Luxury Hotels: Just One Part of French Delicacies

France has come to be known as the epicentre of sophistication and elegance. There are chateaux and luxury hotels spread across beautiful cities and countryside alike.

France has become an almost byword for history and romance. The architecture of Paris, the palatial grounds of Versailles and the distinctive ‘pink city’ of Toulouse all portray the importance placed on aesthetics throughout French history. For lovers of art, work produced by the likes on Monet, Degas, Cezanne and Matisse fill the walls of galleries and museums. And if the route to a person’s heart is through their stomach, then France boasts classical cuisine and wine that is among the most admired and celebrated across the world.

It is impossible to talk about France without first mentioning Paris; one of the most beautiful and important cities in the world. Now the capital of a united country, it has been the setting for resistance and revolution as well as one of the forerunners in film, philosophy, food and fashion.

Virtually everything in Paris is beautiful. The streets include smaller, quainter buildings to go with the grandeur of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral and Arc de Triomphe. The wine they serve up is envied, the pastries on display are as intricate and delicate as they are delicious. Each plate of food is nearly as beautiful to look at as the artwork hanging on the walls of the Louvre, and the people do everything dressed immaculately in Chanel, Dior and Hermes.

French fashion may be rivalled with the constant forward thinking and evolvement of New York and London, but it retains its classic chic and remains an iconic symbol for style. For Parisians, looking good is a requirement; very little is gaudy and brash, with a greater emphasis on demure and elegance. For lovers of shopping and design, Paris, with its fashion houses, design fairs, right down to its flea markets, is a right of a passage.

By the same token, lovers of food can find a variety of styles throughout France. Whereas England is about big, bold flavours and Italy is about simple ingredients treated with respect, France is about maintaining tradition. The greatest French recipes are the ones that have been handed down throughout generations like a culinary holy grail. To experience the more highly regarded French cuisine we must leave Paris however, and there are two routes to choose from.

First is to get out of the cities altogether. There is a common belief that small towns will serve a higher calibre of food, with a greater emphasis on local, seasonal ingredients and regional specialities.

There is the German-influenced food and drink in Alsace, the abundance of seafood in Normandy and Brittany, or championing the heartier and richer dishes such as its cassoulet or foie gras is Toulouse and its surroundings. The other option is to head to France’s first city of food, Lyon. Traditional ‘workers food’ based around sausages, dumplings and tripe makes up a great deal of Lyon’s cuisine. This is also the birthplace of dauphinoise potatoes (a must have). Restaurants tend to be small and intimate so it can be important to book tables in advance.

Heading south from Paris also means a change of sports affiliation. While football is popular throughout the country, it is the north that celebrates it more, and the academy of Clairefontaine (which nurtures talented young players) that has been a model for other countries to follow. Graduates such as Thierry Henry, William Gallas and Nicolas Anelka have gone onto international success, and the country’s national team experienced their heyday at the turn of the 21st century, becoming World and European champions.

In the south however, as the terrain becomes more mountainous, the real love is for rugby and cycling. Cities such as Perpignan and Toulouse boast Europe’s best rugby teams, and the Tour de France is regarded as one of the toughest challenges in all of sport.

The rural parts of France are popular for camping, staying in cute farmhouses or even grand chateaux’s. Some visitors come to sample the wine that is produced, and the cheese that is matured. Others head to the west coast to take advantage of the popular surfing near Biarritz, or to the Alps to ski.

The other option is the city breaks. As well as Paris and Lyon, there are the likes of Marseilles, Bordeaux or Lille to be explored. These provide the class and sass associated with France. For so many different types of holiday, it is a country that provides ample enjoyment.