France is a landscape of incomparable beauty and contrast, punctuated with chateaux, vineyards and all the other aspects that make it so unique. It is a place with warm, friendly and welcoming people and where village life goes on much as it has done for decades. The pace of French cities may be frenetic, but is maintained with a certain panache.
Here are 10 good reasons to visit the country and to help you with your plans for a great French holiday experience.
Cities: Paris epitomises France. It oozes Gallic spirit and charm from its iconic attractions such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Notre Dame to the street artists of Monmartre and the cafes and bars of Monparnasse. Also check out monument-filled Lyons, France’s largest seaport, Marseilles, and Nice – grande dame of the Cote d’Azur.
Nightlife: The French are night owls. They eat late and the night life often doesn’t get going until many other nations would be putting up the shutters. Even shopping malls stay open until well into the night, and there are many night markets.
Food: France’s gastronomy is a national treasure. It is the standard by which all other country’s cuisines are judged, culminating in the much-coveted Michelin stars for those who attain the highest levels. Try searching out local food markets, wherever you are.
Wine: What better to wash down the best dishes with some of the world’s best wines? Its Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux wines are peerless, as are the products of many other wine regions – despite growing global competition. Take a leisurely tour of a vineyard, and savour the nectar.
Art: With the Louvre France’s biggest cultural attraction, it is no surprise that the French take art to their hearts. After all, cave paintings date back to Palaeolithic times, while the Impressionism movement was initiated in France after Monet painted Le Havre in the mist.
Nature: France has the most diverse natural environment of any country in Europe. It has six national parks, four of which are in Provence plus the Pyrenees and one in Languedoc, and 43 regional parks including the Auvergne volcanoes.
Beaches: A coastline of 2,000 miles bordering the English Channel, Atlantic and Mediterranean means that France has beaches on three sides. While many of its most famous ones along the Cote d’Azur are actually more shingle than sand, there are long stretches of glorious, sandy beaches in Normandy and Brittany, in the Vendee, along the Aquitaine coast and in Languedoc.
History: France’s chequered history has left it positively littered with vestiges of the past, going back to Roman times. The 30-plus UNESCO-listed world heritage sites include the historic centre of Avignon with the Palace of the Popes and the bridge from the song, with other treasures including Gothic cathedrals in the north and ornate chateaux the Loire and beyond.
Shopping: As the capital of haute couture, it goes without saying that Paris is also a shopper’s heaven. Its most well-known department store is Galaries Lafayette. Head to Lille’s Christmas market for some pre-Christmas gifts and local produce.
Touring: France is close enough to take your own car over by ferry and then hit the roads. Popular touring areas include Brittany, the Loire, Normandy and Provence.