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By Matt May
After 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.
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.
If you are driving from the UK, Eurotunnel have some good offers on the Channel Tunnel if you are flexible with dates.
Flights are available from the UK to most areas of France. Here is a quick guide to which airports are best depending on the purpose of your visit:
If you are looking for sun, sand and sea then Beziers, Biarritz, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nice and Perpignan Airport are good choices.
The French Riviera has the best climatic conditions in France, with a warm micro-climate due to the sheltered location and proximity to the Mediterranean.
In the north of France the exclusive resort of Le Touquet is popular with Parisiens in summertime. The pine-lined town is a magnet for designer shop outlets due to the rich clientele who holiday there.
For skiing choose Chambery, Grenoble, Nice, Pau or Perpignan Airport.
If you are heading for the Pyrenees for a walking holiday then Carcassonne, Perpignan, Pau or Toulouse Airports offer good access.
Poitiers and Tours Airport in the Loire Valley offer an excellent base for wine holidays. On the south west coast Bordeaux Airport is good for a wine/beach holiday combination.
The beaches in Normandy in north western France were the scene of the second world war D-day landings. There are a number of WW2 museums and sites of historic interest along the coastlines of Normandy, Picardie and Calais.
Dunkirk near the border with Belgium was the site of the evacuation of Allied soldiers and is the theme of a Hollywood film. At Dunkirk at low tide it is possible to see the wrecks of some of the boats sunk by the German bombers.
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If you require a larger vehicle, Blue Valley Car Hire provide 9 seat self-drive minibus rental at airports throughout Europe. We do not provide rental of vehicles with over 9 seats.