Why to Keep Dreaming of Travel beyond the COVID-19 Crisis

..6 Inspiring Ideas for your France Bucket List

We are all being affected by the current health and economic crisis in different ways, but in many ways we’re all in it together. Having to deal with so much uncertainty and seeing our daily lives disrupted beyond recognition is not a situation that puts us at ease, to say the least.

This unprecedented crisis demands that we cultivate a high degree of resilience, adaptability, and perhaps most importantly, faith in the future. What helps us deal with this challenge is our powerful determination to become stronger, more creative, more human. And our determination to bounce back from the crisis with courage and hope.

Humankind can move mountains if we believe we can.  This is where the great power of hope comes in. Dreaming of a better future is the boost we all need to turn our dreams into reality—and travel has always been a source of inspiration, cultural discovery, and expansion of the human spirit. That’s why you shouldn’t stop dreaming of travel, or projecting yourself into a future of exploring other places and cultures.

These imaginary getaways give us the energy and strength we need to move forward, to create, and to transcend the anxiety and uncertainty of the current situation. They promise us that we will once again find ourselves in different places, meeting people from other cultures, and enjoying scenery that’s entirely different from what we know. They promise that the barriers will lift and the world will once again be open for us to explore.

In that spirit, we have put together an inspiring list of places and experiences in France to put on your dream itinerary. While we wait for the lockdowns to lift  and the borders to reopen, let yourself be carried away by these beautiful and interesting places in the world’s most-visited country.

And once you do make it back to France, rest assured that we’ll all work together to ensure that everyone is safe. This will of course entail some new health and safety guidelines. Luckily,  respecting social distancing is not a big challenge for Exclusive France Tours:  we have been offering totally private experiences for more than 20 years, far from the madding crowds and well off the beaten old tourist track: private transportation, privatized villa, Chef at home… We offer these services on a regular basis. Given the unusual character of the current situation, we will make sure to go even further to ensure a perfectly safe trip by strictly following new regulations and sanitary measures. Our partners, too, have already well adjusted to these new constraints, to make you feel safe and secure. Our philosophy? To make you discover France as you would never have imagined it! Without further ado, start dreaming with these top ideas for your post-lockdown getaway to France. These are all extraordinary experiences you can enjoy in total privacy.

A très Bientôt!

Marie
Travel has always been a source of inspiration, cultural discovery, and expansion of the human spirit. That’s why you shouldn’t stop dreaming of travel, or projecting yourself into a future of exploring other places and cultures.

1- Discover France from its rivers and canals, for a serene journey in complete privacy

Aboard a luxurious private barge, leave your worries behind and float downstream to enjoy stunning and bucolic landscapes from a totally unique perspective. This is an original way to feel close to nature and experience the real meaning of “slow living” in France. Take a journey through Burgundy’s magnificent countryside. If it’s a trip to the sunny south of France you’re after, explore the quaint villages of Provence along the Canal du Midi. Moor the barge in the middle of enchanting landscapes and take in the picturesque Provencal scenery. Wake up to the sound of nearby church bells ringing, and go fetch some freshly made croissants from the village’s local bakery.

Go for a leisurely and relaxed bicycle ride along the riverbanks, and stage a decadent French picnic surrounded by vineyards, complete with delicious French cheeses, crusty baguette, and a bottle of local wine. Stop and have a chat with a fisherman, and even share a glass of wine with him. Leave your barge behind for the morning and drive with your guide to a medieval chateau, where you’ll enjoy a guided tour with the owner in total privacy

Along the canal, stop and visit a typical, quaint village nestled in the stunning countryside. Explore a nearby wine estate and taste some of its Chardonnays and Pinots, before bringing a bottle or two back to the barge. Look forward to delightful evenings onboard, sipping a glass of wine on the deck and admiring the sunset, as wild birds wheel overhead. Not feeling like going out for dinner tonight? Enjoy a simple onboard feast of delicious local produce procured from the local market:  an amazing platter of matured French cheeses, a special dish conceived by a Chef and delivered to your barge, caviar and champagne, or numerous other culinary delights! We will take care of everything for you, creating a tailor-made itinerary with unusual stopovers, for a truly authentic experience away from the crowds.

Want to know more? Read all our suggestions for luxury barging in France, or get inspired with this American’s family adventure on a private barge across the Beaujolais and Burgundy.

A barge cruise on the canal de midi in the Pyrénées
Canal du Midi barge cruising
a romantic cruise in barge
Cruising on a private barge

2- A gourmet jaunt amidst stunning Loire Valley castles and gardens

The romantic Loire Valley has gained notoriety thanks to  its rich historical heritage,  fairy-tale castles, enchanting flora and fauna—not to mention its impressive and unique wines. But  what would it be like to discover the region behind the scenes and away from the crowds? We’ll help you find out.  Dare to explore it differently and find yourself surprised by embarking on a gourmet tour of the Loire that also gives you a stunning and intimate view of its most magnificent gardens and private castles.

Your private tour takes you to world-famous castles including the Chateau de Chenonceau, Chateau du Riveau, and Fontevraud Abbey, giving you exclusive experiences of their gardens, orchards and gourmet tables. Take a private tour with their  head florists and botanists in chief, to better understand the talent that goes into creating these magical green oases. See (and taste how their gastronomic restaurants reflect the beauty of the surrounding, stunning green spaces. Let a renowned Chef share with you his quest for the freshest, finest fruit and vegetables; accompany him on a visit to a henhouse to see old-fashioned poultry species, or to his  sturgeon breeder, who has gained fame beyond France for making some of its  finest caviars. Finally, at the end of the day, taste the chef’s unique culinary creations, paired with Loire Valley wines.

A stroll through some of France’s most magnificent gardens will bring relaxation, inspiration and fulfilment—far from the hustle and bustle of the city. Your journey will be filled with experiences that combine gourmet tastings with the alluring beauty of natural landcapes, both curated and wild.

We have so many suggestions for you for a memorable and poetic adventure in France’s Loire Valley. If you feel like wandering around remarkable green spaces, you can also learn more about some of our favorite gardens.

Loire Valley Garden
good meal in front of a castle to discover during Loire Valley tours
Riveau Castle

3- An inspiring, wide-open and colorful journey through the Luberon in Provence

After weeks of lockdown, how would it feel to be immersed in a world of bright colours and wide-open spaces, with the sound of cicadas singing and the enchanting perfume of lavender surrounding you? Provence is a real balm for the soul, with its overwhelming and touching beauty. The omnipresent douceur de vivre (gentle art of living) here will allow you to re-seize all life has to offer.

Wander through the bright orange and red colours of the Provencal Colorado in the heart of the Luberon area,  and stop at the charming village of Gignac. With your local guide, take a private stroll amidst endless, deep-purple lavender fields in blossom on the Valensole plateau and enter a small family-owned lavender and olive oil farm. Here, the owner will show you how to make your own lavender extract and teach you about the multiple ways “blue gold” can be used, including in perfumes and cuisine.

Enjoy a picnic with these stunning Luberon landscapes as a memorable backdrop. This rich Provencal explosion of colours and flavours also awaits you in typical open-air markets that pop up weekly in nearby villages nearby – as well as in the local, fresh, healthy and creative cuisine! It is no wonder Provence has inspired so many artists in French history. … and reversely Provence pays tribute to renowned painters with an exceptional breathtaking show in a stunning lime stone quarry: you will be literally carried away.

If you’re dreaming of a slow-living compatible, intimate and authentic way to enjoy the magnificent South of France, you can expect a luxurious getaway with us: one that may make you reluctant to return home.

Learn more about our Provence tours or read about an itinerary designed for a small group of art lovers who wanted a strong focus n Art in Provence. And there is also another great Provence private tour inspired by Peter Mayle’s Year in Provence we organized for some of our clients.

Hiking in France - The Provence Colorado
Sentier des Ocres, Luberon
Lavender fields in Provence

4- Birdwatching in Brittany

The Western French region of Brittany is an enchanting and wild world unto itself. A land of legends, breathtaking landscapes, striking walled medieval “citadelles”, mouthwatering culinary treasures (to name a few: oysters, butter, crepes and apple cider). It has also a very strong “Breton” culture celebrated by fiercely independent locals. The region is a real gem for bird lovers, as it hosts an incredible playground for many species of birds. Many areas in the region are prime birdwatching destinations, including Cap Frehel, the Seven Islands archipelago, Morbihan Gulf and Chausey Islands.

Accompanied by your local nature guide, you’ll have the possibility of exploring countless wild bird sanctuaries to explore, and just as many opportunities to marvel at the wonders of Mother Nature. Meet renowned ornithologists and discover the best hidden spots for bird watching. Sit on a cliffside or on the deck of your yacht, binoculars in hands, eyes fixed on the ocean– and admire the ongoing show: the flight of migratory birds, sea birds dramatically “taking off” in large flocks, or the elegant diving and swooping of small wading birds. Step away from the crowds and observe some rare and majestic creatures. We will create a unique luxury adventure centred around personalized explorations of remote islands, mudflats or wetlands. Come away with us for a private, rustic yet luxurious retreat in Brittany: one that offers a totally original way to explore this fascinating region.

Interested in putting Brittany on your France bucket list ? Continue reading to learn more about our private tours in Brittany.

Gannets in Brittany

5- A luxury getaway in the heart of France: cheese and hiking tour in Auvergne

Auvergne, also known as France’s volcano country, is a land that boasts spectacular wild landscapes, a centuries-old gastronomic heritage, as well as a rich culture and history. For cheese lovers and enthusiasts, why not embark on a luxury bespoke tasting tour of Auvergne that also lets you discover some fabulous natural sites, many of which are listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites? Stay in a charming castle perched high above a medieval village. Meet local producers and taste emblematic regional cheeses such as Cantal, Saint Nectaire, Bleu d’Auvergne, Salers and Fourme d’Ambert. Visit a family-owned cheese farm to experience the artisanal secrets behind how local cheeses are made.  At sunrise, embark on a hot-air balloon ride, flying over majestic volcanic mountain ranges, dense, cool forests and pristine blue lakes. You’ll then  depart for a hike on trails around France’s highest volcano, before enjoying a local “truffade” (an Auvergne specialty made with thinly sliced potatoes and cheese) at a rustic auberge.

If you want to take a step back from the cares of the world, breathe in some fresh air and plunge into the deep heart of France to discover its rare and secret magic, we’ll take you there.

Want to see what your bespoke journey to Auvergne might look like? Read about an exclusive cheese-lovers’ tour in the region we created for some very special clients in 2019.

Auvergne volcanoes

6- An unusual adventure in the heart of Provence: stunning nature and encounters with wildlife

Are you dreaming of sunshine, sparkling blue Mediterranean sea views and walks, cycles or drives through spectacular natural sites? Let us surprise you and show you a more secretive and private side of Provence and the famous French Riviera: one far different from its glamorous, shiny, crowded beaches and shopping districts.

Embark on an exceptional journey in the heart of the Mercantour National Park, a wild and breathtaking natural site that lies only a little over an hour from Nice. Find yourself amongst meadows, woodlands, vertiginous summits, glacial lakes, rare wildflowers. You’ll feel enchantingly immersed in a multicoloured palette: one that’s quite different from  those shown on typical French Riviera postcards.

Take a hike with an expert guide to enjoy stunning views of the Vallée des Merveilles “Valley of Wonders”; drive along one of the highest roads in Europe and explore the picturesque medieval villages dotted around the region. Meet a proud local beer maker who will let you sample his own craft beer, made with local spring water. Meet the owner of an 18th century oil mill, one of the last in Europe to remain in operation.

Get up close and personal with wildlife, observing majestic chamoix deers and marmots. Meet with a wolf carer and enjoy an unforgettable  encounter with this legendary and misunderstood creature.  Go on an evening walk and experience the magic atmosphere of the silent mountains and enchanting starry skies. If you feel even more adventurous, why not take a private paraglide tour to admire the grandiose scenery from above? There are many ways to make a trip to the Mercantour unforgettable. and we’ll take care of every detail to ensure  your experience is truly one-of-a-kind.

Need more inspiration? Read more about a luxurious family escapade in Nice and the Mercantour we created in 2019.

Mercantour National Park
Mercantour National Park

Interested by one of these inspiring places and potential experiences in France?

Contact us to discuss the possibilities. And never stop dreaming of your next adventure. Get in touch with us – we’ll expertly handle every detail.

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