Trips to France

With its geographic diversity, gastronomic temptations, cultural pursuits and rich history, France is a country that has been seducing visitors for years and today remains the world's top tourist destination with over 80 million annual tourists.

The lure of France is rather difficult to reduce to just a few small paragraphs, but is perhaps best defined as being a country which offers such immense variety.

France is fiercely protective of its unique historical identity and culture and even the most basic explorations of the country will soon show you why. Here you can walk the streets of Paris, touring museums and galleries and see some of the most famous pieces of art in the world. Or you can drive across the endless countryside, visiting sleepy, centuries old villages that seem a permanent part of the landscape. The south of France offers white sandy beaches and Mediterranean charm, whilst the mountainous areas of the Alps remain some of the most popular skiing venues in the world.

This is France, the legendary land of liberty, home of some of the world's most iconic landmarks, yet with so much more to offer the discerning visitor. Perhaps more so than other European countries, here there is a deeply embedded and strong sense of regional identity, with each destination having its own distinct dialect, architectural style and characteristic food and we urge you to go forth and enjoy.

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Geography and climate
Industrialisation came late to France, and there is a persistent thought that says France is a rural country. The countryside here is indeed intoxicating, offering miles of uninhabited fields and woodland. There is great diversity in the geography of France however and as well as these green landscapes, this vast country is also home to limestone hills, coastal highlands, bays, valleys, dramatic seascapes as well as the deep canyons of the Pyrenees and the snow-topped peaks of the Alps.

France's high position above sea level ensures a stunning mountainous backdrop as well as the highest peak in Western Europe – Mont Blanc. A key geographical feature is also the extensive river systems such as the Seine, the Loire and the Rhône, which divides the Massif Central from the Alps and flows into the Mediterranean Sea.

As would be expected, France also has wide diversity in its climate, influenced by the proximity to the seas, latitude and altitude. In the south east, a Mediterranean climate prevails which sees long hot dry summers reaching top temperatures of over 40°C whilst in the west there is a high level of rainfall with mild winters and warm summers. The Alps region sees over 150 days of below freezing temperatures with snow coverage lasting up to six months.

As with its history and food variety, the range of geographical and climate features ensures there is truly something for everyone, from the hard core ski fanatics, to the beach and sun worshippers.

Food and drink
To give French gastronomy the respect and detail it deserves would take thousands of words, however, to cover the basics it is imperative to say firstly that food is both of enormous importance to the French and that French cuisine is renowned as being one of the finest in the world.

Each region has its own iconic specialities, such as Cassoulet in the south west, Quiche in the Lorraine region and Beef Bourguignon in the Bourgogne which sit alongside French classics.

An evening meal in France will typically consist of three or four courses – to start, an entrée such as French onion soup or Croque Monsieur which will be followed by a Plat Principal such as Pot au Feu. The third course will be the all-important cheese course, and with France home to over 400 different types of cheeses, the choice is endless. The dessert course will come last and will likely feature some sweet French specialities such as Crème brûlée or mille-feuille pastry.

French cuisine has also had a huge international impact and UNESCO has recently protected the 'gastronomic meal of the French' on its Intangible Heritage List. The knowledge of French cooking has contributed significantly to western cuisines and its centuries old and strict criteria are used widely in cookery schools and western education. The French magazine, Michelin, has also had a huge impact both in France and across the world, awarding highly prestigious Michelin stars to a selected few establishments.

Of course you can't discuss French food and drink without discussing French wine, as much a key definer of the country as its food. French wine history can be traced back in many regions to the Roman times and the country is the source of many grape varieties that are now cultivated across the world including cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir. Despite increasing competition from South America and Australasia, French wine remains of great significance and the country produces over seven billion bottles annually.

Culture, history and economy
In France, there is so much history to be explored and enjoyed and throughout the country there is a powerful sense of French past with visitors having the opportunity to see history as old as prehistoric cave paintings, to emerging history of cutting edge architecture in Paris.

As one of Europe's key powers, France has a long and rich history which resonates throughout. Inhabited by the Gauls, conquered by the Romans and raided by Germanic tribes, its older history is one of battles and adventure. During the renaissance, the country experienced vast cultural development and established the first steps of a worldwide empire which was to reach its height in the late 19th century when France possessed the second largest empire in the world.

In between, was of course the great French Revolution with the 'Declaration of the right of men and of the citizen' being one of the world's earliest documents on human rights. The Revolution is a much discussed historic event, but its ideals of Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité remain of the utmost important in the French spirit and culture.

France is an exceptional cultural destination with over 40,000 monuments and protected sites, 38 UNESCO sites and 8000 museum for visitors to enjoy. This is a country which fights to preserve and develop its national culture and visitors can easily seek out French culture across the country.

France today, remains a great power with significant economic and political influence in the world. Economically speaking, average household wealth is the highest in Europe, and the standard of living here is high throughout.

Image credit:  Corsica Aventure

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