Are you a fan of gothic architecture and all the building styles of the previous centuries? If your answer is the same as mine which is ‘Yes’, then a visit to France is a must for you and yours.
This history-rich country once accommodated the Roman capital and a lot of other locations of historic importance like palaces and churches. We toured France in a week, below are the sites we managed to acquaint ourselves within the span of the seven days.
Day one in a nutshell
- Arrive early
- Check into your hotel
- Relax in your room or visit the local coffee shop for a croissant
- Take a trip to the Eiffel Tower
- Take the RER Line C, and dine at Latin Quarter
- Power nap at the hotel
- Site seeing of the Notre Dame Cathedral
- Shopping spree or relaxation time
- Head for dinner
- Take an evening stroll along the river banks.
We begin the trip on a high note right in the heart of the country, Paris. The city of love as the capital has a lot to offer. The biggest attraction in the city is the Eiffel tower, this 300-metre tall structure was scheduled to be taken down at the end of the 1889 World Fair. Fortunately, things did not go as planned and we can enjoy the wonderful view of that tower piercing the sky.
On climbing the tower, we decided to have lunch in one of the restaurants in the tower which is the Le Jules Verne. Situated on the second floor, the restaurant is more than 150-metres above the ground which means it has great views of the city. The restaurant serves mouth-watering dishes of French cuisine.
From the Eifel Tower, we went to the Arc de Triomphe, the outstanding feature about this structure is the view from the top where you can see the whole city which looks even better after dark. A quick stop at the Galeries Lafayette would prove to be a good idea. The shopping mecca is filed with fashion designer products like Dior among others. From the exquisite visit of the Galeries Lafayette, we made a quick stop at the Sacre-Coeur which is a 19th-century basilica.
If you ever come across a sign written ‘Here lies the Empire of Death’ but in French, then you have stumbled upon the Les Catacombs which is a large tomb under the street housing the bones of around six million people neatly stacked, the neatly stacked skulls run for 3000 km in the tunnels. A section of the tunnels is available for touring and the temperature down there is always below 15 degrees Celsius.
One of the must-see sites in Paris is The Louvre, being the home to over 35,000 pieces of art it also houses the famous piece by Leonardo which is the Mona Lisa. In this heaven of art don’t ever have the temptation to view all the pieces because you will spend the entire week going in and out of the rooms.
Travelling with novel lovers we couldn’t leave the city without visiting the Cathedrale Notre-Dame De Paris which is well known from the novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’ published in 1831. It is no surprise why Disney loves this location so much, its Gothic architecture brings out the skills and genius of people of generations ago.
Part of the roof was guttered by fire in April of 2019 but rebuilding it is not far from now. After a wonderful day filled with adventure, we then hit the road destination Versailles. Travelling to Versailles takes less than an hour via train and costs 7-euros per person, interested in viewing the scenery on the way we drove there and took less time than the train is projected to take, arriving there in about 40-minutes. We managed to find some decent accommodation for less than $100 in Versailles in the form of the Hotel d’Angleterre. The hotel has all the necessary amenities including a fireplace to make the winter nights cosy.
Day two in a nutshell
- Head to Louvre to admire the artwork
- Take a relaxing stroll to Tuileries Garden
- Visit Place de la Concorde
- View the Arc de Triomphe
- Visit one of the churches
- Visit one of the famous cafes
- Have dinner at one of the nearby restaurants
- Enjoy the Parisian nightlife
The city of Versailles is rich in history, the Sun King as he is well known wanted every kink to envy him for the palace he built in Versailles. Some of the amazing places we visited include the Hall of Mirrors. The hall is 73-metres long lined with 17 massive ornamental mirrors.
The room lights up majestically as sunlight enters through the windows and reflects off the mirrors. The hall is classically decorated with crystal chandeliers and beautifully painted ceilings. The hall was once the passage between the Kings and Queen’s apartments.
The Queen’s Grand Apartment features the Queen’s bedroom known as the Chambre de la Reine and its where the Queen received her private guests. The Gilded Study is also in the Grand Apartment and as its name states this was the study area where the Queen will read, play music and paint.
The Queen’s Grand Apartment has other partitions namely the Salon Des Nobles, Antichambre du Grand Couvert, Salles des Gardes and other private hidden room. Next to the Queen’s Grand Apartment is the King’s Grand Apartment, because the King wanted to be envied his quarters don’t leave any stone unturned in terms of luxury.
From the Chateau, we herded to the Les Jardins or translated the Gardens of the Chateau. The landscape was designed by the famous designer Andre Le Notre; this garden is mainly based on the love of art rather than nature. The garden features geometric paters which all have a meaning in the masterpiece. One of the obvious representations in the garden is the Sun Vase which was the emblem of the King Louis XIV.
For the love birds, the Royal Walk is where you will need your partner in your hand as you take a stroll. Having a mistress, the king Louis XIV built the Le Grand Trianon for her, and we made sure to pay it a visit. The place is surrounded by beautiful gardens featuring blooming flower of all colours. Also found in Versailles is the History of France Museum which comprehensively describes the history of France.
Day three in a nutshell
- Spend the day at Versailles
- Admire the Chateau
- Walk around the gardens
- Visit Marie Antoinette’s Domain
- Visit Petits Appartements
- Visit the Hall of Mirrors and the Opera Royal
Also known as the city of Dukes, Dijon is well known for its mustard. The Palaise des Ducs was the first we gunned for. Listed as a UNESCO history centre the Ducal palace of Dijon stands up to its title. Climb more than 300 steps to witness the view of your life from the top of the palace.
Next to the palace is the Musee des Beaux-Arts which has on display a variety of art pieces from different destinations. It has on display more than 13,000 pieces some dating as far as the 17th century. Some of the most intriguing paintings on display include the Adam and Eve in Paradise and the Le Souffleur a la Lampe paintings.
Also near the palace is the Eglise Saint-Michel which has a strikingly odd mixture of styles, this is a result of the delayed finishing of the church, established in 1497 the church was a constructed over two centuries. At its doorway, you will be met by sculptures of Angels and other figures. Gothic architecture dominates in the city, the Cathedrale Saint-Benigne is also a must-see.
This beautiful piece of architecture was erected in the early 1300s and I still used as a place of worship till this day. We also passed by the Eglise Notre-Dame which was built earlier than the Cathedrale Saint-Benigne as it was standing by the year 1250. The church has a clock tower which was meant to chime the church bells in the late 1300s. As we grew tired of all the historic sites we decided to visit a place more modern in the form of Jardin de I’Arquebuse which is a beautiful garden that has a playground.
The garden has more than 3,000 species of plants which include medicinal plants. The garden has its own museum in the form of the Natural History Museum, which has all the information about the beautiful landscape you will find here, the museum also goes extra-terrestrial with its planetarium which is sure to attract the star gazers and the group that understands astronomy.
From Dijon, we continue to the small town of Beaune. This historic town is home to the Hotel-Dieu also known as the Hospices de Beaune. This masterpiece was constructed in the 15th century as a hospital for the less privileged, today the building houses the Museum that has on display precious pieces from the 15th century.
Day four in a nutshell
- Early train to Rouen
- Explore the city’s ancient core
- Visit the Place du Vieux-Marche
- Visit the Eglise St-Maclou
- Visit the Flamboyant Gothic style church
- Have lunch at one of the cafés
- Drive to Giverny to visit the Claude Monet Foundation
Bordering Switzerland and Italy it is no surprise that Lyon is rich in European history. Lyon is has seen a lot, having been one of the first places the Romans settled around 43 B.C., which is more than 2,000 years ago. We were intrigued by the statues we found in Place Bellecour which is near the Saone and the Rhode rivers.
The most striking sculpture is that of king Louise XIV on horseback. We then made our way to the Lyon cathedral which has seen a lot with stained glasses and an alter which date back as far as the 1200s. The church also shows a trend in the development of technology through its clock which was updated several times as technology advanced.
Lyon is home to the oldest construction in all of France which is the Theatre of Fourviere. The theatre was built by Augustus from 17 to 15 B.C. and was expanded by Hadrian. Next in line was the Musee des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, this beautiful piece of art has a lot of history, it was once home to the convent of Saint-Pierre.
The museum on-site houses a wide collection including ancient Egyptian antiques. In the Croix Rousse district is the Mur des Canuts. The painted scenes illustrate the blend with the surrounding. The city of Lyon was well known for its silk industry. The Rue St-Jean was once the heart of this vibrant industry. Most of the restaurants you will find in here were once shelters for the silk merchants.
Another encapsulating view is that of the Place des Terreaux which dates back to the 13th century, it was originally built to fortify a wall but was later turned into a city plaza. During the French revolution, this was a place of fear and mourning as Guillotine chose it as a beheading site. Lyon is home to the largest urban park in France.
This is the Parc de la Tete d’Or which is a heaven for joggers, cyclists and nature lovers. The park features other attractions like a carousel, a small zoo, miniature train and a puppet theatre. For all the sports enthusiasts you will find some sporting facilities as well.
Day five and six in a nutshell
- Visit the city of Caen
- Visit Abbaye aux Hommes
- Hearty lunch
- Visit the city of Bayeux
We then headed to Valence which is just over 100-km from Lyon. Travelling by train the journey will cost nothing less than 10 euros and will last about 1.5-hours. Travelling by road like we did the journey takes just above 1 hour 10 minutes with a beautiful scenery.
The city is very relaxed and has a lot to offer, one of the popular attractions is the Kiost De Peynet, it gives you the energy and will to see the rest of the city. The city is rich in history with a lot of Gothic constructions. The Maison des Tetes is one of this construction dating back to the 16th century.
We made sure to visit the Fine Art Museum of Valence which is in the Bishop’s palace and houses a collection of Hubert Robert pieces. Also on display is a collection of fine art from as far as the 16th century. Near the city is the Jeab Perdrix Park which is home to the giant Water Castles.
We then headed to nimes where we had lunch in Restaurant Victoria, the restaurant has an outside sitting area and serves the best France has to offer. Augustus Caesar was busy with building during his reign, another costruction under his bame is the La Tour Magne. The tower is 18-m long and was one of the 14 built to defend the city of Rome around 15 B.C.
The tower survived a great deal escaping those hundreds of years and the world war. From there we went to the 18th century park which is Les Jardins de la Fontaine. This grand park features beautiful vibrant gardens and encapsulating carved statues. The park just demands a slow stroll as you take in the beauty.
Most have heard of the goddess of the hunt and so have we, for this reason, we just had to see the Temple of Diana. These ruins are thought to have once been devoted to the goddess of the hunt who is Diana. After the informative tour we head to Nimes Arena, one might mistake it for the Colosseum Arena in Rome.
Built-in around 70 AD this amphitheatre was a symbolic site of Nimes then known as Nemausus. This amphitheatre is the reason why Nimes is sometimes referred to as French Rome. The Arena’s walls are 21-metres tall and you will need 10 euros for a detailed tour of the 24,000 seater arena. After a day filled with adventure, we needed some sleep. We booked with the Novotel Atria Centre which is an affordable 4-star hotel within a walking distance from the Arena defree Nimes. For less than $100 the hotel features amenities like free wife, flat-screen TVs and a tone more to make your stay as comfortable as possible.
Day Six in a nutshell
- Explore the beaches of the Allied Forces
- Visit the seaside resort of Arromanches Les Bains
- Head to Omaha Beach
- Visit the Overlord Museum
- Enjoy a roadside lunch
- Drive to Mont St-Michel
- Stay overnight at The Rock
We can’t be on a road trip and not visit a single wildlife reserve. The Pyrenees is a great destination to enjoy the great outdoors. The architect of the Cathedral might have drowned inspiration from the Cirque de Gavarnie. One of the highest points in this valley is the Pics du Marbore standing over 3,000-metres above sea level and offers the best view of this beautiful wilderness.
From the widernes we made our way to Lourdes, this place is a rare sight you will mostly see in movies. The church is where Saint Bernadetta received the vision of the Virgin Mary becoming one of the 70 miracles ever to have been confirmed by the Catholic Church.
There were a lot of sights to see in the Pyrenees but the national park was among the best. The park is a heaven for hikers, bikers and nature lovers. The flora and fauna found here are unmatched. After all the hustles and fun, we hit the road again, destination Bordeaux.
There is no train that covers the 400-km distance, one will have to pass through other cities if they are determined in travelling by train. Driving we took just over 4 hours to cover the journey by car. On arrival, we booked a stay with the Radisson Blue Hotel for the night.
Also known as the Port of the Moon, Bordeaux is popular with love-birds. It has a lot to offer and is recognised by UNESCO. The places we visited include the Cathedrale Saint-Andre, which is a historic site dating back to the 12th century and was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Another is Le Grand Theatre, this Roman Forum comes alive in the night time and plays a huge role in the nightlife.
The other sites we visited include Place de la Bourse, Basilique Saint-Seurin, Basilique Saint-Michel, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Musee d’Aquiraine and Esplanade des Quinconces among others. The city is very romantic and will be great for a honeymoon.