France is all about working to live and living and social life in France is huge. It’s the foundation of the national identity and every visitor is the beneficiary of this most beautiful way of living. From village markets to the familiar Paris Bistro scattered throughout the various Arrondissements (neighborhoods), to the famous Loire Valley wine routes, France delights at every turn.
Iconic landmarks, Museums and world-class architecture combine to create a staggering cultural collection known around the world. From the well-known landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Versailles Palace and the French Riviera to lesser known destinations like Mont St Michel and the Alsatian Wine Route there are plenty of places to explore to fill an entire vacation. Blessed with big cities, ocean beaches, river valleys and majestic mountains,France offers something for every traveler.
Anyone that has ever seen an episode of Julia Child’s the French Chef will know that food plays a large and integral part of French society– plus butter. Food is not seen as nourishment, but as the glue of familial bonds. In America we are used to buying everything at our local grocery store under the glaring neon lights and standing in massive checkout lines. In France, food shopping will take you across town to speciality stores that sell only one thing, whether that’s the boulangerie (bakery), the boucherie (butcher), patisserie (pastry shop), the marché (open stall market) and the supermarché (store/market). The fun begins at breakfast where you can spend hours exploring the various café’s alone. For foodies, the culinary delights will tantalize.
Daily life in France is determined by the seasons, and the paysan follow this annual change religiously. Paysan mean’s peasant in English,and for us it sounds derogatory, but in post-revolutionary France it’s a badge of honor. Paris in August is shuttered as local’s flock to the rural part of France for their own vacations. And if you find yourself in France during this month its best to just follow the paysan lifestyle and explore the countryside.
Another cultural identifier is the concept of terroir (land). People identify with their ancestral lands and relish the specialties that come from many regions. The land is very varied with large cliffs and sand dunes in Normandy to the French alps in the east and the chic Riviera in the south. There is a reason why the great impressionist painters are so revered. They were the paysan that let the countryside inspire their works of art. And France is a living work of art that beckons to be explored. Bienvenue en France.
Known as the best cuisine in the world, we could probably create an entire website, just dedicated to the food delights of France. France’s kitchen is tied to its land (terroir) and each region has its own specialty. We figured we would give you a list of must-eat food dishes. And even if they may sound foreign or gross, you should at least try them: Foie Gras (duck liver paté), Quiche Lorraine (quiche with Bacon), Croissant, Cassoulet (pork, duck and bean stew), Escargot au l’ail (snails in garlic), GratinDauphinois (sliced potatoes in cream), Bouillabaisse (fish soup), Blanquette de Veau (slow cooked veal), Pot-au-feu (slow cooked beef), Choucroute (sauerkraut), Cuisses de Grenouilles (Frog’s legs) and Steak Tartare (minced raw beef with raw egg).
Life for the French can be simply defined as eating, drinking and relationships with friends and family. The great wines of France play a central role in the local’s identification with the land (terroir) and can quickly turn into a vacation in to itself. And because the French spend so much time with social activities even the simplest of café’s can turn into a bar and then into a nightclub with a DJ as the evening progresses. Most major nightclubs (disco’s) are located in Paris and Nice with many smaller lounges and gastro-pubs scattered throughout.
As of 2019 the Top 10 Nightclubs in Paris are:
· La Bellevilloise
· La Java
· Rex Club
· Le Bus Palladium
For LGBT Bars and Clubs, check here
In high season always reserve ahead. France has plenty of accommodations to suit every taste and budget. But their popularity tends to sell them out far in advance. Most hotels require a credit card or a deposit to secure your reservation. In the south of France many hotel reservations are non-refundable.
High Season (Jul & Aug)
Queues at big sights and on the road, especially August.
Christmas, New Year and Easter equally busy.
Late December to March is high season in Alpine ski resorts.
Book accommodation and tables in the best restaurants well in advance.
Shoulder (Apr–Jun & Sep)
Accommodation rates drop in southern France and other hot spots.
Spring brings warm weather, flowers and local produce.
The vendange (grape harvest) is reason to visit in autumn.
Low Season (Oct–Mar)
Prices up to 50% lower than high season.
Sights, attractions and restaurants open fewer days and shorter hours.
Hotels and restaurants in quieter rural regions (such as the Dordogne) are closed.
The major airports are Paris Charles de Gaulle and Paris Orly International airport serving the capital region and Nice Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur serving the south of France. There are also several smaller airports like Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Lille, Marseille-Provence, Nantes, Montpellier and Toulouse. You will also find a sprinkling of regional airports served by French and European low-cost carriers including Paris-Beauvais, Bergerac, Biarritz, Brest, Brive-la-Gaillarde (Vallée de la Dordogne), Caen, Carcassonne, Clermont-Ferrand, Deauville, Dinard, Grenoble, La Rochelle, LeTouquet (Côte d'Opale), Limoges, Montpellier, Nîmes, Pau, Perpignan, Poitiers, Rennes, Rodez, St-Étienne, Toulon and Tours.
Via Land Borders
France borders with Spain in the south, as well as Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Switzerland and Italy in the east. Part of the Schengen region, crossing borders is simple and convenient.
Using Car & Motorcycle
Rental cars are readily available at major airports and most major city centers. Rural areas will be more sparse in their availability.Moped and motorcycle rentals are also available.
By Train & Bus
France has an extensive train network serving all domestic and European destinations. France’s high speed train TGV (www.tgv-lyria.fr) can take you across the country in under 3 hours. Thalys Trains (www.thalys.com) connect from Brussels, Amsterdam and Cologne into Paris Gare du Nord. There are overnight trains operated by Thello (www.thello.com) to cities like Milan, Brescia, Verona and Venice Italy. The Eurostar train (www.eurostar.com) via the Channel Tunnel (Chunnel) connects France and England’s capitals in 2 hours and 30 minutes. Rail tickets across Europe can be purchased from Rail Europe (www.raileurope.com).
If you decide to go away, book your hotel, flights and activities through our trip concierge for discounts and benefits. We offer free upgrades, free breakfasts, free hotel credit and VIP gifts at many luxury hotels for the same price as the hotel’s own websites. (Book direct and you don’t get these benefits so why would you?). Our packaged vacation prices tend to be considerably cheaper than flight and hotel prices available online.
France’s high-speed train network is so extensive and fast that it is easier, faster and more convenient than flying.
With Car & Motorcycle
Driving is the simplest way to get around rural France, but in the major cities driving a car is a nuisance since many cities ban cars from their city centers, local roads are jammed, parking is scarce,and tolls and petrol bills are very high. If you are in a big city, use public transit. To travel between major capitals, use the train. We suggest renting a car only for exploring the wine regions like the Loire Valley, Alsace and remote sites like the D-Day beaches in Normandy.
By Public Transit
France is famous for its excellent public-transport network, which serves practically everywhere except some rural areas. The state-owned Société Nationale des Chemins de Fer Français (SNCF) takes offers multiple short-haul regional trains, buses and local subway transport networks.
Rural France is great for cycling and the beautiful countryside lends itself perfectly for exploring on the local pistes cyclables (bike paths). You can explore routes at Voies Vertes (www.voievertes.com). Bike rules in France are strict, requiring functioning head- and tail lamps and reflectors. Riders must follow the same rules of the road as motorists. Bicycles have a tendency of disappearing over night, so make sure to always have them locked up.
The currency in France is the Euro. Bartering is not allowed. Gasoline and toll roads are expensive. There are many guichet automatique (ATM’s) that will allow you to get cash. Many small restaurants or places in rural areas will not accept credit cards unless it’s a larger purchase. Always have some cash on hand. Tipping is a gesture, not an obligation, but is appreciated for good service. There are no rules about tipping percentages in France – give what you think the service you received deserves.