‘This is the France you dream of’: readers’ favorite travel discoveries

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<p><figcaption class=A courtyard in old Lyon.Photo: Art Kowalsky/Alamy

Secret alleys and courtyards in Lyon

As we climbed from the river to the basilica, we explored a zigzag of secret stairways and hidden courtyards in Lyon. This traboules are difficult to follow, and so we had to look out for the metal plates that mark some entrances. There is almost no direct path up from the river, but these routes, originally for the city’s silk workers, reveal charming back streets and private courtyards for visitors to gaze into. Once we reached the top, we breathlessly enjoyed the Basilique Nôtre-Dame de Fourvière. In the crypt we made another exciting discovery: a huge mosaic of the naval battle of Lepanto, a place we had recently visited in Greece.
David Innes-Wilkin

Fons, the village of your dreams

During the last part of our road trip to Jazz in Marciac we chanced upon Fons, in the black triangle of Quercy. In a deeply wooded valley of chestnut and oak trees, this medieval village was the France you dream of: a village of stone and wood with paths, with swifts and swallows nesting in old buildings, and a bistro at its beating heart . beautiful place. An aperitif at the market under the Milky Way was the perfect way to end.
Damien Reidy

Quiet corners in Charente-Maritime

If you are in the Charente-Maritime in the South West, make sure you spend a day south of Royan where you can visit some peaceful places, all close by. Start at the Régulus Caves, a troglodyte site with views of the Cordouan Lighthouse and traditional fishing nets hanging from the cliffs. Then walk south to the village of Talmont-Sur-Gironde and the imposing 12th-century Sainte-Radegonde Church, which overlooks the estuary. The village is full of narrow, car-free streets and enormous hollyhocks growing against the whitewashed walls. We ate great seafood at Les Délices de l’Estuaire before heading to the archaeological site of Fâ.
Miles Smith

Deep into the history of the Dordogne

A visit to the Gouffre de Padirac cave is a must if you are in the Dordogne (between the Loire Valley and the Pyrenees). It’s an incredible place that you can explore by stairs, or take an elevator down 103 meters. Once there you will be taken on a magical boat ride on a river within the cave. The water is turquoise and the rocks around you change color forever. You almost have the feeling that you have ended up in another world. I would recommend visiting out of season when it is quieter. There is a small souvenir shop and cafe nearby.

Tips from Guardian Travel readers

Every week we ask our readers for recommendations from their travels. A selection of the tips are displayed online and may also appear in print. To enter the latest competition, visit the Reader Tips homepage

Glorious gardens in Nantes

Looking for a grand hotel within easy reach of Nantes airport for our last night of vacation, we found Château Colbert in Maulévrier. It’s a country house with a beautiful restaurant, but even better, it has a restored vegetable garden that supplies the hotel and is available for tours. Next door is the Parc Oriental de Maulévrier, a Japanese walking garden that was created around the same time as Monet’s garden in Giverny, when Japonisme was a strong cultural influence. It ended our garden themed holiday in style.

Vineyard cycling in Alsace

During a cycle tour of France in September we visited the Vosges and Alsace in the east, and we were surprised by the hidden gem that it was. We stayed at the reasonably priced Auberge Ramstein (doubles from €87 for room only) in Scherwiller, and found plenty of vineyards to visit on foot, including the biodynamic vines at Achillée and the traditional vineyard at Domaine Dussourt. Unlike Strasbourg, the village and nearby town of Sélestat were beautiful and peaceful, there were great cycling routes on the plains and hills, and plenty of walking opportunities too.
Maddy Warner

A champagne experience in the land of De Gaulle

By accident I ended up in Colombey-les-Deux-Églises in northeastern France. We needed dog friendly accommodation on our way south. It was a crisp winter evening and a large moon shone over a beautiful main square, surrounded by two churches, with inviting restaurants serving traditional dishes and champagne from the nearby hills. The words “France profonde‘ came to my mind. In daylight we discovered that we were in the village where President Charles de Gaulle spent every other weekend and retired when he left politics. His residence, La Boisserie, is open to the public, and his simple tomb in the small cemetery overlooks the fields and hills. There are champagne houses in the village and numerous small producers in the surrounding areas. We followed the Clairvaux sign and discovered the remains of one of Europe’s most important medieval abbeys. The hills are gentle and there is no traffic, so you can take your bike and explore the area.

Forest bathing in Fontainebleau

The first thing you notice when you arrive in the Fontainebleau forest is the wonderful smell: the fresh pine scent feels as if it cleanses the body and mind. The forest is an old hunting ground, now used for walking, cycling and climbing. For a cultural highlight, visit the Château de Fontainebleau, which is breathtaking. For a quieter stay, head to the small, beautiful town of Bois-le-Roi, nestled in the forest And on the banks of the Seine. It’s also on a direct train link from Paris, so cars are not necessary, and the journey takes less than an hour, making it ideal for a day trip.

Art and architecture in Honfleur, Normandy

In northern France, on the southern bank of the Seine estuary, lies the attractive city of Honfleur. Highlights include the old port and St. Catherine’s Church, the largest wooden church in France. As you stroll through a city that has been associated with many notable artists, including Monet and Boudin, be sure to admire the houses with their slate-covered facades and the many tempting shops and galleries. As the sun sets, enjoy a glass of calvados at the harbor while watching the fishing boats on the banks of the Seine.

Winning tip: A museum to cherish near Lille

Musée La Piscine in Roubaix, a converted swimming pool just outside Lille, is a treasure trove of paintings, sculptures and installations. The building, from the Art Deco period, retains much of its charm and reminds me of the time when public buildings were still practical. And Nice. The €9 entrance fee is an absolute bargain. We spent three hours there and still didn’t see everything. The restaurant/tea room is also excellent.
David Pearce

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