Ever since I first travelled to France as a fourteen year old to stay with my French exchange family I have always adored the French culture and way of life. Maybe I was a hero during the French Revolution (which is perhaps why I love Les Miserables so much) or perhaps my family were fishermen on the Atlantic coast? This is all in my previous lives of course, but whatever the reason, I somehow feel an affiliation to French culture, from the fact that they dunk their morning croissants in their coffee, to the high culture of their fashion and cuisine.
Whatever the reasons, although I am very much British, whenever I travel there I always feel like it's a second home, or that I am going home. Perhaps it helps that the family I stayed with in Dole (close to the Jura Mountains) were so incredibly lovely to me and had a wicked sense of humour, which was actually more British than French. I have also worked out that the from the first year that I went, I then also went there for the next 10 years consecutively. The only time I stopped going was when I lived in the States for a number of years, but even then I made the effort to go at least 3 or 4 times.
There is also something in their culture that teaches you to slow down. Each course for dinner is individual and ao cannot help but take your time. Everyone eats around the table and talks. And of course there is the wine. In France they manage to make even the drinking of wine a very sophisticated event. The greetings are even an art form, with the kissing on two cheeks, or even three times in the south of the country. This contrasts greatly with a regular old handshake.
From Paris to Nice, Mont St Michel to Annecy, this country simply must be explored. The diversity of its towns, cities and villages, countryside, seaside and mountains is unbelievable. But wherever you go the French culture will still be there. Perhaps it will be slightly different in Alsace as opposed to the Pyrenees, but the French know who they are and these core concepts of their identity comes through wherever you may be.