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.
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.
Even the lesser-known castles can be wonderful -- Chinon, for example, is set above a perfectly preserved old town.
You can almost hear Joan of Arc riding up to the gate and offering to kick the English invaders out of France.
French trains are faster than planes.
If you want to go from Paris to the Mediterranean coast for lunch, hop on a TGV -- train à grande vitesse, or "very fast train."
Three hours later, you'll be sipping rosé and gazing at billionaires' yachts while the fliers are still putting in a claim for their lost luggage.
TGVs crisscross the country, and the SNCF (French national railways) offers excellent online deals -- first class for just a little more than second.
The French might like the good life but it needn't also mean slow.
5. Traffic jams
The average French driver's notion of etiquette is a strong but terrifying one: I'm going that way, and you can't stop me.
If going where he or she wants to means causing an accident or total gridlock, that's everyone else's fault, non?
The unwillingness to acknowledge any other car on the roads -- the supreme French belief in liberté incarnated in the automobile -- means that on every Saturday in summer, and on national holidays, the whole country is transformed into a huge traffic jam as everyone drives to or from their vacation at exactly the same time.
Politeness -- the French?
Aren't they notoriously abrupt, especially Parisians when addressing non-French-speaking tourists?
More accurately, the French have mastered the art of being impeccably polite and startlingly dismissive at the same time.