As you have probably figured out by now, Scott is a bit of a railway enthusiast.
To most people trains are just a way of getting to and from work and offer little else, apart from an annoyance when you get stuck at a level crossing!
But for Scott, they offer something more. He loves the high-speed trains, but his long term passion involves steam engines and exploring abandoned railways.
While we travel a lot by train in France, hunting down some vintage steam trains and historic railway sites has taken us to some parts of France that we wouldn’t have otherwise considered.
France still has a fantastic network of railways crossing the country, but before road transport took over there was a separate network of local lines that served smaller towns and villages, and linked them to the outside world.
A few of these railways have been preserved, which was our original reason for visiting Tain-l’Hermitage and Tournon-sur-Rhône. The line heading west into the Ardèche to Lamastre has been partially restored with steam hauled trains, while on the other side of the river into the Drôme department, a long abandoned line once ran up into the mountains terminating at the spectacularly located Pont-en-Royans.
We have been to other places, and there’s more on the list that we are yet to visit for their railway history.
The way we’ve planned some of our trips around Scott’s interest got us thinking about how hobbies in general might influence or direct your experience when you visit France.
One of the things we love about France is the fact that it seems to offer something for everyone. And if you extend that concept to the hobbyist it’s entirely feasible that with a little thought, you could plan an entire trip around a special interest (and still squeeze in the must-see tourist spots as well as a little shopping).
To get your imagination firing, we thought we would provide a few examples of how you might let your hobby guide your visit to France.
- It is almost too obvious, but France is great destination for foodies and keen home cooks. Plan your French visit to include a specific regional cuisine – the Alsace for example – or maybe choose to spend some time in Lyon where you will get the best of everything. Visits to markets and excellent restaurants are a given – or perhaps you’d like to invest cooking classes. Top notch classes can be found all over France and if you are not venturing beyond Paris, the Le Cordon Bleu in the 15th arrondissement offers a range of interesting short courses that can be completed in single day.
- Wine lovers will also find a trip to France perfect for indulging in their hobby. So far we’ve visited six of France’s wine regions and I can confirm that scenery in each and every one of them is spectacular. Like champagne? Then a trip to Reims or Épernay (or both) should be on your list. And if you have time, make sure you book in a tour of one of the big champagne houses. A savoury red wine more your style? Then think about visiting either the Rhône Valley or the legendary Bordeaux.
- History and art buffs have it made in France. The Louvre is amazing but for those who prefer their hobby in smaller doses there are spectacular art and history museums all over France. In fact, it is one of the things that we really like about France – you don’t have to be in Paris to take in the work of the masters or to get a better understanding of French history.
- France is perfect for another popular hobby – cycling. Maybe you could follow all or part of the route of the most recent Tour de France. If that sounds a bit ambitious there are many beautiful French regions that are just made for a slow ride through the countryside.
If none of the above appeal, remember France offers endless inspiration. Film lovers would no doubt be excited by Cannes, snow bunnies would love the Alps and fashion lovers shouldn’t go past Paris with its regular runway events, haute couture houses and Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
I’m sure that with just a touch of research everyone could find a way to explore their interests in France.
Have you ever let your hobby guide your visit to France? If so we’d love for you to share your story in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.