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Recommendation for a Charming Village? Maybe France?

Recommendation for a Charming Village? Maybe France?

Jan 28th, 2014, 06:21 PM
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Join Date: Feb 2005
Posts: 79
Recommendation for a Charming Village? Maybe France?

I am planning a solo trip to Europe for a personal retreat. I would love to find a walkable place, but not too small either. A town with a market, some cycling or hiking trails. I plan on bringing my camera! A small place to rent that has some character, a kitchen and maybe a balcony or terrace would be really nice. I like the idea of using airbnb to rent a place.

Any suggestions? I'm thinking of Annecy, France or Lucca, Italy. I would love to hear suggestions from others who have traveled to Europe.

toontown is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 06:48 PM
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Do you know yet what time of year you'd be going? How much time you'd have? Do you intend to explore or just stay put? Any interests in things like wine or food?

Perhaps I misunderstand your goal, but FWIW Lucca doesn't strike me as a "retreat." Most of the year it's crawling with day-trippers and other tourists. A true "retreat" to me would be a smallish town with bus service or located not too far from a larger town with train or ferry service.
Jean is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 07:22 PM
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I plan on going the last two weeks in June. Wine and food are right up my alley! I visited Lucca a few years ago for a day and what struck me was the beautiful "wall" that people can walk and bike around. I also liked the tiny walkways and cafes. Since I have been there, I would like to try someplace new.

Thanks for your help.
toontown is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 07:34 PM
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I agree with Jean. Both Annecy and Lucca are cities - not really "retreat" material perhaps? Although at the right time of year they might be quieter. We were in Lucca in October, and it wasn't too crowded - and it does have excellent local/commuter bus connections to Pisa and Florence if you feel like a break away.

A village might be too small, too limiting, if you're thinking of being there for some time. The places we've enjoyed most have been quieter less-touristed cities and small to medium sized towns. Places like Dinan, Josselin, Saintes, St Remy de Provence or Menton in France, for example; or Stresa, Treviso, Assissi or Montepulciano in Italy - all outside the busy season, of course!
twoflower is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 07:36 PM
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France=Honfleur, Cancale
330east is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 07:44 PM
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Last two weeks in June is the time when little idylls turn into tourist ant lanes. If you want a place where nobody else is and is great for biking: Ferrara. Lucca is still great, and if you have a bike you can cycle on the wall around the town and still find places where the tourists seem to miss. Uzes (north of Nimes in Provence) is fricking gorgeous, though I don't know about biking. Aix en Provence is a touch busy but can't be sullied no matter hard anybody might try. I adore St. Remo and it seems like it is all natives, all the time, but don't try biking around there. If you can tolerate a bigger city then Turin is a total wonder, and nobody goes there either.
dfourh is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 07:58 PM
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The problem with your request is that you haven't focused on a region. There are hundreds of towns in France that fit your criteria and there's no way they could all possibly be mentioned here. I suggest doing a bit of research and decide on a region in France that interests you. Once you've done that it would be easier to make recommendations for you. You could have fifty people give you recommendations for fifty different places in France and that would still leave several hundred places that haven't been mentioned. I'll also add that any small town that doesn't attract tourists likely won't have much in the way of public transport. Are you just looking for someplace to chill and not really do any exploring or are you also planning on visiting other places? If you want to visit other places then a small town would not be a good idea because they are not well served by public transport.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 08:24 PM
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The first question should be, "do you speak French". If you are traveling on your own, having some knowledge of the language will come in handy. If you have no problem with the language, then the possibilities are nearly endless. There are several great villages in Béarn and the Pays Basque where you would fine comfortable. But that is just the beginning.
Robert2533 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 08:28 PM
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Thank you for the suggestions Twoflower, 330east and dfourh. I will check out those areas on-line. You're right Twoflower, I don't want a place that is too small since I will have time to wander the town. I don't plan on renting a car so taking a day here or there to hop on a bus or train to visit another place is appealing too.

FrenchM, I realize there are many places in France to visit, but my request is to find out the favourite places of people who have similar interests as me. I am a research fanatic and have spent a lot of time looking. There is so much information on-line, but it is helpful to hear recommendations from people. There is no particular region in France that I am looking at, just not a big city, nothing overrun with tourists, something quiet, but with activity such as markets, an old town, maybe a castle. I have been to the big cities (Paris, Nice), but this time I would prefer something smaller.
toontown is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 08:32 PM
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Thanks Robert for the recommendations. I speak a little French, but I'm not fluent by any means. I would love to spend more than a few weeks in France!
toontown is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 08:40 PM
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Would you consider the UK. Some of the towns in the Cotswolds meet your criteria, such as Upper or Lower Slaughter. Walking village to village is what you want to do. Visit pubs to eat. Much of the pub food is very good and inexpensive to boot. The area is a fine place for a retreat in a quaint village.
basingstoke2 is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 09:07 PM
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Having been to both Annecy and Lucca this past summer I would definitely say Annecy fits what it seems you're looking for better than Lucca. We're already planning a big family holiday there in 2015!
Hez is offline  
Jan 28th, 2014, 11:16 PM
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I mentioned a few places earlier, but reading your last posting (old, castle, etc) suddenly Carcassonne popped into my mind. Possibly a little larger than you're seeking, but oh! - what a place!
twoflower is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 05:37 AM
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My favorite places with the characteristics you describe would take a few pages to get through. I can think of a couple of dozen towns that are on train lines within an hour and a half from Paris, for example. You don't have to go to a wine region to find good wine in France. Since you mentioned cycling though I'd suggest you'd want to choose a region that isn't full of hills/mountains. I'm a big fan of cycling in France.

I know you are looking for some specific recommendations though so I'll give you a few in regions that aren't too hilly. Since I love Brittany and it's not too hilly here are a couple of places you could consider that will be large enough to have services and amenities but small enough to still feel quaint:

Dinan - Wonderful medieval town on the Rance river and there is a cycling path along the river and canal. Plus you have reasonably good public transport connections. It is touristy and can be crowded though.

Lamballe - A wonderful and lively town with lots of services etc. but that is totally off the tourist radar.

Tréguier - Same description as above.

Jugon-les-Lacs - Not well connected by public transport but totally charming and large enough to have restos, services etc. Loved this place. Great walking trails nearby and good cycling too, plus it has a lake.

In the Gulf of Morbihan you could consider Locmariaquer, La-Trinité-sur-Mer, Carnac and the old part of the town of Auray, near the river.

I could go on and on but there will get you started.

If you want to see photos of these and other places then you can look at my photo reports about exploring these areas. They are full of photos and descriptions of the places I visited.

This report covers the area around the Gulf of Morbihan (Locmariaquer etc.):


This report covers Dinan, Jugon-les-Lacs, Lamballe, Tréguier etc. At the end of the report are link to all the major tourist office websites in Brittany:


If you want to learn more about Brittany you can have a look at this thread which will cover all the highlight places to visit (and plenty of less well known places) in the coastal areas of Brittany and have some other useful tips as well:

FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 05:38 AM
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And what the heck, since I have a photo report about spending two weeks on the Lac d'Annecy you can have a look at that too if you want:

FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 06:35 AM
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If you liked the walled city of Lucca, how about Dubrovnik in Croatia ?

Also a beautiful walled town (the old part, that is; there is a 'new' part just outside the drawbridge) with a walkable wall, a delightful 'pedestrian only' town within the wall, great restaurants and cafes, architecture - it's all right on the Adriatic Sea so the views are spectacular, the food is wonderful and there are all kinds of day trips and visits to take by boat or bus to other small islands and towns nearby. English is widely spoken, it's still considered relatively inexpensive to rent a good apartment where you can come and go as you please, and late June is a good time to visit before the tourist Summer hoards arrive.


Mathieu is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 08:52 AM
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Original poster: "my request is to find out the favourite places of people who have similar interests as me"

But.....what are those interests? The OP proceeds NOT to say.
tomboy is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 09:24 AM
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I think that any place which is going to require loads of hanging around needs a port to watch. Boats scuttling around make for interesting things to think about. So my favorite French ports are

Barfleur (has no gate to dries out)
La Rochelle
St Malo
Tréguier (another vote, thanks FMT)
St Vaast
Perros (not bad)

Hope this helps
bilboburgler is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 10:07 AM
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Hi toontown, nothing to I out but I'm reading this post with fascination. We too are looking for something similar for a May 2014 visit and thanks to FrenchMysticTours it looks like Brittany is calling our name. Now to narrow down a village/town and a house or apartment. Not to hi-jack your post toontown, FrenchMysticTours....your post and pictures have helped us make the decision. Will keep checking back.
wunderbar2 is offline  
Jan 29th, 2014, 10:14 AM
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Have you considered the Netherlands or Belgium? Plenty of small towns which would meet your requirements, such as they are, in both countries. Good for cycling and excellent public transport too.
hetismij2 is offline  

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