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(c) free photo There is a saying that no matter how lost you get, you will always know when you are in France. It has nothing to do with the language or the view from the Eiffel Tower. France just has a certain "je ne sais quoi".

Being the largest country in Western Europe brings diversity. Many people from French colonies have been moving to Paris and the larger cities such as Lyon & Marsailles. The culture is now a hot pot of food, art, dance and music that combines traditions from around the world and adds a French twist. But don't be disappointed, you will still find provincial France while enjoying the sun with a glass of un rouge in hand.

If time is limited, you will not find a better base country from which to start your trip as France shares borders with six neighbouring countries: Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and Spain. However, France is a destination in and of its own. With so much to see and do, a traveller could spend months in France alone and still not have done everything there is to do. The sights and street life of Paris, the jagged peaks of the French Alps, the magnificent coast line of the French Riviera - the list is extensive.

In France no town is complete without a gallery or museum. Do not try to visit each one. Instead, select the collections or works that are must sees and try to visit your top few. For most, the Louvre will satisfy all desire for cultural enlightenment, but a couple of others to consider are the Mussee Rodin and the Musee d O'rsay.

The popular French backpacker's hostels are generally clean and well managed. If you are travelling in a group of two or more, however, you should consider staying at a budget hotel. When split between two or more people, a budget hotel will often work out being cheaper and will more than likely provide that extra bit of French charm. You may even end up with a few luxuries like a television or patio.

Dining is one of the true pleasures of France. The French take their food and drink seriously. You should arrive early to a popular restaurant to avoid lining up. The French typically eat dinner late with the most common time being about 8pm. Most French restaurants will offer a preset menu consisting of several courses. These menus are generally your best value. Of course, wine is a popular accompaniament to any French meal. The cheaper wines, like table wine, are often less expensive than soft drinks.

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