The largest and most populous constituent country of the United Kingdom, England occupies most of the southern two-thirds of the island of Great Britain.
Until recently England was generally thought of as a gentle, fabled land freeze-framed sometime in the ‘30s, home of the post office, country pub and vicarage. It's now better known for vibrant cities with great nightlife and attractions, contrasted with green and pleasant countryside.
With intriguing cities, beautiful countryside, England has something for all tastes. From the essential glories of London, Stratford, Gloucester and York, to the quirky delights of Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester, England’s cities are lively, buzzing places, where a love of nostalgia strains against a spirit of inventiveness.
Enjoy the unrivalled beauty of the Cotswolds and the Dales, but travel the byways of Northumberland, and church-laden Lincolnshire too. With time to spare, escape the tourist trails and wander over peaceful countryside, savour ‘real’ ale at a country pub, visit a traditional town market, or sample England’s ‘new-wave’ wines and a cosmopolitan cuisine that rivals any in the world.
England today is welcoming, friendly, fascinating and fun, where pomp and circumstance balance the often bizarre idiosyncrasies of its people, and a sense of humor is the passport to certain acceptance.
It's hard to generalise about France - as Charles de Gaulle once remarked, 'how could one describe a country which has 365 kinds of cheese?'
Yet there is something about this magnificent land which draws millions of francophiles back year after year for a taste of la vie Français.
Could it be the chic boulevards of Paris, the sparkling ski slopes of the Alps, sunlit vineyards and sun-baked beaches, a dusty game of boules, or coffee and croissants in an undiscovered village?
Or perhaps it's a tour of the majestic châteaux of the Loire that appeals, the glamorous jet-set lifestyle of the Mediterranean, or a relaxing picnic in Provence, where the air is fragrant with wild herbs and lavender?
Consider also the delights of other lesser-known regions such as Franche-Comté, Gascony or Berry, deep in the green heart of France - regions firmly rooted to the land, whose sleepy villages offer visitors a chance to sample the true douceur de vivre of provincial France.
There is no denying that France is a land of great contrasts, offering an endless choice of enticing destinations, a rich diversity of landscapes, cuisines, climates and peoples, with an exceptional cultural heritage.
It's easy to see why the French stay at home for their holidays and why they so felicitously call their country La Belle France.