France: A pocket guide
France is Europe’s largest country with a mass of different regions to enjoy. Paris is usually the first stop for international travelers—and what an amazing city. Left largely undamaged by the German occupation during the war, the city is a joy. Indeed few cities in the world deliver such excitement and romance in such a compact area. Paris delights with its broad tree-lined boulevards, iconic monuments, chic boutiques, and elegant stores, colorful markets, and remarkable museums. The food is worth the journey alone, with some of the finest gastronomic restaurants, wonderful traditional brasseries, and an astonishing array of mouth-watering markets. No two visits to this wonderful city need ever be the same.
There are many different areas of France to visit, from the coastal areas of Normandy and Brittany, to the wine region of Burgundy, and the chic seaside resorts in the South of France like St-Tropez. The French Alps offer wonderful skiing, and with its sizable collection of high-altitude stellar resorts, 8,000 kilometers of pistes spread over 300 resorts, and some of the biggest names in world skiing, France has justifiable claims to be the doyenne of the European ski scene. The majority of skiers want well-linked miles of pisted cruising, and the ski resorts in France offer this, with the Three Valleys, Paradiski, and the Portes de Soleil chief among them. For those seeking more untracked challenges Chamonix and La Grave are fabulous. The lift systems of the mega-French resorts are considered the best in the world.
Exploring the vast, rugged sprawl of Provence is a delightful experience. From the salt marshes of the Camargue to storybook hilltop villages like Gordes to the lively Mediterranean city of Marseille, the famously picturesque French region offers an array of landscapes and experiences. Arles and Avignon are two highlights. Just 20 minutes apart by train, the Roman-era town of Arles and the medieval walled city of Avignon enfold a dense mix of architectural beauty, world-class art, sun-soaked Provençal gastronomy, and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Add in ambitious new cultural spaces, a hint of urban cool, and a high-speed rail link with Paris (three hours away) and the result is a southern French smorgasbord of delights.
The area that makes up what the French refer to as le Midi is generally speaking the most popular tourist region in France. It consists of the French Mediterranean coastline and its hinterland, from the Italian to the Spanish borders, and is made up of two French regions, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur to the east of the Rhone and Languedoc Roussillon to the west of the Rhone.
Corsica is unique, a mountain in the sea that has kept its affinity with neighboring Italy throughout 200 years of French rule.
From the Dordogne to the Luberon, from Gascony to the high Pyrenees, and from the French Riviera to the Atlantic beaches, France has so much on offer—and then there is Alsace Lorraine and a mass of other areas not mentioned, where guests can explore and delight in the wonderful old towns, delicious cuisine, and unspoiled countryside.