Welcome to France. It’s a county that seduces travellers from around the world with its charming landscapes, approachable people and rich history. In France, you don’t really have to plan your holiday, you can just wander along at your own leisurely pace, and it will be a wonderful and varied experience. Sip on “un tasse de café” (a cup of coffee), at a local café where famous philosophisers made names for themselves. Stroll down pleasant boulevards full of colourful shops and delightful restaurants where the daily specials are still displayed with chalkboards on the sidewalk. Settle in, de-stress and enjoy everything France has to offer.
The famous "City of Light" is a constant favourite of tourists and locals alike. It is impossible to name one thing that brings people to Paris, but there are feelings of magic, joy and grandness that encompass the entire city. Famous landmarks like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Seine, Montmartre and more can be found around every corner and while it is easy to believe the preconceived notions as you touch down in Paris for the first-time, try to ignore them and form your own opinion of one of the most famous cities in the world. You may be surprised to find how enchanting the entire city is—from the monuments to the avenues to the gardens to the people. There's a reason people continue to go back to Paris, and once you've visited once, you'll understand why for yourself.
While Lyon has an old town complete with aging buildings, cobblestone streets and a UNESCO-heritage old town, it is also the third-largest metropolitan capital. Old and new collide in this space where foodies and artists delight at the creative culture that is alive in Lyon. Down past Lyon is the Rhone Valley, where vineyards and viniculturists work tirelessly to create and cultivate some of France's most respected wines. Tumbling and turning alongside this well-known wine country is the Rhone itself with pushes through the Valley all the way down to Gorges de l'Ardèche. While you're here, explore Lyon's hidden labyrinth of secret passageways, bike through the Beaujolais hills and vineyards, and gaze on Roman ruins in Vienne.
If you travel two hours south of Paris, you'll come across the Loire Valley, where France's greatest collection of chateaus are on display. Wander through magnificent mansions that were built by the noble families of France. Beyond the sprawling estates this region of France is known for, their landscape is another noteworthy sight. Fields of crops are intersected with rivers and the gardens that accompany each estate are works of art in and of themselves. The Loire Valley is a rural and relaxing place to explore on foot or on two wheels, but be aware that summertime brings lots of tourists.
This region of France is blessed with a great deal of good fortune. There are scenic landscapes to wander through, Mediterranean seas to enjoy, modern art to dazzle you, outstanding cuisine to taste and incredible historical heritage to learn about. Landscapes range from olive groves, to rolling hills, to dense forests, to vineyards, to mountains to dazzling coastlines.
This region is the undisputed home of winter sports because of the stunning French Alps –perhaps the most impressive mountain range in Europe. While the snowy peaks may draw in winter fanatics who are anxious to travel down the steep hills and fresh powdery snow, there are other attractions to be seen in the French Alps. Head to Annecy for a small town experience in the midst of incredible landscapes. Mountains and lakes surround the town, putting the sheer size of the mountain range into perspective.
Leftovers are not a part of French culture for a reason: more times than not there won’t be any food left to box up! In France, you’ll find the dining experience a relaxing and social event rather than solely a meal. Regardless of the style or location of the restaurant, you will be allowed to savour the flavours, sip on your beverage of choice and enjoy the company and ambiance of where you are.
Culture dictates that it is rude to bring the check as soon as you are done eating, and if you truly embrace “la vie francaise” you’ll forget to ask right away. French cuisine is much like the rest of the country—purposeful, beautiful and complex. French chefs have pioneered and created a specific kind of food, where presentation is as important as preparation.
We all know about the famous landmarks that can be spotted throughout Paris, like the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame, Montmartre and the Louvre, but when you step outside of Paris, there are countless other attractions to behold.
Giverny is home to the famous impressionist painter Claude Monet. Visitors can tour the home and grounds of the artist and even walk around the infamous lily pond where he would sit and sketch and paint for hours on end. The gardens are split in two: a flower garden called “Clos Normand” and a Japanese-inspired water garden. Surrounding this small estate is Giverny, a petite town full where you can spot familiar photos and influences that can be found in Monet’s many paintings.
Grotte de Lascaux are cave paintings that can be found 2km southeast of Montignanc. They were discovered by a bunch of teenage boys and have since been called the prehistoric equivalent of the Sistine Chapel due to hundreds of etchings found on the wall. They were painted in a variety of colours like red, brown, yellow and black and they depict animals of all kinds, like horses, bulls, reindeer and more. While the caves themselves are off-limits to visitors for preservation purposes, back in 1983 sections of the original paintings were replicated a few hundred metres away so people could still “see” the etchings.
France in general has a temperate climate with mild winters. The exceptions are in mountainous areas and in Alsace and Lorraine. In the north of France there is high humidity, rain and strong winds, while the south of France enjoys Mediterranean summers and mild winters. This makes travel plans easy as any time of the year is a good time to go. Locals will tell you spring is the best time to go (March-May). If you are beach-conscious, aim to travel June-September for scorching temperatures and blazing suns. If you are a winter-sport fanatic, look to travel from December through March.
Citizens of Australia do not need visas to visit France as tourists for up to three months.
If you’re feeling inspired to travel the French countryside and explore all the attractions and regions France has to offer, you aren’t alone. As you begin planning your French holiday, be sure to consider purchasing international travel insurance from Cover-More Australia. Policyholders can take advantage of the 24/7 emergency support and can rest assured that their holiday, health and more are covered and protected with Cover-More’s travel insurance experts.
Image courtesy of Flickr user Jon Gonzalo Torrontegui.