Coming to France is also a chance to discover and to encourage initiatives on location that favor eco-tourism, but above all to do yourself a little good by choosing lodging and activities recognized for their “earth-friendly” measures or their respect for the environment. Here are a few ideas for more “natural” trips to France… where a certain state of mind promises wonderful vacations.
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Eco-friendly River Tourism
Le Soleil d’Oc, a solar hotel-barge
If a solar-propelled ferry exists in Sydney, here’s the first solar-powered barge-hotel in France, 30 meters long and housing up to 18 people in six cabins, saling on the famous Canal du Midi. Classified as part of UNESCO’s world heritage list, with its work from the 17th century, this canal is a symbol of river tourism for which France is very gifted, thanks to its immense network of waterways. The Soleil d’Oc traces the canal between Carcassonne (a renowned medieval city) and Béziers (over the course of one week), crossing the authentic country sides and villages of the south-west, with a soothing rhythm and silently thanks to an electric motor enabled by 80 square meters of solar panels!
Outdoor activities in emblematic landscapesNatural Surf Lodge, near Hossegorhttp://www.naturalsurflodge.fr/index.php?niveau=2_id=16 From the Basque Country to Landes, the Aquitaine coast is the touchstone for surfing in Europe, well known by champions. The training sessions are numerous all along the immense beaches. Furthermore, the Natural Surf Lodge offers a complete surf camp that includes complementary activities: organic meals, yoga or spa sessions, etc. Nice, right?
The Loire Valley by Bicyclehttp://www.loire-a-velo.fr
Classified as part of UNESCO’s World Heritage list and celebrated for its incredible collection of grand Renaissance chateaux, the Loire Valley also makes for a very agreeable bike tour, along its little rural roads or its lanes reserved strictly for bicycles, sometimes by its harbor walls that run alongside this “royal river.” Bike rentals and charming lodging punctuate your route, which you can choose from among hundreds of kilometers: itineraries are specially laid out and marked, in a rather flat landscape, making for an easy ride for the whole family.Bicycle Tourism and Mountain Bike Tourism in Corsicawww.velo-corse.com
Corsica, called the “Island of Beauty,” is a jewel of the Mediterranean’s still “wild” nature. This “mountain in the sea” possesses at once mountains of more than 200 meters in altitude and heavenly beaches. A partner of Maison de la France who’s well established in the area offers hikes of walking/trekking on the famous GR20 path (which crosses the island in about 15 days) or in “cyclotourism” on sloping routes, narrow, bending routes… for very skilled athletes!
Cévennes Ecotourism, in the footsteps of Stevenson – the writer/adventurer
The GR70 path, called the “road of Robert Louis Stevenson,” crosses a wild massif of the Cévennes (classified as a national park) in the south of Auvergne, in the footsteps of the famous novelist-adventurer 130 years later! This hike (sometimes with a donkey as a companion), explores the grandiose landscapes of the middle mountain, punctuated by numerous gîtes or hotels. These belong to a network of 55 lodging houses and tour operators (certified companies, etc.) that uphold the European charter for sustainable tourism.Equestrian tourism in the wild mountains of the Pyreneeshttp://www.cheval-en-pyrenees.com/
From the Ariège to the celebrated Cathare country (with its old perched chateaux and its medieval legends), this region in the south of France conserves its wide-open spaces and promises beautiful adventures to its horseback riders and hikers. You can ride local breeds of horses (Mérens, Castillan) with an experienced team. For trip of several days, leaving from the equestrian center in Soularac, also certified with the European Ecotourism label.
Lodging “in the country,” certified with ecotourism labelsPanda Gîtes (eco-friendly cottages) and some other hotel rooms and hotels are certified with the European eco-label for their respect of the environment, and are often found in remarkable landscapes. When taking advantage of these lodgings, you sacrifice nothing in terms of comfort, quality, or welcome.
This network of gîtes was started 15 years agothanks to a partnership between the regional nature park system, Gîtes de France, and the internationally recognized organization WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature). These addresses are located in preserved environments (regional nature parks).
Les Orangeries, in Poitou
Located 45km from the famous Futuroscope park (near Poitiers), this family hotel is considered a pioneer in the field, as it was the first in France, since it was the first in France to receive the European Ecotourism label.
Maison Flore, at the heart of the Poitou Marsh (Le Marais poitevin)http://www.maisonflore.com/
The Poitou Marsh, in the west of France and right near the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, is a singular region, where the water of the canals and the ponds sets the rhythm of the country life. This inn comprises 10 charming rooms and is eco-friendly in its day-to-day operations.
The Venise Verte (Green Venice), camping grounds in the Poitou Marsh (Le Marais poitevin)Venise Verte is the name of this atypical region, as well as the name of these very pleasant camp grounds (with bungalows to rent).
A house on an island, in the middle of the Loire River
A very rural hotel set up on the tiny island in a majestic river: the Loire! Certified with the European Eco-label, this house on stilts integrates itself into the picturesque village of Béhuard (in Anjou), where there is also a family restaurant (les Tonnelles) awarded one star by the Michelin Guide for its seasonal fish, fished on-site, and for its lovely menu of wines from the Loire region.
Les Tourelles, in the Bay of Somme
The Bay of Somme is a natural site very unique and precious to the Picardy region, to the north of Paris. The estuary of this river is certainly subdued by a melancholy climate, but remains very much protected. Its authentic atmosphere and its magnificent inshore ecosystem make it a prized location for ornithologists the world over: mudflats and reed beds make for a true bird sanctuary, whether they’re sedentary or migratory. The Hotel des Tournellesis located near the water, in a typical village, and goes about its daily operations in an ecological but stylish way.
La Ferme de Cupelin (Cupelin Farm), at Saint-Gervais-pays of Mont-Blanc
http://www.ferme-de-cupelin.com/index.htm This beautiful typical chateau, at the foot of the giant of the Alps (Mont Blanc), promises you cozy comfort and a magnificent panorama, but also an “organic and ecological spirit.”
Pleasant spots in cities
Ecolodge des Chartrons, in Bordeauxhttp://www.ecolodgedeschartrons.com/?idmenu=1&lang=en
At the heart of the merchant and wine quarter (les Chartrons), in the proud world capital of grands crus (classified as part of UNESCO’s world heritage list), a stylish residence has been refurbished in an eco-friendly style.
The 4-star Regent’s Garden hotel in Parishttp://www.bestwestern-regents.com/
This 19th-century-style townhouse, ideally located near the Arc de Triomphe and the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, is one of the premier Parisian establishments certified with the European Eco-label.
Hotel de la Réserve (3 stars), at Saint-Jean-de-Luz
This charming seaside resort in the Basque country is recognized for its history (the marriage of the Sun King Louis XIV), the strong character of its Basque culture, and for the nearby waves that make the region the touchstone of surfing in Europe. La Réserve has been awarded the European Eco-label.
Temples of art de vivre and tastes, using organic productsRégis Marcon, a great chef
A Michelin 3-star chef, Marcon enlivens his restaurant in a nearly isolated village at the heart of Auvergne: Saint-Bonnet-le-Froid, which merits a detour! He’s also working on a small hotel (Relais et Chateaux), the “Clos des Cimes,” respecting the ecotourism charter.
Stay with a family of winemakers in Alsace
Located in a beautiful Alsatian village near Colmar, this family of winemakers follows a very old tradition (“white” and “red” wines based on seven grape varieties), but has also been rigorously adhering to organic and “biodynamic” methods for the last ten years. What’s more, the Klur family offers charming rooms in a home in the authentic regional style.
Gourmet vacation between the Alps, Provence, and the Rhone
The Domaine du Chêne Vert is an agricultural farm dedicated to organic methods, and also has guest rooms. It is located in the beautiful region of the Drôme, between the Alps and Provence, just to the north of the famous Mont Ventoux. This estate produces 27 different organic products: wine, olive oil, fruits… let them inspire your wonderful gourmet vacation.
An organic winemaker in the vineyards of Beaujolaishttp://www.isasite.net/vins-jjpaire/
The Paire estate is the heritage of a family that has been in the village of Ronzières, on the hillsides of the Beaujolais, for more than 400 years! Located north of Lyon, the capital of gastronomy, this winemaker-producer has installed a museum evoking his craft, but also telling the story of his organic operations.