Hi from Rick: Getting Cozy with France

Dear Traveler,

Every two years I reconfigure all my TV shows into an expanded box set of DVDs. With 16 shows on Italy, that's been our only country with two DVDs of material. But hang on to your beret: For the next edition, France will join this exclusive club.

France is Europe's hubcap — where all the spokes come together — blessed with Renaissance gardens from Italy, towering Alps like Switzerland's (but France's are the highest in Europe), bullfighting from Spain (but they don't kill the bull), hearty hunter cuisine from Germany (in Alsace), and even couscous from North Africa. And, of course, Paris is where you'll find the hub bub.

Last summer, while filming a new TV show along the Loire and its magnificent châteaux, I was reminded about the richness of French culture: from its hunting dogs to its mushroom caves; from its love of the cheese course to its love of love; from its extravagant Old Regime palaces to an artful knack for living well, whether you're a king or a peasant. It's no wonder Leonardo da Vinci — who was no dummy — decided to spend his last years in France.

If Michelin gave stars for high culture, France would boast its own galaxy. And the high culture of France — especially with a great tour guide — is impressively accessible. I know because over the years our wonderful guides have made this Germanophile and Italophile a Francophile as well. I've also learned that the more you know about France and its people, the more you enjoy France and the French.

Think of this month's Tour News as a soft French kiss. You'll learn about our sweet half-dozen itineraries for 2014, watch video clips of some of my favorite things to see and do in France, and get to know some of our merveilleux French guides. And as a special treat, you may see yourself in our video montage from January's big Tour Reunion and Test Drive a Tour Guide™ event.   

If you've traveled a lot — but haven't yet gotten as cozy as you could with France — let 2014 be the year that changes that. I hope you can join us.

Happy travels,