When most people think of France they think of style. From Paris's tree-lined boulevards to the beautiful castles of the Loire Valley. The grandeur and romance of France keeps people coming back again and again. France is the largest country in Western Europe, home to almost 60 million people. Ecologically, France has everything you could ask for, from snow-capped mountains to wonderful coastlines. The country's history is present wherever you go: from Naploneon's empire to the battlesfields of World War II, when you're in France, you feel as though you are part of a living history. Traveling in France Budget travelers can get by on around US$40 per day, but it means taking the notion of "living on a shoestring" very seriously. For a broader culinary experience than just bread and wine, and a comfortable room, a minimum of US$80 is needed. Of course, for the more high-end traveler, those rates may not accomodate you past noon; bank on dropping US$200 and up if you're really living large. Traveler's checks are the most convenient way to carry funds in France and are accepted basically everywhere, especially in larger cities and towns. However, France's ATMs accept all the major international credit and bank cards. Restaurants and hotels will add 10%-15% service charge to every tab, but most people leave a few coins in gratuity if the service was good. Weather in France Spring in France seems to offer the best weather and fewer tourists. Once summer hits, the coast swells with heat, activity, and people. The weather is generally still good in Autumn, but you should be wary of shorter days and plan accordingly. It can begin to get cold toward the end of autumn even in the south, but if you enjoy winter activities, the Alps and the Pyrenees can be winter wonderlands, with skiing, snowboarding, and a plethora of other adventure or cultural activities at hand. In July and August, most of the city dwellers take a (roughly) 5-week vacation; you may find the cities "shut down" during these times. What to know As with every country you visit, at least try learn a little bit of the native language. Parisians, in particular, are notorious for ignoring tourists who don't make the effort to speak French. Words as basic as bonjour (hello) and au revior (goodbye) will at least establish that you are trying to understand their language. Having a phrase book and studying common phrases you would use on a daily basis will help. You will get a much better response from the locals if you are trying to speak in French, and you may find that many of them speak English well enough to help you get your ideas across. Also, don't wear shorts if you want to blend in and not look like a tourist. In France, shorts are usually reserved for exercise, trips to the beach, and very hot days. France Information Population: 59 million Government: Democracy Square Miles: 214,890 sq mi (551,000 sq km) Capitol: Paris Official Language: French People: 92% French, 3% North African, 2% German, 1% Breton, 2% Other Religion: 90% Roman Catholic, 2% Protestant, 1% Muslim, 1% Jewish, 6% unaffiliated Major products/industries: Oil refining, steel, cement, aluminium, agricultural products & foodstuffs, luxury goods, chemicals, motor manufacturing, energy products
This is beach country! Located in the Caribbean British Leeward Islands, Antigua, Barbuda, and Redonda, all make up the single nation of Antigua & Barbuda. Antigua alone, being the largest of the British Leewards, claims upward of 300 beaches with plenty of room to bask in the sun, swim, dive, sail, and more. There are reefs and wrecks abound, for underwater exploration, as well as many sites on shore, for those less inclined to the water. Between the capitol, St. John's, and the next biggest town, English Harbor, you'll find shopping, food and drink, galleries, and interesting colonial-era sites to enjoy. Redcliffe Quay in St. John's is home to an array of West Indian restaurants and shops peddling art and other local wares, while the renovated Nelson's Dockyard (an 18th century British naval base named for Admiral Horatio Nelson) is only one of English Harbor's many historical attractions. For a little "less civilized" entertainment, Shirley Heights is the site of a weekly bender that attracts lots of locals and plenty of tourists. Perched precariously atop a cliff overlooking English Harbor, hundreds of feet below, the spot was once a lookout for marauders. These days it's used every Sunday for a barbecue, rum punch, and reggae party. Who knows how many stumbling revelers have come close to that cliff's edge! Elsewhere on the island are Betty Hope's Sugar Plantation--the first major sugar cane plantation on the Antigua, which played an important role in the development of the island's once fruitful position in the sugar market (now you can see a renovated example of the many decaying stone sugar mills that dot the island, as well as the original still house); and beautiful Fig Tree Drive--a rough roadway escape into the volcanic hills of Antigua, through lush rainforest and banana (locals call them "figs"), coconut, and mango groves. Barbuda At a little under half the size of Antigua, Barbuda is the second biggest island in the Antigua archipelago. Only a 20-minute flight (3-hour boat ride) from the more bustling Antigua, its population is so small, one could easily mistake it for a deserted island. There is one town on Barbuda, called Codrington, and many pink sand beaches with opportunities for world-class birding, diving, fishing, and relaxing. The few resorts on Barbuda are exclusive and expensive, and the local residences are spare (about half the permanent homes were destroyed in Hurricane Luis in 1995), which make for a place of extreme solitude and beauty for the traveler in need of rest. Redonda The smallest of the Antiguan island chain, Redonda is an uninhabited, 1,000-foot-high rocky outcropping, about 30 miles southwest of Antigua. Anchoring at Redonda is difficult, as the surrounding waters are quite deep and the ocean floor there is very rocky. There are a few birds (such as the burrowing owl), goats, and other animals on Redonda, which is maintained as protected parkland by the Antiguan government, but the last semi-permanent human activity there--an American aluminum phosphate mine--closed its doors in 1914. Currently, the most exciting thing associated with the island is the long-running claim of royal ownership (of the "Kingdom of Redonda") that began in 1865, when Matthew Shiell "claimed" Redonda for his son Philippe, who was succeeded by the poet John Gawsworth. Gawsworth, subsequently appointed many of his literary contemporaries as dukes and duchesses of his kingdom. The current "king" lives in Sussex, United Kingdom, and has likely never laid eyes on his empire. Weather AntiguaThe best (and busiest) time to go to Antigua is during the (NH) winter: December through February. The daily highs average around 81°F, and the skies are typically clear. The island remains a popular tourist destination well into spring, but by June it starts heating up significantly. July and August are the hottest months, with average highs reaching the 90°F mark. Antigua is a relatively dry island, though the months of September through November are considered the rainy season. As in the rest of the region, rogue storms can arrive very randomly and leave just as suddenly as they came, no matter what time of year. Antigua, Barbuda and Rodonda Information Population: 66,422 Government: Constitutional monarchy within the British Commonwealth Square Miles: Antigua, 108 sq mi (280 sq km); Barbuda, 62 sq mi (161 sq km) Capitol: St John's Official Languages: English and English-based patois Religion: Anglican Church (about 50%), Roman Catholic, Moravian Major products/industries: Tourism, agriculture, fishing, light manufacturing
Martha's Vineyard (adjoining the smaller Chappaquiddick Island) is an island off the United States east coast, to the south of Cape Cod, both forming a part of the Outer Lands region. It is often called just "the Vineyard". With a land area of 87.48 square miles (231.75 km²), Martha's Vineyard is the 57th largest island in the United States.