Take a Road Trip to Lyon
When ferrying from the UK to France, it's tempting to stay close to the Channel, to coast through Normandy or hook west to Brittany. The joy of driving off the ferry at Calais or Dunkirk, however, is that all of France is just hours away. So why not consider heading south to discover Lyon, the city that claims French culinary supremacy?
Overlooked by big sister Paris, Lyon has its fair share of culture, charm, and leisurely waterfront promenades. Getting there from the ferry port is easy, and numerous stops along the way can break up the journey.
So many champagne cellars, so little time
Skip any temptation to stop in Paris or Lille and head first for Reims. This city, synonymous with champagne, is famously where the kings of France were crowned. Today its cathedral still soars over the skyline, despite nearly facing doom during the First World War.
After a quick dose of history, be sure to take a tour of one of the champagne houses for a bit of bubbly, and walk away with a bottle (or case) as a souvenir. Visits of major houses such as Pomeroy and Veuve Clicquot are best reserved in advance to book and English guide.
A tastes of Burgundy
A few hours south will lead you through the Burgundy region, also famous for its covered wines. Get a dose of provincial charm in tiny Beaune with its fantastic medieval hospital, the Hospices de Beaune. Dating from the 15th century, this stunning complex is speckled with coloured tiles across its rooftops.
As part of the Burgundy region, a wine tasting or two in one of its many vaulted cellars is de rigueur. Or instead, pair a glass with the region's signature dish, boeuf bourguignon, which has been revisited by chefs such as Escoffier in France and Julia Child in the US over the centuries.
Weighted down with a boot full of bottles, continue to Lyon. With Roman origins, Lyon rivalled Paris as a powerhouse of France well through the Renaissance, with banking and a bustling silk trade filling the coffers. Now France's third largest city, it has earned back much of its prestige lost over the years.
Dubbed the culinary capital of France, nay, the world, it has numerous Michelin-starred restaurants while tiny eateries called bouchons provide a romantic alternative to Parisian bistros. They serve up local specialities revolving largely around pork products. Local wines such as Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône, are some of France's best.
Stroll the streets, scoring fantastic views from the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, perched atop the hill overlooking the city. Cross the sweeping Place Bellecour on your way to pedestrianised Rue de la Republique, while wandering the hidden passageways unique to Lyon called traboule.
Culture seekers will head to the Musée des Confluences, straddling the two rivers where they meet, which houses more than two million objects tracing human history. In early December, Lyon wows visitors with its Fête des Lumières, when the entire city lights up with luminescent displays, but a visit at any time of the year can be just as enchanting.