The country of France is centrally located in the continent of Europe, with Spain along its western border and Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland and Italy running from the north to south along its eastern border. To the north of France is the Atlantic Ocean, the North Sea, and a body of water called the English Channel, through which an underwater tunnel allows trains to run from Calais in northern France to Folkestone, Kent in the United Kingdom. It is called “Channel Tunnel” by the British and “le tunnel (sous la Manche)” by the French. In effect, this tunnel affords the people of the capital city of Paris in northern France just as easy a travel route to the city of London as they have to the major cities in the continental European countries they are surrounded by.
Along the southern coast of France is the Mediterranean Sea and the important port of the second largest city of France, which is Marseilles. Traveling east from Marseilles, one encounters the famous French Riviera, with its stunning beaches that have attracted vacationers for centuries. The city of Nice and the adjacent small, independent country of Monaco, with its famous Casino de Monte-Carlo, are the most important places along the Riviera. Within the Mediterranean Sea, just south of the French coast and just north of the island of Sardinia, is the island of Corsica, which has changed rule from Italy to France over the centuries.
Much of France is mountainous, including the borders, which include the Alps to the east and the Pyrenees to the west. The small, independent country called Andorra is located in the heart of the Pyrenees Mountains along the border between France and Spain, and is the highest inhabited country in Europe. The mountain vistas of this small country and the snowy climate attract skiers from all over the world.
As described above, the climate of France varies – from the continental climate of central and eastern France, with hot summers but cold winters with snow-capped mountains for many months of the year at the higher altitudes – to the generally warmer, Mediterranean climate of south-eastern France, with its very hot and dry summers. The oceanic climate of northwestern France is more temperate, generally cooler in the summer and not as cold in the winter as the rest of France, and receives more rain. It is these differences in “terrior” of France, or the local differences in the climate, soil, and terrain, that is responsible for the major wine growing regions of the country, such as Alsace, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Beaujolais, Champagne, and the Loire Valley. French wines, both white and red, are famous throughout the world. And a sparkling white wine can only be given the designation “Champagne” if produced in the region of France with the same name.
Which brings us to the question – what is the best the best time to visit France? Of course, the answer is, just about any time! France is a country with something for everyone to see and enjoy. Paris is in season year-round, as a center for culture, fashion and cuisine, but frequented most by tourists in the summer months. Tourists and native French alike flock to the southern and northern shores of France to enjoy the beaches along the coastlines during the summer months, and winter brings with it a time for skiing. Many small cities and towns dot the French countryside, along with world-famous vineyards, each with its own particular beauty, traditional events, wonderful architecture, food, art, and music, just waiting to be explored!