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- A walk through L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue Sunday Markets
By Hannah Noye Bonjour! Doesn’t time fly? It feels like the New Year only just began, and yet here we are with January almost over! Similarly, we are starting to draw closer to La Belle Vie Tour, our first tour of 2023 which is very exciting indeed. Let’s travel together to one of the locations of this tour. Known as France’s Venice, the town of L’isle sur La Sorgue is a small and quintessentially French town of warm toned buildings, summer flowers, and quaint bridges crossing the canals that weave throughout. It rests in the Vaucluse region of France in Provence, not far from Avignon, and is blessed with a Mediterranean climate, meaning summers are warm and cheerful, and winters are mild. The towns Sunday flea markets are what the village is most celebrated for, drawing tourists and locals alike. The charming atmosphere and picturesque setting of the town is only enhanced by the market stalls set up on the banks of the Sorgue River. Cheerful tourists mill between stalls offering everything from antiques, vintage items, collectibles, hand-made soaps, as well as classic provincial cheese, wine, and desserts. The market is considered of the largest of its kind within Europe, and its notable range of antiques and vintage items attracts many collectors. The market, also known as the "brocante" (antique market), is believed to have originated in the early 20th century, when dealers and collectors from Paris would travel to the small town to buy and sell antiques and collectibles. During World War II, many Parisians were forced to flee the city and those who moved to L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue brought with them their furniture and other household items. Many of them began selling their belongings at the Sunday market leading to the eclectic style of offerings it is famous for! Imagine waking at the L’Oreliane, a classically French bed & breakfast situated between Avignon and L'Isle sur la Sorgue. We will then spend a wonderful summer morning strolling the cobblestone streets, trying various provincial foods, and perusing the variety of the market. Imagine the sun on your back, the cheerful chatter of the crowd slowly moving, and the smell of lavender in the air – by virtue of being in Provence, of course dried lavender, or lavender infused products such as soaps and candles are bountiful within the market! Imagine also, the numerous water wheels scattered throughout the river. The river Sorgue is fed by several smaller streams and springs in the surrounding area. The town's economy has historically been largely reliant on its waterwheels which have been used for centuries to power local industries such as paper mills and textile factories. The biggest source of water for the Sorgue comes from La Fontaine de Vaucluse, a spring located in a limestone cave in the Vaucluse Mountains. This is the largest spring in France, and notably of the most powerful in the world! The water from the spring is crystal clear and is used for irrigation, as well as for the production of bottled water. This spring has been celebrated in literature and art, and is famous for inspiring the famous poet Petrarch, and the French troubadours. I believe there is a deep sense of connectivity to be felt in places such as these. Australia is a beautiful country with its own deep and unique history, and it is well documented that the nomadic nature of the Indigenous Australians means there was little need for architectural monuments or buildings, and so it is not common to see especially old buildings in our home country. This is of course part of the appeal of Australia, in that it's spirit is most connected to through the land itself. However there is something equally moving to see structures and monuments that have been integral and traditional parts of communities for years and years, and are still functioning today, and hold within them a longstanding story. Not only are they of a whimsical and picturesque beauty, but they are, in the case of the water wheel, representative of the French character and people as they adapted to the French landscape. It is a fascinating thing to see the water wheel continuing to turn and work for the town of L’Isle sur la Sorgue even today! To come and enjoy the charming atmosphere and beauty of L’Isle sur la Sorgue and all it has to offer, check out the La Vie Tour on our website, available at this link: https://www.francetravelsolutions.com/la-belle-vie-french-tour-2023 We hope to see you there! À la prochaine !
- Meet one of our guides: Maud PB!
Written by Hannah Noye Maud Philippe-Bert is one of our fantastic on-site travel guides running the France Travel Solutions tours in France. Maud herself is extremely worldly and a seasoned traveler. Born and raised in Lyon, Maud studied for 1 year in North Carolina USA, before returning to France. She studied attained her Masters of International Law in Paris before going on to get a journalism qualification and working as a journalist for 10 years. Maud decided she needed a change and spent two years traveling and living in many different countries, then settling back into her home town of Lyon where she has been working as a tour guide for the past 9 years. I interviewed Maud to know more about her experience and skills as a travel guide and the sorts of things that travelers can look forward to on her tours – read on to meet the lovely Maud! Hi Maud! How long have you worked in the Tourism Industry? After my travels I moved to the tourism business, so I started on the fields with Backroads, an American company, who do active travel. I was a guide for trips in France; I did a lot in Provence, Burgundy and the Loire Valley. It was biking, so we were biking a lot during the day and tasting wine, so it was quite cool but after two seasons I decided that I wanted to do something different; I like to do very different stuff! I moved to another American country called Grand Circle Travel. The French headquarters are in Lyon. I was Program services manager, so I was in charge of all the French trips and guides working in France, so I was hiring them, training them, putting them on the field, and I did some production for the trips too. I was finding new places to go like restaurants, and new activities. I also went to other territories like South Africa and Iceland, to do some quality control. After 2 years I left again, and I started my own business. I started Kontrol Freak which is the company that I have now. I’m doing a lot of guiding on the field again, and I’m working with France Travel Solutions and some other companies for like cultural trips. I am also doing travel design and and I’ve just started working for a movie school too – its part time and I’m in charge of all the students in the acting area! You have movie directors, you have writers, you have all different kinds of stuff. I’m in charge of the students doing acting and all the teachers coming and all the projects and doing stuff together. I’ve been doing improv theatre, for like 6 years, I’m doing that a lot when I have time, so it’s a busy life, but its cool, I like it! Me: Is your interest in drama and acting something you incorporate into your tours? It’s very useful to do theatre and to do improv because when you’re a guide with a group you always need to talk with a bunch of people. You need to feel comfortable, and actually when you’re guiding you kind of play a role. Of course I’m Maud but in a way its playing a role – its cool and I like it! Lyon, where I live is the town where the movie actually started – two brothers, Les freres Lumiere invented the movie. Lyon is a big town about cinema and about movies and I’m pretty sure there are some tours about cinema but I’ve never done that yet – but it’s a good idea! Me: What part of French culture would you say you most enjoy and want to share with the people that you are guiding? Maud: Definitely food tours – I’m really about French food and French wine. Lyon is in the middle of the wine area in France. We have north the wine of Burgundy, and Burgundy wines are the most expensive wines in the world so we have crazy wines. In the Mâconnais region there is white wine that I really like, much more affordable and really good, and then Beaujolias which is another really interesting wine area around Lyon. I won’t start explaining everything because then I’ll talk about that forever! So you have Beaujolais and then you have Lyon and south of Lyon you have Côtes du Rhône Plus Lyon is well known to be the capital of Gastronomy. We have a very strong gastronomy history and one of the most famous chefs, Paul Bocuse, is from here. We have a lot of very important chefs from Lyon and we have a lot of specialites, so when I’m doing my tours I talk a lot about all the specialities that you can find in France – that’s really what I’m the best at. I really try to talk about good and arts and culture which is what I’m interested in, so I’m talking about all the museums, all that you can do, that is what I’m interested in. Me: What do you do if people have questions you don’t know the answers to? When I don’t know I’m not going to lie –so when I don’t know I just tell them I don’t know. I know the basic stuff they want to know, and I can take care of the history and stuff of course. When I don’t know I work and learn, and very easily you get to know what kind of information they want to have. What size tours do you have experience running? I’ve done all sizes and I like both because very small groups you have more personal and intimate relationships and you can talk about a lot of stuff. With big groups its more about logistics but I’ve done all sizes up to 45. Question: What is your favourite region of France or that you’d like to show your groups? I really like Provence. Provence is great to show tourists, but me, when I go on vacation I like to go to the west because its wilder. It’s hard because Brittany is also beautiful and Paris is amazing of course – its hard to pick one! Me: Is Lyon where the Fête des Lumières happens? Absolutely yeah! It just happened actually, it was in December. At the beginning we were just putting some little lights on our windows and everyone did it. When I was a child every family was going out just to walk in the streets to have a look at the lights and then we would go home and that’s it. Now its like big stuff – people are coming from everywhere in the world, and I think its great for tourism. Is there anything else you’d like to add about how you specifically run your tours? I’m really organised but I sometimes work with companies that are too perfectly prepared and it lacks some room for improvisation. You know, when you travel you don’t really know what’s gonna happen because it’s part of the experience. I’m always very organised when I do a trip; I know where I’m going, I’m calling the places before because I want to know that the reservation is good, because when you do those things you know it’s going to be smooth. at the same time I try to add a bit of my personality, and I try to have some bits not prepared, even if it makes it a little harder to organise its more fun. It needs to be an adventure. I love adventures, I love to not know what’s going to happen so that’s my way of working. It’s a little bit of improv but a lot of organisation! Maud will be taking some our tours later this year. The website for her business KontrolFreak is available at the following link : https://www.kntrlfrk.com/our-experience-for-your-business You can see information about Maud and our other guides on our ‘Meet the Guide’s’ page on the France Travel Solutions website at this link: https://www.francetravelsolutions.com/meet-our-local-guides If you have any further questions or want to book yourself in for a tour with Maud, please get in touch through our website or social media. Have a fabulous week!
- The Christmas Markets of Strasbourg and other wondrous French festivities
Written by Hannah Noye Hello everyone and Joyeux Noël! In only 2 sleeps Père Noël will be crawling down chimneys all over the world to leave presents! Something I learned recently is that French children leave their shoes around the fire to be filled with toys and treats. I suppose this isn’t too different from our tradition of using a stocking to fill with toys; after all, they are both things you put on your feet. Legend has it, back before the washer/dryer machine was invented people would hang their stockings or leave their shoes by the fireplace to dry. Before toys, Santa was said to throw gold coins down the fireplace for nice children, and they would land in the stockings or shoes, creating the custom of leaving them out for gifts that we practice today. This week we are going outside into French society, the streets bustling with Christmas cheer! It's high time we mingle merrily with others seeking Festive French cheer, and the best place to do this is at one of France’s beautiful and famous Christmas Markets. Markets like these can be found all throughout France at the festive time of year, but the most well known is The Strasbourg Christmas markets, also known as the "Christkindelsmärik" in the native Alsatian language. The Strasbourg Christmas markets are the oldest in France, dating back to the 16th century. While the market has things you will find at any Christmas market across France, it boasts a unique feel of German/French influence. Strasbourg, now under the rule of France was under German rule until after World War 1, so a lot of the local architecture, customs, and foods are a blend of the two cultures, which can be summed up under the term 'Alsatian.' The markets are set in the Old Town part of the city, its dark wood market stalls sprinkled with snow and the whole place decorated with twinkling lights and Christmas trinkets. It is clear the enduring spirit of the market continues untouched by time – the whole place is the very picture of picturesque, old-timey beauty and cosiness. Imagine strolling through the markets, enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday season, rugged up in scarves and jumpers. Carolers and live Christmas music echo cheerfully in the night, and the smells of traditional Alsatian Christmas treats entice you. Of course there are the normal offerings, including Vin Chaud, cheese and so on, but Strasbourg has a whole host of traditional foods that won’t be found outside of the region. Flammekueche, or tart tarte flambée is something of an Alsatian pizza, consisting of a thinly rolled dough base, and a thin layer of crème fraiche, onions and bacon. There is also Choucroute, a dish of sausage, sauerkraut and potato, quiche Lorraine, a classic dish native to the nearby town of Lorraine, Bredele the classic Alsatian Christmas cookie, and much more. Pictured above: Tarte flambée To add further to the delightful foods and atmosphere are the market stalls offering artisanal products made by local craftsmen and women, including Christmas decorations, toys, and other handmade gifts. A souvenir that far exceeds an I HEART PARIS T-shirt! Some extra thrills and activities include a visit with classic jolly Saint Nick who of course takes a seat each year at the market, ice-skating, and taking a horse-drawn carriage ride. I know I keep saying to imagine – but really imagine the wonder of experiencing the Christmas lights, music, and food while being transported by a horse! It sounds like something out of a dream. While Strasbourg is undoubtedly known for being the BEST Christmas Market - the best overall Christmas decorations are seen in Colmar, another city in the Alsace region with a notable Christmas Market. The Germanic architecture coupled with the charming decorations makes the town seem to leap from the pages of a fairytale. Lyon, yet another French city, further south, is known for its Fete des lumieres, a beautiful magical light show installed throughout the city that dates back to the 8th of December 1852 when residents celebrated the erection of a statue of the virgin Mary by placing coloured candles in their window frame. Today, ordinary fixtures of the city such as signs and streetlights are given new life through movement and light unlike that of their regular function. Spaces are transformed with light pieces - in 2019 floating sea creatures and seaweed lit from within created an underwater atmosphere at the Fete. Most memorable perhaps are the large scale moving light projections on the tall renaissance buildings of the city that transform the landscape into that of a beautiful, surreal dream. The festival runs for 4 days every year from the 8th to the 11th of December. Are you thinking longingly now of the warming festival and market traditions and foods of France? Perhaps you are wishing you were strolling the markets, hot beverage in hand, inspecting hand crafted ornaments and Alsatian delicacies, or enjoying the light shows of Lyon as they dance and scatter. If this is you, then you are in luck. France Travel Solutions are happy to take expressions of interest for those wanting a White Christmas in France next year. Whatever you seek, FTS can help you with crafting the perfect itinerary, down to the details – where to stay, what to eat, where to visit. If you want a voyage dedicated to visiting the most iconic Christmas experiences, markets, and festivals, or simply wish to experience France in its cold winter season, then please let us know. It is our wish to create the experiences that will keep you excited and looking forward to your French adventures in 2023/2024.
- France Travel Solutions
Immerse yourself in the tastes and flavours of France, getting a profound appreciation of six regions we focus on during your wine-centric holiday. Discover some of the most famous wine regions in the world. "La Belle Vie" Announcing our new tour 2023! Tour France’s Famous Wine Regions I want to know more! France Tours 2023 Departing May, June, August, September and October 2023 Tour Dates Available NOW! "A Taste of France – Live with the locals, like a local." Enjoy a full slice of the good life in France. Join us on a voyage through the riches of France and discover the cuisine, history and landscapes that make this beautiful country unique. Choose and design your own private tour or join my popular small group tour package. Champagne, Rosé, Red, white, we invite you to try them all! With moderation and the right balance of culture and tradition, your unique experience will be rich in emotions, enhancing your senses. We’ll seek out some gastronomic gems and treasured vineyard areas. Each region has a unique terroir and different traditions for you to explore! Get ready for a bubbly start, in the heart of Champagne, the place to be for real bubbles! In Burgundy, you will live like a local strolling in the city famed for its mustard and rolling vineyard. Your two days in Dijon will be a marriage of gastronomy, wine, culture and education. The famous bridge in the traditional Provençal town of Avignon with the very impressive Pope's Palace will be our base region for the next three days. Discover the Provence where is good to live! Can you hear the cigales? We won’t miss the impressive Carcassonne citée on our way to the famous Bordeaux region where we will stay four nights. Sightseeing the largest Europe sand dune, cruising and eating seafood in Arcachon Bay, and trying renowned wine in Medoc, will be some of your wonderful memories of your unforgettable twelve days of leisure around beautiful France. I want to know more! Follow us on Instagram Subscribe to our newsletter now - Don’t miss out! Subscribe Thanks for subscribing!
- France Travel Solutions
Tour France with Us Experience the Difference At France Travel Solutions we do tour holidays differently. We are not the type of tour that simply drops by top sights and major cities. We invite you to see a destination through the eyes of the people who know it best: the locals who call it home. We know that the best kind of adventure is one that introduces you to local experiences and sights while providing you with the time and space to explore independently. What Makes Us Different? Small groups of 6 to 8 people like-minded travellers, we can make your tour private! More mobility, blend in with the crowd Your tour guide is your local friend Stress-free, no hassle, return home rested Available to help you every step of the way No time wasted on long road trips Get to learn some French Handpicked restaurants every time Fun activities to meet the locals Adult only groups (teens allowed with parent) Our Tour NOTE : All ages are welcome if you have a private group Huge crowd of 16 to 50 people Feel like an outsider in a travelling mob Tourist traps Early departures, tiring trips Can’t help all 50 people Lots of waiting, endless hours stuck on a bus The busy tour guide, no time to talk The hotel restaurant, not again... One group of all different ages Their Tour More Details About Our Philosophy Below Learn French Learning French can be easy and fun! If you are interested we will help you learn basic phrases and expressions while you are on tour. Then you can impress the locals and your friends back home while picking up a second language and make your trip more memorable and rewarding! And if you already speak French you can practise your skills with our guides who are fluent in French and English. 🙂 Quality Restaurants Travelling is a fun way to discover new meals and new cuisines. This is why we advise you to great authentic French restaurants that we have personally tried and approved of. We want you to enjoy trying all the different food France has to offer and will always give options if you’re a vegetarian, vegan or food allergy. Your trip, your choice! Our goal is to make sure that you spend the most memorable time and for that, we have carefully planned everything for you. This is a completely stress-free vacation. Our price includes guides, accommodation, all transportation, some breakfast, lunches and dinners. All you need to buy are your plane tickets, the few meals not included, and to pick your activities, it’s your trip, it’s your choice! Travel as a Local Our mission is to help you experience the wonderful French culture and share good times. Travelling is not just about the history and the monuments, it’s also about experiencing a new culture. That’s why we include fun and unique activities such as traditional long dinners at your guesthouse, French picnics, games of Petanque and much more. (See each tour individually for a list of the activities part of the tour.) Plus you will have the expertise of a local guide (friend) all along the tour that knows all the secrets of France! > Read about our tours to see exactly what fun activities will be included! Your Tour Guide, Your Friend Our expert local guides will share with you their culture and traditions and show you the hidden gems of France. Since we only put together groups of up to 8 people you will get plenty of attention from your tour guides to help you along your journey and answer all your questions. We truly believe that we are more than just tour guides, we are your French friends that you are coming to visit and hope that you will come to visit again one day! A True Vacation We make sure that our journeys are full of amazing sites and unforgettable visits while also allowing breaks and free time to relax and be by yourselves. Departure time from the hotel will rarely be before 9:00 am, we allow enough time to really explore each site that we visit, no need to run from place to place! We stay at least 2 nights at the same accommodation, for you to get into the skin of the French style living. Plus you don’t have to worry about anything, everything is already planned for you. What a true vacation! We'd love to hear from you!
- France Travel Solutions
Bonjour! Born and raised in the south of France I developed a passion for my native country. I have a particular appreciation for the natural and unique environment “le terroir”, the gastronomy, landscape, history and the cultural and culinary differences in French regions. I feel privileged to be able to live in two different, beautiful and lucky countries. Married to an Australian, with our 2 boys, my heart and life balance between Ocean and Mountain, the love for my family in France and Australia, my native culture, and my two beautiful places of residence for over a decade. I love culinary journeys, challenging nature while surfing & snowboarding, searching for unique off-the-beaten-path places, meeting with locals and learning about new cultures. I have spent the last 10 years organising my friends' and family holidays in France and they always valued my knowledge of the country and my understanding of their needs. France, with its rich authenticity and character, has a lot to offer and I would love to share my passion with you. France Travel Solutions aims to help people to develop intellectually, socially and culturally through the share of locals’ way of living in France. Visit my country through the eye of locals’ passionate experts. I can’t wait to share my “Joie de Vivre” and expertise with you