When you think of an escape across the channel to France, you’d be forgiven for immediately conjuring up images of the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, the glowing red of the Moulin Rouge and the sight of slate grey sloping roofs stretching into the distance.

But as enchanting and addictive as Paris is, it’s not all France has to offer. Whilst we agree that the French capital is an essential destination for any serious traveller, it can be far more rewarding to get off the beaten track and out into the countryside for truly authentic, local experiences.

But it can be a little daunting narrowing down exactly where to go, and what to do, in one of the biggest countries in Europe. That’s why here at Not In The Guidebooks, we’ve tried to save you a little time by picking out some of the best rural experiences in France, from Gascony to Brittany, so that you can get off the beaten track in France.

French Cookery and Gastronomy Holiday in Gascony

vineyard in gascony

What better way to experience France than through one of its most world-renowned aspects – its food. On this cookery and gastronomy holiday in Gascony, you’ll immerse yourself in everything food that this beautiful, remote region has to offer, and learn the skills that will make you a true master of French cuisine.

Staying in a gorgeous 19th century farmhouse, you’ll get to enjoy the settings of 50 acres of lush parkland and a heated outdoor swimming pool for your downtime.

But you’re here for some real rural French experiences, which you’ll get in bucket loads on visits to small, traditional market villages where you’ll be able to sample the incredible local produce, chateaux’s where you’ll taste local wines made by legendary local families, and a family-run Armagnac distillery, where one of the most quintessential Gascony specialties is produced.

All this is supplemented by incredible three-course meals made in the true French fashion, cooking classes in French cuisine, and, of course, some of the best wine in the world.

French Cookery Course in Brittany

French cookery guests drink champagne and prepare food

Where the last holiday was one for the foodies, the people who want to enjoy all the finer things in life (especially if they’re French), this holiday is for all those hard-core chefs that want to dig deep into mastering French cuisine.

You’ll spend 6 nights and 7 days cooking up an absolute storm of French classics, local specialities, and a few dishes with unique twists in a fun and relaxed atmosphere, under the guidance of Poul, who trained and has graduated from one of the best French restaurants in Europe.

Prepare seafood specialities and develop technical skills like filleting fish, create stocks and soups from scratch and master the art of French patisserie, homemade breads and ice creams. The food you’ll produce will be of genuine restaurant standard, and you’ll be able to fully immerse yourself in the French way of life with good company, amazing food, and free flowing wine, all in a beautiful rural corner of Brittany.

Rural Experiences in France

Fantastic French Cookery Course in Brittany

France, Brittany

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Snowshoeing Foodie Adventure in the Pyrenees

France, French Pyrenees

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Photography Hero Holiday Charente

France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine

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French Cookery and Gastronomy Holiday

France, Gascony

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Photography Holiday in Charente

French house with swimming pool

For something a little different, this photography holiday in Charente is a chance to get a flavour of local French life far off the beaten track, whilst learning new skills and capturing the moments you want to take home from your experience.

Your accommodation for the week is a lovingly restored barn in the French countryside, with many great walks nearby, as well as small towns and villages where you can go to soak up a bit of local life.

Spend your days exploring the local area and getting expert tuition on how to best capture it with your camera, and come away with some beautiful physical copies of your own handiwork. In the evenings, incredible meals will be prepared for you by your hosts, allowing you to experience the very best local food and wine in the area.

Snowshoeing Foodie Adventure in the French Pyrenees

person standing on a mountain in the french pyrenees

France isn’t all rolling fields of lavender, golden sand beaches and pretty medieval villages. It’s also snow-capped mountains, dramatic glacial valleys, and it boasts some of the best adventure playgrounds in the world.

On this winter excursion in the French Pyrenees, you’ll immerse yourself in the magnificent natural environment and experience the snowy wilderness at its best on snowshoeing expeditions, before cosying up back at your family-run B&B to enjoy magnificent French cuisine after a day of exploration.

Summit a Pyrenees mountain, learn how to track red deer or brown bear from their prints in the snow, and experience the otherworldly landscape of a snowy mountainside and forest at night on a torch-lit nighttime hike.

You’ll also get to enjoy delicious, home-cooked seasonal specialties of the mountains, as well as mulled wine, homemade patisserie and chocolates, and a trip to a fabulous thermal spa where you can warm your bones in a beautiful mountain setting.

Whatever you want to experience in France, it’s well worth getting off the beaten track in France and discovering what lies beyond the city confines. Whether it’s cooking, painting, yoga or hiking, Not In The Guidebooks have a wonderful selection of rural retreats and holidays that allow to combine your passion with local traditions and authentic experiences.

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