Toulouse is the capital of the French department of Haute-Garonne and of the region of Occitanie. The city is on the banks of the River Garonne and it is the fourth-largest city in France after Paris, Lyon and Marseille, with a half a million inhabitants. A city with unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks, which earned it the nickname la Ville Rose ("the Pink City"), Toulouse counts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Canal du Midi (designated in 1996, and shared with other cities), and the Basilique St. Sernin, the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe, designated in 1998 because of its significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
Toulouse is the European capital of the aeronautic and spatial industry with Airbus headquarterd in the city. Thanks to its large population of students, Toulouse has been selected as the most dynamic French city in 2009 according to L’Express newspaper. For amateurs, there is nothing better than to end a game of rugby by enjoying local gastronomy, specifically the famous cassoulet.
La Cour des Consuls 5*
On the centuries-old rue des Couteliers, surrounded by old streets full of bars, restaurants and antique dealers, this hotel is a 10-minute walk from the Place du Capitole, Toulouse’s famous central square. La Cour des Consuls occupies two 18th-century townhouses that have been converted into sophisticated accommodation. The professional service and fine-dining restaurant make it one of the top luxury places to go for a weekend break in Toulouse and an ideal pre or post bike tour destination. Their spa particularly is an enticing feature.
Ours Blanc Wilson 4*
Entirely renovated in 2014, the hotel Ours Blanc Wilson has become emblematic with its Art-Deco facade and its round shape that forms the link between Place Wilson and Place Victor Hugo. The hotel enjoys a central location in the heart of Toulouse, near cinemas, department stores, theatres, museums, and restaurants. The elegantly decorated rooms are surprisingly quiet for such a centra location and the hotel provides a relaxing atmosphere throughout.
Hôtel Albert 1er 3*
Located in the very heart of Toulouse, the Hotel Albert 1er is located only a few minutes from the famous Place du Capitole and other important attractions. This classy and environmentally-friendly hotel has received the European eco-label and is proud to offer a rich breakfast composed of biological and local products.
Le Pavé des Minimes
Located in the neighbourhood of Claude Nougaro, Le Pavé des Minimes welcomes you in a charming and typical “Toulousaine” manner. Here you can taste gourmet and authentic cuisine, made from fresh products, where the focus is on home made dishes. The restaurant team offers a menu adapted seasonally by the chef, along with desserts delicately flavoured with local ingredients.
Located behind the University du Capitole, Restaurant Michel Sarran offers one of the highest quality dining experiences possible in Toulouse. Unless you know where to look for it, you may not pay attention to this gorgeous and luxurious restaurant. And that would be a pity. A top-class welcome is guaranteed to guests where the focus is on the food experience, guaranteed by one of France's top Chefs. Advance Booking is necessary.
Au Pois Gourmand
Nestled in a splendid 19th century building, Au Pois Gourmand boasts one of the best terraces on the banks of the river La Garonne. Its romantic, splendid setting, coupled with an emphasis on gourmet French cuisine, is highly recomended.
Bibent - Christian Constant
This place, opened in 1861, is one of the oldest brasseries in Toulouse and is rich in history. Located on the Place du Capitole, Bibent offers a splendid neo-baroque setting and a warm atmosphere that is completed by numerous gastronomic specialities, all concocted from fresh and seasonal products.
La Place du Capitole
The seat of the municipal government since the 12th century, this neoclassical masterpiece displays its majestic brick and stone façade on the unmistakable Place du Capitole. Enlarged, transformed, embellished in every era, the scenery inscribed on the walls of the Capitole building itself tells the great moments of Toulouse's history: from the Cathar episode to the creation of the floral Games, from the Counts of Toulouse to the city's headquarters. Famous for its state rooms, the Salle des Illustres are unmissable. Here you will learn about Henri Martin, Jean-Paul Laurens, Paul Gervais and many other artists who have painted or carved the decor of these rooms. Lovers of lyrical art will appreciate the famous opera house in Toulouse also located here.
Le Couvent des Jacobins
Founded by the Order of Dominicans, le Couvent des Jacobins is a jewel of medieval art in the heart of the city. The church, where the relics of St. Thomas Aquinas rest, will fascinate with its double nave with its painted decoration, its magnificent stained glass windows and its surprising palm-shaped vault. Entering the serene cloister, and through the convent symbolizing the Garden of Eden, the former refectory, the chapter house and the chapel of Saint Antonin (whose painted decors, beautifully restored) it is possible to while away many hours at this fascinating attraction.
Since 1995, the Bemberg Foundation has been installed in the superb hotel of Assézat, jewel of the Renaissance. Created by Argentinean patron Georges Bemberg, it offers an artistic journey of the West from the end of the Middle Ages to the 20th century. The first floor is organized in salons of Renaissance and XVIIIth century where furniture and objets d'art mingle, reviving the interiors of time. The second floor is devoted to impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Do not miss the room dedicated to Pierre Bonnard, exceptional for his 35 paintings.
Basilique Saint Sernin
On the roads to Santiago de Compostela, the Basilique Saint Sernin, a masterpiece of Romanesque art, is a UNESCO world heritage site. Built in honor of Saint Saturnin (or Sernin), first bishop of Toulouse, its construction took from the 11th to the 13th century. Wander around the building and admire the elegant features, staggered from the chapels to the octagonal bell tower, characteristic of Toulouse architecture. Inside, 5 ample vaulted aisles converge towards the choir and the canopy of gilded wood and marble. Access the crypts and the tour of the holy bodies, treasure of relics which testifies to the prestigious past of this pilgrimage church.
Located near the old visible rampart Armand Duportal Boulevard, this garden surprises by its exoticism. A few steps from the administrative centre and the congress centre, its environment is conducive to meditation and rest. Labelled as a remarkable garden, it is the synthesis of the existing gardens in Kyoto, built between the XIVth and the XVIth century. It contains all the characteristic elements: a staging of the mineral world, the vegetable world and the aquatic world, decorated with typical elements such as the surrounding wall, bridges, lanterns and the tea pavilion.
5 Blockbuster Châteaux
Here is a non exhaustive list of the top châteaux in the surroundings of Bordeaux. We have chosen not to rank them because each of them produce premium-quality wine and its taste would be more or less appreciated in conjunction with your preferences.
Château Latour is one of the most famous and prestigious vineyards in France and, indeed, the world. It was ranked First Growth under the 1855 Bordeaux Classification, which by the time (and still today) aimed to rank the production of the several thousand different Châteaux in Bordeaux’s region and hence awarding a unique prestige mark. The wines of Château Latour are the result of centuries of work and improvement with a constant quest of excellence.
Château Margaux is one of the rare Châteaux which received the honorary distinction of First Growth. Despite its recent unstable history, rocked to the rhythm of the ownership changes, the fact remains that it is a wine of rare exception. Indeed, right from the beginning, their wines were considered as some of the very best in the world. Over the centuries, the Château did not change its recipe for success, it still relies on two major features, that is to say a unique terroir and a continued and unwavering dedication to the work at every stage.
This Château, with the arrival of Philippe de Rothschild, earned its prestigious reputation. Philippe de Rothschild was a true precursor, he indeed spearheaded the construction of a museum open to the public on the Château’ site. Moreover, every year, since 1945, the design of the label for the Château Mouton-Rothschild has been entrusted to some of the most famous artists in the world such as Jean Cocteau, Salvador Dali or Andy Warhol just to name a few. In 1973, the Château finally achieved the prestigious reward of being ranked First Growth in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. The Château was almost entirely renovated and its facilities were upgraded in order to remain at the cutting edge of exquisite wine production. Even if the Château has, in its rank, Specialists with a high calibre they still rely on an ancestral know-how which has been magnified over the generations.
The Château Haut-Brion is a leading institution in the wine industry. It is located only a few miles away from the city centre of Bordeaux and is an unmissable stage of your trip!
As for the other Château mentioned, Haut-Brion is part of the restricted circle of the First Growth in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification. Over the generations, the wine production was in the hands of irrepressible enthusiasts who had no other purpose than endlessly seek the creation of the ultimate taste. Tasting the wine from the Château Haut-Brion will guide you through different levels each with their own idiosyncrasies regarding taste; a subtle yet sophisticated bouquet of savours.
Once again the name Lynch refers to a family who was at the source of a classified Growth wine. What is more surprising are the Irish roots of this family who ran away from the anti-catholic repression and found a welcoming land in Bordeaux. Even if the Château Lynch-Bages does not benefit from the highest ranking in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification (Fifth Growth), it is still a prestigious institution which will not disappoint the most demanding of palates. Thanks to its special character combining power and finesse as well as its consistent quality, Lynch-Bages manages to find a place among the greatest in the famous wine-making town of Pauillac.
Bayonne is a famous city of the South West of France which is at the crossroads of the Atlantic sea, Pyrénées Mountains and Spanish border. This unique geographical situation has led to its economical and demographical expansion. Indeed Bayonne has successfully evolved from a fortified medieval town to a dynamic city which attracts more and more investors. Nonetheless, Bayonne has managed to keep its Basque cultural and historic identity which is still omnipresent, especially in the small charming city centre where the architecture of the building translates its singularity.
Hôtel Les Basses Pyrénées
This newly renovated 4 star hotel is located in the historical centre of Bayonne and surrounded by ramparts. This is an atypical hotel because its exterior façade has an authentic medieval appearance contrasting with its brand new well-designed interior.
The highly reputed Le Bayonne hotel has been fully renovated and has earned 4 stars because of the luxurious services provided such as the sauna, hammam or the heated outdoor swimming pool. Le Bayonne is situated 5 minutes walk away from the city centre. You can also enjoy the restaurant in the hotel and the very nice terrace giving you a perfect view of the river La Nive. Le Bayonne offers a tranquil stay and it is our top hotel recommendation for the city.
This three star hotel is perfectly situated if you arrive by train as it is located just a few steps away from the train station. Most of the rooms have a view on the river L’ Adour as well as on the town hall. If you want to discover the historical city centre you just have to cross the bridge in front of the entrance. Although not typical of a Fresh Eire Adventures hotel recommendation this is a fine budget choice.
A Table is a small convivial and familial restaurant with a a few tables, so it is imperative to reserve before coming. This lovely restaurant, situated in front of the river (La Nive) has become a victim of its own success. The owners, Wilfried and Claire have seduced a whole town not only because of the affordable prices but also the local, fresh and delicious products that they serve.
Le Pavé is situated in the heart of the historical centre of Bayonne next to the the Gothic cathedral. Besides its ideal location, you will find a fine cuisine with a charming atmosphere combining modernity and tradition. You will be surprised how reasonable the prices are, it is great value for money.
Auberge du Cheval Blanc
The Auberge du Cheval Blanc is a true gastronomic institution providing a service of higher quality as the restaurant received a Michelin Star in 1995. The chef Jean-Claude Tellecha is the heir of a prestigious family of Chefs which has allowed him, from a young age, to develop a unique know-how which will take you on a true culinary journey.
Located in Loire Valley, France, one-hour drive far from Paris, Blois is a beautiful city situated on the Loire river banks between Orleans and Tours. It is especially known for the Royal Castle of Blois which attracts more than 300,000 tourists every year and is also the starting place for our Loire Valley Fresh Eire Adventure. Easily reached by direct train from Paris Austerlitz.
Located close to the centre of town, the Mercure Hotel is a welcoming 4-star hotel which allows you to get your trip in the Loire Valley off to a great start. Recently renovated, the establishment offers you spa services such as heated swimming pool, sauna, steam room or Jacuzzi to relax in a peaceful atmosphere. A fitness gym offers you the opportunity to exert yourself.
Ibis Styles Blois Centre Gare
A few steps away from the main tourist attractions, the 3-star Ibis Hotel is greatl value for money. Rooms are small but comfortable and quiet to fully appreciate your night. The customer service is surprisingly good for a 3-star hotel. The Royal Castleof Blois is only 9 minutes walk away.
Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures, stayed here to evaluate it for future guests. Here is his review from TripAdvisor:
"Located on the wrong side of the tracks from the main tourist attractions this Ibis was actually surprisingly good. Bright (if unsurprisingly cheap) decor and cheery competent staff.The room layout was efficient but very small - I was barely able to open my suitcase. Bathroom was especially memorable for its excellent shower and beds were also comfortable. Wi-fi was also strong and overall cleanliness was good. Very little street noise.Unusually I opted to take breakfast at the hotel and was thankful I did. A fine array of cheeses, meats and fruit, breads and pastries, excellent coffee (albeit from a Nespresso machine which they try to keep hidden in an anteroom).Worth the 10 minute walk to the hub. Recommended."
Hotel Anne de Bretagne
Anne de Bretagne is a unique 2-star establishment with its virginia creeper which allows you to relax in a peaceful but charming atmosphere between The Royal Castle and The Cathedral. Rooms have an old world charm decor and simplicity. The hotel offers strong free Wi-Fi. This hotel is an excellent option for a family trip.
Hotel Louise de Savoie
Located in the heart of the city centre, on the right side of Loire river, between the train station and the Royal Castle of Blois, Louis de Savoie is a basic but charming and cosy 2-star hotel. It offers rooms from 1 to 4 persons, free WI FI, a private parking (€8/day) and a reception service from 7am to 10pm. Louise de Savoie is a very good option for a relaxing or romantic stay in Blois.
The Michelin star restaurant L’Orangerie, located at the edge of the Royal Castleof Blois, give you the opportunity to sample divine French cuisine in an exceptional atmosphere. Built in the 15th Century for French monarchs, the building has maintained its original features. Chef Jean-Marc MOLVEAUX offers a selection of 4 delicious menus to extend your unique French experience. We recommend the cheese board (extra €5).
Au Coin d’table
Located in Blois city centre, on the left side of the Loire river, Au Coin d’table is a basic and cosy restaurant for a pleasant and surprising lunch or dinner time in Loire Valley (closed Tuesday/Wednesday). The restaurant offers a delicious gourmet menu for €56, the St Sylvestre. The restaurant gives you the opportunity to discover an affordable but tasty and copious menu for only €17. Au Coin d’table is an ideal way to enjoy a break after spending time visiting Blois but also surroundings. Sometimes there's a cat on the prowl - be warned!
Padraic, Founder and Managing Director of Fresh Eire Adventures says of this restaurant:
"For dinner I recommend Au Coin D'Table (9, rue Henri Drussy); super friendly staff and unfussy menu. Very nice wine list there too (theres an excellent Cotes des Nuits Burgundy red for around €40). There is often a cat roaming the restaurant - be warned."
Le Petit Honfleur
A few steps from the Ibis Hotel Blois Centre Gare, Le Petit Honfleur is a cosy and charming restaurant using mainly local products and focuses on French regional gastronomy. The menu is efficient and the Bouchée à la reine aux morilles is simply gorgeous. The setting is quaint.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of Le Petit Honfleur by Padraic, director and owner of Fresh Eire Adventures
''We stumbled upon this quaint Normandy style restaurant in an atmospheric and authentic building. My friend had already eaten so while I enjoyed a double serving of the (starter sized) Saint Jacques Cassoulet (at €12 a serving) he enjoyed a glass or two of house wine. Excellent - I will certainly return. Recommended.''
Château Royal de Blois
While our Loire Valley bike tour begins in Blois it is important to remember that we do not visit the town, nor its chateau as part of the tour. As such we recommend arriving in Blois the day before your tour begins to visit the chateau.
The first remains of the Royal Castle date from the 6th Century with the Castrum Citadel. The Castle offers a wonderful panorama composed by 4 different facades. Each of them correspond to a specific period of the French story. After a visit the Castle you will be an expert in this fabulous and interesting historical time. In all, the Castle housed 10 Queens and 7 French Kings. The Royal Castle is the icon of the city and such a good place to visit during a sunny afternoon in Blois. It’s completely stunning. Remember to charge your camera.
Here are our Top Casual Dining Restaurant & Takeaway Recommendations in Paris, as prepared by intern Thibault.
L’As du Fallafel
Located in Le Marais neighbourhood, L’As du Fallafel is simply the best Falafel in Paris. No doubt, their falafels will give you a foretaste of Egyptian and Middle Eastern food. It’s not only a tasty surprising experience but an unexpected journey.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of L’As du Fallafel by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
“Touted as the best falafel sandwich in Paris this institution did not disappoint. The constant lines outside at peak times (and indeed off peak times) can disappoint but really - the wait is worthwhile. Freshly made falafel with deliciously fresh and crispy salad and high quality humous make for a tasty sandwich. However, the pita bread is nothing special and is really only a falafel delivery vessel; use a fork and discard the bread. There is also a sit-down restaurant option (which I didn't try). Excellent and very highly recommended”.
Touller Outillage is a wine bar in the 11th Arr. in Paris, next to Place de la République. You can taste some tapas to fully appreciate your free time in the capital city. Wines are excellent, and the atmosphere is user-friendly.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of Touller Outillage by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
"Superb atmosphere is this gorgeous authentic space; a fine collection of wines from every corner of France available by the glass and a simple cheese or charcuterie & bread option. The crowd is mostly younger people in the 20s and 30s. We opted for a glass each of superb Cote de Beaune at €6.50 per glass. I believe there is also an option to order tapas here but I saw no menu describing same".
Benedict, in Le Marais neighbourhood is a cosy restaurant famous for its eggs Benedict. However, you should also try their salads, burgers or even the tamara with truffle, simply delicious.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of Benedict by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
"This is a very buzzy restaurant on the edge of Beaubourg; lots of urban, stylish professionals meeting for after-work drinks often head here before going on to a party or club. I can't remember what my friend ordered but I had the filet of cod with a side of greens and salad along with an outstanding Saint Emillion Grand Cru (bargain at €10!!). I recall the meal worked out at €40 each including tip. Excellent value for money, hugely enjoyable and highly recommended".
La Droguerie is a small restaurant which allows you to taste the best “crepes” of the Marais at a very affordable price. Portions are generous, genial, the pleasure of a tasty dessert will be longer.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of La Droguerie by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
“An excellent post-falafel treat awaits you here at La Droguerie with freshly made crepes with a selection of classic toppings. My Nutella and Banana crepe was perfectly cooked and Crepe, Nutella, Banana ratio was excellently calculated. (They also have savoury crepes which I didn't try.) Superb. Very highly recommended and great value for money at €4 (Crepes start at €2)”.
Le Pick Clops:
Le Pick Clops is a coffee bar in Le Marais neighbourhood which welcome you inside a 50’s retro atmosphere. Return back in the 50’s with your friends to fully appreciate this old school and kitsch bar. On a sunny day, we advise you to sit on the terrace, don’t worry the locals will be there to show you the way.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of Le Pick Clops by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
"An awesome spot for people-watching, this stylish and retro restaurant offers simple dishes done well without any fuss or expense. My Inca Salad (€11 - quinoa, avocado etc) was refreshing with a citrus flavour, my friends Quiche du Jour (€9) was excellent. We also enjoyed an excellent bottle of Cotes Gascogne (€19). Total was €48.80 - superb value and highly recommended".
Café de l’Industrie:
Café de l’Industrie is a bar-restaurant, and a true institution located in the 11th Arr. in Paris which offers you a varied menu from the famous veal stew to the stuffed tomatoes in a unique space. The cuisine is simple but tasty and very affordable for a Paris restaurant.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of Café de l’Industrie by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
“I love this place and have eaten here a number of times. It's great value, has excellent choice (I love the Tuna steaks) and is a great place to have dinner before hitting the bars in the neighbourhood. Consistently good, the staff are friendly and helpful but don't be expecting a fine dining experience - this is unpretentious, value dining at it's best”.
Hotel du Nord:
Hotel du Nord is an institution in the 10th Arr. in Paris, in front of Saint-Martin Canal. The bar-restaurant is an authentic famous place since 1938 because of Michel Carné’s movie: Hotel du Nord. The curious will be surprised to enjoy not only the filming scene of the movie but a refined and varied cuisine with local and fresh products. Don’t forget to combine your dish with a glass of wine, the restaurant received in 2005 one prize according to “Le Grand Prix de la Presse du Vin”.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of Hotel du Nord by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
"I had been wanting to eat here for a while; the restuarants and bars along Canal St Martin are hip and attract a young, professional, fun crowd. Hotel du Nord is one of the best. While the restuarant is laid out in brasserie style, the food is certainly a step up. Service is friendly and relaxed and there is a wonderful unpretentious feel about the place with an electric atmosphere. Dishes are all good value with starters all under ten euro and mains in the 15-25 euro ballpark. We had mains of salmon and scallops - both cooked to absolute perfection, starters of ravioli with goats cheese and Fraicheur d'Avocat, accompanied by an excellent bottle of Sancerre. Deserts were outstanding - a sublime Tarte au Citron and an excellent Creme Brulee. We were given a complimentary Kir Royale after our deserts and were made feel entirely welcome (even when we moved tables after desert to enjoy a cigarette at a table on the street) throughout our visit and not rushed at all. This is one of my new favourites in Paris, a town which has many great restaurants the majority of which unfortunately suffer from a self-important air. Hotel du Nord is fabuous and you can't go wrong. I have started to recommended this place to clients and the reports back are all extremely positive. While it's not cheap (with a few coffees, all of the above came to €120 + tip) , it represents EXCELLENT value for money as altogether the experience was superb. Go. You'll love it!".
Here are our Top Hotel & Restaurant Recommendations in Biarritz, as prepared by intern Mathieu.
La Maison du Lierre
La Maison du Lierre is a 3-star mansion of the 18th century in Biarritz. The hotel name refers to the Lierre on the terrace. Located near the public park of Biarritz, La Maison du Lierre is an authentic and cocooning atmospheric place to rest. Rooms are cosy and the bedding is comfortable.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of La Maison du Lierre by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
“Excellent value for money centrally located 3-star hotel in Biarritz near all the attractions, shopping, bars, restaurants and the beach. Very beautiful exterior with simple and elegant patio and garden, inviting Reception and communal areas. The hotel seems to be in excellent condition and is well maintained. Lots of original features; the staircase in particular is noteworthy. Rigid check in times as the Reception is only open between 3.30pm and 8.30pm. Room was on the top floor with a lift. Shower was excellent and (free) Wi-Fi signal was also strong. Breakfast was typical French continental with good orange juice, pastries, fruit and cold cuts etc. but the coffee was very poor. Recommended - a great value 3 star”.
Bar Jean is an institution in the west coast of Biarritz. Located in the Halles of the city, this bar is a meeting for locals to relax especially outdoors on a sunny day, drinking a glass of wine, with tapas for instance. Enjoy a mix between local high quality products and a Spanish warming atmosphere to while away the hours or as the French say "faire perdurer le temps" (literally: "when you are having a great time doing something and you don't want it to end").
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of Bar Jean by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
I arrived at Bar Jean around 6.30pm, sat in the sunshine, ordered a glass of Rueda and some tapas. Within an hour the entire area had transformed; the restaurant staff were run off their feet, the crowds spilled out onto the street and a festival atmosphere ensued...it was quite a spectacle. Interestingly, the excellent servers appeared to be used to this and were well prepared. I ordered a main course of shrimp a la plancha and side salad...it arrived promptly and was one of my best meals in the past few months; enormous succulent shrimp perfectly cooked and full of flavour. What struck me most however was the friendly, charming server; he couldn't have been more than 18 years of age yet he managed his section of the restaurant with aplomb - he seemed to know everyone, and was so charming and efficient that he always had a word, a smile, a greeting for everyone; at one point I saw him clear a table while taking an order and return change to a couple who were leaving all within a 30 second window and he still managed to greet 2 new arrivals while bussing the plates back to the kitchen. His enthusiasm was infectious and he perfectly exemplified the atmosphere of this wonderful establishment
Puig & Daro
In the heart of Biarritz, the wine bar Puig & Daro is a welcoming spot to try tapas, authentic dishes, cocktails and obviously offers you a selection of excellent wine. Pintxos are gorgeous.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of Puig & Daro by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
«Puig et Daro is a must for those of you who want to experience authentic Basque style pintxos with a contemporary twist. Simply one of the better options in town the pinxos on display here are a feast of the eyes as well as the palate. A fine selection of wines to choose from also - the Txakoli dry white wine makes for a wonderful pairing with most of what is on offer. The streetside terrace is a fantastic place to people watch on Gambetta.Excellent, friendly service and superb value for money».
Marseille is a very beautiful and dynamic place. Located close to the Mediterranean Sea, it’s the oldest French City, which was founded by Greek Sailors around 600 B.C.
Intercontinental Hôtel Dieu
This fabulous 5 star Hotel is simply the best Hotel in Marseille. In front of the Basilica “Notre-Dame de la Garde”, you will have a wonderful view of Marseille. This amazing place will offer you an unbelievable peaceful sanctuary despite being right in the thick of the frenetic atmosphere of Marseille. Its a great idea to request a room with a balcony from which to observe the city by night.
To enjoy a gastronomic dinner in one of the best restaurants in Marseille look no further than the “Landing Net”. Located on the “Vallon des Auffes” rock, this gastronomic restaurant allows for the savouring of refined local dishes whilst enjoying a spectacular view of the Mediterranean Sea. The Cesar menu is a best enjoyed with a crisp white wine - the list here features whites predominately which is unusual for this part of France.
Marseille Old Port
The Old Port is the heart of Marseille. Between restaurants, bars, street shows, boats and local souvenir shops, the Port of Marseille is an unavoidable place that promises an enjoyable seaside stroll.
Basilica Notre-Dame de la Garde
The Basilica “Notre-Dame de la Garde” is a must-visit site in Marseille. Located at the top of a hill, the Basilica offers an extraordinary view of the city and it’s a perfect place to take pictures. Marseille's locals call the Basilica "La Bonne Mère" (the good mother) because it takes care of the city and its sailors and fishermen below.
Les Calanques de Marseille
Marseille’s Calanques* are one of France’s areas of greatest natural beauty. The sea has forged it for more than one hundred million years! Enjoy a stunning stroll along the rocks. (*A “calanque” is a steep-sided valley formed within karstic regions either by fluvial erosion or the collapse of the roof of a cave that has been subsequently partially submerged by a rise in sea level.). Scuba dive enthusiasts will appreciate a visit to the Cosquer cave. This stunning underwater cavern was once inhabited by prehistoric man before it was flooded.
Here are our Top Hotel & Restaurant Recommendations for Lyon, as prepared by intern Mathieu.
Lyon is a elegant city, easily reached as a pre or post destination from your Fresh Eire Adventure in either Provence or Burgundy. Lyon is very well known for its gastronomic restaurants and for it's festival of lights ("La fête des Lumières") which attracts almost 3 million visitors every year during December.
The Villa Florentine is a fabulous, welcoming 5-star hotel ideally located on the heights of the city to enjoy a breathtaking view of Lyon. It's highly regarded gastronomic restaurant, Les Terrasses de Lyon, offers a wonderful menu mainly composed of regional products.
La Mère Brazier
La Mère Brazier restaurant is an institution in Lyon. Since 1921, this historic establishment welcomes you to discover their wonderful and refined cuisine. With its Michelin 2-star award since 2008, Mathieu Viannay will astound you and perhaps make for the gastronomic highlight of your trip to France. Advance reservations are necessary.
Le Vieux Lyon/La Croix Rousse
The historical neighborhood Le Vieux Lyon is umissable - it's diverse restaurants, bars and shops are fantastic. You will appreciate its Renaissance architecture. One of the attractions in Lyon, is The Traboules - pedestrian crossings through building courtyards which allow you to go from one street to another one.
The neighborhood La Croix Rousse is really famous because of its history and influence in the silk industry. It’s divided into hills atop the city where you can find "Bouchon Lyonnais" a typical, atmospheric and authentic restaurant of the city, and a myriad of design shops.
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
The Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière was built in 12 years between 1872 and 1884. It's position on the heights allows you to admire the entire City of Lights, Lyon. You can go there by foot, or by funicular.
Parc de la Tête D’Or
The elegant garden of Le Parc de la Tête d’Or, located in the heart of the city, is one of the biggest in the country. Comprising over 105 Hectares it combines many features such as an English Park, Rose Garden and even Zoological and Botanical gardens.
Hôtel Les Hautes Roches
Located 4 kms from the city centre of Tours, the Hotel Les Hautes Roches (a 4 star hotel built in Troglodyte fashion into the mountainside) is our top recommendation for your stay in Tours following your Loire Valley bike trip with us. Enjoy a local bottle of sparkling "Crémant de Loire" from nearby Vouvray while sitting in the garden overlooking the mighty Loire fleuve*.
*A fleuve is a large arm of water which directly finishes in the sea. It's generally formed by the gathering of rivers.
Hôtel du Manoir
Located in the heart of the city, close to the train station and Da Vinci congress, this excellent 2 Star hotel is clearly punching above its weight. The Hotel offers a complete buffet service for breakfast that starts at 7.00am. Although basic and quite dated the rooms are clean, luminous and quiet to ensure an excellent night for you.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of The Manor Hotel by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures
‘’Not at all a fancy place by any stretch of the imagination but this is a clean, well-run charming hotel in a charming location which offers exceptional value for money. Our Receptionist was very helpful. I pass through Tours all the time and will stay here again and would have no hesitation in recommending it to clients who are looking for a basic hotel at a good price.’’
Restaurant La Deuvalière
To enjoy a gastronomic dinner in the best restaurant in Tours look no further than The Deuvalière. Here you will experience wonderful, refined dishes in a modern renaissance decor inspired by the XVI century.
Tours Botanical Garden
Tours Botanical Garden is a fantastic place offering a large range of gardens. You can find the Arboretum, the thematic gardens (the evolution garden, the biodiversity garden, the perennial plants garden, the medicinal plants garden) and also an animal space. For the botanists among you this is a must visit especially to compliment your chateaux garden visits on your Loire Valley Bike trip.
The Opera house is a stunning 19th century building right in the city centre and is worthy of a visit - even if you are not a fan of the Opera! You will appreciate a show in a spectacular setting. The architecture is inspired by the Italian influence.
La Cave se Rebelle
The Rebellious Wine Cellar will be delighted to welcome you in their astounding wine-vault. It lists more than 120 bottles among which are over 40 foreign wines. This is an unmissable visit for the wine lovers out there.
Here are our Top Hotel & Restaurant Recommendations in Dijon, as prepared by intern Mathieu.
Grand Hôtel La Cloche Dijon
The Grand Hôtel La Cloche is a charming, welcoming 5-star 19th century hotel. It's restaurant, Les Jardins by La Cloche, offers a gastronomic menu while their luxurious spa is a city paradise in which to relax. The hotel offers you a vineyard tour to those who wish to know more about the region's wine.
Restaurant Stéphane Derbord
Stéphane Derbord's Michelin star gastronomic restaurant in the city center offers creative Burgundian cuisine. Affordable for a gastronomic restaurant, this is a real opportunity to experience the finest gastronomy in a relaxed atmosphere.
Les Halles de Dijon
Come and visit the Halles of Dijon to let you know about Burgundian speciality products, like snail, mustard, gingerbread or truffle. You can spend time meeting local producers every day (exept Sunday and Monday) to learn about the jewel of Burgundian food.
Parcours de la Chouette (The Owls trail)
The Owls trail is a fantastic way to spend time in the city and allows you to discover it step by step. With its 22 stage trail, you will go back in time, learning more about the history. It is possible to complete the trail in an hour, but I suggest that you make a day of it and explore thoroughly the town's terraces, shops and museums.
Mustard is centre stage in Dijon's history and is the source of the city’s prosperity. To visit the Moutarderie you go back in time and understand mustard evolution and associated cultural aspects.
Here are our top places to visit with recommendations for Paris.
The California Hotel is four stars and it is located at five minutes of the Champs-Elysées street. There is a fantastic bar and a wonderful restaurant but more than anything it's the wonderful service here which has guests returning year after year.
La Maison de Champs Élysées (hotel)
So we all know that Paris is synonymous with Style. It's one of the undisputed centres of the fasion industry, and has a fine art pedigree that can be challenged by very few other cities, with its old world European grandeur, matched only by its stylish urban modernity. The La Maison de Champs Élysées is, as the name suggests, positioned right off the most famous boulevard in the city, not to mention the world. It's part of Paris's 'Golden Triangle' and as such, it fits into the strict and very beautiful 19th century architectural rules set down by Napoleon. Yet, once you step inside, modern Paris hits you right between the eyes. After all, it was recently remodelled by none other than the darling of the Fasion world Martin Margiela (his first interior project). It is playful, whimsical, quirky and sophisticated - deconstructing standard proportions with beautiful lashings of monochrome and design features throughout the property. With just 57 intimate rooms and attentive, polished service it is a fitting tribute to what was once the home of the Duchess of Rivoli
The Pur' - Jean-François Rouqette
The Pur’ – Jean-François Rouqette is a 1 Michelin star restaurant in Paris. Various menus are possible with fish or meat. It is located ten minutes from the Champs-Elysées and, if you stay at my recommended hotel, ten minutes by bicycle. Why not try rent a Velib (free city bike) on the way there to beat the traffic and look like a local!
Château de Versailles (Versailles Castle)
It’s the second most visited attraction in France. Located several kilometres from the city centre and accessible by RER train, it was the home of the French King. It's gardens are a must see, but it is the Hall of Mirrors which is my favourite. It was to here that the insurgents marched from the centre of Paris to demand the head of Marie-Antoinette; bring your own cake!
La Tour Eiffel (The Eiffel Tower)
It’s the third most visited attraction in France. It’s a instantly recognisable symbol of France throughout the world. From there you can enjoy “le champ de Mars” garden and if you ascend to the top you can have a fabulous view of Paris - try to get there early to beat the lines!
Le Musée de Picasso (Picasso Museum)
The Picasso Museum was closed for over eight years for significant renovations. It reopened in 2016 and the result of the renovations, despite the politics involved in such a project, have produced phenomenal results. You will walk amongst many of Picasso's most famous signature pieces and periods. Very highly recommended! I suggest advance purchase of tickets because demand is very high.
What could be a better way to recuperate after a long biking tour than relax in a 5 star hotel in the centre of Avignon? The Europe Hotel offers comfort, relaxation and pleasure located just inside the city walls on the banks of the river Rhône.
Wine Cellar Chez Marie
Marie’s Place is my favourite Avignon Wine Bar where the lovers of wines can share an amazing moment in an atmosphere of Parisian Cabaret. On a summers day there os nothing better than a chilled Tavel rose - you'll ride through Tavel on your first day of your bike tour. Try a cheese like a St Marcellin or a Alpine Reblochon for something a little different.
Restaurant les 5 sens
This is simply the most prestigious restaurant in Avignon, overseen by Chef Thierry Baucher and his wife Christelle, and has been awarded a "Meilleur Ouvrier de France" - one of France's top restaurant accolades. Located in the City Center, The 5 Senses Restaurant offers delicious tasty menus with a Southern Provençale inspiration. It will be an unforgettable gastronomic moment to enjoy before or after your Fresh Eire Adventures trip.
Palais des Papes
The Popes Palace in Avignon is the largest Middle Aged Gothic construction in the world. This was used as the principal papal residence during the fourteenth century and is the cooperative work of some of the most brilliant arhchitects of the day; Jean de Louvres, Raymond Guitbaud, Pierre Obreri and Pierre Poisson.
Island de la Barthelasse
The Barthelasse Island, a sand spit on the Rhone, is a perfect place to have a short stroll away from the frenetic energy of the city centre yet is only a 3 minute walk across the bridge from Place Crillon. The island is one of the largest European fluvial islands and the largest in France. It will afford you an amazing panoramic view of the Avignon Bridge, the Doms Roc and the Popes Palace.
Here are our Top Hotel & Restaurant Recommendations in Bordeaux, as prepared by intern Mathieu.
Hôtel de Sèze
The Hôtel de Sèze is a delightful, welcoming 4-star 18th century hotel. The hotel is located in the city center near the Place de la Comédie. They offer elegant rooms to create intimate, cosy and chic ambience. You will have the opportunity to take advantage of the spa and their restaurant.
Next to Saint-André Cathedral, Mama Shelter is a modern and trendy 2-star hotel. The interior is young even pop. You will enjoy the restaurant and the bar in the same place, with a varied menu and a beautiful wine selection.
La Boutique Hotel is a 4-star establishment near the “Grand theatre” of Bordeaux, Place de la Comédie. Rooms are modern and cosy; you can select rooms with Jacuzzi to enjoy a relaxing night. This hotel is also prestigious because of its wine bar which allows you to discover some wonderful bottles of wine with sommelier’s advice.
Hotel de France
Ideally located in Grands Hommes neighbourhood near the church Notre Dame, the 2-star Hotel de France is an affordable option which ticks all the boxes.
As the Hotel de France, the 2-star Hotel Gambetta, is also close to the church Notre Dame. However, you will find contemporary rooms in the Gambetta hotel. Affordable, this place is ideally situated to visit all cultural monuments of the city.
Here’s a the review from TripAdvisor of the Gambetta Hotel by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
"This is a wonderful tourist hotel ideally located close to all the main attractions in the city centre near some fantastic public spaces and buzzing bars, cafes and restaurants. While it is by no means a luxurious proposition, it is clean and well-run and represents very good value for quite an expensive town. Unpretentious and basic. Bed was comfortable and room was larger than expected but it overlooked a derelict building to the rear which attracted a lot of pigeons so I couldn't keep my windows open...no big deal. Bathroom was basic but clean and toiletries reflect the budget price point. I didn't take breakfast so I can't comment on this. Wi-Fi was good enough. Staff were very helpful especially upon departure; they advised me to take the regular bus (1.50 euro and not the 8 euro Airport shuttle bus) from Place Gambetta instead of a taxi (45 euro). The bus runs four times an hour from 5.30am and is very prompt with a journey time of less than 40 minutes. One of the night receptionists, a young enough guy in his 20s, recommended that I visit a local wine bar, L' Autre Petit Bois; this was an unmissable experience (which I would have missed had I not asked for a recommendation!). I was very pleased with this hotel, a fine stay."
Le Pressoir d’Argent
Le Pressoir d’Argent will be delighted to welcome you to their Michelin 1-star gastronomic restaurant in the Place de la Comédie. Infamous Chef Gordon Ramsay uses mainly regional products. His creative food will surprise and astound you.
L’autre Petit Bois
L’autre Petit bois is a renowned wine bar is located in the Parliament Square. Bordeaux is very well known for it's powerful and amazing wine culture. Decorated with a Baroque style on two floors with doors which open out onto the Square. On a sunny day you can enjoy your wine on the pavement seating area and watch the world go by.
The wine city (La Cité du vin)
With its amazing structure near the Garonne, La Cité du Vin museum will astound you with the history of Bordeaux wine. As everybody knows, this city is the wine capital of the world, so it makes for an interesting visit. No doubt, professionals, amateurs and even tee-totalers, will enjoy such a visit.
Water mirror (Le miroir d’eau)
The water mirror is located between Louis XVIII and Quai de la Douane, in Place de la Bourse. It’s a new attraction for citizens and tourists. The pool combines artificial misting and miror effects. Opened in 2006, many people gather here, from children to parents, to enjoy cool water mists in summer but you'd need to be courageous during the rest of the year.
The Cliffs of Kerroc'h
The magnificence and the height of the Kerroch’ Cliffs will astound you! Formed after many years of wave crashing upon the coast, the Kerroch’ Cliffs will allow you to have an amazing view of the ocean and you will feel Poseidon’s Power.
Creperie Le Chant du Rozell
What could be a better than tasty Crepes (either salty or sweet) to recover from your experience? The Rozell Song’s Creperie its waiting for you! Accompanied with a local delicious bottle of Cider, this lunch will be an amazing authentic Breton mating. You should try the Crêpe Complète; eggs, ham, cheese and provençale herbs.
The Locked Castle
For the longest time, the Locked Castle dominates the coast of Guidel. Surronded by the water, in front of the Atlantic Ocean, the Locked Castle, along with the waves and the beach will offer you a vista you won’t forget in a hurry. This is a favourite haunt of brave surfers.
At the end of a long day, in Lorient City Center, you will find the most atmospheric Breton Bar and Restaurant, is actually an Irish Bar! Here you will find lot of examples of Breton culture which has much in common with Irish culture. Tonight you can dine on local “moules frites” (mussels with french fries) or any of the other delicious specialties of the house.
At few kilometers form the Kerroch or Guidel’s coast, l’île de Groix is a fantastic and beautiful island! Easily accesible by a public boat, it’s a perfect day trip. You will find restaurants, beaches, bars as well as spectacular scenery. For some extra miles either before or after your Fresh Eire Adventure the island of Groix offers a superb loop ride (40kms) following the coast. The Plages des Sables Blancs (White Sand Beach) is worth a visit.
My name is Tony and I am 20 years of age. This is my first time in Ireland and I am excited to be with Fresh Eire Adventures on an internship programme. I completed an Economics and Social Baccalaureat in Lorient and afterwards I attended an International Business School preparation course in Quimper. Currently I am in International Business School in La Rochelle, France. I am a student of Business and Marketing.
I grew-up around Kerroch, Guidel, Groix, Ploemeur and Lorient in Brittany. I have visited many places in France and I am delighted to share with you my top tips to have an amazing extension either before or after your Fresh Eire Adventure in Brittany & Normandy.
Le marché des Lices
The market of lices is the second largest food market in the country. Open every Saturday morning from 8am you can spend time perusing the various food stalls meeting many local producers of everything from cheese to fish, meat to vegetables. This may be one of the best ways to start a day in Rennes.
La crêperie Saint-Georges
After a great morning in the market, it will be time to take lunch and you must consider a table at The Saint-Georges Crepery. You will definitely fall in love with this traditional food especially when accompanied by a bottle of local apple cider. This modern space is not only a restaurant but a meeting place for the citizens of Rennes to gather.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of La Creperie Saint Georges by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
“I was a little non-plussed walking around Rennes the other evening looking for something authentic with an original twist. Crepes crepes crepes. As time was pushing on I spotted this place with an interesting menu - its plates were all named after one famous George or another...Reluctantly I took a seat and a menu and hoped for the best. I first of all went to their weine by the glass section - I was very pleasantly surprised to see a St Emiilion (a Saint Georges of course) and quickly ordered that. For my main course I had a buckwheat galette, the Georges Moustaki; a wonder of sliced baby potatoes fried with onion and melted Epoisses (I think?). Truly superb. Service was efficient if somewhat unfriendly. I had to go inside to pay the bill. The street side terrace where I ate was full while the interior was less so. Very reasonable at €19.90 total. Highly recommended”.
L’Abri du Marché
L’Abri du Marché is an authentic restaurant in the city center of Rennes next to Place des Lices to taste delicious Mussels and Galettes.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of L’abri du Marché restaurant by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
“This atmospheric and very authentically styled Breton restaurant serves (like many of the places in the neighbourhood) staples like Galettes and Mussels. I opted for the mussels in a curry sauce (€9.60) with a side salad (€2.50) and a 50cl pichet of house red (Bordeaux; €5.10). Everything was excellent; service was friendly and helpful. For dessert I attempted (somewhat successfully) to have the server ask the kitchen to prepare a banoffee crepe (with banana, caramel sale and vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate)....close but no cigar. Top marks for trying to make a special request not on the menu however! Lots of groups of friends on the other tables...bathrooms were good. Excellent and very enjoyable. Highly recommended".
L’Epi de Blé
Located in front of the train station, L’Epi de Blé, simple but traditional, offers you a typical Breton cuisine with high quality products.
Here’s a review from TripAdvisor of L’Epi de Blé by Padraic, owner of Fresh Eire Adventures:
« While this is not a fancy place it is certainly very good. My potato, onion, emmental and mushroom galette was high quality, delicious and of a reasonable size. I also had a glass of house white (€2.10) and a bottle of mineral water (€3.50). This was a simple and enjoyable lunch. My server was friendly and efficient. And excellent value for money too - €11.50 total! Recommended ».
Le parc du Thabor
The elegant and romantic gardens of Le Parc du Thabor, located in the heart of the city are best explored using a locally hired rental bike.
The park combines many different features such as English park, French garden, a cave, music kiosk and even an aviary. Botanists and keen gardners should definately not miss this attraction as here you will find an exceptional rose garden with 2000 varieties.
Place de la Mairie
Every French town has a Mairie. In the Mairie, the official business of the town is conducted. Located in the heart of the city, the city hall is free to visit. Whilst there why not visit the Opera House which is located just opposite.
I suggest you also go there at nightfall because the Mairie and the Opera House are completely illuminated.
Near to the town center, you can also visit the Parliament of Brittany.
To enjoy a good night in Rennes just make a stop at La Place Saint-Anne. It’s the musical center of the city, where you can witness the «biniou», a traditional Breton instrument being played. You will also hear African music, rock and pop. There are so many people revelling in this area each night sharing good times in a cosmopolitan, yet typical, environment.
My name is Mathieu, I am 22 years of age. I was born in Nantes, France and I grew up in a small city next to Rennes in Brittany. Currently I am studying at La Rochelle Business School. I am excited to be in Ireland, my first visit here and in particular to be interning at a exciting travel company.
I have visited many places in France and abroad, and I have discover some amazing places because of recommendations by my friends. This is why I think it could be a judicious idea to help you discover the city of Rennes, by posting a blog entry on the Fresh Eire Adventures site, Normandy & Brittany.