The whole world knows about Paris and its unending charm. Undoubtedly it is on most people’s bucket list. Most people know about Provence and Nimes and Cote d’Azur too because they are popular destinations full of tourist-favourites like beaches and award-winning cuisine and drink. You've heard the saying "step outside the box" and it holds true for travel in France as well. When you step outside the normal tourist destinations, you are likely to move away from the centre of the country and find border towns. These little cities offer a unique look at French culture and how it has evolved with the influences of neighbouring countries.

Belgium + France = Lille, France

Lille is an oft-overlooked major city in France that deserves attention for its picturesque city squares and Flemish-inspired cuisine. If you are an art fanatic, Lille will impress your artistic sensibilities with its world-class art collection. La Piscine in Roubaix is the crowning glory of Lille’s art culture, where sculptures are housed within an old art-deco swimming pool. Stained-glass windows stand guard over the sculptures where tourists can wander through the exhibit. Head to the Old Town next, called Vieux-Lille, or “Old Lille”, for a leisurely stroll and maybe even a sweet treat like a French classic-almond biscuit treat. You’ll see the Flemish accents mostly in the old town where architecture and superb dining experiences are the focus.

Germany + France = Strasbourg, France

Strasbourg is the seat of the European Parliament and whenever Parliament is in session, hotels will likely be full of politicians. Weekends reveal a lower-intensity and casual vibe for Strasbourg, where you can stroll along the canals and take in the skyline of this modern yet rustic city. Perhaps the most striking influence nearby Germany has had on Strasbourg is in the architecture.

Strasbourg, France

Pictures of this quaint city will conjure up images of traditional German-styling. If it isn’t the architecture, the nightlife is Germany’s biggest contribution to this French city. Local taverns are sure to serve up every imaginable kind of beer ready to be enjoyed. When you are through exploring Strasbourg, you are merely a few hours by train from your next adventure in Stuttgart, Germany or to Basel, Switzerland.

Spain + France = Perpignan, France

Tucked in the Pyrenees Mountains is Perpignan, which is a short three hours away from Barcelona by train. Take your time in this travelling stop-over though and you’ll find history, colour and culture throughout. Get a dose of history when you walk to the Palais des Rois de Majorque, where the 13th century fortress stands tall as a memory of when Perpignan was the capital of the Kingdom of Majorca. If you happen to be visiting during July, you’ll get to experience “les jeudis de Perignan” where the streets come to life every Thursday with all manner of entertainment. Watch as dancers, jugglers, and everything in between enjoy the summer weather and the jovial vibe of this city.

Step out of your typical travelling box, put down the guidebook and head to these destinations for a taste of the real France and little hints of the rest of Europe as well. International travel insurance from Cover-More Australia can be an important addition to every holiday because it offers policyholders benefits and support that otherwise wouldn’t be available. No one wants to be hit with unexpected complications on their holiday, but with Cover-More at your back, you’ll likely be able to overcome the inconvenience and keep going.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Boulanger.IE.