Eco-tourism and green living in France is endlessly evolving – our regular column brings you the latest news and tourism developments. In this column, we’ll look at smart tourism, electric bikes and four Michelin Green Star restaurants.
Sustainable and Smart
Bordeaux, the capital of Gironde and epicentre of the most reputable winemaking region in the world (discuss!), is the European Capital of Smart Tourism for 2022. The Smart Tourism initiative recognises outstanding achievements by European cities as tourism destinations in four categories: sustainability, accessibility, digitalisation and cultural heritage and creativity. This EU-wide scheme aims “to promote smart tourism in the EU, network and strengthen destinations, and facilitate the exchange of best practices”.
The Bordeaux region boasts 7,000 châteaux and was at the forefront of the creation of the “wine tourism” concept: two million “wine tourists” visited its vineyards in 2018 and 65% of the vineyards’ surface area have received certification for their environmental efforts. The city itself is also seriously green, with four tramlines (100% disabled access) and Darwin, an amazing urban ecosystem located on the city’s right bank. This “eco-rehabilitated” former military barracks offers a skate park, a Bric à Brac Emmaüs second-hand store and much more. Keep abreast of news and events at en.greengrenoble2022.eu
Julien Bayou, National Secretary of leading French ecology party Europe Écologie les Verts (EELV), has called for an end to the “racket” contracts between the State and motorway management companies who collect péage tolls. He also called for changing toll rates according to the level of pollution or the income level of users.
Launched in December 2021, Montpellier company Cycloe has begun converting mechanical bikes into electric ones. They dismantle the bottom bracket and pedals and install a pedal motor to drive the chain – all fed by a battery fixed to the bike frame. Prices from €889. cycloe.fr
A Gard start-up, L’Atelier Organique, is revolutionising urban greenery with standalone “totems” – a “modular landscaping solution” that houses plants and lighting wherever tree planting has become impossible. A solar panel generates its own electricity, while the large water reserve automatically irrigates the plants and flowers. atelierorganique.fr
An Eco Tale
Actress and director Mélanie Laurent is well known in France for her commitment to the environment and now she has written a children’s book on the subject. Les larmes d’Eugénie (Eugenie’s Tears) is an ecological tale aimed at making children aware of the problems of overfishing, which is so damaging to marine ecosystems.
Accommodation: A Country Welcome
You know what they say – country folk are more friendly. Which is why the French organisation Accueil Paysan, launched back in 1987, is so successful, and why it has become a benchmark for anyone seeking an authentic country break.
The network of farmers and rural businesses committed to “peasant” agriculture and sustainable, fair and solidarity-based tourism currently has 900 members in France and 300 members in 32 countries. The headquarters of the association is in Grenoble.
Of course, the transaction is two-way – your visit enables farmers to make a decent living on their land and also to thus contribute to local development. To find a rural retreat to suit your needs – from accommodation, eating options and farm products to visits/animations, explore the website. We especially love the search function by product, which reveals the best places to buy everything from snails to saffron. www.accueil-paysan.com
Be a Frontrunner
It is clear that consumers’ adoption of sustainable behaviour in tourism has been growing over recent years, and research by the European Travel Commission has shown that the global pandemic has driven more sustainable travel trends. But are you what they define as a Frontrunner (most altruistic); one of the Comfortable Crowd (habitual low-footprint travellers), or a laggard (habitual high-footprint traveller)?
Change For the Better: Eat Your Greens
If you wish to adopt a greener approach to your visits to France, but seek an ecological commitment from restaurants, keep an eye out for Michelin’s Green Star, created in 2020. Here are four of our favourites…
Claire Vallée’s pioneering Michelin-starred vegan restaurant. Alas ONA (Origine Non Animale) announced a temporary closure on January 6, 2022 due to staffing issues, but watch this space. Ona is temporarily closed. clairevallee.com/en/accueil-english
La Mirande, Avignon
Sample Green Star gourmet delights in a room where, in the 14th century, the cardinals treated the popes to dinner, or the restaurant’s garden adjacent to the impressive walls of the Pope’s Palace. www.la-mirande.fr
La Table de Nazère, Avezan
Valérie and Antoine source the finest produce from market and land – foie gras, poultry, garlic from Lomagne, melons from Lectoure, Armagnac and regional wines… www.nazere.fr/fr/restaurant-gers
Serge Vieira, Chaudes-Aigues
With its stunning location at the medieval Château de Couffour in Cantal, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Serge Vieira’s dining experience is all about simplicity and authenticity. sergevieira.com/en
From France Today magazine
Lead photo credit : La Table de Nazère, Avezan