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When you think about France, what comes to mind? Grand villas lining the French Riviera or Bordeaux’s rolling vineyards? The historic beaches of Normandy, quaint mountain villages at the base of the French Alps or Notre-Dame de Paris overlooking the Seine River? France’s diverse geography makes the country the complete package.
From the sun-splashed vineyards of the Loire Valley to the sophisticated charm of Paris, authentic France is best experienced by learning its history, culture and cuisine. Whether you’ve never been to France or are a seasoned traveler, there is always a new way to delight your mind, body and senses.
One of the first countries in the world to incorporate high-speed technology in 1981, France’s extensive rail network is the second-largest in Europe with more than 18,000 miles. Much of France’s rail network connects in Paris — the largest of which is the Gare du Nord. Built from 1861 to 1864, Gare du Nord is Europe’s busiest rail station and the busiest outside of Japan.
The Tour de France is the best-attended sporting event in the world and the second-most watched sporting event in the world after the FIFA World Cup. The annual, three-week race was founded by Henry Desgranges in 1903 to promote his newspaper.
French gastronomy was declared as Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2010 by the United Nations. Described as a “social practice for celebrating important moments in the lives of individuals and groups … the gastronomic meal emphasizes togetherness, the pleasure of taste and the balance between human beings and the products of nature.” French gastronomy is at its finest in Lyon, dubbed the “World Capital of Gastronomy” in 1935 by famed French food critic Curnonsky.
Across the French countryside, there are thousands of châteaux encompassing manors, palaces, castles and fortresses. France lists 6,450 châteaux as national monuments with approximately 900 of them being owned by the state. Ranging from forsaken manors to the regal Château de Versailles and the Loire Valley’s striking Château de Chaumont, France’s châteaux are truly something to behold.
“We had some really unique experiences on this adventure, such as visiting a truffle farm and being awed by prehistoric cave art. Especially enjoyed visiting so many beautiful small villages and reacquainting ourselves with the French appreciation for the good things in life.”
— Lucinda, Road Scholar Class of 2017, from Lutz, Fla. —