Admired the world over for its impeccable taste and effortless style, France celebrates beauty, sophistication and style. From elegant chateaux and grand boulevards to immaculately manicured country roads and charming villages; fairytale castles, thousand-year-old cathedrals, and even older vineyards. This is the country that taught the world about joie de vivre and savoir-faire, about high culture and haute couture. France has everything a discerning traveler could wish for.
May to SeptemberrBest For
Beautiful Coasts, Great Cities, Wine Regions, Scenic Countryside, Historical PlacesTravelling within
Scenic Trains, Domestic flightsMain Airport
The largest country in Europe and, culturally and historically, one of the most influential in the world, France has a reputation that precedes her. Before even visiting, you already know about the famous boulevards, the gourmet cuisine, the fabulous fashions and stylish cafes. You may have heard the stereotypes, about haughty French waiters, pervasive cigarette smoking and smelly cheese. To put the record straight: the waiters are formal rather than friendly, smoking is on the decline, and strong cheeses are decidedly optional. France is a country of complexities. To truly understand its allure, you have to visit.
As Ella Fitzgerald’s “I love Paris” eloquently explains, you can appreciate France at any time of the year! The spring offers mild weather, longer days and flowering gardens. Summertime is a lively season with a more lighthearted mood, as the French get ready for their annual vacations. In August, Paris tends to be hot and humid, and many Parisians vacate the city. You won’t see the typical Parisian atmosphere in August, but you may enjoy the slower pace. Expect the French Riviera and Biarritz resorts to be extremely crowded in July and August. If you prefer a more relaxing vacation at this time of year, visit the countryside, such as Provence, le Vars or the Pyrenees Mountains. In autumn, especially September in Paris and October on the French Riviera, you can enjoy great weather and fewer crowds. The holiday season is a festive time to see the Christmas markets and decorations.
France offers a wide range of accommodation to suit every budget and taste, from high-end luxury establishments like the Ritz to simple hotels with basic amenities. The French tourism authorities have a well-defined rating system, from one to four stars, which categorizes hotels based on their level of facilities. For instance, a one-star hotel probably will not have an elevator and may not have common areas, whereas a four-star hotel will have an elevator, concierge, lounge areas, restaurant and amenities such as WiFi access, cable TV and laundry services. However, the rating system does not take into account subjective criteria like a welcoming staff or the style of decor.
Location adds to the charm. Each historic town makes for delightful daytime discovery, yet these destinations are most hypnotic when the sun sets and barbecue smells float through alleyways illuminated by lanterns. Most historic hotels have prime locations inside the walled towns, enveloping you in the rhythm of yesteryear. Many of these old towns are completely pedestrianized, helping to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep when you’re in the heart of everything. Along the coast, a myriad of small destinations compete for a traveler’s attention. As such, sea views and a prime beach location are the norm. With so many islands and beaches, you can always expect a soft salt-aired breeze coming onto your private balcony.
Visas and Passport Requirements
Most non-European Union nationals require a visa for a tourist stay of 90 days or more. If you plan to stay longer than 90 days, you will need to submit a short-stay visa application at a French Consulate or Embassy before your arrival in France.
France is a country steeped in customs and the tradition of good manners. The English word for “etiquette” comes from the antiquated French word “estiquette”, which means “ticket.” In the 17th and 18th centuries, the nobility were presented with tickets that prescribed specific codes of behavior permitted at the King’s court. Although manners today are less codified, they are generally more formal in France than in America. In contemporary French society, children are taught from a young age the importance of “politesse”, and you will see how French people value treating others in a polite way. The French also tend to speak at a lower volume than Americans – and you will fit in better if you lower the decibel level of your voice.
Address women as “madame” (or “mademoiselle” for a young woman) and men as “monsieur” – the equivalent of “ma’am” and “sir”. When entering a store, restaurant or other public venue, use the greeting “bonjour, madame/monsieur” or “bonsoir, madame/monsieur”. Do not call waiters “garcon” as this is considered rude. The French address strangers by their last name until the acquaintance becomes more familiar. The French language has built-in formalities; the word for “you” differs depending on how well you know the person. Use “tu” for close friends and to address someone younger, and “vous” for acquaintances and to show respect to elders. The two most essential French phrases are “s’il vous plait” and “merci” (“please” and “thank you”). Whenever you use these expressions of politesse, you will be met with appreciation and politeness.
Paris is an icon – few places are versatile enough to appeal to first time travellers and frequent travellers alike. There is a Paris experience for everyone. Outside Paris, also visit fairytale castles and famous wine regions and then fly to the French Riviera – one of the most charming coastlines in the world.
Fortuitously, from France you can also connect to probably more itineraries in Europe via Paris or Nice beste than any other European city. Let us know and we can customize your Europe holiday to the hilt to give you just the right mix of nature, city, romance or adventure that you want.
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