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This fall, I traveled to France to explore the country beyond its famous capital city. I’d been told by Francophiles before that if you’ve only visited the City of Light then you haven’t truly seen France. So, from the agrarian central quarter to the eclectic Basque Country to picturesque Provence, I committed to the challenge of getting outside of Paris. Autumn is one of the best times to come to Europe because there are fewer tourists, however it’s cold, which means it’s really important to pack the appropriate outdoor gear. I partnered with Zappos and Royal Robbins to keep warm on this adventure by road testing the MerinoLux Henley long sleeve shirt. The wrinkle resistant, quick-drying fabric is ideal for travelers plus it’s also UPF 50+, which keeps your skin safe in the sunshine. Zappos makes it easy to order your favorite color and appropriate size. We all know the holidays are fast approaching, so if you’re looking for a gift for the adventurer in your life, Zappos ships this item for free.
Meanwhile in France my adventures continue …
Traversing the center of the country, you could call the Auvergne region the literal heart of France: it’s a prized source of farm-fresh ingredients that comprise French cuisine. Home to rolling hills, wide open fields and village markets, it represents bucolic life at its best. Eating French food is divine, but getting to know the countryside from which the food comes brings an extra layer of authenticity.
While the region’s rural nature might deter some tourists, I found that it creates a huge advantage for people like me who want to escape the crowds of more popular destinations and get to know how locals live. Plus, you can visit local farms to learn about organic and sustainable growing techniques. Wearing a long sleeve shirt to play in the fall foliage is helpful; the Merinolux Henley definitely fared well in the leaves.
Must do: visit the Commentry Market on Friday morning to sample locally grown produce and pastries (7am to 1pm)
The French Basque Country
Just west of the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the French Basque country offers world-class surfing, quaint countryside towns, and Basque culture at its best. The humble town of St. Jean-Pied-de-Port is where pilgrims depart for their 500-mile trek to Santiago de Compostela, Spain. Meanwhile the neighboring village of Espelette owes its bragging rights to cultivating the very spicy and widely consumed Espelette pepper.This diverse region is the perfect place to understand the cultural musings of these hillside villages before heading to the coast to either park yourself on the sands of Biarritz or pick a riverfront cafe to enjoy a glass of sangria in Bayonne.
Must do: go surfing in Biarritz. The waves at Le Grande Plage are best for more advanced surfers while beginners should check out La Côte de Basques.
When most people think of Provence, they think of vineyards and lavender fields. While these attractions bring many people to this part of France every year, the beautiful natural landscape and lively cities shouldn’t be overlooked. In the Bouches-du Rhone region, Sainte-Victoire Mountain is a designated Grand Site de France: you’ll see depictions of the stone monument in Cézanne’s paintings. It’s the ideal setting for strapping on your boots and spending a day out in nature. After hitting the trail in the morning, head to the small city of Aix en Provence. This classy Provencal town is the perfect backdrop for a pick-me-up at one of its quaint outdoor cafes along the cobblestone sidewalks.
Must do: explore Sainte-Victoire Mountain (near Aix en Provence) – mountain biking, climbing, and hiking are all options.
Packing List for Visiting France in the Fall
MerinoLux Henley long sleeve shirt
Stretchy jeans and yoga pants (you’ll be eating a lot of pastries)
Stylish boots for getting around fashionable towns like Aix
Plenty of layers since weather conditions vary throughout the country this time of year
A warm jacket