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France

Your first visit to France won't be your last - tourists are drawn back time and time again. Whether you are swept off your feet by the charm and romance of Paris, or you fall gently for the sleepy pace of life in Provence, France is a place for lovers, and will leave you spellbound.

Paris is undoubtedly one of the world's great cities, with enough monuments, museums, restaurants, theatres and shows to keep you enthralled throughout your stay. But, even if a Paris city break means the capital makes the first claim on your affections, you should try to drag yourself away - France has so much more on offer.

The northern provinces of Normandy and Brittany are steeped in history both ancient and modern while the Loire Valley is world famous for its châteaux and the French Riviera's Nice is the epitome of chic. Meanwhile winter and mountain sports enthusiasts flock to the country's resorts in its five mountain ranges, namely the Alps, the Pyrenees, Jura, Vosges and Massif Central.

For the best view of Paris, climb 250 steps up the Notre Dame bell tower and see where Quasimodo rang those bells!

Take a cruise down the River Seine: A perfect way to relax and soak up the beautiful surroundings.

Visit the Pompidou Centre: Not only a highlight itself, the centre also houses Europe's most important museum of modern art.

Did you know?
The name "France" comes from "Frank", a Germanic tribe that invaded the Western Roman Empire in the 6th century and founded the first independent kingdom covering most of today's France.
highlights

Culture

French culture is diverse and rich - it has made numerous contributions to philosophy, art, literature and architectural wonders with examples such as Notre Dame and Mont St Michel. However this high-artistic pedigree does not detract from a love of sport, especially football, cycling and rugby, which are all supported with a patriotic fervour.

Food and drink

France's gastronomic centre is Lyon where some of  the world's finest chefs design superb culinary creations. French cuisine is amongst the world's best - and reason itself to visit the country. What is typically known as French cooking is haute cuisine a collection of mainly rich and complex traditional dishes using lots of meat. A heavy emphasis is put on the sauces used in each dish and much of the preparation time is spent on this one element.

Champagne is the most famous wine producing region in the world, and even if you forego the fizz, the allure of Bordeaux's rich reds are bound to tempt.

History

Post Second World War France has regained its political prestige as one of the central states of Europe. The nation is still considered to be at the forefront of intellectual and artistic culture in the world and celebrates its varied history with pride - from the grandeur of Louis XIV's palace at Versailles to the post-modern functionalist landscape that is the Pompidou centre.

Avignon
Bordeaux
Corsica
La Rochelle
Lille
Lyon
Nice
Paris
Rouen
Strasbourg

EUROPEAN THERMAL TOWNS

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