France has long been a favourite destination for travellers from all over the world, and with good reason.
Whilst Paris is inundated with 3 million plus visitors a year, it still manages to keep a sense of itself. Thoroughly sophisticated and surprisingly outdoorsy for a northern capital, Paris delights in its local markets – fabulous cheeses, fresh crusty baguettes that are simply never eaten the next day, and fabulous patisseries that are a feast for the eyes as much as the tastebuds.
The tourist and traveller alike will see Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, go to see a show at the Moulin Rouge and visit the Louvre. But a traveller also will grab a local train or bus and find green spaces, explore the amazing cemeteries to see the resting places of famous French figures and lots of cats, walk the streets of the local neighbourhoods and eat at the bistros that will serve local food. Take a walk around the Left Bank, sip a coffee and people watch.
Beyond Paris explore the Loire Valley for chateaux like Chenenceau and Amboise; drop in to see the gothic cathedral in Chartres or closer to Paris do the combined Versailles and Monet’s garden tour. Yes this is touristy, but absolutely worth it for both places.
History lovers will check out the battlefields of World War I and the landing beaches of World War II in the north.
Those wanting more spiritual succour will visit the beautiful Mont St Michel, see where Joan of Arc was burnt at the stake or visit Lisieux Basilica or the Bayeux tapestry which isn’t a tapestry at all. Explore the Celtic connections with Wales, Ireland and Scotland in Brittany.
For remote, untouched villages and towns the Massif Central will give you a glimpse into life as it has been for centuries. Just make sure your brakes are really good as it is a steep climb to most of the villages. Bordeaux on the coast offers entrée to the wineries of the region; and if wine is your thing, Beaune will do the same on the Swiss side.
In the south, the Roman influence is strong. Visit Pont Du Gard, Nimes, Avignon for the fourteenth century papal place and bump into Roman arenas where the local kids play soccer. Rub shoulders with film stars in Cannes if you are there at the festival time, explore the English Promenade in Nice and get lost in the wilderness of the Camargue and explore Carcassonne, a fabulous walled city. And lavender fields abound in the perfume making areas.
So much to do. So much to see. So much to taste. Get amongst it.