France, a tourist guide
Think of France and what do you imagine? Fine food and wines? High fashion and chic perfumes? Bicycles and baguettes? Fields of lavender, the Eiffel Tower, fast trains and quirky cars?
Well, it’s all these things and more! So individualistic is France that these images have been burnt into the world’s psyche. The French have always done things in their own way; it’s no accident that French phrases such as ‘Avant-Garde’ and ‘Art Nouveau’ have entered the international language pool!
The centre of everything is Paris, a city abounding with fine architecture, history, culture and a style that has influenced most other capitals at some stage in their development. Landmarks such as the Arc de Triumph and The Eiffel Tower define Paris. And there’s plenty to do and see in this chic capital; visit fabulous art galleries and museums or wander the banks of the Seine, admire Notre Dame Cathedral, visit the artist’s quarter of Montmartre not forgetting the show at the Moulin Rouge; the list is virtually endless but one constraining factor is cost. Paris is an expensive city, but luckily for those on a budget there are a profusion of free or low-cost attractions that make the trip worthwhile.
France’s regions hold a special magic and are about as individual as it is possible to get in one country. Seen from the air, the countryside is a patchwork of small fields, quaint and picturesque but at the same time, agriculturally inefficient which no doubt explains the huge subsidies this country takes from the EEC. Money well-spent? Try the local wine with a little bread and cheese, experiment with Cuisses de Grenouilles swimming in garlic butter, or the old favourite, Escargot, again washed down with wine; then you decide!
Geography influences the lifestyle and that is apparent in the differences between the temperate north and the almost Latin south. Champagne production, commerce and wild coasts may typify the northern departments but travel south of the capital and the landscape is somehow more pleasing to the eye; rolling country, the cool, deep rivers of the Loire and the Rhone valleys, vineyards finally giving way to the Mediterranean.
From the Italian border, Les Alpes Maritimes to the Pyrenees and Spain, the south holds some of the most evocative names and places: Monte Carlo in the Principality of Monaco, the Corniche, Provence, Nice, Cannes, San Tropez (of 60’s topless fame), Aix en Provence, cosmopolitan Marseilles, the Camargue and the Catalans, this is the France of endless holidays, sun, sea and satisfaction, the French Riviera made famous by the Jet-Set, now descended upon by the more discerning masses.
From rural Gite to plush hotel, village to city, canal to marina, whichever location is chosen, this country retains much of its timeless charm and character. So, for a little bit of the modern and sophisticated ‘belle-époque’, one could find any number of reasons to visit France.