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Not content with winning in Russia, France is also a champion in the Tourism World Cup. Some 89 million tourists popped by in 2017 – an 8 per cent increase on the previous year – making it yet again the most visited country in the world.
And here are 10 reasons why:
The stunning architecture, the vibrant museums, the broad and beautiful boulevards, the cafes, the parks, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, Sacre Coeur … it's as if someone somewhere gathered together all the things that make a city great and plonked them haphazardly on either side of the Seine. It's cool, it's offhand and, like a handsome pedigree cat, it doesn't try too hard.
France was, in 2010, the first nation to have its gastronomy recognised by UNESCO as an "intangible cultural heritage". But whether haute cuisine or simple steak-frites, the French love to get together to eat well – and the standard of all the cuisine reflects that.
There is nothing quite like a good French baguette – and the French will go to great lengths to winkle out the best. A friend, newly arrived in Paris, asked a local where to get a baguette. "But do you want a baguette, or a good baguette?" was the reply. After which the local gave directions past two or three boulangeries to the one she deemed worthy.
Whatever you do, don't go to France for the beer; this is a wine and Champagne country. The efficacious application of a bottle of proper bubbly to any celebration is well known, but remember, if it's not from Champagne then it's not Champagne. Wine, though, is where it's at in France. And it's not just for the connoisseurs either. Go into any supermarket and you'll get a very decent bottle for just a few Euro. Pair it with a baguette (see above) and you're ready to go.
JOIE DE VIVRE
I once sat in a café-cum-boulangerie and watched two men discuss the type of bread they were going to buy for dinner that night. The boulanger chimed in, too, asking what they were going to eat for dinner. The French have a wonderful feel for the good things in life and make sure to incorporate that into their everyday existence.
Normandy's rugged coastline. Photo: Shutterstock
The Alps, the Massif Central, the Mediterranean coastline down south, the Pyrenees … the diversity of scenery throughout France is a great part of its charm. Anyone who has experienced the villages of Normandy, the wild, rugged beauty of the hamlets clinging to the cliff faces along the Gorge du Tarn or the sophisticated elegance of the South of France will know this.
There is probably not a more romantic language in the world. There's no better way to say I love you than 'Je t'adore', is there? And for us English speakers it's relatively simple to learn. Or should be. After all, as the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau once said: "English is just badly pronounced French."
Whether in the big cities or in small villages in the middle of nowhere, the produce market is a wonderful mainstay of French life. Anywhere you find stalls that sell nothing but mushrooms is alright by me. And don't get me started on the cheese.
Sitting in a cafe – inside or out – with a coffee or a beer or a pastis just reading the paper or watching the world go by without being hassled by the waiter is something the French have elevated to an art form.
From 2000-year-old Roman aqueducts to medieval castles on jagged hillsides, France is awash with amazing architecture and World Heritage sites. The Pont du Gard, the Roman amphitheatre in Arles, the slightly surreal but utterly mesmerising Mont Saint-Michel in Brittany and the Popes' Palace in Avignon are among just a few of the jewels in the French crown.
See also: 20 things that will shock first-time visitor to France
See also: 10 things you should never do in France