France Off The Beaten Path Tips by Beausoleil
France Off The Beaten Path: 429 reviews and 497 photos
Canal du Midi
This was a reply to a gentleman who was looking for places off the beaten tourist path in France. Since France is such a popular tourist destination, you can't entirely escape tourists, but you can find places that don't host tourist groups on large buses and you can find places that are visited mostly by French tourists who are enjoying other beautiful parts of their country. Here are my suggestions to him and they may suit you too if you are looking for something a little different.
The first suggestion was to follow the Loire bike path, very picturesque and while not off the beaten path so much since it is the Loire Valley, if you are on a bicycle path, there are not going to be hordes of tourists; bicycling is hard work. Loire by Bicycle
For wine and food, you might look at Languedoc-Roussillon farther south. There are tourist hordes in Carcassonne, but about five minutes out of town, they are gone . . . all still back in Carcassonne. Visit Carcassonne on a Sunday morning if you want to see it without tourists (early Sunday morning, i.e. before 11 AM). It is a great sight and I highly recommend it.
The rest of Languedoc-Roussillon is reasonably untouristy and gorgeous. There is a bike path along the Canal du Midi that is beautiful and takes you through some charming villages and excellent restaurants. We loved Auberge de L'Arbousier just outside of Homps. Auberge de L'Arbousier
There are marvelous restaurants in the area and lots of wine tasting in the Corbières wine region. You can find good food way off the beaten path. There is a Logis de France in St. Hilaire. It looks like a nice place to stay and the restaurant was memorable. There's an abbey in the town definitely worth a visit. You'll hear the story of how a renegade monk named Dom Perignon stole the recipe for sparkling wine and took it north to Champagne and the rest is history. The local sparkling wine (supposedly the purloined recipe) is Blanquette de Limoux and we love it. The restaurant is Le Clos St.-Hilaire at Clos Saint Hilaire
We found Les Calicots in Fabrezen by accident when the restaurant we were looking for in another village was closed. Les Calicots was excellent and the town was cute. Les Calicots Restaurant
Then there is Alet-le-Bains. It’s a tiny village on the Aude River that has vestiges of its original Roman wall, lots of beautifully preserved medieval half-timbered houses, a ruined abbey (get the key in the Tourist Office) and a marvelous hotel-restaurant right on the river . . . and few tourists. The hotel-restaurant is Hotel de L’Evéché and their web site is Hostellerie de L'Eveche
The town of Limoux (remember Blanquette de Limoux) is a fun visit on market day and there are various wine tasting places there.
If you like really small and way off the beaten path, drive over to Camon. The chateau has been restored and is a private hotel but we wandered the grounds and building freely as there were few people about. You could go on to Mirepoix and Foix to make a day of it. Beautiful drive and interesting towns. Mirepoix is becoming more touristy as the years go by but it’s still fun to visit.
There are other places north and east of Carcassonne. We’ve stayed at various places in the area but in rentals rather than hotels so I can’t advise you on where to stay. There is a chateau in Cavanac that looks like fun and the place in Alet-les-Bains looked interesting too. Chateau-Restaurant de Cavanac
That should give you a few places to look at. Check them via web sites, VT Search and Google and come back with more questions.
I tried to list another web site and it wouldn't fit in the "Other" box so here it is. French Government Tourist Guide
Other Contact: see last line of text above
The Loire near Amboise
If you really want to get off the beaten path, get off the highways. The French built a bicycle path following the Loire River. It is 800 kilometers long and was completed in 2012 at a cost of 52 million euros. It covers the regions Centre and Pays de la Loire and there are 6 cities and more than 20 railroad stations along the path. A quarter of it will be on bicycle-only paths. You can get information at: Loire on Bicycle
You can take the train with your bike. Check this web site: Bicycles on the train
There are also accommodations for you to rent a bike in one city and drop it in another. There is a way to fit bicycling into almost any vacation plan. It's a bit easier to go from west to east because of the prevailing winds, but it isn't a major concern.
There is a complete map of the entire Loire a velo route at the following web site: Loire Bicycle Maps
You might look at Belle Rive in the Plus Beau Village of Candes St. Martin on the Loire for your rental. Tel: +33 (0)2 4795- 9811 or +33 (0)6 7666-2259 They no longer have an active web site, but the Loire a Velo web site has campings listed.
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