9 reasons to love the 2018 FIFA Cup champion country

France is not just a sporting champion...
with just winning in Russia, France is also a champion of the Tourism World Cup. Some 89 million tourists popped by in 2017 – an eight per cent increase on the previous year – making it yet again the most visited country in the world.
And here are nine reasons why:


The stunning architecture, vibrant museums, broad and beautiful boulevards, the cafes, the parks, Notre Dame, the Pantheon, Sacre Coeur … it's as if someone somewhere gathered together all the things that make a city great and plonked them haphazardly on either side of the Seine. And, of course the Eiffel Tower, undoubtedly, is the first thing you should see while you are in Paris. This magnificent tower was built by Gustave Eiffel to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, and to date it continues to enthrall its spectators.


France was, in 2010, the first nation to have its gastronomy recognised by UNESCO as an "intangible cultural heritage". But whether haute cuisine or simple steak-frites, the French love to get together to eat well – and the standard of all the cuisine reflects that.


There is nothing quite like a good French baguette – and the French will go to great lengths to winkle out the best. A foreign visitor, newly arrived in Paris, asked a local where to get a baguette. "But do you want a baguette, or a good baguette?" was the reply. After which the local gave directions past two or three boulangeries to the one she deemed worthy.


I once sat in a café-cum-boulangerie and watched two men discuss the type of bread they were going to buy for dinner that night. The boulanger chimed in, too, asking what they were going to eat for dinner. The French have a wonderful feel for the good things in life and make sure to incorporate that into their everyday existence.


The Alps, the Massif Central, the Mediterranean coastline down south, the Pyrenees … the diversity of scenery throughout France is a great part of its charm. Anyone who has experienced the villages of Normandy, the wild, rugged beauty of the hamlets clinging to the cliff faces along the Gorge du Tarn or the sophisticated elegance of the South of France will know this.


There is probably no language more romantic in the world. There's no better way to say ‘I love you’ than 'Je t'adore', is there? And for us English speakers, it's relatively simple to learn. Or should be. After all, as the French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau once said: "English is just badly pronounced French."


Whether in the big cities or in small villages in the middle of nowhere, the produce market is a wonderful mainstay of French life. Anywhere you find stalls that sell nothing but mushrooms is alright by me. And don't get me started on the cheese.


Sitting in a café – inside or out – with a cup of coffee or tea just reading the paper or watching the world go by without being hassled by the waiter is something the French have elevated to an art form.


From 2000-year-old Roman aqueducts to medieval castles on jagged hillsides, France is awash with amazing architecture and World Heritage sites. The Pont du Gard, the Roman amphitheatre in Arles, the slightly surreal but utterly mesmerising Mont Saint-Michel in Brittany and the Popes' Palace in Avignon are among just a few of the jewels in the French crown.