Many of you will have had to cancel the vacations you had planned for 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Like us, you probably can’t wait for life to return to something close to normality so you can enjoy doing the things you love - seeing friends, going out for dinner, and starting to make travel plans again.
In this post, we’re going to fast-forward to offer you some inspiration for future Fall vacations.
Depending on where you want to go and what you want to do, the fall can be an ideal time to visit France. September is often still warm but not as overwhelmingly hot as the late summer, and the days are still quite long. A bit later in the fall (late September to early November), the gorgeous rural landscapes are full of greens, reds, oranges and yellows, and offer incredible light for photographers. And, of course, it's the harvest season, so there will be plenty of delicious fresh food and wine to enjoy.
We want to recommend the places that are particularly beautiful later in the year, so we have compiled a list of top places to visit in France during the fall, organized according to activity or preference
Fall colors in the French vineyards (Photo: pxfuel CC0)
I still remember the first time I visited the French Riviera with Guillaume; it was late October and I was 7 months’ pregnant with our older daughter Jeanne. We were researching for our tours at the time, and we didn’t want to visit during high season, as the French Riviera is so busy with tourists during the summer months. It is also very hot.
When we went, the temperature was still in the mid 20s/70s and the sea was still warm enough to swim in at sunset. The best part was that most of the tourists had already gone, so we could enjoy the best of the beaches, the quaint hilltop villages and the city of Nice at a quieter time.
The beach at Menton, on the French Riviera (Photo: Daniel Falciola CC-BY 2.0)
Visit France during the fall and you’ll have the opportunity to witness the grape harvest. Burgundy is our top recommendation, with its lively towns such as Dijon and Beaune, and working wineries. It’s also a truly gorgeous region to drive through at that time of year, as all the vineyards begin to turn orange and yellow - you’ll get some stunning photo opportunities.
Enjoy the gorgeous fall colors of the vineyards in Beaune, Burgundy, France (Photo© Olivier Colas - CC-BY SA 4.0)
Bordeaux is also a very nice option to enjoy the fruits of the grape harvest, though some of our favorite wineries close during the fall.
Provence is always a wonderful option if you’re looking for some sunshine and a crisp glass of rosé wine. But once the fall rolls around it becomes clear why so many artists have been mesmerized by this region over the decades and centuries.
Arles and St Remy de Provence
Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh painted some of his most famous and recognizable paintings during his time living in Arles and St Remy de Provence. He was enchanted by the rural scenery of Provence and by the fascinating light. In St Remy, you'll be able to visit the asylum where van Gogh lived for a time toward the end of his life, and see some of the views he painted there.
The fields ready for the harvest in Provence - depicted by Vincent van Gogh in his painting Harvest at La Crau, with Montmajour in the background (CC0)
Aix-en-Provence and surrounding areas
French painter Paul Cezanne was born in Aix and spent around half his life living in the region. You may still visit his studio in Aix en Provence, where he spent his days painting during the final years of his life, and do the town’s self-guided Cezanne walking tour. Although he was better known for his still-life paintings, he also depicted stunning Provençal landscapes across the seasons.
Provence landscape by French painter, Paul Cezanne (CC0)
Dordogne and Lot
The scenery and geography of this southwestern region of France are spectacular throughout the year. From the lovely medieval town of Sarlat to the region’s prehistoric caves, the region is filled with architectural and geographical wonders.
Dordogne is known for its hills and valleys and dramatic views, and this region is a dream to drive through. Later in the year, as the light floods across the landscapes of the Périgord, it highlights the yellows, reds, oranges, browns and remaining greens of the landscape, offering some stunning photo opportunities.
The majestic escarpments that tower over the Dordogne river are quite astonishing to first-time visitors to the region. If you combine this with the fall colors, we guarantee you will fall in love with Dordogne and Lot.
In Lot, we often send our travelers on driving routes through the Causses du Quercy Natural Regional Park, which has some wonderful scenic views. We always recommend a photo stop at Rocamadour, where the beautiful sand colored village almost blends into the escarpment across which it is staggered. It is an harmonious image of civilization and nature, and the colors of the surrounding landscape during the fall only enhance its beauty.
The Fall Colors in Rocamadour, Lot, France (Photo© Paul & Alexis Benjamin)
The Basque Country
The Basque Country stretches across the border from the southwest of France to northern Spain, from the coast to the pyrenees mountains. Its fascinating culture and cuisine are a draw through most of the year, but the light and the colors of the region take center stage during the fall season.
There are many beautiful walking trails in the mountains with incredible light for photographers. You can also visit traditional Basque villages and towns, such as Ainhoa and Bayonne, where you will be able to observe the typical Basque architecture and everyday life. On the coast at Biarritz, there are some gorgeous panoramic views, and if you visit in September it may still be warm enough to enjoy the beach.
Sunset at the beach at Biarritz, in the French Basque Country (Photo: Pixabay CC0)
Just 2.5 hours drive from Paris is the dramatic Normandy coast, which gourmets will definitely appreciate during the fall. The scallops season starts in October, and we can promise you that one of life’s finest pleasures is sitting in the fresh air on a restaurant terrace, enjoying freshly fished scallops in a Norman port town such as Trouville-sur-Mer. You will also appreciate some of the stunning coastal landscapes that inspired local artists such as Claude Monet.
French scallops served with pasta (Photo© Tangopaso CC-BY SA 3.0
The Wild Card
Our travelers have absolutely loved doing hot air balloon rides in the Loire Valley, and the fall is the ideal time for them. There are still enough sunny days and not too much wind, which makes the conditions perfect for hot air balloon flights. I think you can imagine the incredible birds’-eye and panoramic views you’ll take in as you float peacefully above the Loire Valley.
Hot air balloons float above Saumur in the Loire Valley (Photo© Daniel Jolivet CC-BY SA 2.0)
You may like to do a whistle-stop tour of Paris if it’s your first visit to France and you’re traveling from afar. However, we don’t especially recommend Paris in the fall, as rainy days are more common, as are strikes in the city.
Paris in the fall (Photo: Pixabay CC0)
If you have any questions about visiting France during the fall on a self-drive tour, we invite you to reach out!