Top 10 reasons we love France

By Budget Travel
October 3, 2012
Courtesy <a href=" " target="_blank">blake/myBudgetTravel</a>

Happy Bastille Day! Or as the French say, Bonne La Fête Nationale! It's the French equivalent of the Fourth of July, with parades and parties to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of modern France.

Launch our slide show: 29 Stunning Photos of France.

We, too, would like to celebrate the red, white, and blue of a different flag, so we present our Top 10 reasons we love France:

1. Crepes at every corner in Paris

2. It gave the world Nutella

3. The music of Edith Piaf

4. Wine is appropriate with every meal

5. The word boulangerie (it means bread shop)

6. The smell boulangeries emit, which permeates every street corner in the morning

7. It inspired Woody Allen's whimsical Midnight in Paris

8. Lavender fields in July

9. Rosé from the Côte du Rhône region

10. The French kiss

What do you love about France?


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Q&A: Elisabeth Eaves, a writer who puts the lust in 'Wanderlust'

"Wanderlust is not a passion for travel, exactly; it's something more animal and more fickle -- something more like lust." These words appear in the prologue of Elisabeth Eaves' new memoir-travelogue Wanderlust: A Love Affair with Five Continents, setting up the chapters that follow in which the author backpacks through rarefied countries such as Yemen, bunks with a house full of Aussie slackers, hikes through the jungles of Papua New Guinea, sails (and nearly dies) during a storm in the South Pacific, and embraces new lovers and escapism at every turn. Eaves was kind enough to answer BT's questions below. (For more on the book, check out the New York Times review.) When travelers say they want to go somewhere, it's often because they want to see places or things -- famous buildings, lions on a safari, beautiful beaches. But your book is filled with stories about the people you meet on your travels. Which factor is more important to you when deciding where to go on a trip: Is it the things you see, or the people you anticipate meeting? Elisabeth Eaves: They're inextricable. I love buildings, lions and beaches as much as anyone, but people shape the character of your trip. Cultures are by definition made up of people: we like foreign cultures because they're full of foreign people. I have no interest in moon tourism because there aren't any people there. Speaking of which, in all your travels, which country has the people you like the most? Who are the most fun, most friendly, and most interesting people in the world? E.E.: If you're looking for a combination of all three, Spain is pretty high up there. Come to think of it, I'm not sure why I don't live in Spain. They invented techno and flan and have dinner at 11. In many of your trips, you don't plan much of anything in advance. When dropping in on a new town, what are your favorite ways to size the place up, get your bearings, and figure out where to stay, where to eat, what to do, etc.? E.E.: I get cash as soon as possible. It's comforting to be prepared for off-balance-sheet transactions. And there's nothing more annoying than needing to pay cash and being 50 miles from the nearest ATM. Other than that? I use guidebooks for maps and hotel listings, but otherwise I wing it. I go for walks. I dislike places where you can't go for walks, such as freeway-side exurbs. While a lot is written about travel, there are things no one really talks or writes about. (I'm thinking specifically about the masturbators in Yemen you write about.) Can you think of other examples -- of things that travelers experience, but that nobody really talks about? E.E.: Loneliness. Fear. Relying too heavily on the kindness of strangers, in the Blanche Dubois sense. The fact that many people, and indeed whole cultures, are, once you get beyond the fact that they dress and eat and talk differently, just plain dull. At least to an over-stimulated Westerner. People who live in the jungle spend a lot of time staring at each other. Once you've exhausted the subjects of marital status and yams, you need a book. You don't travel like the typical tourist/traveler. Are there things that the typical traveler does that'll never make sense to you? Perhaps the stuff they buy, the way they tour cities or regions, or even the places they choose to visit? E.E.: I almost never buy souvenirs. I don't get the point. I have a low tolerance for clutter, and most souvenirs qua souvenirs end up as clutter. And I don't like to take stuff from beaches -- I figure it belongs there. On the beach, rocks and shells are beautiful. In my home they're clutter. So much of the book, and about travel in general, is about searching -- that yearning to see and experience something new, foreign, exciting, just plain different. But do you ever wish you didn't have wanderlust? Do you ever wish you were completely content to stay put somewhere? E.E.: Nope, not for a second. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL: Expert Tips for Couples Traveling Together Take My Word: Best-Selling Writers on Travel Pet travel tips from 'Privileged Pooch' author Maggie Espinosa


Get your French on for Bastille Day

You don't necessarily have to board a transatlantic flight to get your Francophile fix for Bastille Day. July 14, France's Independence Day, has become just as much of an excuse for us to indulge in all things French &mdash; baguettes and brie, champagne and wine, Serge Gainsbourg and Edith Piaf, anyone? &mdash; on this side of the pond as it has in France. In fact, the French government is encouraging it with the launch this year of Destination France Day, a new annual tradition aimed at positioning Bastille Day as a worldwide event to celebrate France as a travel destination. For its kick-off year, parties are being hosted in Paris, New York and Shanghai, with guests in New York encouraged to wear something blue, those in Paris wearing white and in Shanghai, red (in honor of the French flag). The soirée bleue in New York will feature a blue-themed fashion show and live musical performances at the Hudson Terrace. The soirée blanche in Paris will take place at a private apartment with views of the Eiffel Tower and the Bastille Day fireworks. And, in Shanghai at the House of Roosevelt, the soirée rouge will feature a French-themed photo exhibit and performances. For more information about Desination France Day, contact the French Government Tourist Office. But there are other ways to celebrate your inner monsieur or mademoiselle closer to home. Bastille Day has become an annual custom in many cities across the U.S. There is the Bastille Day Los Angeles Festival on July 17, and Bastille Day on 60th Street in New York on July 10. Chicagoans celebrate with a Bastille Day 5K &amp; 8K Run, Walk and Block Party. In New Orleans, the city's historic French Quarter is abuzz with events for Bastille Day, including a Bastille Day music event and the 2nd Annual French Market Waiters Race. Brooklyn, N.Y. has an annual petanque tournament (similar to bocce ball) and street festival hosted by local restaurant Bar Tabac, which takes place on July 10 on Smith Street. The Alliance Francaise is a non-profit organization that promotes the French language and culture with chapters across the country. Check to see if your local Alliance Francaise chapter is hosting a party or event near you. And if you want a replica of the real thing, why not head to Paris Las Vegas? Or, perhaps pack up the car and head north to the French-speaking Canadian cities of Montreal or Quebec City. Or, if all this talk of France has inspired you, try your luck with Air France's late summer sale. Pourquoi pas? More from Budget Travel: 25 Reasons We Love New Orleans New York City Restaurant Week is almost here! This summer, travel with your little one&mdash;and your sanity


And the winner of the 2018 Winter Olympics is... South Korea

The International Olympic Committee this week selected PyeongChang, South Korea to host the 2018 Olympic Winter Games, a decision that will put the Asian peninsula nation in the spotlight in the coming years &mdash; something South Korea desperately wants. In recent years, South Korea has been pushing to market itself as a viable vacation destination, but it has had challenges, namely that it shares a peninsula with the sometimes hostile North Korea, and competes with China, Japan and Southeast Asia for travelers' attention. But this announcement could help South Korea drum up the kind of attention and excitement that might help the country emerge from the shadows of its neighbors. PyeongChang, a mountain region in northeastern South Korea, beat out Munich, Germany and Annecy, France, for the Winter Olympics (PyeongChang got 63 votes, Munich 25, and Annecy got seven). And VisitKorea, the country's tourism marketing organization, is already touting Pyeongchang as the "Alps of Korea" (interesting considering that Annecy is in the actual Alps), home to several ski resorts and parks. The decision was in fact a major coup for South Korea, which had already bid for the Winter Games twice, once eight years ago, when it lost to Vancouver, Canada, which hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics, and again four years ago, when it was announced that Sochi, Russia will host the 2014 Winter Games. But this isn't the first time South Korea will be hosting an Olympics event. Seoul was the host city for the 1988 Summer Olympics, which were hosted in Asia two other times, in Tokyo in 1964, and in Beijing in 2008. Japan is the only country in Asia that has hosted the Winter Olympics &mdash; in Sapporo in 1972, and Nagano in 1998. "PyeongChang presented a strong and inspiring project that enjoys massive support from the government and the public," stated IOC President Jacques Rogge. "I have every confidence that PyeongChang will deliver on its commitment and host excellent Games in 2018." "The South Korean project will leave a tremendous legacy as PyeongChang will become a new winter sports hub in Asia," added Rogge. More from Budget Travel: What happens when the Olympics move on? How to Score Tickets to the 2012 Summer Olympics North Korea welcoming U.S. tourists year-round


The Budget Travel Convert...Reporting from Greece

Hobart Fowlkes, our "Budget Travel Convert," is a high&ndash;end jetsetter by trade, budget globetrotter by choice. He reports regularly on the best (and most affordable) experiences and hotels around the world. Today he updates us on a recent trip to Athens and Mykonos where he spent time admiring the Parthenon in Athens and watching the sun set, cocktail in hand, in Mykonos. See photos from my trip to Greece FIRST STOP, ATHENS... I arrived in Athens mid&ndash;morning on a nonstop flight from JFK. I had slept the whole way, but nevertheless when I got to my insanely cheap hotel on Euripidou St. in Plaka (the old part of town at the bottom of the Acropolis), I was ready to hit the hay for a few hours. If you haven't been to Athens before, beware&mdash;official Athenian taxis will only charge you a flat fare of EUR35 ($50) to the center of town, so do NOT fall for any sneaky tricksters who might try to take you for anything more. I was in Athens for just 24 hours before I headed out to Mykonos. On my one full day in the city, I meandered through the vast park that leads to the giant stone plateau which was once the site of the holiest temples in the Greek world (for the life of me I can't remember the name of the park). From up there you can enjoy amazing panoramic views of Athens all the way to the port of Pireaus and the Aegean Sea. Descending back into the narrow streets of Plaka I made frequent stops for iced cappucino frappés and my favorite Greek invention of yogurt with walnuts and honey! Oh those Greeks can work wonders with honey! Where I stayed: I checked into Hotel Euripides, which is a very bare bones property with 62 rooms&mdash;I had air conditioning, a TV, and a little balcony overlooking a restaurant called O Telis that serves only pork chops (more on this in a bit). 79 Euripidou Street, 011/30-210-3212301-2, How much I paid: My double room cost $83 per night. Why I recommend it: The hotel is simple, but the neighborhood it's in is very charming and quaint (filled with cute shops and restaurants). Unfortunately, Euripidou Street, where the hotel is located, is like one big, seedy strip that bisects Plaka. But on a positive note it's covered with the most amazing graffiti I have ever seen! My favorite part of the hotel is the roof terrace, where complimentary breakfast is served daily from 7 to 10AM. The meal consists of the usual continental spread, but all I really needed was a cup of strong coffee and the corner table that has the best view of the Parthenon in town. But back to the restaurant across the street that serves only pork chops. That was definitely a highlight for me. Since they serve only pork chops and have been in business for more than 30 years they have had plenty of time to perfect the preparation of said chops. So awesome are their pork chops that Neil Armstrong (YES, the astronaut) ate there once in 1997 and sat in exactly the chair where I sat! How do I know that?? Well, first of all my waiter told me so upon discovering my nationality and seating me at that table. Thinking me to be incredulous, he dug out a folder filled with yellowed newspaper clippings from Athenian dailies in the late 1990's to prove the point. Knowing that the very tush that once wiggled out of the Apollo 11 onto the face of the moon, had actually once warmed the very plastic chair into which was nestled my very own tush was enough to make those already delicious pork chops sublime. O Telis, 86 Evripidou, Koumoundourou Square, Athens, 011/30-210-324-2775, dinner from $15 (including a greek salad, pork chop, and a bottle of water) THEN, ON TO MYKONOS... Next up was Mykonos. With my budget in mind, I opted to travel via ferry boat even though there are regular flights to Mykonos. Just steps from the Hotel Euripides there is a subway that takes you directly to Piraeus where the ferries depart. There are high speed ferries ($172 one way) and there are regular ferries ($100 one way). I chose the high speed ferry on the Aegean Pelagos line. The total trip took about four hours. Upon arriving in the town of Chora in Mykonos, I was met by a man from the hotel that I had chosen for myself: The Hotel Petasos. That was a good thing too because it's very easy to get lost in Chora (apparently it was deliberately designed as a labyrinth in an effort to confuse and perplex pirates who might invade). Where I stayed: The 18 room Petasos Town hotel in Chora. How much I paid: My room was $139 per night. 011/30-22890-22608, Why I recommend it: Not only is the hotel very clean and charming, it is in a perfect location, just steps from the center of the port of Chora. Petasos Beach, which is the sister property, is located on a beach about a 20 minutes drive in a shuttle bus. It's a bit tonier than the town one, but the good news is that as a guest of the Town hotel you are free to use all of the facilities at the beach property. I could have spent all of my time at the Petasos Beachproperty, but I found myself a lot more comfortable renting a car (EUR30/day) from a nice man about 100 meters up the street from Petasos Town Hotel, just opposite another awesome property called the Rochari Hotel. With a car you are free to explore the island and discover all of the various beaches,each of which has its own unique personality. There is Agrari Beach which is somewhat secluded in a little cove with deep blue water&mdash;it's the polar opposite to the very gay and very vibrant Paradise and Super Paradise beaches which you will know you are approaching before you get there by the THMP THMP THMP of the House Music that blasts from the Beach's DJ platform all day long and into the night. My personal favorite is known as Elia Beach. It is a long, sandy beach with beds that you can rent and plenty of space to pitch your towel wherever you want. There is a charming restaurant on one end of the beach for lunch, and generally a veryfriendly mixed crowd of beach goers. There is also a lot of good "beautiful people" watching of which I am particularly fond. Before you go I also recommend that you go for a cocktail at the Hotel Elysium, which is high up on a hill overlooking the port. Hotel Elysium is not at all in the Budget Travel category of hotel, but it is worth it to make the hike up there and pay a fortune for a measly little cocktail just for the opportunity to watch the sun go down over the town. So after a week of sun and relaxation in Mykonos, I sadly boarded my ferry back to Athens to spend one last night in Hotel Euripides. Thankfully, there was time the following morning to enjoy a coffee while gazing at the acropolis before setting off back to the airport, but, sadly, no time for pork chops. Next stop: Florence and Lucca on the way to spend a week in the sun in Torre del Lago, the little known next door neighbor to beach destination, Viareggio, on Tuscany's coast. MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL The Budget Travel Convert: Reporting from...Panama Secret Hotels of Greece's Ionian Islands 10 Islands to See Before You Die