortunately, although it's visited by huge numbers of tourists, both French and foreign, the Mont still manages to whisk you back to the Middle Ages, its fantastic architecture set against the backdrop of the area's extraordinary tides. The bay around Mont St-Michel is...

Busabout

Buses run by London-based Busabout ( in UK 0207-950 1661 www.busabout.com 1 2 3 loops US 639 1069 1319) link 29 continental European cities in nine countries every other day from early May to October. You can travel at your own pace and hop on or off as you like. In many places, the pick-up drop-off point is a central hostel. In France, which is on the Western Loop (one of three), stops are in Bordeaux, Tours, Paris, Avignon and Nice.

Bois De Vincennes

In the southeastern corner of Paris, the Bois de Vincennes (Vincennes Wood Map pp114-15 bd Poniatowski, 12e ( Porte de Charenton or Porte Dor e) encompasses some 995 hectares. Most of it, however, is just outside the bd P riph rique. On the wood's northern edge, Ch teau de Vincennes (Map pp114-15 01 480831 20 www.chateau METRO STOPS WORTH STOPPING BY Jumpbean Abbesses (Line 12) Brightly painted murals may ease your journey up the lengthy staircase to the height of Montmartre. Arts Et Metiers...

An Architectural Pilgrimage

It is only for hardened fans of architecture, 'it' being a far-from-pretty futuristic concrete priory. But with the signature of modern-architecture icon Le Corbusier (for more, see p65) behind it, stark Couvent Ste-Marie de la Tourette ( 04 74 26 79 70 www.couventlatourette.com adult 12-18yr under 12yr 8 6 free h guided tours 10.30am, 3pm & 5pm Mon-Sat, 3pm & 5pm Sun Jul & Aug, 2.30pm Mon-Fri, 10.30am, 2.30pm & 4pm Sat, 2.30pm & 4pm Sun Sep & Oct, 3.30pm daily Nov-Mar), 30km...

Passionate About The Bayeux Tapestry

Looking back on her life, Isabelle Robert-Attard can hardly believe how lucky she is to be the director of the Mus e de la Tapisserie de Bayeux (p279), a job that 'brings together everything I love - archeology, history, tourism and the Vikings, or at least Scandinavia'. Robert-Attard grew up with the tapestry - or, more precisely, with a 1 10-scale poster of it hung on the wall of her family's living room in Orl ans. She visited the real tapestry for the first time at age two and returned as a...

Seven Top Picks For Seven Authors

It wasn't easy and involved a certain amount of gnashing of teeth and rending of garments (not to mention hair-pulling), but the seven authors of France have decided on their seven favourite Bistrot du Sommelier, Paris (p185) Matchmake food and wine at this delightful Parisian bistro with owner Philippe Faure-Brac, one of the world's foremost sommeliers, on hand to help. La Ribaudi re, Bourg-Charente, near Cognac (p669) Chef Thierry Verrat's gastronomic Michelin-starred palace is set among...

Around Nantes

The classic seaside town of Le Croisic (population 4300) centres on a pretty, half-timbered fishing harbour adjoining its old town, where shrimp, lobster, crab, scallop and sea bass are unloaded. From Nantes, an all-day M trOc ane (www.metroceane.fr, in French) train ticket to Le Croisic costs 14.80 and includes public transport throughout Nantes. En route to Le Croisic, the same ticket allows you to stop at St-Nazaire (population 68,600), where cruise ships - including the Queen Mary II - are...

Skiing Superlatives

France can claim a fair few superlatives in The world's largest ski area is Les Portes du Soleil (p539), northwest of Chamonix. Europe's highest station is Val Thorens (2300m p551), west of M ribel. Europe's largest skiable glacier, which has 120 hectares of marked slopes, is at Les Deux Alpes (p565), in the spectacular Parc National des crins. One of France's longest off-piste trails (20km) is the legendary Vall e Blanche (p532) at Chamonix the longest official (groomed) one - some 16km - is...

Morlaix

At the bottom of a deep valley sluicing through northeastern Finist re, Morlaix is an engaging and easily accessed city that's also a good gateway to the coast and the enclos paroissiaux (enclosed parishes), the rich sculptures surrounding many of the parish churches fanning out to the south (such as the 16th-century masterpiece in the village of Pleyben). Towering above the town, the arched 58m-high railway viaduct was built in 1863. Below, a few steps southwest, is the tourist office ( 02 98...

The Black Madonnas Of The Auvergne

The Auvergne has an astonishing number of Vierges Noires (Black Madonnas), dotted around its cathedrals and churches, including ones at Vichy (p588), Murat (p598) and Le Puy-en-Velay (p602). No one knows quite how this strange tradition started some historians believe it began during the Crusades, when Christian soldiers came under the influence of Moorish sculptors others believe the figures are part of a much older tradition involving the Egyptian goddess Isis or even a pagan Mother Goddess....

Fontainebleau

Was turned into a German headquarters. After it was liberated by Allied forces under US General George Patton in 1944, part of the complex served as the Allied and then NATO headquarters from 1945 to 1965. Visits take in the Grands Appartements (State Apartments), which contain several outstanding rooms. An informative 1'A-hour audioguide (included in the price) leads visitors around the main areas. The spectacular Chapelle de la Trinit (Trinity Chapel), whose ornamentation dates from the first...

Chantilly

The elegant old town of Chantilly, 48km north of Paris, is small, select and spoiled. Its ch teau sits in a sea of parkland, gardens, lakes and the For t de Chantilly, which is packed with walking opportunities its racetrack is one of the most prestigious hat-and-frock addresses in Europe and that deliciously sweetened thick cr me called Chantilly was created here (see the boxed text, p219). Whatever you do, don't come on Tuesday, when the imposing but heavily restored ch teau is closed. Office...

Visiting The Maginot Line

Parts of the Maginot Line (p39) are open to visitors thanks to local volunteer organisations (the French government considers the Maginot Line an embarrassing failure that's best forgotten and so provides no funding or publicity). In Lorraine, visitors can tour more than a dozen sites, including Fort du Hackenberg (p412). Maginot sites in Alsace include Schrenenbourg ( Hunspach tourist office 03 88 80 59 39 www.lignemaginot.com adult 6-18yr 6 4 S self-guided tours begin 2-4pm Sat & 9.30-11am...

William Conquers England

Born out of wedlock to Robert the Magnificent, future Duke of Normandy, and Arlette, daughter of a furrier, William the Bastard (1027-87) - better known to posterity as William the Conqueror -became Duke of Normandy at the tender age of eight when his father died while on the way back from Jerusalem. Having survived several assassination attempts by rivals, including members of his own family, William assumed full control of the province at age 15 and set about regaining his lost territory and...

Battle Of The Somme Memorials

The First Battle of the Somme, a WWI Allied offensive waged in the villages and woodlands northeast of Amiens, was designed to relieve pressure on the beleaguered French troops at Verdun. On 1 July 1916, British, Commonwealth and French troops 'went over the top' in a massive assault along a 34km front. But German positions proved virtually unbreachable, and on the first day of the battle an astounding 21,392 British troops were killed and another 35,492 were wounded. Most casualties were...

Beauvais

Famed for the titanic hubris of its cathedral, doomed to remain forever unfinished, Beauvais became an important tapestry-making centre during the reign of Louis XIV and is often mentioned in the same breath as Gobelins and Aubusson. Today, the city -rebuilt less than enchantingly after WWII -hosts excellent tapestry exhibitions and is a budget airline hub. Tourist Office ( 03 44 15 30 30 www.beauvais.fr, in French 1 rue Beauregard S 9.30am-12.30pm & 1.30-6pm Mon-Sat year-round, 10am-5pm Sun...

Dinard

Visiting Dinard 'in season' is a little like stepping into one of the canvases Picasso painted here in the 1920s. Belle- poque mansions built into the cliffs form a timeless backdrop to the beach dotted with blue-and-white striped bathing tents and the beachside carnival. Out of season, when holidaymakers have packed up their buckets and spades, the town is decidedly dormant, but wintry walks along the coastal paths are spectacular. Dinard's focal point is the gently curved beach Plage de l'...

Economy

The economy was the key issue for French voters in the 2007 presidential elections, hence their demand for change in the charismatic shape of Nicolas Sarkozy (p47), who pledged to reduce unemployment and income tax (currently between 5.5 and 40 ), create more jobs and boost growth in a sluggish economy that nonetheless ranks as the world's eighth largest. Unemployment is down (from 8.7 in early 2007 to 7.6 in mid-2008) but the electorate remains unhappy, possibly because of the traditionally...

Practicalities

France uses the metric system for weights and measures. Plugs have two round pins, so visitors from the English-speaking lands will need an adaptor the electric current is 220V at 50Hz AC (you may need a transformer for 110V electrical appliances). Videos in France work on the PAL system TV is Secam. Locals read their news in centre-left, highly intellectual Le Monde (www.lemonde.fr), right-leaning Le Figaro (www.lefigaro.fr) or left-leaning Lib ration (www.liberation.fr). For radio news, tune...

Moveable Feast

Glide along the River Erdre with an ever-changing view of ch teaux as you dine aboard Bateaux Nantais ( 02 40 14 51 14 www.bateaux-nantais.fr quai de la Motte Rouge, Nantes lunch 53-86, dinner 58-86 S by reservation), accompanied by ambient music, local Muscadet wines and chef-prepared regional specialities. There are regular departures in summer in winter boats operate only when there are sufficient numbers. Nantes has no shortage of lively spots for a drink. Two prime areas are the medieval...

Theatre

The 18th-century fortress-turned-outdoor theatre, Th tre du Fort Antoine ( 93 50 80 00 av de la Quarantaine S plays 9pm Mon Jul & Aug), is a great spot to while away a summer evening. In winter, Monte Carlo's Th tre Princesse Grace ( 93 25 32 27 www.tpgmonaco.com 12 av d'Ostende tickets 27-42), designed by the late princess, stages anything from magic shows to gospel music and comedy.

BUDGET

Biarritz Camping ( 05 59 23 00 12 www.biarritz -camping.fr 28 rue d'Harcet camping 15-23 S mid-May-mid-Oct S ) This camp site, 2km southwest of the centre, has spacious, shady pitches. Take westbound bus 9 to the Biarritz Camping stop. Auberge de Jeunesse de Biarritz ( 05 59 41 76 00 www.hibiarritz.org 8 rue Chiquito de Cambo dm incl sheets & breakfast 17.10-18.10 S reception 8.30am-11.30am & 6-9pm, to noon & 10pm Apr-Sep, closed mid-Dec-early Jan M ) Like Anglet's youth hostel (p691),...

Adresse Consulat De France A Bruxelles

Break-ins to parked cars are a widespread problem. Gangs cruise seemingly tranquil tourist areas for unattended vehicles - out-of-town or foreign plates and rental stickers are a dead giveaway. Never, ever leave anything valuable - or anything not valuable - inside your car. Hiding your bags in the trunk is risky in hatchbacks it's practically an open invitation to theft. Aggressive theft from cars stopped at red lights, eg by motorcycle-borne thieves, is occasionally a problem, especially in...

Messing About On The River

One of the most atmospheric ways to explore the region's scenery is aboard a gabarre, a flat-bottomed, wooden boat used to transport freight up and down the rivers of the Perigord and Lot Valley. Gabarres were once a common sight in this part of France, but they had practically died out by the early 20th century, eclipsed by the rise of the railway and the all-conquering automobile. But these days they've been reinvented as river-going pleasure-vessels, and you can hop aboard for a tranquil...

Parc National De La Vanoise

A wild mix of high mountains, steep valleys and vast glaciers, the Parc National de la Vanoise www.vanoise.com sports 530 sq km of spectacular scenery between the Tarentaise north and Maurienne south Valleys snowcapped peaks mirrored in icy lakes is just the start It was the country's first national park in 1963 and is very much a green haven. Five designated nature reserves and an inhabited peripheral zone embracing 28 villages border the highly protected core of the park where marmots,...

Pop

The walled town of Uzerche, teetering on a promontory above the rushing V z re River, is one of the Limousin's most appealing hilltop hamlets. The village's main attraction is its medieval architecture, including the Porte B charie, one of the nine original gates that granted access to the village in the 14th century, and the 15th- and 16th-century maisons tourelles turret houses , whose spiky turrets jut out from the walls like witches' hats. From the main gate Uzerche's single street leads...

Carnac

Pre-dating Stonehenge by around 100 years, Carnac Garnag in Breton tops it too with sheer numbers, making this the world's greatest concentration of megalithic sites. There are no fewer than 3000 of these upright stones, most around thigh-high, erected between 5000 and 3500 BC. Carnac, some 32km west of Vannes, comprises the old stone village Carnac-Ville and the seaside resort of Carnac-Plage, 1.5km south, bordered by the 2km-long sandy beach. Its megaliths stretch 13km north from Carnac-Ville...

River Cruising

Unlike many of France's other rivers, the Loire offers relatively few opportunities to get out on the water it's often too unstable and unpredictable to navigate safely, so you won't see too many holiday barges or canal boats cruising around. But the river's not completely off-limits. Croisi res de Loire 02 47 23 98 64 www.labelandre.com offers cruises on the Loire and Cher, departing from Amboise 8.50 5.50 per adult child, running May to September and Chenonceaux 9.25 6 per adult child, from...

Magical Matisse Tour

If you're mad about Matisse, you can cherry-pick a C te d'Azur itinerary that takes in some of the major sites of his life in the area. Born on New Year's Eve in 1869, Henri Matisse arrived in Nice from Paris in 1917 to recover from bronchitis. He remained here until his death in 1954 at his home and studio in the mansion-lined suburb, Cimiez. Checking into the H tel Beau Rivage p870 , he went on to rent a flat on quai des tats-Unis, then moved to what is now the Palais de la Mediterran e p870...

Activities

The tourist office in Bedous left and other outlets in the valley sell the excellent locally produced guide 45 Randonn es en B arn la Vall e d'Aspe 9 . It can also put you in touch with organisers of a whole host of outdoor activities mountain biking, canyon clambering, rafting, climbing, skiing, snowshoeing and winter mountaineering trips. Camping Municipal de Carole 05 59 34 59 19 per person tent car 2.50 2 2 S Mar-mid-Nov Small and quiet it's a good 300m west of the N134 , it's well...

Miles Roddis

Miles studied French at university and spent an idyllic sandwich year in Neuville-sur-SaOne, a place quite rightly overlooked by the best guidebooks, including the one in your hand. Living over the Pyrenees in Valencia, Spain, he and his wife, Ingrid, cross the mountains to France for work or fun at least once a year. He has travelled the length of Languedoc, and usually Roussillon too, on seven occasions for Lonely Planet guidebooks, each time returning home several kilos and a case of fine...

The Pine Cone Train

Chug along a picturesque, narrow-gauge railway on le Train des Pignes the Pine Cone Train . Operated by Chemins de Fer de Provence www.trainprovence.com Digne 04 92 31 01 58 Nice 04 97 03 80 80 , the entire trip from Digne to Nice's Chemins de fer de Provence station 4bis rue Alfred Binet takes about 3 hours 17.65, four daily each direction . the attention of utility company Suez, who is building Europe's biggest solar power station in the village of Curbans near the Vall e de la Blanche....

La Balagne

Stretching inland from the barren 5000-hectare D sert des Agriates east of le Rousse to the snowy crest of Monte Cinto, the Balagne is a remote and traditional area, dotted with scrubby knolls, maquis-covered hills and tiny backcountry villages. A century ago this was one of the island's richest agricultural regions, colloquially known as the Garden of Corsica - a fertile landscape covered with olive farms, orange plantations and fig orchards. But economic decline and steady depopulation during...

Getting There Away

The bus station 04 93 28 43 27, information office 04 93 35 93 60 is next to 12 promenade Mar chal Leclerc, the northern continuation of av Boyer. Services are run by Bus RCA 04 93 85 64 44 , and all fares cost 1 except to Nice airport, a trip that costs 18 and takes 1'A hours Monaco 30 minutes , Nice 1 hours , Ste-Agn s 45 minutes and Sospel 45 minutes . Trains going to Ventimiglia cost 2.30 and take around 15 minutes. For more information on train services along the C te d'Azur, see p874 ....

Mcz

Da Vinci, Leonardo 439 Da Vinci Code 62 Daft Punk 64 Dal , Salvador 157 Dambach-la-Ville 389 dangers 947-8 d'Angers, David 449 Dauphin 556-70 David, Jacques Louis 66 David-N el, Alexandra 856 D-Day 286-7 beaches 283-8 Deauville 292-5 debit cards 955 Debussy, Claude 63 deep vein thrombosis DVT 978 de Gaulle, Charles see Gaulle, Charles de Delacroix, Eug ne 66 Demy, Jacques 61 Depardieu, G rard 61 d partements 953, 954 department stores 956 Paris 197 Desgrange, Henri 55 d'Estaing, Val ry Giscard...

Lost Property

All objects found anywhere across Paris -except those picked up on the trains or in train stations - are brought to the city's Bureau des Objets Trouv s Lost Property Office Map pp114-15 08 21 00 25 25 www.prefecture-police-paris.in 36 rue des Morillons, 15e M Convention S8.30am-5pm Mon-Thu, 8.30am-4.30pm Fri , which is run by the Pr fecture de Police. Since telephone inquiries are impossible, the only way to find out if a lost item has been located is to go there and fill in the forms in...

Angers

Often dubbed 'Black Angers' due to the murky stone and dark slate used in its buildings, the riverside city is the eastern gateway to the Loire Valley. It's best known for its public parks and famous tapestries the 14th-century Tenture de l'Apocalypse is housed in the city's old ch teau, while its modern-day counterpart, the Chant du Monde, is housed at the intriguing Jean Lurcat museum. Angers is split into two halves by the River Maine the largely modern district of La Doutre occupies the...

Correns Frances First Organic Village

Stumbling across Correns pop 800 , a small Proven al village in the middle of nowhere inland in the Var d partement, 50km north of Toulon , you'd be forgiven for thinking 'great, yet another small, Proven al village in the middle of nowhere'. But there is more to Correns than meets the eye. The mayor, a wine producer, had the enlightened idea in 1997 of turning the village's 200 hectares of vineyards part of the C tes de Provence label organic in order to boost the appeal of its vintage. A...

The Via Podensis

Ever since the 9th century, when a hermit named Pelayo stumbled across the tomb of the apostle James brother of John the Evangelist , the Spanish town of Santiago de Compostela has been one of the holiest sites in Christendom and an irresistible magnet for perambulating pilgrims from across Europe. The pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela is traditionally known as the Camino de Santiago Way of St James in English . There are many different routes from London, Germany and Italy, as well as four...

Chteau de Castelnaud

The Ch teau de Castelnaud 05 53 31 30 00 www .castelnaud.com adult 10-17yr 7.60 3.80 S9am-8pm Jul amp Aug, 10am-7pm Apr-Jun amp Sep, 10am-6pm Feb, Mar amp Oct-mid-Nov, 2-5pm mid-Nov-Jan certainly fits the blueprint for the quintessential castle. Its massive ramparts and metre-thick walls are topped by crenellations and sturdy towers from where you can see right across the Dordogne Valley to Castelnaud's arch-rival, the Ch teau de Beynac opposite . Inside the castle is a museum of medieval...

Getting Around

Bus 102 five daily links the airport with Toulon's bus and train station 1.40, 40 minutes and Hy res' town centre 1.40, 10 minutes . Local buses are run by R seau Mistral 04 94 03 87 03 rue Revel S 7.30am-7pm Mon-Fri, 8.30am-12.30pm amp 2-6pm Sat . Tickets cost 1.40 each, or 10 for a book of 10. Buses generally run until around 7.30pm or 8.30pm. Sunday service is limited. Bus 7 links the train station with quai Stalingrad. R seau Mistral also runs boats that link quai Stalingrad with the towns...

Narbonne

Once a coastal port but now a whole 13km inland because of silting up, Narbonne in its time was capital of Gallia Narbonensis and one of the principal Roman cities in Gaul. The tourist office 04 68 65 15 60 www.narbonne -tourisme.com 31 rue Jean Jaur s S 9am-7pm Apr-mid-Sep, 9am-12.30pm amp 1.30-6pm Mon-Sat, 10am-5pm Sun mid-Sep-Mar occupies smart new premises beside Canal de la Robine. The splendid Cath drale St-Just entry on rue Armand Gauthier S 10am-7pm Jul-Sep, 9am-noon amp 2-6pm Oct-Jun...

Dunkirk

Dunkirk Dunkerque , made famous and flattened almost simultaneously in 1940 see p38 , was rebuilt during one of the most uninspired periods in Western architecture. Charming it may not be, but the port city has two worthwhile museums, a mellow beach and several colourful pre-Lent carnivals. Under Louis XIV, Dunkirk - whose name means 'church of the dunes' in Flemish -served as a base for French privateers, including the daring Jean Bart 1650-1702 , whose hugely successful attacks on English and...

TRAIN

Direct services link Reims with pernay 5.70, 22 to 38 minutes, 23 daily weekdays, 14 daily weekends , Laon 8.50, 35 to 55 minutes, eight daily Monday to Friday, six on Saturday, two on Sunday and Paris' Gare de l'Est 22.70, 1 hours, 10 to 15 daily , half of which are TGVs 28, 45 minutes . In the city centre, seek information and buy tickets at the Boutique SNCF 1 cours Jean-Baptiste Langlet S 9am-7pm Mon-Fri, 10am-6pm Sat . An outfit called Arthemys V loservices 06 25 49 52 57...

Paris

Paris has all but exhausted the superlatives that can reasonably be applied to any city. Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower have been described countless times, as have the Seine and the differences between the Left and Right Banks. But what writers have been unable to capture is the grandness and the magic of strolling along the city's broad avenues, which lead from impressive public buildings and exceptional museums to parks, gardens and esplanades. With more famous landmarks than any other city...

Other Sights

Many of Strasbourg's most impressive public buildings, built when the city was ruled by the German Reich, are just northeast of the Grande le around place de la R publique j R publique . The neighbourhood that stretches from there eastwards to Parc de l'Orangerie is dominated by solid, stone buildings inspired by late-19th-century Prussian tastes. Most are some sort of 'neo' - romantic, Gothic or Renaissance - and you can see that some had the initials RF for 'R publique Fran aise' hastily...

Pyreneesatlantiques

1 IBOss s lt gt lrissarry Sl-Matin d'Arrossa St- tienne de Ba gor , y . o olrouleguy gt 1 n048 1 ' St-Jean Recent DNA testing shows that the Basque people have inhabited the region for at least 30,000 years - the only people in Europe to have remained in their region for so long. This was made possible by the fact that the area was still inhabitable during the last ice age. Roman sources mention a tribe called the Vascones living in the area and it's attested that the Basques took over what is...

Shopping

At the splendid Maison de la Truffe 27 place aux Herbes , it's truffles with everything - adding aroma to chocolate, steeped in oil, bagged with rice and much more. The bus station - grandly named and in fact merely a bus stop - is on av de la Lib ration, beside Banque Populaire. Buses running between Avignon 8.70, one hour and Al s 7.30, 40 minutes call by two to five times daily. There are also at least five daily services to from N mes 5.30, 45 minutes . Al s, 45km from N mes and 70km from...

BICYCLE

France is generally a great place to cycle. Not only is much of the countryside drop-dead gorgeous but it has a growing number of urban and rural pistes cyclables bike paths and lanes , some linking one town to the next, and an extensive network of secondary and tertiary roads with relatively light traffic. One pitfall back roads rarely have proper shoulders so wearing a fluorescent reflective vest is highly recommended. French law dictates that bicycles must have two functioning brakes, a...

Place Louis

This pretty, pedestrianised square is home to Maison Louis XIV 05 59 26 01 56 S 10.30am-noon amp 2.30-5.30pm Jun amp Sep-mid-Oct, 10.30am-12.30pm amp 2.30-6.30pm Jul amp Aug , built in 1643 by a wealthy shipowner and furnished in period style. Here, Louis XIV lived out his last days of bachelorhood before marrying Maria Teresa. Half-hour guided tours with English text cost 4.80 3 per adult child. Artisan produce abounds along the Route Gourmande de Basque Basque Gourmand Route 05 59 54 56 70...

Pelota

Even in the tiniest of Basque villages, you'll find a church, a cemetery, a town hall and at least one pelota court. The term pelota pelote basque in French is actually the generic name for a group of 16 different native Basque games. The courts differ, but all are played using a hard ball with a rubber core the pelote , which is struck with bare hands mains nues , a wooden paddle pala or paleta , or a scooplike racquet made of wicker, leather or wood and strapped to the wrist chistera . The...

Montauban

Montauban, southern France's second-oldest bastide on the right bank of the River Tarn, was founded in 1144 by Count Alphonse Jourdain of Toulouse who, legend says, was so charmed by its trailing willow trees alba in Occitan that he named the place Mont Alba. It was badly battered during the Albigensian crusade and later became a Huguenot stronghold, only to again suffer persecution when the Edict of Nantes 1598 was repealed by Louis XIV a century later. Montauban's attractive arcaded...

Around Auxerre

Between the River Yonne and the Canal de Bourgogne lie the Auxerrois and the Tonnerrois, rural areas covered with forests, fields, pastures and vineyards. The quiet back roads eg the D124 and many of the walking trails make for excellent cycling. The countryside west of Auxerre, known as La Puisaye, is a lightly populated landscape of woods, winding creeks and dark hills. The area is best known as the birthplace of Colette 1873-1954 , author of La Maison de Claudine and Gigi and 50 other novels...

Hyres

The reason you come to Hy res seldom has to do with its small, neglected medieval town centre or profusion of palm trees. The city's real assets are the Giens Peninsula to the south and the three les d'Hy res stretching east along the coast. A protected wetland area, the peninsula harbours amazing birdlife including pink flamingos, herons, terns, egrets, sandpipers, teals and cormorants. The tourist office 04 94 01 84 50 3 av Ambroise Thomas S 8.30am-7.30pm Jul amp Aug, 9am-6pm Mon-Fri,...

Grande Corniche

The Grande Corniche, whose panoramas are the most dramatic of all, leaves Nice as the D2564. It passes La Turbie population 3150 , which sits on a promontory directly above Monaco and offers vertigo-inducing views of the principality. The best views are from the town's Troph e des Alps 04 93 41 20 84 cours Albert 1 adult child 5 3.50 S 10am-1.30pm amp 2.30-5pm Tue-Sun Sep-May, longer in summer , one of only two Roman trophy monuments in the world the other's in Romania , built by Augustus in 6...

Fort Du Hackenberg

The largest single Maginot Line bastion see p374 in the Metz area was the 1000-man Fort du Hackenberg 03 82 82 30 08 www.maginot -hackenberg.com adult under 16yr 8 4 S tours begin every 15min 2-3.30pm Sat, Sun amp holidays amp 3pm Wed Apr-11 Nov, additional tours at 3pm Mon, Tue, Thu amp Fri mid-Jun-mid-Sep, 2pm Sat in winter , 30km northeast of Metz near the village of Veckring, whose 10km of galleries were designed to be self-sufficient for three months and, in battle, to fire four tonnes of...

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If you'd rather someone else did the hard work, spend a lazy, effortless hour with Les Bateliers de la Malene 04 66 48 51 10 S Apr-Oct , who, for 19.50 9.75 per adult child under 10, will punt you down an 8km stretch of the gorge, leaving from La Malene, then drive you back. Camping Les Gorges du Tarn 04 66 48 59 38 fax 04 66 48 59 37 2 people tent amp car 8.20 S Easter-mid-Nov g About 800m upstream from Ste- nimie, this is the cheapest of the several riverside campsites, and it also hires out...

Parc Naturel Rgional Du Morvan

The 2990-sq-km Morvan Regional Park, bounded more or less by V zelay, Avallon, Saulieu and Autun and situated mainly in the Ni vre d partement, encompasses 700 sq km of dense woodland, 13 sq km of lakes and vast expanses of rolling farmland broken by hedgerows, stone walls and stands of beech, hornbeam and oak. The sharp-eyed can observe some of France's largest and most majestic birds of prey perched on trees as they scan for field rodents - or wait lazily for road kill. The majority of the...

Thomas Salacroup

This native of Villefranche de Rouergue, a village few know in the Massif Central, is a political-science student in Toulouse. Hot spots to drink The city's Irish soul Mulligans 05 61 14 04 21 www.mulligans.fr 39 Grande Rue St-Michel beer bar La Tireuse opposite and Bar El Camino 05 62 26 60 51 138 Grande Rue St-Michel where the owner C sar serves cheap drinks with excellent tapas. And for dinner For students and people who like the concept of bonne franquette cheap well-cooked food , it's La...

Opra Bastille

Paris' giant 'second' opera house, the Op ra Bastille Mappp132-3 0892899090 www.opera-de-paris .fr, in French 2-6 place de la Bastille, 12e Bastille , designed by the Canadian architect Carlos Ott, was inaugurated on 14 July 1989, the 200th anniversary of the storming of the Bastille. It has three theatres, including the 2700-seat main auditorium. There are 1 -hour guided tours 01 40 01 19 70 adult senior, student amp 11-25 yr under 11 yr 11 9 6 , which usually depart at CARA BLACK interviewed...

Metz

Present-day capital of the Lorraine r gion, Metz pronounced 'mess' is a dignified city with stately public squares, shaded riverside parks, and a lively, pedestrians-only commercial centre. Quite a few of the city's most impressive buildings date from the 48-year period when Metz was part of the German Reich. The Gothic cathedral, with its stunning stained glass, is the most outstanding attraction. The city also has a first-rate museum of antiquities and art and, at the time of writing, it was...

LOURDES

Sacrament Procession along the Esplanade des Processions. When it's wet, the latter ceremony is held inside the vast, bunkerlike Basilique Souterraine St-Pie X Underground Basilica of St Pius X , with a capacity for 25,000 worshippers and vibrant backlit works of gemmail superimposed pieces of coloured glass embedded in enamel . All four places of worship open 6am to 10pm in summer and 7am to 7pm in winter. You can enter the grounds around the clock via the Entr e des Lacets rue Monseigneur...

East Of Limoges Guret Bourganeuf

Pop Gu ret 15,000 pop Bourganeuf 3500 The busy town of Gu ret grew up around a 12th-century monastery and the 15th-century Ch teau de Moneyroux, now the administrative HQ for the conseil general of the Creuse d partement, of which Gu ret is capital. Gu ret itself isn't that exciting, but it's a handy base for exploring nearby attractions, including the fascinating wolf sanctuary at Le Parc Animalier des Monts de Gu ret 05 55 81 23 23 www.loups-chabrieres.com adult 4-12yr 7.50 6 S 10am-8pm...