The Tour de France is underway, and for the first time in its history it begins in Yorkshire, which means over the next two days the world’s most famous cycling race will bring a slice of Gallic flair to places like Leeds, Huddersfield and Sheffield.
So, in celebration of this amalgamation of Yorkshire and French cultures, here is an entirely unscientific head-to-head between a county whose residents proclaim it to be 'God’s own county' and a country that is so arrogant it once voted itself the most arrogant in Europe.
For every Georges Danton there is a William Wilberforce, for every Emile Zola there is a Charlotte Bronte and for every Dr Antoine Louis (the man who invented the guillotine) there is a James Henry Atkinson (the man who invented the mousetrap). However, in terms of quality, quantity and sheer breadth of achievement (think Claude Monet, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Louis Pasteur), France wins hands down.
While the French might have a (fairly recent) World Cup under their belt and be home to sporting superstars such as Zinedine Zidane, Alain Prost and Bernard Hinault, you only have to look to the London Olympics to see that when it comes to athleticism, determination and competitiveness Yorkshire has it in abundance. During the Games, athletes from Yorkshire won a total of 12 medals including seven golds, placing Yorkshire twelfth in the overall medals table. Not bad for a place with a population of only 6 million.
France means food. They have 25 different restaurants that hold three Michelin stars; nine of these are in Paris alone. It is also one of the world’s biggest wine makers, producing 8 billion bottles a year. In addition to this, search any top ten list of the world’s greatest cuisines and French food will usually be found near the top. Yorkshire may not be internationally renowned for haute cuisine (as delicious as Yorkshire Puddings and Henderson’s Relish might be), but it does have more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other English county and, with breweries like Thornbridge and Saltaire, it has some of the best places to get real ale in Britain.
Places to go:
If you were going to use one word to sum up whether France or Yorkshire had better places to visit or go on holiday, it would have to be Riviera. The French Riviera stretches along the Mediterranean Sea and takes in the sunny and glamorous coastal resorts of Cannes, Monaco and Nice. The Yorkshire equivalent is the stretch of coast between the perfectly pleasant but far less exotic Scarborough and Whitby. The Yorkshire Dales provide great getaways for the avid rambler, but these cannot match up to the sheer scale of The Alps. Even for the kids, Flamingo Land Malton doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as Disneyland Paris.
From east to west, Yorkshire is littered with diverse landmarks and buildings that tell of its rich history. It has a ridiculous number of castles, including York, which has stood for nearly a millennium, as well as massive mills across the West of Yorkshire - the buildings that were the lungs of Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Nevertheless, France is pretty much a landmark in itself. Aside from Paris – which is stuffed full with the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Le Sacre-Coeur and Notre Dame, there is also Le Mont Saint Michel in Brittany, the fortified town of Carcassonne, Reims Cathedral and Le Pont de Normandie. France has so many landmarks it has even been known to give some away, as the Statue of Liberty, New York’s most famous monument, proves.