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Five weekend getaways in France

ASMALLWORLD

Paris is an exciting city with a lot to offer — which is probably why 40 million tourists flock to the city every year, according to Paris.Info — but why not get off the beaten path and explore a little further? Here are five places in France that are perfect for a weekend escape.

Calanque National Park

Located in Southern France (near Marseille), Calanque National Park has over 200 miles of beautiful scenery and exciting things to do. Calanque was established in 2012 and is France’s 10th national park; it includes land, sea, and urban areas. You can reach the park by renting a car, or taking a bus from Marseille, and when it comes to lodging, your best bet is to stay in Marseille as well (the Hotel Dieu, which used to be the 18th-century hospital, is a good place to spend a few nights). Many park visitors take e-bike tours; these excursions often include lunch and are a great way to enjoy the scenery. 


You’ll want to keep an eye out for wildlife, too — Europe’s largest lizard and its longest snake both live in Calanque National Park (the lizard is 23 inches and the snake is six feet, six inches). And of course, there are miles and miles of hiking trails in the park, so make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes. Calanque National Park is a peaceful weekend getaway for when you need some time in the great outdoors, and away from your smartphone. The towering limestone cliffs and beautiful blue water will leave you feeling peaceful and refreshed.

Calanques D'En Vau bay

Rouen

Rouen, north of the region of Normandy, sits on the river Seine and is an excellent place to visit if you appreciate Gothic architecture. Stay in the Hotel le Cardinal and enjoy being in the middle of everything. The city is full of museums to visit, such as the Musee des Beaux-Arts for Impressionist art, the Musee Le Secq des Tournelles with wrought-iron sculptures, and the Musee de Rouen for natural history. Rouen has many beautiful churches; don’t miss the Rouen Cathedral and Saint-Maclou. And since Rouen is where Saint Joan of Arc died, you can also see her history throughout the town — visit the tower where she was locked up and the square where she was burned at the stake. Finally, stop for some wonderful French food at the Gill Rouen on the banks of the Seine.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Rouen

Carcassonne

Carcassonne is a city located in France’s Languedoc region; it’s most well-known for La Cite, the medieval walled city that’s been around since the 4th century. Carcassonne is popular, with three million tourists visiting every year, so you may want to come during the spring or autumn when it’s not quite so crowded. Make sure to tour La Cite with its 53 tours, moat, and castle — it’s like stepping back into another time. Carcassone also sports some delicious dining options, such as the crepes at Le Ble Noir (make reservations before arriving). And a boat ride on the Canal du Midi is a must, as well. Finally, you can actually stay inside La Cite at the Hotel de la Cite, which boasts an outdoor pool and spa with some beautiful views.

Carcassonne

Nice

Looking for a French destination to visit during the winter? Nice is an ideal wintertime destination since that’s the off-season for tourists (in fact, The Telegraph has actually called Nice “Europe’s greatest city in winter”). The Nice Carnival is a big attraction during February and March, and the Mozzarella Bar at the Maison Gusto is a must for cheese lovers. Stop in for some hot chocolate at Antonia Cafe and end your day out in Nice by retiring to the elegant Hotel La Perouse. Finally, you can’t go to Nice (the city where well-known painter Henri Matisse did much of his work) without taking a tour of the city’s museums — the Picasso museum, Matisse Museum, and Modern Art Museum to start.

Nice, Cote d'Azur, France

Toulouse

Toulouse, a big student city in the south of France, is also called “la Ville Rose” because the city’s brick buildings look pink in the sun. You’ll never be bored in Toulouse: picnic by the Garonne River, enjoy the nightlife scene or visit a museum. The Museum de Toulouse is France’s largest ethnological and natural history museum outside of Paris; it has over 2.5 million exhibits and is tailor-made for any natural science enthusiast. As far as lodging, the Grand Hôtel de l’Opéra is a former convent that’s been repurposed into a cosy hotel. And Toulouse has no shortage of good food, either: one signature dish is cassoulet, a stew made from Toulouse sausage, haricot beans and pork, and duck or goose. You can sample cassoulet at Le Louchebem, a lunch restaurant in the covered market Marche Victor Hugo. Toulouse is the perfect city for a weekend getaway in France.

Pont Saint-Pierre in Toulouse

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