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A Quick Guide to... France

History France

The history of France is long and interesting. There is, quite literally, recorded history from the time of the cavemen, with many cave drawings to be found across France. However, most people agree that the real history of France started with the arrival of the Gauls. Around the 5th century, the country was taken over by the Franks and the Germanics. There were many dynasties that fought for control of France. With each King having multiple sons, the country was regularly split up into multiple territories, with brothers fighting brothers in order to regain control of all of France. Most people know the history of France from Louis the 14th (The Sun King) onwards. He was the child king who created the beautiful palace at Versailles, which can still be visited today. His life and reign was lavish, but the country was bled dry with high taxes. It is believed that the reign of the Sun King started the fall of the French Dynasty. By the late 18th century, the people of France had enough and on the 14th July 1789, the prison of the Bastille in Paris was stormed. To this day, ruins of the Bastille can still be visited in the heart of the city. This marked the start of the Republic, which was later once again taken over by Napoleon.

France also played an important role during both world wars. It was, in fact, one of the main battlefields of the entire war, with parts of France being lost to Germany and regained again during both wars. The effects of this are still visible as well, with areas such as the Alsace and the Lorraine still speaking German, despite being under French command. It is a country that has been made great through wars, which is perhaps one of the reasons why the French government is now so bent on having world peace.

When to go France

Deciding when to go to France depends entirely on what you person preferences are. Because it is such a large country, it offers everything someone could want in a holiday, from beaches to ski slopes. Hence, if you want to know when to go to France, think first about what you want to do. If you want a sun kissed holiday, the summer months are obviously the best. However, do be aware that certain areas of the country get so incredibly hot that life quite simply ceases during siesta time. Hence, if you want to combine heat with an active holiday, you may not want to go to the south of France or even the middle of France. Spontaneous fires are not uncommon, caused simply by the extreme heat.

If you were to go on a walk, it is essential that you bring something to cover your head and neck, and carry sufficient water with you as well. For those who prefer skiing, the Alps are the best place to go and the winter to spring months are the best time to have a good chance at skiing. In fact, it is rare for any slopes to be closed during winter months and generally the first month of spring. Temperatures are cold, but usually not uncomfortably so, creating the perfect conditions for frequent snowfall. It seems, by some mysterious force, that snowfall occurs mainly during the night, leaving people with glorious sunny days to actually go skiing. Unsurprisingly, many people come back from a skiing trip tanned as if they spent a week on a tropical island. If you want to visit any of the major cities, it is perhaps best to go during the spring time. Yes, rainfall is more likely during these times, but at least the temperatures are bearable.


Weather France

France knows the same four seasons as most of Europe: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Depending on where in the country you are, however, the harshness of these seasons can vary. There are parts of France that have never seen snow, for example, but there are also other areas that have snow all year around. If you want a summer holiday and want perpetual nice weather, you have two main options available to you. Firstly, you could go to the Mediterranean Sea, mainly around areas such as Nice and St Tropez, where the jet set of France gathers every year. If you are a bit more on a budget, the Cote D'Azure is perhaps more applicable, with some great family entertainment around places such as La Baulle. Here, summers are incredibly hot but comfortable because of the proximity of the sea. The South West of France and areas such as the Bordeaux region or the Loire Valley also experience incredible heat. Here, however, it is also very humid as there is no sea to bring in a cool breeze.

You will be presented with field upon field of corn and sunflowers. Make sure you cover up well and have some excellent sun block with you. France, however, is also a fantastic place for skiing. The Alps have some brilliant ski resorts, where snowfall is almost guaranteed during the winter months. The slopes range in difficulties, meaning everybody is able to have a great time skiing or learning to ski in these areas. The Pyrenees are found in the South of France, where snowfall is not common, but the temperatures can be slightly more bearable, particularly during the summer months. Other areas of the country experience the same type of weather as anywhere else, with regular clouds and rainfall, as well as beautiful sunny days.

If you want to visit France, there are so many options available to you that you may need several holidays just to find your ultimate destination. Hence, you may want to think first about what you want to achieve on holiday. For instance, do you want to visit castles or vineyards, would you like to experiencing a fantastic night-life, shopping and art, or would you prefer simply lying on a beach soaking up the rays of the sun and eating some fantastic French food?For those who like the modern world, Paris is clearly the place to be. In Paris, you have everything from art to religion and from architecture to night-life. There are so many important sights to see in Paris that you could spend days just trawling through the city, marvelling at each new discovery you make. If you prefer getting back to nature or experiencing France's long and turbulent history, you may want to visit the Loire Valley, where castles dot the landscape.

Many of these castles are still fully inhabited, and if you are friendly, you may even convince the local proprietor to give you a tour. The Bordeaux Valley on the other hand, is fantastic for the vineyards that make some of the world's best wines year upon year. Of course, France is also a fantastic place to go to simply soak up the rays and get a tan, while mingling with jet setting elite of Europe and the US alike. Areas such as St Tropez, St Rafael or La Baulle are fantastic areas to simply enjoy the French life of the rich. Of course, you shouldn't forget places such as Cannes or Nice, where many rich people congregate. Best of all, even these areas don't need to cost you an arm and a leg, so long as you know where to stay.

Disabled visitors France

France, unfortunately, is not the most accessible place for people with varying disabilities. There are many cobble stone streets dotted across the country, even in the major city, which are not easy to navigate for those in a wheelchair. Also, it is very difficult to get up kerbs, as they often lack ramps. Hotels regularly don't have facilities for wheelchairs and those that have elevators report that the elevators regularly break down. The French government, however, is making important strides towards making the country more accessible for those with limited mobility, mainly by starting the Tourisme ET Handicap program.

Hotels, restaurants and other locations that meet certain standards for disabled provision are able to get this classification. There is also some good information available through SNCF Accessibility for those who are visually or hearing impaired. However, this information is often only provided in French, so you may need a translator. Very large tourist landmarks do have better facilities for people with disabilities. A museum like the Louvre, for instance, is readily accessible and also has facilities for those who are visually or hearing impaired. However, these places remain few and far between. Also, in order to visit the Louvre, you need to be in Paris and navigating the streets of Paris in a wheelchair is all but impossible.

If you do have a disability and want to visit any part of France, you may want to check with some disability organisations whether or not the area you are considering will be accessible to you. Certain small villages, for instance, are all on one level and have no hills within the village itself. Although there will be no specifically provided disability provisions in these villages, you could still enjoy a long and relaxing holiday. And make sure you regularly check with the Tourisme ET and the SNCF, as more and more businesses try to achieve the classification.

People France

The French people are in a class of their own. They are known for their great philosophers and fantastic artists and they like the reputation of being avant garde. They exult an air of arrogance, which they are very proud of. However, there are tremendous differences between those people who live in the main cities and those who live en champagne. In the city, French people have measured an air of indifference to everybody that is not from there. They will often pretend not to speak any English, simply because they have an inborn dislike of all things English. Do watch out for this, because it is highly likely that you will be overcharged for food and drink and that the waiter will pretend that they do not understand you. This is mainly true for big cities like Paris. Here, they also find it highly amusing to not explain their cultural differences to others.

For instance, a tourist may not know that if they order a drink and the bar and then take it onto the terrace to drink, they will pay only half the price that they would if they were to order it directly from the terrace. People in Paris also think that anything that is outside of the Paris ring road is the champagne (countryside), although others would disagree with this. Once outside of the major cities, however, people are very different. Campagnards local villagers are incredibly friendly and spend their time discussing world problems over a glass of Pernod.

They live life slowly and will gladly invite anybody to a small drink. One last thing to mention is that in the major city, there is a very high percentage of immigrants, mainly from African and Arab countries. Because of this, you are able to experience these cultures as well on your visit to a French city.

Red tape visas France

France is part of the European Union. Hence, if you are a member of the EU, you can get in and out of France without the need to ever show your passport at a border crossing, with the exception of major ports and airports, in line with security. The notable exception to this is the United Kingdom, who did not sign the Shengun agreement and hence still require to be check upon entry to France. For more faraway countries, France has reasonably relaxed policies. Anybody from Canada, Australia, New Zealand or the United States is able to enter the country without any formal application for a visa. They are welcome to stay within the country for 90 consecutive days. People from EU countries also have a right to stay for 90 days without formally registering anywhere. Many people opt to take a short trip across the border once their 90 days are almost up, thereby resetting the clock as it were. If you want to legitimately stay in France after the 90 days, you will need to apply for a Carte De Sejour.

In order to obtain this, you need to demonstrate that you have a source of income that is equal at least to the current minimum wage. If you do wish to apply for these types of cards, you will find that the red tape procedures are tremendous. In fact, they are so complicated that most people would prefer to simply go across the border for one day and return the next to once again have 90 days to stay. Bureaucracy is a word that many believe was invented in France, and you will find that you have to fill in countless forms (in duplicate) and run from one gichet to another to receive the necessary stamps and signatures, only to find out that you were too late to finalise the process and will have to start all over again the next day.