France is one of those countries that lives in the imaginations of people from all over the world, in images of berets, cheese, wine, and baguettes. Oh, and the Eiffel tower, of course.
The France of the 21st Century might not have much to do with many of these idyllic stereotypes of yesteryear (unless you wander into the right rural community), but the country does boast various attractions that can fill up your itinerary if you find yourself there on vacation.
There’s many a helpful guide online about navigating French society, communicating in the latest youth slang, and planning the details of your trip.
Here are a few things to do if you find yourself in France.
Take a visit to the Louvre
The Louvre is undoubtedly one of the world’s great museums, and is so famous that it frequently appears as a setting in critically acclaimed films, including the conspiracy blockbuster, The Da Vinci code.
Much like the British Museum, the Louvre owes much of its treasure to the high and heady days of Empire, when the European powers were exploring the world, cracking open the pyramids, and bringing home assorted treasures from around the globe, to display for the benefit of curious locals.
To this end, the Louvre features a very impressive section on Egypt, and the civilisations of the fertile crescent. In fact, one of the Louvres great treasures is the Law Code of Hammurabi, an ancient Mesopotamian tablet of laws from the 28th Century BC, predating the biblical laws.
But the Louvre is also home to many far more local European treasures, including, of course, the world-renowned Mona Lisa, and Venus de Milo.
If you find yourself in Paris for even a single day, you’d be selling yourself short if you didn’t make the effort to get down to the Louvre for a visit.
Try the wines
France is famous worldwide for its wine industry, and there are no shortage of establishments you can go to in order to indulge in wine tasting to your heart’s content. You could even just visit various restaurants to enjoy rare and outstanding local cuisine, accompanied by the kinds of wine that connoisseurs go crazy for.
Then again, you could go out into the countryside and find wine-tasting day trips and related activities on offer, and spend your time basking in the summer sun while sampling the local vintages, learning how to refine your taste, and discovering something about the history and practice of the wine industry.
Oh, and you might also have heard that France is pretty well known for its cheeses, too. Suffice to say, some people have suggested that cheese and wine go quite well together. You can draw your own conclusions on the subject, and decide what to do with that information.
Do a bit of skiing
The French Alps are the perfect setting for a skiing vacation, and the leading ski-resorts are often located in, or near, the kind of idyllic log-cabin adorned towns that people put on post-cards, write poems about, and travel from around the world to photograph.
Every year, people from around Europe and further afield make their way to French ski resorts in order to get away from all the frustrations and preoccupations of everyday life back home, and to speed down the powdery slopes with reckless abandon.
On your Alpine vacation, you could take up cross-country skiing at a leisurely pace; an activity which doesn’t involve speeding down hills or doing death-defying stunts. Then again, you could also do the exact opposite.
In fact, you don’t even need to “ski” on your ski trip at all. There’s always snowboarding to try out, if that appeals more to you, and most resorts will have open “play” slopes where you and your family could just ride toboggans and have a good time.
Go up Mont Blanc
Mont Blanc is a famed mountain that poets have written about for centuries, and which soars majestically over an idyllic town below, with traditional wooden buildings arrayed all over the place.
Mont Blanc itself is not just the highest mountain in France, it is, in fact, the highest mountain in Europe, west of the Caucus mountains in Russia.
Unlike most mountains you’re likely to come across, you can ascend virtually the full height of the mountain, by means of a special indoor staircase, complete with viewing platforms, and a restaurant, as well. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself getting seriously lightheaded on the ascent due to the altitude. You will actually get very high up.
Also, expect it to be cold. -20 degrees Celsius isn’t uncommon on the mountain, and the wind is likely to be strong as well.
But the trade-off for these potential moments of discomfort, is that you’ll be exposed to some truly breathtaking vistas. Whether you’re an amateur or professional photographer, an artist, or just an ordinary person trying to find the best way to spend a day trip on a skiing vacation, visiting Mount Blanc is bound to be a memorable experience.
Visit Cannes and do some celeb spotting
The resort town of Cannes is famous around the world for being the setting of the annual Cannes Film Festival, which is frequented by A-list film stars and celebrities from near and far.
In fact, Cannes, in general, is well-known for being a haunt of the rich and famous, and on any given summer’s day you’re likely to see luxury pleasure yachts docked there, and crowds hoping to encounter someone they’ve seen on the silver screen.
If celeb-spotting is something you enjoy doing with your free time, a trip to Cannes is likely a good idea. And even if you don’t encounter your favourite Hollywood A-listers, or even B-listers, during your visit, Cannes itself is still a beautiful and appealing seaside town on the French Riviera.
You’re unlikely to find yourself regretting your choice to drop by, one way or the other.