There is so much more to France than Paris!

This is Lesley and Neville’s story: two Francophiles from Australia who adore travelling in France. Actually, Neville is from New Zealand but that's another story!

Let it be your story too! Read on...

Some years ago, when Neville and I first visited France, we made Paris our only port of call.
We both loved it. The galleries, the bistros, the beautiful boulevards, and a stylish ambience uniquely French, Paris seemed like a dream destination that couldn’t be bettered.

How limited we were!
It was only on later visits, bristling with Eurail tickets and hire car vouchers, that we discovered  the enormous wealth of things to see and do in rural France, and how fascinating and varied were its regions.

It was like a whole lot of different countries rolled into one. 
The wine villages of Burgundy, Brittany’s diverse coastlines, the sparkling waters of the  Mediterranean, the haunting alpine vistas of the Auvergne, the Canal du Midi snaking its way through the Languedoc and the fairy tale towns floating in the clouds or nestling in the Massif Central, were just a few of these. But amongst this dazzling diversity, there were four particular regions that stood out well  above the others: Dordogne, the Loire Valley, Provence and the Basque Pyrenees. 
We couldn’t stop thinking about these wonderful places that offered us delights going  beyond anything else in our many travel experiences.
They bristle with “bucket list” destinations,  but that’s just the problem: there are almost too many!

Which to see? Which to leave out?
And having made your choice, how to organise the logistics of getting to them without falling into an exhausted heap?
It all seemed too hard! But then...

How to organise the best holiday experience you will ever have? Stay with French Cottages

This is when I - Lesley - had a sort of epiphany!

Since we are planning to go together, why not ask my travelling companion, and newly retired husband what he suggests?

So Neville and I started doing our research for our Grand Tour of France. We both realised that we were beyond the idea of  the standard “linear” journey starting at one point and moving on every 1 or 2 nights. Too exhausting!

It was Neville who came up with a cunning plan while cleaning out some of his old work files. He happened upon a diagram of a networking concept called Star Topology used by his former company to design workplace computer networking systems.

Before you zone out with nerd alert narcolepsy let me explain it simply.
The network is set up with a series of hubs – with the server or “brainpower” of the computer at the hub and it sends information to individual workstations radiating out like the spokes of a wheel. 

“The hubs for our trip”, explained Neville excitedly to me, “would be logistically convenient bases we use to explore a particular region. We find an optimal hub and stay there for a week or more while we explore that region. Then we move onto the next hub. It’s a win-win Les!

It was lovely to see Neville so animated so I’m sure I would have agreed to it had it been called Gobbledegook, but the concept did make perfect sense.

Star Topology: this is the best way to explore France by basing yourselves in a series of hub villages

“That’s funny. So have I. So that’s what you were doing on your iPad at the other end of the sofa all those evenings.
I thought you were watching You Tube videos like that one about the magpie and the dog  wrestling each other around the Hill’s Hoist! So there I was doing the same thing at my end of the sofa.
Great minds thinking alike but not together...
I’m busting to know how your list compares with mine. Show me!” 

Keen photographers will have millions of photo opportunities when they stay with French Cottages
Lesley stayed with French Cottages and wrote up her findings here and on her Facebook page

“Not so fast honey-bunch. Where’s your map?”

“Now Neville, you know I’m no good at geography; actually I’m not even 100% sure of where France is if you want to know the truth.
But I did get a really good list together by reading all about each place that caught my eye and then I used my secret weapon.
I call it my weapon of mass instruction”

“What is this famous weapon then?”, he replied drily looking at me askance.

Women’s intuition!

“Oh for Heaven’s sake Les, that went out with the Ark”

“So you say, but show me your list and we’ll see.”

Anyway, to make a long story short, I laid out my list and Nev his humongous map with annotations all over it and you won’t believe what we saw next: we had chosen practically the same list of “must -sees/must-dos”!
It was creepy.
“I have to admit Lesley,” said Nev with a new look of surprised respect at my intuition-based ratings, “there’s something in your secret weapon I can’t deny. You’ve chosen really well. How long did it take you?”

“Oh about two days on and off.”

“You should patent that weapon Les. It’s taken me three weeks of painstaking research!”

I didn’t tell him I had some help from these two Australian boys, Bryan and David, that put me on the right track. But I wasn’t cheating really because my trusty intuition told me that their advice was the real thing. I just tweaked it a little, that’s all. A woman’s best friend is her iPad! Have iPad will travel!!

“I tell you what Lesley”, Neville cut across my reverie, “since these lists are practically identical we can just merge them with my map and Bob’s Your Uncle!”, he chortled.

“And Fanny’s your Aunt”, I said coming down to earth, “but what about the hubs?
Which of  these places could count as a hub?”, I said looking at the long list and dots all over the map. 

“Mmmm. Good point. Well I guess that the first thing about a hub is that it must be located so we can actually get to our destinations easily each day - and back of course - then we wouldn’t want the hub itself to be dull in case we weren’t going out that day. Then, even if we know what place should be a hub, we want a suitable home base - let’s call it a ‘hubbyhouse!”

“Very funny Neville. But you’re right and what’s more, I have already solved that too!”

“You little treasure. Spit it out then,”

I then had to confess about my secret discovery of the two “French Cottages” boys.
Their choice of hubs was so good that they had bought and set up their own fully equipped houses in each one just for people like us. Without going into the nitty-gritty details right now, suffice  to say Neville was convinced and so we put together our plan of attack, booking those of  the recommended “hubby houses” that my trusty intuition told me would be right alongside practical things like how big the houses were, did they have proper kitchens, parking etc. I won’t go into those mundane matters, but since they are important you can read the details further down if you like. But I must say now, after the event, that every one of them  surpassed our expectations and nothing we needed was missing.

David Hitchins and Bryan Stark
Comfortable, clean and spacious beds are a must when you travel. French Cottages knows how important this is and provides the very best night's rest you will experience in your ramblings about France

We stayed in the four regions mentioned above in four different cottages, two weeks in each one to give us time to really settle in and enjoy our little excursions.
The accommodation was outstanding. Bryan and David give so much attention to detail it made life and changeover day really simple. All cottages were definitely in living villages and very, very well equipped.
We could walk to everything as they were right ‘inside the walls’ so to speak. We only used the car for day trips. We are planning a return trip sometime soon because we didn’t really see half of what was on offer: our ‘bucket list’ only got half emptied!
I can really recommend the itinerary we put together, but of course you may have your own ideas and variations.
To get you started I am quite happy to show you ours; here it is!

Our Hub-Based
Itinerary of France

Well! I wanted to empty my bucket list (that’s me carrying it below) and took in all four regions.

At each HUB (red dot) you have dozens of places to visit in easy reach. But of course I underestimated the time it would take and only half emptied the bucket! Butnever mind, we’ll go again to catch the rest. See further down this page for more tailored options.

Four Regions and their Hub Villages
French Cottages offers a number of preset holiday packages which are illustated in this picture. But you can design your own too. Just contact us for a fully tailored plan for your next Holiday in France

Design Your Own Itinerary

You can create your own 2, 3, 4 (or more) multi-week itinerary.
See the weekly hub packages below with details and prices.
Our itineraries commence 52 weeks a year
(starting on any Friday)

Customise your own France Holiday experience by mixing and matching our various cottages and regions

First Class Cottages,
Villas and Apartments

Your own homes in France.
You won't want to leave them!

You won't get lost when you travel in France with French Cottages because we supply full directions with photos of very key waypoint

was my question the first time we went.
I asked Nev to check this out (he’s the practical one) and this is what he discovered. It all turned out to be true too!

Accommodation in your own apartment, cottage or villa (not sharing with any strangers!)
Of course we had to arrange our own Airfares, Hire Cars and Local Tours etc but our Travel Agent helped us  there and the booklet we were given was really useful.

All accommodations are of an exceptionally high quality, clean, comfortable and fully equipped like a real home with nothing lacking. They even have Australian/NZ power points with USB chargers!

They are all in the historic centres of World Class villages (the HUBS). You can wander out and find cafes,
bars, restaurants, mini supermarkets, shops, boutiques, etc within a few steps. All the basics are supplied:
condiments, dishwashing powder, clothes washing liquid, toilet paper.... Local support is there in case of any
problems. Free use of phone and internet in each property. Cental heating, air conditioning and much else.

Some of the time we were to have a hire car and I wondered about parking. Nev said this was provided either just outside the property or else in a nearby lock-up private garage. The village where we weren’t having a car had plenty of bus/train connections.

A beautifully printed individual directions booklet for locating and settling into each property as well as a local tour guidebook detailing all those nearby sites we wanted to see with suggestions about day tours was
provided in our final package. And lots of other things which really made it a special time for us!

Discover the Real France
with French Cottages Holidays

Your Guide to Organising the Best French Travel
Itinerary You’ll Ever Experience.

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Carlton North 3054

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