how well do you really know france?
You love France! You’ve been to Paris, visited the Louvre, and taken a picture with the Eiffel Tower in the background. You’ve toured the beaches of Normandy, enjoyed 'apres-skis' in LaPlagne, have a sachet of lavender from Provence in your bathroom, and nonchanlantly strolled down La Promenade Des Anglais. If there ever was someone who can claim the title of Francophile, it's you!
But do you actually know about France?
Let's not beat around the bush here. For better or worse this is is what comes up in people's mind when they think about France:
But people often forget that France has a lot more to offer than just its metropole! With 12 time zones and 2,595 miles of borders with 11 countries, the sun is always shining on French soil.
Below is a list of locations that will make you question your geography (because they're all in France):
Experience the sheer thrill of exploring majestic desert dunes... and head to the beach bar for a beer afterward. No, this isn't the Sahara desert, his is actually the Dune Du Pilat, Europe's tallest sand dune. It is located in La Teste-de-Buch in the Arcachon Bay area, France, a mere 60 km from Bordeaux. Don't bother packing a water canteen, there are plenty of cafés nearby.
when in rome...
Ah, Rome... Its cafés. Its museums. Its culture. Except it's not Rome. This is the Arena in Nimes. Built around 70 CE, shortly after the Coliseum of Rome, it is one of the best-preserved Roman amphitheatres in the world. One thing is for certain: the Romans knew how to build things to last, since the arena is still in use today.
This sleepy little coastal town could be anywhere in New England. And while it is located off the North American East Coast. it is just as every bit French as St Malo. Welcome to St Pierre & Miquelon, the last remnants of the once gigantic province of New France. One might argue that the little french outpost has more in common with their Canadian neighbours than their fellow citizens, but its population is fiercely protective of their Basque and Breton roots, and the tricolour flag can be seen proudly flying on the townhall tower.
We've all fantasized about waking up to the ocean, surrounded by jungle-covered hills and picture-perfect beaches. If you are French, living it up on an island paradise is simply a case of hopping on a plane and flying to a different part of France. This is Martinique, a tropical haven in the Carribean where croissants and Pina Coladas are both on the menu all year round.
If the sight of these cliffs bring up cravings for tea and homemade scones, don't break out the jar of marmalade just yet because you're on the wrong side of the English Channel. These are the white cliffs of Etretat, in Northern France. According to some geologists, these cliffs as well as Dover's are all that is left of an ancient land bridge that once connected the British Isles to the Continent, and which collapsed during the last Ice Age.
Are you gazing at an incandescent sunset over the sereine Lake Lakuru in Kenya? Not even close. You haven't even left mainland France yet. This is the Camargue Salt Flats. Camargue is a natural region located south of Arles, between the Mediterranean Sea and the two arms of the Rhône delta. While the flamingos are Camargue's most emblematic birds, the area is more historically famous for its white horses...and its salt of course.
This quiet and tranquil scenery looks like it could have been captured anywhere in Ireland. But this is actually Brittany. While part of France, technically speaking Britanny is one of the 6 Celtic Nations, along with Cornwall, Wales, Scotland, Ireland and the Isle of Man. According to legends, this French region is also home the Merlin's final resting place, the Broceliande Forest.
romancing the stone...
This lush tropical forest is reminescent of the setting of the 1984 romantic-adventure movie "Romancing The Stone". But this isn't Colombia.
French Guiana is an overseas department and region of France on the northern Atlantic coast of South America. It's roughly the size of Portugal, so it's hardly a speck on the map, and it borders Suriname to the West and Brazil to the South. It's home to the European Space Port.
Get your steins at the ready! If you like your French with a side of German, the Alsace-Lorraine is the region for you. Famous for its wine and its colourful half-timbered houses, this region is home to stunning mountain scenery, vine-clad slopes and, of course, beautiful villages. For an extra sprinkle of fairydust magic, visit the region in December for its spectacular Christmas markets.
la dolce vita
Rugged mountain scenery, beautiful beaches and delicious food... Have you died and gone to Italy? Not quite! This amazing sea side town Bonifacio. It's located on the Southern end of Corsica and sits atop white limestone cliffs, sculpted and undercut by the sea, so the buildings overhang the edge. For Cinque Terre lovers wishing to see charming seaside Italian towns, minus the heaving crowds, this is solid alternative to Italy's fabulous five.
land of snow and ice
No, you're not in Antarctica. This frozen landscape was shot in the Kerguelen Islands, in the The French Southern and Antarctic Lands (yes, it's a thing). It's so remote that we didn't know much about it to be honest. But a quick Google Map search dispelled any doubt that this was not French: The only permanent settlement has 2 restaurants for a population of 130. One of them even has a 4.4 rating on Google and the reviews are definitely worth a read. Here's our personal favourite: "We lost three people and a dog during a storm on the way to La Petite Glace. After my first bite into a delicious Penguin egg omlette, I knew it was worth it."
riding the waves
This classic Gold Coast scene...is not California. Welcome to Hossegor, a surfer's paradise surrounded by forests of pine trees and the scent of the nearby ocean, located on France's Atlantic coast. Europe's surfer's Mecca is at the end of a deep submarine canyon (known as the 'Fosse de Capbreton') that cuts through the continental shelf of the Bay of Biscay. This geological feature is the reason that Hossegor has forged a reputation for being one of the best beachbreaks on the planet.
And there you have it! We hope you enjoyed the tour of our fabulous country! Have you been to any of the places above? Let us know in the comment below!