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  • France

France, in Western Europe, encompasses medieval cities, alpine villages and Mediterranean beaches. Paris, its capital, is famed for its fashion houses, classical art museums including the Louvre and monuments like the Eiffel Tower. The country is also renowned for its wines and sophisticated cuisine. Lascaux’s ancient cave drawings, Lyon’s Roman theater and the vast Palace of Versailles attest to its rich history.

Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe (Paris)

No visit to Paris would be complete without a walk along this most loved of Parisian avenues to the towering Arc de Triomphe at it`s West end. Felt by many to be a more significant landmark of Paris even than the famous Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe – commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 but not completed until 30 years later – commemorates those who died in the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI lies beneath its vault. The Champs Elysées lies in the 8me arrondissement, north of the Seine. For the best quality entertainment, shopping and eating in Paris, it is hard to beat (don`t forget to replenish your wallet first!). From the railway station Gare du Nord, it is about 12 minutes by subway. The closest subway stop is “Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile”.

Eiffel Tower (Paris)

At 324 metres tall, the Eiffel Tower (named after engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company constructed it in the years between 1887 and 1889) is the highest structure in Paris and one of the most immediately recognizable in the world. Much criticized at the time of its inception, today it is the most visited monument worldwide, drawing nearly 7 million visitors in 2015.The tower consists of three levels, with 300 steps between the ground floor and the first level and a further 300 separating the first level from the second (there ARE steps from the second to the third, but most people prefer to take the elevator!). There are restaurants on the first two levels and an observation deck (at 276 metres – the highest in the EU) on the third. The nearest railway station is the Gare Montparnasse, line 6 (just over 20 minutes): the stop is “Champ de Mars”.

Palais des Papes (Avignon)

A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995, Avignon’s huge “Palace of the Popes” (15,000 square metres in area) is one of the largest and most significant examples of mediaeval Gothic architecture in Europe. Both a palace and a fortress, it housed six successive popes in the 14th century, while its huge library attracted students and clerics – and its chapel musicians and singers – from all over the world. Sadly, it fell into disuse towards the end of the 14th century on the decision of the papacy to return to Rome.Most parts of this awe-inspiring building and its gardens – a legacy of the huge wealth of the papacy – are open to visitors. The great chapel and the 700 year old frescoes by Matteo Giovanetti are of particular interest. Avignon, located in the heart of Provence, is accessible by rail in 2 hours 38 minutes from Paris. A shuttle bus (10 minutes) transports visitors from the station to the city center. While you are in France, also check out neighboring Barcelona

La Rochelle Old City Harbor

La Rochelle was founded in the 10th century and had become an important port by the 12th, but was inhabited by both the Romans and the Gauls in ancient times, making it one of France’s most ancient cities. Situated on the Bay of Biscay in the Charente-Maritime region of southwest France, La Rochelle derives its name from the rocky promontory on which it was originally built (“La Rochelle” means quite literally “little rock”).A hospitable and lively city as well as one of great historical interest, La Rochelle is a fabulous venue for visitors of all ages and interests. It has its own airport, which is only 15 minutes from the city center by bus (bus stop: Place de Verdun).

Verdon Gorge (Moustiers Ste. Marie)

25 km long and 700 m deep, the stunning Verdon Gorge is widely considered to be the most beautiful in Europe. It was cut by the Verdon river, whose distinctive emerald green colour – caused by microscopic algae – gave both the river and the Gorge their names (“vert” in French means “green”). Often referred to as “The Grand Canyon of Europe”, the Verdon Gorge offers many activities such as rock-climbing, kayak-canoeing, mountain-biking and camping, and the nearby 5th century town of Moustiers Ste. Marie is the perfect place to relax after such strenuous activities Moustiers Ste. Marie is pretty remote, so make sure you have the right travel gear to go by car. The nearest larger town is Castellane (44.5 km), the nearest big city Nice (150 km) which has its own airport. (Take a map and a French dictionary, because this one is likely to be an adventure!).

Sacré Coeur Basilica (Paris)

Constructed in the years between 1875 and 1914 und funded entirely by donations, this beautiful Catholic basilica on the summit of the butte of Montmartre is famed for its pure white façade (caused by the property of the stone travertine – from which it is built – to exude calcite) and its extravagant Byzantine design. The Basilica can only be entered by 300 steps and there is no elevator, so visitors should be fit.
Sacré Coeur is 15 minutes by metro from the Gare du Nord (exit: Basilica Sacré Coeur).

Orsay Museum (Paris)

Originally a railway station, the famous “Musée d’Orsay” on the left bank of the Seine, 7th arrondissement, opened in 1986, now houses an impressive collection of fine arts from 1848 to 1914 and the largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces worldwide.

Lovers of Cézanne, Degas or Van Gogh should definitely visit this museum, which is only 15 minutes by metro from the Gare du Nord (exit: “Musée d’ Orsay”).

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