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You may have heard the stereotypes, about haughty French waiters, pervasive cigarette smoking and smelly cheese. Centuries of history have shaped France’s rich heritage, and the buildings speak volumes: from the medieval city of Carcassonne to the Renaissance chateaux of the Loire Valley, and the magnificent 19th century Haussmann boulevards in Paris.

To put the record straight: the waiters are formal rather than friendly, smoking is on the decline, and strong cheeses are decidedly optional. You can imagine scenes of the Belle Epoque at the Moulin Rouge as vividly as World War II battles at Omaha Beach in Normandy.

President Charles de Gaulle once lamented about the difficulty of governing a nation with over 300 types of cheese – but for visitors, the variety of culture and cuisine is something to relish!

With its majestic monuments, elegant sidewalk cafes and chic shopping districts, Paris has the finest of everything – from gourmet cuisine to fabulous fashions.

Another awe-inspiring historical site near Paris is the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Chartres Brittany in northwest France is alive with ancient history, including the historic seaside town of Saint Malo and the famous medieval abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, perched on a hilltop that becomes an island at high tide.

Surrounded by rugged coastline, Normandy is full of historic towns that are associated with Impressionist paintings: the lovely seaside town of Honfleur, Rouen with its famous cathedral painted by Monet, the bustling port of Le Havre, and the coastal resort of Deauville.

The largest country in Europe and, culturally and historically, one of the most influential in the world, France has a reputation that precedes her.

Before even visiting, you already know about the famous boulevards, the gourmet cuisine, the fabulous fashions and stylish cafes.Expect the waiters to be brusque and the people-watching to be captivating.The ‘City of Lights’ lives up to its name with a vibrant nightlife, from chic nightclubs to risque cabaret shows, traditional ballet to modern jazz.Burgundy is equally famous for its hearty country cuisine, with classic French specialties like escargot, chicken in mustard sauce, and beef stew.Only two hours from Paris by high-speed train and an hour from the Alps, Lyon is France’s second largest city: more “French” than Paris, and with sunnier weather.The most unique and graceful, the Chateau de Chenonceau is known as the ‘Castle of Ladies’ because it was designed and built for Katherine Briconnet and Diane de Poitiers.

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