France is the most visited country on Earth. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that more people travel here than anywhere else. Located at the heart of Western Europe, it is a transportation hub and easily reached from anywhere in the world. For any traveler, there’s just so much to see and do in France. This is a country of history and culture…and wine.
While Paris has a great deal to offer travelers to France (and ought to be visited at least once in your life), there’s a great amount to see besides the capital. The war sites in Normandy are legendary and any visitor from one of the Allied countries feels a deep, emotional connection to the battles fought here. The wine regions of Champagne, Bordeaux, the Alsace, and the Cotes du Rhone are among some of the best in the world. But there is no place quite like Provence, from Van Gogh’s residence and the Roman ruins to the markets and the wineries, it just doesn’t get any better than this.
On the western edge of Provence is the brilliant city of Avignon. Here, cobblestone lanes lined with plane trees swirl within the city’s medieval walls. Outdoor cafes sprawl into the squares. Avignon is a very modern city with all the beauty, spirit, and French-ness that Provence has to offer.
Beginning in 1309, seven popes ruled the Catholic Church from Avignon, France, rather than Rome. To accommodate the needs of the Church and demonstrate its power, the Palace of the Popes was built on the banks of the Rhone.
Christmas in Colmar is a dream. When you take a city that already looks like a gingerbread town and then deck it with wreaths, ornaments, and snow-covered trees, it’s hard to think of anything that feels more appropriate for the holiday season.
From Colmar to Strasbourg and a handful of impossibly charming villages in between, I followed the Alsace wine route through this unique part of France, eating, wine tasting, and ogling gorgeous buildings along the way.