Okay, let's be honest; there isn't any 'undiscovered France',
those good people of the Institut National de l'Information Géographique et
Forestière have contrived to find it all. And, to dispel another myth, much of
what is described as 'medieval', is anything but.
For the record, in European history, the Medieval period
(also known as the Middle Ages), lasted from the 5th to the 15th century. It
began with the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and merged into the
Renaissance (14th-17th centuries) and the Age of Discovery (early 15th-17th
century). The Middle Ages is the middle period of three traditional divisions
of Western history: Antiquity, Medieval and Modern. There is very little in
France remaining from this era.
But, there are parts of France that, compared to Provence,
the Alps, Ile de France, Brittany, the French Riviera and Languedoc, are
relatively undiscovered. Yet, surprise, surprise, even here you'll find
supermarkets, people driving modern cars, farmers using modern machinery, high-speed
Internet and 3G.
In every part of France, there are places ignored by the
masses; places that don't figure on 'Tick Lists', and are all the better for it.
Here are a few examples; places you won't regret visiting.
The Forêt de Fontainebleau is a large forested area dotted
with rocky outcrops, and well provided with walking and cycling trails.
Franche Comté lies just to the north of Switzerland, and
comprises most of the French Jura mountains. It is a beautiful rural area,
famed for its cheeses and its clocks: the regional capital Besançon is a UNESCO
world heritage site.
The Auvergne is another mountainous region, with much to
offer in terms of natural heritage and scenery, and even more in terms of
historic monuments and cultural tourism. Lying away from the traditional routes
to the south of France, the Auvergne has yet to develop its potential in terms
of outdoor tourism.
Midi-Pyrénées, stretching from the Auvergne to the border
with Spain, is the largest and one of the most rural regions of France, very
diversified, and full of history, magnificent landscapes and opportunities to
enjoy a break away from the crowds.
Other 'undiscovered' regions include Burgundy – touristy
along the wine trails, but otherwise quite unexplored, and Limousin, a rural
area of hills and valleys to the west of the Auvergne. Aude, too, part of
greater Languedoc-Roussillon, is a place of many nooks and crannies, not least
the idyllic Minerve, which is worth a day of anyone's time.