Overview: Welcome to France. A country that seduces travelers with its unfalteringly familiar culture woven around café terraces, village-square markets and lace-curtained bistros with their plat du jour (dish of the day) chalked on the board.
Cultural Savoir-Faire France is all about world-class art and architecture, Roman temples and Renaissance châteaux, iconic landmarks known the world over. Stroll the lily-clad gardens Monet painted and savor un café at the Parisian café where Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir met to philosophize. See glorious pasts blaze forth and imagine the life of a French king at bourgeois Versailles. View tomorrow’s art starts in squats secreted in abandoned 19th-century Haussmann mansions in Paris, or at new headline-grabbing museums up north.
Gastronomic Art de Vivre or perhaps it is the French feast of fine food that woos so many travelers. (This is, after all, the country that entices more than any other: more than 80 million visitors a year, ranking it the world’s top tourist destination. But know that gastronomic France goes far deeper than Parisian bistro dining, long lunches outside, shopping for fruit and veg at the market and wolfing down croissants hot from the boulangerie (bakery) for breakfast. Learn how to make petits fours with the kids in Paris or flip crêpes in Brittany; tour a Provençal melon farm; harvest olives, peaches and cherries in the hot south… and understand that food is as much an art de vivre (art of living) for the French as an essential to survive.
“How can one describe a country which has 365 kinds of cheese?” once asked former French president Charles De Gaulle. Even today, it’s a very good question.
At a glance:
- Population: ~ 64.3 million
- Capital city: Paris (pop. 2.2 million)
- Area: 547,030 sq. kms
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Time zone: UTC +1 / Summer UTC +2
- Religion: Christian (mainly Catholic).