French Revolution

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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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.

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.

best things to do in bordeaux

The best things to do in Bordeaux (if you love history)

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.

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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Top 5 Historical Sites in france – Château of Blois

There are so many beautiful châteaux in the Loire Valley, it’s difficult to choose which to visit. The Royal Château of Blois is not the prettiest, but it has been the home of no less than seven French kings and ten queens, and its imposing architecture represents four distinct architectural periods. “The châteaux of few country towns can boast so many and so important events, so long a list of illustrious inmates, or so large a collection of historical recollections, as that of Blois”.

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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The medieval Abbey des Vaux de Cernay

Of all the medieval abbeys in France, the Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay is my favourite. Well to be honest I haven’t been to that many, but even if I had, this would still be my number one. Snuggled in the Valley of the Chevreuse, surrounded by verdant forest, walking through the remains of the medieval abbey will…

Famous French lovers

I met my lovely French husband whilst on a backpacking holiday. It was a coup de foudre, a bolt of lightning; we fell in love in 3 days. When I returned home after my trip, this is how I broke the news to my friends: “I’ve met someone”. “Ooh”. “He’s French”. “Ooh la la!” French …

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Last words from the Guillotine

The Reign of Terror was exactly as it sounds – terrifying. Whilst the French Revolution in 1789 was generally fairly violent, the part of it which was the Reign of Terror was horrifyingly so. If you were of the aristocracy, if you were of the pre-Revolution parliament, a collector of taxes, or basically anyone who …

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