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, […]
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…
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?
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.
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 […]
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
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”.
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 […]
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…