Visas: National residents of the EU, the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Israel do not need visas to visit France, as tourists for up to three months. Almost everyone else must have a visa. Public holidays: New Year’s Day; Good Friday; Holy Saturday; Easter Monday; Ascension Eve; Ascension; Labour Day (1 May); Victory 1945 (8 May); Whit Sunday & Whit Monday; Bastille Day (14 July); Assumption Eve; Assumption (15 Aug); All Saints’ Eve; All Saints’ Day (1 Nov); Armistice Day (11 Nov); Law of 20 December 1906; Law of 23 December 1906; Christmas Eve; Christmas Day; New Year’s Eve. Good buys: Wine, Champagne, cheese, pâté. Local dishes: Rich and varied, as France is the world leader in gastronomic terms. Trademark dishes include confit de canard, cassoulet, bouillabaise (fish soup), foie gras, ratatouille, escargots and Chateau Briand. A typical day’s eating begins with a bowl of café au lait, a croissant and a thin loaf of bread smeared with butter and jam. An appetite-stirring apéritif such as kir (white wine sweetened with syrup) is often served before a meal, while a digestif (cognac or Armagnac brandy) may be served at the end of a meal. Other beverages designed to aid digestion and stimulate conversation include espresso, beer, liqueurs such as pastis (a 90-proof, anise-flavoured cousin of the long-outlawed absinthe) and some of the best wine in the world. Good reading: Les Misérables or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Germinal by Émile Zola, and Baroness Orczy’s French Revolution blockbuster The Scarlet Pimpernel. More modern writing includes The Scapegoat, by one of France’s most popular authors, Daniel Pennac.