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Country Cognoscenti - France


For the best hot chocolate in Paris stop by Angelina's, close to the Louvre, and get a chocolate fix. It’s basically melted chocolate with whipped cream on top, skip dinner.

Chateau Chambord was built by Francois I as a hunting lodge and its twenty miles of walls enclose 13,000 acres of parkland, larger than the city of Paris

Le Marais was created by the Knights Templar who drained a swamp or "marais" to build on. Today it is a haven for art galleries and fine dining. It has a strong Jewish population dating back to immigration from Eastern Europe and has more recently become a major centre of Gay culture.

Chateau D'Artigny is a splendid Chateau in the Loire Valley but no connection to royalty. It was built in the 20th Century by Francois Coty, newspaper publisher, politician and, most notably, parfumier.

Built in 1900 for the Word's Fair, the Orsay was designed as a railway station and luxury hotel. In 1986 it was transformed into an art museum focused on the 19th Century, particularly Impressionism

The Museum of Ballooning is located in Normandy's Chateau de Balleroy which was purchased by balloon aficionado Malcolm Forbes in the 1970's and became the site of his yearly balloon invitational

The Cote de Nuits stretches from Dijon to Nuits-St. George and is home to some of the best wines made from the Pinot Noir grape including Romanee-Conti, Vougeot and Gevrey-Chambertin.

The town of Arcachon on the coast of Bordeaux is noted for its high undulating sand dunes and for its unsurpassed oysters which are best enjoyed alfresco and fresh from the sea

Lourdes is the town where, in 1858 a peasant girl called Bernadette Soubious had the first of 18 apparitions of the Virgin Mary. Today the town gets five million visitors and is second only to Paris in the number of hotels.

Corsica, the birthplace of Napoleon, is the fourth largest island in the Mediterranean after Sardinia, Sicily and Cyprus. While politically part of France it is geographically closer to Italy and has its own autonomous culture

Cavage is the term used to describe the process for searching for truffles with either a pig or a dog. The town of Lalbenque in the Perigord is the site of one of the largest truffle markets

Chanel No. 5 the best selling perfume in the world is made with a combination of rose de mai, jasmine and a synthetic must. Chanel owns a farm in Grasse where the roses and jasmine are cultivated

Provence gets its name from the Romans who called it “nostra provincia" or "our province" since it was the first province ruled outside of Italy

The town of Colmar in Alsace was home to Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi who designed the Statue of Liberty and many examples of his other architecture still stand in the town today

The village of St. Paul de Vence is made up of quaint narrow streets, some dating back to the middle ages. Marc Chagall, who loved its special light, lived and painted there from 1965 to 1985.