FRANCE Holidays

PARIS

Paris offers the largest concentration of tourist attractions in France, and possibly in Europe. Besides some of the world's most famous musuems, its has a vibrant historic city centre, a beautiful riverscape, an extensive range of historic monuments, including cathedrals, chapels and palaces, plus one of the most famous nightlife scenes in the world. Paris is also famous for its cafés and restaurants, its theatres and cinemas, and its general ambiance. While there are a thousand other things to do in Paris apart from those mentioned on this page, for the traveller spending just a few days in Paris , this list offers more than enough choice to fill the time. Note that national museums (i.e. the main museums) are generally closed on Tuesdays - though a few, including the Musée d'Orsay, are closed on Mondays. One of the world's great art galleries, with masterpieces such as the Mona Lisa (which is known in French asLa Joconde), and works by almost all the greatest painters. The Louvre is also a major museum, with an exceptionally rich collection of antiquities and artefacts, including Egyptian mummies, Classical bronzes, and artefacts from round the world. Paris, the cosmopolitan capital of France, is one of the largest agglomerations in Europe, with 2.2 million people living in the dense, central city and almost 12 million people living in the whole metropolitan area. Located in the north of France on the river Seine, Paris has the reputation of being the most beautiful and romantic of all cities, brimming with historic associations and remaining vastly influential in the realms of culture, art, fashion, food and design. Dubbed the City of Light (la Ville Lumière) and Capital of Fashion, it is home to the world's finest and most luxurious fashion designers and cosmetics, such as Chanel, Dior, Yves Saint-Laurent, Guerlain, Lancôme, L'Oréal, Clarins, etc. A large part of the city, including the River Seine, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city has the second highest number of Michelin restaurants in the world (after Tokyo) and contains numerous iconic landmarks, such as the world's most visited tourist site the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre Museum, Moulin Rouge, and Lido, making it the most popular tourist destination in the world with 45 million tourists annually.

NANCY

Nancy used to be known for its Art Nouveau quarter, the rum baba and good King Stanislas Leszczynski, the deposed Polish king who gave the city its gorgeously frilly architectural centrepiece in the 18th century. But in 2013, Nancy is rediscovering its Renaissance past with events and exhibitions all around town this summer, from the fine art museum to the thermal establishment and the botanical gardens. Time for me to discover the old town's Renaissance relics and the Utopian town-planning schemes of Duke Charles III, from the days when Nancy was capital of a powerful independent duchy at the crossroads between northern and southern Europe. Nancy is a moderate-sized city in the Lorraine region of (eastern) France. Nancy is the capital of the French département of Meurthe-et-Moselle, and one of the major economical cities of the Lorraine region. It is also a major French university center, with over 47,000 students and three major universities. Once the industrial and cultural powerhouse of Northeast France, the city boasts a very diverse architectural and cultural heritage. Parts of the historical city centre are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A short distance from the Palais du Gouvernement is the former Ducal Palace, which dates to the 16th century and is the most important secular building of the Late Gothic period in Lorraine. The building exemplifies the richly decorated Flamboyant style with its ornate balconies and doorway. The Ducal Palace now houses the Lorraine Museum, one of the top museums in Nancy. The extensive art and history collection includes archeological finds, medieval sculpture, and documents about the folk traditions of Lorraine. The Galerie des Cerfs displays relics of the Ducal period, medieval tapestries, and prints by Jacques de Bellange. Among the highlights are paintings by Georges de la Tour, including his renowned masterpiece La Femme à la Puce, and the etchings by Jacques Callot. The collection also features historic objects that show the artistic and cultural life of the region, from prehistoric through Gallo-Roman and Merovingian eras. There are beautiful medieval and Renaissance religious works, including an extensive collection of stained-glass windows and sculptures. One especially noteworthy work is Christ in the Garden of Olives.

VEZELAY

The town of Vézelay is associated with the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. For centuries, pilgrims departed from this town or passed through it during their pilgrimage. These days, Vézelay is visited by hundreds of pilgrims, and that number is increasing every year. The dominant Basilica Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay, located on the highest point of the city, is a distinctive landmark and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. Vezelay, one of the 'most beautiful villages of France', is 50km south of Auxerre in Burgundy. An attractive village, Vezelay is in an imposing position strung out along the crest of a hill, with far-reaching views over the 'Monts de Morvan' and on the edge of the Morvan Regional Park. The village, founded in the 12th century, is more or less one long, steep street that rises up to Vezelay Abbey at the top of the hill. As you stroll along the street you will notice the shells set in the ground - these are the symbol of the French pilgrims who set off to walk from France to the church of St James at Santiago de Compostella (Spain). One of the four main pilgrim routes starts from the abbey at vézelay. When we visited these side streets were curiously quiet and empty despite the large number of visitors in the village just a few metres away - be sure to amble along a couple and take a look. The highlight of the village is without doubt the Abbey of St Mary Magdalene, an awe-inspiring building with soaring decorative vaults. The abbey contains the relics of Saint Mary and was historically the departure point for pilgrims to Santiago de Compostella. The most notable event in the history of the abbey took place when Richard the Lionheart and Phillippe Auguste embarked on the 3rd crusade from this abbey. After the 12th century the abbey fell into severe disrepair, until it was restored in the 19th century to the splendid abbey that you can now visit. The gardens at the house are very beautiful and peaceful, well-maintained, and have far-reaching views - worth a look even if you don't know of Jules-Roy himself. There is also a Museum of the work of Viollet-le-Duc. Rooms above the cloister of the abbey now house some medieval sculptures that have come from the basilica and area. In stark contrast to the abbey at Vezelay visit the nearby village of Saint-Pere - a small village with an extravagantly decorated gothic style church dating from the 13th century and dominating the village centre. The facade and entrance porch are the most impressive features. Also in Saint-Pere you can see the excavated ruins of a roman baths.

ANNECY

Annecy is said to be one of the most beautiful French towns that has preserved its medieval architectural history in all its glory. With its quaint canals and tiny bridges, it is referred to as the Venice of the Alps. Nestling on the shore of the beautiful Lac d'Annecy, this historic town and capital city of the Haute-Savoie, has lots of sightseeing and attractions day-visitors and tourists. Take a guided tour of the Old Town with its castle and local museum. Visit the Alpine Lake Museum. Enjoy the Old Town with its canals and cafes, its shops and architecture: then you can take a boat tour of the lake and finally finish the day with a lakeside stroll. Lake activities include swimming, windsurfing and kayaking. The water is crystal clear and not too cold. The surrounding scenery provides a marvelous backdrop. The lake shore and surrounding countryside is great for roller-blading, mountain biking and walking. There is good sport-climbing on the nearby cliffs and an active local paragliding scene. A holiday in Annecy provides the opportunity for a wide range of activities. If you want a quiet holiday enjoying gorgeous scenery, ancient architecture, art galleries, antiques, great restaurants and scenic trips on one of the cleanest lakes in Europe, then you will run out of time before Annecy runs out of things to offer.If, however, you are looking for a more active holiday, you can easily fill a few weeks of walking, cycling or adrenalin packed activities in and around Annecy, both in summer and winter. There are endless opportunities to throw oneself off high places, scale mountains and plunge into raging waters all within half an hour to an hour's drive from the apartment. The key here is ease of access. Annecy is an ideal central location for easy and quick access in different directions to many resorts throughout the Aravis and beyond. There are 7 ski resorts within 1 hours drive, and 3-4 of those in about half an hour. This allows you to choose the most suitable resort for the conditions on the day and the weather. You can also take advantage of the 2 and 4 hour ski passes available - arrive late morning, leave before the crowds and still combine great skiing with some serious shopping and wonderful restaurants in a beautiful and ancient city. The Lake Annecy region is known as one of the best locations for paragliding, in Europe.

TROYES

Troyes is the ancient capital of the Champagne-Ardennes region famous for its vineyards and the finest champagne. It lies in the heart of the Aube department in north-central France, approximately 150 km (93 miles) from Paris. The city centre is aptly shaped like the cork of a champagne bottle with a rectangular outline defined by avenues of trees and a rounded top circled by the River Seine. Troyes is located at the southern tip of the Champagne region and with narrow, cobbled streets and medieval half-timbered buildings, it is a picturesque town with a traditional French atmosphere. It is a treat for lovers of art and architecture, giving visitors a unique opportunity to enjoy the history of this remarkable city amongst some of the most beautiful countryside along the Seine. Troyes is a charming city with numerous museums, churches and medieval buildings to see including the cathedral and 9 churches. In the old quarter, closely built half-timbered wood and stone mansions surround attractive courtyards and line the narrow alleyways leading to the main square where there are many cafes and restaurants facing the fountains. Several streets are now pedestrian precincts making both shopping and cultural attractions easily accessible by foot. Serious shoppers will be delighted that there are over 100 factory outlets offering huge discounts on designer goods. Troyes has traditionally been an important fashion centre and is currently France's leading knitwear producer. It is advisable to buy a Museum Pass which enables you to visit the Abbaye St-Loup, the Hotel-Dieu-le-Comte and the Hôtel de Vauluisant's twin museums, the Musée de la Bonneterie and Musée Historique, and the Musée d'Art Moderne at a reduced rate. However Troyes' most famous museum La Maison de l'Outil and de la Pensée Ouverte is not covered by this scheme.The Cathedral of St. Pierre et St. Paul is a jewel of the Gothic style of construction and well worth a visit. Other churches of note are the St. Jean Church in Southern Troyes and St Urbain Church which is famous for its stained glass windows. The Aube's vineyards currently produce a quarter of France's champagne, and Reims and Epernay have huge wineries, but in Troyes, production has a lower profile. There are however, several tastings and special events held in the town and visits to the vineyards can be arranged through the Tourist Office. The substantial Natural Regional Park of the Forest of the Orient offers many opportunities to enjoy the countryside of the region and has many outdoor activities available, frequently linked to the lakes found in the park.

BOURGES

The capital of the French kingdom in the past, Bourges is a town with many facets. A medieval town which is now very popular for its lively pedestrian streets, its half-timbered houses and its gardens with their springtime feel, Bourges is a major tourist site. With its architectural masterpieces enhanced by a deep blue light in the summer evenings, Bourges is without a doubt a Town of Art and History. Bourges is an important town in central France, towards the south-east of the Loire Valley (Centre) region and about 100 km south of Orléans. It has a substantial historic centre and two very important monuments - the cathedral and the Palace Jacques Coeur - and is very pleasant to explore. A visit to Bourges will usually start with the cathedral - but note that although the cathedral is the main attraction in Bourges there are many other historical monuments and places of interest to discover in the town, so allow time to explore properly. Note that Bourges Tourist Office is very close to the cathedral, so start by calling in for a plan of the town and a suggested route to follow. Some of the places of interest are rather difficult to find and you might miss them if you explore without a map. There are also several parks and gardens in Bourges which are very pleasant to explore and to find some peace and quiet. If you only have time to visit one of these we suggest the Pres Fichaux gardens that have a very unusual design that combines typical French style gardens with statues, hedges and water features. Another particular favourite in Bourges is the lovely gardens just outside the old town, where a very extensive selection of small gardens interspersed by streams makes the Marais de Bourges a very pleasant and unusual environment to visit. There are three main weekly markets in Bourges town centre: the Halle au Blé on a Saturday morning; in Place des Marronniers on a Thursday morning and in Place Saint Bonnet each Sunday morning. Perhaps the best time to visit Bourges is between May and September, at dusk, when careful lighting effects cast an attractive light on many of the highlights in the town, for a two hour guided walk of the town. Saint-Etienne Cathedral, listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, and the Palais Jacques-Cœur, symbol of the success of the eponymous Finance Minister to Charles VII, are true marvels which make Bourges a not-to-be-missed town to visit.