Charu Gaur

Charu Gaur is the founder/editor of Runway Square. Don't ask her to meet over tea or coffee. She's currently working on her selfie game which recently went for a toss. Tips are welcome..

Do France Differently. Add These French Destinations To Your Itinerary.

Gordes, Image Courtesy: Atout France/Robert Palomba

There’s more to France than Paris and Cannes. The beautiful country offers multitudes of landscapes and experiences that Indian travelers often miss out on. So, we sat down with Atout France’s Sheetal Mushaw to help you create a brand new French itinerary.

Sheetal Munshaw, Image by Atout France – India

Charu Gaur: So what sets France apart from rest of the world when it comes to tourism? What makes it special?
Sheetal Munshaw: France accounts for the highest number of tourist arrivals in the world and that has a lot to do with the versatility and diversity of the destination. We are always very tempted to say that it’s almost a world in our country because France is home to a variety of landscapes that include vineyards, magnificent coastline, quaint villages, the majestic Alps and glamorous cities. France truly has it all! In addition, France is a destination that is rich in history, culture, gastronomy and enology and of course its intrinsic Art de Vivre and its savoir-faire that sets it apart from the rest of the world. For example: wine regions exist all over the world, but authentic champagne is made only in France. Its gastronomy has been bestowed with the prestigious UNESCO Intangible World Heritage distinction. We all know that the Michelin star concept originated in France and gastronomy holds a special place in French culture. France is very fashion forward as well and some of the biggest and well-known brands are Made in France. Precision, a keen eye for detail are all hallmarks of France’s reputed savoir-faire that sets it apart from the rest of the world.

Chateau de Beaupré, Image Courtesy: Atout France/S. Spiteri

Charu Gaur: If you had to name three most fabulous shopping destinations in the France, what would those be? You can tell your favourites.
Sheetal Munshaw: Personally, La Vallée Village is one of my favourites. And I don’t say that just because of their presence at the Luxury Lifestyle Weekend but because it is truly a great place to shop. Its hand’s free shopping, VIP concierge services, exquisite merchandise at incredibly attractive prices, and overall ambience make it a unique and unparalleled retail therapy experience. One can easily spend a day here soaking in the vibe. In addition, there are also iconic department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Printemps whose facade is symbolic of the traditional Haussmanian architecture of Paris. The experience goes beyond fashion as these stores offer something for everyone, be it gastronomy, wine, home decor, accessories and so much more.

Image Courtesy: Atout France

Charu Gaur: A shopping destination in Paris that locals love?
Sheetal Munshaw: The Marais district which is home to a bevy of eclectic, new and local designers. People today have an appetite to discover the new, the undiscovered and the Marais fits in perfectly with these expectations showcasing local labels, trendy talent and authentic experiences.

La Vallée Village Paris, Image Courtesy: House of Misu and Mohit Varu

Charu Gaur: 3 places where Indian tourists usually don’t go to in France, but they should discover.
Sheetal Munshaw: Indians usually frequent Paris, the Alps Mont Blanc, and the French Riviera. In terms of undiscovered locations, Normandy tops the charts for me. It’s a place that is very close to my heart. The seaside resort of Deauville in Normandy is home to all things equestrian, sea and fashion. It’s a stunning place and at only two hours north of Paris. It’s also known as the Riviera for the Parisians. There is also Burgundy which is not frequented often by Indians. One should know that Burgundy is actually a gem when it comes to wines. It forms 3 % of French terroir but produces some of the most magnificent wines. Provence again I think is a gem. We are not seeing enough people there yet. There is so much more to discover in Provence than just the lavender fields. Some of the Best Villages in France are located in Provence. The film, “A Good Year in Provence” is extremely representative of this destination and I believe that those who have watched the film will concur. Provence is an ideal destination for those looking for authentic immersive experiences.

Charu Gaur: 3 fashion brands that you think Indians should explore in France. Like not your usual Chanel or Dior.
Sheetal Munshaw: My personal favourites would be Maje, Sandro. And then I quite like Claudie Pierlot, Louboutin, Goyard, Cartier and Gerard Darel.

Charu Gaur: What makes France so romantic?
Sheetal Munshaw: There’s just a certain vibe in the air over there. It is the only place in the world where whenever I am traveling on a business trip I feel that I shouldn’t be alone. It’s not your usual stereotypical romance. Romance is omnipresent in France and really it all depends on your perception. Whether you are into art or literature or even enjoying the simple beauty of a well-laid out table for a candle-lit dinner, the way in which a gift is wrapped or the manner in which someone sells you wine, everything has a romantic feel about it.

Gordes, Image Courtesy: Atout France/Robert Palomba

Charu Gaur: If I had just one week in France, where should I go?
Sheetal Munshaw: For someone who has a week and is coming to France for the first time, of course, Paris can’t be missed. I would strongly recommend for someone who is visiting and wants to see the maximum in minimum time, to stay in Paris and explore its surroundings. A minimum of 3 nights in Paris is recommended and then visit Champagne because it is only 45 minutes away. There is also Northern France which has wonderful castles. I would definitely visit La Vallée Village and maybe Disneyland Paris if traveling with children. There is also Dijon which is 90 minutes by train, Bordeaux which is a 2-hour train ride from Paris, Deauville and chateaux country Loire Valley which are a 2-hour road journey. These are not too far from Paris but still allow you to experience a lot of diversity that the country has to offer.

Plage Deauville, Image Courtesy: Atout France/Patrice le Bris

Charu Gaur: When are you taking Runway Square to France?
Sheetal Munshaw: Whenever, you like!

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