Ahh Paris. City of light, city of lovers, city of dreams. But there’s no need to be missing Paris right now, you can visit its wonders from the comfort of your own couch.
Christmas in France is a wonderful time of the year. Everyone is in a festive spirit when they visit their local marché de Noël, drinking mulled wine or a hot chocolate to warm your hands in the cold, or the snow if you’re lucky. You might be in Paris and peer into the dazzling window displays of Printemps. There’s the traditions of Christmas Eve, the Reveillon, where families attend midnight mass together and take their exquisite seafood dinner late into the night. And don’t forget to listen for the bells of père Noël. Here are some of my favourite images of a French Christmas.
Open the page for a special French Christmas wonderland…
High on a sandy hill, tucked comfortably amongst the fragrant pine trees and looking over the breathtaking Bassin d’Arcachon, is the Ville d’Hiver, or Winter Town. An eclectic mix of ornate brick mansions, limestone houses and swiss style chalets, it’s a must-see on your visit to Arcachon. The tree-lined streets offer shade and serenity, and as you take a walk along the quiet streets, the exquisitely decorated facades of every colour are a window into the past.
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.
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 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?
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.
The year is 1984. A French radio journalist and his crew have descended upon the Château de Veauce, in the village of the same name, the tiniest village in the Allier department. They are hoping to catch a glimpse of the famous Lucie, the White Lady who materialises in the medieval tower at midnight, making the château one of the most haunted houses in France.
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?
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.
Classical and elegant, yet bold and brilliant, the city of Bordeaux has something for everyone. If you love wine, it’s among the best in the world. If you love food, there is foie gras and canelés. If you love history, Bordeaux is a potent mix of the medieval, the Renaissance and the modern. In fact, walk around the city and you’ll find almost half of it has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage site. For those of you like me who adore their history, here are the best things to do and see in Bordeaux.