France Holiday Guide
France is an European destination popular for its breathtaking scenery, architecture, excellent wine and food and its Parisian city centre. Its art heritage is unparalleled and without a doubt its chic shopping opportunities are unrivalled.
For those traveling to the country there are a wide range of activities and events to keep the whole family busy, with key historic sites providing an excellent day out and an intriguing insight into French culture.
For true peace and quiet head towards the centre of France and the Loire valley. Located here are castles, cathedrals and beautiful old towns that offer a tranquil holiday setting
Popular areas within France include the Alps, which are a great option for skiing and hiking and of course Paris. Paris offers a wide variety of things to do and see, including art galleries, museums and breathtaking views.
However, Paris is not by any means the only important area within France, with a great many buildings and historical sites scattered across the country, narrating and bringing to life the stories of those who lived there.
On the bank of the Seine is the former Gare d`Orsay, now the famed Musée d`Orsay, which houses a large collection of paintings and art works from Impressionist paintings to art nouveau furniture and sculptures. Here can be found the work of Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Degas Cézanne, Van Gogh and Matisse.
Getting around the country to visit these sites and sounds is easy with train services running frequently and effectively around the major towns and cities. Cycling is also a great way to travel in France and in certain areas bikes can be hired free of charge.
You may own the keyring, but visiting Paris without glimpsing the Eiffel Tower is line of vision unthinkable. Built for the 1889 World Fair and centenary of the French Revolution, the 300-metre (985 feet) tower is a radical feat of engineering. It's worth taking a trip to the top, where your may stretch for over 65km (40 miles) on a good day.
There’s the Louvre with around 35,000 works of art on display, and the Cathedral Notre Dame constructed between 1163 and 1334.
The Sacré Coeur and the Champs Elysée are well worth a visit, as well as other sights viewable on the any bus, bike, river or walking tours available
After a busy day, there’s an endless choice of restaurants, then finish off the evening with a visit to the Moulin Rouge for a cabaret.
For a brilliant fun-packed stay, Disneyland Resort Paris has everything to amuse the whole family. You can visit daily or stay in one of the Disney Resort hotels on-site.
Tours (1 hour 15 minutes)
The city of Tours has a population of 140,000 and is called "Le Jardin de la France" ("The Garden of France"). There are several parks located within the city. Tours is located between two rivers, the Loire to the north and the Cher to the south. The buildings of Tours are white with blue slate (called Ardoise) roofs; this style is common in the north of France, as most buildings in the south of France have terracotta roofs.
Tours is famous for its original medieval district, called le Vieux Tours. Unique to the Old City are its preserved half-timbered buildings and la Place Plumereau, a square with busy pubs and restaurants, whose open-air tables fill the center of the square. The Boulevard Beranger crosses the Rue Nationale at the Place Jean-Jaures and is the location of weekly markets and fairs.
Near the cathedral, in the garden of the ancient Palais des Archevêques (now Musée des Beaux-Arts), is a huge cedar tree planted by Napoleon.
Tours is home to François Rabelais University, the site of one of the most important choral competitions, called Florilège Vocal de Tours International Choir Competition, and is a member city of the European Grand Prix for Choral Singing.
Mont-Saint-Michel (1 hour 50 minutes)
Mont-Saint-Michel is a 1-ha (3-acre) rocky islet topped by a famous Gothic abbey, 1.6 km (1 mi) off the coast of Normandy in northwest France in the Bay of Mont-Saint-Michel in the English Channel. The island, located 5 km (3 miles) from the shore during the Middle Ages, is now surrounded by water only two times a month. Its one cobblestone street climbs in three spirals from a great granite base to the towering Benedictine abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, an architectural masterpiece built in the 13th century, replacing the original abbey, which was founded in 708 by Saint Aubert, bishop of Avranches, but destroyed by King Philip II of France in 1203.
Its fortifications enabled the islet to withstand repeated English assaults during the Hundred Years' War. The abbey served as a prison during Napoleon I's reign. Restored after 1863, and connected to the mainland by a causeway (completed 1875), the abbey is preserved as a national historical monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is one of France's great tourist attractions. The abbey is celebrated in Henry Adam's classic study of medieval Christianity, Mont Saint Michel and Chartres (1913).
On the other side of the English Channel, off the coast of Cornwall, in England, is Saint Michael's Mount, the site of a priory (later a castle) that belonged to the Mont-Saint-Michel abbey in the Middle Ages
The Bayeux Tapestry (2 hours)
If you learnt about the Norman invasion of England of 1066 at school and fear that the Bayeux Tapestry offers nothing but a dry history lesson then worry no longer. The Bayeux Tapestry is above all a fantastic piece of mediaval art with wonderful details of everyday life told alongside the dramatic story of the events around 1066, told from the point of view of the victors. The “tapestry” is in fact embroidered in wool on linen; it is believed that it was embroidered in England under the Norman occupation. As with all good medieval art, the Bayeux Tapestry has a very human, down to earth feel. You are transported back in time by the artists’ vivacious expression of the events depicted.
Bayeux was the first town to be liberated following the Allied landings on the Normandy Coast during the Second World War. However, unlike many Normandy towns which were heavily bombed during the war, Bayeux, miraculously, has a perfectly preserved medieval town centre
Le Havre (2½ hours)
Le Havre is the largest ocean port in France and sits on an estuary of the River Seine; it is only 174km north-west of Paris and located Seine-Maritime, Haute-Normandy region.
Its origins dates back the 15th Century when it was a fishing village, preceding Francis I creating a port he called the Haven of Grace or ‘Havre-de-Grâce’. By 1944, towards the end of World War II, three quarters of the buildings were destroyed by the time the Canadian allied forces recaptured Le Havre.
Nowadays, Le Havre is a large commercial port and a thriving industrial centre with a little ‘old’ mixed into a lot of ‘new’, but it has a softer side as it boasts of being awarded the ‘Pavillon bleu label’ for its beaches.
La Flèche Zoo (1 hour)
La Flèche is the oldest zoo in France (1946) but still retains a freshness even after all these years, helped by its location amid natural woodland and landscaped gardens. It is more than just a zoo, it has a marine world which hosts aquatic shows, a falcon show or the parrot acrobat show, its a great day out. The zoo has approximately 1200 animals & 130 different species, from the five continents, spread over 15 hectares.
The zoo is open all the year:
Capital of the ancient county of Anjou, Angers stands majestically on the banks of the Maine, which feeds the Loire just south of the city with the waters of the Mayenne, Sarthe and Loire rivers. Long known as "Black Angers" from the gloomy-coloured slate and stone quarried here since the ninth century, it is actually a very pretty, friendly town, with a lively atmosphere. The overriding reason for coming here is to see its two stunning tapestry series, the fourteenth-century Apocalypse and the twentieth-century Chant du Monde.
Caen is the capital and largest city of Basse Normandie, that nine hundred years ago was the favoured residence of William the Conqueror.
Its central feature is a ring of ramparts that no longer have a castle to protect, and, though there are the scattered spires and buttresses of two abbeys and eight old churches, roads and roundabouts fill the wide spaces where pre-war houses stood. Approaches are along thunderous dual carriageways through industrial suburbs, now prospering once more following an influx of high-tech newcomers.
Saulges Caves are known to date back at least 50,000 years. It was inhabited first by bears and then by prehistoric men. Paleontological remains, including bear bones and vestiges of the Solutrian and Roman eras are still housed in the cave.
The cavity was formed by a series of fractures meeting at right angles.
A local legend about a fairy named Margot and her black masses is linked to the cave.
The inner part of the caves was discovered in 1730 and it has since been classed as an historic monument.