Using the web to explore France
Using Internet sources to gather information about three different
towns each month and then to write a short piece with useful links
to help you explore France. The aim was not to write a tourist guide,
but a simple reference for you to find your own information.
is organized into 12 regions which are divided into a total of 95
departments, each department has a prefecture (administrative capital).
You can see a map and listings at http://goto-france.com/departments/
. All towns have a Hotel de Ville (town hall) and these are usually
the best places to start looking for information.
first three towns selected, Bordeaux, Dijon and Montpellier, are
both their regional and departmental capitals. They are the centers
of three of the most important wine growing areas in France and
also important tourist areas, so it would seem likely that there
would be a wealth of information available on-line.
as I believe this is the fastest and largest search engine - anyway
I like it; it is the default search engine for Yahoo. For Bordeaux
there were 990,000 pages listed, for Dijon 234,000 pages and for
Montpellier 367,000. I only looked at the top 30 pages for the single
word search for each town, plus the "I feel lucky" button
which Google has.
website I was looking for was the official site made for the department
or region where I expected to find maps, addresses and information
about the towns and region.
Bordeaux. The pages can be requested in English and Japanese as
well as French. The English site is at http://www.bordeaux-tourisme.com/gb.
They offer an e-zine every 2 months. There are very few links, there
is one to the Gironde tourism page http://www.tourisme-gironde.cg33.fr/
and some broken links (when I tried them) to the official wine sites.
The page offering practical information was pointless, until I accidentally
clicked on the map of the world and then on the map of France. This
then gave me a page of airlines and travel information on how to
get to Bordeaux. This was the only page on the site which actually
had relevant information. I could find nothing about property, no
maps, and very little about accommodation even on the Gironde tourism
Some pages are in English but most of the site is in French. The
best feature is an excellent street map which can be downloaded
as a pdf file. There are also two general guides in pdf format,
one with useful addresses for new inhabitants and another for senior
citizens, these guides are only available in French. As with Bordeaux,
I could find nothing about property or real estate. Tourist information
is on their sister site http://www.ot-dijon.fr/.
The English version is under construction and the French version
has very little to offer apart from a list of hotels which you would
get better from any guide book.
Montpellier. http://www.ville-montpellier.fr/. I like webcams, but
I prefer to chose when I look at one, they are time consuming. I
really do not like having one as the main page when I ask to look
for information about the town, anyway it is a particularly boring
webcam. The site is slow and uninformative. I tried http://www.montpellier.mediterranee.org/
thinking this was a private site, but it just linked me back to
the same boring official site. More useful, slightly, was the site
for Montpellier airport http://www.montpellier.aeroport.fr/, this
has flight information and a link to the official tourism site for
the region http://www.cr-languedocroussillon.fr:8008/, The site
uses flash for all the pages, why is a mystery as most of the pages
are just text in French. If you persevere with this site you eventually
end up with new windows opening until your computer locks up, but
eventually you are led to some commercial sites for campsites and
These three official town and tourist sites were easy to find. The
single word search brought them to the top of the search engine.
The "I feel lucky" choice did not give me anything interesting
common with a lot of tourism sites, these seem to have been made
more for the benefit of the website designer than the surfer. I
can imagine the sales pitch given by the design company praising
flash, frames and tricks with graphics. Loading times were poor
but not unacceptable. However, for all the graphics I waited to
be loaded, there were very few informative or interesting photographs.
In the case of Montpellier, there was no indication I could find
of where the city is.
the other sites in the top 30 listings were either mirror sites
of these official sites or of no use for finding out information
relating to the towns. For Montpellier there are still a large number
of Football 1998 (World Cup) soccer sites which have been left on-line.
seems strange that with so much information available on-line, so
little useful material seems to be provided for visitors about these
now, my advice is to stick to guide books, you will usually get
a singular perspective from the writers point of view, but there
are plenty of books and you can quickly get a list from Amazon.
will continue to investigate all on-line sources to try to build
a useful compendium of websites for visitors to France.