Where else in the world can you find such a high concentration of classic art, celebrated architecture, stylish boutiques, award-winning restaurants, chic galleries and world-class wineries? Home to culinary icons, influential artists, political masters and fashion greats, France is a captivating, enriching place to visit – be beguiled by the passion, spirit and irrepressible essence of France.
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Articles on France
Living the dream in Paris
Posted on Tue, 04 Sep 2012 by Sue Elliot
"I will come back, even if it be to just eat baguette and drink champagne under the Arc de Triomphe on Bastille Day..."Read more
Intrepid believes half the fun of experiencing a new country is getting there, and getting around once there! Where possible, Intrepid uses local transport options and traditional modes of transport - which usually carry less of an environmental impact, support small local operators and are heaps more fun!
Depending on which trip you're on while in France, you may find yourself travelling by:
Travelling with Intrepid is a little bit different. We endeavour to provide travellers with an authentic experience to remember so we try to keep accommodation as unique and traditional as possible.
When travelling with us in France you may find yourself staying in a:
At a glance
- Trips Available:
- Capital city:
- Paris (population 2.1 million)
- 65.3 million
- Time zone:
- (GMT+01:00) Brussels, Copenhagen, Madrid, Paris
- Type C (European 2-pin) Type E (French 2-pin, female earth)
- Dialing code:
Best time to visit France
Depending on what you want to get out of your trip, there is always a good time to visit France. Winter is a great time to enjoy snow sports in the Alps and Pyrenees, while the summer is great for soaking up the sun on the beaches of the Cote d’Azur. Generally, France enjoys a temperate climate with cool winters and warm summers, except for the Mediterranean areas that bask in warm temperatures most of the year. Popular tourist spots can get crowded during the peak holiday periods of Christmas, Easter and the school holiday months of July and August; if travelling during these times, be prepared to share France with many other travellers and holidaying locals.
Culture and customs
France (Paris in particular) is a multicultural country with immigrants coming from Africa, the Middle East and other European countries. In fact, France has the largest Muslim and Jewish populations in Europe. In the recent past, this mix of cultures has created some tension among the population, with immigrant communities and students in particular protesting about employment rates and government restrictions.
With many different cultures co-existing in modern France, there are a wide variety of customs, cuisines and religions to be observed. Expect to see churches as well as mosques, Indian restaurants near French patisseries, and the sultry sounds of modern jazz right around the corner from a street beat-boxer.
Eating and drinking
Intrepid believes that one of the best ways to experience a country is by eating! Whether you're sampling street food, savouring a cheap eat or indulging in a banquet, there are endless options to choose from wherever you are in the world.
The gastronomic pleasures of France are world-renowned, so travellers won’t be disappointed with the food of France. There’s something to suit all budgets here, from Michelin star restaurants to humble cafes and market stalls.
Things to try in France
1. Simple, fresh baguettes
One of the best cheap eats in France has to be a fresh, crusty baguette. Buy a freshly prepared roll from a cafe or buy the ingredients separately from shops and markets, prepare yourself and eat by the banks of the Seine or in a park. C’est Bon!
2. Pastries, cakes and tarts
Be overwhelmed by the array of cakes, flans, tarts, pastries, pies, biscuits and macaroons available in France. French pastry chefs set the benchmark for quality, so indulge away and work it off with a walk or cycle.
3. Champagne & wine
With famous wine regions like Bordeaux, Burgundy, Loire Valley, Alsace and Provence, France is the place to indulge in a tipple or two! Whether you’re sampling fine vintages straight from the cellar door or savouring a bottle in a Paris restaurant, don’t leave France without trying to the top quality wine and champagne.
French people love their cheese, so when in France eat like the locals do! From soft cheeses like Brie and Camembert to strong, tangy Roquefort and hard, sharp Beaufort, try them all at the cheese shops and markets of France.
Geography and environment
The French capital is a fascinating mix of gritty charm and unusual beauty. Expect to see the full spectrum of life – from well-maintained boulevards lined with classy, up-market restaurants and boutiques, to neighbourhoods full of run-down housing and graffiti-clad industrial buildings. Paris is a city that has many different sides, where visitors can turn each corner and find something new.
History and government
France has a fascinating history marked by war, invasion, imperialistic expansion and revolution. Enduring the ravages of the Black Death, and the uncertainty of political upheaval and civil unrest, it's probably these events that give the modern French people their passionate, fighting spirit.
France’s recent history is as interesting as its beginnings. Invaded by Germany during World War I and World War II, France suffered many losses during both of these wars. Civilian and military lives were lost, strict rationing created harsh living conditions, and regular airstrikes and shelling created a climate of fear. The French Resistance has been the subject of many books and movies, mainly because it’s such an interesting example of the French spirit. The French Resistance is the name given to pockets of men and women who rallied against the Nazi occupation of France during World War II. Using guerrilla tactics, as well as underground press and other means, these groups provided safe houses and escape networks for Allied soldiers trapped behind enemy lines. They also provided intelligence and other information to the Allies, as well as committed acts of sabotage against the German military. Visitors to France can choose to see many sites that reflect these times including the beaches of Normandy and the battlefields of Ypres and the Somme.
More recently, France has enjoyed the stability that comes with being a part of the European Union and NATO; even though unemployment remains high, France is currently enjoying more peaceful times than it has had in the past.
Top 10 Iconic Landmarks of France
1. Notre Dame
This iconic Gothic-style cathedral is a true Parisian great. If you think the outside is impressive, wait until you get inside to see the spectacular organ and stunning stained-glass windows.
2. The Louvre
Housing some of the world’s most famous and valuable art, the Louvre Museum is a Parisian icon in its own right. Apart from the artistic masterpieces held within, the unique blend of old and new architecture - capped off by the much-photographed glass pyramid - makes the Louvre a landmark not to be missed.
3. Palace of Versailles
Elaborate galleries, opulent furnishings, gold-framed paintings and manicured gardens, the Palace of Versailles is the ultimate in old-world luxury. See where Marie Antoinette resided in decadence before her execution and understand why she was reticent to leave.
4. Chateau de Chambord
Located in the Loire Valley, this chateau fit for a fairytale is a classic example of French Renaissance architecture at its finest. Not to be outshone, the surrounding gardens, lawns and water features complement this grand, national treasure.
5. Le Pantheon
This historic domed icon is located in Paris’ Latin Quarter and is the final resting place of many famous French historical figures including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Louis Braille, Marie Curie and Alexandre Dumas. Head here to admire neoclassical architecture and catch up on some French history.
6. Centre Georges Pompidou
The revolutionary, post-modern design of this building put it on the world map back in the 1970s and today it’s still as relevant as when it was first built. Home to an art museum, library and research centre, this place has attracted millions of visitors over the years – drawn in by the peculiar architecture and innovative works housed inside.
7. Arc De Triomphe
Commissioned by pint-sized Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, the grand Arc de Triomphe monument signifies triumph and victory. Best seen at night, the luminous golden hues provide atmospheric photographic opportunities
8. Moulin Rouge
There’s no mistaking the famous red windmill of the Moulin Rouge. Take a snapshot outside or head inside to catch a cheeky show full of bedazzled, feathered dancers.
9. The Beaches of Normandy
The historic ‘D-Day’ landings of Normandy were one of the most crucial military manoeuvres of World War II. Visiting the beaches where the largest amphibious invasion in world history took place is a must-do for history-buffs and novices alike.
10. Eiffel Tower
Over the years, Paris’ much-loved landmark has been the backdrop to many romantic proposals and magic movie moments. Choose to climb the stairs to the top to take in views of the Parisian skyline or simply bask in the romantic afterglow on the lawn underneath.
Home to designer fashion houses, luxurious perfumeries, exclusive boutiques and antique merchants, France isn’t a great shopping destination for those on a budget. Regardless, there’s much fun to be had whether you’re window shopping or indulging in the real thing.
It's a good idea to check with your local customs officials to ensure that you are able to bring certain items back into your home country. Australia and New Zealand generally have strict quarantine laws.
Things to buy in France
Beautifully packaged scents are best bought in the chic perfumeries of Paris – known as the fragrance capital of the world. Some have been trading for more than a century, others are brand new – either way a bottle of perfume makes a lovely gift for a friend… or yourself.
Stocking everything from modern literature and high-end fashion magazines to hard-to-find classics, the bookshops of France are filled with mystery, romance and adventure – the perfect place to retreat on a rainy day. When the sun is shining, head to the Seine where booksellers line the banks selling comics, postcards and antique books.
3. Flea Markets
The flea markets of Paris are great places to pick up vintage pieces. From art deco brooches to pretty 1940’s purses, you’re guaranteed to find something unique on the cheap! Try Porte de Vanves and Porte de Saint-Ouen in Paris.
4. Village Markets
French provincial markets just ooze with charm. Peruse fresh produce, home-made jams, pickled vegetables, rich cheeses and summer flowers - and dream of living such an idyllic life.
Festivals and Events in France
France lights up with balls, parades, fireworks and street parties in this iconic holiday dedicated to the Fall of Bastille. Although this holiday is celebrated all over France, it is the celebratory vibe and decadent flourishes of Paris that best capture the triumphant spirit of this oh-so French holiday.
Performers and art lovers from around the world descend on Avignon for this three-week celebration of performance art. Dance, theatre, comedy and musical performances feature on the bill, with everything from open-air classical concerts and sweeping operatic epics to spoken word poetry.
Mondial du Snowboard
The alpine town of Les Deux Alpes hosts thousands of snowboarders for three days of top-flight snowboarding competition. See the latest and greatest tricks and boards before the season starts and party it up at night at the heaving music and bar scene. Non-boarders will appreciate the bike riding and skateboarding side shows.
FAQs on France
Beer = 5 Euro
Baguette snack = 5 Euro
Budget meal in a café = 10 Euro
High-end restaurant meal = 30 Euro
For more information on insurance, please go to: Travel Insurance
Apr 1 Easter Monday
May 1 Labour Day
May 8 1945 Victory Day
May 9 Ascension Day
May 20 Whit Monday
Jul 14 Bastille Day
Aug 15 Assumption
Nov 1 All Saints’ Day
Nov 11 Armistice Remembrance Day
Dec 25 Christmas Day
Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/France/public-holidays
Australia: Not required
Belgium: Not required
Canada: Not required
Germany: Not required
Ireland: Not required
Netherlands: Not required
New Zealand: Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: Not required
UK: Not required
USA: Not required
Health and Safety
Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:
From New Zealand?
Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/
Go to: http://travel.state.gov/
Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/
The World Health Organisation
also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/
France Travel Tips
Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.
Top responsible travel tips for France
1. Be considerate of France’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.
2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with filtered water instead.
3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.
4. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.
5. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.
6. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.
|A Moveable Feast||Ernest Hemingway|
|Dangerous Liaisons||Pierre Choderlos De Laclos|
|I'll Never be French (no matter what I do)||Mark Greenside|
|A Year in Provence||Peter Mayle|
|A Very Long Engagement||Sebastien Japrisot|
|Marie Antoinette: The Journey||Antonia Fraser|