France is the world’s most popular tourist destination with close to 80 million visitors each year. This is not surprising considering the country boasts a rich history and culture, an array of gourmet specialty dishes and to-die-for wines, and some of the most breathtaking landscapes.
The scenic terrains of France are diverse, ranging from the ragged coasts of Brittany in the northwest to the hills of Provence in the Southeast to the canyons of the Pyrenees and wooded valleys of the Dordogne in the Southwest to the glacial peaks of the Alps and mountain-beaches of the Island of Corsica in the Southeast. The heartland of the country is also adorned with vineyards whether along the Loire River valley or fields of Bordeaux.
Tourists are particularly drawn to France’s renowned ski resorts in the Alps in Albertville, Grenoble, and Chamonix, castles in the Loire River valley and the province of Brittany like Mont Saint Michel, sandy beaches along the French Riviera and Mediterranean, prehistoric caves and paintings from the Dordogne, Roman monuments in the South, Gothic cathedrals in the north such as the famous Notre Dame, museums like the Museum of the Bayeux Tapestry or the Louvre, and famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower. Wine aficionados enjoy touring through the Loire River valley and Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagnes and Côtes du Rhône regions for eclectic wine tasting.
The cuisine in France is also cutting-edge for good eating has always been one of the favorite pastimes of the French people. . The country offers more than 365 different varieties of cheeses. In caves near the hill town of Roquefort in south-central France, a tangy, blue-veined cheese is cured. Roquefort, made of sheep's milk, is a gourmet treat around the world, as are Brie, Camembert, Port Salut, and Coulommiers. Famous regional specialties typically come in the form of duck, beef, fondue, and seafood dishes. And crêperies are found everywhere, serving topping-filled pancakes.
Le bon gout ("good taste") is as important when it comes to food as it is in every aspect of life in France. It is not unusual to see a butcher or grocer arranging his wares with all the care an artist might devote to a still life painting, and French housewives take pride in preparing even the simplest meal well. From the smallest bistro to the most elegant restaurant, dining is a pleasure in France. Every meal offers foods with a distinctly French flavor. For breakfast, there are flaky croissants, brioches, crisp petits pains, and other rolls to enjoy with jams and a piping hot cup of cafe au lait. Other meals present such delights as soupe a I'oignon (onion soup), served bubbling hot with cheese on top; escar-gots bourguinonne (snails prepared with garlic and herbs); or pot-au-feu, a savory stew; all of them accompanied by enough long, crusty loaves of bread to enjoy the last of the sauce or gravy.
Countless varieties of fluffy omelets are consumed daily in France, and bifteck et pommes frites (steak and french fried potatoes) are ever popular. For dessert, there are literally hundreds of different patisseries to choose from. Or the lucky visitor might select a mousse au chocolat, a creme caramel, or simply end his meal with a glace (ice cream).
In the grand luxe restaurants of France, especially those of Paris, sparkling crystal, dazzling white linens, and silverware placed "just so" form a backdrop for the best of gastronomie (fine eating). There a Chateaubriand or a souffle is prepared to order and served with elegant precision and even drama. One seemingly simple dish may take the combined efforts of six chefs to produce. French food is a joy the visitor can share with the French, and it is also an art form that is admired and imitated everywhere.
The top travel destinations in France include Paris, Bordeaux, Cannes, Lyon, Nice, Marseille, Strasbourg, Toulouse, Grenoble, Montpellier, Alp d’Huez, Lille, Le Havre, and Lourdes. But anywhere you go, France is an idyllic portrait of natural beauty.