France is a wonderful destination for many travelers, especially those who have an interest in art, history, food and wine, and beautiful scenery. Each region of the country has a distinctive landscape and culture, so it is one of those rare countries that offers something for almost everyone.
Paris, also known as the “City of Lights,” is one of the most romantic in the world. There visitors can immerse themselves in glamorous French culture – world famous museums, haute couture, highly regarded restaurants and beautiful architecture. You can sense its history and style just by strolling through the many charming sections of the city.
A popular day trip only 15 miles from Paris is Versailles, the ornate palace and formal gardens of King Louis XIV and later Queen Marie Antoinette, wife of Louis XVI. Art lovers will not want to miss Claude Monet’s Giverny, 50 miles from Paris, where his gardens include the Japanese Bridge and Water Lily Pond that the renowned impressionist painted so beautifully. The Loire Valley is further from Paris, about 150 miles, and can be done on a day trip, but two nights in the area allows visitors to visit Tours and the many splendid chateaus of the region.
Normandy is the perfect destination for travelers who have an interest in history. From the World War II Landing Beaches to the coastal towns where military events helped shape the future of Europe, the northwest coastal region of France is steeped in world history. Religious history is also woven into the tapestry of the landscape. In Rouen, a statue stands on the Place du Vieux-Marche in memorial to Joan of Arc, who was burned at the stake but later became the patron saint of soldiers and of France. Mont-St. Michel, a small rocky island connected to the coast by a causeway, has a medieval Benedictine Abbey and church located at the top of the island. The impressive site is reached by climbing a winding, stone walkway from the small town at the base of the mount and is definitely worth a long day trip from Paris.
Glittering Cote d’Azur, also known as the French Riviera, lies along the Mediterranean coast. Colorful Nice, with its red tile roofs, yellow houses and azure bay, is the gateway to the Riviera. Within a short drive, many charming villages such as Eze, a walled medieval town perched about 1100 feet above the coast, draw visitors. Other small towns that are worth a visit include Villefranche, Cap d’Antibes, St. Paul de Vence, and Grasse, a major perfume producing area. Cannes, site of the world famous Film Festival, is a larger city with good beaches, great shopping, excellent restaurants and famous hotels located along the seaside avenue “Croisette.” Although not part of France, glamorous Monte Carlo is about 45 minutes from the Nice Airport.
The scenic farms and villages of Provence stretch inland from a smaller stretch of the Mediterranean coast in the southeast corner of France. It is the prime fruit- and vegetable-producing area so the food is superb. The Luberon section is breathtaking with purple lavender fields, craggy olive trees and yellow vineyards. Notable towns in the area are Aix, with its tree-lined cobblestone streets and “Cezanne walk;” the ancient city of Marseille; Avignon, with its belfries, towers and ramparts; and Arles, where Vincent van Gogh lived and painted.
The wine regions of Burgundy and Bordeaux are famous for the excellent quality of wines produced at hospitable local vineyards. In Burgundy, about 200 miles southeast of Paris, the charming town of Beaune is the heart of the Cote-d’Or wine making region and a good base for exploring nearby wineries. Beaune is a short train ride from the city of Dijon, which is of course, synonymous with mustard. Bordeaux is an elegant city near the Atlantic coast and is the heart of the famous Bordeaux wine making region. Don’t miss the opportunity to taste the rich red wines of the area by visiting any of the numerous wineries on the grounds of beautiful chateaus and in the nearby village of St. Emilion, the oldest village in the region and a UNESCO World heritage Site.
France holds many other pleasures for travelers, from sports to night life, festivals to food. Find out what pleasures France has in store for you.
Contributed by Vickie Rust, CTC, Vacation Travel Consultant with Covington Travel. Vickie has personally traveled to many of the regions of France and earned the France Destination Specialist designation from the French National Tourist Board. Contact Vickie Rust to plan your own exploration of the plaisirs de la France.