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Underrated French cities to visit this Summer

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For a city break or long stays, France has lots of underrated places to be explored | Photo: Adrien Tutin

France, a country of contrast with craggy coastline in the North, a surf scene in the West, alpine peaks in the East, Mediterranean serenity in the South and the vineyards in the centre.

France is a country of great uniqueness. Did you know, French Gastronomy was awarded UNESCO was awarded world heritage status in 2010? The food, among thousands of other things, is that good! Just one of the reasons you should visit.

Visit France as a family, a couple or as a solo adventurer. With weather comparable to the UK in the north and hotter in the south, spring time or early autumn is best time to see the real colours of France emerge.

If you are looking for a city break in the real France, the real culture and have real experiences, these top five underrated French cities are for you.

Lille hosts a number of popular music festivals throughout the year | Photo: Zhu Yunxiao

Lille

This unique city in the North East of France near to the Belgian Border is unfortunately overlooked. This laid back university town brings a flurry of art and bohemian lifestyle. A place you get hands on with art.

It is easy in Lille to hop between galleries. The most illustrious is Le Palais Des Beaux Arts, with its ever changing exhibits that form the formal epicentre of the city’s expanding and exciting art scene. You’ll find pieces here and around the city masterfully created by university students and artists. You can easily wander into artist’s café haunts that are alive with new ideas and leave feeling as if you are a part of it.

Sightseeing: Medieval castle along the Rhône River in Avignon, France | Photo: Chelsea Essig

Avignon

Straddling the Rhône River in Provence, you will find the postcard-esque and chilled medieval city of Avignon. Like many cities dotted around France, the history is the attraction, but with Avignon you will find that though an old city, it has a modern outlook.

Perfect for those who like to walk their holidays and soak up where they are. You could visit for the architecture alone! The old town is practically all pedestrianised and a bus takes you around the perimeter of the city, making it easy to hop off in any part. The view from the hilltop park of the fairytale backdrop will make you feel like you are stepping back in time.

Ambling through the city you will experience old meeting new. Quirky shops, independent restaurants, chilled cafes and shady squares will become your favourite places where you can ease into the city and stare at amazement at the hundreds of years of architecture. Or, you could take a load off at Place de l’Horloge with its square of cafes to enjoy un café whilst you watch the world go by.

Saint-Victor sur Loire, Saint-Étienne, France

Saint-Nazaire

If you have looked into this city before you’ll probably be asking, why would I want go to visit? Admittedly, it is not France’s prettiest city, probably the reason it is overlooked, but there are others on the list that will cater for pretty.

Saint-Nazaire, Bretagne is home to some of histories most important industry. For aviation fans, Airbus has one of their huge factories here, the shipyard has been building ocean liners here since the 19th Century, including the Queen Mary II, and one of the biggest parts of history here is the U-Boat base that was ordered to be built by the occupying Nazi forces during the Second World War. The sheer size of the concrete pens is staggering itself. Inside you can even release your inner sailor and explore an old French submarine. A word from experience when onboard, watch your head!

For those interested in history and industry, this truly industrial city is a top choice.

The Loire River runs through Orléans, a French city rich in medieval architecture | Photo: Hugo Delauney

Orléans

Situated in the Centre-Val de Loire region, the Loire River runs through the city and is where Joan of Arc defeated the English in 1429. Each year there is a reenactment of the English defeat, so if you are a history buff, a day filled with people dressed as medieval soldiers and peasants running around and sword fighting each other is good fun!

If that isn’t your thing, the best part of Orléans is its affinity with nature. Near to the university you will find the beautiful Parc Floral de la Source. A huge part natural, part pruned garden which will make you forget you are anywhere near a city. You could also try your hand at some cycling through the Loire region or just a small walk from the centre you will find Île Charlemagne where you can swim in the lake, hire a kayak or just relax on the beach.

A beautiful place for those who want to revel in medieval architecture and enjoy nature at the same time.

France is a country of limitless boundaries for adventure. I have only listed the top five underrated cities of France but this is just the start . From the countryside communes to the cities, there is a certain je ne sai quoi that will ignite a love for France for those who have not visited or pleasantly surprise die-hard Francophiles with new experiences.

Thomas Gillett is a freelance writer and author living in Bournemouth with his wife, Jas. Thomas has a keen interest in travel and novel writing.

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Baros Maldives appoints new PR agency in the UK

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Baros Maldives appoints new PR Agency in the UK
Maldives is experiencing a significant increase in tourism and celebrated a record 12% increase in arrivals last year

Global independent marketing and communications agency, FINN Partners, has been appointed by Baros Maldives and Milaidhoo Maldives to lead on PR and digital services, in the United Kingdom.

FINN Partners communications strategy will focus on tactics that will generate coverage and awareness to showcase the independent, locally and family-owned properties, highlighting what sets them apart from other resorts in the Maldives. 

“With the UK being an important market for us, we look forward to working with FINN Partners to help build brand awareness in the UK for both Baros and Milaidhoo Maldives, by bringing to life the uniqueness of each property and what sets both resorts apart from other luxury resorts in the Maldives,” says Visha Mahir, Chief Operating Officer at Universal Resorts Management.

Maldives is home to 176 resorts and over 800 guesthouses. According to  the Ministry of Tourism, the country is experiencing a significant increase in tourism and celebrated a record 12% increase in arrivals last year.

“Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, it’s an honour to be representing Baros Maldives, ‘The Maldives Icon’. We very much look forward to communicating the private island resorts truly authentic Maldivian offerings to media. We are also excited to showcase how Milaidhoo Maldives, set in the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, embraces a contemporary way of living the Maldivian heritage and culture complemented by a wide range of curated meaningful experiences on offer to guests in addition to exceptional cuisine, personalised service, and attention to detail,” says Debbie Flynn, Managing Partner and Global Travel Practice Leader, FINN Partners.

The FINN Partners UK Travel portfolio also includes destinations such as Italy, Greater Palm Springs, The Bahamas and brands including Travelzoo, Intrepid and Accor. 

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Searches for ‘quiet life’ soars by 530%

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a female solo traveler in a mountain trip
The quest for a more serene lifestyle is on the rise, a recent report by Pinterest reveals | Photo: Artur Voznenko

Searches for enigmatic destinations are rising as travellers crave places promising a blend of wonder, adventure and the unexplored, according to a recent Pinterest Summer 2024 Travel Report.

With over one billion travel-related searches and over 10 billion travel saves in one year, the platform has become a source of inspiration for those planning a future trip.

8 out of 10 weekly Pinterest users turn to Pinterest when planning their summer escapades. Since last year, searches for ‘travel vision board’ and ‘packing guide’ have skyrocketed by 210% and 480% respectively as travellers curate their bucket lists and gear up for unforgettable journeys. 

However travellers are not looking only for adventurous things to do while on vacation.

The quest for a quieter, more serene lifestyle is on the rise, with searches for ‘quiet life’ soaring by 530% according to a report by Pinterest. As the longing for simplicity has extended to travel, since 2023, searches for ‘quiet places’ and ‘calm places’ have increased by 50% and 42% respectively. Pinners are searching for digital detox travel: many sought-after nature destinations offer a respite from the constant buzz of connectivity and digital distractions, providing a much-needed break. Solo travel emerges as a liberating choice, granting individuals the freedom to craft their itinerary, pace and priorities without compromise. Whether basking in the tranquillity of a secluded beach or meandering through serene countryside landscapes, these experiences contribute to self-care and overall well-being. Increase in specific searches include solo travel (up +35%), glamping aesthetic (+260%), Cabin in the mountains (+180%), Village vibes (+145%), Island life (+30%), and searches for national parks, which increased +250% since last year.

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Britons holidaying abroad are getting more value for money

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A elderly British couple holidaying abroad.
Sterling has strengthened in value against 21 popular currencies over the past 12 months | Photo: Vidar Nordli-Mathisen

Strong currency performance puts more cash in pockets of Britons holidaying abroad

Rising rates for sterling mean holidaymakers can look forward to getting more for their money in the vast majority of holiday destinations this year, according to new exchange rate analysis by Post Office Travel Money for its regular Holiday Money Index survey of currency rates and sales trends.

Sterling has strengthened in value against 21 of Post Office Travel Money’s 25 bestselling holiday currencies over the past 12 months but the amount by which Britons can hope to benefit varies quite significantly from one destination to another. While Britons can expect to receive 3.8 per cent more than a year ago when changing their pounds into euros and 5.5 per cent more US dollars, they will get far more for their money when visiting Turkey, Kenya and Japan.

The Exchange Rate Monitor, published as part of the Holiday Money Index, reveals that Britons visiting Turkey will currently get around 73 per cent more liras for the pounds than a year ago – the equivalent of almost £211 extra on a £500 currency purchase. This rises to 113.5 per cent – or £266 extra – over two years.

Sterling has also gained almost 21 per cent in value against the Kenyan shilling and 15.7 per cent against the Japanese yen compared with a year ago. Although the dramatic fall in value of the Egyptian pound reported in last year’s Holiday Money Index has bottomed out, it is still 6.3 per cent weaker than last March. Cumulatively, this means visitors will receive around £234 (88 per cent) more on a £500 currency transaction now than two years ago.

There have also been sizeable sterling gains against the currencies for a trio of the most popular destinations for UK holidaymakers – Prague (Czech Republic: +12.7 per cent), Thailand (Thai baht: +9.9 per cent) and South Africa (South African rand: +9.2 per cent), while Britons visiting friends and family in Australia will get 8.5 per cent more holiday cash for their pounds.

Only four currencies – the Polish zloty, Mexican peso, Costa Rican colon and Swiss franc – have gained ground against sterling. The pound’s biggest fall of 4.3 per cent year-on-year has been against the Polish zloty, although this is eclipsed by two year losses of over 20 per cent against the Costa Rican colon and Mexican peso.

Sterling’s current buoyancy against most leading holiday currencies – including the euro and US dollar – provides a great incentive for Britons considering trips abroad in the coming months. Most currencies have weakened against the pound in the past year, and many of these are for destinations that traditionally offer the cheapest prices for meals, drinks and other tourist staples. Good examples of this range from Turkey and the Czech Republic in Europe to Kenya, Thailand and Vietnam further afield,” says Laura Plunkett, Head of Travel Money at Post Office.

The latest analysis of currency sales by Post Office Travel Money, which accounts for one-in-four of all UK foreign exchange transactions, reveals that sales of 16 of its 20 bestselling currencies have risen over the past 12 months (February 2023-January 2024). It also observes that many of these currencies are continuing to show marked growth in 2024 to date.

Reviewing sales for January 2024, Post Office Travel Money reports that Caribbean currencies have seen the most dramatic year-on-year growth among its 20 bestselling currencies. In particular, it found that East Caribbean and Barbados dollar purchases rocketed by 103 per cent and 64 per cent respectively in January – outperforming growth levels by rival destinations in the Far East.

However, taking at the year as whole, seven Far Eastern currencies dominate the top 10 chart of Post Office Travel Money’s currencies showing the greatest levels of growth. The biggest percentage sales increase was for the Chinese yuan, which recorded a spectacular 573 per cent year-on-year rise, albeit against very low sales the previous year when visits to China were off limits.

The euro and US dollar remain by far the most popular holiday currencies, topping the chart for the past year as they have consistently done – and a sales increase of nine per cent in January made the euro the 10th fastest growing currency for that month.

Demand for aspirational destinations is also particularly strong. Both the Australian dollar, third in the Post Office bestsellers top 10, and New Zealand dollar, ninth in the table, have built on the exceptional currency growth seen a year ago when Australia and New Zealand re-opened to international visitors.

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