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France: A Country on Everyone's List

''While Paris is a must-do destination, the countryside is equally good and mesmerising.''

Places that you could combine : If you are doing other places in Europe, you could just do Paris, which is undoubtedly beautiful. But in case you have done Europe several times and are looking to cover any one destination, then in France you have a range of options to choose from – the French Alps and the Pyrenees, the glorious Loire Valley, Provence and the Mediterranean coastline, and Brittany with its ancient Celtic heritage.

Provence : It has several towns and villages which are old and fairy tale-like such as Saint-Remy-de-Provence, Les Baux-de-Provence, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gordes; the list is just endless. I chose to stay at St. Remy in Provence and hired a car from Avignon, which is about 30 mins drive from the village. Please note, trains do not go up to all villages. If you have time, also check out Nimes, Arles (some Roman towns) and Camargue (a paradise for migratory birds). In the Mediterranean coastline, which is a part of Provence, you could perhaps make Nice as your base. You could easily do others towns and villages such as Marseilles, Cassis, Eze Village from there.

Ideal number of days : At least a week

Getting around in France : Driving isn’t a bad option. Roads in France are generally very good with little congestion outside big cities. But be careful of what looks like a comparatively short journey on GPS as you could be in for a shock -- the same road could be really lengthy.
If you are looking to rent a car, you could rent it in advance from your home country in order get a vehicle of your choice at a good price. Make sure you carry your driving licence and remember, it is an offence to drive with more than 0.5 g of alcohol per litre of blood. While visiting vineyards, its wise not to drink before so that you can taste the wine there.
Also, Travelling by train in France is cheap, easy and reliable. If you can book early you will get a good bargain, but you may well have to stick to a specific time. Internet booking from a French official tourism site (SNCF) is always a good idea. Don’t forget to validate your ticket. Look for the yellow machines usually just before you reach the platform.

How to save money : France is expensive. So you could perhaps stick to trains and metros for travelling and stay in campsites, budget hotels and hostels. Eating at small local restaurants and cafes will also help you save penny – this is the biggest area where you could find hole on the wallet. You could avoid restaurants and general and look out for bakeries and the pork butcher shop, ”Une Charcuterie”. A baguette, salami and red wine can provide a fulfilling meal while being highly easy on the pocketbook.

Ideal time to visit : The warm summer months June, July and August make up for the best time. Also, shopaholics, please note there is a month long sale during this time which typically starts in the end of June. However, going in the off-season can save you a good amount.

Shopping : France is a real paradise, with a variety of designer clothing and accessories, the brightly colour Provencal fabrics , ceramics, decorative pieces and so on. So don’t go with an already full suitcase. Travel light!!! There are areas where, you literally need to drag your luggage to your hotel/B&B. Also, if you have multiple destinations involved, it helps when your luggage is light.

Last but not least : You could do some homework and learn a few French words before visiting the country, such as, Hello, Bye, Thank You, Please, Excuse Me, Where is, How much, I would like.

Source / Review By : Deepshikha Sarkar

A travel buff, Deepshikha lives in Cameroon

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