© ATOUT FRANCE/Nathalie
In the minds of many visitors (and non-visitors alike), France embraces the notions of romance, culture, intellectualism and liberty. Not surprisingly, it is easy to be seduced by France, by the soft, flowing lyricism of their language, the subtle nuances of philosophy, the wealth of French literature, art and music.
France is an amalgam of thoughts and ideas that are simultaneously familiar, yet foreign, a complex mélange of the 21st century and of tradition that somehow manages to achieve a sense of balance.
Young men from Anglet in traditional costumes performing the
Basque arch dance.
© ATOUT FRANCE/Aquashot
Why this should be so of this country in particular is difficult to define, but a visit to France instantly introduces you to a world which is, intentionally or otherwise, focused on sensory pleasure, whether in the aroma of a skilfully prepared meal, the melody of its music, the heady scent of the wild places, and just the sight of that lovely young woman across the street...okay, handsome young man, too.
Visit any of the major cities and you encounter beauty, elegance, history and the finest collections of art and cultural artefacts. Visit the wine cellars, and you feel yourself being admitted to a privileged brotherhood, and swept back to a time when self-indulgence and bucolic rusticity coexisted, if not always peaceably. Wander down cobbled backstreets that beckon like an impatient child, and you instantly feel as though you are in a different era, a world hallmarked by liberty and tradition.
© ATOUT FRANCE/François-Xavier Prévot
The French have always been a liberated and intellectual nation, with interests and tastes that come across as highbrow, elevated and culturally aware; pride in heritage and local history and identity is evident throughout the entire country from the largest cities to the smallest villages. As such, there is an appeal about the culture of France that inspires a desire for self-actualisation and a quest for knowledge.
France has the distinct advantage of being a country of great variety, satisfying a wide range of interests, pursuits and curiosities. Whether you want culinary delights, or fine wine, expansive landscapes, heritage and history, art or simply a golden sand beach, France can offer some of the best, which, naturellement, they would argue is the best. And therein lies the essence of France; the belief that they are the best. You don't have to agree with them, but you do have to admire them nonetheless.
© ATOUT FRANCE/Nathalie Baetens