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FRENCH POLITICS

Sun, sea and mountains: Where France’s politicians go on holiday

After an unusually late session that continued into August, the French parliament has now paused for the summer holidays - and the government is heading for the beach, the mountains and the islands. Here's where the great and the good of France (well, the politicians anyway) take their holidays.

Sun, sea and mountains: Where France's politicians go on holiday
The fort de Bregancon, summer residence of France's presidents. (Photo: Boris Horvat / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron was the first to depart Paris for the vacation, and has been photographed this week kayaking in the seas off the French Riviera.

He’s at the Presidential hideaway at Fort de Brégançon for a three-week stay – although he says it is a pause estival studieuse (summer study break) rather than a holiday. He will take part in commemorations of the Allied invasion of Provence on August 15th.

In his absence the government continued working, passing the final cost-of-living bill through parliament, but ministers are now free until the next cabinet meeting – in the diary for August 24th. 

Ministers must take their breaks at “a destination compatible with the exercise of their responsibilities”, within a two-hour flight from Paris in case their urgent presence is required.

In practice, this largely means staying in France, which anyway is pretty common for most normal French families over the summer.

So where should you go if you want to spot a French minister? Or conversely, where will you be able to avoid bumping into a member of government?

If you’re allergic to politicians, we would suggest avoiding the Mediterranean coast

Prime minister Elisabeth Borne will head to the Var département, in the south east, for her holiday.

Also along south coast will be Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin and Transport Minister Clément Beaune, who are both expected to spend their vacation time in Bouches-du-Rhône (although there’s no suggestion that they will be holidaying together).

Meanwhile Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti will head for Alpes-Maritimes (Nice and the surrounding area) and Minister for Territorial Organisation and Health Professions minister Agnès Firmin Le Bodo will holiday in Vaucluse.

Just over the sea is the island of Corsica, which is also popular with government ministers.

Franck Riester, burdened with the title Minister Delegate for Relations with Parliament and Democratic Life, will be heading there, along with his colleagues Catherine Colonna (Europe Minister) and Public Accounts Minister Gabriel Attal.

Again, we should point out that these are separate holidays on the same island, there’s no suggestion that the three will be sharing a villa and rubbing suncream onto each other’s backs. 

France’s northern coastline of Brittany and Normandy has long been popular with holidaymakers and government ministers are no exception.

Education Minister Pap Ndiaye and Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu will both head for Normandy for their vacations.

Culture Minister Rima Abdul Malak is heading in the same direction – and will spend a few days Saint-Brieuc, Côtes-d’Armor, before heading for the Chartreuse massif, in the south-east of the country.

Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire is expected to start his holiday period with a week in Brittany, before heading down to the Basque Country in the far south-west of France. He owns a second-home in the Basque Country, which was recently targeted by protesters worried about the effect that the large numbers of maisons secondaires are having on the local economy.

And finally there are those ministers who quit Paris and head back to the regions where they grew up.

Minister for People with Disabilities Geneviève Darrieussecq will head home to the Landes département in south west France.

Health Minister François Braun will holiday in the Alps, while Environment Minister Christophe Béchu will head back to his roots in Maine-et-Loire. Agriculture Minister Marc Fesneau, too, is holidaying at home in Loir-et-Cher.

Because of the unusually late session in August, Parliament is not scheduled to return until October 3rd.

However, ministers will be back in Paris by August 24th for their next cabinet meeting and the month of September will be spent drafting and consulting on some major pieces of legislation – including a bill on immigration and a far-reaching energy bill that aims to cut the entire country’s energy use by 10 percent. 

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CHRISTMAS

14 of the best Christmas markets in France in 2022

As Christmas approaches, towns and cities across France get into the festive spirit. Here’s our list of go-to seasonal markets, fetes and fairs

14 of the best Christmas markets in France in 2022

Nancy

An early start to the seasonal celebrations in Nancy, as the city’s St Nicholas’ festival kicks off on November 18th, and runs to January 3rd.

St Nicolas Day – December 6th – is a huge deal in Germany, and because of historic links to Germany many areas of north east France celebrate it as well.

In Nancy they combine St Nicolas and Christmas into a 40-day celebration which features a Christmas market, ferris wheel, ice rink artistic tours through the towns, and – on the weekend of December 3rd – a parade celebrating the patron saint of Lorraine.

Strasbourg

Strasbourg has got pretty good at running Christmas markets over the years – it has been doing it since around 1570 and they brand themselves the ‘Christmas capital of France’. This year’s celebrations kick off on November 25th and run to January 2nd – and the tree is already in place in Place Kleber. 

This year, 300 chalets will host local artisans selling Christmas gift ideas on the Grande Île, while the streets will be festooned with illuminations celebrating a very Alsace Christmas. The markets will close on December 24th, but the Village de l’Avent will continue into the New Year.

Organisers say they want the market to be more traditional this year, and have banned a long list of items that are either not local or were deemed ‘too tacky’.

READ ALSO Champagne, tartiflette and dog toys banned from 2022 Strasbourg Christmas market

Colmar

Strasbourg likes to boast that it is France’s ‘Christmas capital’. But, though smaller Colmar, less than an hour down the A35, has a Christmas market that’s perfectly formed – and less hectic, but still enjoys those Alsace-Lorraine festive traditions. It runs from November 24th to December 29th this year.

Eguisheim

Sticking in the Christmas-loving north-east of France, medieval Eguisheim – with colourful Alsatian houses around the castle is a must-visit. Its authentic and traditional Christmas market is an opportunity to discover the local gastronomic products and enjoy a glass of vin chaud with the villagers.

The Christmas market, along with the Ronde de Noël on the town ramparts, begins on November 25th and runs until December 30th.

Mulhouse

Mulhouse’s Christmas market takes place in a sea of Christmas fabric. Almost 10km of festive material decorate the frontages, monuments and pedestrian streets in the city’s historical centre for the celebrations, which kick off on November 24th and run to December 27th.

Try Alsatian sweets such as the Berawecka – a spongy cake with pears, plums, figs and kirsch – or the Pebkucha – a cake with honey and spices – and get handcrafted products such as wooden toys or Christmas decorations. 

READ ALSO Eight of the best winter experiences in France

Nice

In case you were thinking Christmas celebrations in France were limited to the northeast of the country, Nice’s annual festivities run from December 3rd to January 2nd and bring a little southern flavour.

It’s not a Christmas speciality, but while you’re there definitely try the local socca bread.

Mouans-Sartoux

In fact, the south of France has a Christmas tradition all its own, celebrated in Mouans-Sartoux – the Foire aux Santons opened on November 4th and runs until December 24th. As well as the traditional mini-figures, used to populate seasonal creches, there will be a Christmas market, light festival and other events to celebrate. 

Lyon

Another one on a slightly different note, Lyon’s Fête des Lumières is a magnificent event which has made the reputation of the city. 

Between December 8th and 11th, the Fête des Lumières invites visitors from across the world to enjoy enchanting walks in a setting of 46 lights and sound creations. 

There’s also a more traditional Christmas market with 90 illuminated chalets which offer local products and arts and crafts. Lyon is known as the foodie capital of France, so enjoy superior food at the market.

Montbéliard

Montbéliard, on France’s border with Switzerland, calls its market “the Lights of Christmas”. During the advent period, from November 26th to December 24th, its picturesque city centre is illuminated with thousands of lights. 

The market gathers 160 craftsmen who sell authentic and traditional products. The good fairy of the Pays de Montbéliard Aunt Airie keeps local traditions going by telling her story to the children. 

Lille

Lille starts celebrating Christmas on November 18th, and doesn’t stop until December 30th.

Around 900,000 visitors a year head to the charming Christmas market in Flanders’ capital, which is set to feature more local artisans and traders, as well as those from regions of France, Poland, Canada, and Germany.

Paris

The capital hosts several Christmas markets. Opposite the Eiffel Tower, for example, 60 wooden chalets spring up, where – between December 16th and January 2nd – artisans sell craft products and culinary wonders.

There are also markets at Notre-Dame, Montmartre, gare de l’Est, Auteuil, Trocadéro au Champs de Mars, the Tuileries, the Hôtel de Ville, and Saint-Germain des Prés.

Ile-de-France

Beyond the periph’ the biggest Christmas Market in the greater Paris region is at La Defense and runs from November 23rd to December 24th, where some 350 chalets will be occupied by artisans and traders selling gifts for the season.

Bordeaux

From November 25th to December 25th, the Allées de Tourny is transformed into a winter wonderland, with the usual array of stalls selling festive gifts, and treats while the unmistakable aroma of a foodie Christmas fills the air.

Bayonne

Bayonne invites visitors to rediscover the magic of Christmas from December 3rd to January 2nd – from the Ferris wheel on Place de la Liberté, Santa Claus village in Les Halles, Christmas market on Place du Réduit, lantern evenings, parades in town… to delight young and old alike.

Small towns

Most towns in France have some sort of Christmas market, even if it’s just for a couple of days, and sometimes these are nicer and more relaxed than the big events.

Local craftsmen and shops take stalls and you can also try local food specialties – such as Toulouse sausage and aligot in the south, hot spiced cider in Brittany or the ’12 desserts of Christmas’ in Provence.

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