There’s More To France Than Paris

with Martha Chapman

Mélanie Paul-Hus of Atout France Canada

Air Canada's Simona Cercel (left) spoke about AC’s long amour with France

Xavier Theret of Le Voyage à Nantes

Ah, France:  the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre museum, the Champs Elysees! Oui?

Actually, non.

Not to say that the charms of Paris are not legendary, but let’s just say that France has so much to offer your clients beyond the nation’s capital.

That was the message at a small gathering at the Gladstone Hotel in Toronto’s uber-hip Queen West neighbourhood this past week. Featuring an intimate group of tourism promoters from smaller cities and off-the-beaten-path regions, the evening was a lovely way to learn more about the charms of France beyond Paris – and help celebrate a special birthday of official French tourism efforts in Canada.

“We have been helping Canadians to fall in love with France for 70 years now,” said Mélanie Paul-Hus, the recently-appointed Director for Canada of Atout France, the French tourist promotion office. “We were here even before there were flights between Canada and France!”

Speaking of flights, Air Canada (then Trans-Canada Airlines) was the first, back in 1966 when early flights operated a numbing Montreal-Prestwick/Glasgow–London–Paris routing.  “The service to Paris was so special that we had unique flight attendant uniforms just for those flights,” Simona Cercel of Air Canada told the group.

Things have changed, of course, and for 2018 the carrier will be featuring daily service from Toronto and Montreal and 3x-weekly service from Montreal to Lyon, Nice and Marseille.

And perhaps those passengers will be taking in some of the appeal of off-the-beaten-path France, such as Brittany in the country’s northwest corner.  Here a week long self-drive itinerary could include the charms of Saint-Malo and Mont-Saint-Michel, with leisurely driving days of 100 km or less. The itinerary is called A Modern Journey through an Old Land and sounds lovely. “You arrive in Mont-Saint-Michel late afternoon, as the hordes of day tourists leave, and spend the night,” Xavier Theret of Le Voyage à Nantes told me.  “It’s magical.”

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