We love France all year around
January: Ski and snow polo in Megève
French resorts that brim with old-world charm are rather thin on the ground, but one that stands head and shoulders above the rest is Megève. The former farming village is the place for trendy Parisians to ski and it boasts a number of Michelin-starred restaurants, designer shops and top-notch hotels in its 13th-century centre. What it does have above other resorts is accessibility: it’s an hour’s drive from Geneva Airport, making it popular as a weekend destination. Year-round, there’s golf, lake-swimming, rock climbing and canyoning, but it really comes alive in the winter, particularly around the time of the Megève Polo Masters. The birthplace of snow polo in France, there are some 12 matches over four days in January.
For sale €10.5 million
Located close to the Côte 2000 ski lift and slopes sits this newly built double chalet. Designed in a classic Alpine style, they’re linked by an underground parking area with space for seven cars. In total, there are nine bedrooms and bathrooms and the main chalet has several sitting and dining areas as well as a wellness area, gym, cinema and swimming pool on the lower-ground floor. The guest chalet has four en-suite bedrooms, a fireplace and an open-plan kitchen Knight Frank (020–7861 1727)
February: Truffles in Périgord
The rocky woods and sun-dappled fields of Périgord, some 50 miles east of Bordeaux, are known for their black truffles. From November to April, locals set out with trained pigs and dogs to search among the thick wooded forests for these small underground fungi. The local markets are busiest in January and February, the largest being in the tiny village of Richerenches, and there is a Musée de la Truffe in Sorges.
For sale €890,000
This six-bedroom farmhouse lies a short distance from Thiviers, known for its truffle market. Blending traditional charm and character with a number of modern comforts, including underfloor heating, the house is in excellent condition. The garden of 2ó acres has a heated, saltwater swimming pool and a range of outbuildings. The nearest airport is Limoges, 50 minutes away. Allez Français (00 33 6 88 20 70 48)
March: Blossom in the Languedoc
The Languedoc-Roussillon area borders the Pyrenees to the west and the Mediterranean to the east and is famously home to the Cathar castles and the World Heritage Site of Carcassonne. Sometimes known as the ‘other South of France’, a world away from the glitz and glamour of the Riviera, it’s often cited as the area that the French would most like to retire to. The fishing villages around the lagoons can be very pretty, but the countryside inland is also captivating, especially in spring, when the area’s almond trees bloom, covering the landscape with a blanket of fragrant white and pink.
For sale €3.923 million
A new development in the village of Marseillan on the edge of the Étang de Thau, a large saltwater lagoon, will be the first seafront vineyard resort in France. La Baraquette, named after the wooden shacks around the edge of the lagoon used by the oyster farmers, will comprise four- or five-bedroom seafront villas, two-bedroom apartments and patio villas, built around a walled courtyard. Prices range from €337,000 to €3.923 million. Savills (020–7118 0077)
April: Scallops in Brittany
The Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques is usually held on the last weekend of April to celebrate the end of the scallop season in the Brittany ports of Saint-Quay-Portrieux, Loguivy-de-la-Mer and Erquy. The scallopfishing season in the St-Brieuc bay is restricted to 45 minutes twice a week to protect the species and each port takes it in turns to host the festival. Organised over three days, there are fishing trips, music and recipes featuring scallops. On the Saturday morning, you can follow the Knights of the Scallop as they parade through the streets.
For sale €1.35 million
Set just a few minutes from the pink-granite coast—known for its unusual shade of sand and rock formations—and within a short distance of the market town of Lannion is this elegant, 18th-century château. It has eight bedrooms and bathrooms, spacious reception rooms and a number of outbuildings, including stables and a coach house, a chapel and a caretaker’s cottage, all set in 74 acres of beautifully maintained gardens and grounds. The airport at Brest is 60 miles away Leggett Prestige (00 33 5 57 55 06 06)
May: Transhumance parade in St Rémy
The tradition of walking flocks from winter to summer pastures—formerly, a 10-day journey by foot—is celebrated in St Rémy on Whit Monday, the day after Pentecost, when the shepherds of the plain of the Crau, in traditional Provençal costume, herd sheep, goats and donkeys through the walls of this very attractive town-inthe- round. The procession takes place at about midday and there is music and dance, a cheese market and sheepdog trials.
For sale €1.89 million
Just three minutes from the centre of St Rémy, this pretty four-bedroom mas is full of Provençal character and is protected from the glare of the summer sun by mature trees. There is a swimming pool, outbuildings and a caretaker’s house all set within just over four acres of gardens Savills (020–7016 3740)
June: Racing at Chantilly
During the first week of June, the Prix du Jockey Club, or French Derby, is held at the Chantilly racecourse, which lies 35 miles north of Paris in the shadow of the Château de Chantilly (which Bond fans will recognise as the home of Max Zorin, played by Christopher Walken in A View to a Kill). Later in June is the Prix de Diane, and, this October, the racecourse will also host the prestigious Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, normally run at Longchamp, which is currently under renovations. The area has good connections to Paris on the RER transit system, so is a popular commuter spot.
For sale €990,000
Lying just eight miles from Chantilly and 22 miles from Paris is this well-presented maison bourgeoise. Once the family home of the secretary of the Académie Française, the house has seven bedrooms and bathrooms and has been run as a successful B&B. In the half-acre garden, there is a heated swimming pool and a dining terrace, plus a greenhouse and a workshop Leggett Prestige (00 33 5 57 55 06 06)
July: Purple Provence
Lavender in the Lubéron blooms from about the last week of June to the beginning of August, when it is harvested. It’s particularly attractive against the backdrop of the Abbaye de Sénanque, near Gordes (if you can arrive before the hordes), but there are other concentrations on the high plateau around Sault, at the foot of Mont Ventoux (famous for its role in the Tour de France) and around Apt. Not ones for missing a trick (or exaggerating the worth of something), the French call it ‘blue gold’.
For sale €3.995 million
One of the prettiest houses currently on the market in the Lubéron, this mas lies just below the village of Lacoste—you can see the château that was once the refuge of the Marquis de Sade, but which is, today, home to the designer Pierre Cardin. The six-bedroom main house stands in more than six acres and there is a caretaker’s cottage plus a variety of outbuildings that could make additional accommodation, subject to planning permission. Knight Frank (020–7861 5034)
August: Jazz in Gascony
For three weeks every August, the small medieval town of Marciac in Gascony plays host to one of France’s best jazz festivals, which draws thousands of fans both from France and further afield to the area. Unlike the Dordogne, its better-known cousin to the north, Gascony has no honeypot attractions and is more about the open countryside of undulating hills, interrupted by creamcoloured houses and fertile farmland. According to Ian Purslow of Purslow’s Gascony, an associate of Knight Frank: ‘What overseas buyers love about Gascony is the sense of escape from city life. There are no waiting lists for restaurant tables and no traffic jams—just old-world courtesy, a lack of pretension and an appreciation of the simple, but very fine, things in life.
For sale €1.695 million
This immaculate gentilhommière—complete with a four-door Aga in its farmhouse- style kitchen, seven bedrooms and dramatic 90sq m (970sq ft) reception hall—has an idyllic country setting, showing off the best of Gascony. There are stone-built outbuildings in the grounds, including stables, a pigenonnier tower and a caretaker or guest house. Purslow’s Gascony (00 33 5 62 67 61 50) and Knight Frank (020–7629 8171)
September: Off-season Riviera
The French school holidays—regardless of which zone you are in—finish on August 30, so the best time to soak up the sun on the beaches of the Riviera in peace has to be September, when the hoards have largely departed. The Mediterranean has been warmed throughout the summer months and the evenings are still long enough to eat outdoors
For sale €3.95 million
This extremely smart eight-bedroom bastide in Grasse has views across the countryside towards the sea. The interiors nod to the house’s 18th-century origins, but have contemporary touches such as bathrooms boasting smart marble basins and free-standing baths, a well-equipped gym and stripped wooden floors. Outside is a swimming pool, a tennis court, a summer kitchen and a pool house with caretaker’s accommodation Knight Frank (020–7861 5034)
October: Wine harvest in Bordeaux
According to Michael Baynes, of St-Émilion-based Maxwell Storrie Baynes, October is very lively in Bordeaux as owners fly in to take part in the harvest. ‘Many owners host dinners and entertain at the sales end of their business, as well as hosting the grape pickers. Most years, there is a harvest celebration in St Émilion and many of the châteaux across the region celebrate Gerbaude (fête fin des vendanges à Bordeaux).’ The appetite for wine estates is the strongest he’s seen in eight years. This enthusiasm coincides with the opening of the €63-million Cité du Vin museum, which opened on the banks of the Garonne this May (00 33 5 56 16 20 20; www.laciteduvin.com)
For sale €2.65 million
Lying just outside Bordeaux, this château dates from 1545 and was fully renovated in 1992—the current owners have made further improvements. There are eight bedrooms, a swimming pool, a kitchen garden and a series of period outbuildings. Maxwell Storrie Baynes/Christie’s (00 33 5 57 84 08 82)
November: Calvados and cider in Normandy
Lower Normandy’s Pays d’Auge is home to the 25-mile circular Route du Cidre, on which cider and calvados producers in half-timbered manoirs offer samplings of their produce.
It all culminates in November, when numerous cider festivals takeplace, including ‘the day of the tree and of cider’ in Saint-Cyre-La-Rosière on November 6 and the ancient cider festival at Le Sap on the 12th and 13th.
For sale €1.4 million
With just under 10 acres of apple trees producing AOC Pays d’Auge cider, this pretty manoir, which dates from the 17th century, would suit someone interested in getting involved in production. Overlooking the Oudon valley, a two-hour drive from Paris, the house has seven bedrooms (the top floor could be a staff or nanny flat). The closest shops and market are at St Pierres sur Dives, just 2ó miles away, and the house lies in a protected area. Leggett Prestige (00 33 5 57 55 06 06)
December: Christmas in the capital
Paris starts transforming itself into a winter wonderland in late November. The City of Light sets up ambitious displays along the Champs Elysées and other main boulevards and the three main department stores along the Boulevard Hausmann (Galaries Lafayette, Bon Marché and Printemps) compete to produce the best window displays. On a smaller scale, the manèges de Noël are the seasonal merry-go-rounds that pop up in every neighbourhood in Paris, and there are Alsace markets set out in wooden chalets around the city.
For sale €3.835 million
Positioned in the elegant Luxembourg area of the 6th arrondissement, this threebedroom, three-bathroom flat benefits from soaring ceiling heights, which allow lots of light into the spacious, open-plan kitchen/dining room and dual-aspect living room. Savills Agence Varenne (00 33 1 45 55 79 10)