Why We Love France

From the boulevards of Paris to the fashionable seaside resorts of the Côte d’Azur, France offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. There are fairy-tale castles, soaring cathedrals, and picture-perfect villages, as well as contemporary cities to explore. Paris, of course, is the world’s most explorable city, from the well-known museums and churches along the River Seine to the hidden brasseries and sidewalk cafes in the distant arrondissements. The French perhaps did not invent fine cuisine, they just elevated it into an art form–every region of the country boasts a distinctive flavor and offers the perfect accompanying wine.

Top Destinations in France

Brittany

Brittany blends a proud Celtic heritage with a trove of vibrant travel attractions, from prehistoric megaliths and lively port cities to dense forests and dramatic coastlines. The region’s still-keen sense of independence only adds to the overall ambiance.

Chamonix

A magnet for winter sport fans, summer hikers and serious mountaineers, Chamonix is France’s ski resort par excellence. There’s a vast range of action-based activities, but plenty too for those more concerned with enjoying the views – as backdrops go, the Mont Blanc Massif takes some beating.

Cannes

The Côte d'Azur resort of Cannes bursts to life each spring when its world-famous Cannes Film Festival comes to town (www.festival-cannes.com), its seafront promenade becoming an A-list parade of directors, producers and Hollywood actors.

Chartres

Considered by many to be the finest Gothic cathedral in France, if not in Europe. The cathedral itself was first built in 1145, but was destroyed by fire in 1194. The Sancta Camisia remained intact, which led a papal representative to convince the spiritually devastated people of Chartres to build a new cathedral on the same foundations.The result is a spectacular combination of early and high Gothic, well known for its asymmetrical spires, its 176 stained glass windows and its numerous religious sculptures.

The Loire Valley

Known for its medieval chateaux and sparkling wine caves, the gentle pace of life here has drawn countless artists and writers over the years.

Paris

Anywhere that boasts the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Sacre-Coeur and Notre Dame Cathedral (and they're just the hors d'oeuvres) is more than just another city. Equal parts chic, edgy and drop-dead beautiful, Paris is cosmopolitan, ever-changing and unmissable.

Provence

This long-acclaimed region of southeast France is famed both for its countryside and its historical romance, which combine to create one of the most magical corners of the country. From medieval hilltop villages to purpled fields of lavender, Provence is one of the country's most seductive destinations.

Wine regions

France and wine make a natural pairing, and any serious oenophiles (or even those who just enjoy a tipple) should take time to visit one of its varied wine regions. Bordeaux, Bourgogne (Burgundy) and the Côtes du Rhône are three of many rewarding options.

Overview

There is a good reason why France is the most-visited country on the globe: No matter how many times you go there, there is always something else to experience.

Start with Paris. As the actress Aubrey Hepburn once famously said, “Paris is always a good idea.” Whether you go to the City of Light for the tourist spots, or the history, or the gastronomy, or the fashion, or the museums, or the shopping, or … well, you get the idea. No one is ever tired of Paris. It is impossible!

But that’s just one small slice of a very large country. The rocky coasts of Brittany and Normandy, the endless vineyards of Bordeaux, the crisp clean heights of the Pyrenees and the Alps, the beautiful people and the beautiful scenery of the Cote d’Azur and the Riviera, the lush greeney of the Loire, the lavender fields of Provence … throw a dart at the map and you’ll hit on a part of France begging to be explored and enjoyed.

Speaking of enjoyment, most of us eat for sustenance. The French eat in order to celebrate life itself. Go to the smallest French village you can find, and there will be a chef making something wonderful to eat. Served with just the right complementary wine, of course.

Finally, there are the French people. Despite a reputation for being a bit aloof, a bit reticent, a bit snooty, it does not take much to break through the shell and encounter the warm folk inside. Try to use their language–they like that, even if you make a mess of the verbs. Get together over a meal or even just a glass of wine or beer. You’ll soon see the essential French character–warm, hospitable, fiercely proud–come to the fore.

Vive la France!

Quick Facts

French, of course, is the official language. English and other European languages are also understood in the main tourist areas.

The official currency is the Euro (€). The euro is divided by 100 cents. The U.S. dollar buys approximately € 0.88.

The electrical current in France is 220 to 240V AC and the cycle is 50Hz and you will need a converter if you have appliances that don't accept this voltage. Standard plugs have two round prongs and receive one round ground prong. Adapters may be required.

Internet connections and WiFi spots are found throughout the country. Most major hotels provide good accessibility.

Visitors from the United States (and most other Western nations) are not required to have a tourist visa to enter France A valid passport is required for entry.

Tap water throughout France is treated and purified and is safe to drink.

France is in the Central European Time zone, which is GMT +1. France observes daylight savings time from the last Sunday in October to the last Sunday in March. When it is noon in New York, it is 6 p.m. in Paris.

Although visitors arrive year-round, France’s peak tourist season is in the summer months: May through October.

Average High and Low Temperatures

Things To Do in France

The Louvre

In the former royal palace of French Kings, the Louvre is an incomparable museum that ranks among the top European collections of fine arts. Many of Western Civilization's most famous works are found here including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci, theWedding Feast at Cana by Veronese, and the 1st-century-BC Venus de Milo sculpture.

Palace of Versailles

More than just a royal residence, Versailles was designed to show off the glory of the French monarchy. "Sun King" Louis XIV transformed his father's small hunting lodge into an opulent palace with a sumptuous Baroque interior. The palace became Louis XIV's symbol of absolute power and set the standard for princely courts in Europe.

Mont Saint-Michel

Rising dramatically out of the sea on the coast of Normandy, Mont Saint-Michel is one of France's most striking landmarks. A mystical sight, perched on a rocky islet and surrounded by walls and bastions, and the sea at high tide. The main tourist attraction, the Abbaye de Saint-Michel was founded in 708 and is a marvel of medieval architecture with Gothic spires soaring 155 meters above the sea, a sublime sanctuary, and splendid views.

Loire Valley Chateaux

Traveling through the Loire Valley, one encounters an enchanting countryside of woodlands and river valleys filled with fairy-tale castles complete with moats and turreted towers. The entire area of the Loire Valley, a lush area known as the "Garden of France," is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Chartres Cathedral

For more than eight centuries, the magnificence of Chartres Cathedral has exemplified the glory of medieval Gothic architecture. Covering 2,500 square meters, the brilliant stained-glass windows allow colorful light to filter into the vast nave, creating an ethereal effect. Many windows date from the 13th century; all reveal the incredible craftsmanship in depicting biblical stories.

Biarritz

Biarritz is a fashionable beach town on the beautiful Bay of Biscay in France's Basque country. This celebrated seaside resort has an elegant and aristocratic air; it was a favorite destination of the rich and connected during the Empire Age of the rule of Napolean III.

Lascaux

Visitors can delve into the fascinating world of prehistoric art in Lascaux, the finest example of Paleolithic art in the world. This UNESCO-listed site is in the Vézère Valley of the Dordogne region. Discovered in 1940, the Lascaux Cave contains exquisite prehistoric paintings but has been closed to the public to prevent damage. A faithful replica of the cave and its paintings was created at the nearby Lascaux II site, 200 meters from the actual cave.

St Emilion

The Romans planted the first vineyards in this northeastern Bordeaux town; an eighth-century hermit took up residence in a cave hacked out of the rocks and his followers continued the cultivation of fine wine. A dozen excellent appellations are grown in the area, making a stop in this delightful Medieval town a wine-lover’s delight.

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