1000 Ideas for a Vacation in FranceSaturday, 1 June 2013
I’m off to France next week to help mark 20 years of Lonely Planet publishing in French. Recently I wrote the foreword to ‘1000 Idées de Vacances en France.’ You can’t get it in English, but here’s my original – pre-translation – contribution.
It’s first trips which always have the big impact. Your first ‘big’ trip – crossing continents, taking many months – is something you never forget, for me that was driving from Europe to Afghanistan. And then carrying on all the way to Australia and inventing Lonely Planet. But first solo trips are just as important, the first time you travel without parents or a school group to hold your hand. For me, as a teenage university student in England, that was to Paris with my girlfriend. So Paris has to be a favourite city.
Then Lonely Planet grew to be an international publisher and in 1993 we launched our first guidebooks in the French language, after all the French are great travellers and although they travel to all sorts of interesting international locations France itself is a big enough destination to keep them busy. I was constantly surprised at France’s many ‘off the beaten track’ attractions and the unusual places which simply did not fit the usual clichés about the country. Equally important publishing in French gave me an excuse to live in France. In the mid-90s I had a wonderful year living in the Marais and crossing the Seine through the Île Saint-Louis as I walked to our office on Rue du Cardinal Lemoine every day.
So France has given me an important ‘first’ trip and a terrific year, but over the years there has been so much more than that. So many of my lifetime travel highlights have been in France. When I think of my most memorable walks I can’t forget walking around Mt Blanc or the incredible ascents and descents of the GR20 in Corsica. The great sporting events I’ve been to has to include the Monaco Grand Prix, even if that isn’t quite in France. Some of the best museums, galleries, parks, beaches, events and, of course, great bars and restaurants, they’ve all been here.
Plus there’s so much more I’ve still got to get around to. I’ve never watched a stage of the Tour de France, although I have arrived in Paris on my own two wheels, cycling from London a few years ago. One of the best ski weeks of my life was spent in the village of Tignes Les Brévières, but a French canal boat trip is still on my ‘must do’ list. And is there any country better for just drifting along, taking each day as it comes? After a friend’s wedding in Barcelona my wife and I crossed the border to France, stayed a night in pretty little Collioure and then took a lazy two weeks to meander back across Provence and Côte d’Azur to Nice. 1000 idées de vacances en France? Perhaps 10,000 would be a better number.