France

Quick Facts

Region: Europe

Population:
65,073,482

Religion:

The dominant religion is Roman Catholic (86%), with small numbers of Moslems (8%), Protestants (2%), Jewish (1%) and unaffiliated (3%).

Language:

France belongs to the ‘romance’ group of languages, a group of closely related vernaculars descended from Latin. There are approximately 98 million French-speaking people living principally in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Canada, and parts of Africa. In southern France, Provençal, or Occitan, is spoken by about 12 million people. Formerly more unified as a literary language, Provençal now consists of a series of local dialects. English is not widely spoken, especially in the countryside.

Area (sq. km):
547,030 square meters

Time:

GMT +1 ( GMT +2 from 29 March to 26 Sept)

When To Travel

Northern France enjoys a temperate summertime climate. In the Northeast, the Auvergne, Burgundy and Rhone Valley the climate is more ‘continental’, with warm summers and colder winters. The southern half of the country enjoys a Mediterranean climate all year round, with hot to very hot summers and mild winters. Very strong winds (such as the Mistral) can occur throughout the entire region. The Atlantic influences the climate of the western coastal areas from the Loire to the Basque region; the weather is temperate and relatively mild with rainfall distributed throughout the year. The French slopes of the Pyrenees are warm and sunny in the height of from spring to late summer.

France is at its best time in spring and autumn, weather-wise. Peak season is July and August, when many French citizens go on holidays to beach resorts in France and the rest of Europe, businesses close, including museums and restaurants during this period.

Festival list

Remembrance Day (Le onze novembre)
1 January 1970

Celebrates the WWI armistice

La Semaine du Gout (Tasting Week)
1 January 1970 to 1 January 1970

Teaching people to appreciate good home cooking with public tastings, exhibitions, street parties.

Salon du Chocolat, Paris
1 January 1970 to 1 January 1970

Every possible aspect of the brown wonder-drug is explored at this big celebration in Port de Versailles.

Assumption Day (L'Assomption)
1 January 1970
Tour de France
1 January 1970 to 1 January 1970

A three-week cycling race for 3,500km (2000 miles) over the country (route changes annually). The world's most famous French sporting event.

Festival d'Avignon
1 January 1970 to 1 January 1970

A dynamic and diverse Arts festival, boasting over 50 official productions and many more fringes. For classical music, try Festival International d'Art Lyrique in Aix-en-Provence in July, too.

Fete de la Musique, Paris
1 January 1970

Free! A monster musical celebration all over this lovely city. Professionals mix with amateurs playing different sounds in different locations.

Gypsy Festival [Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Provence]
1 January 1970

A gypsy gathering; historic, unique and kaleidoscopic.

Cannes Film Festival
1 January 1970 to 1 January 1970

No need to be a celebrity to enjoy Europe's high profile film fiesta. Loads of public screenings are available, as well as a small chance of bumping into stars. No better place for people watching.

May Day (Fete du Travail)
1 January 1970

Traditional parades

Victoire 1945
1 January 1970

Celebrates the Allied victory in Europe that ended WWII

New Years Day (Jour de l'an)
1 January 1970

Useful Travel Facts

Airports:

Paris Roissy Charles de Gaulle is located 23km (14 miles) northeast of Paris. RER trains serve the airport in conjunction with ADP shuttles. Line B runs from the TGV station at Terminal 2 to Gare du Nord, Châtelet-les-Halles, St Michel and Denfert-Rochereau, with connections for the métro. TGV and Thalys trains also run to various destinations in Paris and beyond. There is an SNCF desk on the fourth floor of Terminal 2 for public transport enquiries. A taxi to the city centre will take around 45 minutes and costs about €32. Roissybus serves all three terminals and runs to Place de l’Opéra for the Paris métro (journey time of 45 minutes). RATP buses run from Terminal 1 and 2. Bus no.350 stops at Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est, bus no.351 at the Porte de Bagnolet and Nation. Air France coaches depart from Terminals 1 and 2 to Place Charles de Gaulle and Porte Maillot and to Montparnasse and Gare de Lyon. They also provide connections to Paris Orly Airport, from Terminals 1 and 2. Airport Shuttle: You have to book ahead of time if you want to use them. You can book them from their website www.airportshuttle.fr. The cost is €18 for one person, or €14 if there are two or more of you. NO extra charge for baggage, so, if you are transporting equipment or large quantities of materials, use these guys over a cab! FYI, their number in France is: 01.45.38.55.72. Airport Express: The competition: www.airportexpress.fr 01.41.71.41.46. Costs €12 per person with a minimum of two people. It is a 24hour a day service. Bordeaux Airport is located 12km (7.5 miles) from Bordeaux. Over 50 taxis are always available at the airport. The airport can also be reached via shuttle bus. Jet’ Bus operates a service from Bordeaux city centre to the airport (journey time of 40 minutes). Further information is available via the airport's information desks.

Telephone:

The international dialling code for France is +33. Telephone calls, especially international ones, can be expensive when made from a hotel. We suggest you check the price first. If you have a mobile phone it should be a relatively simple procedure to arrange ‘global roaming’ with your service provider, however charges are generally very high so be sure to check this option thoroughly. Almost all public telephones in France require a telecarte, which can be purchased at post offices, tabacas (tobacconists), supermarket check-out counters, SNCF (train) ticket windows, Paris metro stations, and anywhere you see a blue sticker reading telecarte en vente ici.

Electricity:

The electricity supply is standard throughout Europe, at 220 volts, and appliances requiring 240 volts will all work normally. Most European countries use plugs with two round pins. A set of adaptor plugs is recommended.

Food:

Lunch in France is generally served between 12 and 2pm. It may be difficult to find restaurants open in the afternoon. Dinner is served from 7-9pm. Set menus, like the menu du jour, the menu of the day, is usually good value. A bistro may offer a better value than a restaurant. A brasserie is also a less formal experience than a restaurant. Traditional rich and heavy French meals are no longer everybody's choice but modern French cuisine - light and healthy, in stylish bistros - is becoming more popular. There is also a fantastic selection of ethnic foods thanks to ex-colonial immigrants from Indochina, the Middle East, Caribbean and South Pacific. But best of all is taking your time over a simple petit déjeuner [breakfast] - a big cup of strong coffee and brandy with a perfect croissant. Traditional French cuisine of the protein-covered-with-rich sauce kind has been top of the gastronomic world since Romans travelled there to eat wild boar with cranberries in 34AD. But it's finally out of fashion - too heavy, too fattening, too taste-limited, but the quality and variety of regional ingredients is still outstanding and simple seafood dishes are particularly exquisite, not only on the coast, but inland too. Ethnic cuisines are also excellent, interesting and widely available, but the real pleasure of French food is the simple mid-trip picnic bought from a local market or shop - freshly baked baguettes with cheese, salami or paté, olives, salad and wine. Steak-frites [steak with chips/ fries] is typical fast food in France, along with crêpes [pancakes with fillings], pizzas and baguettes [sandwiches] with various fillings - which can be found on streets everywhere, and make popular meals for Euro poor or time poor travellers. Vegetarian travellers can often have problems with fixed menus [menu fixe] as the French do love dead animals. French cuisine is very varied, with the differences based on the produce and gastronomy of each region, a few are below; PERIGORD/DORDOGNE: Some regard this as the best regional cuisine in France. This region is famous for truffles, foie gras (goose liver pate) and poultry. Walnut oil and goose fat are used in a lot of the cooking. Also popular is pork, duck, freshwater fish (which can all be stuffed with foie gras or cooked with truffles), crayfish, rabbit, beef. Keep a look out for desserts such as chestnut gateaux, tarts and flans with plums, quinces, grapes, cherries and pears, PROVENCE: This region is sometimes called the “Garden of France” due to its fantastic range of spices, herbs, fruit and vegetables. The culinary term á la provençale relates to this region, you can guarantee that if you order a dish á la provençale, it will come with garlic and olive oil infused tomatoes. Other ingredients that frequently appear on menus are aubergines, zucchini, squash and onions, combine these ingredients with garlic and herbs and you get the all-time Provençal favourite, ratatouille. Aïoli is a sauce made by mixing olive oil made mayonnaise with plenty of fresh crushed garlic, which can be spread over asparagus or eggs and codfish. Provence’s most famous soup is bouillabaisse, which is made with at least 3 different kinds of fresh fish, onions, tomatoes, saffron, bay leaves, sage, and thyme.

Transport:

The French get around by car, bicycle, train (including the amazing TGV trains) and taxi. On our tours we use the power of the leg, either walking or cycling. For longer journeys we use road vehicles.

Shopping:

France is best known for its luxury goods such as haute couture (high quality clothing), clothing accessories, art, lingerie and perfume. It is best to purchase wines direct from the vineyards. Price wise, France is not so brilliant due to the Euros strength, but French style and taste is still irresistible. If a designer label is not your thing, try French eccentricity at smaller boutiques in trendy areas, or cheap chic stuff at flea markets. Bargain shopping for any French products at huge malls in places such as Calais or Lille is very popular, especially with mainly British travellers. Visiting local open-air food markets for regional cheese, pastries and wine, especially in Provence, is a fun way to make lunch.

Visa: Visas are currently not required for Australian, New Zealand, US, Canadian or UK/EU passport holders wishing to visit France.

Useful Words & Phrases

French

Hello: Bonjour
Good Bye: Au revoir
Please: S’il-vous-plait
Thank You: Merci
You're Welcome: Je vous en prie
Yes: Oui
No: Non
Excuse me (request): Excusez-moi
Sorry: Pardon
How are you? (formal): Comment allez-vous
How are you? (informal): Ça va
Do you speak English?: Parlez-vous anglais
I don’t understand: Je ne comprends pas
What is your name?: Comment vous appelez vous?
My name is...: Je m’appelle...
Where is...: Où est...
I’d like...: Je voudrais...
How much is it?: Combien ça coûte?
Which way to...: Comment faire pour aller...
City centre: le centre-ville
Train station: la gare
Bank: la banque
Toilet: les toilettes
Exchange office: un bureau de change
1: un
2: deux
3: trois
4: quatre
5: cinq
6: six
7: sept
8: huit
9: neuf
10: dix
20: vingt
50: cinquante
100: cent

Further Reading

A Year In Provence Peter Mayle Toujours Provence Peter Mayle The Olive Farm Carol Drinkwater Lazy Days Out In the Loire Philippe Barbour Burgundy: Touring wine country-Hubrecht Duijker Dordogne Adventures-Eric Line Five Quarters of the Orange-Joanne Harris Walks & climbs in the Pyrenees-Kev Reynolds And God Created the French-Louis-Bernard Robitaille

Our Favourite Trips