Renowned worldwide for its elegance, gourmet food (and cheese!), fine wine, romance and beautiful chateaux, France is in fact the most popular tourist destination in the whole world. Boasting some beautiful stretches of coastline, both the Pyrenees and the French Alps mountain ranges and also being easily accessible from England by ferry, train and plane, it's not surprising that so many travellers visit holiday homes in France each year. France shares a border with many other European countries, so if you feel the need to explore, book a rental property near to the border to easily travel to places like Spanish regions of Aragón and Catalonia, the small but beautifully formed countries of Andorra and Luxembourg, regions such as Piedmont in Italy, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland. Don't forget that France also has departments and territories overseas, such as Guadeloupe and Reunion Island! The weather in France is typically cold during the winter and warm in the summer, but the mountainous regions of the Alps and the Pyrenees get a lot of snow during the winter and obviously the weather is dependant upon where you are in the country. It is particularly warm during the summer months in the southern regions with a mediterranean climate, whereas there is an oceanic climate along the coasts of the Atlantic, not forgetting the tropical climate of the French overseas departments.
Visit the South of France – and Not Just for the Sunny Weather!
The South of France is one of the most sought-after holiday destinations, especially for those looking to escape to somewhere sunny with a laid-back way of life but not too far away from home during their summer holidays. There are many small towns and villages that haven't yet been discovered by the masses of tourists, and the surrounding scenery is bound to be filled with natural beauty. Apart from that, the South of France is also famous for its hearty food and its amazing seafood dishes like moules frites, as well as of course its wine.
Nice on the Wonderful Côte d'Azur
Nice is France's second most popular tourist destination after the capital, Paris, located on the Côte d'Azur, or the 'French Riviera'. The south east coast attracts millions of tourists every year, and it is a perfect location to spend your vacation in one of the luxury holiday homes in France available for booking in Nice. If you want to marvel at the rich and famous, take a day trip to nearby Monaco! This microstate is full of chic elegance, high-class boutiques and in the beautiful Port of Monaco you can gaze in awe at the boats and luxury yachts. As Nice is on the coast, it has plenty of beach to offer its visitors. There are a lot of private beaches, but if you're on a budget then there are plenty of nice public beaches too – just head down towards the water! Beaches in Nice are all pebbly, so take some jelly shoes with you. There are a lot of other attractions in Nice too, and a great idea is to have a wander to see some of the interesting monuments, churches and architecture, for example the 19th century Basilica of Notre Dame, the largest church in Nice, Nice Cathedral, and the St Nicolas Orthodox Cathedral, the biggest of its kind ouside of Russia. If you want to spend some time outside to appreciate the lovely southern weather, a climb up Castle Hill is a must! Here you will have beautiful views across Nice, the harbour and its surroundings. Parc Phoenix is also a lovely day out for the family - a botanical garden and zoo to explore and take some time out to relax. There are plenty of museums here too, such as the Contempory Art Museum, Matisse and Chagall museums and the Palais Lascaris.
Come to the Dordogne for an Active Break
Another popular part of the South of France is the Dordogne, a typically French area filled with history and chateaux waiting to be discovered! This is a favourite destination for French families who rent self catering apartments and holiday cottages in the Dordogne during their summer. The busiest town is Périgueux, whose old town centre is studded with Medieval and Renaissance buildings. Some of the best Medieval architecture in the area is in Sarlat-la-Canéda in the Vézère Valley, which is world famous for its subterranean caves containing prehistoric cave paintings from the Stone Age. The oldest cave art in the world was discovered in nearby north Spain, in Cantabria. The Dordogne river's upper valley is a stretch of cliffs and deep gorges, and its a real treat for fishermen as the river is home to many different types of fish and has spots where the water is either fast flowing or slower so you can wade with ease. Don't forget: you need a fishing permit (carte blanche) if you plan to go fishing in the Dordogne. This river also attracts walkers from all around, as there are some excellent routes here which are ideal for a walking holiday in the Dordogne. Follow ancient scenic trails and caves, or find your own way and discover some of its hidden gems, many of which lie alongside the Dordogne river, which means that another way to find them is by hiring a canoe. There are also some great mountain biking trails, as well as easier cycling routes to enjoy the wonderful scenery and stop off in the pretty rural villages along the way.
Don't Forget About the North of France Too!
If you're looking to rent holiday cottages in France but you don't want to have to travel a long distance, then head to the apartments and villas in the north - only a short distance across the English channel (it takes an hour and a half to travel from Dover to Calais) and you will be in France! There are ferries from ports such as Dover, Portsmouth and Plymouth to the northern French regions of Brittany, Normandy and Calais. If you live in the north of England and you want an equally short journey, you can get ferries from Hull to both Zeebrugge in Bruges and to Rotterdam. Travelling to the north of France by ferry is a great idea, especially if you want to have the freedom to travel around during your stay in a holiday home in France, as you will be able to take your car with you. This really is ideal if you are travelling with children and/or pets, which will also be possible as many of the houses and apartments in Calais, Brittany and Normandy allow you to take your four legged friend. If you don't want to travel by sea, there are also some equally attractive options on the south coast of England, for example Exmouth, or perhaps you could visit some of the stunning beaches in Wales, such as Pembroke. If you are dead set on going to France, however, it is also possible to travel to Calais by train directly from London or Kent.
Normandy and Brittany
Normandy is a large central area in the north of France, renowned for its museums, monuments and history (for example the famous Bayeux Tapestry telling the story of the Norman Conquest of England in the 11th centruy), as well as regions such as the incredible Mont-Saint-Michel, an island commune which juts out on a small piece of land between Normandy and Brittany. A popular sport in northern France is cycling, as there are plenty of cycle routes and lovely scenery which makes it not only enjoyable but also safe for all the family. Being further away from the Mediterranean, the northern regions of France are often cooler, making for perfect weather conditions for a family cycling holiday. France is covered in cycle routes, and a lovely one to follow in upper Normandy is Voie Vert Bernay-Broglie, which follows the River Charentonne. Although the weather may be colder here, making it less appealing for the not-so-brave visitors to swim in the sea during the cooler months, there are many private and self catering holiday homes in France available in Normandy and Brittany which have a swimming pool for your use. There is of course an abundance of beaches along the coast in Normandy, with beautiful fine sand and usually not far away from the green landscapes futher inland. Many of these are ideal for family beach holidays in Normandy, particularly those such as the famous le Havre, Cabourg, Houlgate and Trouville sur Mer which all offer activities aimed to keep the children busy and away from boredom!
Brittany is another much-loved destination for British holidaymakers, especially those travelling with children as it's so easy to get to from the UK. If you're thinking of booking a holiday cottage in France where you'll have access to the beach, then this is definitely a good place to come! Dinard is one of the most popular beaches along the Breton coast, with its Belle Epoque villas and palm tree lined boulevard. There are a number of coastal walks here and the sandy beaches are popular with families. Morgat, Perros-Guirec with its pink stone and the Quiberon Peninsula which has both crashing waves that are excellent for surfers as well as calmer waters suitable for children are just a few of the other favourite beach spots in Brittany. Brittany has a long-standing heritage with walled cities, castles and forts as well as plenty of small quaint towns like Pont-Aven and Dinan, fishing villages such as Cancale and rugged nature to keep you busy for weeks on end!
Skiing Holidays in France
Being home to both mountain ranges the Alps and the Pyrenees, it comes as no surprise that France is often visited by those who want to go skiing. Whether it's your first time or you're already an advanced skier, you can book holiday cottages in France near to the slopes and spend as much or as little time as you like skiing down them! France boasts some of the best skiing in all of Europe, and it also has the best lift systems and excellent weather conditions for the sport. The top ski resort areas are in the Northern Alps, Chamonix and the surrounding area, and the Three Valleys. For a true skiing experience (or snowboarding, as this has been voted as one of the top destinations for snowboarding in the globe), head to the mountain resort of Avoriaz, where cars are forbidden to drive and during the winter there are sleighs pulled by horses! Though the Alps offer some of the best skiing in the world, this also means that skiing holidays can be quite pricey, so if you're looking for something on a lower budget, then you should take a look at booking chalets in the Pyrenees, where there is a more family-friendly atmosphere, and it also tends to be better for beginners. This area has a much more French feel to it, as there are usually less tourists here. The small spa town of Cauterets offers thermal baths for you to sit and relax in at night after a hard day's skiing. Both the Pyrenees and the Alps are also great places for cycling and walking holidays during the warmer months, so if you love the scenery during your ski trip then why not go back in summer to experience a different side to the mountains?