...and where to find the oddest regional accents, the best beer and, of course, Napoleon's birthplace

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The Independent Travel
Alsace - This is the rich, Germanic part of France where people eat pretzels and drink as much beer as wine. The rest of France hates the accent and the rest of Europe hates Strasbourg - but it is still a charming area of vineyards and waterways. One of the nicest things you can do here is hire a fully-equipped boat for a week with Hoseasons (01502 500505). A luxury two-berth vessel will set you back pounds 763 for a week in high season; 12-berth boats are also available.

Auvergne - Right in the middle of the Massif Central, this is an area of fresh air, rushing streams and red roofs. Le Puy, with its towering volcanic outcroppings, is one of the most spectacular towns in France. For guided walking holidays through the uplands of the Auvergne, call Headwater on 01606 813367

Burgundy - Wine and mustard are the most interesting products, and the cuisine comprises a heady mix of red meats and red wines - boeuf bourgignon and coq au vin were dreamt up by chefs local to the area.

Inland waterways - Another big feature for tourists. The main canals are the Canal de Bourgogne and the Canal du Nivernais. Call Hoseasons (01502 500505) for details about hiring boats.

Champagne-Ardenne - Home to the most famous fizzy alcoholic drink in the world, this is also where you will find the great cathedral city of Reims. One operator which offers tours of the Champagne region, based at Reims, is DA Tours (tel: 01383 881700).

Corsica - Napoleon's birthplace may not count as France to some of its residents but don't let that put you off. You can catch fast ferries here from Nice, or fly straight in from Britain. For the last word on Corsican holidays, call Corsican Places Limited on 01424 460046.

Franche-Comte - Come here to hear the oddest regional accent in France. In winter tourists come here for skiing in the Jura mountains north of Geneva; in summer it is a vast rural area of rolling uplands, woodland and pasture. Besancon - where Victor Hugo was born - is the attractive main city, at the foot of the Jura.

Languedoc-Rousillon - To French ears the very name sounds heavy and mediaeval, quite the opposite of dainty and refined places like the Loire. The region stretches from Perpignon in the south right into the Massif Centrale - including the Cevennes, that upland wilderness inhabited formerly by persecuted protestants and latterly by hippies. Headwater (01606 813367) offers independent walks in the Cevennes.

Limousin - This is the land of not only fine porcelain but also, oddly enough, of sackings. The verb "Limoger" (from the city of Limoges) is now used in common parlance meaning "to give the sack". On a less trivial note, Limousin is also where you will find the derelict ruins of Oradour- sur-Glane, location for the worst atrocity committed against the French during the Second World War - the massacre of the population of an entire town.

Lorraine - The poor cousin of Alsace, Lorraine's main claim to fame is that Joan of Arc was born here. It is also a place of watery delights: in the Vosges area you'll find towns such as Vittel and Bains-les-bains.

Midi-Pyrenees - The western part of this region is better know to the English by the ancient name of Gascony. Tony Blair and his family came here last year for their summer holiday, which just proves how nice and undiscovered it must be. For a whole range of gites, villas and apartments in these grassy hills north of the Pyrenees, call The Gascony Secret on 01284 827253.

Poitou-Charentes - With its little window on the Atlantic, campers come here for la Rochelle, one of the most delightful cities in France. Try Sandpiper Camping Holidays on 01932 868658.

Val de Loire - The main draw are the fabulous chateaux of the French aristocracy - see page seven of this section for details of how to stay in these. Known as Le Jardin de France this is the land of old kings and correctly spoken French. You can also come here to spot birds, plants and butterflies with Naturetrek (01962 733051) - guided tours cost about pounds 700 for eight days.

Western Loire - Incorporating the Vendee - a huge chunk of the Atlantic coast between Brittany and Aquitaine - you'll find this whole shore full of campers and caravanners in the summertime. All right so it's not the Mediterranean but the beaches are just as sandy.

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