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There is a lot to see and do in Paris; so much so that it may be overwhelming and seem like there is never enough time to see and do it all. But beyond the boulevard périphérique, there is a whole country waiting to be explored. Walk in the hallways of the Popes at the Palais des Papes in Avignon or bask in the legacy of the Romans at the Arles Amphitheater. Become an architecture critic and find your favorite Notre-Dame in Strasbourg or Metz, Nantes or Orléans, Bordeaux or Lyon. Catch your breath on the beaches of Normandy and the French Riviera or hike to the glaciers hidden within the French Alps. And how could we forget: Sampling local delicacies — wine and food alike — in Lyon, St. Malo, Burgundy or Champagne.
Schedules in France operate a little differently than most other countries, with a midday break to enjoy lunch. Many shops and museums open in the morning and close during lunch hours so employees enjoy a brief reprieve from work and take time to eat. Most restaurants open for lunch around noon and close at 2 pm, so finding a restaurant open for a late lunch may be a challenge. In Southern France, the down hours are pushed back to coincide with the hottest time of the day. French law requires that shops close on Sunday, with the exception of those that sell food. Some shops find loopholes in the law and stay open all day, but it is easiest to stock up during the week or on Saturday and enjoy a leisurely day on Sunday.
As expected for a place where food is a focal point of their culture, there are certain tips and tricks everyone should know when dining out in France. Their food is internationally renowned and it should be savored, so the French prefer to sit and dine as opposed to ordering food to go. When deciding what to wear, always choose to dress your outfit up and once you’ve sat down, place your napkin on your lap. The French love their bread, and for good reason, but bread is broken and never cut. When eating cheese, be sure to leave the point intact. Last but not least, the French love a good coffee but rarely drink it after breakfast. If you’d like coffee with lunch or dinner, it is typically ordered after dessert and you can expect a shot of espresso as opposed to the cup of coffee typical in the United States.
We know what you may be thinking: “France is one fashionable place,” and we couldn’t agree more. Clothing matters and dressing too casually can make you stick out and possibly feel uncomfortable. The French take their fashion seriously with makeup and accessories riding in the passenger seat. For women in France, and Paris in particular, natural hair and skin is considered the most attractive, with makeup being complimentary. They love simple, darker colors such as black, grey and navy and always dress like there is someone to impress. Unless exercising, men rarely wear shorts or athletic clothing, especially when dining out.
The French are proud of their history and culture, but even more so, of their language. Even though many people may speak English — especially in larger cities — it doesn’t mean they will forgo their native tongue. Greeting with a simple “Bonjour” can change the entirety of your interaction with a local. Learning some simple French phrases to use in conversation can go a long way and you may find that attitudes can shift when you at least try to speak their language. In addition to brushing up before traveling, there are a number of handy apps that are free to download on your phone that can help translate back and forth between English and dozens of other languages, including Google Translate for both Apple and Android devices.