Kayaking, cycling, running and hiking from the Andes to Iran … Our tipsters aren’t content with a book and deckchair
For climbing and scrambling with a twist head to Le Bourg-d’Oisans in the French Alps south-east of Grenoble. Stay in one of the many campsites (Le Château de Rochetaillée is excellent) before finding La Montagne Sports shop in town who will kit you out for €10 per day with everything you need for the area’s seven spectacular via ferrata routes. On another day, head an hour’s drive west to Alpes du Grand Serre and experience the thrill of scrambling, climbing and traversing along rock, over a raging river and coming out at the top into a beautiful alpine meadow with rosy cheeks and a spring in your tired step. If you enjoyed this, head next to Cascade de la Fare in Vaujany, just half an hour north of Le Bourg. This is a step up and includes two long bridges over a ravine and an ascent to a waterfall with sensational views.
Exploring Cognac and the Charente region gives an insight into a brandy rich in history – with a barrel full of tastings on offer
Cognac is one of France’s most iconic products, yet little of it is consumed at home: 98% is exported. Authentic cognac can only be produced from a specific region but this vast vineyard stretches from the grand town of Cognac itself inland across the Charente region and over to the Atlantic coast. It is a delight to explore, with winemakers, distillers and the famed maisons de négoces (cognac merchants) open for visits. Most people begin in Cognac with one of the multimedia tours (around €20) of the likes of Hennessy, Martell or Rémy Martin, all established since the 1700s. Alternatively, many houses and winemaker-distillers in the nearby countryside offer just as interesting (if no-frills) tours for free. Many sites are open all year and from November to 31 March it’s possible to see the distilleries in action.