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Tips on travelling to France from Patrick Martin

Patrick is a French citizen, currently living in the Lorraine region of northeast France, between Metz and Nancy. He was born in Verdun and has travelled extensively in France.
How well do you know France? 

I have travelled throughout France, with the exception of Corsica.

Why should I visit France? 

For several possible reasons, it depends on your interests: gastronomy, landscapes, architecture, history, art... France has an incredible variety of offerings for tourists.

Which regions or cities would you recommend for first-time visitors to the country? 

Obviously if you land in Paris, you should explore this famous city. Apart from Paris it is difficult to choose, but my recommendations include Lyon, Burgundy, the southwest, and the Loire Valley.

What is your favourite city/region? Why?

I prefer southwest France because this region has kept its historical character (mostly due to lack of war damage), offers very good food, provides access to the sea and mountains, and has a mild climate. It is also less expensive than some other parts of France.
When is the best time of year to visit France?

Winter (December to February) for mountain lovers wanting to ski, and for everybody else, anytime from spring to autumn (April to October). Bear in mind that if you are not at the seaside it is very hot in summer in the south of France.

What is the best means of transport when exploring France?

The TGV train from Paris is useful for getting to other cities, and many French cities can be seen on foot to a certain extent, but to be able to explore any region in depth, you will have more freedom if you hire a car.

How long should I spend in France? 

One lifetime is not enough! But really, it depends on what kind of tourist you are and where you are going. For instance, to visit the iconic museums and monuments of Paris one week will just barely cover the most famous sightseeing. Whereas, to get an idea of a region, like Alsace, it is possible to experience the best of the gastronomy, landscape and history in three or four days, though you will no doubt wish you had longer. I think if you have planned your trip carefully, 10 days is a good start to give you a first impression of the country. Do not forget that travel between regions takes time so it is best to stick to one region if you have limited time.
What do I need to pack for a trip to France? 

A power adapter, because the electrical voltage is not necessarily the same as yours at home.

Are there any places that are overrated, or best avoided? 

I think the French Riviera is overrated - nearby Provence is more authentic. But each region has its charm.

What are some of your favourite French dishes? 

Beef bourguignon, cassoulet, foie gras, duck breast, sauerkraut, fried steak, stuffed tomatoes, and roast chicken!

What should I bring home as souvenirs from France? 

It depends on your budget: jewellery, perfume, designer clothing, wines and spirits, chocolates, sweets, and regional food specialties are all popular souvenirs. 

What is the best thing to do with children in France? 

You can of course visit Disneyland Paris, and you can also enjoy lots of sports and outdoor activities. There is a wide range of fun activities in tourist areas during summer.