When you think of France, most people's thoughts tend to gravitate toward cities like Paris, tables full of good food and wine, and images of the rich and famous along the French Riviera. And, while these are certainly iconic images of France, there is a lot more to discover, even if you've traveled around the country before.
Whether you're planning your first or 10th trip, here are four of the more unique experiences you can find in France.
Search for a luxury European river cruise visiting one of the world's most famed wine regions, and you will find the Bordeaux River Cruise. Imagine cruising the Garonne River alongside the world-renowned vineyards of Sauternes, or touring a 16th-century chateau. Then, as you merge into the Dordogne River, stops include Saint-Emilion, the oldest of the Bordeaux winemaking regions and the Blaye citadel, a fortress and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Travelers will also visit the region of Pauillac, the gateway to the Medoc wine region.
The Mont-Saleve Cable Car takes visitors up an altitude of 1,100 meters in just under five minutes. Here you can enjoy incredible views from the French mountain, down to Switzerland's scenic city of Geneva, or partake in a number of mountaintop activities. There are mountaintop hikes (subject to season), including Saleve ridge hikes, and the Balmes - a path not recommended for vertigo sufferers, that take you to the observatory, 150 meters up from the mountain station. For a more low key experience, enjoy culinary specialties from Geneva and Savoyen in the Restaurant L'Horizon du Saleve.
If you're traveling through Southern France by vehicle, take the opportunity to experience one of the most spectacular, yet dizzying drives in Europe. The drive between Nice and Monaco snakes through the Alps that are a steep drop right into the sea. The three roads that make up this area are called the Grand Corniche (top), Moyenne Corniche (middle), and the Basse Corniche (coastal). The Grand Corniche is probably the most famous and reaches 550 meters above sea level. The road was built by Napoleon and features stunning views of the Mediterranean. The Grand Corniche is well known, both as the filming location for Alfred Hitchcock's To Catch a Thief, and the site of Princess Grace Kelly's death in an auto accident in 1982.
Did you know France has a sand dune that is the second most visited natural monument in France? The Dune du Pilat, or the Dune of Pilat, attracts over one million visitors a year and is the tallest sand dune in Europe. It sits between the Atlantic Ocean, a giant pine forest with trees reaching a height of 30 meters, the Arcachon Bay, a sandbank, and even a peninsula. Located on the territory of the small town of La Teste de Buch, its an easy 40-mile drive southwest from Bordeaux.
What are some other places in France to add to this list?
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Erin is a travel and food writer who currently splits her time between the Netherlands and Belize. She's traveled to 60+ countries on 5 continents with a passion for culinary travel, luxury hotels, and all things Disney. Her writing has appeared in numerous online outlets including Gadling, BootsnAll, CNN, Art of Backpacking, TravBuddy, CBS, and more. She was the major author of Belize's official visitor magazine, Destination Belize 2013; wrote the official AFAR Guide to Belize; and is also AFAR Magazine's local Belize expert.. In addition to writing for other publications, Erin maintains several blogs, Our Tasty Travels, No Checked Bags, Pooh's Travels, and the brand new Caye To Belize. Follow Erin on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google Plus.
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