French history

girafe in paris

Her Highness the Giraffe, and other exotic specimens in 19th century Paris

On 30 June, 1827, an enormous crowd gathered in the streets of Paris, understandably so, for the sight they beheld was quite unusual. For the first time ever, towering high above the people, there was a giraffe in Paris. Nicknamed ‘Her Highness’, the giraffe was a gift from the Egyptian Pasha Mehemet-Ali to Charles X, …

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From coast to mountain, from champagne to red wine, there are almost 200 exquisite cathedrals to explore. Here is my list of the 10 most beautiful cathedrals in France

The 10 most beautiful cathedrals in france

From medieval stone crypts to soaring Gothic arches, from carved rose windows to sky-high spires. the cathedrals of France are simply magnificent. There is no other place in the world where the steeples of bell towers dot every corner of the landscape, or as the French saying goes, de clocher en clocher . Every small village has its church, and every region has at least one glorious cathedral rising to the heavens. There are almost 200 exquisite cathedrals to explore. Here is my list of the 10 most beautiful cathedrals in France.

lost royal chateaux

The lost royal châteaux of France

In a country with thousands of beautiful châteaux, it’s easy to imagine that any could simply be lost to history. War, weather, revolutions and natural disasters have all taken their toll on the built landscape. But lost royal châteaux? Today we can still visit many of the many palaces and châteaux which have harboured the French kings and queens over the past thousand years. Others have been razed to the ground, and only in our imagination can we glimpse the pomp and glamour of royal life.

Marie Antoinette and the Temple of Love

In the grounds of the Petit Trianon, the beloved neoclassical villa of Marie Antoinette, sits one of her follies – le Temple de l’Amour, or Temple of Love. Each morning, as she rose from her luxurious bed and glanced out the window, the sight of its elegant Greek-style cupola filled her heart with joy. Marie Antoinette may have loved jewels and fabulous new dresses, and knew how to party, but she also craved the peace and solitude which was completely lacking in the ornate and formal world of the Palace of Versailles. This, she found in the gardens of her Petit Trianon, in her Temple dedicated to Love.

presidential dinner

How to host a presidential dinner

In November 1975, an important world event took place – the first ‘Group of Six’, or G6 summit was held. French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing invited the other five largest and richest industrialised nations – UK, USA, West Germany, Italy and Japan – to a three day summit in a beautiful château surrounded by an ancient forest. There were informal chats, serious meetings about the world economy, and presidential dinners in a sumptuous salle à manger. Versailles? No. Chambord? No. Only 48 kilometres from Paris, the setting for this momentous event was…

history of french cooking

8 surprising facts in the history of French cooking

What comes to mind when you think of French cooking? Snails cooked in butter? Fried frogs legs? Haute cuisine, or the rustic and hearty dishes of the countryside like coq au vin and bœuf bourguignon? Here are 8 things in the history of French cooking that may surprise you.

Riding the Blue Train to Nice

Feeling the winter blues? Take a ride on the exclusive Train Bleu, all the way to the sun-drenched coast of the French Riviera. You’ll be in good company – the Blue Train to Nice saw the likes of The Prince of Wales and Wallis Simpson, Coco Chanel, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and all manner of celebrities.

The death of Marie Antoinette

Should you go looking for the prison cell in which Marie-Antoinette spent her last few months, it no longer exists. Imprisoned in the former medieval fortress of the Conciergerie on the Quai d’Horloge in the centre of Paris before her ‘trial’ and death, the dank and dark cell in which she rested, alone, unable even to kiss her children goodbye, was later turned into a memorial. The death of Marie-Antoinette by the sharp blade of the guillotine may have been quick, but her death sentence began well before.

why was marie antoinette unpopular

The life of Queen Marie-Antoinette, Part 2

At a ball in 1781, Marie-Antoinette was dressed in a blue gown all sprinkled with sapphires and diamonds; beautiful, young, adored by all, having just given a Dauphin to France, not dreaming of the possibility of a backward step in her brilliant career, she was already on the edge of the abyss. What happened to the Queen, and why was she so unpopular in France?

when was marie antoinette queen

The life of Queen Marie Antoinette, Part 1

When Marie-Antoinette arrived in France she was initially adored for her youth, her beauty, her vitality, her generous nature. The old king Louis XV was especially enamoured with his grandson’s new bride. But the palace of Versailles, steeped in courtly rituals and traditions, was not for the faint-hearted. Would she be strong enough to survive life at the palace?

The childhood of Marie Antoinette

On 2 November 1755, a tiny but healthy baby girl entered the world. Not an ordinary world, hers was the sprawling royal Hofburg complex in Vienna where kings and queens had been born since the 13th century. Nor was she an ordinary baby girl; she was Marie-Antoinette, Archduchess of Austria, who would be crowned Queen of France whilst still a teenager. She was born into privilege and wealth but would end her days in a dank prison on the Seine river; her life would be horrendously cut short by a revolutionary government thirsting for revenge. Here is the first of a series of articles on the life of Marie-Antoinette – daughter, wife, queen, mother, a fashion icon and a hated symbol of a repressive regime.

why are there no French Queens?

For as long as there have been queens in France, there has never been a female monarch. No daughters of the King, the princesses of royal blood, have succeeded to the French crown and ruled in their own right. Why?

How well do you know your French desserts?

Decadent, luscious, velvety smooth, creamy and wonderfully delicious. How many French desserts have you savoured in achingly slow bites, to draw out every explosion of delight in your mouth.

Take my quiz and show everyone just how much you know about French desserts.

women march on versailles

The women march on Versailles

Take yourself back to the markets of Les Halles, Paris, exactly 231 years ago, and join the women who will march on Versailles. These women were wives and mothers and tired of endlessly waiting in line for bread for their families. They took whatever weapon they could get their hands on, found a spare cannon …

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Was Catherine de Medici really an evil queen?

The evil and wicked Catherine de Medici was a Queen consort, a Queen regent, and the mother to three French kings. Her reputation through the ages is one of a diabolical woman who strove for power, sacrificing her children, her country and her principles. History tells us she

A short but sweet history of the macaron

A truly French macaron is elegant, stylish, colourful and filled with deliciousness. But where did it come from, and why is the macaron so popular?

Bastille day in France

Bastille Day in France

The 14th of July is Bastille Day in France, and it is the best holiday of the year. For me it means a long weekend camping with the kids, fireworks at 11pm when the sun finally goes down, and walks along the coast. But it’s not called Bastille Day if you’re in France. It is …

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