From world class wine and delectable delicacies, to iconic structures and a culture of brooding romance; whether it's described as chic, rude, sexy or snobby, everyone has an opinion about France. As French general and writer Charles de Gaulle once famously said, “how can anyone govern a nation that has two hundred and forty-six kinds of cheese?” Beyond a reference to France's famous cheese spectrum, running the gamut from wheels of creamy camembert to ripened Roquefort, de Gaulle's words perfectly capture the lure of this country's timeless and multi-faceted culture, a tapestry constantly changing from region to region, from north to south, and yet filled with a very distinctive 'je ne sais quois', or 'I don't know what', a seduction which keeps the world travelling back for more, year after year. So, what is that certain something?
Maybe it's France's architecture known the world over, entrenched in history and folklore: here, you can fulfil dreams of scaling the Eiffel Tower, its looming iron lattice anchoring the whole of Paris together as the capital's stoic, structural symbol; you can marvel at royal Châteaux in the Loire Valley and stay at a restored farmhouse in the sunny south of France. Whichever way you turn here, you're bound to be faced with an iconic piece of history, standing tall, or all the way down to face level with the unfalteringly familiar, France's smaller towns, with their cute, village square markets and lace-curtained bistros.
Maybe it's the allure of French café culture. Going back centuries, cafés, or coffee houses, were a place to meet for intellectuals, and where philosophical debates were held – and this vision of Hemingway, Picasso and Sartre mulling over a dark, rich expresso, contemplating the nature of existentialism and surrounded by dramatic clouds of tobacco smoke on a cafe terrace, is deeply engrained in the cultural musings associated with France – and still stands strong today.
Those who fall prey to the picture perfect might go weak at the knees for the lavender field landscapes of Provence, unspoilt rural panoramas and the spectacular looming mountains of the Alps, where you can sit at the foot of the Mont Blanc chain, gazing at your reflection in a crystal clear, glacier lake, quietly contemplating the fact that you never want to leave. The sheer physical diversity of France would be hard to exhaust in a lifetime of visits.