As another year is upon us, thoughts are turning already to the summer and to dreams of destinations sunnier. Tootlafrance.ie takes a look at some up-and-coming destinations in France which any visitor to France should target in 2014.
1. Cherbourg – Missing you Already
Hundreds of thousands of Irish people drive off the ferry at Cherbourg and keep driving for several hours more. This is a pity because for anyone going on holiday to France in 2014 – whether it is on family holiday to France on booze-cruise or other, Cherbourg is well worth a detour. It is one of those French cities that has transformed itself in recent years, taking a big budget, rolling up its sleeves and reinventing itself with panache and verve as only French towns do.
Stroll along the elegant quays, whose charm may just surprise you and where great restaurants won’t bite your hand and your wallet off or take one of the local €3 bus trips that take you around the coastal districts of Cherbourg to discover some of its heritage with jovial locals. Check out the Italianate Theatre or bring the family to see the Cité de la Mer.
2. Grenoble – Alpine Rugby Town
Even if the growing Irish contingent in the local top-flight rugby team here (two coaches and two players) doesn’t convince you to visit Grenoble this year, then prepare to be seduced by its city centre full of meandering streets with their mixture of Savoyard and French 19th-century architecture and through which its trams and trolley-cars snake through, dinging their bells like so many Alpine cows.
This is one of the most dynamic cities in France and in the whole world for that matter. Science and tradition have gone hand in hand in this city for several decades and its energy is infectious no matter how short or long your stay. If you’re around for the 14th of July, the fireworks display from the citadel high above the old city centre is one of the best in France.
3. Bordeaux – Wine Geese and Wide Rivers
With its regular air link through Aer Lingus, there is really no excuse not to go down to Bordeaux in 2014. There is no other city that has such a wide bright and brilliantly elegant river front, where room has been created for fun as much as for culture fans. You’re unlikely to find a more family-friendly city centre anywhere else in Europe.
Another reason to go to Bordeaux this is the fact that the bi-annual Wine Fair is happening this year at the end of June. For those who might have visited Bordeaux ten years ago or more, be advised that the city has received a major revamping and the once sombre city by the Gironde now gleams and grooves in a thoroughly bright fun and elegant way.
4. Lille – Northern Heartland of the Great War
The capital of French Flanders is another city that suffered from post-industrialization blues, but it’s all go for 2014 in this city that finds itself in the heart of WWI Country. For the year that’s in it, millions are expected to flock to the area to explore the heritage of the Great War in a series of commemorations that will continue over the next four years (well, it’s better than a real war, isn’t it?)
The revitalization of the city is impressive and the vibrant local tourism organisation offers some neatly-packaged packages that will suit all visitors to Lille – from the “hidden” Lille of exploring the river and the lesser-known streets to the gastronomic wealth of the city to the tour of flea markets and traditional markets.
5. Perpignan – Catalan City, Mediterranean Heart
Given the continued number of flights not only directly to Perpignan itself but to so many other cities nearby, this russet city – permanently bathed in the red-and-yellow flags of Catalonia – is destined to become even more popular with Irish visitors in 2014.
Munster people have already discovered it over the years, after countless victorious raids from its own red army of rugby warriors. They don’t mind down here because they’re friendly outdoors-type folk. This summer, look out for the Thursday nights, which are mediaeval re-enactment nights or explore its atmospheric streets with the aid of new mobile app that gives you a personal tour guide.