Many of the reasons for visiting France in general, and Paris in particular, are ones that you already know. Friends and family who have traveled to France may have brought home stories that kindled your curiosity and your desire to visit for yourself. You have seen the pictures, and the movies. You have heard about the marvels of the Eiffel Tower, rising up like a giant erector set, with an elevator to take you to the top for views out over the Seine and the city. You know about the exceptional art museums, the Louvre and the Orsay, that house stunning collections within buildings that are themselves historic, architectural treasures, one a former palace and the other an elegant turn-of-the-century train station, built for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.
Likely you also have heard about the food and the wine, and the supreme pleasures of dining well, optimally at an outdoor table, at charming restaurants that carefully attend to every detail of your experience. Perhaps you have heard about the beauty of the countryside, with drifts of lavender and towns on hillsides, immaculate farms and spectacular mountains and coasts. Certainly you’ve heard about the history and the architecture, the fashion and the style.
So what more can be said that would add to these and other motivations you already have in mind for making a visit to France? These five reasons are ones you may not have thought about, yet. Possibly they could tip the balance in favor of your taking your own trip, and hasten you on your way.
The French Are People You Will Love to Experience and Get to Know
Put aside what you may have heard about the French being unfriendly. This is simply not the case. However, the French are extremely polite, and have stricter and more formal social codes than Americans. This can make them come across as a bit aloof and distant. But it is possible to move past this apparent social wariness by knowing just a bit about how French communication and interaction works. When travelers approach them with equal courtesy, the French respond in kind with friendliness, warmth, curiosity and charm.
Even a minimal effort to speak the basics in French–hello and goodbye, please and thank you, excuse me and how are you–yields high levels of returns. And, yes, the French will attempt to speak English with you once you have broken the ice by attempting to speak even a little French with them. Experiences of connecting with the French can become lasting and treasured memories.
French Towns and Cities Are Themselves Living Museums and Living Art
A visit to France offers many opportunities to wander through outstanding museums. But notable remnants of French history are by no means limited to the museums. As you explore the streets of old town, walk through a park, visit a town market, or pass through the vast stone gates of a walled city, you will be surrounded by the life, history, architecture, and art of days gone by.
And what a vivid history it is. In Avignon, you will sit on a bench in the courtyard before the Pope’s Palace, where seven successive popes resided, beginning with a French Pope who declined to move to Rome, preferring to continue to live in France. In Arles you will walk in the footsteps of Van Gogh, and visit the actual spots, now marked by easels and depicted on a walking tour map, where the unbalanced genius stood to create his celebrated Starry Night and Café Terrace at Night.
In Amboise you will visit the elegant palace of Françoise I, and then walk across the street and up the hill to the lovely villa Françoise gave to his beloved friend, inventor and artist Leonardo da Vinci, with a secret tunnel connecting the palace and the villa so the two of them could visit back and forth at will.