25 of the most exclusive ways to discover France
Introducing The Francofile: Part Two
Last year we brought you 25 of the most extraordinary experiences to be had in France. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this was only the beginning of all this rich and varied country has to offer. So, we present our second edition, la deuxième partie.
1. Be front row at Paris Fashion Week
You’ll be among the first to see designs from the finest couturiers and attend the hottest parties. While in town, why not try to pay a visit to Chanel’s private apartment at 31 rue Cambon? Mademoiselle’s sanctuary is not open to the public and visits are rarely granted.
2. Watch the French Open in style
Roland-Garros offers a chic viewing experience through its premium packages. These may include a private lounge area, open bar and seated lunch when you’re not watching the world’s top-ranked players battling it out on this premier clay court.
3. Attend a costume party at Versailles
Don your finest baroque costume and powdered wig for the Fêtes Galantes, an evening of 17th-century splendour in the Hall of Mirrors. Or channel Marie Antoinette at the Grand Masked Ball, a spectacle combining masked intrigue, fireworks and dazzling performances in the Orangerie.
4. Sleep beside the Châteaux de Chambord
The French Renaissance masterpiece is one of the Loire’s finest châteaux, and Le Relais de Chambord is the only hotel within its 5,440-hectare grounds. Stay in a Chambord Junior Suite and dine on the terrace of Le Grand Saint Michel to enjoy views of the castle and its estate.
5. Paint en plain air
Hone your technique and paint alongside a working artist in Provence. For 10 days, be inspired by sun-drenched villages and lavender fields by day, and fine cuisine, wine and accommodation at Domaine Saint Jacques by night.
6. Blend your own champagne
Perrier-Jouët By & For invites friends of the champagne house into Maison Belle Époque, the home of the founding family in Épernay, for a two-day immersion. Alongside Cellar Master Hervé Deschamps, you’ll taste vintage cuvées before creating your own customised blend, complete with a golden plaque.
7. Cook with Escoffier
The father of modern French cuisine lives on at École Ritz Escoffier. This lauded cooking school within the Ritz Paris (and overlooking its grande cuisine) has classes ranging from two-hour chocolate workshops to day-long market experiences to three-day, in-depth pastry immersions.
8. Surf the Atlantic Coast
Get away from it all at the Huchet Beach House, two laid-back lodges nestled between forest and beach, and restored by the Guérard family (of Les Prés d’Eugénie fame). These charming houses are the ideal place to go surfing, cast a line and cycle away for a chef-made picnic.
9. Cycle through Alsace
Partly French, partly German and wholly Alsatian, this region is known for its distinct culture, half-timbered villages and white wines. Explore on a private biking tour from the Rhine to the Vosges.
10. Cruise around Corsica
Le Ponant’s The Great Corsican Loop itinerary sails around the ‘Isle of Beauty’ (via Elba, Napoleon’s first island of exile) aboard the cruise line’s original yacht.
11. Hike Mont Blanc
Starting from Switzerland, MT Sobek’s Tour du Mont Blanc has been hailed as the world’s most luxurious hiking trip, taking in the Alps’ highest peak.
12. Taste all 33 grands crus of Burgundy
Over three days, experience the 33 finest red and white wines from Burgundy, either in the cellars or over meals prepared by Michelin-starred chefs. This once-a-year trip is prepared by aficionado Youri Lebault of Bourgogne Gold Tour. Highlights include Romanée-Saint-Vivant, Charmes-Chambertin, Corton-Charlemagne and Chevalier-Montrachet.
13. Boat the canals
Explore the Canal du Midi at your own pace on a self-drive vessel. The spacious boats of the Horizon fleet are the finest on offer, inviting you to slow down through the heart of the Languedoc wine region.
14. Hire a villa in a royal seaside retreat
Before there was Saint-Tropez, there was Biarritz. Experience this Atlantic Coast resort town as European royalty did in the 19th century with a chic villa rental, whether on the beach or nestled in the hills.
15. Live the château life
Be among the first to stay at Hotel Château du Grand-Lucé in the Loire Valley. The spectacularly renovated 18th-century neoclassical estate will open to hotel guests for the first time in 2019.
16. Drive an F1 car
Channel your favourite racing driver and get behind the wheel of an ex-F1 car at a private track day in Provence. This supercharged bucket-list experience is available as part of a European Supercar Tour or Monaco Grand Prix Superyacht Hospitality package.
17. Ski the most glamorous slopes
Courchevel is home to three ‘Palace’-rated hotels in France and dozens more five-star properties, plus seven restaurants with 12 Michelin stars between them and the option to go heli-skiing on Swiss and Italian slopes (heli-skiing is not allowed in France).
18. Ride with the cowboys of Camargue
The white-grey Camargue horse is unique to this marshy part of southwest France. Stay in the private home of the Bon family, now a luxury hotel, on a five-day tour in the saddle.
19. Indulge in vinothérapie
The spa at Les Sources de Caudalie was the first to harness the “antioxidant power of the vine” in wellbeing. Experience grape-based treatments within the vineyards of Bordeaux.
20. Take a professional shopper with you
Make the most of Parisian high fashion with expert guidance. Your personality, morphology and colorimetry are all accounted for as your personal shopper curates the perfect selection from a range of carefully selected designers.
21. Wend through fields of lavender
On an escorted tour from Aix-en-Provence to the Plateau de Valensole, learn about the art of cultivating and distilling lavender from farmers who produce everything from honey to essential oils.
22. A private meeting with the Mona Lisa
Seeing the Louvre without the crowds is imperative, and its collections are best appreciated in a private after-hours tour.
23. Enjoy la vie en rose on the Riviera
Exclusive Villa Rose-Pierre was once favoured by Elizabeth Taylor as her Côte d’Azur hideaway. Combining privacy with the services of Grand-Hôtel du Cap-Ferrat, A Four Seasons Hotel, set out to explore the usually off-limits Domaines Ott for a rare encounter with this coveted rosé (complete with picnic prepared by the hotel’s Michelin-starred chef).
24. A Côte d’Azur island untouched by time
Fine-sand beaches and lush vineyards populate the Île de Porquerolles, which still has the feeling of the Riviera decades ago. Stay in hotel-manor house Le Mas de Langoustier, beautifully nestled amid pines and eucalyptus.
25. Delight in a truffle hunting experience
Journey along river banks and across the Rhône to visit La Rabassiere truffle farm. Guests join owners and truffle dogs on a private tour before enjoying a tasting of the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.