Editor’s Note: This story is part of a series highlighting superlatives of countries around the world. Click here for pieces on Italy, the United States, Canada, Taiwan, India and South Korea, and watch for upcoming installments featuring other countries.
The French are impeccably polite -- really
They're so good at making certain cheeses that the United States has tried to restrict them
Their traffic jams are world class, but so are their (very fast) trains
France is an impressive country. And nobody knows it better than the French.
The country is surprisingly like the United States (which it taught a thing or two about liberté) in that you don’t really ever need to leave. There are sophisticated cities, sunny seashores, snowy mountains and wooded valleys all in one country.
Not to mention a lot of cheese. And sex. As well as quite a few other things the French do superlatively well.
Yes, it’s a cliché but France remains the ultimate destination for cheese lovers. General de Gaulle once asked how he was meant to govern a country that produced 246 varieties of cheese.
Maybe he was afraid they were living organisms and would start a revolution. Some French cheeses, such as Reblochon, are so smelly and runny they seem to be decomposing.
Even mild, hard Mimolette is apparently so scary that last year the United States restricted its import. No one’s arguing against the existence of great cheeses around the world – but no French citizen needs to go much further than the corner shop to find one.
There’s a reason the French invented the word “bourgeois,” which now stands in for all things materialistic. Paris department stores stock everything from cheap generic brands to labels so chic you feel the need to dress up before trying them on.
The annual sales in January and at the end of June offer unbelievable bargains because by law all stores have to discount prices at the same time and compete for business.
At the other end, the French have defended their small, often family-owned neighborhood stores – boulangeries, boucheries, épiceries – from being steamrollered by chains. The French also do quirky, one-off boutiques probably better than anyone else.
Paris, of course, is home to perhaps the world’s best-known museum, the Louvre. But French museum culture spreads much wider afield.
The Loire region has what is arguably the most beautiful collection of museums in the world – its chateaux include the huge Chambord, with a spectacular collection of tapestries, and the impossibly romantic Chenonceau, astride its moat.