Pól Ó Conghaile: Why we love France, the most visited country in the world
Vive la France?
From the City of Light to the Cote d'Azur, France is the world's favourite tourist destination - and will remain so after the Charlie Hebdo attacks.
Did you know France is the most visited country in the world?
Perhaps that's no surprise. While Ireland enjoyed home advantage in this weekend's Six Nations clash with Les Bleus, I'm sure many supporters will have wished the Valentine's Day fixture was in Paris.
Throw in the Cote d'Azur, ferry breaks to Brittany, skiing in the French Alps and iconic destinations ranging from Provence to Bordeaux, and the country's enduring popularity seems a no-brainer. Some 85 million tourists visited last year. No other country on the planet topped 70 million.
Cast your mind back to January 7, however, when two terrorist gunmen forced their way into the offices of satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. The heart-breaking scenes that followed left a trail of devastation, but they also left tourists - understandably - mulling over whether to cancel their trips.
The message from France itself has been loud and clear. Similar to then-Mayor Rudi Giuliani, who urged tourists to visit New York City after 9/11, the country has been campaigning to reassure visitors. It's hoping numbers recover as swiftly as they did following the terrorist attacks in Madrid and London.
Jillian Bolger has several reasons to visit in Perfect Paris on page 34-35. I'd add eye-catching deals at Disneyland Paris, and the Jeff Koons retrospective at the Centre Pompidou (to April 27).
We'll always have Paris!
Vive la France!
Irish Ferries (irishferries.com) and Stena Line (stenaline.ie) are offering a 10pc discount to motorists travelling to France, provided you book before February 17. Irish Ferries sails to Cherbourg and Roscoff from €129 for a car plus two people. Stena, which recently cut its Dun Laoghaire service, sails from Rosslare to Cherbourg. Brittany Ferries (brittanyferries.ie) sails from Cork to Roscoff, the shortest crossing from Ireland at 14 hours.
The Dean Hotel, Dublin
Left it late to book a Valentine's Day break? No need to panic... yet. Better late than never, Dublin's Dean Hotel (thedean.ie) has a nifty 'Valentine's Schmalentines' offer ("for those who could've, would've, should've, but didn't!"). Available from tomorrow, February 15, to Thursday, it costs from €125pp and includes B&B along with cocktails on arrival, dinner in Sophie's rooftop restaurant and a late check-out for that all important lie-in.
To book the best value holiday package anywhere, see travel.independent.ie