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FRENCH POLITICS

Sun, sea and mountains: Where France’s politicians go on holiday

After an unusually late session that continued into August, the French parliament has now paused for the summer holidays - and the government is heading for the beach, the mountains and the islands. Here's where the great and the good of France (well, the politicians anyway) take their holidays.

Sun, sea and mountains: Where France's politicians go on holiday
The fort de Bregancon, summer residence of France's presidents. (Photo: Boris Horvat / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron was the first to depart Paris for the vacation, and has been photographed this week kayaking in the seas off the French Riviera.

He’s at the Presidential hideaway at Fort de Brégançon for a three-week stay – although he says it is a pause estival studieuse (summer study break) rather than a holiday. He will take part in commemorations of the Allied invasion of Provence on August 15th.

In his absence the government continued working, passing the final cost-of-living bill through parliament, but ministers are now free until the next cabinet meeting – in the diary for August 24th. 

Ministers must take their breaks at “a destination compatible with the exercise of their responsibilities”, within a two-hour flight from Paris in case their urgent presence is required.

In practice, this largely means staying in France, which anyway is pretty common for most normal French families over the summer.

So where should you go if you want to spot a French minister? Or conversely, where will you be able to avoid bumping into a member of government?

If you’re allergic to politicians, we would suggest avoiding the Mediterranean coast

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will head to the Var département, in the south east, for her holiday.

Also along south coast will be Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Transport Minister Clément Beaune, who are both expected to spend their vacation time in Bouches-du-Rhône (although there’s no suggestion that they will be holidaying together).

Meanwhile Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti will head for Alpes-Maritimes (Nice and the surrounding area) and Minister for Territorial Organisation and Health Professions minister Agnès Firmin Le Bodo will holiday in Vaucluse.

Just over the sea is the island of Corsica, which is also popular with government ministers.

Franck Riester, burdened with the title Minister Delegate for Relations with Parliament and Democratic Life, will be heading there, along with his colleagues Catherine Colonna (Europe Minister) and Public Accounts Minister Gabriel Attal.

Again, we should point out that these are separate holidays on the same island, there’s no suggestion that the three will be sharing a villa and rubbing suncream onto each other’s backs. 

France’s northern coastline of Brittany and Normandy has long been popular with holidaymakers and government ministers are no exception.

Education Minister Pap Ndiaye and Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu will both head for Normandy for their vacations.

Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak is heading in the same direction – and will spend a few days Saint-Brieuc, Côtes-d’Armor, before heading for the Chartreuse massif, in the south-east of the country.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire is expected to start his holiday period with a week in Brittany, before heading down to the Basque Country in the far south-west of France. He owns a second-home in the Basque Country, which was recently targeted by protesters worried about the effect that the large numbers of maisons secondaires are having on the local economy.

And finally there are those ministers who quit Paris and head back to the regions where they grew up.

Minister for People with Disabilities Geneviève Darrieussecq will head home to the Landes département in south west France.

Health Minister François Braun will holiday in the Alps, while Environment Minister Christophe Béchu will head back to his roots in Maine-et-Loire. Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau, too, is holidaying at home in Loir-et-Cher.

Because of the unusually late session in August, Parliament is not scheduled to return until October 3rd.

However, ministers will be back in Paris by August 24th for their next cabinet meeting and the month of September will be spent drafting and consulting on some major pieces of legislation – including a bill on immigration and a far-reaching energy bill that aims to cut the entire country’s energy use by 10 percent. 

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READER INSIGHTS

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local asked readers for their top tips for places to visit along the French coast and we were overwhelmed with suggestions for beautiful beaches, off-the-beaten-track villages and lively resorts.

Readers reveal: The best beaches and coastal resorts in France

The Local has been seeking out France’s best coastline in recent weeks, after a disagreement on an episode of our Talking France podcast where Editor Emma Pearson defended La Vendée as home to the best (and most underrated) coastline in the country, while journalist Genevieve Mansfield fought for Brittany. 

To settle the debate, The Local asked its readers to share their favourite place to go on France’s shores, and the results are in, along with exclusive recommendations:

Brittany wins

Almost half (48 percent) of those who responded to The Local’s survey about the best part of France’s coastline voted for Brittany. 

Where to go

Several people recommended the Morbihan département.

Angela Moore, said her favourite part of this area was the islet between Vannes and Lorient, which is home to romanesque chapel and the Etel river oyster, a delicacy in the area. 

Others chose the Morbihan for its “lovely little coves, wonderful beaches and seafood,” as well as for boat rides in the gulf. Meanwhile, some pointed out Carnac, as a spot to visit, as the town is known for its prehistoric standing stones.

Some preferred travelling further north in Brittany, and they recommended the Finistère départment.

Rebecca Brite, who lives in Paris’ 18th arrondisement, said she loves this part of France for the overall atmosphere. Her top recommendation was to “Go all the way to the Baie des Trépassés and stay at the old, traditional hotel-restaurant of the same name. Pretend you’re in the legendary kingdom of Ys, swallowed up by the sea on this very site.”

The other part of Brittany that came highly recommended was the Emerald Coast (Côtes d’Armour) – specifically the Côte de Granit Rose.

The Mediterranean coastline

The Mediterranean remained a very popular vacation spot for readers of The Local, with almost a third of respondents claiming it as their favourite part of the French coastline. From sailing to cliffs and architecture, the Mediterranean had a bit of everything according to The Local’s readers.

Cassis and the Calanques were among of the most popular responses for where to go and what to see in this part of France.

One respondent, Gini Kramer, said she loves this part of France because “There’s nothing like climbing pure white limestone cliffs rising right out of the sea. The hiking is spectacular too.”

Some counselled more lively parts of the riviera, like the old port in Marseille, while others suggested the quieter locations.

David Sheriton said he likes to go to the beaches of Narbonne: “It’s a gentle slope into the sea so great for the (grand)children.” He said that the area does have a “few bars and restaurants” but that it does not “attract the party crowds.” 

In terms of beautiful villages, Èze came recommended for being home to “the most breathtaking views of the French coastline,” according to reader Gregg Kasner.

Toward Montpellier, Dr Lindsay Burstall said that La Grande Motte was worth visiting, for its “coherent 60’s architecture.” Burstall proposed having “a chilled pression au bord de la mer while watching the world go by…”

Meanwhile, three readers listed locations near Perpignan, and all encouraged visiting the area’s “pre-historic sites.”

Sally Bostley responded that her favourite areas were “between Canet-Plage and Saint-Cyprien-Plage” and she advised visiting “Collioure, Banyuls with the aquarium, Perpignan, nearby prehistoric sites, Safari Park, Prehistory Park.”

Other parts of the coastline

Though these locations may have received less votes overall, they still stood our in the minds of The Local readers:

Normandy did not receive as many votes as its neighbour Brittany, it is still home to unique attractions worth visiting. The WWII landing beaches “plages de débarquement” came highly recommended, along with cathedrals and abbeys in the region, like Coutances in the northern Manche département.

Reed Porter, who lives in Annecy, likes to go to Êtretat when he visits Normandy. He had several recommendations, starting with “les falaises!” These are the dramatic cliffs overlooking the ocean.

Porter also suggested visitors of Êtretat head to “the glass stone beach” and the “old town” for its architecture. If you get hungry, there are “oysters everywhere all the time.”

Basque country was also highlighted for its proximity to the Pyrenées mountains. Maggie Parkinson said this was the best part of France’s coastline for her because of “The long views to the Pyrénées, the pine forests, the soft, fresh quality of the air, the many moods and colours of the sea – gently lapping aquamarine waves to thunderous, crashing black rollers churning foam onto the shore.”

A huge fan of the area, Parkinson had several recommendations ranging from cuisine to “cycling the many paths through the tranquil pines, visiting Bayonne, the Basque Country and the Pyrénées or northern Spain (for wonderful pintxos).”

She said that she loves to “[chill] on the endless, wide sandy beaches or [rest] on a hammock in the park” or “[catch] a local choir sporting blue or red foulards singing their hearts out to traditional or rock tunes.”

Similar reasons were listed in favour of Corsica as France’s best coastline, as it is also home to tall mountains with beautiful views over the water.

If you are looking to visit Corsica, Paul Griffiths recommends “having a good road map” and then “just [driving] quietly along the coast and over the mountains.” He said that this is “all easily doable in a day” and along the way you can “find beautiful beaches, lovely towns with good restaurants – especially Maccinaggion and Centuri – to enjoy one day after another.”

Finally, the preferred coastline location for The Local’s France Editor, Emma Pearson, also got some support by readers, with one calling La Vendée an “unpretentious” and “accessible” place for a vacation.

Respondent Anthony Scott said that “Les Sables d’Olonne and Luçon both epitomise the spirit of Vendée.” He enjoys the “inland serenity and historic sites, beautiful beaches and inviting seashores” as well as “traditional appetising meals.” He also noted that the area is “not too expensive.”

READ ALSO Brittany v Vendée – which is the best French coastline?

Many thanks to everyone who answered our survey, we couldn’t include all your recommendations, but feel free to leave suggestions in the comments below.

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