Inspiration

Carolyn Boyd’s French summer

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Carolyn Boyd

Guest Expert

5 min read

Writer, journalist and Francophile Carolyn Boyd is always hopping over the channel for one reason or another. Here are some of her top tips on where to go in France this summer, from an onion festival to hanging out with the chic folk of Arcachon on the west coast.

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Market season, Aix-en-Provence  

For food lovers, it’s a joy to browse the markets in Provence for produce to transform into a fabulous meal and Aix-en-Provence is home to one of the best in the region, where glossy, sun-kissed fruit and vegetables abound alongside local goat’s cheese, aromatic honey and rosé wine in Place Richelme each morning. Fill your basket at the market and then head back to the cosy bolthole Le Mas des Anges de Flo to cook up a feast to enjoy in the garden amid birdsong and in the shade of chestnut and plane trees. Then, sleep it all off on lounger by the pool for the rest of the afternoon.  

Stay at Le Mas des Anges de Flo >

Inspiration Carolyn Boyd’s French Summer

Breton culture, Finistère 

Brittany is home to one of the world’s most fascinating Celtic cultures, and every July the town of Quimper in southern Finistère celebrates in style with its Festival Cornouaille.

There is music galore, much of it from bands from other Celtic cultures around the world. There are costumed parades where the women don the traditional tall lace bonnet, you can join in with traditional dances known as Fest-Noz, and tuck into the local speciality buckwheat crêpes from the various stalls. Stay in the amazing Sémaphore de Lervily near Audierne, a holiday home like no other set in a former semaphore station on the remote south-west coast.

Stay at Sémaphore de Lervily >

Fig festival, Solliès-Pont 

There are food festivals all over France but few can beat the party that is thrown in honour of the fig harvest at the end of August. The Gapeau Valley is famous for its fig orchards which grow 75% of France’s whole harvest. The Fête de la Figue is the place to try figs in all its forms, from fresh figs, to tarts, jams, liqueurs and various Provençale specialities. There are also walking trails through the valley’s orchards and the opening night dinner in the town’s central plane-tree-shaded square. It includes a four-course meal and a night of dancing to an energetic covers band. Book a stay at Le Mas Saint Martin at Ollioules, with its beautiful terrace on which to graze on your figs, with cheeses and the local olives.  

Stay at Le Mas Saint Martin >

Fairytale chateau, Gard 

If you’ve always dreamed of being King or Queen of the castle, then it’s hard to beat the Chateau de Vénéjan as a place to entertain your court, or rather 11 of your nearest and dearest. The 14th-century castle has spacious rooms and its own swimming pool set in beautiful gardens. It’s within easy reach of the Gard’s amazing attractions such as the Pont du Gard, the Roman amphitheatres at Nîmes and Orange, over the River Rhone in Provence where the villages of the Luberon aren’t too far either. Fill up for your evening feasts at the market at Uzès, one of the best in France.  

Stay at Chateau de Vénéjan >

Onion festival, Roscoff

Take the ferry to northern Brittany and tap into the fascinating history of the ‘Onion Johnnies’ in the pretty harbour town of Roscoff. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these beret-clad Frenchmen would sell their pink onions door-to-door from the handlebars of their bicycles throughout Britain. The onions are still popular throughout Britain and France and each August the lively Fete de l’Oignon Rose sees them celebrated with a parade, onion-string-plaiting competitions, visits to farms, Breton music and dancing. You can tuck into the Breton version of a hot dog, a sausage wrapped in a buckwheat pancake topped with confit onions. Book a stay at Gîte au Manoir du Plessis-Quinquis at nearby Sainte-Sève, which sleeps six.

Stay at Gîte au Manoir du Plessis-Quinquis >

Inspiration Carolyn Boyd’s French Summer

Riverside escape, Pézenas

Holidays in the south of France needn’t mean the Côte d’Azur; in the Occitanie region has its own allure and the medieval town of Pézenas is a joy to explore. There are brocante shops and markets as well as chic boutiques and characterful restaurants, while the surrounding region is ideal for bike rides through the vineyards or a boat trip on the Canal du Midi. The coast isn’t far, with beaches at Agde and Sète. As if that isn’t enough, there is also the Le Moulin de Pézenas a beautifully restored mill that dates from the 13th century and has been beautifully restored to a become a holiday home for ten.

Stay at Le Moulin de Pézenas >

Inspiration Carolyn Boyd’s French Summer

West coast glamour, Gironde

The town of Arcachon is home to dozens of beautiful 19th-century villas that served as holiday homes to the well-heeled during the Belle Epoque. You can follow in their footsteps with a stay at Villa La Tosca, now a bijou hotel with just eight rooms. It overlooks a beautifully manicured garden and onto the Bay of Arcachon. This is the place to cycle through along the pine-scented paths to oyster shacks to sit in the sunshine and sip white wine alongside a platter of freshly shucked oysters. You can also take a boat trip across the bay to explore the oyster-fishing villages of the Cap Ferret peninsula. 

Stay at Villa La Tosca >

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Carolyn Boyd

Guest Expert

Carolyn is one of the UK’s leading food and travel writers and an expert on France. She likes nothing more than telling a good story, packed with expert insight and inspirational recommendations. Her writing for The Guardian, The Times, National Geographic Traveller and many more has seen her cycle across France, seeking out its beauty, culture and delectable produce in search of some of the most delicious and exciting experiences in travel.
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