With its astonishing variety of landscapes, France has long, high dunes on the Atlantic Coast, craggy coves in Brittany, vineyards in Burgundy, steep gorges in the Tarn Valley and beautiful beaches in the Cote d’Azur. The largest country in Western Europe, France is surrounded by the English Channel, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and the majestic mountain ranges of the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Jura. In the Northwest country of Brittany and Normandy, the gentle green countryside dotted with fields of black-and-white cows and colourful fishing ports along the coast is beautiful and a popular place to visit.
Because of the infinite variety, deciding where to go can be an exciting challenge. If what you seek is historic sights, tour museums and art galleries, the country’s heart is where you should head to. Paris is the industrial and commercial centre of France and the source of the nation’s cultural wealth. It is one of the world’s great fashion capitals and perhaps amongst the best-preserved city centres in Europe. The architectural monuments of the city’s distinctively stylish, intellectual and reputedly strong minded population are very different from the rural French. It is not only the birthplace of the great Gothic cathedrals including St. Denis and Beauvais, it is also the cradle of the French monarchy and just around the capital, you can visit Chantilly and Versailles with its surrounding greenery and dense forests, wonderful sites for the kings and nobles to build their chateaux. This is truly a beautiful city, with the serene Seine providing a backdrop for artists and tourists alike. The bistros, boutiques and beautiful broad boulevards of the Champs Elysees are a great place to shop and people-watch and of course the most distinctive symbol of Paris, the Eiffel Tower cannot be missed as it such a distinguishing figure of the city’s skyline. The world’s largest museum Musee du Louvre is also another important landmark. Once France’s largest royal palace, today it houses the world’s most important collections of art and antiques. The Notre-Dame, Sacre-Couer, Arc de Triomphe and the Patheon are just a few of the other amazing landmarks that Paris can boast of.
France is also a delight for oenophiles who will want to visit the towns and provinces that produce famous high-quality wines. The vineyards of Alsace is blessed with an ideal microclimate for producing white wines and is a truly picturesque area with its medieval 16th-century villages and castles such as Haut-Koenigsbourg. Take a lovely stroll around the shaded ramparts of Obernai and head to the picturesque Riquiwihr for its Riesling wines and Renaissance houses. Close by is the medieval town of Kayserberg, with wonderful surroundings. In Burgundy, although not as picturesque as Alsace, the vineyards are just as delightful and the reputation of the famed names of Cote d’Or are undeniable. From Dijon down to Santenay, the Cote d’Or is just 60km long but the wine cellars here are amazing. The village of Gevrey-Chambertin is a good first stop, while the best cellars are those in the chateau at Clos de Vougeot, formerly owned by Cistercian monks until the Revolution. The guides will inform you about everything you want to know about wine and the splendid old vats and wine presses are very interesting to see.
The southeast of France, from the Alps down through the Rhone Valley to Provence and the Cote d’Azur is France’s playground with resorts catering to visitors’ needs in both summer and winter. The Savoie Alps and the resorts around Mont Blanc is a skier’s paradise. The high mountains, lakes and spas are a breath-taking sight and even in the spring, visitors can enjoy outdoor activities like horse-riding, hiking and climbing. The Rhone Valley region on the other hand, is the epicentre of French gastronomy as some of the best food in the country is produced here like poultry from Bresse, freshwater fish from the Savoie lakes and Charolais beef. Enjoy the food in Lyon and be enthralled by the beautiful history of Provence with its monuments from the Roman Empire. Enjoy the leisurely pace of life here, amidst the sun-soaked landscape and the wonderful cuisine. At the Cote d’Azur, the glamorous stretch of coast visited by the rich and famous, you can enjoy hot sunny days and balmy nights as you people-watch. The lovely town of St. Tropez is on the Riviera, and a highly fashionable place famous with fashion photographers and models. At Cannes, the fine white-sand beaches is overlooked by La Croisette, the grand palm tree-lined promenade that is also the venue of the international film festival.
Good food, great wines, wonderful scenery and lots of culture. It is no wonder that France is one of the most visited countries in the world.