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TRAVEL

Where in France can you get away from the crowds this summer?

France is opening up to tourism for fully vaccinated travellers, but the French are also being urged to holiday in France this year - which means that some parts of the country may be even busier than a normal summer.

Where in France can you get away from the crowds this summer?
France has some stunningly beautiful areas that are frequently ignored by tourists. Photo: Thierry Zocolan/AFP

Les vacances, c’est en France (the holidays, they’re in France) declared president Emmanuel Macron, urging the French to support the country’s battered tourist industry by staycationing this year.

Reservations in popular tourist destinations are already up 30 percent on last year as French people book their holidays while fully vaccinated international travellers are also allowed back in from Wednesday.

EXPLAINED This is how France’s traffic light system for vaccinated travellers works

The upshot being – some places could be pretty busy this year.

So if you’re looking for a more peaceful break, or you would just feel more comfortable staying away from crowds, here are some suggestions of areas to head for and those to avoid.

According to BFM.TV, reservations in France are up by more than 30 percent compared to 2019, while holiday booking website PAP Vacances recently published a list of the most sought after places.

Those holidaying in August (the most popular time of the year for French people to travel) seem to be mostly heading south to the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d’Azur region with the département of Var – which includes Saint Tropez  – the most popular area.

The beaches of the French Riviera could be even more crowded this summer. Photo by GERARD JULIEN / AFP

The list of most in-demand areas from PAP Vacanes is:

  1. Les Issambres, Var
  2. Sainte-Maxime, Var
  3. Capbreton, Landes
  4. Lège-Cap-Ferret, Gironde
  5. Lacanau, Gironde
  6. La Teste-de-Buch, Gironde
  7. Hyères, Var
  8. Saint-Raphaël, Var
  9. Porto-Vecchio, Corse-du-Sud
  10. Fréjus, Var 

Assuming that you want to avoid the crowds, here are a few things to think about when booking your holidays.

READ ALSO 10 of the best Covid-compliant activities in France this summer

Seaside v countryside

Whilst the list above includes a number of sought after beach resort destinations, summer house rentals have also seen an even bigger boom.

Some people are looking to book a large space for their family and friends, with many turning to the countryside – as opposed to the seaside – for better prices.

According to NotreTemps.com, houses located inland cost an average of €172 per person for the week, compared to €207 for a place by the sea. Inland areas such as Gordes and Sorgues, both located in the stunning Provencal countryside, are continuing to experience a boom in rental reservations this summer.

On the other hand, according to NotreTemps, accommodation in mountainous and urban areas has been neglected, so maybe consider a hiking trip to the Pyrenees or a trip to one of France’s stunning smaller towns such as Annecy or Avignon.

READ ALSO Morvan: Why you should visit one of France’s most beautiful and least-known areas

Remember France’s ‘forgotten’ areas

For obvious reasons, seaside resorts are popular for holidays, but France also contains some stunning countryside and in some of the sparsely populated central départements you really can get away from it all.

Creuse, Corrèze and Cantal all have beautiful scenery and wide open spaces and we are particularly fond of Auvergne, with its rugged mountainous areas and delicious cheesy mashed potatoes.

READ ALSO 10 reasons to visit France’s Auvergne area

Choose an adventure holiday

To really take advantage of all that fresh air and natural beauty, why not have a cycling holiday along some of France’s many cycle routes?

READ ALSO Vineyards to canals – 7 of the best cycle routes in France

There is also great hiking – particularly in the Alps and Pyrenees – and numerous holidays offering activities for the adrenaline junkie from whitewater rafting to abseiling.

Or think about staying in a hotel

According to Femina.fr, only 6 percent of French holidaymakers will choose to stay in a hotel. With the likes of AirB&B dominating the holiday accommodation market, and 72 percent of travellers deciding to stay in holiday villages or campsites, this could be the year to get a bargain if you do fancy a hotel stay.

Maybe take the train

With no need to share a space with strangers or wear a mask, it’s no surprise that the number one mode of transport this summer is expected to be the car

But this means that during the summer months, France’s roads and motorways will likely be full of traffic jams.

BMF.TV reported that although 8/10 French travellers want to travel by car, they do believe there’ll be more people on the roads this year.

Horrifying, 36 percent of French people also say they fear that with limited ability to travel over the past 18 months, they may have seen a decrease in their driving skills – and it’s not the French are famed for being good drivers at the best of times.

With only 8 percent expected to take the train and SNCF’s announcement this week of considerably cheaper train travel for all ages, taking the train might be a quieter and more affordable way of getting to your desired destination – as well as avoiding roads full of traffic-jams and crazed French motorists.

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BUSINESS

What are the 26 French ‘unicorns’ hailed by the government?

France now has 26 'unicorns', something Emmanuel Macron's government sees as a major success. Here's what this means and how it affects France's future.

People dressed as unicorns attend a tech summit.
People dressed as unicorns attend a tech summit. France now counts 26 start-ups valued at more than $1 billion. (Photo by CARLOS COSTA / AFP)

In 2019, French President Emmanuel Macron set what seemed like an ambitious objective: having 25 French start-ups valued at over $1 billion by 2025. 

These companies are colloquially referred to as “unicorns” or licornes in French. 

The target was very on-brand. Macron had sold himself at a youthful, ambitious and liberalising president keen to lead France towards modernity. 

To achieve this goal, the government lifted regulations; hired liaison officers to manage relations between tech entrepreneurs and government ministers; created a new kind of visa to allow entrepreneurs, innovators and investors to move to France; and launched an incubator scheme known as the French Tech Tremplin (“French Tech Trampoline”) to help underrepresented groups such as women, poor people and those in the countryside to launch tech start-ups. 

Just three years later, it appears these efforts have paid off. 

“They told us that it was impossible – that creating a start-up nation was just an act. But collectively we have got there three years ahead of schedule,” said Emmanuel Macron on Monday, sporting a Steve Jobs-style polo neck as he celebrated the fact that France now had 25 ‘unicorns’. 

On Tuesday, La French Tech, a body run by civil servants aimed at creating a healthy environment for start-ups in France heralded another success – a 26th licorne

The latest addition is a company called Spendesk – it runs a platform that allows small and medium sized businesses to manage spending, expenses, budgets, payment approvals and invoices through a single integrated platform. It is already used by thousands of clients. 

Spendesk recently raised a further $100 million, pushing its overall value past the $1 billion mark. It plans to employ a further 700 people in France. 

La French Tech couldn’t contain its joy. 

“We don’t ask ourselves what is going on, we know it: #FrenchTech is booming #26unicorns”, wrote the organisation in its Twitter account. 

La French Tech claims that beyond the 25 ‘unicorns’ valued at $1 billion or more, there are a further 20,000 tech start-ups in France and that half of French people use their services daily. The organisation says that this sector has already created 1 million jobs – and that this figure should double by 2050. 

“French tech is obviously about more than these unicorns, but I see them as an example, a model for the rest of the ecosytem,” said Macron on Tuesday. 

So who are the other unicorns leading the way? 

Alan

This start-up was created in 2016 and offers health insurance coverage for individuals and businesses. What differentiates it from standard health insurance providers, or mutuelles, is that it functions through an easy-to-use app. Individuals can send medical bills directly from their smartphone and be reimbursed almost immediately. Doctors can be reached through the app’s messaging and video call services. Employers can manage arrêts de travail the comings and goings of poorly staff directly through the interface. It is currently available in France, Belgium and Spain, counting 230,000 members. 

Ankorstore

Ankorstore is an online marketplace aimed at supporting independent wholesalers – from florists to concept stores. It pitches itself as a platform to buy “authentic products and brands that e-commerce giants such as Amazon do not offer.” It is present in 23 European countries with offices in France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK.

BlaBlaCar

This carpooling service has more than 100 million members across 22 countries. It connects drivers with people looking for a lift on a highly accessible app and website based platform. BlaBlaCar allows people to save money on transport and said that it saves 1.6 million tons of CO2 emissions in 2018 through ride-sharing – the platform has grown significantly since then. This company has also started running a bus service, BlaBlaBus. 

BlaBlaCar launched BlaBlaBus in 2019.

BlaBlaCar launched BlaBlaBus in 2019. (Photo by PHILIPPE DESMAZES / AFP)

BackMarket

Backmarket is a website for buying used, unused or reconditioned electronic devices. The company sells everything from cameras, to laptops, to iPhones – at well below the market rate. Many of the products come with a warranty. The company is keen to emphasise its role in reducing electronic waste and carbon emissions involved in manufacturing new products.

Contentsquare 

This start-up has existed since 2012. It acts as a tool to allow website and app designers to monitor how their users behave while on their webpage/app. Contentsquare provides analytical information that can help to tailor websites to improve the digital experiences of users. 

Deezer

Deezer is an online music streaming services similar to Spotify. It was founded in 2007 and counts 16 million active users. 

Doctolib

Doctolib is a platform that connects patients to medical professionals. Creating an account is free and allows you to book medical appointments, with filters such as the kind of care you want, the area of the medical practice and the languages spoken by the doctor. It runs via a user-friendly app and website and is available in France, Italy and Germany. During the Covid-19 pandemic, it has become the main way that French people have booked vaccination appointments. 

Exotec

This company was founded by two engineers in 2014 and manufactures intralogistic robots. The technology is used in warehouses of retailers, supermarkets, e-commerce and industry. In essence, it is used to remove human labour from the supply chain. 

iad

iad is a network where people can sign up to learn how to become an independent real estate agent – it also serves as a site where people can look for property to buy or rent. 14 percent of all properties sold in France in 2020 went through this platform according to one study. 

Ivalua

Ivalua is a tool used by organisations to manage spending and supplies. It operates largely though Artificial Intelligence and provides a wide range of functions designed to improve collaboration and decision-making. 

Ledger

Ledger is a company that provides individuals and businesses an easy way to buy and sell cryptocurrencies and store these currency on USB-type hardware. If you get sick of that guy at work who never stops talking about Bitcoin, this is probably not one for you. 

Lydia

This is a payment app that allows people with French bank accounts to send and receive money with other users, and is often used by friends to reimburse each other with small amounts for dinner, drinks, holidays etc. If you hold your savings in the app, you can benefit from a 0.6 percent interest rate. It also allows you to pay for things overseas without incurring fees. 

ManoMano

ManoMano is an online marketplace specialised in DIY and gardening equipment. It employs 800 people in 4 offices and operates across 6 European markets: France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Germany and the UK. It’s website sells products from more than 3,600 retail partners and stocks more than 10 million products. 

DentalMonitoring

Patients can download this app after undergoing dental work. They can then use the secured system to send pictures of their teeth to their dentist (if the dentist is subscribed to the service). The start-up boasts that it can allow dentists and orthodontistes to carry out remote consultations and that the AI technology embedded in the app can automatically detect dental problems. 

Meero

Meero is a company that connects professional photographers to clients and vice versa. It organises one photo shoot every 25 seconds and has more than 30,000 customers around the world. 

Mirakl

Mirakl is a cloud-based e-commerce company that allows retailers, manufacturers and wholesalers to access a single online market place. The start-up aims to help other businesses scale-up their operations rapidly and describes its staff as “Mirakl workers” (as in the French ‘miracle’ pronounced me-rackluh). 

OVHcloud

This start-up was founded in 1999 and is now Europe’s biggest cloud provider, offering both public and private information storage solutions. They also provide domain name registration, telecoms services and internet connection. 

PayFit

Payfit is an automated payroll service that allows employers to save time dealing with spreadsheets and other systems. It is an intuitive bit of software already being used by 6,500 small and medium-sized businesses.

Qonto

Qonto provides financial services to freelancers, self-employed people, small businesses, charities and new businesses. It provides solutions for managing expenses, accounting, invoices and payments. 

Shift

This company is based in Paris and helps global insurance companies to detect fraudulent insurance claims via artificial intelligence technology. 

Sorare

This is a fantasy football game where users build and manage squads, trading, selling and buying players. It makes use of blockchain technology. French footballer Antoine Griezmann is a major investor. 

A tradable player card from Sorare.

A tradable player card from Sorare. Credit: Sorare

Swile

This is a financial and networking service for businesses and employees. It essentially is a bank card with an app that allows employers to issue anonymous surveys to employees, facilitate communication via a messaging service, organise collections and plan events. 

Vestiare Collective

This is an online marketplace for second-hand luxury fashion. Be aware that some items still cost thousands of euros, so they’re only ‘bargains’ in relative terms. 

Veepee

This is an online and app-based service. Users can create an account for free to be alerted of upcoming sales of up to 70 percent on their favourite brands. It is available in eight European countries including the UK. 

Voodoo

Voodoo is a French mobile game developer and publisher. It provides help for video game developers to promote their work and councils them on the development process. In the past, Voodoo has come under fire for producing games that appear to be closely modelled on other games already on the market.

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