Passports have been dusted off and people are traveling abroad! While we agree with Audrey that "Paris is always a good idea", here are five reasons you should consider traveling in fall ... (for those ready to GO, skip to #5 to see how we have made it easier!)
1 - La Rentrée
Back-to-school means families are busy. Summer tourists are back at home, gathering up back-to-school supplies, planning school lunches and charting out the week of activities. And the French, who were are all on vacation in August, are back to the rhythm of their busy lives as well. This means that tourist destinations are less crowded, and hence, more enjoyable! Employees are more relaxed, and potentially more friendly (alas we never know about Parisians). Prices seem to cool a bit with the drop in temperatures as well. And while you may have to wait for November to hit real bargains, "shoulder season" is a nice compromise.
Retirees have taken advantage of fall travel for years, so you certainly won't be alone in line for your favorite museum, but you shouldn't be overwhelmed by crying children or dodging strollers. As the days get shorter, so do the lines, but be sure to get ahead of tour buses whenever possible.
Tip: There are places that tend to close after the tourist season, so do watch for that if you are traveling later in October.
"Canicule" - It means "heat wave" and in a country where la clim (air conditioning) is viewed not as a modern convenience but more as a 4-letter word, you want to avoid this sticky, miserable phenomenon at all costs. Wandering around in the blazing sun, surrounded by throngs of tourists is not my idea of a good time. If you have watched the news in Europe this summer, it seems this word pops up more and more frequently. It used to be that August was hot, but now we find excessive heat in July, June and even a few days in May. While September can be quite warm, it usually isn't the intense heat of summer, and you are much more likely to have cooler morning and evenings.
I find that mid-September to mid-October is about perfect for me, as I like the bright, sunny days but a slight chill in the air after dusk. Of course it depends on where you roam in France, but I have found it comfortable to wander just about anywhere at this time of year. (And there is the added bonus of beautiful fall colors.).
Tip: It does get a bit more cloudy at the end of October, into November, but with virtually no crowds, it may be a win for you.
If you are planning to move around, start in the northern regions in September (Normandy and Brittany are extraordinary this time of year) and end in the south (where people were still on the beach in Nice into November!).
Speaking of the beach, fall is the perfect time of year for the sports enthusiast. You can still enjoy an occasional dip in the water, and hiking and biking are a lot more pleasant (unless sweating off 10 lbs is the goal). Look for the Grande Randonnée (GR) hiking trails, which are found throughout France. Bike tours can be found in just about any region. There are companies to fit every range of service, from simply renting the bikes with a map, to fully guided tours.
There is something quite joyful about the grape harvest - it is convivial. Sure it is hard work, but the people are singing and laughing, and the vineyards are simply alive. There is a festive mood that is palpable throughout France, and if you can experience even a glimpse of it, you will no doubt be swept up in the excitement.
You can travel in just about any direction of France to find grapes. The harvest will happen at different times, depending on the climate and the weather that particular year, but usually les vendages take place near mid-to-end of September. This fall I plan to explore Burgundy. Previously we have gone to Bordeaux, Provence, and last fall I spent a glorious week in Beaujolais ... take a look.
There is always much to celebrate in France, and fall is jam packed with festivals! It begins with la Braderie de Lille (annual street flea market) the first weekend in September, and continues until the Beaujolais festival the 3rd Thursday in November. Shortly thereafter the Christmas markets begin, but we are getting ahead of ourselves ...
There are way too many festivals to mention here - we will do another blog post to cover a wide range - but here is a particular favorite for those who plan to be in Normandy.
A stone's throw from Le Mont St Michel in Normandy (yes, it is in Normandy) is a farm that is pretty extraordinary. A family farm in Vains that has been passed down from generation to generation since 1929, they have faced each of life's challenges with innovation, a sense of humor, and a respect for the land, people, and especially the animals! Last fall I changed my flight just to attend this festival, which takes place mid-September (the 17-18 this year). I had interviewed the family by phone, tasted the caramels they sent me to sample, and decided I simply had to go. (The Cara-poule (chicken bus) must be experienced in person ...)
I expected Normandy cows and decadent caramels (check and check!) but was blown away by all that they had to offer! There were artisan demonstrations and crafts, music groups, food and beverage tents, local products to buy, tours and games ... this was a FESTIVAL! Education, fun and extremely tasty, I will keep these dates on my calendar for years to come!
Check out their website, which keeps me entertained for hours: Cara-Meuh.
5. New Travel Itineraries
Inspired to travel in fall? Great! We have just the thing to plan your trip! We know that there are all kinds of travelers - those who want to sign up and have every detail taken care of, and those who prefer to wander at their own pace. Either way, you want to know that you are seeing the best that France has to offer, so we have 2 great options for you: amazing full-service, guided trips with Collette, and self-guided itineraries where we have done all of the research for you.
Why purchase a self-guided itinerary? Good question! Take a look ...
Here is a sample of what your itinerary includes: a trip overview, important travel tips, day-by-day itineraries that are completely customizable, artisan specialties and hidden gems, as well as a range of accommodations and restaurants.
We began with the most visited regions of Normandy and Provence, but will be adding new regions very soon. People often tell me "I want to travel like you do" ... and now you can! I wish you an excellent voyage!