France in 2024: Olympics, Impressionists and War Memorials

L TO R: Valerie Joannon, Marketing Executive for Normandy Tourism; Marine Esch, Promotion/PR for Occitanie Tourism; Bertrand Pous, France Consul General in Toronto; Melanie Paul-Hus; Atout France Director for Canada; Karen Acs, Senior Manager, Regional Sales, Air Canada; Lisa McLean, Marketing Manager, USA, Canada & Latin America, Le Boat.

France is looking forward to hosting one of the world’s biggest events in 2024. They’re also looking back to a couple of major anniversaries.

Paris will host the world next July and August when it stages the Summer Olympic Games from 26JUL to 11AUG, and then the Paralympics 28AUG to 8SEP.

France also will celebrate 150 years of Impressionist painting and will note the 80th anniversary of D-Day on 6JUN.

Atout France held a gathering for travel media members in Toronto on 10OCT, with special attention given to the Normandy and Occitanie regions, and also a presentation about cruising the waterways of France from Le Boat.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie is a marvelous hilltop village near Cahors, in the Occitanie region of France. Jim Byers Photo

Atout France doesn’t have recent visitation numbers, but Melanie Paul-Hus, the organization’s director for Canada, said things are going swimmingly.

“The numbers are strong,” she said. “We’re super happy. Even the fall situation is impressive.

“Canadians were out in force last summer, with double digit growth.”

Paul-Hus said that both leisure and business travel are solid in France right now. She noted that some 80 million people visited France in 2022, making it the top international destination in the world.

Both Paris and Normandy, where Monet painted some of his best-known works, will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Impressionist movement next year with special exhibitions, she said.

France in 2024 will mark 150 years of Impressionist painting. Jonathan Borba/Unsplash Photo

She also took the time to thank both Air Canada and Air Canada Vacations for being valuable partners of Atout France.

Bertrand Pous, the French consul general in Toronto, said Canada is one of six key international markets for French tourism.

He also noted the government of France is committed to reducing the impact of international travel and is committed to being the world’s most sustainable destination by 2030.

Paul-Hus encouraged visitors to see lesser-known areas of France, or to explore in the off-season.

Karen Acs, Senior Manager Regional Sales for Air Canada, said the airline is substantially increasing capacity to France this winter. There are two Montreal-Paris routes offered each day throughout the year, as well as daily Toronto-Paris flights. Air Canada also flies between Montreal and Toulouse five days a week all year long. In addition, there are Montreal-Lyon and Montreal-Nice flights.

Acs said France is magical in winter, with tremendous skiing and other snow sports, as well as thermal spas.

Marine Esch from Occitanie Tourism told members of the media that her region in southern France offers 220 km’s of coastline, 44 ski resorts, amazing cities such as Toulouse and Montpellier, and also tremendous food and wine. She also noted Occitanie is home to the Canal du Midi, which is famous for houseboating.

The region is adding a new railway tour to aid sustainable travel, with tickets priced at just 10 Euros. The Marciac Jazz Festival will take place again next summer, and Toulouse will host an “urban opera” with giant animated figures made by Compagnie La Machine from 25OCT to 27OCT, Esch said.

Your Open Jaw correspondent had the good fortune of spending several days in the region a few years ago, exploring hilltop villages such as Saint-Cirq-Lapopie and Cordes-Sur-Ciel, wandering through the majestic Cirq-du-Gavarnie valley in the Pyrenees, and checking out wineries near Cahors, which is famous for its dark Malbec.

The Cirque de Gavarnie is a tremendous spot in the French Pyrenees. Atout France/Occitanie Tourism Photo

Valerie Joannon from Normandie Tourism said there will be some 200 Impressionist exhibitions in Paris and Normandy next year. The main event will be the Normandy Impressionist Festival which returns from 22MAR to 22SEP.

Lisa McLean from Le Boat said her company offers house boats in nine areas of France, including the Loire River, Burgundy, Alsace and Brittany. Boats come in a variety of sizes, have full kitchens, and are easy to steer and dock.

“If you can drive a car, you can drive one of our boats,” she said. “They’re like a floating cottage. You can eat, sleep and live on board. You can go to a restaurant in town, or go to a farmer’s market and cook your own dinner.”

It’s a slow, easy way to travel (top speed is 10 km/hour) and the trips are great for families or a girls getaway, McLean said. Customers can even rent bikes or stand-up paddleboards.

“You can rent a boat for three to six days, or seven to 10 or more. You can make up your own itinerary; just bring it back on time.”

Le Boat current is offering up to 20% off on all 2024 boating holidays, she said.

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