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My 3 Best-Kept Travel Secrets in Europe

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It's not easy to come up with my 3 best-kept travel secrets - 300 would be a lot easier. But when came knocking - they're pulling together a free e-book with a collection of travel secrets by travel bloggers - I decided to give it some thought.

I spent hours roaming around the world in my mind, reminiscing, walking down memory lane. Finally, I decided to stay relatively close to home, because there are as many wonders almost out my back door (Eastern France) as there are across the world.

1. The Isle of Wight

This isn't exactly on my doorstep, but with budget airlines I can be there in just a few hours these days. Plenty of British tourists visit the Isle of Wight, but it's a little hidden gem that's well worth the detour, as the Michelin Guides would say, not only for its unique attractions but also because it provides the quintessential British seaside holiday, sailing, sandy sandwiches and all.

What's special about the Isle of Wight?

  • The Isle of Wight Festival is back after more than 30 years. In the sixties, the festival boasted such legends as Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix. After its last hurrah in 1969, the festival reopened in 2002 with Robert Plant. It has been drawing in world class acts ever since, regaining its former grandeur.
  • Speaking of grandeur mixed with a giant pub crawl, Cowes Week, the world's oldest regatta, takes place in early August with nearly 10,000 competitors and 100,000 visitors, all of whom join in the fun, food, drink and partying and oh, a spot of sailing.
  • Some call it the world's most haunted island and at times, it seems every corner just might be, from the lighthouses to manor houses to guest houses. If you can't find a ghost yourself, take one of the many tours on offer - you'll be certain to uncover a spook!

2. Lyon, the 'other' Paris

Travel to France usually means Paris, a few chateaux in the Loire Valley, usually Provence, and a quick trip to Reims or Burgundy for... you know... the best champagne and wine in the world. But who goes to Lyon? It's even spelled differently in English - Lyons - and for most people it's a backwater.

Lyon street artLyon's famous frescoes - and this isn't the largest of them

It's not! Here are my 3 reasons why you should go:

  • Lyon is known as the Food Capital of France, home of Paul Bocuse and birthplace of the Nouvelle Cuisine. Today, you won't be hankering for seconds in a typical 'bouchon Lyonnais' is a meal to be remembered.
  • A large part of the city's core is a Unesco World Heritage Site, complete with winding streets and traboules (alleys connecting streets used in the past to carry bolts of silk or for smuggling), roman ruins, art deco and futuristic architecture, Basilica, Renaissance courtyards...
  • Some of France's more unusual museums: Fabrics, Miniatures, Gallo-Roman, Urban, Resistance and Deportation, Film Sets, Printing and Puppets, not to mention the world-class art museums you'd expect to find in France's second-largest metropolitan area.

3. The Jura Mountains

When it snows, I can put on my snowshoes and walk straight up the Jura Mountains behind my house. If I really wanted to, I could go on for days. While most tourists focus on the Alps, the nearby Jura - older, lower, greener - sits almost empty - ideal for those who like the wild outdoors.

Why should YOU visit the Jura?

  • The Jura stretches from my corner of France all the way across Switzerland and into Bavaria. If you love nature, depending on the season you can travel for days on end, on foot, ski, horseback, snowshoe or bicycle. While everyone heads for the cities, the beach or Alpine resorts, you could have a mountain range almost all to yourself.
  • The Jura is nature at its best. If you love France but want to wander away from the tourist hordes, you can lose yourself in these mountains for as long as you want. They're a honeycomb of ski and walking trails, waterways and protected areas, whose military history reminds travelers that since Roman times, these mountains served as a bulwark against invasion.
  • Lesser-known but much-appreciated food and wines. After a day of snowshoeing, there's nothing like a rib-sticking 'croute' or raclette to warm you up and get you ready for another day. Leave the Alps to everyone else - and head off the beaten path.
Jura MountainsThe rivers, countryside and mountains of the lower Jura

I'm nominating Lisa from LLWorldTour and Susie from Susie's Big Adventure to share their own top 3 travel secrets on their blogs!