France is a rich and fascinating destination that inspires those around the world in search of sophistication and pleasure. Echoes of the balls at the Court of the Sun King at Versailles, memories of the Renaissance in the Châteaux de la Loire or shadows of famous writers in Saint-Germain-des-Près at the Café de Flore, throughout the nation, the traces of its magnificent past live on. But far from resting on its laurels, the land of Human Rights and the Enlightenment continues to innovate and charm, from the table to the catwalk.
From design to fashion via contemporary art, Paris is constantly adopting and monitoring the latest trends to earn its nickname of the “most beautiful city in the world”. With a touch of cheekiness epitomised by Philippe Starck and Jean Nouvel – who has just completed the Philharmonie de Paris – Jean-Philippe Nuel, Didier Gomez and the duo Marc Hertrich-Nicolas Adnet are breathing new life into interior design. The same innovation can be seen in the country’s fashion designers, where Karl Lagerfeld, Hedi Slimane, Nicolas Ghesquière and Isabelle Marant are leading the way in the new modern style, epitomising French savoir-faire and unbridled creativity. The ‘French touch’, with its cursor between tradition and transgression, is seducing the new generation of cinema and making a splash on the international stage, staring actors such as Juliette Binoche and Marion Cotillard to Reda Kateb and Pierre Niney. Although Paris, incorrigibly coquettish and the home of the most famous labels on the planet – including Chanel, Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton – loves taking centre stage, it in no way eclipses the splendour of the nation over which it rules. The classified vineyards of Bordeaux, Bourgogne and Champagne, the popular mountain resorts of the Alps and the Pyrenees, the traditional ‘bouchons’ of Lyon, the typical Alsatian timbered houses in the Petite France neighbourhood of Strasbourg… the heart of the country is a dazzling array of stunning landscapes, flavors and colors. The coastline that borders this patchwork has nothing to be ashamed of either. It has earned a whole host of poetic nicknames: the Côte d’Opale or the Côte d’Améthyste, the Côte de Jade or the Côte d’Emeraude... At its chic, popular seaside resorts, celebrities fight over the most sought-after addresses: Saint-Tropez on the Riviera, Marseille and Ajaccio on the Mediterranean coast, or Biarritz and Quiberon on the Atlantic coast. From Brittany to Corsica, each region has its own climate, accent and ‘terroir’. A pioneer of haute cuisine and culinary traditions, France has even seen its ‘repas gastronomique’ recognised on UNESCO’s list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This is a destination packed with flavors, led by chefs who have been elevated to the rank of stars, such as Alain Ducasse and Joël Robuchon to Yannick Alleno and Eric Frechon. Following in the footsteps of Bertrand Grébaut at Septime, Christian Constant at Les Cocottes and Mauro Colagreco at Le Mirazur, chefs are constantly coming up with inventive ideas such as ‘bistronomy’, ‘biodynamics’, ‘naturalness’ or fusion inspired by far-off travels. All in all, there’s plenty on offer in France to make sure that you never want to leave.