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Country Profile: France

The essence of France is as elusive as the light which artists have strived to capture on canvas. Though resistant to explanation, it is wholly irresistible and ever-present–in grand cities, fertile vineyards, and tidy stone villages. Resting on the shoulders of an epic history and soaring nationalism, the French delight in those finest of details that make them so . . . French: the bouquet of a light Bordeaux, the earthen notes of a prized truffle, the delicate brush strokes of a Monet.

Some believe that the spirit of France was born in a little farm girl named Joan of Arc. Merely a child, she led the French Army to many victories during the final days of the Hundred Years’ War, giving the French new hope against the ruling English. Upon her capture, she was famously burned at the stake in Rouen. Yet France proved triumphant, opening the door to a prosperous artistic and architectural boom that culminated with the extravagance of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. The French Revolution of 1789 put an end to their excess, but not before the Napoleonic Wars saw the royalty collecting territory with the same fervor with which Marie Antoinette collected jewels.

Soon, romantic notions of France found their expression in the visionary art of Impressionist painters: Monet, Renoir, Cezanne. To this day, their artistry captures the light and beauty of Provence, Normandy, Paris and beyond. Admiring their work goes to prove that true pleasures are found in the smallest brush strokes. A walking tour of France provides the ideal venue to explore this irresistible country at a leisurely pace.

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Country Highlights
  • Enjoy our version of a Tour de Mount Blanc, on trails that skirt Western Europe’s highest peak.
  • Sample France’s celebrated wines, from Burgundy to Châteauneuf-du-Pape.
  • Breathe in the fragrance of lavender carried on a breeze from Provençal fields.
  • Witness the soaring white cliffs and sweeping beaches of Normandy and Brittany.
  • Explore the charming village marchés, brimming with fresh produce, honey, cheese, and more.

Why Walk With Us

  • Trust our expertise with 36+ years in active travel.
  • 24/7 support from a local representative.
  • Generous inclusions: all breakfasts, many meals, and luggage transfers.
  • Your departure is always guaranteed.
  • We take care of our solo travelers.
  • Past guests and referrals always save.
  • Bring six friends on a guided tour and enjoy special savings, support, and a gift.

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Country Facts

About France:

For a country of its size–roughly equal in territory to the state of Texas–France is incredibly diverse. Coastal plains stretch across Normandy and Brittany in the northwest, giving way to wide beaches and white-chalk cliffs. The soaring, snow-capped Alpilles rise in the east, peaking at Western Europe’s tallest summit, Mount Blanc. The Pyrenees tower above at the border with Spain. And the Rhône River meanders through south-central France, feeding the vineyards of Burgundy and the flowering fields and farmlands of Provence.

Home to 39 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, France has also witnessed a remarkable history, from the time of Iron-Age Gauls to the Roman Empire and the ambitions of Napoleon. The nation, technically called the French Republic, is a unitary, semi-presidential republic. The capital city is Paris.

French is France’s official language. While knowledge of the local language is not necessary, you may want to learn some fun and useful phrases to use during your walking tour. The effort seldom goes unappreciated and by trying some greetings and salutations with a smile, your interactions are likely to grow into rewarding exchanges. See the BBC Languages site for helpful hints.

Life in France

Shopping and banking hours: Shops and stores are generally open Monday to Saturday between 9:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m., and from 2:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.; department stores and supermarkets are open all day from 9:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Open-air markets vary by day of the week in towns and villages and generally operate from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.
Banks are open from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 to 5:00 p.m., Monday to Friday (in Paris they are open all day).

Meal times: Breakfast is served at hotels from 7:00 a.m. to 10-10:30 a.m. In restaurants, lunch is served almost exclusively from noon to 2:00 p.m. At other times, you’ll have to get a sandwich. Dinner is usually served from 7:30 to 10:00 p.m.

Tipping: Gratuities in restaurants and bars are included in the total bill (service compris); however, it is customary to leave 5 to 10 percent of the total, or to round up the total. Taxi drivers are tipped 10 to 15 percent of the total. For luggage assistance, a tip of 1 to 2 euros per bag is appropriate.

French public holidays: French public holidays, festivals, or calendars of events may affect your travel planning. Visit the French tourist board’s website.

French cuisine has great regional variation that is based on fresh and local ingredients from each area. Rich butter- and cream-based classics originated In France’s northern tier, as did the creamy cow’s milk cheeses of Normandy such as camembert. Fresh seafood, especially oysters, is served in Brittany. In the Alps, hearty mountain fare includes cheese fondue and grilled raclette cheese over steamed potatoes. The cuisine of southern France is quintessentially Mediterranean, with olive oil, herbs, fresh vegetables, and goat cheeses. Common to all regions, of course, are crusty breads, buttery croissants, and exquisite desserts, from fine pastries to rustic fruit tarts.

A meal in France—lunch or dinner—typically consists of three courses, starting with an entrée (appetizer), followed by a plat principal (main dish), and finishing with a dessert or cheese plate. First brought to Narbonne in the south by the Romans, the wines of France mirror the variety and excellence of its cuisine. Menus feature a region’s local wines, as well as those from other regions. For example, In Provence, red Rhône or rosé wines pair perfectly with the cuisine. In Normandy and Brittany, local hard cider is served with crepes and Calvados, an apple brandy, is sipped as an after-dinner digestif.

France has a range of climates, and—depending on the region—spring, summer, and fall are ideal for a walking tour.

Provence, in southern France, has a pleasant Mediterranean climate with daytime temperatures in the 70s during our tour dates. Normandy and Brittany, on the northwest coasts, can have pleasant weather in the 50s to low 70s, with evenings in the 50s with occasional rain showers. In the French Alps, mornings and evenings can be around the freezing mark in the morning and evening, especially at higher elevations, with daytime temperatures rising into the 70s and even low 80s.

For up-to-date forecasts, see qwikcast.com. For historical average temperatures and rainfall, see weatherbase.com.

U.S. citizens: Passports are required and must be valid for at least three months beyond the dates of travel. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days. For more information, see travel.state.gov.

France uses the euro (EUR). The current exchange rate is 1 USD = 1 EUR. Exchange rates can vary greatly month to month, so we recommend you visit oanda.com for the latest.

Many businesses in Europe will no longer accept credit cards without PIN numbers (chip and pin cards). Contact your bank or your credit-card company for details on fees and card use when travelling, and to inform them of your travel destination and dates so they do not freeze your accounts when they see charges appear from a foreign country.

We recommend having a variety of payment options readily available to help you start your trip: ATM card(s), credit card(s), some U.S. dollars to exchange, and some euros in small denominations.

No immunizations are required to enter France. Requirements and recommendations change frequently, so always check directly with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC: cdc.gov/travel; 800-232-4636), a travel clinic, and/or your personal physician for the most current information. Plan ahead for immunizations, as some require administration several months prior to departure.

Electricity: Alternating current of 230V and 50Hz is used in France. Plugs have either two round pins and a hole, or just two round pins. For a full listing of electrical outlets worldwide, see electricaloutlet.org. If you are bringing your own hair dryer or other electrical device, you will need a travel converter, available at most hardware, travel, or consumer electronic stores. For laptops or an electronic device with a dual voltage switch, you will only need the adapter plug, not the converter.

Phone: France’s country code is “+33.” Cell phone coverage throughout France is extensive, but we cannot guarantee adequate signals on all American phone models or while on walking trails or in remote areas. For more information regarding international phone use, please refer to this blog post.

Internet: Internet access is generally very good in towns and villages; however, all of the hotels used on our tours do not necessarily provide it, or they provide it at an additional cost. Details regarding Wi-Fi availability in each hotel are available in the Itinerary Overview that you’ll receive once you’ve reserved.

France is in the Central European Time Zone, Eastern Standard Time plus 6 hours. For more information on worldwide time zones, see: worldtimezone.com.

A wealth of travel information is available at us.france.fr.

International Airports in France

  • Ajaccio – Campo dell’Oro Airport
  • Bastia – Poretta Airport
  • Beauvais – Tillé Airport
  • Bergerac – Bergerac-Roumanière Airport
  • Béziers Cap d’Agde Airport
  • Biarritz Airport
  • Bordeaux – Mérignac Airport
  • Brest – Brest Bretagne Airport
  • Carcassonne – Salvaza Airport
  • Châlons-en-Champagne – Châlons Vatry Airport
  • Chambéry – Savoie Airport
  • Dinard – Pleurtuit Airport
  • Figari Sud-Corse Airport
  • Grenoble-Isère Airport
  • La Rochelle – Île de Ré Airport
  • Lille – Lesquin Airport
  • Limoges – Bellegarde Airport
  • Lyon – Saint-Exupéry Airport
  • Marseille – Provence Airport
  • Montpellier – Méditerranée Airport
  • Mulhouse – Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg Airport
  • Nantes Atlantique Airport
  • Nice – Côte d’Azur Airport
  • Nîmes – Garons Airport
  • Paris – Charles de Gaulle Airport
  • Paris – Orly Airport
  • Pau – Uzein Airport
  • Perpignan – Llabanère Airport
  • Poitiers – Biard Airport
  • Rodez – Marcillac Airport
  • Bouthéon Airport
  • Strasbourg Airport
  • Toulon – Hyères Le Palyvestre Airport
  • Toulouse – Blagnac Airport
  • Tours Loire Valley Airport

Trains

SNCF is France’s national train company. You may book your train travel directly with them. Or, if you plan to travel for longer periods, consider Rail Europe, a U.S.-based company that provides schedules, reservations, and ticketing for all European train networks. Their multi-day, -week or -month passes in one country or combinations of countries may be a more economical and convenient choice. For more information, go to raileurope.com or call 800.622.8600.

Other local transportation

Direct flights from the U.S. are only available to Paris, Nice, and Lyon, but reaching any destination is easy thanks to France’s excellent rail network. Regional bus lines and internal flights (which are never more than 1½ hours) are also widely available. For information on French airports, visit aeroport.fr (in French only). Taxis are available at all major airports, train stations, and in smaller towns, and can be reserved in advance (your hotel can usually provide assistance).

Most major car rental agencies are available at French airports and train stations. For more information, please click here.

For additional hints and guidance about travel to France, visit the French tourist board’s website at us.france.fr.

Photos

Wine

France Wine

French Wine at a Glance

Each wine of France has a particular grape varietal linked to its terroir—the combination of local climate and soil conditions. Here is an overview of France’s main wine-producing regions: Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Loire, Provence, and the Rhône Valley.

Region Grape Notes
Alsace White: Gewürztraminer, Pinot blanc, Pinot gris, and Riesling Alsace produces some of the world’s driest Rieslings – which pair nicely with seafood, spicy cuisines, and cheeses – and sells them in distinct tall, narrow flûte-shaped bottles.
Bordeaux Red: Cabernet sauvignon, Cabernet franc, and Merlot Bordeaux’s balanced dry reds accompany meat and cheeses; the region’s dry whites go well with seafood.
Burgundy Red: Pinot noir
White: Chardonnay
The un-oaked white (Chablis) of Burgundy pairs with seafood and poultry; reds go nicely with classic beef dishes.
Champagne Red: Pinot noir
White: Chardonnay, Pinot meunier
On a scale of sweetness from less to more, Champagne’s wines can be ranked in this order: Brut Natural or Brut Zero, Extra Brut, and Brut. Delicious as an aperitif and with raw oysters, it’s best served between 45 and 48° F – in a flûte, of course!
Loire Red: Cabernet franc
White: Sauvignon blanc, Chenin blanc, Melon de Bourgogne
To accompany seafood, look for whites from the Loire regions of Sancerre, Vouvray, and Pouilly-Fumé.
Provence Red: Mourvèdre, Grenache, Cinsault, with Cabernet sauvignon and Syrah growing, and Carignan decreasing
White: Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Viognier, Chardonnay
Reds can accompany roasts and grilled dishes. Chilled rosé pairs well with the garlic-based dishes of the region.
Rhône Valley Red: Grenache, Syrah, and Viognier Classic red wines, such as the southern Rhône’s Châteauneuf-du-Pape, pair well with grilled dishes, cheese, and fruit.

France - 4 Tours Available

Self-Guided Walking
Europe

France: Provence & St. Rémy

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

4-10 Miles Daily

Tour Only

7 days, 6 nights

From $2,648 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Follow the ridgeline of the windswept Alpilles on a walk with awe-inspiring 360-degree views before stopping in the medieval village of Les Baux-de-Provence for lunch.
  • Stay in charming local accommodations, like Hotel Sous les Figuieres, whose owner, affectionately known as “Kups,” is always happy to chat.
  • Meet locals while browsing the stalls of open air markets in quaint towns like St. Rémy or Lourmarin.
  • Gain a deeper appreciation for the work of Van Gogh as you follow in his footsteps on a path that takes you to where some of his most iconic paintings were created.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

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Departure Dates

2016 & 2017: Departs daily Apr 1 - Jun 26 and Sep 1 - Oct 31

More Details
Guided Walking
Europe

France: Lavender in Provence

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

4-8 Miles Daily

Flight + Tour

10 days, 9 nights

From $6,198 USD

per person

Tour Only

7 days, 6 nights

From $4,798 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Walk through the sun-drenched vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where you’ll learn first-hand about the concept of terroir, and visit the estate château for a tasting.
  • In medieval Vaison-la-Romaine, explore the vibrant outdoor market, where you’ll find everything from farm-fresh olives to exceptional lavender soaps.
  • Walk through oak forests and terraced fields along the slopes of Mont Ventoux before enjoying an afternoon café on the summit.
  • Stay in intimate inns with exclusive dining rooms that feature regional delicacies—Picodon goat cheese, fougasse (flatbread), or marinated lamb—served with a local vintage.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2017

  • Jun 10
  • Jun 17
Tour Only

2017

  • Jun 12
  • Jun 19
Guided Walking
Europe

France: Normandy & Brittany

Activity level: Easy to Moderate Terrain

3-5 miles daily

Flight + Tour

10 days, 9 nights

From $5,998 USD

per person

Tour Only

7 days, 6 nights

From $4,948 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Walk the wet sands leading out to the tidal island of Mont St. Michel and its iconic pyramid-shaped monastery, enjoying views of protected nesting grounds for seabirds along the way.
  • Savor a truly special meal at the Michelin-starred restaurant of chef Olivier Roellinger, whose innovative menu of seafood, lamb, and local produce will take your breath away.
  • Make selections for an included picnic lunch while browsing a specialty shop stocked with regional delicacies like crusty breads, cheeses, pâtés, and local cider.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2016

  • Sep 30

2017

  • May 12
  • Jun 9
  • Sep 8
  • Oct 6
Tour Only

2016

  • Oct 2

2017

  • May 14
  • Jun 11
  • Sep 10
  • Oct 8
Guided Walking Guided Walking Tour of Mount Blanc Circuit
Europe

France, Italy & Switzerland: The Mont Blanc Circuit

Activity level: Challenging Terrain

7-9.5 Miles Daily

Flight + Tour

12 days, 11 nights

From $5,898 USD

per person

Tour Only

9 days, 8 nights

From $4,398 USD

per person

Tour Highlights:
  • Ride the La Flégère cable car into the Chamonix Valley and enjoy its panoramic views of grassy hillsides, virgin forest, and the curving Arve River.
  • After an energetic day on the trail, savor the best of rich Savoyard cuisine: creamy fondue, raclette with potatoes, savory stews, and delicious tarts.
  • Enjoy the mountaineering culture of the Alps in the quaint town of Courmayeur, as you visit local shops or sip a panaché (beer and lemonade) at a sidewalk café.

Have Questions?

Speak with a Travel Expert 800.234.6900

Request a Call
Departure Dates
Flight + Tour Combo

2017

  • Jun 18
  • Jun 25
  • Jul 30
  • Aug 27
Tour Only

2017

  • Jun 20
  • Jun 27
  • Aug 1
  • Aug 29
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