Information on France
France, the largest country in Europe, is bounded
to the north by the English Channel (La Manche), the
northeast by Belgium and Luxembourg, the east by Germany,
Switzerland and Italy, the south by the Mediterranean
(with Monaco as a coastal enclave between Nice and
the Italian frontier), the southwest by Spain and
Andorra, and the west by the Atlantic Ocean. The island
of Corsica, southeast of Nice, is made up of two départements.
The country offers a spectacular variety of scenery,
from the mountain ranges of the Alps and Pyrenees
to the attractive river valleys of the Loire, Rhône
and Dordogne and the flatter countryside in Normandy
and on the Atlantic coast. The country has some 2900km
(1800 miles) of coastline.
Climate Of France
A temperate climate in the north; northeastern areas
have a more continental climate with warm summers
and colder winters. Rainfall is distributed throughout
the year with some snow likely in winter. The Jura
Mountains have an alpine climate. Lorraine, sheltered
by bordering hills, has a relatively mild climate.
Mediterranean climate in the south; mountains are
cooler with heavy snows in winter.
The Atlantic influences the climate of the western
coastal areas from the Loire to the Basque region;
the weather is temperate and relatively mild with
rainfall distributed throughout the year. Summers
can be very hot and sunny. Inland areas are also mild
and the French slopes of the Pyrenees are reputed
for their sunshine record.
Mediterranean climate exists on the Riviera, and
in Provence and Roussillon. Weather in the French
Alps is variable. Continental weather is present in
Auvergne, Burgundy and the Rhône Valley. Very
strong winds (such as the Mistral) can occur throughout
the entire region.
Approximate flight times: From London to Paris is
1 hour 5 minutes; to Nice and Marseilles is 2 hours.
From Los Angeles to Paris is 15 hours 5 minutes;
from New York is 8 hours (3 hours 45 minutes by Concorde);
from Singapore is 15 hours 5 minutes; and from Sydney
is 25 hours 5 minutes.
International airports: Paris-Charles de Gaulle (CDG)
(web site: http://www.adp.fr)
is 23km (14.5 miles) northeast of the city (journey
time – 30 minutes). It is also known as Roissy-Charles
de Gaulle. There is a coach to the city every 15 minutes.
Buses and trains run to Paris Gare du Nord or Châtelet
every 15-20 minutes. An RER/TGV station serves the
airport directly; travel time is 35 minutes to Gare
du Nord. There are also taxis to the city. Airport
facilities include a bank, post office, duty-free
shops, restaurants, shops and tourist information.
AIR: Air Inter is the national domestic airline flying
between Paris (from both Orly and Charles de Gaulle
airports) and 45 cities and towns. It also connects
regional airports including those in Corsica with
those on the mainland. Details of all internal flights
are available from Air France.
Note: Details of independent airlines may be obtained
from the French Government Tourist Office.
SEA/RIVER: There are almost 9000km (5600 miles) of
navigable waterways in France, and all of these present
excellent opportunities for holidays. Cruising boats
may be chartered with or without crews, ranging in
size from the smallest cabin cruiser up to converted
commercial barges (péniches), which can accommodate
up to 24 people and require a crew of eight. Hotel
boats, large converted barges with accommodation and
restaurant, are also available in some areas, with
a wide choice of price and comfort. For further information,
contact the national or regional tourist board.
The main canal areas are the north (north and northeast
of Paris) where most of the navigable rivers are connected
with canals; the Seine (from Auxerre to Le Havre,
but sharing space with commercial traffic); the east,
where the Rhine and Moselle and their tributaries
are connected by canals; in Burgundy, where the Saône
and many old and picturesque canals crisscross the
region; the Rhône (a pilot is recommended below
Avignon); the Midi (including the Canal du Midi, connecting
the Atlantic with the Mediterranean); and Brittany
and the Loire on the rivers Vilaine, Loire, Mayenne
and Sarthe and the connecting canals. Each of these
waterways offer a magnificent variety of scenery,
a means of visiting many historic towns, villages
and sites and, because of the slow pace (8kph/5mph),
an opportunity to learn much about rural France.
State-run car ferries known as 'BACs' connect the
larger islands on the Atlantic coast with the mainland;
they also sail regularly across the mouth of the Gironde.
The island of Corsica is served by passenger and roll-on/roll-off
ferries operated by the Société Nationale
Maritime Corse-Mediterranée (SNCM), 61 boulevard
des Dames, 13002 Marseilles. (tel: (4) 91 56 32 00;
fax: (4) 91 56 36 36). Services run from Marseilles
and Nice to Ajaccio, Propriano and Bastia on the island.
RAIL: French Railways (SNCF) operate a nationwide
network with 34,200km (21,250 miles) of line, over
12,000km (7500 miles) of which has been electrified.
The TGV (Train à grande vitesse) is running
on new high-speed lines from Paris to Brittany and
southwest France at 300kph (186mph) and to Lyons and
the southeast at 270kph (168mph).
The SNCF is divided into five systems (East, North,
West, Southeast and Southwest). The transport in and
around Paris is the responsibility of a separate body,
the RATP at place Lachambeaudie, 75012 Paris (tel:
(1) 49 28 49 05) or at place de la Madeleine (tel:
(1) 40 06 71 45) for general information. This provides
a fully integrated bus, rail and métro network
for the capital.