‘Every man has two countries – his own and France.’
These words were reputedly spoken by Thomas Jefferson, third President of the USA and an ardent Francophile…
Why is France called the hexagon?
Did you know that mainland France is shaped like the geometrical shape of a hexagon and covers an area of 550,000km2?
That’s quite big considering its population is only roughly 65,500,000 people!
Twice as big as the UK but smaller than the USA.
In fact, it’s the largest area of the 27 countries in the EU!
A big country to explore then…
When the mainland French area is viewed on a map, it has the physical appearance of a hexagon with its six sides and physical shape is like that of polygon – a flat shape with straight sides.
Enough maths lessons!
The word ‘L’ hexagone’ has become a casual synonym for metropolitan France because of this shape and has stuck as a nickname for the country.
It shares its land borders with six countries so obviously has a lot of neighbors, making it a very friendly and accessible place to visit!
France is said to be the most Latin country of northern Europe and the most Nordic country of southern Europe.
It faces the warm Mediterranean Sea on its south coast.
On its west coast, there is the Atlantic Ocean which is famous for its wild waves.
On the north coast, France faces Britain with its the North Sea and the English Channel with their long beaches of fine sand.
How long is a flight to France?
If you want to fly to France from your overseas trip to Britain, you could reach Paris in less than an hour.
In fact, unless you are flying to the south of France, most destinations take around one to two hours.
Not bad for a quick trip over from good ol’ Blighty.
However, a trip from the USA direct will obviously depend on where in the States you are flying from.
From the east coast, it generally takes about 8 hours.
If you’re on the west coast, say California, you should expect to be airborne for about 12 hours…
Yep, it’s quite a trek but one well worth it!
How much does it cost to travel to France?
Again, it depends on where you’re flying from which is why lots of American adventurers try and see a lot of Europe during the same trip, to spread the cost…
Cost also depends on whether you want a cheap flight with no frills or are keen to travel with a bit more luxury.
You can expect to pay around $280 as the cheapest airline round-trip option from the USA to Paris.
However, the most popular route is from New York to Paris and costs around $502 round-trip.
This all depends on what time of year you want to travel, from where and to where…
Don’t forget to factor in the costs of getting to and from airports – sometimes this can be quite costly too.
Perhaps you can get a group booking if there’s a few of you keen to travel?
Best French travel guide
As you can imagine there are quite a few travel guides on popular countries such as France.
You can’t go far wrong, however, with ‘The Rough Guide to France’ which is an in-depth, easy to use guide with loads of expert advice about the country.
They must be pretty good – they are on their 14th edition! And are reasonably priced!
Full of colorful maps throughout the guide, both regional and city level.
They also suggest itineraries to help with planning and have in-depth sections of history and cultural experiences you can enjoy.
The ‘Lonely Planet’ is another excellent guide to France.
A bit pricier but its in-depth award-winning book is worth it.
This guidebook suggests terrific travel experiences and has excellent planning advice from day trips to whole trip adventures.
For those of you who are traveling on a tighter budget, ‘The France Travel Guide for 2019’ is a must-see guide for backpackers.
This fantastic guide focuses on how to see France with a variety of money-saving tips while still experiencing all that France has to offer without breaking the bank!
Summer months in France
Are you thinking about spending your summer month in France but are worried that everyone else is too?
Yes, it’s crowded in some places and airfares, and accommodation are at their peak, but it’s worth it!
The summer months in France are more or less guaranteed sunshine, long, light evenings and lots of events laid on to entertain us all.
However, it is a good idea to remember that the north of France tends to experience weather similar to the UK, being often wet and unpredictable.
If this is your first trip to France, then you’re going to want to experience as much of the country as possible.
The diversity of the country’s luscious landscape means there’s a vast of places for you to visit.
You could spend years exploring France but still not come close to exhausting its treasures and riches.
France is renowned for so much beauty – you have the spectacular coastlines of Brittany, the limestone hills of Provence, the canyons of the Pyrenees, and if you have time to leave the metropolitan area of France and venture to the island of Corsica you’ll be able to see for yourself their unbelievable half-moon bays.
There are the valleys of the Dordogne, the meadows of the Loire valley and the famous peaks of the Alps – the list goes on.
Add in the history, the cuisine, the culture and you’ll never want to leave!
We’ve all heard of the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Cathedrale Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe.
No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to these main site historical places.
What about the Centre Pompidou, the Musee Rodin or the Basilique du Sacre-Coeur?
You seriously can’t visit this remarkable city without experiencing its monument-lined boulevards, bistros, and boutiques which are surrounded by galleries, cafes, restaurants and wine bars.
Or without a visit to Paris’ glorious gardens such as the Jardin du Luxembourg… Or wander over the many beautiful bridges which separate the old parts of the city from the new.
As Audrey Hepburn said, ‘Paris is always a good idea.’
Bordeaux may not be the capital of France, but it’s the capital of wine.
Located in the Aquitaine region, in southwest France, the city is alive with bars a vin, where you can experience the local specialties.
Bordeaux’s city center features more than 350 historical structures and landmarks that include medieval churches and beautiful old bridges.
The city also has several plazas including the beautiful Place de la Bourse which has mirror-like effects.
Wherever you decide to spend your time, you must experience the spectacular cuisine of the French!
Is a major Mediterranean seaport located just off the southeast coast of France?
Marseille boasts of a pleasant climate, Roman ruins, medieval architecture and incredible cultural venues.
As it’s a port, it is dominated by a bustling harbor with waterfront cafes, shops, and bars.
Marseille also has amongst its attractions, the Calanques, which are a series of small inlets with spectacular blue water and limestone cliffs.
Is a city to do just that as it’s a city full of food delicacies such as mussels, waffles, and chocolates.
Although famous for its Christmas markets you won’t have to wait until the December as this city is full of year-long markets and places of historical interest.
This city serves as the seat of the European Parliament and other relevant European institutions including the European Court of Human Rights.
The city center boasts both French and German architecture including a stunning Gothic Cathedral, which features intricate carvings and a 300-year old, still-working astrological clock!
And it is…. Located on the Cote d’Azur, this is an amazing place full of beaches as well as historical monuments.
All nestled around the Bay of Angels which is miles of the loveliest urban sea-front.
Within the old town, you can buy anything from olive oil to dodgy art!
Located in Normandy amongst vast mud flats and powerful tidal waves, this is a fortress city built on a rocky island.
Full of quirky little shops and medieval churches, galleries, not to mention restaurants, cafes, and bars dotted around its walls, this is a beautiful small city not to be missed!
Its star attraction is said to be the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel built in 708AD after the Archangel Michael allegedly visited the Bishop Avranches.
If you are more of a city person, then you should head to the south of France. This little town is full of fountains and little squares full of restaurants, very welcome on those very hot days!
Nicknamed ‘La Ville Rose’ due to its blushing brick churches and buildings, this coral-colored city, Toulouse is France’s four largest metropolis.
The list of spectacular cites is endless!
So, sightseeing or seaside?
France has so many amazing cities and beautiful coasts like the Mediterranean or the Cote d’Azur for you to spend your summer month.
If cities aren’t your thing, head on down to the coast as the seaside is a French thing with its eclectic seaside resorts!
Did you know there are over 2,000 miles of coastline which satisfies everyone from nature lovers, to surfers!
France is full of spacious beaches and lovely little seaside towns – it’s a matter of choice, whether you like touristy destinations or quaint, unusual places off the beaten track.
Wherever you decide to head, just make sure you book your campsite, hotel well in advance!
Is a picturesque seaside town in Nord-Pas-de-Calais which is a combination of French and English charm and culture.
Flanked by a wonderfully white beach, this is a must for those seaside lovers.
Is snuggled between Monaco and Nice on the Cote d’Azur coastline showing off the magnificent Mediterranean views.
This is your picture-perfect seaside resort which is nicknamed ‘Little Venice.’
It has meandering canals which are covered by quaint stone bridges.
As it is traffic-free, these canals with their boats are very useful!
Just north of Biarritz is the surfers’ paradise…
With a gorgeous stretch of white, sandy beach, this is a haven for all the world’s surfers due to its incredible waves in the Atlantic.
A beautiful Bretagne coastal town which still retains its 19-century promenade.
It has a lively cultural scene with its annual film festival and its chic restaurants scattered amongst its cobbled streets.
High up on a hill and overlooking two beautiful blue lagoons – a haven for flamingos and ducks, is this lovely little seaside town, on the Languedoc-Roussillon coast.
A town is full of history with its medieval ruins and its 13-century watchtower.
The white, sandy beach (the setting for the 1986 French cult film ‘Betty Blue’) is populated by stilted chalets!
Fun facts about France
• Did you know that France doesn’t have an east coast!
• The French film industry is the world’s most prolific, after the USA and India!
• France remains one of the world’s most popular tourist destination, with over 82 million visitors annually.
• Although the French are snobs when it comes to food, they are also the second largest consumer of McDonald’s burgers after the USA, consuming more than a million Big Macs each day!
• In 1910, it was made illegal for couples to kiss on train platforms as it caused delayed departures! The law is still in place – although not enforced!
The best month to visit France
This depends on what you’re traveling to France for…
France is a year-round tourist destination but if you’re thinking luggage…
The Spring is seen as possibly the best time to visit France as it’s less touristy at this time but still hot enough to enjoy.
This means the months of April to June.
The out of season months are generally September to November where it is still temperate and probably not as crowded.
The summer months in France are the holiday season in most of Europe . It can be hot during these months, great for a beach holiday but might be crowded.
The winter months are often grey, wet and cold – although if you’re keen on museums, palaces and other places of historical interest, this may be the ideal time to visit.
If you’re a foodie, then the best months are April, May, and June as France has an abundance of food festivals and events on at this time.
Likewise, for those wine tasters amongst you – March to May is the most scenic whereas, January and February are the month’s winemakers have time to discuss your requirements and interest.
Best places to visit in France
Provence is a region full of beautiful things to do and see.
Provencal markets, canoeing, and climbing amidst pretty villages are just part of the beautiful landscape which is still held together by farming, family, and festivals.
This coastline snakes from St Tropez to the Italian border with a kaleidoscope of color.
Experience the many miles of beach, pretty coastal harbors with smart, trendy cafes and bars and the 300-days a year of sunshine!
Home to over 3,000 restaurants, many serving the staple Provencal favorites, such as bouillabaisse and daube.
In southwest France where there are pastoral green meadows and vineyards surrounded by chateaux, farms hilltop villages, ancient rocks, and caves home to prehistoric art, and the majestic Dordogne river, itself.
Add into the mix the superb cuisine, truffles, and wines, this is a region not to be overlooked.
A glorious bay, sandy beaches all this shiny and glittery façade is home to the rich and famous!
It’s also home to the two-week film festival.
A gentle place, once known for the D-day landings of the Second World War, Normandy is now dotted with meadows and farmland and famous for its cheese and apples.
The coastline of Normandy is lapped by the Channel and consists of mainly long, low dunes.
Famous for housing the Bayeux Tapestry, the thousand-year-old embroidery of 1066 and the Battle of Hastings against the English.
Lovely old ports which house ancient treasures like Honfleur and Barfleur to 19th-century resorts such as Etretat and Trouville.
Monet’s waterlily-filled garden can be seen in Giverny.
Pays de la Loire
Elaborate chateaux, amazing landscapes, and world-class vineyards, is what the Loire is famous for.
There are hundreds of fairytale castles strewn along the banks of the Loire.
All this set under the spectacular pastel-colored sky, the inspiration for many famous painters.
How money exchange works in France
There are lots of dos and do n’ts when it comes to exchanging money in France.
• Don’t exchange all your money before your trip to France as you’ll probably pay a higher rate than necessary.
• Definitely, don’t use a bureau de change or the airport to exchange money as they charge an exorbitant fee.
• Don’t use traveler’s cheques as lots of places don’t accept them.
• Before you leave home exchange an amount of cash, you may need to cover things like cabs, food and drink you may need on arrival.
• Pay with credit cards as this is where exchange rates are more favorable.
• Make sure you remember to check your bank regularly for fraud.
• Before you leave home to check your ATM will work in France.
• Tell your bank you’ll be using your cards abroad you don’t want them to freeze your card if they see an unusual amount of expenditure.
• An ATM is called a distributeur, in France, they are all over France and have English language instructions.
• Check with your bank for the limit you can withdraw each day.
• Remember ATMs come with fees…
• Make sure you know your PIN before you leave home as European keypads have numbers only.
So, all you need to do now is book that flight, sort out your accommodation and bonne chance!