France. The country of romance, art and fashion. I was extremely fortunate to stay in France for four months as a part of a university exchange programme. I learnt heaps about the French, their culture and way of life. We all have pre-conceived notions about a country and I was happy to find out that I was wrong about many in this case.
You should visit France, especially Paris. Here are a few things I discovered about the country:
Shopping is not expensive
Although, France is known as the fashion capital of the world, the shopping is surprisingly inexpensive. The Champs-Élysées district is a dreamy haven for shopaholics. Right from the hi-end haute couture to your everyday casual wear, you will find everything here. There are some small stalls next to the Louvre museum where you will get handcrafted French items. You can also head over to Boulevard Haussmann for a traditional French shopping experience. France is also the best place to buy your exclusive international brands, such as Louis Vuitton, at the best prices. In fact, you even get your tax back before going back to your home country. The Louis Vuitton store at the Champs-Élysées is so popular that there is a queue at the payment counter to buy designer bags!
Also Read: Top reasons to visit France
It’s a perfect blend of modern and traditional elements
For someone who has been brought up in Dubai, I have mainly been exposed to the contemporary elements of the world. Therefore, I had an amazing time walking around the streets of Paris, especially near the river Seine. Paris hosts some of the world’s most stunning bridges such as the Pont de la Tournelle, Pont Neuf, Pont Alexandre III and much more. The city has aptly maintained the architecture of the olden era. Some of my favourite structures are the Sacré-Cœur, an amazing cathedral on the highest point of Paris, the world-famous Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe. Make sure you visit these sites. The astounding part of the architecture are the modern interiors. The Louvre Museum, which hosts the Mona Lisa, has gorgeous interiors. The same goes for the Eiffel Tower. I loved the unique blend of ancestral and current designs here. You can click a photo in literally any corner of Paris.
Where to stay in France? Click here
You find the best pastries in the world
I admit. I am a serial sugarholic and France is the best place to get sweets. Crepes, cakes and tarts; you can get them all. They are extremely fresh and made by highly qualified chefs. I had a personal favourite chocolate tart which I used to purchase every day from a patisserie down the road. I would highly recommend visiting Le Grenier à Pain, Poilâne and Pain d'Epis in Paris to have the best bread and chocolate tarts in the world! The French always have desserts at the end of every meal. It makes me wonder how even then they manage to remain so thin?
You don’t need to know French
I had learnt a bit of French in high-school and I was all prepared to speak bits and pieces of it during my exchange. I ordered something in a Paris restaurant in French and was very proud of it. The lady replied back in English! I guess she found my French amusing. There are also several shows and activities in France which go above and beyond any barriers of language. The Moulin Rouge is one such famous show. It is the highest quality of dance, singing and gymnastics that you can see without having to understand a single word of French. I would also suggest watching an Opera in France. I saw two or three and they were simply awe-inspiring. Check out the shows available here. It’s a big myth that to travel or stay in a European country; you need to know the language. Actions often speak louder than words.
Also check: Cheap flights to France
People are happy and affectionate
France is the country of love, but not only in a romantic sense. Far from being snobbish, the French are genial and hospitable. During my time there, I stayed for a couple of days with my friend’s French family for Easter in a quaint little town located next to Paris called Rambouillet. They had prepared vegetarian food especially for me and communicated with me in English. My friend took me to the Palace of Versailles and explained everything to me in detail. We even saw a movie in French called Le Vie en Rose. The French mingle with everyone and are super jolly. They love to party and love their culture. In fact, the nightlife in Paris is great. You should certainly head over to Le Crazy Horse for a night of fun!
So here you have it, some things I learnt about France while studying abroad. I highly suggest you visit all of Europe, but especially France, as it is a once in a lifetime experience. Travelling within Europe is highly inexpensive as well. I used the TGV (the fastest train in Europe) to go to neighbouring countries. Happy travelling!