France Guide for Mature or Senior Travellers
There are good reasons why France has been the world’s most popular tourist destination for over twenty years. This France guide should give you the start of an insight into this diverse and historically significant country. It offers some of the most iconic landmarks of Europe, combined with spectacular cultural, gastronomical, and historical experiences. This is combined with breathtaking landscapes and natural beauty. Geographically, it is one of the most diverse countries in Europe, while its cities contain countless historical and cultural treasures. Little wonder, then, that more than 83 million visitors flock to France each year.
Moreover, the French countryside is prosperous and lush, boasting many sites of cultural and historical significance. The most popular tourist sites include different regions of France, like Paris, the French Riviera, the Atlantic beaches, the winter sport resorts of the French Alps, the castles of the Loire Valley, Brittany and Normandy. With world-famous cuisine including cheese, great wines, and fine-dining, along with the best of European literature, film, culture, and fashion, France offers an unforgettable travel experience.
Odyssey offers a wide range of French tours
Odyssey is proud to offer numerous small group tours of France. Departures are frequent and specially designed for the mature traveller for couples or singles with particular cultural or historical interests. On Odyssey’s small group tour to Secret France, for instance, we learn more about the magic of the French countryside, and experience numerous local attractions and sites of significance. Meanwhile, our escorted tour of La Belle France and Rural France both go even further into the French countryside, exploring numerous remarkable villages and small towns, as well as local French cuisine and wine delicacies. Our France on Foot program extends from the scenic island of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic coast all the way to Limousin and the Auvergne to the peaks of the Savoy Alps. On the way there we traverse France via the Massif Central. This new walking tour includes a number of spectacular and beautiful walks, with plenty of culture along the way.
We also offer an Anglo-French small group tour, exploring the intersection of French and English culture, as well as a tour centered on Italian and French gardens. Odyssey also offers a French History by Rail small group tour, which takes in centuries of France’s rich history while traversing the country by train. This blog post details some of the many attractions that France has to offer, while also providing information about its rich history and cultural traditions.
Mature Travellers guide to France for Couples or Singles
The following sections give the reader an insight into this very popular destination, beyond hotels, rail connections and typical places of interest.
Provincial France offers countless Attractions
Our tours to France invariably focus on the enchantments of the French countryside, where we discover a slower, older, and more traditional way of life. Venturing beyond the cities allows us to explore the magic of quaint villages and simple towns, where traditional food, French wines, and cultures have been preserved.
Our specialist programs to France take travellers (both couples and solo travellers) far beyond the standard tourist trail. For Odyssey Travellers the tours seek to explore new dimensions of this magnificent country. The amazing landscapes of the French Alps and the Pyrenees, for instance, are often bypassed by travellers on their way to Spain and Switzerland, yet several of our tours explore the may riches to be discovered in these regions.
Together with short stays in major cities, Odyssey’s small group tours of France also take travellers deep into the beautiful scenery of picturesque villages, valleys, shrines, and ski resorts of these high regions which for many tourists will always remain unvisited hidden gems. We offer intriguing journeys for curious travellers who want to share these memorable experiences with like-minded people, and often follow the old pilgrim pathways. Along the way, we discover the history and the passion of France’s rural villagers, and gain a new understanding of the wonders of French life. By clicking this link you can read the reviews from recent those who recently taken one of our small group escorted tours.
Life is lived outdoors across much of the country
One intriguing aspect of French culture is that a large part of its life is lived outdoors, especially in its cities and villages. In this learning environment Odyssey’s immersion tours give travellers the change to experience both the wonders of the pavement life of French cities, as well as the quiet life of villages. Places where locals congregate in the square to play petanque, chat, or simply drink wine as the evening approaches. Our educational tours includes visits to several culturally significant and extraordinarily picturesque regions, including Provence, Bordeaux, and Chateuneuf du Pape. Some of the over-50s tours of France also take in several renowned wine-making regions offering the traveller the opportunity to sample the wines of the region, as well as to learn more about the glorious tradition of making French wine.
Explore the vibrant and world-famous French Culture
France has been a major centre of cultural creation for centuries. It has produced scores of renowned artists, thinkers, and writers. France is still recognized today around the world for its rich cultural traditions.
Throughout history, successive political regimes have invariably promoted artistic creation. In 1959, the Ministry of Culture helped to preserve the cultural heritage of the country and make it accessible to the public. Indeed, this Ministry has been active since its creation in protecting and encouraging the cultural development of France. The Ministry has granted subsidies to artists, promotes French culture around the world, supporting festivals and cultural events. It also holds responsibility for protecting historical monuments.
As mentioned above, France receives more tourists per year than any other nation. France achieves this largely thanks to the numerous cultural institutions and historical sites across the country. In total, it contains a staggering 1,200 museums alone, which welcome more than 50 million visitors annually. The most important cultural sites are run by the government, often under the aegis of the public agency Centre des monuments nationaux, which is responsible for many historical monuments of national significance.
France is also home to an astonishing 43,180 buildings that are federally protected as historical monuments. Many residences (ancient dwellings, castles, châteaux, and so on) and religious buildings (cathedrals, basilicas, churches, etc.), as well statutes, memorials, and gardens are protected. There are 37 UNESCO-recognised sites in France that are currently on the World Heritage List.
Learn more about exquisite works of French Art
France is known throughout the world for its rich artistic traditions. The origins of French art were very much influenced by both Flemish and Italian art during the Renaissance. Jean Fouquet, the most famous medieval French painter, is one of the key originators of French art. Fouquet was the first known artist to travel to Italy to experience the Early Renaissance first-hand. The Renaissance painting School of Fontainebleau was directly inspired by Italian painters, such as Primaticcio and Rosso Fiorentino, who both worked in France. Moreover, two of the most famous French artists of the Baroque period, Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain, lived in Italy. During the seventeenth century, French painting grew increasingly distinctive, individualizing itself through a combination of classic and modern techniques.
Art may define France
Many museums in France feature important sculptures and other artworks. An astonishing collection of old masterpieces, including the Mona Lisa, are displayed in the state-owned Musée du Louvre. While the Louvre Palace is much older, the Musée d’Orsay contains a similarly extraordinary collection of art. Inaugurated in 1986 in the old railway station Gare d’Orsay, the Musée d’Orsay houses a significant part of national art collections. Exhibiting French paintings from the second part of the nineteenth century to the late-twentieth century. The collection features numerous French Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces.
Contemporary French artworks are on display in the Musée National d’Art Moderne, which moved in 1976 to the Architecturally acclaimed Richard Rogers designed Centre Georges Pompidou.
These three state-owned museums alone welcome close to 17 million people a year. Other national museums hosting paintings include the Grand Palais (which attracted 1.3 million visitors in 2008), but there are also many museums owned by cities, the most visited being the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, which hosts many major contemporary works.
Outside Paris, most large cities have a Museum of Fine Arts with collections dedicated to European and French painting. Some of the finest local art collections are held in Lyon, Lille, Rouen, Dijon, Rennes and Grenoble. Many Odyssey tour to France take in these kinds of smaller museums.
The French city of Arles also holds significance in the art world, home to LUMA Arles, a 27-acre interdisciplinary creative campus on a former industrial site. Launched in 2013, the site consists of a tower designed by architect Frank Gehry (famous for the Guggenheims in Biboa and Los Angeles) and seven 19th century industrial factories repurposed for presentations, installations, exhibitions, and artists’ residences. The 56-meter-tall tower is the centrepiece, designed with a twisted façade decorated with stainless steel bricks around a concrete core. It houses exhibition galleries, project spaces, research and archive facilities, workshop and seminar rooms and a café. Annual exhibitions by major artists are hosted across the tower’s 12 levels.
Frank Gehry is also responsible for the design of an art important museum and cultural centre in Paris – the building of the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Inspired by traditional 19th-century glass-and-steel greenhouse architecture, the building is characterized by twelve large glass-and-steel ‘sails’ enveloping a core of white blocks made in white concrete known as ‘the icebergs’. The Fondation Louis Vuitton organizes two temporary exhibitions each year that present modern and contemporary art with an international perspective.
Delve deep into French history
France has been populated since the Neolithic period. The Dordogne region is especially rich in prehistoric caves. Archaeologists have reported that some of these caves where used as habitation. Other caves are temples with remarkable paintings of animals and hunters, like those found at Lascaux. The Chauvet Cave, in this region contains the world’s oldest human-painted images, which are more than 32,000 years old.
Recorded French history begins with the invasion of the Romans, between 118 and 50 BC. From that point on, what is now known as France was held as a key territory of the Roman Empire. The local Gauls, who lived here before the Roman invasion, eventually became known as Gallic Romans. After the fall of the Roman empire, the territory was primarily inhabited by descendants of intermarriages between gallo-Romans and “barbaric” easterners: these were mainly comprised of the Franks, but also other ethnic groups such as the “Burgondes.”
The legacy of Roman occupation is still visible in many parts of the country. This is very apparent particularly in the south of France. In the south, Roman circuses are still used for bullfights and musical performances. Some of the main roads still follow the routes originally traced by Roman soldiers 2,000 years ago. The urban organisation of many old town centres are still centred around the cardo and the decumanus of the former Roman camp (especially Paris). Of course, another late-Roman legacy was the Catholic Church, which stands as another remnant of Roman civilization.
France in the 20th and 21st centuries
The year 1905 saw the separation of the Church from the State. This separation was a particularly traumatic process in rural areas. To this day, the French state scrupulously avoids any religious recognition. Under a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the law forbids French students and civil servants from displaying any sign that explicitly indicates their religion. This policy applies to wearing Christian crosses, and has recently been applied to the Muslim. In the early 21st century, statistics for church attendance and religious belief are among the lowest in Europe.
World War I (1914-18) was an unmitigated disaster for France, even though the country was ultimately a victor. During these horrific four years, a significant part of the male workforce was killed and disabled. A large part of the country and industry was destroyed. World War II (1939 – 45) wreaked similar levels of havoc. Since the end of WWII, France went through a period of reconstruction and prosperity eventually returned, linked to the development of industry. In the twenty-first century, France and Germany lead the Treaties process that eventually became the European Union. One of the most visible consequences of the Union was the introduction, in 2002, of the Euro (€). The euro is the common currency of nineteen European countries.
Contemporary France functions as a republic, with a President elected for a lengthy 5-year term. Continuing issues for the nation are its further integration into the EU. France’s integration into Europe remains a political issue for the people of the Republic.
A lot of variety, 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. For specific information on the French climate, you might like to look at this official meteorological page.
For further information about France, please visit its official tourism website.
Odyssey tours in France
Odyssey is pleased to offer numerous small group tours that explore various aspects of French history and culture. On Odyssey’s small group tour to Secret France, for instance, we learn more about the magic of the French countryside, and experience numerous local attractions and sites of significance. Meanwhile, our escorted tour of La Belle France and Rural France both go even further into the French countryside, exploring numerous remarkable villages and small towns, as well as local food and wine delicacies. Our France on Foot program extends from the scenic island of Noirmoutier on the Atlantic coast all the way to Limousin and the Auvergne to the peaks of the Savoy Alps. On the way there we traverse France via the Massif Central. This new walking tour includes a number of spectacular and beautiful walks, with plenty of culture along the way.
We also offer an Anglo-French small group tour, exploring the intersection of French and English culture, as well as a tour centred on Italian and French gardens. Odyssey also offers a French History by Rail small group tour, which takes in centuries of France’s rich history while traversing the country by train.
This Mature Travellers guide to France is part of a collection of published articles designed to introduce the reader to France. This link takes you a blog that provides information about small group tours. Or you may be wanting to read about some travel tips in preparing for a small group tours for mature travellers which you can read about by clicking this link here.
Should you want to continue reading more about other blogs that are similar in style or content to the Mature Travellers guide to France for Couples or Singles then please register to receive a complimentary copy Odyssey’s newsletter.
About Odyssey Traveller
We specialise in educational small group tours for seniors, typically groups between six to 12 people from Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada and Britain. Our maximum number of people on a tour is 18 mature aged travellers. Typically, our clients begin travelling with us from their mid 50’s onward. But be prepared to meet fellow travellers in their 80s and beyond! Both couples and solo travellers are very welcome on our tours. We have some 150 tours and offer 300 scheduled departures on offer each year. Odyssey has been offering this style of adventure and educational programs since 1983.
Odyssey Traveller is committed to charitable activities that support the environment and cultural development of Australian and New Zealand communities.
Odyssey Traveller scholarship for Australia & New Zealand University students.
We are also pleased to announce that since 2012, Odyssey has been awarding $10,000 Equity & Merit Cash Scholarships each year. We award scholarships on the basis of academic performance and demonstrated financial need. We award at least one scholarship per year. We’re supported through our educational travel programs, and your participation helps Odyssey achieve its goals. Students can apply for the scholarship by clicking on this link to find out more details.
Join our loyalty program when you join an international small group tour.
Every International small group tour taken typically contributes to your membership level in our Loyalty Program for regular travellers. Membership of the alumni starts when you choose to take your first international small group tour with Odyssey Traveller, discounts in tour pricing for direct bookings accrue from your third tour with Odyssey Traveller. To see the discounts and benefits of being a Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Diamond alumni member with us, please see this page.
For more information on Odyssey Traveller and our educational small group tours, visit and explore our website, and remember to visit these pages in particular:
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Originally published June 6. 2017.
Updated on August 31, 2021.