Hannah Ireland, author of How To Holiday Alone Like a Boss, shares her experience of travelling in France on her own. Her light-hearted guide to holidaying solo will be published on August 28th and covers her trips to Europe, UK and North America.
France has held a special place in my heart since my family moved there when I was ten years old. Clutching the rails of a ferry, we had no idea what awaited us in our newly purchased Breton farmhouse, which had been empty since the Second World War.
After eight years of being called Anna (sans ‘H’), and clutching my newly acquired Baccalauréat, I set off for pastures new. I had always wanted to see more of France – preferably by yacht (this has yet to happen). When I found myself without a holiday companion, I decided La Belle France would be a fantastic destination to explore solo.
Growing up in northern France, I was intrigued by the perceived glamour of the south, and so my first stop was Nice on the Côte d’Azur. I stepped onto the Promenade des Anglais feeling like Michael Caine in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (without his character’s extremely large house and pool). Thus began my love affair with Nice. The people were as elegant as I had imagined. I marvelled at their ability to cope, untroubled, with the heat and humidity, in stark contrast to yours truly.
Holidaying alone, you may feel nervous about hiring a car. The good news is that you don’t need one in Nice. It’s a brilliant base for travelling up and down the coast by rail (the yacht having not yet arrived), with cheap and reliable trains taking you to some of the most beautiful towns and beaches in the world. When my lottery win comes in, the residents of Cap Ferrat will find themselves welcoming a new neighbour.
My favourite spots are Renoir’s house and gardens in Cagnes-sur-Mer, the views from Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, and the bay of Villefranche-sur-Mer. I potter around these places, pretending I’m an effortlessly cool local. The reality is that I take on the appearance of a cooked lobster, and my hair is three times its usual volume. Speaking of lobster, do take the chance of dining out in some of their splendid restaurants. The worst that can happen is a quizzical ‘Table for ONE?’.
You will always find something of interest in the area. Even after several trips to Nice, there are still plenty of hidden gems I haven’t yet had the chance to visit. If you have a little more time and want to escape the crowds, think about jumping onto Le Train des Merveilles at Nice station. This will take you through breathtaking scenery, and all the tunnels and viaducts your heart desires.
Read More: Take it Slow on the Côte d’Azur
Another favourite destination for a solo holiday is Avignon, also known as the gateway of Provence. Avignon is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and probably the only place I’ll ever stay in a 16th century building that stands on the remains of a Jesuit seminary. Ghosts are extra (they consider that a double).
If you’re not singing Sur le pont d’Avignon yet, you will be by the time you stand on said bridge. However, there’s a lot more to the area than the remaining arches of a medieval structure. This is another easy place to get around without a car, as Viator offer a host of day trips. You can follow in Van Gogh’s footsteps around Arles, consider house prices in the fairy-tale hilltop village of Gordes, and enjoy an incredible light and sound show in a quarry at the Carrières de Lumières. Yes, that’s right – I’m recommending you spend part of your holiday in a quarry.
One of the main attractions of this area is the lavender fields. Having no transport of my own, I was afraid I might miss this spectacular sight, but the tours make it very easy for the lone traveller. I’ve met delightful people from all over the world who have come just to see this mauve heaven. In fact, I’m pretty sure I’m in most of their holiday photos (‘Who is that woman?’).
Of course, I can’t talk about France without mentioning Paris, an obvious choice for the solo visitor. While, to date, I have only been with family and friends, I wouldn’t hesitate to visit this amazing city by myself. True, it’s a romantic destination and a magnet for honeymooners, but don’t let that put you off pretending you are Emily in Paris.
If you’re thinking about holidaying by yourself but the idea feels quite daunting, France is a great choice. It is safe and welcoming, and it’s where they keep all the champagne. If you’re not quite ready to take the plunge alone yet, consider a cookery course or a cycling tour (if you enjoy holiday exercise).
Embrace your independence. Wake up each day with no idea what you’ll end up doing, but knowing it’s likely to be something merveilleux.
You can pre-order Hannah Ireland’s book now! Visit www.bookguild.co.uk for more information
Lead photo credit : France offers so much to solo travellers © Unsplash
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