Vive le France, The Land of Joy

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france

To begin with, France is a prosperous and well developed country, sitting in the Western Europe, neighbored by Luxembourg Belgium and Germany on the north eastern border, Italy to the south east, Switzerland to the east, Andorra and Spain  on the south western border and the principality of Monaco/the Mediterranean sea on the south.  On the western border, France boasts a huge Atlantic coastline and in the north you’ll find the English Channel. Also, France owns some territories in the Caribbean (Saint-Martin) plus Guadeloupe and Martinique, French Guyana in South America, Mayotte and Reunion islands off the coast of Madagascar (former colonies I guess).

With a surface of 643,800 square kilometers and a population of 66 million people (give or take), France is one of the largest European countries and definitely the most favored one (in terms of tourism). To get an idea, over 83 million tourists visited France in 2012, go figure!

That’s because France is a hugely diverse country, with great and well-tended cities, filled with treasures (both material and cultural) and home to a joyful and friendly people.

France is filled with tourist attractions, starting with the capital, Paris and ending with the French Riviera, the French Alps, the magnificent castles and ski resorts, Normandy, Brittany or the Loire valley.

loire-valley

France is that kind of a country that you can visit time and time again, years in a row actually and you cannot be sure that you’ve seen all the “cool” places. Also, this is one of the most loved countries by tourists everywhere and one of the most visited in the world, partially due to its awesome cuisine/gastronomy, which is epic!

With mild winters and hot summers, France is the place to be regardless of your preferences and hobbies, because you can ski, hike in its hulking mountains, travel or sit in the sun all day on the white sandy beaches. Oh boy, France has it all! Plains, islands, mountains, you name it, they got it. This is the land that inspired countless artists from all around the world, having an overwhelming quantity of historical and cultural treasures and a magnificent landscape.

French-Riviera

What to see and what to do while in France

Boy, that’s a tough one, I don’t have all day and I bet neither do you.

Let’s start with the glamorous capital, Paris, a city that can compare proudly to any other city in the world, well known for its unique ambiance, individuality and once in a lifetime sights! Let me mention just a few : the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, all these make the Paris a truly cosmopolitan city and a must-see place in this lifetime or the next! While in Paris, take a “sip” of the Parisian café culture, enjoy people watching while drinking hot coffee in a 200 years old coffee shop  but by aware of the hefty prices!

paris cafe

Another magnificent place to see, 20 miles away from Paris is the Chateau de Versailles, built by Louis XIV, the Sun King, pomp and circumstance at its best, making for a true regal and flamboyant piece of architecture, with opulent and large apartments and beautiful gardens.

A trip on the Loire Valley will show you some of the best preserved medieval chateaux in the world, and while here you can benefit from the sparkling wine, France’s specialty.

One of the most interesting river gorge in Europe is the Gorges du Verdon, basically the grand canyon of Europe, reaching altitudes of 2300 feet.

Palace_of_Versailles

The cave paintings at Lascaux  (revealed by mistake back in 1940 by a bunch of kids playing around in a cave) are some of the oldest and beautifully preserved pieces of prehistoric art ever discovered,  featuring 15 millennia old images of horses, bulls and reindeer.

The most interesting gothic cathedral to see while in France is Chartres Cathedral, completed back in 1260, setting the “Standard” for the 13th century architecture, 34 meters high and 130 meters long, with 176 stained windows and lots of sculptures.

Other places to visit are Chamonix (great ski resort), Brittany (for its Celtic heritage), Marseille( a beautiful coastal city), Metz(awesome restaurants and gothic architecture), Provence, St Tropez and of course, the Alps.

France-Lascaux-Caves

Food and Drink

France has a great name when it comes to foods and wine. Its cuisine is world renowned and some of the best wines come from France.

French_Cuisine

Specialties include bouillabaisse, cassoulet, quenelles de brochet, soufflé au Grand Marnier. Wine is the traditional alcoholic beverage in France, naturally; some of the best wines and spirits come from the Bordeaux, Armagnac, Cognac, Champagne and Cointreau regions.

Vue aérienne du village de st-tropez

Visa and Passports Requirements

France is a member of the European Union and it signed the Schengen treaty, hence if you’re an EU citizen, you’ll not require a passport, just an ID. For USA/Canadian tourists, a passport is required (no Visa though).

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