France Metro Map
ACCOMMODATIONS AND CAMPING
ACCOMMODATIONS under ‚15 ‚16-25 ‚26-35 ‚36-55 over ‚55
Hostels generally offer dormitory accommodations in large, single-sex rooms with Jour to 10 beds, though some have as many as 60. At the other end of the scale, many offer private singles and doubles. In France, a bed in a hostel averages around ‚7.65-15.25. The French Hostelling International (HI) affiliate (24), Federaion Uniedes Auberges de Jeunesse (FUAJ), operates 178 hostels within France. Some hostels accept reservations through the International Booking Network (24). Two or more people traveling together will often save money by staying in cheap hotels rather than hostels. The French government employs a four-star hotel ratings system. Gites d’etapes are rural accommodations for cyclists, hikers, and other ramblers in less-populated areas. Expect gites to provide beds, a kitchen facility, and a resident caretaker. After 3000 years of settled history, true wilderness in France is hard to find. It’s illegal to camp in most public spaces, including national parks. Instead, look forward to organized campings (campsites), where you’ll share your splendid isolation with vacationing families and all manner of programmed fun. Most campsites have toilets, showers, and electrical outlets, though you may have to pay extra for such luxuries (‚2-6); you’ll often need to pay a fee for your car, too (‚3-8). Otherwise, expect to pay ‚8-15 per site.
FOOD AND DRINK
French chefs cook for one of the most finicky clienteles in the world. The largest meal of the day is le dejeuner (lunch). A complete French meal includes an aperitif (drink), an entree (appetizer), a plat (main course), salad, cheese, dessert, fruit, coffee, and a digestif (after-dinner drink). The French drink wine with virtually every meal; boisson comprise entitles you to a free drink (usually wine) with your meal. Most restaurants offer a menu a prix fixe (fixed-price meal) that costs less than ordering a la carte. The formule is a cheaper, two-course version for the hurried luncher. Odd-hour cravings between lunch and dinner can be satisfied at brasseries, the middle ground between casual cafes and structured restaurants. Service compris means the tip is included in I’addition (check). It’s easy to get satisfying dinner for under ‚10 with staples such as cheese, pate, wine, bread, and chocolate; for a picnic, get fresh produce at a marche (outdoor market) and then hop between specialty shops. Start with a boulangerie (bakery) for bread, proceed to a charcuterie (butcher) for meats, and then patisseries and confiseries (pastry and candy shops) to satisfy a sweet tooth. When choosing a cafe, remember that you pay for its location those on a major boulevard are more expensive than smaller places a few steps down a side street. Prices are cheaper at the comptoir (counter) than in the salle (seating area). For supermarket shopping, look for the chains Carrefour, Casino, Monoprix, and Prisunic.
HOLIDAYS AND FESTIVALS
Holidays: New Year’s Day (Jan. 1); Easter Monday (Apr. 12); Labor Day (May 1); L’Anni-versaire de la Liberation (May 8); Ascension Day (May 20); Whitmonday (May 31); Bastille Day (July 14); Feast of the Assumption (Aug. 15); All Saints’ Day (Nov. 1); Armistice Day (Nov. 11); and Christmas (Dec. 25).
Festivals: Most festivals take place in summer. The Cannes Film Festival (May; www.festival-cannes.com) is mostly for directors and stars, but provides good people watching. The Festival d’Avignon (July-Aug.; www.festival-avignon.com) is famous for its theater. Bastille Day (July 14) is marked by military parades and fireworks nationwide. Although you may not be competing in the Tour de France (3rd or 4th Su in July; www.letour.fr), you’ll enjoy all the hype. A Vineyard Festival (Sept. in Nice; www.nice-coteazur.orgamericaintourismevigneindex.html) celebrates the grape harvest with music, parades, and wine tastings.
City of light, city of love, unsightly city, invisible city Paris somehow manages to do it all. From alleys that shelter the world’s best bistros to broad avenues flaunting the highest of haute couture, from the centuries-old stone of Notre Dame’s gargoyles to the futuristic motions of the Parc de la Villette, from the masterpieces of the Louvre to the installations of avant-garde galleries, Paris presents itself as both a harbor of tradition and a hotbed of impulse.
Paris has been a center of commerce, culture, and conflict for centuries and in the midst of it all, this city became the Western world’s symbolic capital of romance, revolution, heroism, and hedonism. No wonder it’s the world’s most heavily touristed city or that intellectuals in the later 20th century, in inimitable French style, started to question whether Paris had become nothing more than a conglomeration of illusions in the imagination of the tourist. You might find yourself wondering the same thing, as you sit in some perfect sidewalk cafe with a view of the Eiffel Tower, sipping an espresso or savoring a croissant, surrounded by beautiful people in brooding black: Can this place exist? But it does. Paris seems, incredibly, to live up to its mythical reputation and to utterly defy it; it is at once a living monument to the past and a city driving the present.