regions at a glance...
| Regions in France : a
places in France
Administratively and politically,
the country is divided into 13 regions (this number was reduced from 22 to 13 in 2015), each of them with
an elected assembly ("Conseil regional", with a "Président
de Région"), a representative of the State ("Préfet
de Région"), and the various administrations of the
State and the Region, etc
By American and even by European
standards, French regions are small and weak but, the
country being extremely varied, each of them has its own personnality.
In addition to the 13 metropolitan
regions, there are 4 overseas regions, with exactly the
same organization : Ile de la Réunion (pop 700,000), Guyane
(pop 200,000), Martinique (pop 400,000), Guadeloupe (pop 400,000).
More about the various
layers of power in France : "communes, départements",
- More to come
DID YOU KNOW
THAT....? If Eurodisney is, by far, the largest and the most
professional theme park in France (more than 16 million
visitors/year), several other parks are worth a visit if you
are traveling in their region. Among them : Le Mémorial
de la Paix, in Normandy (Caen), pedagogical and touching, definitely
worth a visit, the Futuroscope (near Poitiers), technology and
image, the Cité de l'Espace (Toulouse), and many others...
Traveling in France and touristic labels ....
The label "L'un des plus beaux villages de France" ("one of the most beautiful villages of France" is not a commercial advertizing. Only 156 villages (of less than 2,000 inhabitants) deserve it and each of them is worth a trip (like Gordes, Riquewihr or Collonge-la-Rouge). The label is confirmed every 6 years and it can be removed if the village did not respect the (very demanding) specifications.
"Petite cite de caractere" ("little town with personnality") means a little town with pretty (generally medieval) houses and a local policy to keep an authentic flavour and to avoid advertizing posters and poor taste.
The label "Village fleuri" ("village with flowers") is represented by one to five flowers marqued " * " under its name. From two or three *, you can tell the difference with other villages.
....: when you travel in France, always try local
drinks. You will be astonished by the variety of flavours and
tastes and many excellent products taste better in their native
region and some are hardly found outside of it. Among hundreds
of examples : calvados (Normandy), lillet (Bordeaux), piment
d'espellette (Pays Basque), boulette d'Avesnes (Nord), choucroute
(Alsace), cannelé (Bordeaux), calissons (Aix en Provence),
In addition to major monuments
(see : most visited sites), if you travel
in France don't miss some places (all listed historical monuments)
which illustrate an incredible sense of fantasy and imagination
" Palais Idéal du Facteur Cheval " in
Hauterives (South of Lyon) : Ferdinand Cheval was a postman in
a small village ; for 50 years he collected stones he picked
up during his rounds (on foot) and he built an amazing 30 foot
high 3,000 square feet monument with corridors, grottos, naive
sculptures, mysterious warning signs, etc
" Maison Picassiette " in Chartres : Raymond
Isidore spent his whole life covering every square inch of his
house with pieces of broken porcelain and the result is spectacular
(but still doesn't compare with the cathedral!). Tel. (0)2 37
36 41 39.
"Saline Royale d'Arc-et-Senans" : in the Eastern
part of France, near Besançon, Architect Claude-Nicolas
Ledoux imagined and built in 1774 an "Ideal City",
around a salt-producing plant : it is beautiful, impressive and
crazy ; there are a few bedrooms inside the monument itself (tel
33-3 81 54 45 45).
Loti's House in Rochefort
: behind an ordinary house on an ordinary street, the eccentric
1900's writer built an amazing house with a mosque and a Renaissance
The whimsical "Château
de Monte Christo " in Port-Marly, near Paris, built
by writer Alexandre Dumas.
The House of Victor Hugo
in Guernesey where he
lived in exile with his wife (his mistress lived across the street).
Guerledon (in Burgundy) : a medieval castle built from scratch. Watch how they keep building it, using only medieval technologies.
Other visits relate to more tragic
village of Ouradour-sur-Glane, near Limoges (Center West of France), has been
kept exactly how it was on the evening of June 10, 1944 when
the SS Division "Das Reich" killed more than 600 inhabitants
(all but 5 or 6), men shot, women and children burnt alive in
the church. A breathtaking vision of horror.
American cemetery of Colleville, near Omaha Beach, is not only
profoundly moving, it is also beautiful in a spectacular scenery
with a very interesting visitor's center.
The whole region of Verdun still bears the marks of the huge 1916 battle where 700,000 were killed.
More to come...
| Festivals outside Paris (most of them in Summer)
The country is a giant theme park and many local festivals are definitely worth a trip. It is impossible to list all
the music, theater, cinema, etc.... festivals that take place
in France. There are hundreds of them, everywhere, but some of
them are very notorious and represent major events in French
cultural life. Among them :
- Nantes (January) : " La Folle Journée ",
classical music all around the city
- Angouleme (January) : "Festival de la Bande Dessinée"
(BD), international comic book festival (read more)
- Bourges (April) : " Festival de Bourges " (French
songs), since 1976
- Nimes (the week-end of Pentacost) : "Feria", excellent bullfights, bodegas (bars) open all night, etc.
- Juan-les-Pins (June) : " Jazz Festival ",
since 1960 in the wonderful site of a pine forrest above the
- Avignon (first 3 weeks of July) : " Festival d'Avignon
" (Theater and dance), since 1947, probably the major event
for theater in France, the most prestigious performances of the
ON take place in the spectacular courtyard of the Palace of the
Popes, hundreds of companies in the OFF, several hundred thousand
- La Rochelle (July) : " Francofolies "
(French songs), since the 1970s
- La Roque-d'Anthéeon (July) : " International Piano
Festival ", since 1980, 80 piano concerts in the Abbaye
de Silvacane (XIIth Century) or Château de Florans
- Aix-en-Provence (July) : " Festival d'Art Lyrique
", since 1948, opera with a particular preference for Mozart
(July) : "Festival
international de marionnettes" (muppets)
- Orange (July) : " Chorégies d'Orange "
(opera), a prestigious opera festival, with few performances,
in the incredibly dramatic site of the Roman theater of Orange,
the best singers and orchestras in the world
- Marciac (2 weeks in August) : " Jazz in Marciac ",
a very friendly jazz festival, with dozens of jazz groups, among
the best in the world, in a charming village in the Gers (South-West)
- Aurillac (around August 15) : " Festival
International du Théatre de Rue " (Street Theater),
since 1985, ON (16 companies, 18 shows) and OFF (more than 500
companies) ; in 2005, 634 performances per day (on 4 days), more
than 60,000 visitors
- Deauville (first week of September) : "Festival
du Film Américain", since 1975, always interesting
- Nantes (Novembre) : " Festival des Trois Continents
" (cinema from Asia, Africa and Latin America), since 1978
- Visit their websites for more details ...
- Read about French movies
and French songs
- (Many) more to come
Other events :
- Cannes film festival (May)
- Braderie de Lille (First week-end of September) : a spectacular garage and antique sales, all over the city (11,000 stands along 50 miles!) ; more than a million visitors ; excellent deals and an opportunity to enjoy the local specialty mussels and French fries with beer ;
- Christmas Market in Strasbourg (December)
- And many others
DID YOU KNOW THAT.... ? In France, all distances to Paris are measured to a specific point. Where is this point ? It is engraved on the pavement right in front of the huge door of Notre-Dame cathedral.
in Lyon, take a tour in the Beaujolais
Wine Country ! (French Tuscany)
Pore over medieval treasures
and sample renowned cuisine in Lyon. Then visit the "golden
stone villages" of Beaujolais where mustard-colored stones
and earth give the countryside an incredible luminosity. For
the grand finale, follow the Routes des Vins de Beaujolais, between
Brouilly and St.Amour, stopping to taste wine in the vineyards
of the famous 10 crus. Stay overnight in a luxurious 13th-century
- Lyon : the entire historic center is a UNESCO World
Heritage Site ; lunch in a traditional Lyonnais bouchon,
or bistro. Click here for Lyon Tourist Office.
- Oingt (23 miles) : medieval houses, panoramic view from
tower of chateau church
- Châtillon (7 miles) : 12th-century fortress, St-Barthélémy
- Bagnols (6 miles) : 15th-century church and houses
; overnignt at château de Bagnols, a magnificently restored
13th-century château with a moat, drawbridge and formal
de Bagnols, le Bourg, tel. 33-4 74 71 40 00)
Lyon is a wonderful city, which in itself deserves a trip : a
long history with spectacular monuments (do not miss the Roman
museum), a tradition of beauty (a spectacular museau of silk),
possibly the best food in France, etc...
- The local hero is a muppet character
you can also see in Paris. Guignol is impertinent, mocking and
rebel to any form of authority (he beats the policeman with a
big stick : children love it!)
- Visit an impressive miniature version of a city with tens of thousands people, cars and animals on more than 30,000 sq-ft. : buy the tickets online
- Like the above, the museum "Miniature et Cinema" has probably no equivalent in the world either (60 Rue Saint Jean).
- A site for Americans living
in Lyon (or visiting) and interested in food and American
- In Paris, a rather typical "bouchon
lyonnais" (i.e. good homey food in unpretentious surroundings)
in Paris is Chez
- Click here for an
article Harriet wrote in the issue of "2000 France
Discovery Guide" on Patrimoine and Art de Vivre
in the Rhone Alpes Region
- More to come....
When you take the train in France, you MUST use one of the yellow
machines on the platform to punch ("composter")
your ticket BEFORE you go onboard. Otherwise you may be fined
as if you did not have a valid ticket. Another tip : buy your
ticket as soon as you can before your trip : the price can be
much lower for the same trip. It's easy on internet with the
Where do Americans live in France?
According to the last census, Americans living in France live the following regions : Ile de France 51%, Rhone Alpes 10%, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur 9%, Languedoc-Roussillon 4%, Aquitaine 4%, Midi-Pyrenees 4%, Bretagne 2%, Pays de Loire 2%, Centre 2%, Alsace 2%, Lorraine 2%, Other regions 8%.
See where Americans live in the Paris region.
|| Other regions
- Misc. ideas and links :
- The most beautiful gothic statues
and bas relief of France are in Paris ! Visit the Musée
des Monuments Français with its incredible presentation
of casts in plaster.
- If you move (permanently) to
a city, contact Accueil Villes de France (AVF), a very
helpful organization, active in most French cities.
- Travel in France and learn the
history of the country
you know "Thalassotherapy" ? It is a wonderful form of spa the French
have developed on all its coasts. Click here for details...
- More to come
- Sleep in a real
castle! It can also be an opportunity to be welcomed by real aristocrats ! They are always friendly and it can be a fascinating experience. All the chains
below are good and it is a great formula to travel in France,
for the price of a traditional hotel :
not try a (very comfortable) troglodyte
bedroom ! Over
the Loire Valley, former monks' cells then Vouvray-wine cellars,
now house 12 bedrooms (120 to 200 Euros, April 1 till October 31).
Domaine des Hautes Roches, 86 Quai de Loire 37210 Roche Corbon
tel. 33-2 47 52 88 88
- and for further information on cave sites, read : Deep in the Heart of France: A Guide to the Loire Valley’s Contemporary Caves by Robert Bonnell. This e-book, which reviews nearly 200 cave sites open to the public, including restaurants, lodgings, museums, etc. and 22 suggested walks in cave country.
Facts & links :
DID YOU KNOW THAT…..? Around France, and not to mention Luxembourg which is a duchy, ruled by a Grand Duc, three countries, formally independent, are ruled by medieval traditions. They have different laws, and particularly tax laws and they are, to some extend, tax-havens. Andorra, on the border between France and Spain, is a a co-principality and his two co-heads of State are the King of France (represented by the President of France) and the King of Spain (represented by the bishop of Urgel) ; every year the delegates of the people bring the tribute of the country to the King of France (a basket of chickens and eggs!). Monaco, on the Riviera, is formally ruled by a Prince but in fact its cabinet and the higher positions in its government are provided by France and this makes a wonderful "pre-retirement-jobs" for high ranking French top civil servants. In the Manche (the English Channel), the Channel Islands were taken from France in the 14th Century and are now part of the UK. Each of them has retained something from its origin : a lord (the lord of Sark prohibits cars on his island), the use of French (medieval French!) for certain official acts, a large power for the (male) heads of family and their assembly, etc. Andorra and Monaco, although reluctant, have decided to be associated to the European Union, while the Channel Island have not.
||Where was this beautiful
picture taken : in Indonesia, in Mexico? on the moon? NO : in
Auvergne, one the most beautiful regions of France, with
its 80 volcanoes (now extinct but the last eruption was only 8,000 years ago!), its emptiness, its fabulous cheeses
and its down-to-earth inhabitants (that's where I come from...)
- A wonderful region, with a very
strong personality and its own language (but everybody speaks French). An important thing to know : Alsace
is NOT in Germany ! If you believe it or act as if, you'll
offend them very seriously !
See a blog with stunning pictures of Alsace.
the Ecomusée d'Alsace, in Ungersheim (near Colmar;
tel. 03 89 74 44 74) : authentic and beautiful traditional Alsacian
houses rebuilt in a village, with exhibitions, animations, craftsmen
working in front of you ; a genuine dive into traditional rural
Alsace, definitely worth the visit...
In Brittany, traditional culture is alive and well (language, music, literature, etc...) : listen to an example of Celtic music from Brittany
- In 2012, the Louvre museum created an "antenna" in Lens (one-hour train ride from Paris) ; in this poor and dilapidated region of coal mines, it was thought that a very high level cultural institution would radically change the image and improve the spirits of the inhabitants. It proved very successful and the museum is definitely worth a visit.
- More to come
| Poitou-Charentes (now merged with Aquitaine)
|| Poitiers (pop 100,000)
|| Romanesque architecture, islands
and sailing, cognac
Rochelle, ile de Ré, House of Pierre
| Limousin (now merged with Aquitaine)
|| Limoges (pop 200,000)
|| Rural, far from everything,
empty , porcelain
|| Nantes (pop 600,000)
|| Sailing, Nantes a lively thriving
|| Tapestries in Angers, ile d'Yeu
|| Rennes (pop 400,000)
|| Beautiful rocky coast, sea
food, cider and pancakes, a very strong regional culture, stubborn,
hard-working people, Celtic Carnac megaliths, granite houses
|| Saint-Malo, golfe du Morbihan
| Basse-Normandie (now merged with Haute-Normandie)
|| Caen (pop 200,000)
|| D-Day beaches, calvados, the
tapestry of Bayeux, Deauville, the American cemetery in Colleville
|| Mont-Saint-Michel and Memorial
de la Paix in Caen
|| Rouen (pop 400,000)
|| Joan of Arc, Rouen cathedral
|| Etretat cliff
| Picardie (now merged with Nord-Pas-de-Calais)
|| Amiens (pop 200,000)
|| The cradle of Gothic architecture
|| Amiens and Beauvais cathedrals
|| Lille (pop 1,100,000)
|| An industrial region, beer
and smelly cheeses, very friendly people. Read about its cult movie "Bienvenue
chez les Ch'tis"
| Champagne-Ardennes (now merged with Alsace)
|| Reims (pop 200,000)
|| Great wines, visit cellars
| Lorraine (now merged with Alsace)
|| Nancy (pop 300,000)
|| Art Deco in Nancy, Verdun and
sites of WW1
|| Place Stanislas
|| Strasbourg (pop 500,000)
|| Wonderful villages
with Hansel and Gretel houses, storks, a very strong regional
culture, Strasbourg and its cathedral
|| Riquewihr and the Route des
|| Dijon (pop 300,000)
|| Great wines everywhere,
the little Tuscany of France
Franche-Comté (now merged with Bourgogne)
|| Besançon (pop 200,000)
|| Watches and clocks-making,
caves and caverns, Arc-et-Senans
|| Vin Jaune
|| A strong economy, great cooking,
Mont-Blanc (highest mountain in Europe : 4807m = 16,000 ft),
|| Chamonix Mont Blanc, Palais
du Facteur Cheval
|| Marseille (pop 1,000,000)
|| Provence and Riviera, lavender,
light inspiring painters, Grand canyon Verdon, bullfights, colorful markets,
|| City of Nice
|| Ajaccio (pop 100,000)
|| The Island of Beauty, among
the most beautiful landscape in France, mountain and sea, a strong
Hiking on GR20
listen to a beautiful polyphonic song
| Languedoc-Roussillon (now merged with Midi-Pyrenees)(see a site with a mine of information about the region)
|| Montpellier (pop 400,000)
|| Catalan region, Roman acqueduct
Pont du Gard
|| Carcassonne walled city
|| Toulouse (pop 600,000)
|| Fortified cities (bastides)
on the Franco - English border during the 100-Year War, speleology,
Cathars castles perched on top of mountains
|| Toulouse, the pink city (bricks)
|| Bordeaux (pop 700,000)
|| Includes the Basque country,
with its strong regional culture, and the Périgord, sand
dunes and surfing
|| Wine castles
| Auvergne (now merged with Rhone-Alpes)
|| Clermont-Ferrand (pop 300,000)
|| A remote country with spectacular
landscapes, mineral waters, Michelin
|| The volcanoes
|| Orleans (pop 300,000)
|| The Garden of France and the
" Châteaux Région " with hundred of well
or lesser-known Renaissance castles, the bread basket, troglodyte
|| Chartres cathedral and Chambord
|| Paris (pop 2,100,000)
|| The leading region, most of
the wealth, major firms, the political power, the domineering
arrogant Parisian, etc
|| Versailles, Louvre,
|To related pages : geographical
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Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French.
Order her books :
- "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
- "French Toast, An American in Paris
Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press,
New York, 1999
- "French Fried, The Culinary Capers
of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001
More on Harriet's books (excerpts, upcoming
events, testimonials, etc..)
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