France is a country with something to offer at every corner. In the north is Calais, with its beautiful beaches on the English Channel and, on a clear day, a perfect view of the white cliffs of Dover. To the west lies the expansive Atlantic, with such wondrous cities as Bordeaux, one of the world’s most major wine industry capitals; to the east is Switzerland, the Alps providing a natural border, and finally, to the south lie the Pyrenees Mountains, one of the most critical pieces of land in European history.
With so much to explore, it is no surprise that visitors find themselves overwhelmed and wanting to stay a lot longer than planned in the country of romance. History, culture, cuisine, art – you name it, France has it. Spring is in the air, and with that said, the French are welcoming those who seek relaxation, luxury, and an overall appreciation of life and everything it has to offer.
History, Sightseeing, Art and Culture
As expected with any European country, France is diverse and plentiful with history – covered with battlefields, castles, museums and breathtaking architecture. Dating back to the days of kings and queens, France offers visitors a journey through the years, from the Renaissance and beyond. Museums in Avignon and Bordeaux, as well as museums in Marseille, hold many relics, but the museum star of France is the Louvre. Its unique structure and 35,000 priceless exhibits, which include the Mona Lisa and other antiquities from various periods, is something that should be set aside for an entire day of exploration.
Festivals are also very popular and appreciated in France, and if you time your trip right, are a great way to witness not only the people enjoying themselves, but also the pastimes and historical events they so proudly boast. Almost every category is covered, from the honoring of Bastille Day in July to the Cannes Film Festival in the fall, the Nice Jazz Festival and of course, the French Open and the Tour de France. There is an event or festival for just about every time of the year.
A trip to France is no trip at all without a visit to at least one of the thousands of French wineries that have made the country, arguably, the most influential wine-producing area in the world. If you fancy the bubbly, a tour through the Champagne region will delight and inspire your taste buds for years to come. For all others, try Bordeaux, Burgundy, Languedoc or any of the other beautiful and delicious regions. And be sure to leave some extra space in your luggage to bring a bottle or two home.
Some say the French have the most exquisite and innovative influences and flavors of food and after a visit, there will be no doubt in your mind that this is the case. Known to be extremely meticulous about every little detail, their love of cheeses and meats of all kinds is what ties together their meals, as does the extensiveness. A full-course meal may include the following – you’ll begin with a starter of Fried Camembert, move to a dish of Kidneys a la Jardiniere, accompanied by homemade tapenade, and of course, finish off with a dessert consisting of pear flan.
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Given that Paris is known as the City of Love, it comes as no surprise that countless romantic dinner spots and cruises are abundant in every part of the city. One of the biggest highlights of Paris in the evening hours is taking a cruise down the Seine River. Looking across a candlelit dinner to your partner as you dine upon a catered meal, the city can be seen from a new perspective, with the lights that lay dormant during the day bringing it to life. Once you complete your meal, dancing to the tune of an orchestra allows you to appreciate the bridges and monuments that surround you, capping off another fantastic night in France.
Bars and clubs open across the country the moment the sun sets on the Atlantic, offering the best France has to visitors and locals alike. Wine bars, dancing clubs, beachfront venues – just about anything you’re in the mood for can be discovered.
Shopping and Getting Around
Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Many designers and fashion houses, including Chanel, Cartier, Dior and Yves Saint Laurent call France home, and are located along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré and Avenue Montaigne in the 8th arrondissement. Many other luxury boutiques are spread about Paris, as are other shopping districts throughout the country. Open-air markets are also very popular, and are a nice change of pace compared to the traditional, indoor malls. If shopping is your love, you’ll be in heaven.
Transportation, similar to most other European nations, is very modern and easy to navigate. The train is the easiest in terms of getting around not only the cities but also the country itself, offering over 7,000 miles of electric track. Close behind is the option of driving, and with roughly 4,000 miles of asphalt, the urge to explore on your own can get the best of anyone. Flying into the country is simple, too, with both the Orly and Charles de Gaulle airports only a matter of hours away from any main airport in the United States.
France is a country rich with history and culture and one that, given the opportunity, should be explored and appreciated completely. Each city holds their own stories, waiting to be uncovered by curious travelers.
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