As mentioned elsewhere on this site, France is home to some of the most luxurious property on earth, a fact that would still hold true even if the commercial center of Paris were excluded from the picture (some might say especially if Paris were excluded from the picture.) Destinations like the Côte d’Azur – more popularly known as the French Riviera, and with unofficial eastern and western boundaries of Saint-Tropez and Cassis – were seen as luxury resorts since the dawn of such a concept, serving as a health spa since the late 1700’s and (after the introduction of continental rail transport) as a prime gathering place for the landed aristocracy and royalty of the 19th century. In spite of the fact that certain of France’s most renowned non-Parisian commodities are often produced in amounts exceeding foreign demand (do an internet search for “wine lake” for a good example of this), the region itself remains a rare gem in which the best of nature and man-made artifice melt together in a manner both dramatic and sublime.Languedoc-Roussillon
The southern France mentioned already is still very much the embodiment of an idyllic Europe, with newer additions gradually being recognized as complementary regions to the already well-recognized Provence / Côte d’Azur axis – the Languedoc-Roussillon region, for example, is host to a new development community that is anchored into place by a 400-year old chateau and also boasts over 190 hectares of vineyards along with a lush woodland area. Languedoc-Roussillon has also been a mixture of distinct European cultures for some time, with the Catalan language being spoken in parts of Roussillon (middle school education in Catalan is available here via the Bressola community foundation.)
Bordering Provence to the south, the Rhône-Alpes region, particularly its départements of Savoie and Haute-Savoie, are also spoken of as having some of France’s most captivating scenery, taking into account both rolling river valleys and mountain peaks (Mont Blanc is, of course, the most imposing peak in all of the European Union.) Along with this, it has its own celebrated local contributions to France’s fine dining culture (particularly its light-bodied Beaujolais wine and Bresse chicken.)
The ski resort facilities of Savoie are a major point of interest here, and wooden chalets like the Hôtel L’Arboisie near Megève provide 4-star charm for residents and non-residents alike. A couple of the more notable French cities, i.e. Lyon, are located within the Rhône-Alpes region, so one will be comfortably within range of urban amenities here if necessary. The university town of Saint-Étienne also provides a strong wellspring of intellectual life for the greater Rhône-Alpes region. The region’s healthy mixture of opportunities for exercise (particularly hiking), cultural enrichment and high-quality health services makes it a perennial destination for retirees, providing grandeur at a much more affordable rate than either Provence or the Riviera.
If you can tear yourself away from southern France, and the easy access it provides to other regions of interest, the northwest region of France can also lay claim to some highly attractive principalities. The province of Brittany, owing to its considerable coastline, boasts some of the most scenic areas within France: see, for example, the panoramic views of land and sea provided by Pays de Abers, Golfe du Morbihan, Ouessant and Presqu’île de Crozon. Nature preserves here are plentiful (and of special interest to bird-watching enthusiasts), and the generous number of village markets in the region provides a more authentic, personable alternative for those who are burned out on Carrefour and other hyper-markets – these are an ideal option for procuring fresh produce, breads and more (note that there are different categories of markets, such as foire for clothing, marche for foodstuffs and brocante / trocante for furniture and ‘miscellaneous’ items.)
The Loire Valley is perhaps one of the most luxurious areas to be found in the center of France, with the number of châteaux represented here (around 300 in all) being particularly impressive. With their architecture exemplifying the distinct French Renaissance style, properties such as the fortress-like Château de Chambord and the river-straddling Château de Chenonceau are major attractions to an already picturesque region. The city of Tours, site of one of the country’s most famed bicycle races, is a comfortably mid-sized burg (around 285,000 inhabitants) that should not be too far out of the traveling distance of any Loire Valley resident, and the same can be said for the slightly smaller riverside city of Orléans.