As if caught on a breeze from the Atlantic, Western France unfurls from the sea atop dramatic white cliffs in Normandy, stretching out from sandy seaside coves in Brittany, and gently rolling through the deep green heart of the Loire Valley. The northern coast is most recently renowned for its D-Day beaches and World War II monuments, but the Norman seaside gives us so much more. The fairytale island of Mont-Saint-Michel gently balances a floating abbey and the towering Étretat Cliffs create gateways to the sea, while favorite fishing villages immortalized by Claude Monet and Gustave Courbet remain unchanged and the home of Christian Dior continues to inspire haute couture. Iconic fish markets still offer the best fresh oysters alongside a glass of wine.
Excellence in seaside cuisine trickles south-westward into Brittany but swap the vin for cidre. Amongst fortified castles dramatically sprouting up from the seashore, the deep traditions of the once-sovereign region permeate the senses through the Breton dialect and Celtic music, across thatched-roof houses and Neolithic sites, and in sweet or savory crêpes dusted with sea salt. Follow the stout Breton horses into a boundless countryside that seamlessly blends into innumerable wine estates along the Loire River. Here in the UNESCO-protected “château country,” storybook castles with delicate spires and robust turrets are seemingly painted into the idyllic landscape. Impressively boasting 87 sub-regions for winemaking, the most famous nectars here are of a fruity white variety: Crémon, Chenin Blanc, and Sauvignon Blanc. With exquisite estates, charming towns, and more incredible gastronomy, the “Garden of France” makes it easy to live like royalty.