by Anthony Peregrine from The Telegraph, July 13, 2017
1. Villa La Coste, Aix-en-Provence
Since being bought by Irish property tycoon Paddy McKillen, the La Coste domain between Aix and the Luberon has fused wine production with extraordinary architecture (Gehry and Nouvel designed the buildings) and a greatest-hits collection of modern sculpture dotted about the 500-acre domain. Next stage is the full opening of the domain's hyper-contemporary hotel likely, we think, to out-exquisite all the other exquisite hotels in Provence. We're talking suites, not rooms, private pools, a gastro-restaurant run by Gérald Passédat (0033 442 505000, villalacoste.com).
2. Battle of Arras centenary
This was, for British and Commonwealth forces, the stand-out French conflict of 1917. And its 100th anniversary is a stand-out reason for visiting what is anyway a smashing town, and one of the more engrossing Great War districts. The Wellington Quarry - part of a vast underground network expanded to conceal 24,000 troops pre-battle - was a focal point of April 9 ceremonies. (Schedule your visit for another time: it's usually fully-booked around then). Nearby, a brand new visitor centre explaining outstanding Canadian exploits opens at Vimy Ridge in spring, while the Arras Fine Arts museum hosts military art, and a trench reconstruction (arras1418.fr).
3. Côte-d'Azur garden festival
And not before time. The French Riviera is as celebrated for its gardens - many established by 19th-century English-speakers - as it is for its celebrities. There are some 80 (gardens, not celebrities) you may visit, so the Côte's first garden fest, which took place this year from April 1 to May 1, was long overdue. Centrepiece is a competition for specially-created gardens. You'll find them in Cannes, Grasse, Nice, Antibes and Menton. Pegged to the comp are other events throughout the year (departement06.fr).
4. TGV to Bordeaux
At last, the Paris-Bordeaux TGV service roared into action on July 2, putting the wine capital and real capital within a couple of hours of one another (as opposed to the present 3h11). Whether that's worth £5.3 billion, we don't know - but it does mean that Bordeaux will be day-trippable from Paris. You want to see both Paris and Bordeaux's magnificent Cité du Vin (opened in 2016), this is your chance (voyages-sncf.com).
5. Le Havre is 500 years old
Give the Norman port just a cursory glance and you'll be misled. Flattened during the war, the place was put back together on what critics call Soviet lines. Wrongly, we'd say. This was a post-war exercise to replace an insalubrious old town with light, airy and clean premises. A little monolithic, perhaps, but healthy. Have a proper nose round and you'll see wonders. Also, until October 8 of this anniversary year, art installations, street theatre and first-rate exhibitions. For the final month, Monet's Impressions, Sunrise - which effectively launched Impressionism from Le Havre - returns home, to the Museum of Modern Art (uneteauhavre2017.fr).
6. Flights to Auvergne
Clermont-Ferrand-based airline, Fly Kiss (fly-kiss.com) has not only a terrific name but also, in 2017, regular Luton-Clermont flights. Thus might you wing directly to the brand new ASM Experience, Europe's only rugby-themed museum, based on the sporting prominence of ASM Clermont-Auvergne (asm-experience.com). Also increasingly accessible becomes the fine old town of Le Puy which, back in May this year, inaugurated a "light path" round the city's cathedral and other key monuments, sensationally illuminated every night through summer (puydelumiere.fr).
7. Balloons in Lorraine
Conceivably the world's biggest hot-air balloon assembly - the title is disputed by Albuquerque in the US - the biennial Mondial Air Ballons in NE France is at once as huge and elegant, as dramatic and playful, as the balloons themselves. Some 450 will be gathering, from around 50 countries, at the Chambley ex-NATO airfield near Metz from July 21-30. Look out for daily mass flights and balloon handling comps, associated ground attractions and the chance for visitors to try flying themselves (pilatre-de-rozier.com).
8. Bridge 2017
On June 26, 1917, the first US troops landed at St Nazaire, en route to the Great War. Through September, this year sees the Loire estuary area celebrating an American Summer in commemoration. Highlights so far have included the 3-a-side basketball world cup in Nantes (which took place last month), jazz festivals in Nantes and St Nazaire, and The Bridge - a race between the Queen Mary 2 (built in St Nazaire) and four multihulls skippered by French sailing stars, from St Nazaire to Verrazano Bridge, NY (thebridge2017.com).
9. Picasso in Rouen
Picasso in Spain, in Paris, on the Côte-d'Azur .. but in Normandy? Certainly, if only just. In the 1930, he bought Boisgeloup château at Gisors, on the region's eastern limit. There, until 1937, he focused on sculpture - and Marie-Thérèse Walter. In homage, regional capital Rouen will, until Sept 11, focus on the artist's Norman links with wide-ranging exhibitions in three museums: Beaux Arts, Musée de la Céramique and Musée Le Secq-des-Tournelles (musees-rouen-normandie.fr).
10. July 14
Bastille Day 2017 will have a particular force and vulnerability, following the savagery on Nice's Promenade des Anglais last July 14. There is no better reason to ensure that we're in the country at the moment, that we attend any July 14 events going and thus demonstrate that, despite Brexit, we remain on the same side as the French, bound by values of decency and freedom.