Skiing in France is heaven on Earth for a dedicated skier. There
are resorts where you can access skiing terrain that is larger than
all the ski resorts in Utah and Colorado combined. An example is
Vallées Ski Area which has two hundred lifts.
With a 3 Vallées ski pass you can ski the other '92 Olympic ski areas giving you a
total of over 500 lifts, if you want to take your skis off. There are many runs providing
vertical drops in excess of 4000 feet. Percentages of advanced, intermediate and beginner
terrain in French resorts are roughly equal to those at most of America's large ski areas.
The larger resorts have an adequate number of restaurants and discos. It is a good idea
to eat a good lunch because the mountain restaurants are normally much better than the
restaurants in the ski stations.
French resorts are mostly government owned and operated. The social system puts a high
percentage of money back into the areas. This provides state-of-the-art lifts, snow making
and snow grooming. In general, an intermediate skier who can read a lift map will easily
be able to ski all day avoiding lift lines and crowds, even during the busiest season.
The French school systems have a staggered two week winter vacation period. When the
snow is good, nearly all of France migrates to the mountains for this period. The break
usually covers the last two weeks of February and the first week of March. The time to
absolutely avoid is the "Paris school holiday week" which will always be in the
middle period of the vacation time but alternates starting the first or second week of the
France is the second largest country in Europe after Russia. France has 22 regions and
96 departments with 211,207 square miles. Europe's tallest peak, at 15,781 feet, is Mont
Blanc in the French Alps.
No one has a more undeserved reputation about their character than the French. The
French are not generally arrogant and rude. True, in large tourist centers there
are unpleasant people and if you're looking for or expecting rudeness, you may just
provoke it. Generally the French, especially in the countryside, are as kind as you wish
and you will find warmth and acceptance. The most fractious Frenchman is easily disarmed
by a little sincerity.
When greeting someone or saying good bye, always shake hands. Don't use a firm, pumping
handshake, but a quick, slight pressure one. When you enter a room or a shop you should
greet everyone there. If you meet a person you know very well use their first name and
kiss both cheeks. Men don't usually kiss unless they are relatives.
Good topics of conversation include food, sports, hobbies and where you come from.
Topics to avoid are prices, where items were bought, what someone does for a living,
income and age. Questions about personal and family life are considered private. Expect to
find the French well-informed about the history, culture and politics of other countries.
To gain their respect, be prepared to show some knowledge of the history and politics of
Breakfast (petit déjeuner) is usually eaten from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. A typical breakfast
would be coffee with hot milk or hot chocolate, bread, butter, jam and sometimes
croissants. Breakfast is the only meal where butter is served with bread.
Lunch (déjeuner) is usually eaten between 12:00 and 2:30 p.m. This is traditionally
the main meal of the day. Lunch consists of appetizers, main course, cheeses, fruit or
dessert and strong black coffee served in small cups. Wine accompanies the meal.
Dinner (dîner) is served from 7:00 to 9:30 p.m. and is usually simpler than the noon
meal. It can be soup or a casserole and bread. The usual after- dinner drinks are cognac,
Grand Marnier and Chartreuse.
Expect to have wine served with lunch and dinner. Wine is considered to aid the
digestion and to stimulate the appetite. You may choose to drink mineral water, either
sparkling or flat, in addition to or instead of wine. Tap water is not customarily
consumed in France and is rarely provided freely.
Wherever you eat in France, these rules of thumb will keep your costs down:
(1) Order soup; it's invariably inexpensive and always good.
(2) When in doubt, choose an omelette as your main course; French chefs coax
marvelous results out of plain-ole-eggs.
(3) Don't forget "steak frites", a small, thin steak with lots of great
(4) If you are eating à la carte, never order a separate vegetable (légume) with
your main course. Vegetables or potatoes will accompany it, even if it is not mentioned on
(5) Try yogurt (yaourt) for dessert. The French do and it's inexpensive.
Remember, in French washrooms, "C" marks the hot water faucet and
"F" identifies the cold tap. Sometimes colors are used, red for hot and blue
Tipping is a way of life in France. Expect to find the service included "service
compris" in most restaurant charges. If the service is not included, a 15% tip is
customary. If a service charge is included, leave some change, five to seven percent is
customary, on the table. FF10 is customary for chambermaids and hotel porters.
The unit of French currency is the franc (FF), and it is divided into 100 centimes.
French coins are in denominations of five, 10, 20 and 50 centimes and one, two, five 10
and 20 francs. Bills are in denominations of 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 francs.
Residents of countries outside of the European Economic Community (EEC) can get the tax
back on some purchases after they depart France. The shop must agree to do this before you
make your purchases and you must have spent at least FF 1200.00 at one time in a single
When driving remember to wear your seat belts, it's the law. It is illegal to blow your
horn in cities. Give way to vehicles coming from the right at intersections. Do not turn
right on red lights. Watch out for very fast drivers who constantly pass, even on narrow
mountain roads. The toll autoroutes are expensive. Traffic regulations are enforced and
there can be on the spot fines for traffic infractions.
France is generally a very safe country to visit. Pickpockets, however, are not unheard
of. In large cities particularly, take precautions against theft. Always secure your
vehicles, leave nothing of value visible and don't carry your wallet in your back pocket.
Beware of begging children!
French Words and Phrases