– Traffic. The French are no longer insane drivers on autoroutes, having been tamed by a draconian and successful anti-speed campaigns, but they are still hairy and careless around towns. France is also a convenient thoroughfare for North-South Europe road deliveries, so some cross-France routes suffer truck overdose.
– Sudden, disruptive strikes.
– Local attitudes to foreign travellers could be improved in Paris though in many other areas the French are charming and friendly.
Best tourism seasons: March – early October for sightseeing. January-March for wintersports.
Beware July and August when the country is packed with foreign and local tourists. Avoid driving on the weekend at the beginning of August, it’s hell on wheels, bumper-to-bumper even on autoroutes. Some services in Paris – even museums and restaurants – are closed.
The big Atlantic beaches are warm and useable though the Mediterranean coast can get too hot and the warm waters may be visited by stinging jellies.
November-February can be bitterly cold in mountain areas and in the north including Paris, though the Cote d’Azur may well see blue skies and daytime T-shirt weather, but. . . rain is equally likely in winter.
With more than 60, 000 km (37, 500 miles)of well-marked long-distance footpaths to hike on, France is a superb walking country. Many hikes take place on the Pyrenees Mountains is the south of France but the most spectacular routes are in the Alps. For example the stunning Grande Traversée des Alpes which takes around five weeks.
Alternatively, the best shortish Alpine bit is probably the 7 day route from Les Houches south to Pralognan. It moves from spectacular snowy peaks, past glaciers and through flowering meadows, with plenty of wildlife (including ibex and chamois) and mountain refuges serving hot meals. Check holidays in the Alps
The most French of activities; the first modern bike was French!
France – a country where car drivers respect cyclists – has 28, 000km of marked cycle routes, as well as good city and town cycle lanes. The lush and lovely Loire Valley for example, flat and full of châteaux and rural scenery has 650 kms of dedicated cycle track. Loire Valley Cycling Pictures
Plenty of choice of places and facilities from basic campsites to luxury holiday parks throughout the country, especially along west coast beaches. Efficient, stress-free and perfect for the family.
The limestone caves along the Spanish border or further southwest in the Pyrenees mountains offer many interesting opportunities.
There are over 500 golf courses in the country, with several world-class ones.
Among the 500 golf courses in France the best is probably the tough but spectacular Les Bordes course near Orléans, with Kempferhof (Strasbourg), Royal Park Evian (Geneva), and Spérone (Corsica) coming well up to par.
The land between Biarritz and Bordeaux is a particular haven for those who like to travel, drink wine and swing a club, with four of Europe’s top courses – among others – interspersed with vineyards.
Hangliding and paragliding: The Hautes-Alpes of Provence, the Pyrenees and Corsica are considered to be best places for high times.
The Atlantic coast has solid winds, and an interesting coastline though the water and weather can be brutal; there are plenty of delightful and welcoming ports such as La Rochelle, Cherbourg, Biarritz and St Jean de Luz. On the the Mediterranean side the sea is safer and warmer but ports are expensive and crowded, such as Monaco, Cannes, Nice and Antibes.
Available on rivers and lakes with permits. Try Brittany for carp fishing, River Loire and Brittany/ Normandy for trout and salmon, but the best and most scenic rivers for salmon fishing are in the western Pyrenees.
Get a licence at the local tourist office. Sea-fishing, including night-fishing, is popular and available at most seaside resorts.
Widespread but particularly favoured in Burgandy and the Camargue at the Rhône Delta (in Provence), a nature reserve famous for not only its indigenous horses but also mosquito saturation.
Another horse friendly area is the north; Parc International de la Canche in Le Touquet has 112km of forest riding routes and 26km of beach trails.
Jan. 1st: Grand Parade Paris, twinned event with London for New Year celebrations. Massive and colourful.
Feb-March: Nice Carnival, one of the biggest and the most original carnivals in the world, a two week event with colourful parades, street parties, fireworks, and monster illuminations.
mid May: Cannes Film Festival – 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.
mid May/mid Oct: Gypsy Festival (Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer in Provence), a gypsy gathering; historic, unique and kaleidoscopic.
June: International Music Festival (Strasbourg in Alsace, the North), contemporary music.
July 14th: Bastille Day (nationwide), France’s biggest street festival, with parties, parades and fireworks to remember the French Revolution.
July: Tour de France, a three-week cycling race for 3, 500km (2000 miles) over the country (route changes annually). The world’s most famous French sporting event.
mid July-mid Aug: Festival d’Avignon – 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.
early Aug: Festival Interceltique (Lorient in Brittany), a worthy folk event (Celtic music and culture).
Oct: Jazz Festival (Nancy), one of the country’s best jazz events.