Last summer I decided to go on a road trip around France, Spain, Portugal & Andorra. In total I spent three months exploring these interesting, delightful countries, and during this time I spent about six weeks in France.

I had been to France before but only to Paris for the weekend and a school trip to Normandy, so these six weeks really showed me what France has to offer. I am not exaggerating when I say France has something for everyone. Let my list of 15 unique experiences you must have in France inspire you to find your favourite place to explore in France!

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

1) Climb Europe’s tallest sand dune at Dune de Pilat

Dune du Pilat is just a 65km drive from Bordeaux and definitely worth the journey. You can choose to climb the steps or walk up the sand to the top where you are treated to beautiful views over the Atlantic Ocean. I highly recommend running down the sand dune on your way out, it is so much fun.

 

2) Cycle to Mont Saint-Michel

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

Hire a bicycle and take a ride to Mont Saint-Michel where you will see one of Europe’s most unforgettable sights. The car park has now been relocated and there is a shuttle bus to the island, but the bike ride gives you an even more special perspective. Just wait until you see the famous UNESCO Heritage Site become clearer the closer you get.

My top tip: It is free to enter Mont Saint-Michel and stroll around. You only need to buy a ticket if you want to go inside the Abbey at the top, which I would highly recommend!

 

3) Sip wine next to The Eiffel Tower, Paris

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

Of course one of the most popular things to do in Paris is to go to the top of The Eiffel Tower where the views are stunning. However, it’s quite expensive and the queues are long. On top of that, once you are up there you can’t see The Eiffel Tower anymore.

My favorite thing to do in Paris is to buy a bottle of red wine, a baguette and some cheese and have a picnic beside The Eiffel Tower with the locals.

 

4) Feel the angels dancing on your tongue in Epernay

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

Epernay is about 130km northeast of Paris and is the home of my favourite alcoholic drink, champagne. Its most famous street is Avenue de Champagne which houses the most famous champagne producers such as Moet & Chandon, Perrier & Mercier to name a few. There are also many smaller champagne houses most of which offer tours and champagne tasting.

Twice a day in the Office de Tourisme there are free champagne tastings from the smaller champagne houses in the area.

Let me repeat: free champagne!

 

5) Stay in a campsite & swim in the crystal clear waters of Lake Annecy

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

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Annecy has long been called the ‘Venice of the Alps’ and is the most picturesque town I have ever visited. There are campsites about 5km from town which have direct access to the lake where you can swim and do many watersports. Hiring a bicycle and cycling along the lake into town is such a wonderful way to spend an afternoon.

 

6) Ride the waves in Biarritz

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

Biarritz has been voted the best beach in France and it is easy to see why. The coastline is magnificent, the beach is clean and large. It is known for being a top surfing destination.

 

7) Become a beach bum in Bidart

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

If quiet beaches are more your thing you should head to Bidart which is just 9km from Biarritz. The beaches there are just as clean and beautiful but there are a lot less people plus parking is free & plentiful – which is in direct contrast to Biarritz.

 

8) Wine tasting in Bordeaux

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

Every year in June Bordeaux hosts fete le vin, a 2 day wine festival with a 2km wine route on the banks of the river Garonne. If you’re not in town at this time check out Bar a vin. They regularly update their selection of 30 wines; sold by the glass, prices start as low as €2. The staff are very knowledgeable so you can have your own wine tasting at your leisure.

 

9) La Rochelle

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

La Rochelle, aka The White City is a vibrant lively coastal city in southwest France. There is a beautiful marina with two ancient towers at the port entrance. You can climb to the top for a fee.

A visit to La Rochelle isn’t complete until you have been fortunate enough to enjoy a bottle of home produced fruity wine (guignette) at La Cave de la Guignette. Resembling an old wine cellar, this bar gets busy with the local crowd after work. Guignette is strictly an aperitif, hence the early closing time of 9pm.

 

10) Sleep in a church in Cannes

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

With Airbnb you can sleep in an apartment within a fully working church. The space is hosted by Beatrice, who will make you breakfast each morning including home-baked cakes. The apartment/church is within walking distance of Cannes’ beach and famous promenade. If you are lucky you might catch a choir performance in the church while you are there.

 

11) Get lost in the Marais District, Paris

The Marais District has narrow medieval lanes bursting with boutiques, quirky shops, museums and art galleries. Stroll through the streets with no map or GPS and see what you see. It’s a great way to spend a morning in Paris.

 

12) Be a mustard connoisseur in Dijon

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

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Dijon isn’t all about the mustard. There are excellent vineyard tours, very interesting architecture and great food. If you are a mustard lover like me though, you’ll love sampling the different mustards with a fresh crusty baguette. There is no better place for it!

 

13) See Europe’s biggest mural & eat falafel in Lyon

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

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Lyon is a great place to walk around and explore the many streets. Have a picnic on the banks of the river, check out the barge bars on the river and eat the best falafel at Yaafa – it’s not always easy being vegetarian in France but in Lyon, once you discover Yaafa, all your falafel dreams will come true.

Lyon is home to Europe’s largest mural painting ‘Mur des Canuts’, it was a bit tricky to find but definitely worth making the effort.

 

14) Pay your respects to Jim Morrison & Oscar Wilde

Pere Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris and has many famous residents. A lot of visitors like to leave flowers and other gifts on the graves of the more famous inhabitants.

 

15) Road Trip!

France is more than Paris and champagne. Guest author Cat Clark collected must have experiences all over France on her six week road trip - here is her top 15!

A road trip through France is the perfect way to see the sheer variety that France has to offer. Driving there is very easy; the roads are so quiet compared to the UK. Make sure you brush up on French driving law before doing this as there are a lot of things you must have in your car at all times (high visibility vest, spare bulbs etc) The toll roads are very expensive so if you have the time hit the ‘avoid tolls’ option on your GPS and you will drive through the prettiest French villages. As the inspirational posters often say, “the journey is the destination” – and this has never been truer than when driving through country villages in rural France.

 

So whether you like a big city, a quiet beach, a beautiful campsite on a lake, wine tasting or even better, champagne tasting, France has something to offer anyone & everyone. Jump in head first, eat as many croissants as you can handle, drink strong coffee & excellent wine, and France is bound to make you smile.


This is a guest post by Cat Clark.

Cat Clark is 33 years old & has traveled extensively in Europe & SE Asia. After 12 years of working in a bank she quit to travel & is now traveling in between jobs working as an ESL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher. She travels with her husband Russell. Follow her journey on Instagram @Crusty1325.