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French Culture

Food and Wine
If one thing’s certain, it’s that the French know how to eat and drink well. Sampling local food and wine is a highlight of any trip here, with each region offering unique specialties.

The world knows France for its wine, and vintners across the countryside offer some of the best. The Loire Valley -- a 300-mile stretch of vineyards along its eponymous river -- is the most diverse region, producing everything from chardonnay to pinot noir and cabernet. Another area well-known for its wine is the Rhone Valley, in the southeastern part of the country, which specializes in reds. Other places to head for tastings include Bordeaux, Alsace, Provence and, of course, Champagne.

For foodies, Normandy provides rich dairy products, such as creme fraiche and delectable cheeses, as well as cider and an apple brandy known as calvados. Fish and shellfish are a major part of Brittany’s cuisine, but the Bretons are most famous for their sweet crepes, usually filled with chocolate or fruit, and savory galettes, often stuffed with ham and cheese.

For the finest high-end bistros, Paris is a good choice, while Lyon offers hearty, traditional meals.

You can’t discuss art and France without mentioning the Louvre. The Parisian museum displays a vast collection of more than 35,000 works, including masterpieces like the “Mona Lisa” and the “Venus de Milo” statue. The Musee d’Orsay, on the Seine riverfront, is a must-see for its Impressionist treasures, including those by Manet, Monet, Degas, Renoir and Cezanne. But the capital offers more than just the classics for art lovers -- stroll the city to check out some eye-catching creations by street artists.

If your trip takes you to the French Riviera, Nice and nearby towns have several worthy museums. Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall each have galleries in the area dedicated to their work. The Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Fine Arts Museum also are in Nice.

Though Fashion Week only comes to Paris twice a year, France is a year-round destination for haute couture. Trendy travelers from across the globe hit up this prime shopping destination, which has been home to a slew of style legends -- Coco Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior and Jean-Paul Gaultier, to name a few. Designer items can be found in Paris, but the city also has a unique selection of vintage shops to browse.

For luxury items, interesting shops dot the Cote d’Azur, but don’t count out the smaller towns when it comes to looking for one-of-a-kind garments.