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Weather & Climate of france

Climate

A lot of variety in the climate, but temperate winters and mild summers on most of the territory, and especially in Paris. Mild winters and hot summers along the Mediterranean and in the southwest (the latter has lots of rain in winter). Mild winters (with lots of rain) and cool summers in the northwest (Brittany). Cool to cold winters and hot summer along the German border (Alsace). Along the Rhône Valley, occasional strong, cold, dry, north-to-northwesterly wind known as the mistral. Cold winters with lots of the snow in the Mountainous regions: Alps, Pyrenees, Auvergne.

When to travel

If possible, try to avoid French school holidays and Easter, hotels are very likely to be overbooked and road traffic awful.
In 2010/2011, holidays are as follows:

  • Autumn: Oct 23-Nov 3
  • Christmas: Dec 18-Jan 2 (not to be confused with winter holidays)
  • summer: Jul 2-Sep 2

Winter and spring holidays: search internet for [French school holidays], as they vary from region to region. Mostly, the winter holidays are from 10th February to 10th march. The spring holidays are from 10th April to 10th May. Winter gets very cold, sometimes freezing. Make sure to bring appropriate clothing to keep you warm while visiting.

Hotels are very likely to be overbooked and road traffic awful during the 1st may, 8th May, 11th November, Easter Weekend, Ascension weekend too(9 may 2013).

 

Currency

As on 23 July 2013, 1 Euro = INR 78.75


France has the euro (EUR, €) as its currency. Therewith, France belongs to the 23 European countries that use the common European money. These 23 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain (official euro members which are all European Union member states) as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. These countries together have a population of 327 million.

One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member (as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican) issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse as well as all bills look the same throughout the eurozone. Nonetheless, every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.

Some foreign currencies such as the US dollar and the British Pound are occasionally accepted, especially in touristic areas and in higher-end places, but one should not count on it; furthermore, the merchant may apply some unfavourable rate. In general, shops will refuse transactions in foreign currency.

It is compulsory, for the large majority of businesses, to post prices in windows. Hotels and restaurants must have their rates visible from outside (note, however, that many hotels propose lower prices than the posted ones if they feel they will have a hard time filling up their rooms; the posted price is only a maximum).

Almost all stores, restaurants and hotels take the CB French debit card, and its foreign affiliations, Visa and Mastercard. American Express tends to be accepted only in high-end shops. Check with your bank for applicable fees (typically, banks apply the wholesale inter-bank exchange rate, which is the best available, but may slap a proportional and/or a fixed fee).

French CB cards (and CB/Visa and CB/Mastercard cards) have a "smart chip" on them allowing PIN authentication of transactions. This system, initiated in France, has now evolved to an international standard and newer British cards are compatible. Some automatic retail machines (such as those vending tickets) may be compatible only with cards with the microchip. In addition, cashiers unaccustomed to foreign cards possibly do not know that foreign Visa or Mastercard cards have to be swiped and a signature obtained, while French customers systematically use PIN and don't sign the transactions.

There is (practically) no way to get a cash advance from a credit card without a PIN in France.

Automatic teller machines (ATM) are by far the best way to get money in France. They all take CB, Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus and Plus and are plentiful throughout France. They may accept other kinds of card; check for the logos on the ATM and on your card (on the back, generally) if at least one matches. It is possible that some machines do not handle 6-digit PIN codes (only 4-digit ones), or that they do not offer the choice between different accounts (defaulting on the checking account). Check with your bank about applicable fees, which may vary greatly (typically, banks apply the wholesale inter-bank exchange rate, which is the best available, but may slap a proportional and/or a fixed fee; because of the fixed fee it is generally better to withdraw money in big chunks rather than €20 at a time). Also, check about applicable maximal withdrawal limits.

Traveller's cheques are difficult to use — most merchants will not accept them, and exchanging them may involve finding a bank that accepts to exchange them and possibly paying a fee.

Note that the postal service doubles as a bank, so often post offices will have an ATM. As a result, even minor towns will have ATMs usable with foreign cards.

Exchange offices (bureaux de change) are now rarer with the advent of the Euro - they will in general only be found in towns with a significant foreign tourist presence, such as Paris. Some banks exchange money, often with high fees. The Bank of France no longer does foreign exchange.

Do's Put money into your checking account, carry an ATM card with a Cirrus or Plus logo on it and a 4-digit pin that does not start with '0' and withdraw cash from ATMs. Pay larger transactions (hotel, restaurants...) with Visa or Mastercard. Always carry some € cash for emergencies.

Don't's Carry foreign currency ($, £...) or traveller's cheques, and exchange them on the go, or expect them to be accepted by shops.

 

Clothing

Dress Code, What to Wear

Dress codes are fast disappearing, but if you want to avoid looking like a tourist, and then avoid white sneakers, baseball caps, tracksuit pants, shorts and flip-flops (except at the beach). Generally speaking, business casual dress code is sufficient in cities and in all but the most formal occasions.

Usual courtesy applies when entering churches, and although you may not be asked to leave, it is better to avoid short pants and halter tops.

Some restaurants will frown if you come in dressed for trekking but very few will insist upon a jacket and tie. You may be surprised by the number of French twenty-somethings who show up at a grungy bar in jacket and tie, even if obviously from a thrift-shop.

Beaches and swimming pools (in hotels) are used for getting a tan. Taking off your bra will not usually create a stir if you don't mind a bevy of oglers. Taking off the bottom part is reserved to designated nude beaches. People on beaches are usually not offended by a young boy or girl undressed. Most resort cities insist on your wearing a shirt when leaving the beach area. Many pools will not allow baggy or "board" swim trunks, insisting on snug fitting speedo type trunks.

Breastfeeding in public is very rare but nobody will mind if you do.

Shopping


General Shopping Guidelines

Duty-free shopping
If you live outside the European Union, you are entitled to a 12% reduction in duty on certain articles, provided that the amount of your purchases should be higher than or equal to €175including tax, and that these purchases are made on the same day in the same shop.

Check the terms and conditions before making your purchases.

Food
In large towns, bakers and food shops open very early in the morning and close around 7.00pm or 8.00pm (or even later in Paris). They are usually closed on Sunday afternoons, the afternoons of Public Holidays and one day in the week.

Other shops

Other shops open at 9.00am or 10.00am and close between 7.00pm and 8.00pm.

In the regions, they often close between 1.00pm and 2.00pm. They are usually open from Tuesday to Saturday (except public holidays). Large supermarkets are usually open until 9.00pm or 10.00pm.

In the regions, hypermarkets are usually situated outside of towns, in retail parks.

In the regions

The town centre often has a number of clothes shops which are just as good as those in Paris. Some towns have second-hand clothes shops with keen prices or very trendy shops (Troyes, Lille...)

Every town or village in the regions also have their weekly market; here you will find lots of regional products, whilst making the most of a completely different atmosphere to that of the capital. 

Paris

Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Go window-shopping at the great couturiers, along the Avenue Montaigne (Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior.), the Faubourg Saint-Honoré (Hermès, Gucci), the Place de la Madeleine, the Saint-Sulpice quarter or Sèvres-Babylone, between the Rues de Grenelle, du Cherche-Midi and des Saints-Pères (Versace, Sonia Ryckiel.).

Alongside these famous names, a number of designers have appeared: Agnès B. and Claudie Pierlot (at Les Halles or Saint-Sulpice), Kenzo (Place des Victoires), Ventilo, Et Vous. in the Marais.
The department stores: Printemps, Galeries Lafayette, Bon Marché, Samaritaine or BHV, are Parisian institutions. Some of which have branches in the regions. They provide numerous brand names and offer every sort of merchandise.

For bargain hunters, two large flea markets are held outside central Paris: Porte de Vanves and Porte de Saint-Ouen (the largest of all).

Another Parisian speciality - the booksellers with their stalls along the banks of the Seine around the Saint-Michel quarter. Antique books, all sorts of second-hand books, comic strips, post cards.You can find everything there at all prices. It is well worth strolling along!

Markets: going to the market is a pleasure. Nothing surprising in that, there is always a happy mix of colours and smells. Paris has many and various markets: the flower market on the Ile de la Cité, bird markets, organic markets, and food markets in every quarter. A real walkabout in a good natured and typical Parisian atmosphere!

Store names which can be helpful -

The main national chains:

  • The giants: Carrefour, Auchan, E.Leclerc, Géant Casino. These stores sell virtually everything useful for everyday living.
  • Supermarkets or neighbourhood "hypers": Super-U, Carrefour Market (was Champion), Simply (Was Atac), Cora, Casino, Intermarché, Ecomarché
  • City-centre supermarkets / department stores: Monoprix , Galeries Lafayette
  • Hard Discount: Leader Price, Ed, Aldi, Lidl.

All food supermarkets and hypermarkets - with the exception of some hard discount stores - carry a full range of food, including masses of fresh vegetables, a big selection of wines and spirits, and local specialities. Though for fresh vegetables and fruit, the shopping experience is much more enjoyable in real markets, which can be found in all towns and cities, though not necessarily every day.

Specialist stores

Main national chains other than food, found in out-of-town shopping malls:
Sportswear: Decathlon, Sport 2000
Computer equipment: Boulanger
Furniture, white goods: Darty, But, Conforama, Maisons du Monde
Clothing: Kiabi, la Halle aux Vêtements
DIY : Castorama, Leroy Merlin, Brico Dépot, Monsieur Bricolage, Weldom.

French fashion

The top French fashion houses such as Yves St. Laurent, Chanel or Dior have their own boutiques in Paris (see Champs Elysées) : they also retail through major department stores in Paris and through their boutiques in other main cities and up market resorts like Courchevel or Saint Tropez.
For those looking for affordable French fashion stores, for young or old, France has plenty of choice through a range of brands available in main department stores, or through fashion boutique chains present in most city centres and many out-or-town shopping malls; these include Alain Manoukian, Jules, Mexx, Naf-naf, Kookaï, Pimkie, Brice, Petit Bateau,  and plenty more.

Factory outlet malls in France

France has a couple of dozen factory outlet malls, mostly in northern  France. Of particular interest to holidaymakers from the UK or Benelux are  the Usine Côte d'Opale factory outlet centre at Coquelles next to the Channel tunnel exit (click for Eurotunnel offers), two factory outlet centres at Troyes, near the A26 motorway from Calais to the south of France (fashion, household appliances), or the La Seguiniere Factory Outlet at Cholet, in the Loire Valley close to Vendée.

Where to shop in Paris:

Central Paris:

Rue de Rivoli (running from the Place de la Concorde, past the Louvre, to central Paris) and the central end of Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré, one block to the north. This is the area with the most chic shops in Paris.

The Champs Elysées:  These days most of the shops on the Champs Elysées are flagship outlets for large international chains, from Hugo Boss to Disney to Zara, and the inevitable McDonalds - plus a few very chic shops, but beware of the prices. With the a few exceptions such as Lacoste, Sephora, Cartier and Louis Vuitton, French stores have been pushed out; the major French fashion stores and perfume houses however are not far away, many of them on Avenue Montaigne (Dior, Chanel etc.). Avenue Montaigne meets the Champs Elysées at the level of Franklin D Roosevelt metro station.
On or near the Boulevard Haussmann, near the Opéra. This is the main boulevard for the big department stores, including Galeries Lafayette, Printemps, la Samaritaine, C & A.

Left Bank (Boulevard St. Michel): book stores, including Gilbert, the biggest in Paris.
Les Halles / le Marais and the lower end of the Rue de Rivoli; fashionable French and international chainstores, and trendy outlets. The "Forum des Halles", a large urban shopping mall, has outlets for virtually all the off-the-peg fashion retailers present in France, both French such as Kookaï, Camaïeu, Comtoir des Cotonniers, Naf-Naf, Esprit or Jules, and international including Benetton, Gap and Quiksilver.

Shopping in other French towns and cities.

Provincial towns and cities: town centres remain among the principal shopping areas, with the more select boutiques and shops, including up-market and mid-market national chains and franchises. Out-of-town shopping malls offer the big hypers, as well as a range of small shops, mostly mid-market popular chains, in all fields from clothing, footwear and music, to opticians and accessories. Many out of town hypermarkets are open until 9 p.m.

Calais, Cité Europe shopping centre: the Carrefour and Tesco outlets in this large shopping centre next to the Channel tunnel terminal have long opening hours, 8.30 a.m to 9 p.m. or 10 p.m.

Grasse, Alpes Maritimes, Provence. Capital of the French perfume industry. Buy top quality perfumes direct from the producers.

Shopping in Rural France –

While supermarkets and hypermarkets are the main retail outlets for everyday shopping throughout France, small traditional groceries, even completely independent outlets, still survive in old towns and particularly in small country towns. It is still possible, here and there, to come across a traditional grocers shop, a relic of byegone days, where the proprietor serves you from a range of essential supplies stacked up on old wooden shelves or small refrigerated units. For some it can be a completely novel experience, for others a trip down memory lane; and for most visitors, it will certainly be journey through time and a memorable moment .

Paying for things in France :

Paying with plastic: virtually all but the very smallest shops, such as neighbourhood convenience stores, accept credit cards and debit cards, notably Visa and Mastercard. In virtually all cases, foreign cards, including UK cards, are accepted in France as long as they are of the more modern chip and pin variety; old-fashioned swipe cards may not be accepted. 


Other means of payment
Large department stores in cities may take travellers' cheques, otherwise most shops accept French cheques as long as the customer has ID. All shops accept cash (euros) - which can be obtained from any French ATM as long as you have a valid card from one of the main international operators (Visa, Mastercard, Cirrus, etc.)


Discount Shopping in France – Bargain Hunting


If you're in Paris, there's a great outlet mall at La Vallee Village, just outside Disneyland Paris at Marne-la-Vallee. 35 minutes from Paris and five minutes from Disney parks, La Vallee Village is a popular shopping destination for visitors to the French capital. This is the best place for luxury names, both French and international. Unlike many of the other centers, you can get to it by public transport from the middle of Paris.

Getting to La Vallee
Book in advance on the Shopping Express from central Paris, leaving from the Place des Pyramides at 9.30am (return from La Vallée Village at 2.30pm), and at 12.30pm (return from La Vallée Village at 5pm).
Return ticket Adult 15 euros, child 3 to 11 years 8 euros, free for children under 3 years old.
Open Return Round-Trip Ticket 2Adult 22 euros, child 3 to 11 years 11 euros, free for children under 3 years old.

Discount Centers Outside Paris

Roubaix, a suburb north of Lille, has the largest conglomeration of factory shops in the Nord-Pas-de-Calais Region. Worth checking out are A L’Usine, and the McArthur Glen Factory Center, which has upmarket labels.
More about Lille

Troyes has France’s biggest collection of factory shops and discount malls, all within easy distance of the center of Troyes. Troyes is 170 kiometers (105 miiles) east of Paris and accessible by train.

There are two major outlet mall specialists in Troyes. At McArthur Glen, you have the choice of around 110 shops of upmarket labels, both French and international.

You’ll find two Marques Avenue centers nearby on the outskirts of the town, Marques City, and Marques Avenue,, plus the separate and smaller Marques Decoration, with 20 shops specializing in household items like Le Creuset and Villeroy & Boch.

As you’re travelling around France, keep your eyes open for signs to factory shops devoted to one brand.

If you’re a lover of fine china and porcelain, seek out Royal Limoges in Limoges, Haute Vienne. Limoges Magasine d’Usine, 54 rue Victor Duruy in Limoges, tel.: 00 33 (0)5 55 33 27 30,

Cooks all over the world flock to the Le Creuset Factory Outlet, 880 rue Olivier Deguise, Fresnoy-le-Grand, tel.: 00 33 (0)3-23-06-22-45, near St Quentin in northern France, directly east of Amiens. You’ll find their top quality enameled cast-iron kitchen items at 35-40% discount on the normal retail price.

In Lyon, world center of silk making, seek out the Atelier de Soierie (Silk Trade Workshop), 33 rue Romarin a few metres from the place des Terreaux, near Hotel de Ville, tel: 00 33 (0)4 72 07 97 83. Here you can get one-off items from the supplier of major designers in Paris.

Romans-sur-Isere, just near Valence in the Rhone Valley, is not only known for its Marques Avenues shopping discount mall; it also is known generally for its factory shops, particularly shoe shops. More information from the Tourist Offices (Pavillon de Romans, 62 avenue Gambetta, tel.: 00 33 (0)4 75 02 28 72; and Pavillon de Bourg-de-Peage, 30 allee de Provence, tel.: 00 33 (0)4 75 18 36.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

1.How do you get around?

In Paris you get around via the subway and the bus. It is a great transit system and once you get the hang of it, it's very easy to get around on. In Carcassone and Nice I got around on the bus around, again, very good, on time busses. In the Alps, and smaller regions you may need a rental car.

2.How is the food?

 The food is very good throughout France. Each region has its own specialties and you should try those specialties. The wine is also very good.

3.Does anyone speak English?

It is necessary to know 3 phrases in French. Parle Vu Ungle. Merci and Pardon. Those translate to do you speak English, thank you and excuses me. If you combine those three phrases there is a good chance that the person will admit to speaking a little English. Even if they don't they will be grateful you tried French and perhaps try to help you out.

4.What should we bring?

Small camera and film. Film is expensive. Comfortable walking shoes, a hat and Sunscreen, ATM card with a 4 digit pin, a good attitude.

Tips for Visit to Paris –

  1. Bring a sturdy and comfortable pair of shoes for walking. Don’t worry so much about fashion. Your feet will only care that they are comfortable. Most Parisians spend time walking everywhere, and it is not uncommon to see a person carrying the makings of a meal from several stores (butcher, bakery, Casino) onto the Metro. Be prepared to stand during most of the prime commute hours on the Metro.

  1. If you need a converter for an electrical appliance, make sure it’s not one of those “all-in-one” converters on a solid block. The prongs are the correct ones, but the block won’t fit in the deep and round hole around the prong entrance. Sticks and holes do matter.

 

  1. In winter, bring a wool coat that hangs below the waist, a scarf, gloves, and a hat. The windchill factor is exacerbated in Paris proper because of the buildings. In summer, wear loose clothing but don’t be an ugly American: leave the open-toed Teva’s and flip flops at home. Also, the Metro isn’t often air-conditioned in the summer, and with humidity, prepare to sweat.

  1. Take a moment to study a map of the Metro lines. Almost everyone takes them for public transport, and they are much cheaper than taxis. You do not want to drive in Paris. If you are staying a week or longer, purchase a pack of tickets rather than single tickets. Keep these handy while you ride, as they are checked occasionally during transit and when you exit the Metro station, as well as when you are transferring from one line to another.

 

  1. Pack light, and bring smaller and narrower luggage with you. Some of the larger pieces of luggage don’t fit on the escalators of the Metro or are difficult to manage going up and down the entrances and exits.

  1. Your mobile phone will work in Paris, but it is expensive for your data use. It may be better to explore other options: a temporary phone from France; buying a T-mobile Hotspot access (T-mobile is Deutsch Telecom); use a Skype phone?

 

  1. Meals generally take longer to consume, especially when eating in public. The French really know how to eat and how to relax. They tend to eat dinner a bit later, so get yourself a snack in the late afternoon so you can make it to dinner time, and sit back and enjoy.

  1. If you get sick in Paris, don’t be afraid to stop into a hospital if you need to. Hospitals are clean, efficient, and if you have no residence in Paris, absolutely free. Welcome to socialized medicine. Also, if you need a pain reliever like Ibuprofen, don’t help yourself to it from the shelf in your local pharmacy. All medications — even the over-the-counter (OTC) ones, must be handed to you by a pharmacist.

 

  1. Like NYC, Paris is as beautiful to see at night as it is in the day. With the Metro running until 4 am, you can get around, snap pictures, walk along the river, and see the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. For the clubbers, you’ll have your pick of swanky places, but get ready to hear some unknown American rap (from the old B sides) that might be leaving you scratching your head.

  1. Like any large city, there are reports of crime and vandalism, yet for its size, these numbers are surprisingly low. Keep a small amount of Euros with you for incidentals, and if you don’t need your passport, lock it up in the hotel safe. Also recommended is you keeping your money in a thin money bag that hangs on the inside of your clothes, and for men to keep their wallet in a front pocket with their hand placed over the pocket when in crowded public places full of tourists.

 

  1. If anyone invites you to their home for a drink, dessert, or a meal, graciously accept! You will see how people live, especially in homes with less space per person. Be sure to bring a gift: something for the meal may be appropriate, such as something from the patisserie or a bottle of red wine.

 

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