France is the largest country by area in Western Europe, and in the EU for that matter. It is known as a proud country, and that attitude extends (quite rightfully, many would say) to its language, literature, fashion, and, perhaps most of all, its food. There is much to see beyond Paris and its world-famous museums such as the Louvre and the Orangerie. Outside of Nice, the decorated caves of Lascaux depict the hunter-gatherer lifestyle of the upper Paleolithic era. Mont Saint-Michel is a striking island just one kilometer off the Normandy coast with ancient strategic fortifications, a Gothic abbey, and a monastery. An hour or two away from this World Heritage Site is Omaha Beach and Memorial Museum. Marseille is the biggest French city on the Mediterranean coast, and there is some deeply Arabic flavor to its culture and cuisine. On the left side of the South, the Pyrenees mountain range is shared with Spain and Andorra, and some aspects of language and lifestyle bleed over.
French cooking is so highly esteemed that UNESCO added it to its list of intangible cultural heritage. You can have your cuisine rich and creamy, or lighter and more nouvelle. French people shop frequently, in search of the freshest ingredients. Some common vegetables are potato, haricots verts (a thin green bean), carrot, eggplant, chanterelle mushrooms, and shallot. Eggs are eaten scrambled, in omelettes, or in quiche, among other preparations. Cheese, bread, and chocolate play an important part in everyday French life, as does wine. Croque monsieur sandwiches are good, casual eating, and when in Brittany there are cr├¬pes and cider. More upscale bites include confit de canard (duck leg), coq au vin (chicken in a wine sauce with lardons and mushrooms), or fish topped with beurre blanc (literally, white butter).
If you want lighter, healthier things to eat, you’ll find that the variety of foods available in France is pretty staggering. You can go to vegetarian-friendly or organic French, Mexican, Middle Eastern, Indian, Swedish, or raw food eateries. From Nice to Paris, you’ll find a solid selection of natural foods stores in many towns and cities. Not a teetotaller? You can have organic beer and wine with macrobiotic cuisine, or even get organic English pub food. Who knew that such a thing existed?