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11 ways to make the most of autumn in France

The Local France
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11 ways to make the most of autumn in France
Autumn leaves at the Sainte-Bernadette church in Orvault, western France. Photo by LOIC VENANCE / AFP

From festivals to tasting new wines, mushroom-foraging to learning a new skill - here are some of the ways to make the most of the fall in France.

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Make a rentrée resolution - September in France marks la rentrée, when kids begin the new school years and adults return to work after the holidays.

But it's also a bit of a cultural moment of restarting and re-setting, probably a bigger deal than New Year in France. And in the spirit of starting afresh plenty of people make resolutions to learn a new skill and get fit - which means there are lots of new classes starting at this time of year.

Help with la vendange - late summer and early autumn is when vineyards across France harvest their grapes and begin to make new wines. Most vineyards are huge, professional organisations which increasingly rely on migrant labour for the harvest period, but there are still plenty of small, family-operated vineyards that are looking for help with the grape-picking.

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Enjoy the wine sales - if you would rather drink wine than get involved in making it, autumn is also a good time for you, as there are plenty of wine sales at this time of year. Most supermarkets, wine caves and wine-selling websites run an early autumn sale called the Foire aux vins - this is essentially a stock-clearing exercise so it's a great opportunity to get a bargain on a few special bottles.

There's also Beaujolais Nouveau Day, held in November, to celebrate the first primeurs (wines that only mature for a short time) of the season.

Go to Cordes-sur-Ciel - this beautiful medieval hilltop town in south west France is well worth a visit at any time of the year, but in autumn a particular phenomenon happens, which is how the town got its name.

The town is perched on top of a steep hill and on autumn mornings, when mist and fog covers the valley floor, it appears to be floating above the clouds - which is why it is named Cordes 'on the sky'.

If you don't see the fog, there's also a chocolate museum where they are generous with free samples.

Go mushroom-foraging - if you're in French woodland at this time of year you will see lots of families toting baskets and slightly furtive expressions. The baskets are for mushrooms and the furtive expressions are not because mushroom-picking is illegal - unless you are on private land - it's because many families have a 'secret' spot where the best mushrooms grow, that they like to keep to themselves.

Be safe though, if you're at all unsure about what type of mushrooms you have picked, French pharmacies offer a mushroom-checking service.

READ ALSO Everything you need to know for safe and enjoyable mushroom foraging in France

View the changing leaves - autumn leaves are a beautiful sight, and France has plenty of stunning locations in which to really appreciate them, from the volcanic landscape of the Auvergne to the Alps or the natural park of Morvan, in eastern France

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Carve pumpkins - If you are looking to recreate an American-style Halloween by carving some pumpkins, you are in luck. Pumpkins (or citrouille in French) are grown across central France. For carving and cooking purposes, you should be able to find them at your local grocery store during the fall.

Though, if you are looking for a more authentic pumpkin-patch experience, you can search "cueillette citrouille" or "champ de citrouille" with your city to see what is nearby. For those living in Paris, "les fermes de gally" - which is about an hour outside the city on public transport - host a pumpkin picking event every year.

Go on a bike ride - hiking or cycling is the perfect way to appreciate the French landscape and now that the summer is over there is less risk of dehydration or sunburn.

France has a great variety of both on-road and off-road cycle routes, including the voie verte network which covers large parts of the country - find out more HERE.

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Take a train ride - if you're looking for a less strenuous way to appreciate the view, then why not enjoy it through the window of a train? Now that the peak season of summer is over, trains are a lot less crowded and make for a relaxing and scenic travel experience.

VIDEO 12 of the most beautiful train journeys in France

Eat hot melted cheese - as the temperatures fall out come the classic winter dishes - hearty soups, warming stews and hot desserts. But the best of these are those made with melted cheese - primarily fondue or raclette - which traditionally should only be eaten in the cooler months of the year

Festivals - France has a busy year-round calendar of festivals and autumn is no exception, with events celebrating music, film, chocolate, spicy peppers and staying up all night, to name but a few. For example, the 2023 British Film Festival of Dinard - arguably the most British of French seaside resorts, will start on Wednesday, September 27th.

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