France

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Location

France is the largest country in Western Europe and home to 58.3 million people, stretching from the rolling plains of the north to the jagged ridges of the Pyrenees, and from the wild Brittany coastline to the clear, blue lakes and snowy heights of the Alps.

France is just waiting to be discovered.  From the wide, tree-lined boulevards of its sophisticated and exciting capital city to the breathtaking Loire Valley castles and the glittering Cote d’Azur with its air of faded grandeur and romance, it is not hard to see why France has enchanted generations of visitors.

There are so many areas to visit. Why not walk the windswept beaches of Normandy and picture the D-Day landings, take in the style and glamour of Paris, admire the icy heights of Mont Blanc, and immerse yourself in the smell of lavender and the spectacular light and colour of Provence.  It is the land of high fashion, fairytale castles, fine wine and excellent food.
Attractions

Paris

The French capital is one of the most stimulating cities on earth. A beautiful city in which tourism in the main industry. Paris is cut by the River Seine. On the right  (northern) bank are many of the most fashionable streets and shops, and such landmarks as the Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Louvre, the modern Pompidou Center and the Sacre Coeur. The left bank houses governmental offices and is the site of much of the city’s intellectual life. A City not to be missed.

The French Alps

Travel to the majestic French Alps and discover the legendary deep snows of France’s great ski resorts. In resorts such as the Trois Vallées, linking Courchevel, Méribel, La Tania, Les Menuires, and Val Thorens, the network of interconnected lifts stretches so far you can ski. Gaze in awe at the mythical Mont Blanc, the “rooftop of Europe.” The French Alps are actually more popular in summer than they are during the winter season. When the ice and snow melts, beautiful craggy hills and lush meadows are unveiled creating an ideal destination for walking, biking and climbing, or just taking in the pure mountain air.

Normandy Beaches

Normandy is a green and peaceful region dotted with pretty little fishing harbours and charming resorts. It was also, however, the setting for “Operation Overlord”, one of history’s most decisive battles. It began with the Allied invasion of German-held Normandy. The Battle of Normandy lasted over two months. Museums and memorials are abundant in the area and the immaculately maintained cemeteries honour the dead of all nations. The beaches of Normandy are a pilgrimage site for those who were involved in, or remember the Great War.

Mont St, Michel

Mont St. Michel is a small quasi island off the coast of Normandy. It is separated by approximately one kilometre of sea from the mainland at high tide. This tiny outcrop of rock sports a massive abbey featuring a number of architectural styles. Visit the Mont St Michel at night when it is brilliantly illuminated.

Lourdes

Lourdes is not only a pilgrimage city, it is also a very charming little Pyrenean town. Wander through the town and discover a very rich historical and natural heritage from the fortified castle to the Pic du Jer, as well as Lourdes Lake and the many very interesting private museums.

Just over six million Catholic pilgrims arriving each year. Even if you are not a devout Catholic, or seeking miraculous cures, Lourdes is a fascinating stop on any itinerary. Lourdes was little more than a village in 1858 when Bernadette Soubirous experienced the first of eighteen visions of the Virgin Mary in a spot called the Grotte de Massabielle. You can visit the Grotto and the Shrine, reputed to seat over 20,000 people at one time. Visit any of the hundreds of shops which sell souvenirs. Lourdes is not only a pilgrimage city, it is also a very charming little Pyrenean town. Wander through the town and discover a very rich historical and natural heritage from the fortified castle to the Pic du Jer, as well as Lourdes Lake and the many very interesting private museums.

The Loire Valley

The Loire Valley is regarded as the “garden of France,” so make sure you savor the very delicious foods and wines of the regions.
The Loire Valley was the capital of the French aristocracy from the 15th to 18th centuries and the area is dotted with the most beautiful castles in France. The most famous chateaux include Angers, Chinon, Chambord, Chenonceau, Saumur and Villandry. A tour of the Castles over several days is highly recommended and in summer many of them play host to outdoor spectacles of music, dance and fireworks. The town of Chartres, with its magnificent 13th-century cathedral, is regarded as Europe’s most superb Gothic building. The United Nations has designated the Cathedral an international cultural heritage site.

The French Riviera (Côte d’Azur)

The Côte d’Azur or French Riviera stretches along the Mediterranean coast at the very foot of the Alps and is one of word’s most popular destinations. In less than two hours you can travel from Mediterranean bliss to the cool Alps.

Visit the relaxing Antibes with its lovely sandy beaches, or visit, home to Picasso for many years, his studio is now the Picasso Museum or why not visit the fascinating cities of the region. St.Tropez is regarded as the epitome of the French Riviera, check out the yachts in the port, sip an overpriced coffee and watch the ‘other-half’ live! Cannes is also a millionaire’s playground but lacks the exclusivity of St.Tropez. The annual International Film Festival is its most famous attraction. Take a day trip to the independent principality of Monaco for some more glitz and glamour but make sure to dress well, it is an essential part of even getting into the country! studio is now the Picasso Museum. Spend some time wandering around the charming small towns. The capital of the Riviera – Nice – is also well worth a visit for its outstanding Matisse Museum.

The Parc National des Pyrénées

Created in 1967, the Pyrenees National Park extends about 100km along the French-Spanish border and covers an area of 460 sq km. The park is popular for rock-climbing and hiking and there are many marked trails, some of which are linked with Spain The park contains an amazing array of high-altitude lakes and contains the highest point in the French Pyrenees, the 3300m Sommet du Vignemale. The protected animals in the park include the brown bear, lynx, chamois, marmot and endangered birds of prey such as the bearded vulture and golden eagle.

Biarritz

Biarritz is a sophisticated coastal town in French Basque Country. Biarritz draws a cosmopolitan crowd from all over the world. The beaches, casinos, golf courses and surfing spots have made it a haven for outdoor-loving sun worshippers. Make a visit to the Museum of the Sea, which contains a vast aquarium and research centre.

 

How to get there

Note; The French citizens take their summer vacations in July or August, and many major businesses are then closed. All of France takes to the roads, railroads, boats, and airways. Consequently, traveling in France during August is needs to planned.

 

BY AIR ;

Most UK and European Airlines have direct flights to all destinations in France.

Airports are usually outside cities but offer efficient shuttle connections to city centers,


BY ROAD:

The Car is a comfortable and efficient means of travel in France. Roads are well-maintained and the road network is one of the most complete in the world.  The driving rules do differ in France so it may be advisable to get more information.

BY RAIL:

The easiest way to take your car to the South of France from the UK. Try the channel tunnel crossing.

(Eurostar London to Paris in 2h 35)

Trains are a practical, punctual, and comfortable way to travel within France. They are operated by the SNCF, which provides most intercity connections via its network of express trains and TGV high speed trains. And with a bus terminal near every SNCF station, the train-bus combination is an inexpensive way see the country.

  

BY SEA;

There are regular ferry crossings across the channel from the UK.

 

Festivals

There are far too many festivals to mention but here are a few;

International Film Festival
Place : Cannes
Date : MAY

Annual festival of vocal art
Place : Paris – Cité de la Musique
Date : JUNE

Le Mans 24-hour race
Place : Le Mans
Date : JUNE

Renaissance Events
Place : Bar-le-Duc
Date : JUNE

Belfort Eurockéennes Festival
Place : Belfort – Malsaucy
Date : summer

Festival of the Vintages of Burgundy
Place : Bourgogne
Date : Summer

Chorégies d´Orange

Place : Orange
Date : summer

 

Eating  Dining  Shopping

Eating is a serious business in France and the objective of a dinning establishment is your pure enjoyment.

The menu is usually on display outside a restaurant, or in its window.  The prices listed will give you an idea of the quality of the establishment.

Fixed price menus are quite common and a good value.  This allows the chef to focus on a select variety of options.

Some restaurants have a cover charge or a charge for bread.  Pain et Couvert Compris means that it is included in the prices listed, or Non-Compris means it will be added to your total.  Bread is usually not served with butter, if you request it, there can be an additional charge.

Tips, known as Service, are usually included in the listed prices or automatically added to your total

French gastronomic delights are far too many to mention, but a few not to miss dainties include foie gras, truffles, snails, Roquefort cheese and outstanding patisseries.

France produces some of the best wines in the world. Other lesser-known but highly popular French drinks include Calvados (apple brandy from Normandy) and Pastis – an aniseed flavoured liqueur. And don’t worry about piling on the pounds – with the sea or the mountains never more than a train journey away, you’ll have no excuse not to ski, swim, or walk yourself back to fitness!

Market days are a big deal throughout France. They have been a central feature of life in rural areas since the middle Ages. Most markets take place once a week in the town s main square and, if large enough, spill into nearby streets.

 

SHOPPING

Despite the huge effort made by the major distributing outlets, the high street shop is still alive and well in France, the small boutiques continue. From the local boulangerier, boucherier, patiisserie, to the shoe shop, to the tailor made shirts, or the local perfume retailer you can still find excellent services and products, made by skilled people.

 

History

During the reign of Louis XIV (1643-1715), France was the dominant power in Europe, aided by the diplomacy of Richelieu’s successor (1642-1661) Cardinal Mazarin and the economic policies (1661-1683) of Colbert. Renewed war (1667-1668 and 1672-1678) brought further territorial gains (Artois and western Flanders and the free county of Burgundy, left to the Empire in 1482), but at the cost of the increasingly concerted opposition of rival powers.

Following the seizure of the (then separate) English, Irish and Scottish thrones by the Dutch prince William of Orange in 1688, the anti-French “Grand Alliance” of 1689 inaugurated more than a century of intermittent European conflict in which Britain would play an ever more important role, seeking in particular to keep France out of the Netherlands (the Dutch provinces and the future Belgium, then under Spanish rule).

French Revolution
Louis XVI’s reign (1774-1792) saw a temporary revival of French fortunes through intervention (1778-1783) in support of Britain’s rebel American colonies. But the over-ambitious projects and military campaigns the past century had produced chronic financial problems. Deteriorating economic conditions, popular resentment against the complicated system of privileges granted the nobility and clerics, and a lack of alternate avenues for change were among the principal causes of the French Revolution. This led to the formation of the First Republic. The Second Republic was later proclaimed on February 26, 1848.

France was the founder of modern Republican government in the 18th century after three centuries of being ruled by nobility who spent vast amounts of money on sumptuous glittering castles and playboy-like lifestyles.

World War I (1914-1918) brought great losses of troops and materiel. In the 1920s, France established an elaborate system of border defenses (the Maginot Line) and alliances (see Little Entente) to offset resurgent German strength.

France during World War II
France surrendered to Nazi Germany early in World War II (June 24, 1940). Nazi Germany occupied three fifth of France’s territory leaving the rest to the new Vichy collaboration government established on July 10, 1940 under Henri Philippe Pétain. Its senior leaders acquiesced in the plunder of French resources, as well as the sending of French forced labor to Germany; in doing so, they claimed they hoped to preserve at least some small amount of French sovereignty. The German occupation proved costly, however, as Germany appropriated a full one-half of France’s public sector revenue.

After four years of occupation and strife, Allied forces, including Free France, liberated France in 1944.

France since 1945
France emerged from World War II to face a series of new problems.  The mixed nature of the coalitions and a consequent lack of agreement on measures for dealing with colonial wars in Indochina and Algeria caused successive cabinet crises and changes of government.

 

Useful telephone numbers

Emergency Number; 112

Airport Information; Air France tel; 08.02.80.28.02

Train station:  Eurostar Tel(0 892 35 35 39

Tourist Office: Paris Tel: 4503-8250

Holiday rents online:

National Transport Line;

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