Star travel correspondent Bert Archer files this report...
France threw its annual Remember-us-we’re-that-country-wrapped-around-Paris media event at One King West on Wednesday. They announced some new flight schedules from Toronto and Montreal (which, did you know, is the second biggest Air France destination after New York?), but the real news was the stuff that’s happening that might make you want to board one of those flights.
This year marks one big anniversary that you might want to hook a trip or two for. It’s Jean d’Arc’s 600th birthday, celebrated this year on May 27-28. That might prompt you to take a trip to Orléans, her birthplace, or Rouen, where she was martyred 19 years later. The advantage of dropping by the latter is that it’s also a major Impressionist centre – Monet painted the cathedral there 27 times – though it’s having its major Impressionist celebration, Normandie Impressioniste, next year.
The main message France seemed to want to convey however, is that you may want to forget this year and start planning your 2013 and 2014 trips. In addition to the Impressionist extravaganza in Normandy, 2013 will be the 100th anniversary of the Tour de France. And then 2014 marks the beginning of four years of commemoration of the centenaries of World War I. If you haven’t been to Vimy Ridge or Verdun or the Somme, this may be the time to do it.
But, as I’ve snarkily implied, the best thing about these occasional reminders that there’s more to France than Paris, Provence and the Riviera are the representatives from places like the Chateau de Clos Lucé [http://vinci-closluce.com/] in Amboise, where Leonardo da Vinci lived the last years of his life and died (who knew?), or Vaux-le-Vicomte [http://www.vaux-le-vicomte.com/en/index.php], the palace that inspired Versailles, and has played it in films ever since, or the Midi-Pyrenees [http://www.tourism-midi-pyrenees.co.uk/en/index.php] (aka The Other South of France) and the Aude Pays Cathare [http://www.audetourisme.com/en/index.php], where you can take cruises, on your own or on a big river cruiser, on the Rhone.
And if none of that floats your boat, we’ll always have Paris.