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is my native country. It is a fascinating place. In my many travels throughout
the country, I have enjoyed great art in Paris, from the Italian classics to the
Dutch masters to the Impressionists, and I have explored modern art museums on
the sunny French Riviera. I have admired the amazing architecture of the many
Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, medieval and Renaissance castles and palaces
of all styles, and even remnants of Roman construction. Needless to say, I have
also tasted the crisp wines of the Loire Valley, the fullbodied reds of Bordeaux
and Burgundy, rosé wines in the south of France and champagne in Champagne.
Cuisine, wine, French history - and, of course, Paris - are the soul of France.
Im happy to share my experiences with you. More travel stories on France
at Our Trip Stories.
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by Circa Tours
over 15 million international visitors each year, Paris is the most popular tourist
destination on earth. The City of Light is the world capital of art, cuisine,
wine, fashion and many other refined things western civilization has to offer.
There is so much to see and do in this beautiful city!
The Eiffel Tower. It may come as a surprise, but this universally known
symbol of Paris was considered a monstrosity by many when it was erected for the
World Exhibition of 1889. In fact, it was intended as a temporary structure to
be dismantled after the fair. Well, it didnt come down and the rest is history.
At 1,063 feet tall it can be seen from miles around. It is the most visited tourist
attraction in the modern world. The tower has three levels for visitors. You can
go up to the first and second levels using either the stairs or the escalators.
The walk to the first level is over 300 steps, as is the walk from level 1 to
level 2. Elevators take you to the top. The first and second levels have restaurants:
the 58 Tour Eiffel and the Michelin one-star Jules Verne respectively. The tower
offers great views of Paris, especially on the first and second levels, where
recognizing surrounding sites and buildings is easier as they are seen from a
shorter distance. Next to the tower is the Parc du Champ-de-Mars, a large, peaceful
park filled with flowering trees and green lawns.
Le Louvre Museum.
This 16th-century royal palace is the grandiose setting for a treasure trove of
art and antiquities. The museum offers over 200 rooms filled with collections
(over 30,000 works of art) that cover the ancient civilizations of Egypt, Greece
and Rome, along with many important works of art from the Middle Ages to the 1850s
(Italian Renaissance, French Neoclassicism and French Romanticism). The most famous
painting, of course, is Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Ancient sculptures such
as the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace are also big tourist
attractions. Le Louvre is huge, so seeing it in a single visit is not realistic.
The best way is to be selective and focus on one or two sections at a time and
enjoy a more indepth visit. The main entrance is architect I. M. Peis now
iconic glass pyramid located in the front courtyard.
Notre Dame Cathedral.
A masterpiece of French Gothic architecture dating back to the 12th century is
located in the center of Paris on the ancient Ile de la Cite, an island in the
Seine River. This massive structure took close to 200 years to complete. The magnificent
façade is decorated with grimacing gargoyles and magnificently carved portals
depicting saints and biblical scenes. Slender flying buttresses abound all around
the other three sides. Natural light coming through spectacular stained-glass
windows bathes the elegant interior. You can get a close-up view of the gargoyles
and a panoramic view of Paris by climbing the 387 steps to the top of the north
Other places of interest:
featuring Place du Tertre with its numerous artists, and the imposing basilica
of the Sacre Coeur on top of the highest point in Paris with views over the city
busy and fashionable Champs Elysees with the Arc de Triomphe at
one end and Place de la Concorde at the other
the Impressionists at the Orsay, Orangerie and Marmotan museums
a spectacular display of modern art, the Pompidou Center with, next to
it, the Stravinski fountain displaying some of Jean Tinguely and Nikki
de St Phalles whimsical sculptures
Grévin wax museum. If you've always wanted to meet Pablo Picasso, Albert
Einstein or Louis XIV, go and say hello to their wax twins
Carnavalet dedicated to the history of Paris
Cluny Medieval Museum with the tapestry of the 5 senses and
the lady and the Unicorn
du Quai Branly showing primitive arts of Asia, Australia, Africa and the Americas
(Jean Nouvel, architect)
Rodin with some of the sculptors most famous pieces (the Thinker, Balzac
and the Burgers of Calais) scattered around a peaceful French garden, surrounding
an elegant villa a stone throw from the Eiffel Tower. His famous Hands
are also displayed inside the mansion
Jacquemart-André, a magnificent collection of Italian, French and Dutch
classic art in a richly decorated Parisian mansion
(a short distance from Notre Dame) an absolute gem of Gothic architecture
wide choice of beautiful public gardens: Bagatelle, the Tuileries,
Parc Citroen, Parc Monceau, Parc des Buttes de Chaumont, Palais du Luxembourg,
Botanical Gardens, Albert Kahn gardens, La Promenade Plantee, etc.
Cler, a neighborhood street away from the main tourist attractions. It is
lined with mouth-watering
bakeries, patisseries, charcuteries, cheese shops,
wine shops, fresh fruit, vegetable and fish stands, leisurely cafes and small
restaurants. A place where real Parisians actually shop and live. A more personal
and intimate encounter with the big city
Germain des Pres, the Latin Quarter, le Marais district, etc.
TRIPS OUTSIDE PARIS (also see "Paris' Immediate
Champagne, the Loire Valley, Normandy (see descriptions below) are only a
day trip from Paris. Leave the city in the morning and be back at your hotel in
Paris the same day in the evening.
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Palace of Versailles. In the late 17th century, Louis XIV (the Sun King) commissioned
the best architects, landscape designers and artists of the day (Le Vau, Le Notre
and Le Brun respectively) to renovate a former hunting lodge located 13 miles
outside Paris. Their mission was to turn the place into the most amazing palace
ever built. They succeeded and the result is a magnificent palace with grandiose
French gardens. The best place to start is in the Kings and Queens
state apartments (Les Grands Appartements) on the ground floor. Then continue
on to the Royal Chapel and the famous Hall of Mirrors
(Galerie des Glaces),
once the scene of lavish banquets and site of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles
at the end of World War I. These opulent living quarters reveal a level of wealth
and refinement seldom seen
French gardens are equally dazzling: large expanses of geometric flower beds unrolling
like colorful carpets adorned with ornate fountains, graceful statues, and placid
grand canals waiting for sumptuous boating parties. The grounds are also the site
of two smaller palaces: the pastel-pink Grand Trianon (opulent but on a more human
scale) and the neoclassical Petit Trianon.
short distance away is Marie-Antoinettes Hamlet, a private retreat
from her official court duties and the pressures of royalty. The hameau
is a charming replica of a rustic village of thatch-roofed, half-timbered cottages,
streams, ponds and farm buildings set in an idyllic landscape. One would want
to live there forever, but Marie-Antoinette had no such luck.
Claude Monet's house, the epicenter of the Impressionist world, surrounded by
colorful gardens, the famous water lily pond and Japanese bridge covered with
fragrant wisterias. Next door to the artists residence is the new Musée
A few miles from Giverny is another famous
art venue, Auvers sur Oise, where Vincent Van Gogh worked on some of his
most famous paintings and lived the last hundred days of his tormented life. The
desolate bedroom where he so tragically died, upstairs from the Auberge Ravoux,
is open to the public.
Fontainebleau, a lavish Renaissance style
palace with elaborate gardens and a favorite residence of many French kings as
well as Napoleon, and Vaux le Vicomte, a mini Versailles, both located
a short distance south of Paris.
Other places of interest:
magnificent Gothic cathedral
Chateau of Chantilly in the Versailles style with French gardens, only
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and bucolic Normandy is a relaxing diversion to Paris fast pace. Popular
visits to the region include the iconic Mont St Michel, the historical
D-Day beaches, Caen with a well-documented WWII memorial, Bayeux
and its famous tapestry; Rouen, a medieval town of half-timbered houses;
Le Havre with an interesting Fine Art Museum and Honfleur, the cradle
There is no grape-growing in Normandy, but apple
trees thrive in this cool climate. A visit to the region would not be complete
without tasting the local cidre (low alcohol apple wine) and Calvados
(apple brandy made from distilled apple cider). And, not to be overlooked are
the wonderful local cheeses, the most famous of which are: Camembert, Livarot
and Pont l'Eveque (all named after villages in the area).
where Normandy meets Brittany, the Mont St Michel is one of the finest
examples of medieval architecture (a Romanesque and Gothic mixture) and, as such,
is classified as a World Heritage site. This historic monument is a fortified
Benedictine abbey perched on top of a rock formation at the edge of the English
Channel. At high tide it is an island but it is part of the continent at low tide.
Today, a permanent causeway connects the islet to the continent so that visitors
have easy access at all times. Legend has it that in 708 A.D. the bishop of Avranches
had a vision of the Archangel Michael, who ordered that a place of worship be
built on this site. The abbey includes a 13th-century dining hall, a church and
a cloister. With some 3 million+ visitors a year, it is a very popular tourist
D-Day Beaches. The
end of World War II started when Allied forces (some 175,000 troops in an armada
of over 5,000 boats) landed on the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944. The Battle
of Normandy resulted in over 400,000 casualties on both sides during two and a
half months of bloody fighting.
75-mile stretch of coastline just north of Caen and Bayeux is dotted with many
memorials, reminding us of the events that changed the course of history. Arromanches
is the start of this journey recounting the horrific events of D-Day. The deadliest
fighting took place at Omaha Beach. It is commemorated by the American
Cemetery near Colleville-sur-Mer, with 9,387 graves marked by white crosses
and Stars of David. Another reminder is the Musee Omaha, where weapons and vehicles
left on the beach are on display.
west, Pointe du Hoc is the site where U.S. Army Rangers scaled the cliffs
under devastating enemy fire to capture a German stronghold. Continuing west are
Utah Beach and the Landing Museum. And inland, a 30-minute drive from the
beaches, is Sainte Mere l'Eglise (made famous in the movie "The Longest
Day"), where paratroopers landed off target (two of them getting caught on
the church steeple). Sainte Mere was the first village to be liberated by the
most interesting attraction is The Mémorial de Caen, a Center for
the History for Peace. This memorial is a museum commemorating the Second World
War and the battle for Caen. The original building deals primarily with World
War II, looking at the causes and course of the conflict. It presents the events
which led up to the the invasion of Normandy, the D-Day landings and their aftermath.
An extension focusing on the Cold War was opened in 2002. So, visitors can get
a glimpse of what life was like before and after the Berlin Wall and how Europe
was divided into the Eastern and Western bloc. The well-organized exhibits and
video displays will help you understand (and for some re-live) these tragic events
from our recent history.
boasts the fabulous Tapestry of Bayeux, (technically an embroidered cloth 18 inches
tall by some 230 feet long) depicting the 1066 battle of Hastings and the conquest
of England by the Normans. This is an amazing display and a one-of-a-kind piece
of craftsmanship. It is also an educational tool (in a way, the precursor of animated
films) that recounts a fascinating piece of European history. The town of Bayeux
was spared much of the bombing during the D-Day invasion, so it has retained its
quaint old-fashioned charm. Not to be missed on your walk around the city center
is its elegant Gothic cathedral.
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Loire Valley, just south of Paris, is also known as the Chateau Country
of France. It boasts hundreds of historic chateaus ranging from fortified medieval
fortresses to neoclassical manors. For centuries the Val de Loire has been the
playground of the kings of France, hence the plethora of some of the handsomest
architecture in the world. Following is a short list of the most spectacular and
most commonly visited.
with stunning views over the valley. It is filled with luxurious rooms and
Lucé (a stones throw from Amboise), where Leonardo da Vinci lived
for the last few years of his life. It contains scale models of some of his inventions.
a massive building in the center of town with an elegant mixture of 16th-century
Gothic and 17th-century classical
a typical Renaissance construction, was originally a royal hunting
lodge. It is also famous for its double-spiral staircase.
a smaller but lavishly decorated country residence
more medieval in style, including a draw bridge. Its renown is also due to its
exquisitely creative International Garden Festival every year.
the quintessential Renaissance chateau (and a very popular destination) spanning
the River Cher and surrounded by beautiful rose and formal French gardens.
not as imposing as the others, but well known for the sophisticated decorative
and vegetable gardens that surround it
there are others: Azay-le-Rideau, Langeais, Chinon, Ussé (the setting
for Sleeping Beauty) and dozens more.
lovers will not be disappointed when touring the Loire Valley. Around the city
of Tours (where most of the castles are located ) are the Vouvray, Bourgueuil,
Chinon and Montlouis appellations. There are others (Muscadet, Sancerre,
Rose d'Anjou...), but they are a little farther away along the Loire River.
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region is famous for its bubbly wine, of course, and many champagne houses/wineries
are open for visits and wine tastings. Not to be missed while in the area is the
magnificent Gothic cathedral in Reims (pronounced like the word "France"
without the "F").
- Notre Dame Cathedral. Along with Paris, Amiens, Beauvais and Chartres, this
is one of the most famous
cathedrals in France. Started in 1211, it is the personification of Gothic architecture
in all its glory. Many kings of France were crowned there, as tradition required.
In addition to its resplendent and elegant Gothic style it also boasts an unusual,
small touch of the modern: a luminous set of three stained-glass windows by Marc
Chagall, harmoniously blending delightful tones of blue, green and red.
of the most famous champagne houses are located in Reims: Krug, Mumm, Piper-Heidsieck,
Pommery, Ruinart, Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot.
is located 16 miles south of Reims in the rolling hills of the Champagne wine
region. Some 250 miles of cellars and tunnels, where millions of bottles of sparkling
wine are kept, lie within its chalky foundations. Among the major champagne companies
to be found in Epernay are Moet & Chandon, Mercier, Pol Roger, Heidsieck and
Castellane (a dozen or so line a one-mile stretch of road fittingly named Avenue
de Champagne). The major Champagne houses offer wine tastings and tours
which take visitors on joy rides in little trains zipping around the cellars,
past dusty bottle racks and huge wooden barrels.
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is the province of France where I was born. This land of ancient Celtic culture,
is one of the most distinctive regions of France. A large peninsula jutting out
into the Atlantic Ocean, it is surrounded by a rugged coast and miles of beautiful
sandy beaches. It is known for its 365 islands (one for every day of the year).
Celtic legends abound in Brittany, from King Arthur and the Knights of the Round
Table to Merlins spring of eternal youth and the fairy Vivian.
surprisingly, seafood, including oysters and all kinds of shellfish, are the primary
culinary specialties of the region. Other distinctive delicacies are thin crepes
and the thicker galettes made with buckwheat flour, accompanied by locally produced
hard, fizzy apple cider.
rugged coast makes for stunningly scenic drives, especially around Roscoff, Tregastel
and Peros-Guirec in the north and also along the whole sunny south coast from
Quimper to La Baule.
the capital, has a cathedral, an old quarter, the Breton Parliament, a beautifully
restored 17th-century building, and a small fine arts museum.
of interest on the south coast:
with its half-timbered houses, arguably the quintessential Brittany town, is best
known for its charming faience (earthenware pottery), its HB Henriot faience factory
and the Musee de la Faience.
Aven. A charming village made famous by the painter Paul Gauguin. He and his
followers worked there for some time during the late 19th century.
One of the biggest fishing ports in France and a medieval walled village with,
fittingly, a very lively early morning fish market.
A prehistoric site with more than 3,000 menhirs (standing stones) aligned like
a Roman legion petrified by Merlin.
Baule (technically in the Pays de Loire region). A chic resort, with miles
of pristine beaches, reminiscent of the French Riviera.
(also technically in the Pays de Loire region). A fortified city on the edge of
La Grande Briere, a marsh area with picturesque salt flats along the coast.
of interest on the north coast:
Malo. This north coast popular beach resort coast was made prosperous in the
17th and 18th centuries, by pirates who brought their booty back to the security
of this heavily fortified seaport. Heavily damaged during WWII, the fascinating
old town has been beautifully restored. At low tide you can take the causeway
to the Ile du Grand Be where the 18th-century writer Chateaubriand is buried.
Cote dEmeraude with its scenic coast and beautiful beaches (Dinard
and St Brieuc).
dramatic craggy coast between Peros-Guirec and Roscoff.
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are many areas in France for good food and excellent wines, but Burgundy is certainly
one of the first ones at the top of the list.
is the commercial and cultural capital of Burgundy. The Palais des Ducs
is a splendid reminder of the former empire controlled in medieval times by the
Dukes of Burgundy during the Middle Ages. It now houses a fine art museum. The
half-timbered houses of the historic center make for a charming stroll around
the old city. Another place of interest is the Musee de la Moutarde
devoted to the history and the production of the world-famous Dijon mustard.
de Vougeot, just south of Dijon, is a 12th-century castle built by monks for
their wine production. It is surrounded by lush vineyards, of course, and today
is the seat of the famous Brotherhood of the Knights of
Tastevin. It contains
four enormous 13th-century wine presses.
some 20 miles south of Dijon, is an exquisite medieval town. Its main attraction
is the Flemish-Gothic Hospice de Beaune where the famous, lavish Burgundy charity
wine auction is held every November. The signature feature of the building is
the distinctive brightly-colored tile roof. The original site was a hospital which
has been converted to a museum. In Beaune you can also visit the Museum of Burgundy
places of interest:
a stunning medieval abbey in pure Romanesque style
de Fontenay, another 12th-century masterpiece of Cistercian architecture
a 12th-century basilica with a blend of Romanesque and Gothic architecture
making in Burgundy is a tradition going back a thousand years. Unlike Bordeaux,
where classifications are awarded to individual chateaus (Margaux, Yquem and Lafite
Rothschild, among the most famous), Burgundy classifications are more geographically
centered: Côte de Nuits, Côte de Beaune, Côte d'Or, Côte
Chalonnaise, Beaujolais and Chablis. As in other regions of France, Burgundy wines
have their own classifications: grand crus, premier crus, village and generic
Bourgogne. Red Burgundy wines are usually made from Pinot Noir grapes, and white
Burgundies from Chardonnay. Beaujolais primarily uses Gamay grapes.
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region is alluring for many reasons: Roman architecture, Medieval history, scenic
tours around the countryside, art and of course wine.
universally known for the nursery rhyme sur le pont dAvignon...
(the famous Benezet Bridge, stretching halfway across the Rhone River) is an ancient
town defended by mighty crenellated ramparts.
It was a major religious center
in the Middle Ages, hence the massive Palais de Papes, which served as a fortress,
a church and a residence for 7 successive popes during the 14th century. This
quaint city is better
appreciated for the ambiance of its narrow streets, ubiquitous
cafes and trendy shops. Located in the heart of Provence, Avignon is a perfect
base for the exploration of the surrounding countryside.
a sleepy town on the Rhone River, has significant Roman architecture: an arena
and an amphitheater still in use today. But it is mostly famous as the place where
post-Impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh spent a couple of years. Paul Gauguin
joined him there for a short time, but their friendship didnt last. The
famous yellow house where Van Gogh lived was unfortunately destroyed
during WWII. But, strolling along the narrow streets, you can visualize what inspired
him: the sites for Starry Night and Terrace de Café le Soir among others.
Walking past Constantine's Baths and the Romanesque St Trophime cathedral throws
you back centuries.
in the heart of the Alpilles, Saint Rémy is one of the "must-sees"
in Provence. Its ancient streets are lined with beautifully restored houses, elegant
boutiques and colorful art galleries. The beauty of the countryside and the luminosity
of the region have attracted many artists to St Remy. Without a doubt, the most
famous was Vincent Van Gogh, who produced more than 150 paintings while he was
being treated for his mental illness in the local asylum. You can actually walk
to the places painted by the artist more
than a century ago and observe the
very same scenery he used for inspiration. Ceramic copies of his paintings are
placed in the spots where the artist set up his easel.
There are also some Roman ruins nearby: the temple and the natural spring of a
Gallo-Roman city, dating from 30 to 10 years before Christ. Two important monuments
are visible next to the site : l'Arc de Triomphe and the Mausolée des Antiques.
And farther up the hill, you can visit the impressive excavations at Glanum.
Cathedrale dImages. A short drive from St Remy and les Baux de Provence,
is this amazing show of images projected on the walls (over 30 high), ceilings
and floors of an abandoned limestone quarry carved deep into a mountain. The shows
are changed every few weeks. This is a lot of fun! Very well worth the detour.
Baux de Provence. Ruins of an old fortress in the Alpilles mountains, high
on top of a rocky outcrop with spectacular views of the plain below. A popular
stop for tourists with plenty of shops and cafes. Worth a visit while in the neighborhood.
Luberon regional park and its pretty perched villages is an exquisitely
scenic excursion among ancient abbeys, medieval castles, dry stone walls and -
when in bloom - fragrant lavender fields (best seen the last week of June and
during the month of July). Discover some of the "most beautiful villages
of France" : Gordes, Roussillon with its brightly ocher-colored rock formations,
Lacoste, Ménerbes and the Romanesque Abbey of Sénanque.
wild Rhone delta of Camargue (Parc Naturel Regional de Camargue). This
region is the marshy region where the Rhone River splits into two branches and
meets the Mediterranean. This vast area of pastures and wetlands is home to hundreds
of bird species the biggest of which are colorful flocks of pink flamingos. It
is also home to small, white, wild horses, native to the region as well as herds
of black bulls raised for local bullfighting events popular in the area (the bulls
are not killed, however, they spend their happy life running after
bullfighters, year in year out, until they finally grow too old for the type of
activity). The large farms/ranches called manades are run by a local
version of cowboys called guardians giving a little Wild West feel
to the region. Salt marshes with evaporation beds and rice fields are other typical
parts of this landscape.
architecture is abundant in the region. The best known site is at the world-famous
and massive aqueduct of Pont du Gard, built over 2,000 years ago. To this
add Orange, Vaison la Romaine, Nimes (see below) and Arles (see above): Orange
boasts an authentic Roman Arch, complete with friezes depicting the conquest of
Gaul by Julius Cesar and a Roman theater still used today as it was in the 1rst
century during the reign of Augustus Cesar. Vaison la Romaine is another
very impressive set of Roman ruins comparable to Pompeii in some ways with remnants
of walls decorated with frescoes and mosaics.
one of finest Roman cities of Gaul, boasts an amphitheatre still used today for
local "corridas" (the French version of Pamplonas running
of the bulls) and the Maison Carrée, a Roman temple to Apollo built
in 19 BC, one of the best-preserved Roman temples.
but not least are the vineyards of Provence. Discover some of the greatest
wine regions of the Côtes-du-Rhône just north of Avignon: Beaumes
de Venise, Gigondas, Vacqueyras and the world-renowned Châteauneuf du
Pape. If you like rosé wine, Tavel is in the neighborhood.
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RIVIERA (COTE DAZUR)
its glitzy film festivals, luxury yachts and beach lifestyle, the French Riviera
(known to the locals as la Cote dAzur - named after the striking
deep blue color of the Mediterranean) is one of the poshest seaside playgrounds
in Europe - a favorite place for queens, czars, princes and the rich and famous.
But common folks go there, too. The regions mild weather makes it a favorite
spot for vacationers from colder climes to the north. And, for decades, the sunshine
and unique ambient luminosity has also motivated hordes of artists to move there
(Picasso being the most well-known example). With all the region has to offer,
it should come as no surprise that this is a very busy place. Nice, at the epicenter
of it all, is an ideal base of operations for fun and exciting discoveries.
of the biggest reasons for visiting the French Riviera is modern art, and there
is lots of it everywhere: museums, galleries, outdoor sculptures, you name it...
Another reason is the Mediterranean ambiance and joie de vivre - a
sweet mixture of scenery, architecture, ancient villages, food, beach life, music,
etc. Heres a list of things to see when you get there:
- Musée des Beaux Arts. Art from the 17th to 20th century with works
by Jules Cheret, Raoul Dufy, Kees van Dongen, Eugene Boudin, Auguste Rodin among
others and ceramics by Picasso,
displayed in a sumptuous neo-classical villa.
- Musée d'Art Moderne. Avant-garde works by Andy Warhol, Nikki de Saint
Phalle, Jean Tinguely, Yves Klein, Christo and other modern artists in an ultra
- Matisse Museum. The worlds largest collection of the masters
works housed in a beautiful 17th-century Mediterranean villa.
- Chagall's Biblical Museum. The museum was built specifically for this copious
collection of Chagalls brightly colored paintings inspired by scenes from
the Old Testament.
- The tramway stations, a dozen or so of them decorated with whimsical modern
murals and sculptures from living artists (some of these works are best seen at
Paul-de-Vence - Maeght Foundation (Jose Luis Sert, architect). Modern art
by nearly every major artist of the 20th century: Sculptures by Miro, Giacometti,
Calder and others are scattered all around the shaded lawns and gardens. Equally
impressive collection on the inside: Chagall, Braque, Fernand Leger, etc.
- Picasso Museum, located in the Chateau Grimaldi where the artist worked
in 1946. Over 200 of his works are shown there: ceramics, tiles, vases, plates,
- Fernand Leger Museum featuring a works by the early 20thcentury artist,
including a sizeable collection of paintings, mosaics, stained-glass windows and
- Jean Cocteau Museum, just before the Italian border. This seaside museum
located in a 17th-century fortress highlights Cocteaus many talents: artist,
dramatist, poet, and filmmaker.
Napoule/Cannes - Henry Clews Museum. Unusual art by a lesser-known turn-of-the-century
American artist (Rodin was an acquaintance of his). Beautiful gardens with fountains
and topiary surrounding an austere seaside fortress.
- Renoir's House/Museum. The artist lived there from 1907 to 1919. The villa
displays a handful of his works and his studio can be visited (no abstract art
here but well worth the visit)
decorated by famous artists:
- Matisse's Chapel of the Rosary (Le Corbusier, architect). Quintessential
late Matisse. A modest chapel with some of his most simplified designs.
- Picasso's War and Peace Chapel and Museum. Murals depicting war on one side
and peace on the other. The subject and style are reminiscent of his famous Guernica
- Jean Cocteau's Chapelle St Pierre. A 17th-century chapel decorated with
Cannet/Cannes - Tobiasse's Chapelle St Sauveur. Brightly colorful murals using
a different kind of modern-day bas-reliefs painted with absolutely stunning results.
- Jean Cocteaus Wedding Room. More elegant frescoes by the French artist.
places of interest not related to art:
- Russian Orthodox Cathedral. Built in early 20th century by Czar Nicholas
II, complete with onion domes, gilded icons and colorful frescoes. Unusual for
the area but an amazing building.
- Promenade des Anglais. A four-mile beach-side boulevard lined with grand
hotels and other fine buildings.
Nice with colorful Belle Epoque buildings, ornate baroque churches, narrow
streets, a flower market and alluring shops.
Ferrat - The villa of Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild. An extravagant pastel-pink
palazzo with opulent interiors and nine gorgeous gardens (French, Spanish, Florentine,
roses, rare trees, exotic...) all decorated with fountains (musical), ponds, statuary
and shaded paths.
Ferrat - Villa Kerilos. A perfect replica of an Ancient Greek Villa from the
island of Delos.
- Perfumeries (Fragonard, Gallimar and Molinard). These functioning production
facilities are open for visits (and smell tests), as is the nearby International
Perfume Museum owned by the city of Grasse.
- The Exotic Gardens with thousands of cacti and succulents growing on a steep
cliff-side garden with magnificent views of the Mediterranean. Watch the changing
of the guard at the Princes Palace (every day at 11:55 am). Other visits
in Monaco: the Monte-Carlo Casino designed by Charles Grnier, the architect of
the Neo-Baroque Opera Garnier in Paris; and the Musee Oceanographique et Aquarium.
Turbie, high above Monaco. Ancient village and monument to Augustus Caesar
with great mviews of the Mediterranean.
A touristy but very pretty village with exotic gardens and a castle on top of
a promontory overlooking the Mediterranean (on a clear day you can see Corsica).
Pottery shops and artists at work.
Glass works and glass blowers at work.
The old town and the film festival hall.
Mortola, Italy - The Hanbury Gardens (only a few miles over the border). Tranquil
and luscious gardens with views of the Mediterranean and over 5,800 species of
Tropez, farther down the coast is a charming port town with elegant shops,
fine dining and luxury boats. Visit the Annonciade Museum with a long list of
post-Impressionist and Fauvist names: Bonnard, Braque, Derain, Dufy, Maillol,
Marquet, Matisse, Rouault, Seurat, Signac, Utrillo, Von Dongen, Vlaminck, Vuillard...
Some of them are lesser-known but theyre all good! Art lovers should also
visit the 10th century Chateau Suffren, one of the towns oldest buildings
(a museum in its own right) and host to various temporary international art exhibits
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Bordeaux region has 300,000 acres of vineyards and more than 500 chateaus
or domaines. The city is known for its well-preserved 18th-century
architecture, including the Grand Théâtre. The sweeping double stairway
in the lobby of the theater is said to have inspired the Paris opera house.
drive north through the vineyards of Médoc is a delightful panoramic
tour, a never-ending succession of beautiful chateaus pop up at every bend in
the road: here you see Chateau Pichon Baron and there Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
Over there is Chateau Lynch Bages and so on. Those are just a few of the many
famous names in this region.
another direction you reach St. Emilion. There again, famous French wine
appellations abound. But as a World Heritage Site, this is special area. Wine
production was introduced by the Romans and intensified in the Middle Ages. The
area benefited from its location on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela
in Spain, and many churches, monasteries and hospices were built there from the
11th century onwards. Most notable is the monolithic cathedral - a church carved
out of a hillside - in the town of St. Emilion.
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is the world capital of foie gras. Rustic, pastoral and bucolic are words that
come to mind when describing this region. The following is a sampling of what
there is to discover in the area.
restored Sarlat, at its center, is a medieval time capsule. Tucked among
hills adorned with corn and wheat, Sarlat is a quintessential medieval town (many
period movies have be shot on-location there).
Roque-Gageac is a magnificent picture postcard village, hanging
from a cliff and looking down on the picturesque Dordogne River.
is one of France's most visited sites. This quaint village is known for cheese
making and religious pilgrimages. According to legend, St. Amadour, a witness
to the martyrdom of St. Paul and St. Peter, traveled to the location and became
a hermit. Visit St. Amadour's crypt, our Lady's Chapel which contains a Black
Madonna and the 233-step Great Staircase (modern-day pilgrims can take an escalator
to the top.)
as in most places in France, the countryside is dotted with dozens of beautiful
castles: Castelnaud, Marqueyssac and Les Milandes among others. The latter
was made famous by its famous owner, Josephine Baker, a pre-WWII, Follies Bergeres,
African American dancer and singer.
is also the area our ancestor Cro Magnon used to call home. His presence
can still be felt at...
(most often the primary reason for a trip to Dordogne) is the setting of a complex
of caves famous for its prehistoric cave paintings. They contain some of the best-known
Upper Paleolithic art estimated to be 16,000 years old. They primarily consist
of realistic images of large animals. The complex was opened to the public in
1948. By 1955, the carbon dioxide produced by 1,200 visitors per day had visibly
damaged the paintings. So the cave was closed to the public in 1963. Reproductions
of some original cave artworks are now open to the public in Lascaux II, a replica
of two of the cave halls, a few hundred feet from the original.
caves in the area include: Font de Gaume with multicolored paintings of
some 200 animals, Cap Blanc with magnificent three dimensional sculptures
representing horses, Rouffignac with beautifully etched woolly mammoths,
horses, goats, etc., Pech Merle, and Combarelle with its engravings.
Eyzies de Tayac. South of Lascaux, features the National Museum of Prehistory.
This interesting museum offers displays
of artifacts, skeletons, and full-size models of Cro Magnon people and animals.
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above - right)
the high point of a trip to the region of Languedoc in the south of France,
is the largest fortified city in Europe. With 53 towers and enormous ramparts
defending the entire city, it is an impressive sight. It completely dominates
the horizon as you approach, and its massiveness does not disappoint when you
enter the draw-bridge gate. It is huge, it is medieval and it also attracts lots
of tourists. As a World Heritage Site, it is a "must-see" and well worth
the detour. Dating from the time of Charlemagne, it has been extensively restored
and looks magnificent. You can walk along the ramparts, visit the Chateau Comptal,
shop in the boutiques lining the cobbled streets, visit galleries and museums
and get a feel for life in the Middle Ages.
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between the Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River and ruled at various times over
the centuries by both France and Germany, Alsace is a delightful blend
of European cultures. The local cuisine reflects these influences very well: choucroute
(sauerkraut), muenster cheese and Riesling wine (among many other delicacies).
the capital of the region, is a very important political center. It houses the
European Parliament and the European Court of Human Rights. It is also home to
a beautiful Gothic cathedral built from sandstone of a unique pinkish color
(hence its nickname: "the pink cathedral"). Near the cathedral is the
Petite France quarter, with its network of canals and narrow cobbled streets
and its beautiful timber-framed houses adorned by the iconic geranium-bedecked
windows. In addition to strolling around the old section you can enjoy two fun
activities in this beatiful city: A leisurely boat ride along the canals, past
the European Parliament and, since wine is usually the primary reason for visiting
Alsace, a visit (including wine tasting) to the Cave Historique des Hospices
de Strasbourg, located in the city center.
of Strasbourg is the famous 90-mile-long "Route des Vins" (Wine
Road) that winds its way through the foothills of the Vosges Mountains down to
Colmar. Not to be missed between wine tastings are the many charming villages
such as Kaysersberg, Ribeauville, Riquewihr and many more.
must-see on this route is the massive medieval fortress of Haut Koenigsbourg
with its stunning panoramic views of the the Rhine valley.
with its cobbled streets and pitched-roof houses, is the quintessential Alsatian
town. The Musee d'Unterlinden (with Grunevald's gripping Issenheim Alterpiece)
by itself makes the visit to this destination worthwhile.
small piece of trivia... La Marseillaise, the French national anthem, was
written in Strasbourg in 1792 by by a young army engineer by the name of Rouget
you have it - my personal take on where to go in France for fun and exciting travel
experiences! Obviously, it would take more than a few pages to paint a complete
picture of Frances heritage and culture. I havent touched on the subject
of food, for example. As we all know, France is known for its cuisine. Case in
point, the hundreds of Michelin-starred restaurants scattered all over the countryside.
There is hardly a place in the whole country where you are not within striking
distance of one of them. Paris alone has close to a dozen 3-star establishments,
over a dozen 2-stars and over forty 1-stars. France is par excellence
the place for divine culinary experiences!
goal in this document is simply to give a summary of the most popular destinations
in France (not to write a travel book - there are plenty of those). So, I hope
these brief musings will encourage you to start planning your next Gallic expedition.
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