France is the most visited country in the world, and for good reason. It oozes culture and style, features the most iconic landmarks (hello, Eiffel Tower) and has incredible food and wine everywhere you go.
I’ve studied in Paris, worked in Nice and visited countless other cities around the country – there’s no doubt that I’m a massive Francophile, but it’s not an all-love relationship.
These are a few things I love and hate about France.
There’s nothing like walking by a bakery and breathing in baguettes. What’s even better is being able to walk in and buy a warm, crusty loaf for less than a Euro.
Nothing beats a chilled glass of rosé in a sunny courtyard on a spring day.
France has an incredible diversity of food. Socca in Nice, ratatouille in Provence, butter in Brittany – each region produces specialties created out of the best produce the location has to offer.
From vintage shops cluttering the Marais to boutique stores in the French Rivieria, it’s hard to explore a city in France without spending some hard-earned Euros.
I am forever inspired by French women – they ooze style and confidence. Their ability to look effortlessly elegant and wholly individual always leaves me wanting to rock some red lipstick, no matter what I’m doing.
Sure, you can zone out on the beaches of the Riviera or party in the clubs in Paris — but why not learn something? France has no shortage of incredible museums, cinemas, theatre, opera and live music.
Museums, cinemas and cultural attractions usually offer a discount for students — always ask for the rate “pour les jeunes”.
Thanks to excellent underground and aboveground train systems, France is easy to navigate without a car of your own. I love the art deco Metro stations and the one Euro bus rides in Nice, but most of all I love the TGV: the high-speed train will get you from Paris to Nice in less than six hours, without having to deal with the airport hassle and security checkpoints — and with extra legroom!
There’s a reason why the French Riviera is the playground of the rich and the famous – the beaches are eye-wateringly beautiful.
While smoking is finally illegal inside restaurants, it’s still allowed (and very common) on restaurant patios and in many outdoor public spaces. Be prepared to inhale a lifetime’s worth of cigarette smoke if you want to drink your wine in the sunshine.
French lines seem to reward the pushiest. Pack plenty of patience, and don’t be afraid to just skip to the front of the line – that’s how it’s done here.
If you want to get anything done — from shipping a package overseas to extending a visa — be prepared to fill out a lot of paperwork, stand in a lot of lines and engage in circular arguments with a bored-looking French officials.
Anyone who has visited France will have at least one bad customer service experience. If it makes you feel any better, they don’t just reserve the sass for the foreigners – they’re just as rude to their fellow French. At least you don’t have to tip here.
Our local insider Christine tells us how to see France beyond Paris and all the stereotypes.
Clive Neeson was part of a group of young mavericks that became the pioneers of extreme sports. It's all been documented in Last Paradise, a film 45 years in the making.
You can buy at home or while traveling, and claim online from anywhere in the world. With 150+ adventure activities covered and 24/7 emergency assistance.Get a quote