- the connoisseur's guide to France
Autumn mists on a cool sunny morning
France in the Autumn (the Fall) .
last weekend of August,
most of the tourist resorts in France suddenly seem empty. Schools go
back – in most of Europe – in early September, and
gets back into full swing after a few weeks of soft-pedalling. Paris is
again full of Parisians, and much of the French countryside is left to
the locals and the neo-rurals who have migrated from the cities in
search of a quiet retirement or a slower pace of life.
In France, Summer does not officially end until the Autumn equinox, on
21st September, but for all intents and purposes, Autumn in France
starts at what the French call "la rentrée", when schools go
back and for most people, holidays are over.
who are not tied down by the demands of children or fixed holiday
periods, Autumn is one of the best times to visit France. Specially in
the southern half of the country, the days can be pleasantly warm -
even hot . September and October are not the wettest months of the
year, and the countryside can be gloriously pretty in its autumn
colours. The Mediterranean and the Atlantic ocean normally remain quite
warm enough for swimming in through to the end of October (even beyond
for the hardy); and for those who enjoy cycling and country rambling,
conditions are often perfect: not too hot, not too cold.
in France..... the pros and the
Of course, where there are advantages, there are also
disadvantages. But generally speaking, when it comes to visiting France
in the fall rather than the summer, the pros will outweigh the cons for
b&bs and even campsites that remain open may well
offer cheaper rates from the start of September onwards. It is
advisable to look around; sometimes the savings can be impressive,
specially in tourist areas. On the other hand, hotels etc. in cities
and beside main roads and motorways will not usually lower their prices
just because it is no longer Summer.
in resorts and in rural France, there is usually plenty of
accommodation available. Booking
in advance may be advisable, in order
to get best rates, but those who prefer to just turn up and look for a
hotel room wherever they happen to be, will not usually find everything
full. On the other hand, local events can sometimes lead to
accommodation filling up at specific moments.
Late September and October can be pleasantly warm, notably in the south
of France. Autumn rains are possible anywhere, but if high pressure
sets in, long days with peerless blue skies are not unusual at this
time of year. Except on the Mediterranean coast, November is
a particularly good month for visiting France.
Visit sites, attractions, villages and monuments that remain open,
without the crowds and queues of the summer months. Except in cities, driving in France is easier
outside the peak holiday periods.
major monuments and
attractions stay open for most of
the year, the same is not true of less important sites. It may be
impossible to visit castles or other smaller commercially-operated
attractions, which cannot afford to stay open.
: in areas depending on tourism, many restaurants may be closed. On the
other hand, those that remain open may well be the better ones, since
they cater for locals, not just passing tourists.
: Days are shorter than in the Spring and the Summer, nights can be
cool or even cold, depending on the location and the month, and from
November onwards, grey and rainy days are common in most areas except
the Mediterranean fringe.
Paris in the Fall
in the Autumn is very much a working city; the French capital is like
any other major world city, and it is also very much open for business
for tourists throughout the year. Paris
remain open all year
round, as do the city's museums, art galleries and other attractions.
While there may be queues at major monuments in Paris any day of the
year, from late September onwards, they will tend to be shorter than in
the warmer months of the year.
Paris is a fabulous city
at any time of the year; but "Paris in the Fall" is just as attractive
as the fabled "Paris in
" . Along the Seine, on the Champs
Elysées, along city avenues and in the public
flush of autumnal colours gives the city a different look.
In addition, once Parisians are back in town, the city's
cultural life gets back into full swing; Paris like any great city
offers a full programme of cultural events, including concerts, cinema,
opera, theatre, shows, ballet and other events to suit all tastes.
The same is true, to a lesser degree, in other
cities; cultural life takes off again after the summer recess.
is great from October to December, as
shops stock up with the best and biggest range of items, in the runup
to Christmas; while the sales take place after the New Year,
competition ensures that there are plenty of special offers and
bargains to be had in city shops in France in the weeks and months
In the final weeks of Autumn
(in France, Autumn finishes officially on 21st December, the Winter
solstice), many French cities and towns - and notably Strasbourg,
Paris, and Colmar - put on Christmas
orchard in the Alps - late October
For hikers, ramblers, nature lovers and other visitors who are
just looking for peace and relaxation, late September to early November
is ibe if the best times of year to visit rural France, particularly in
the southern half of the country. Autumn colours come early in the more
upland areas, while Autumn can be decidedly slow in coming to areas on
the plains of Southwest France and around the Mediterranean.
October is a particularly good time to visit sites
such as the Cathar castles
or the Ardèche gorge
or take a trip into the Pyrenees on the little yellow train
For those just wanting to enjoy the French countryside in the mellow
fruitfulness of its Autumn colours, official and unofficial hiking
trails tend to be deserted, except at
weekends, and the same goes for monuments that are either still open
for guided tours, or, like some ruined rural castles, open to
all-comers. For an autum city-break, the Mediterranean resort of Nice
generally a good choice.
Saint Cirq Lapopie in early November
that are reputed as "plus beaux villages de France" - places such as
Saint Cirq Lapopie or Montflanquin, are no longer packed to bursting
with busloads and carloads of tourists, and their car parks are almost
empty, except at weekends. As long as the weather is good,
the best time to visit them, at a time when window boxes are still
decked with the last of the summer flowers, and many of the tourist
shops and boutiques, except for those run by local craftsmen, are
In other French villages
those that do not normally cater for hordes of tourists, local
cafés, restaurants and markets will have gone back to their
ways, serving their local customers and a few passing travellers as
they have done for many years. And here and there, farmers and
producers will be offering fruit and vegetables and other local fare
"en direct du producteur", or straight from the producer.
In Autumn, after the harvests are in, the fields are tilled,
fruit is picked, the pace of life in rural France is distinctly slower
and more relaxed. The evenings draw in, and in rural inns, roaring log
fires will often be lit to greet the passing traveller.
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