By Matt MayAfter Spain, France is the most popular holiday destination for the British. Although prices in France are comparable if not a little more expensive than those in the UK (and higher than in Spain), there are plenty of reasons why people head for France for their holidays.
So why does France attract so many tourists to its shores? For a start the French climate is better than in the UK, with the southern half of the country enjoying long, hot summers which stretch into October as you approach the south coast. As a general rule the southern coast of France from Nice around to Perpignan the Spanish border has the best of the weather.
The food and drink (particularly the wine) is a big attraction for tourists, although French cuisine is not to everyone's taste. Somewhat stereotyped for its frog's legs and snail's cuisine, France offers a gastronomic experience which is centred around meat dishes, so vegetarians may be disappointed.
Whether you are skiing in the French Alps, walking in the Pyrenees, mixing with the jet sets on the beaches of Cannes, rummaging in the street markets of Paris, France has something for everyone, and it's on the doorstep.
Visit the French Riveira on the south coast. For a city break Nice is close to the affluent resorts of Cannes and Monte Carlo the home of the French Grand Prix. For a quieter resort try the picturesque town of Menton near the Italian border.
Aside from the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe, if you are visiting Paris make the effort to see the Pere Lachaise cemetery, final resting place of Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and many more artists and celebrities.
France is renowned for its cheeses - goats cheeses are especially popular as are soft cheeses including Camembert and Brie.
If you are in the Pau region why not try camel riding - see the Camels in France website
For walkers, cyclists and nature lovers, the Pyrenees are an idyllic location for walkers. With some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe, and an abundance of birds, butterflies and other wildlife, the Pyrenees are a great destination for an active holiday. Always remember to take water and a map.
When to visit
Summers in France are generally more reliable the further south you venture. From Bordeaux southwards expect warm days from late April to mid-October.
The south coast resorts from the Italian border near Nice around to Perpignan have the best climates, and can be visited all year. Summer temperatures are generally in the high 20's, and in winter there is plenty of pleasant sunshine with temperatures on the coast regularly reaching 14-16 degrees centigrade. Venture a few kilometres in land in winter and the temperatures can drop very quickly.