What words are there to describe France that have not yet been written by poets, artists, historians or the occasional Instagram blogger? Hailed as the country of love, beauty and pleasures of all kinds, France truly caters to the needs of every one of its visitors.
A typical day in France may well have you hiking breathtaking landscapes, discovering beautiful architecture, admiring stunning works of art, dining at the most renowned tables and laying down on beautiful beaches.
So, whether you are on a business or a city trip, you should find some time to squeeze in some French joie de vivre.
Paris, the city of lights, is perfect for a weekend city trip if you plan ahead. The city has so much to offer that you have to choose from a wide range of cultural, culinary, historical and shopping experiences. For a visit to Paris, it is best to check everything in advance and find out when is the best time for your favourite activities.
If you are looking for some activities off of the beaten path, the Atelier des Lumières might be something you want to check out. This old industrial building basked in fabulous lighting sets the scene of an art exposition and will make you lose track of time.
If you need to relax after a long day of meetings or sightseeing head to the Square du vert galant. This parc in the midst of the Seine may not be spectacular, but it is a truly peaceful place away from all the buzz and rumble of the city. Stay, kick back and relax for a while!
If you are looking for a trip out of the ordinary, France is known for its many festivals held throughout the year. In May, for example, film buffs and stargazers meet in Cannes for the famous Cannes Film Festival. On the famous Croisette, actors, producers and directors line up and hope for a shot at the Palme d'Or award. Combine your stay with a city trip to beautiful Nice. It is an exceptional city to visit with beautiful landscapes and buildings from Vieux Nice, the Baie des Anges or the Castle Hill.
In July, northeast of Montpellier, the city of Avignon dresses up its historic architecture in a multitude of theatre stages for the annual Festival d’Avignon. The numerous stages cater to everyone's tastes and for any theatre lover, it is the ideal place to discover and discuss the latest productions from all over the world.
Some basic French – Granted, times are changing, but most of the people in France are still uncomfortable speaking any language besides French. To lighten up the mood start a conversation with a friendly “bonjour” or “bonsoir”, or thank people with a heartfelt “merci beaucoup”. Some other basics to remember are “s’il vous plaît” to say please, “excusez-moi” to be excused or “au revoir” to say goodbye. These will get you started, and the effort will be much appreciated. For the rest, get yourselves a French-English dictionary or check your paper guide for France. Most of these guides list basic sentences to get around.
More than the City of Lights – Paris surely is breathtaking, but there is much more to France than its capital city. From the northern shores to the southern French Riviera, from the Alps to the Atlantic Ocean, France is a country of a thousand faces. A quick tip: treat your family to a vacation on Corsica. The beautifully wild landscape, the island’s cultural heritage and the soothing Mediterranean climate will leave you in awe.
The French are…well French – To the unwary traveler the French may sometimes appear to have an attitude towards everything and everyone. This is only partially true. The French are very friendly although often misunderstood. They stick to their customs and you being the visitor, you should know a few of them. For instance, take your time. The French will not be hassled, and neither should you. You are on holiday, relax!
Getting around – In France, getting around is fairly easy via public transport. Buses, metro or trams are perfect public transport solutions to get you anywhere in the city. For the longer getaway, besides planes, slow trains (TER) or the high-speed trains (TGV) are your options. They will get you to every major city in the country. Taking a taxi or an Uber should really be the exception for your travels since you can get almost everywhere cheaper and easier.
The French schedule – The French have a schedule and they stick to it. Most shops, banks or places of interest are closed for two hours at noon. The big cities have begun to adapt to the rhythm of tourists, but it is not unusual for restaurants and places of interest to be closed a whole day a week. So, when planning your trip, pay attention to opening hours to avoid mishaps.
France has endless possibilities for couples and single travellers. If you are planning an unforgettable trip for two, visit the Landes region in between Bordeaux and Biarritz. Besides beautiful landscapes and cultural highlights, the residents are known for their laid-back attitude and their know-how to live life to the fullest. If you listen closely, they might even share their secret with you while enjoying a glass of the regions’ famous wines.
A short train ride to the north of Paris, the Normandy offers a spectacular blend of nature and recent history. Here, on the beaches of the English Channel, the Allies fought back the hostile armies during the Second World War and brought the occupying forces to their knees. The jetties of Arromanches, the submarine port of Saint Nazaire and the museums of Caen bear silent witness to that period.
Alternatively, a visit to the Mont St Michel is also possible. You will be amazed from the first moment you lay eyes upon the monastery on top of the tidal island.