What You Need to Know Before Your Travel to France
France is one of the most historically and culturally rich countries in the Western world and its capital, Paris, is practically synonymous with the birth of modern urban life. One of the first things that comes to mind when thinking of the French is their intrinsic sense of savoir faire or know how for any situation life whether it be eating, making art, dressing, partying or etiquette. The French have developed an acute sense of structure to their lives that they follow dutifully. The result is an overwhelming sense of culture that prides itself on tradition. Located in the center of Continental Europe, France has a mild climate that gets warmer the further south you go.
City of Lovers Paris
Paris is known internationally for its art, culture, romantic atmosphere, food and fashion. It is a city of decadence, luxury and indulgence. Located in the heart of France, Paris is one of the biggest cities in Europe and the number one tourist destination in the world. It has a relatively mild climate, but be prepared for rain anytime of the year. Enjoy the romance of this city with its striking architecture and gourmet food.
Where Can I Stay
The average French hotel is very much akin to a charming Bed & Breakfast, though beds can be small and lack of air conditioning is commonplace. If air conditioning is imperative, one should remain in or close to France’s big cities. Staff is usually friendly, but amenities can be somewhat sparse compared to those of American hotels. With hostels becoming increasingly popular, many people especially those interested into meeting likeminded travelers are opting for this casual accommodation.
What to Eat in France
Get ready for a completely gourmet culinary experience in France. Each region has its own specialties, but Lyon is undoubtedly the food capital of the country. Remember to book in advance. Try L’Auberge du Point de Collonges (40 quai de la Plage) for traditional French fare that is as gourmet as it gets. For more modern fare try Restaurants Nicolas Le Bec (14 rue Grolee). Paris is also home to some of the world’s best restaurants, so roam wherever your palate takes you.
You will find some of the best wine of the world in France. As with food, each region has its own specialties. For some great reds try Bordeaux and Chinon. For the best Champagne all you have to do is travel to the region of Champagne.
Famous Places and Sights of France
With relics from France’s golden age generously adorning the county, visitors will have little trouble finding their fair share of grandiose and opulent architecture. The monumental palace of Versailles, built during the monarch of Louis XIV and located at the edge of Paris, is especially impressive.
One point of national pride is the La Resistance, which took place during the Nazi Occupation of WWII. Sights of particular significance in this arena are the D Day Beaches along the Normandy coast. Some of the best museums and memorials can be found in the town of Caen, while the American Military Cemetery is located at the town of Colleville sur Mer.
Those wishing to witness the grandeur of French castles or chateaux should visit the Loire Valley near the center of France. Amboise, Chenonceau, and Azay Le Rideau are all splendid architecture feats, boasting breath taking interiors. An optimal time to enjoy a stroll through the estates’ gorgeous gardens is from Spring to late summer.
Arts & Culture of France
For the world’s premier art museums, Paris, home to Musee d’Orsay, and the Pompidou Center amongst others, takes the cake. One uniting feature of these highly distinct art institutes is the fact that each requires at least one day to cover its collection entirety. To stave off the feeling of being overwhelmed, select museums that coincide with your favorite period of art.
The enormous Louvre Palace, located on the Quai du Louvre, houses a collection of over 350,000 works that span from ancient times to the 19th century, including the illustrious Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo. For famous impressionist works, head to the Musee d’Orsay on Quai Anatole France, a former train station brimming with the likes of Monet, Degas, and Cezanne. If modern art is more your thing, make a trip to Pompidou Center, place Beaubourg. This eccentric building, with a tube like exterior, is full of renowned modern art.
Paris is not only a prominent player in the world of fine arts, but performing arts, as well. Traditional opera can be seen at the Opera Garnier (Place de l’opera) which also hosts the Ballet de l’Opera National de Paris. For something more contemporary, one should investigate the Opera Bastille (Place de la Bastille), while theatre fans are advised to reserve seats at the Theatre Mogador at (25 rue de Mogador).
How is Night Life in France
For those looking to let loose, France’s nightlife will likely do the trick. Discos are plentiful, though many of them play American music nearly exclusively. You can bank on the fact that most all French cities will serve up at least several postdusk, party spots. It still stands, however, that Paris is the nightlife frontrunner.
Whether looking for a taste of the real cabaret at Moulin Rouge on the Boulevard de Clichy or to dance until dawn at Le Queen on the Champs Elysees, where chic bars and clubs abound, Paris has got you covered. For great live music, check out Au Lapin Agile (27 rue des Saules), or for something soulful, try New Morning (7 rue des Petits Ecuries).
Shopping in France
Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Designer clothes, furniture, and perfume stores are plenty in Paris. While an uquestionably expensive city, you don’t have to pay top dollar to get some very hip clothing.The second hand movement is graining momentum in France, with cities like Paris stocked high with vintage designer goods.
Events & Festivals of France
If you happen to be going to the south of France in May you should stop by Cannes to soak up some of the glory of the Cannes Film Festival. Celebrities are everywhere and the party never seems to end. Be ready to pay higher prices for food and lodgings during this time.
France’s national holiday Bastille Day is held on July 14th every year to celebrate the French Revolution. The famous Tour de France bicycle race is held every July for three weeks. Fashion Week is held in March where all the designers reveal their latest collections for the following winter.
Practical Information for France Travel
The French are serious about etiquette. It’s a good idea to keep an open mind if you come upon a situation or food that you are not used to. Remember to greet all shopkeepers and salespeople with “bonjour.” Use Madame and Monsieur with people you don’t know.
It is a bad idea to visit France in July and especially in August. The vast majority of hotels and local residencies do not have air conditioning and the heat can be brutal. In August most people go on vacation for 3 weeks to a month, so most shops, restaurants and tourist attractions will be closed.
France is an experience for the senses, whether it be food, architecture, art, music, or leisure. You will certianly return to your home as a more cultural and enriched individual. Remember to shop till you drop, visit the former homes of Royalty, and eat like a king during your stay. Vive La France!