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.
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.
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.
One of the most iconic and photographed places in France, the steeple of its ancient stone church rises majestically into the clouds, whilst its feet sit firmly in the shifting sands and resist the relentless tides. Popular with tourists all year round and overrun in the warm summer months, would it surprise you to know that…
Easter, or Pâques in French, is a beautiful time of the year. The bright yellow flocks of daffodils dance in the sunlight, joyous after a long winter. The first of the pink blossoms twirl their way around branches sprinkled with tiny green shoots, alive with tiny birds flitting to and fro, creating a nest for […]
Every morning, I hark the sound of church bells. They murmur gently, at first, shaping my dreams, but soon their insistent melody awakens me from my slumber. I am used to it now, my ancient alarm clock. For hundreds of years, church bells all over France have…
In the lush, green hills of the Normandy countryside, in the north of France, lies the tiny village of Camembert. Home to around 200 people and a cheese museum, legend tells us that it was here, in 1791, a priest by the name of Abbot Charles-Jean Bonvoust sought refuge whilst on his way to England, […]
The supposed heroes of the French Revolution are names embedded in history – the evil Robespierre, the brave Lafayette, the tragic Jean-Paul Marat. But what of the women of France? They were not idly sitting at home with their embroidery waiting for an end to the chaos: they picked up their pikes and stormed the […]
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.
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.
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.