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Interesting and unusual places to discover in France

Interesting and unusual places to discover in FranceMost of us have probably visited some of France’s best-known and most popular tourist attractions: for example, The Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum in Paris; Le Mont Saint Michel in Normandy; one (or more!) of the grand chateaux in the Loire Valley or perhaps the majestic walled city of Carcassonne.

Yet, France is fortunate to have many other interesting, unusual, and relatively undiscovered places. Sites that may be “off the beaten track”, relatively unknown – maybe even quirky or of historical interest.

Of course, the recent restrictions on travel as part of the lockdown and the closure of all buildings, parks and leisure facilities has made visits impossible. However, we can still dream… and look forward to when we are free to discover many of France’s beautiful and fascinating locations again. Here are a few which caught our eye...

The connections and rivalries between England and France have persisted over many centuries and one man stands amongst them: Napoleon I. On the Atlantic coast close to La Rochelle and Rochefort is the l'Île d'Aix – and the location of Napoleon’s former residence, now the Musée Napoleon. The French military leader visited the island in 1808 and decided to build a home there – although his stay was a relatively brief one. Napoleon spent his last hours on French soil there as the English fleet forced him to surrender and took him back by boat to Portsmouth, before starting his exile on Saint Helena in 1815.

Sitting diplomatically on the Normandy/Brittany border is Le Mont Saint Michel. While it is an extremely popular place with up to 2.5 million visitors a year, you may not know that during the 13th and 14th centuries, the centre of the village and its many shops, were positioned high on the impressive rock. The outbreak of the Hundred Years’ War from 1337 to 1453 between England and France resulted in the commercial heart of the Le Mont Saint Michel gradually moving to the foot of the hill, the English having occupied the nearby island of Tombelaine to the northeast.

If you had to guess where the longest stretch of sandy beaches are in France… where would you choose? The Cote d’Azur perhaps; maybe the magnificent Atlantic coast, a surfer’s paradise; the Mediterranean or Normandy’s historic coastline? These are all fantastic places to go, but instead the award goes to Grand Site des Deux Caps, situated half-way between Calais and Boulogne. It is considered one of the most overlooked places in France, surrounded by beautiful countryside.

If you have a favourite part of France... why not let us know where and why.