The Glénan archipelago in Brittany: like a Polynesian breeze
A string of islands and islets fringed with powder-white sand beaches, set on water with sumptuous shades of turquoise and emerald—18 kilometers (11 miles) from the southern coast of Finistère, the Glénan archipelago rivals even the Polynesian peaks of the Pacific. They boast the same beauty, same purity, same blues of the sea and sky. Take a dip (yes, even if the water is cold!) in this translucent lagoon, and you'll feel like you've plunged into an aquarium. The view is set off with a view of the ballet of the multicolored sails of the Les Glénans sailing school from below.
Ochre in Roussillon and Rustrel: Provence's Colorado
Want to live out True Grit in Provence, in the heart of the Luberon, in a setting worthy of a technicolor western? Between the beautiful villages of Roussillon and Rustrel, you'll feel like a cowboy—but there's no need for a horse to roam in this flame-colored Provençal Colorado. Between cliffs and canyons in all shades of red, yellow and orange, paths of various difficulties have been laid out in old ochre quarries.
The ideal Palace of Postman Cheval in the Drôme: Angkor Wat or elswhere?
In France, you can be a simple country mailman and build a palace reminiscent of the splendor of the great temple of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, out of love for your daughter. For 33 years, Ferdinand Cheval has built a unique edifice of Eastern inspiration, a hymn to nature and to dream life, with odds and ends. In Hauterives in the Drôme, between the regional natural park of Pilat and Vercors, you can visit this masterpiece of amateur art which allows you to travel, far—very far—in your own imagination.
Les Orgues d'Ille-sur-Têt, in the Pyrenees: fairy chimneys like in Turkey
It's not just in Cappadocia, Turkey, that you can find "fairy chimneys." In the Eastern Pyrenees, near Perpignan, the vagaries of wind and rain have likewise shaped, over a few million years, astonishing columns of sand and clay into with strange shapes. Geological marvels, the Ille-sur-têt Orgues also bear a family resemblance with the Rochers des Mées, in Provence. Between Manosque and Sisteron, some see hooded penitents or capped young ladies, but either way the show is just as magical—especially at sunset.
The Dune of Pilat, on the Arcachon Basin: a French Sahara
You won't spot camels on the horizon, but there are blonde waves stretching as far as the eye can see—if this is not the Sahara, it looks like it! One hundred and ten m (360 ft) high, 500 m (1640 ft) wide and 2,700 m (8858 feet) long, the Dune du Pilat draws up its 60 million m3 (2,118,880,003 ft3) of silky sand facing the Passes du Bassin d'Arcachon. If you climb to the top and don't take a peek to the left, towards the green forest of the Landes, nor a glance to the right, towards the great ocean where the Banc d'Arguin stretches, the illusion that you're in North Africa is almost perfect!
The Tufs Waterfall, in the Jura: a lookalike for a waterfall in Thailand
First there is this emerald forest, easily walkable with the family. And then the sound of the water, getting closer and closer. Then, you finally reach the falls, gushing out in multiple cascades ricocheting on the mossy rock, splashing into pools teased by the rays of the sun. It's an almost tropical atmosphere: you could be in the rainforests of Asia, from Bali to Thailand. Where are you really? The Cascade des Tufs in the Jura, a few hundred meters from the village of Planches-près-Arbois, rivals these exotic destinations with its breath-taking waterfall.
The Camargue, in Provence: a French Andes
What do the Altiplano in the Andes mountain range, at 4000 meters (13,123 feet) above sea level, have in common with the great plains of the Camargue, in Provence, lying on the shores of the Mediterranean? These long-legged birds, who are part of the landscape of the wild and colorful lagoons. The flamingo, emblems of the Camargue, like the beefy bulls and the wild horses, contributes to the incredible scenery of this large wetland. The Camargue is far from South America, but echoes that area with its fascinating folklore, between local gypsies populations and herdsmen.
The villas of the French Riviera: better than in California!
From Los Angeles to the Baie des Anges—California and the French Riviera have no shortage of common ground, and the extravagance of their dream villas attests to it. If the heights of Hollywood and Palm Springs excite the curiosity of architecture enthusiasts, the whimsical or very modernist constructions of Provence are sure to do the same. From the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, an elegant Renaissance-inspired palace overlooking Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, to the very design-y and avant-garde villa E1027 by Eileen Gray and the villa Eilenroc at Cap d'Antibes, Provence is a mecca for architecture lovers!
Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (External link)
Villa E1027 (External link)
Villa Eilenroc (External link)
The beaches of Corsica, Caribbean blue
No need to go to the end of the world to bask on paradise beaches.Even without the coconut palms, Corsica can more than hold its own against the most beautiful seaside destinations on the planet. In the Agriates desert, between Balagne and Cap Corse, Loto beach, a long cove of white sand caressed by crystal clear Caribbean water, is one of the most famous of the island. But, there's competition: further south, Palombaggia, Santa Giulia and Rondinara are also dazzling in beauty.