France Vacations

France is one of the largest nations in the European Union. It has coastline on the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. It was the Frankish Kingdom, of which France derives its name, who spread Roman version of Christianity and took control of of a large region of Europe. Over the centuries, France has been known for their wines, food delicacies, high fashion, delicious cheeses and their cultural sophistication. Each region has food, wine and cheese that are unique to their region. And France is full of cosmopolitan cities, quaint country villages, beautiful chateaux and plenty of history.

France Vacation Rentals and Boutique Hotels

France Vacations: Things to see while on vacation in France

France Geography

France is officially known as the French Republic, It is a unitary sovereign state located in western Europe and includes several overseas regions and territories. Continental area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. France covers 640,679 square kilometers (247,368 sq. mi). It is a semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the nation's largest city and the main cultural and commercial center. The Constitution of France establishes the country as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people.

The country is one of the most exciting destinations to explore in Europe. It’s a hexagon-shaped jewel dotted with beautiful rivers and lined with stunning beaches. Mountains and oceans frame its edges. France is lit up with buzzing cities, rich with museums and monuments.
Each region holds its own unique natural wonders and historical sites. Although Paris is a center of fashion, cuisine, art and architecture, there’s something special in every corner of this fascinating country. When you travel to France you can visit quaint country villages, colossal castles, and art museums.

France Culture

The origins of French art were very much influenced by Flemish art and by Italian art at the time of the Renaissance. Jean Fouquet, the most famous medieval French painter, is said to have been the first to travel to Italy and to experience the Early Renaissance first hand. The Renaissance painting School of Fontainebleau was directly inspired by Italian painters such as Primaticcio and Rosso Fiorentino, who both worked in France. Two of the most famous French artists of the time, the Baroque era, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, lived in Italy.

The 17th century was the period when French painting became prominent and individualized itself through classicism. Louis XIV's prime minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert founded the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in 1648 to protect these artists, and in 1666, he created the still-active French Academy in Rome to have direct relations with Italian artists.

At the beginning of the 20th century Cubism was developed by Georges Braque and the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, living in Paris. Other foreign, artists also settled and worked in or near Paris, such as Vincent van Gogh, Marc Chagall, Amedeo Modigliani and Wassily Kandinsky.

Many museums in France are entirely or partly devoted to sculptures and painting works. A huge collection of old masterpieces created before or during the 18th century are displayed in the state-owned Musée du Louvre, such as Mona Lisa, also known as La Joconde. While the Louvre Palace has been for a long time a museum, the Musée d'Orsay was inaugurated in 1986 in the old railway station Gare d'Orsay, in a major reorganization of national art collections, to gather French paintings from the second part of the 19th century (mainly Impressionism and Fauvism movements).

The 19th century saw the writings of many renowned French authors. Victor Hugo is sometimes seen as "the greatest French writer of all times" for excelling in all literary genres. The preface of his play Cromwell is considered to be the manifesto of the Romantic movement. Les Contemplations and La Légende des siècles are considered as "poetic masterpieces", Hugo's verse having been compared to that of Shakespeare, Dante and Homer. His novel Les Misérables is widely seen as one of the greatest novels ever written and The Hunchback of Notre Dame has remained immensely popular.

Other major authors of that century include Alexandre Dumas (The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte-Cristo), Jules Verne (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea), Émile Zola (Les Rougon-Macquart), Honoré de Balzac (La Comédie humaine), Guy de Maupassant, Théophile Gautier and Stendhal (The Red and the Black, The Charterhouse of Parma), whose works are among the most well known in France and the world.

The Prix Goncourt is a French literary prize first awarded in 1903. Important writers of the 20th century include Marcel Proust, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Antoine de Saint Exupéry wrote Little Prince, which has remained popular for decades with children and adults around the world. As of 2014, French authors had more Literature Nobel Prizes than those of any other nation. The first Nobel Prize in Literature was a French author, while France's latest Nobel prize in literature is Patrick Modiano, who was awarded the prize in 2014. Jean-Paul Sartre was also the first nominee in the committee's history to refuse the prize in 1964.

French composers played an important role during the music of the 19th and early 20th century, which is considered to be the Romantic music era. Romantic music emphasized a surrender to nature, a fascination with the past and the supernatural, the exploration of unusual, strange and surprising sounds, and a focus on national identity. This period was also a golden age for operas. French composers from the Romantic era included: Hector Berlioz (best known for his Symphonie fantastique), Georges Bizet (best known for Carmen, which has become one of the most popular and frequently performed operas), Gabriel Faure (best known for his Pavane, Requiem, and nocturnes), Charles Gounod (best known for his Ave Maria and his opera Faust), Jacques Offenbach (best known for his 100 operettas of the 1850s–1870s and his uncompleted opera The Tales of Hoffmann), Edouard Lalo (best known for his Symphonie espagnole for violin and orchestra and his Cello Concerto in D minor), Jules Massenet (best known for his operas, of which he wrote more than thirty, the most frequently staged are Manon (1884) and Werther (1892)) and Camille Saint-Saëns (he has many frequently-performed works, including The Carnival of the Animals, Danse macabre, Samson and Delilah (Opera), Introduction and Rondo Capriccioso, and his Symphony No. 3 (Organ Symphony)).

France has historical and strong links with cinema, with two Frenchmen, Auguste and Louis Lumière (known as the Lumière Brothers) having created cinema in 1895. Several important cinematic movements, including in the late 1950s and 1960s Nouvelle Vague, began in the country. It is noted for having a particularly strong film industry, due in part to protections afforded by the French government. France remains a leader in filmmaking, as of 2006 producing more films than any other European country. The nation also hosts the Cannes Festival, one of the most important and famous film festivals in the world.

French cuisine is also regarded as a key element of the quality of life and the attractiveness of France. A French publication, the Michelin guide, awards Michelin stars for excellence to a select few establishments. The acquisition or loss of a star can have dramatic effects on the success of a restaurant. By 2006, the Michelin Guide had awarded 620 stars to French restaurants, at that time more than any other country, although the guide also inspects more restaurants in France than in any other country (by 2010, Japan was awarded as many Michelin stars as France, despite having half the number of Michelin inspectors working there).

France Architecture

During the Middle Ages, many fortified castles were built by feudal nobles to mark their powers. Some French castles that survived are Chinon, Château d'Angers, the massive Château de Vincennes and the so-called Cathar castles. During this era, France had been using Romanesque architecture like most of Western Europe. Some of the greatest examples of Romanesque churches in France are the Saint Sernin Basilica in Toulouse, the largest Romanesque church in Europe,[275] and the remains of the Cluniac Abbey.

The Gothic architecture, originally named Opus Francigenum meaning “French work” was born in Île-de-France and was the first French style of architecture to be copied in all Europe. Northern France is the home of some of the most important Gothic cathedrals and basilicas, the first of these being the Saint Denis Basilica (used as the royal necropolis); other important French Gothic cathedrals are Notre-Dame de Chartres and Notre-Dame d'Amiens. The kings were crowned in another important Gothic church: Notre-Dame de Reims. Aside from churches, Gothic Architecture had been used for many religious palaces, the most important one being the Palais des Papes in Avignon.

France Landmarks

Some of the top France vacation destinations are located near the 39 sites on the UNESCO Heritage list. There are 104 site waiting to be approved for listing. Some of the sites include:

Canal du Midi

This 360-km network of navigable waterways linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 structures (locks, aqueducts, bridges, tunnels, etc.) is one of the most remarkable feats of civil engineering in modern times. Built between 1667 and 1694, it paved the way for the Industrial Revolution.

Cathedral of Notre-Dame, Former Abbey of Saint-Rémi and Palace of Tau, Reims.

The outstanding handling of new architectural techniques in the 13th century, and the harmonious marriage of sculptural decoration with architecture, has made Notre-Dame in Reims one of the masterpieces of Gothic art.

Historic Centre of Avignon: Papal Palace, Episcopal Ensemble and Avignon Bridge

In the 14th century, this city in the South of France was the seat of the papacy. The Palais des Papes, an austere-looking fortress lavishly decorated by Simone Martini and Matteo Giovanetti, dominates the city, the surrounding ramparts and the remains of a 12th-century bridge over the Rhone. Beneath this outstanding example of Gothic architecture are the Petit Palais and the Romanesque Cathedral of Notre-Dame-des-Doms.

Episcopal City of Albi

On the banks of the Tarn river in south-west France, the old city of Albi reflects the culmination of a medieval architectural and urban ensemble. Today the Old Bridge (Pont-Vieux), the Saint-Salvi quarter and its church are testimony to its initial development (10th -11th centuries). Following the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathar heretics (13th century) it became a powerful episcopal city. Built in a unique southern French Gothic style from local brick in characteristic red and orange colors, the lofty fortified Cathedral (late 13th century) dominates the city, demonstrating the power regained by the Roman Catholic clergy.

Mont-Saint-Michel and its Bay

Perched on a rocky islet in the midst of vast sandbanks exposed to powerful tides between Normandy and Brittany stands the 'Wonder of the West', a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, the abbey is a technical and artistic tour de force, having had to adapt to the problems posed by this unique natural site.

Other Sites in France

Since many people start their travel journey in Paris, here are 6 favorite places to visit and see around The City of Lights:
• The Eiffel Tower
• Cathedral of Notre Dame
• Palace of Versailles
• Arc De Triomphe
• Louvre Museum
• Shopping on the Champs-Elysees

A short distance from Paris France will take you to the Loire Valley, home of many gorgeous castles. Six of the striking fortresses to visit here in the heart of the Loire Valley:
• Chenonceau: its romantic arches stretch over the River Cher.
• Chambord: breathtaking, but apparently not very comfortable for living. It’s original owner only stayed there seventy-two days in all.
• Blois: residence of 7 kings and 10 queens of French history.
• Ussé: the castle that inspired Sleeping Beauty.
• Chinon: a medieval castle that stands strong above the town.
• Villandry: a renaissance castle with manicured gardens.

Besides being home to these magnificent mansions, the Loire Valley is also a top wine region.

The other vacation destinations are the key wine regions
• Champagne: located just northeast of Paris.
• Bordeaux: the largest wine-growing area, located in southwestern France.
• Burgundy: is located in the eastern region between Paris and Lyon.

If you travel to the southern region, you can enjoy beaches, wine, mountain walks and beautiful scenery. France’s southeastern corner is home to colossal Mont Blanc. The Provence area hosts Mediterranean coastlines, spectacular scenery, and remains of Greek and Roman civilizations.
Here are 6 sights to see in the south of France:
• The Millau Viaduct: a famous new bridge (the tallest in the world) that opened in 2004. It’s an impressive marvel of design nestled in the middle of spectacular scenery.
• Nimes: home of the best preserved Roman arena in the world.
• Sete: a delightful town also known as “little Venice.”
• Montpellier: a modern university city that’s also rich in history and charm.
• Aix en Provence: an engaging old town with markets, museums and history.
• Pont du Gard: an incredible 3-level Roman aqueduct that still stands 2,000 years after it was built.

The southwestern area has a variety of landscapes. Travelers will find hills and woodland, seaports and vineyards. Hiking, sunbathing, and vineyard visiting are all part of the pleasant life in this corner of France.

Normandy, in the central northern region, is known for white, chalky cliffs hugging a rugged coastline. Rocky islands, stretches of beach and sparse forests add to the awesome features of the Normandy area.
Travelers should not miss these gems in Normandy:
• The D-Day landing beaches
• The port of LeHavre
• The magical island of Mont-Saint-Michel and its medieval monastery
• The city of Rouen with monuments dedicated to Joan of Arc
• The village of Giverny, home to Impressionist painter Claude Monet

Vacations to France are a unique experience where you can enjoy a delicious cuisine, historical cities and a delightful culture known for its exquisite style and taste.