Travelled in:  August 2013
Visa type: Carte de sejour. Short term visa to reside in France.
Transport: Transport in France might be a little difficult if you don’t speak French. While travelling in trains, keep in mind of zones displayed on the tickets since tickets are valid only until the respective zones. Do not misplace your tickets until the end of destination, both in trains and buses. There might be an inspection at any point of the journey and the ticket is required for exit points.  Also, note that RER trains are different from Metros and are not as frequent as Metros. There might be two or more RER train stations for one particular place. So, make sure that you reach out to the nearest station depending on your itinerary. Buses are easy to access as bus numbers are indicated along with direction on display boards of buses. Locating a bus stop might be a little troublesome, so make sure you have a route map or information from the local tourist centers.
Place not to miss: It is quite hard to choose one place in a country so rich in history, culture and scenery. The choice might completely depend on an individual’s interest. If I have to mention one place to experience all the French touristy vibes, I would name the most prestigious icon of Paris- “The Eiffel Tower”. To be more precise I would suggest you to visit it at night to see the Eiffel glowing bright and beautiful. The absolute joy and magnificence when you see the sparkling lights illuminating on the golden yellow tower for five minutes is precious. I assure you that those five minutes will be one of your best times spent in France, so don’t miss out on the elegance. Please note that the Eiffel tower lights up and sparkles for 5 minutes, every hour until 1 am.
Eiffel in sparkling night view
Food recommendations: What is France without baguette, wine and cheese? The French are said to be professionals at identifying the quality and taste of food products down to tiny details. No wonder France hosts a wine museum in Bordeaux cité de vin with fourteen thousand wines from eighty different countries! You can also find many food tours in Paris to savor the unlimited varieties of cheese and wine.  In addition, don’t miss out to stroll in popular Sunday markets to buy traditional french food. Don’t skip to eat fish on Friday and French desserts everyday along with a coffee after the meal. Of course when we are in France, we should behave like the French. 😉
Some French dessert recommendations are crêpe, Macaroon, Crème brûlée, Eclaire au chocolat. Do try out the different Tartes and gâteax (Cakes) from the many French patisseries to enjoy food to the fullest .
Be ready to be surprised by the amount of cheese you find in Sunday markets.
Day tours from capital: Paris offers wide varieties of day tours across France and outside. It would be hard to make a choice but if you plan accordingly to fit in your itinerary, it will be the most memorable Paris trip with an extra byte of French air. I recommend “Versailles”  first hand because of its proximity to history. Versailles, being the former French capital is popular for its rich history and palace with 50 mins proximity from Paris and is a great place to visit in a day. The palace and Gardens are breathtaking and huge. In addition, I would like to suggest some places of Normandy region for their beautiful coastlines and cliffs. For instance, Mont Saint Michel is an amazing island to include on a day tour from Paris. Etretat for the beautiful cliffs and Honfleur for the great fishing port is worth a visit on day tour in Normandie. Some other choices could be Roens, Reims, Provins, Lille from Paris to experience the high speed trains of france. Many tour companies from Paris also offer day trips to Brussels, Bruges, Amsterdam to experience the other European city vibes. Don’t be surprised if you even find a day trip to London to say a quick hello to England! 
Panorama of a limestone cliff in Étretat, France
Best season to travel: Spring and fall
France is one of the most desired tourist destinations in Europe. Therefore, it attracts tourists all year long irrespective of the season. For instance, summers attracts the maximum tourists all over the globe because of holiday season. So, be prepared to accept the huge crowded lines at tourist destinations. If you plan well you might escape some lines by buying the tickets before hand to avoid the busiest time of year in France for vacations involving expensive air tickets and accommodations. Hence, I recommend fall and spring to visit the places more leisurely to enjoy their glory and indulge in French culture by avoiding the big lines. Winters are usually cold with unpredictable rains but you might consider winters to witness the magnificence of palaces and tourist spots all by yourself with an added bonus of inexpensive fares. 
Street view of versailles in winter
Personal insights: I will say only good things about France because of the best time I spent there. We were living in Versailles which is 50 mins from Paris and had a privilege to experience Versailles life along with a slice of an international Parisian life. Paris is such a happening place and thus no wonder it draws people around the globe to have fun and enjoy their vacations here. It liberated me of my insecurities towards meeting foreigners in a non-English speaking country. If you have to travel in summer, please prepare to speak a little French in bars and restaurants so as not to complain about the French service just after visiting Paris. Since Paris is one of the most visited tourist places in summer, you might come across temperamental catering servers in restaurants along with the warm temperature. If you are less than twenty six years old, most of the museums and tourist attractions have free entrance or some minimal prices. It is not an exception for transport passes which includes discount. Besides, I’ve always been in awe of French culture right from French bis to cuisine. They always have their own style of doing things with a definite cultural integrity. So, if you are in France the first and foremost thing to do is to soak in the French lifestyle. Try to witness the life beyond Paris to experience the diverse French culture throughout its different regions. I also believe that the French read well to experience life beyond material things. For a glimpse of either French philosophy or French Royalty, no traveler should ever imagine to skip France from their bucket list.
we 🙂
 

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