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HIDDEN France

‘La France profonde’ – deep France – is a favourite Gallic phrase that evokes villages far from the nearest TGV line, where people are fercely proud of their variety of cheese or charcuterie found only in that place. The appeal of the French countryside is ever strong, yet there are many routes to get to the heart of the country, through unexpected and lesser-known ways – even in the capital itself. Join us on a tour of 20 experiences that show off more sides to ‘l’Hexagone’.

See the Calanques from new angles

MOIRENC CAMILLE/HEMIS.FR/SUPERSTOCK.

The French Mediterranean coast is at its most stupendous at the Calanques National Park: a sequence of jagged limestone cliffs, hidden coves and shady pine forests between Marseille and Cassis. The Calanques that give the park its name are slender inlets that are the French answer to Norwegian fjords (only far nicer for swimming). Road access is generally banned even where it’s physically possible, so most visitors take a boat to appreciate these fjord-like formations. One alternative that avoids the well-sailed sightseeing routes is to see the parts of the Calanques that can only be reached by hiking clifftop trails. Cassis-based walking guide Franck Rotger knows these paths well. ‘The Pointe de la Cacau is a favourite of mine,’ he says. ‘It’s not on the classic itineraries.’ From this peninsula, hikers can survey three of the famous inlets, including Calanque d’en Vau (pictured). l Find out more about walking in the national park at calanques-parcnational.fr. Ask about guides through the Cassis Tourist Office (ot-cassis.com).

Savour a last taste of France in Menton

The fnal town on the French Riviera before the Italian border, Menton is the geographical equivalent of saving a delectable bite until the very end of a meal. Double Michelin-starred Mirazur is a restaurant standing less than 150 yards from the land of canneloni and mozzarella, and its cuisine draws particularly on the bounty of the Mediterranean in dishes such as sea urchin with saffron cream and langoustine on courgette remoulade. Menton, however, is a gastronomic revelation at all price tags: in the town’s historic centre, Au Baiser du Mitron (‘At the Baker’s Kiss’) has spent 111 years perfecting its sourdough breads baked in a wood oven. One classic southern taste is the fougasse – a loaf with palm-leaf-like holes cut into it, often studded with olives. There is no ingredient more honoured in Menton, however, than its prize lemons, which even appear on the town’s coat of arms, and get their own festival around the end of February. Au Pays du Citron is an encyclopedic shop for citrus-lovers, where the sunshine-coloured fruit appear in candies, honey, olive oil and even vodka.

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