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Insiders Guide to France

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Insiders Guide to France

story by: Anna Sarjeant

1. Bouillabaisse lingers on the lips in Paris
Eiffel Tower. Done. Now onto Verjus! The latest sensational restaurant to hit the prestigious Palais-Royal quartier of Paris and run by American wonder-duo, Braden Perkins and Laura Adrian. These two culinary creatives were the masterminds behind Hidden Kitchen, one of the first ‘underground dining’ successes to hit Paris. Think it’s only the French who can craft sublime cuisine? Think again! 
HOT Tip: When in France you can eat relatively cheaply at an 'auberge'. Common in the countryside, an auberge is traditionally an inn, but many now serve food as well, with bistro style set-menus that won’t break the bank

2. Cut another slice of Camembert
Treat your taste buds to the three Cs. Visit the towns of Camembert, Champagne and Cognac for…well, Camembert, Champagne and Cognac actually. Take a tasting tour in each charming town. Cognac is particularly charismatic, with narrow streets and medieval timber houses. 
HOT Tip: In Camembert, visit La Maison du Camembert, with a museum, cheese shop and a Camembert-shaped entrance. You can even make your own personalised Camembert label. 

3. Embark on Europe's best surfing road trip
Take a road trip along France’s west coast from Bordeaux to Biarritz. Navigate a coastline thrashed by Atlantic waves, stopping at trendy surf hangouts for a café au lait and a croissant. The trip culminates in glitzy Biarritz; the surfing capital of Europe. With world-class surf breaks, the gigantic waves tumbling in from the Atlantic guarantee a stellar surf. 
HOT Tip:For the warmest water temperatures, Biarritz averages at 24 degrees in July and August, but be prepared for busier crowds.    

4. Absorb the Medieval romance of a Chateau 
When in the Loire Valley you must visit a château or two…or half a dozen, the region is that rich in fortified castles. For the quintessential Loire township, put a trip to Chinon in your schedule. With a hilltop castle, a serene river, beige mason architecture and a beautiful arched bridge, it’s model-worthy levels of photogenic. 
HOT Tip:For the best panoramas, ascend to the very top of the tower – a narrow walkway runs the perimeter of its main turret.  

5. Wash down a croissant with rich French coffee
Sure there’s plenty to see and do on the Côte d'Azur, but start each day as the French do – stress-free and well caffeinated. Closely packed with wicker chairs and little round tables, aesthetically, French cafe culture is glorious! So pick a spot and take a seat. Order a grand café au lait and (pretend to) read Le Monde; France’s most popular newspaper. 
HOT Tip: Order un café in France (a coffee) and you’ll likely get an espresso. If you’re after what we’d consider a regular coffee, ask for a café au lait. 

6. Soak up the glamour in the Monte Carlo Casino
From Nice you can catch the train to Monaco’s Monte Carlo. The train system is so ridiculously efficient it’ll take you from A to B in 20 minutes.  The perfect day trip, admire the grand yachts and shiny cars, traverse the streets of the Monaco Grand Prix and try your hand at Black Jack in the Monte Carlo Casino. 
HOT Tip: Order a wine by the marina and catch a glimpse of the designer outfits that parade the harbour.  

7. Lick your lips for a Macaron making class
Ever wondered why those fancy pastel-coloured macarons are so delicious? Learn the tricks of the trade with a chef-lead macaron making class in the heart of Paris. By the afternoon you’ll have three unique flavours to take away with you – and the skills to carry on making these crumbly sugar wonders when you return to NZ.  
HOT tip: La Cuisine Paris has one of the best cooking-class reputations in France. Located at 80 Quai de l'Hotel de Ville, the closest metro station is Pont Marie via line 7.


8. Descend into the eerie skull-filled caves of the Catacombs
In 1785, the entire contents of Paris’ Cemetery of the Innocents was moved underground, into a deep quarry. Having housed the remains of 6-million people for nearly ten centuries, the locals were succumbing to infection. Today, those with a curious mind can descend into a labyrinth of caverns, burrows and tunnels, to observe the remains for themselves. The walls are made from skulls, the corridors formed by tightly packed bone. Morbidly fascinating. 
HOT Tip: Book in advance. If you arrive on the day, you’re looking at a two-hour wait. 

9. Relax in a tree-top jacuzzi
Combine the essential French ski trip with a unique stay in a treehouse. Nids des Vosges tickles the German border and boasts six luxurious treehouses all kitted out with warm showers and cosy interiors. Hiding out in the middle of the forest, amidst trees sprinkled with sugar-like snow, there’s snowshoeing, mountain biking and cross country skiing all on site, with steaming hot tubs available for your return. 
HOT Tip: Varying in size, the tree houses at Nids des Vosges can sleep between one and eight people. Families are welcome

10. â€‹Punt the moat of a Grand Chateau
Row a boat up and down the Cher River that licks the Loire's most iconic château, the Renaissance-era Château de Chenonceau. You’ll have seen this beauty already, it often headlines for Loire travel guides. Rowing is available during the summer only, if you arrive in winter – when the overcast mist casts a magical subdued glow across the stonework - walking the grounds is just as breath taking.
HOT Tip:Château de Chenonceau is open every day including Christmas and New Year’s Day, but rowing boats are only available for hire in July and August.  

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