|The most popular spectator
sports are rugby and football,
which the French follow passionately. Emotions exploded to fever
pitch when France won the football World
Cup in 1998.
The Tour de France
cycling race during summer is one of the world’s most prestigious
cycling races and a favourite spectator event.
French Open at Roland Garros near Paris is one of the four
Grand Slam tennis tournaments and attracts all the world’s
top players as well as drawing huge crowds.
Another notable event on the French sports calendar is the 24-hour
motor race at Le Mans.
The highlight of the horseracing calendar is the Prix de
l’Arc de Triomphe held on the first Sunday in October
each year. It takes place in Longchamp close to the Bois de Boulogne.
France is criss-crossed by some 8500km (5313 miles) of canals and
rivers, and houseboats can be rented easily.
Popular itineraries include the Lorient–Redon
route (along the former route of the Brittany invasions), Marne–Strasbourg
(through the vineyards of Champagne to the Alsace-Lorraine
canals), the Burgundy Canal (a popular wine route),
and Bordeaux–Sète (a 500km/313 mile-journey
from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean along the Canal du Midi).
Boats can be rented from numerous private operators who can also
arrange the necessary permits. Most vessels sleep between two and
12 people. The return journey is usually via the same route, one-way
trips are possible but involve extra costs.
French towns and cities are actively promoting the use of bicycles.
There are some 28,000km (17,500 miles) of marked cycling paths throughout
France. Bicycles can be hired from many local tourist offices, and
French Railways (SNCF) also offers bicycles for hire at some 30
stations. There is an extensive network of pistes cyclables (cycling
paths) along the Atlantic coast, all the way down to the Spanish
Good fishing regions include Brittany for salmon
and trout, Franche-Comté which has many
lakes, Languedoc-Roussillon good for mountain fishing),
and Midi-Pyrénées, famous for the
fario trout. Trips with local fishermen are possible along the Atlantic
coast. Popular catches include crayfish, lobster, scallops and,
at low tide, crabs, shrimps and mussels. Deep-sea-fishing trips
are widely available on the Côte d’Azur.
Permits for river fishing can be obtained from local city halls.
There are over 200 golf courses in France. A number of companies
are offering themed golf holidays which combine golfing with other
activities as well as sightseeing. Popular destinations include
the Loire Valley,
Burgundy and the French
There are thousands of miles of carefully marked trails throughout
France. These are known as Sentiers de Grande Randonnée,
and are generally marked on maps as well as being recognisable by
a red and white logo marked GR. The hiking routes
are complemented by an extensive network of gîtes and mountain
refuges providing inexpensive but comfortable accommodation. A
Guide des Gîtes de France is available from bookshops.
Although popular and available countrywide, one of France’s
favourite destinations for horseriding is the Camargue
where even inexperienced riders can gallop along sandy beaches and
through the characteristic marshland. Horses can be hired from numerous
stables throughout the country.
The French Alps offer excellent skiing
with some of the world’s best-known resorts. There are over
480km (300 miles) of ski pistes, over 150 ski lifts, innumerable
ski schools and quality resort facilities. All the major resorts
offer skiing package holidays. The season runs from early December
to the end of April. The height of the season is during February
and March, which is reflected in the higher prices.
in association with the French Association of Resorts and Sports
Goods Retailers (AFMASS), organises skiing holidays. Packages are
only marketed in France, visitors should contact SNCF on arrival.
Traditional boules, also called pétanque,
requiring as much dexterity as social skill, is frequently played
in public squares. Visitors wishing to join in may find it easier
if they speak French.
France has over 3000km (1880 miles) of coastline, ranging
from the rugged English Channel and Atlantic coasts in the north
and west to the sunny shores of the French Riviera (Côte d’Azur)
along the Mediterranean in the south. All types of watersports are
available, although the warm climate of the Mediterranean provides
obvious advantages, with swimming in the sea possible practically
all year round.