Take the opportunity to go a little further afield when visiting the world famous City of Love and you’ll soon find yourself surrounded by an assortment of fascinating aspects of French culture.
With humble beginnings that date back to the 13th Century, this Seine-et-Marne settlement’s architectural leanings cannot be mistaken for anything other than Medieval. A quick amble around the streets will reveal vestiges from various trades of the time – tanners and timber works to be more specific – and a former calling as a stronghold has ensured much of the Middle Age charm has been preserved.
The town’s alluring nickname, ‘The Venice of Brie’ has earned it additional interest in recent years, and a favourable reputation with well-known artists of bygone eras (Toulouse-Lautrec, Corot, Servin) means that it is never short of a tourist or two. Close in proximity to a the picturesque Valley of the Painters, it is a popular pit stop for keen walkers, as well as families hoping to cut their costs by staying away from the big city. What’s more, it’s just a 15 minute drive from Disneyland Europe.
It’s not every day you get to walk the same halls as royalty, which is just one reason why a detour to this undeniably impressive residence should be right up there on the To Do list.
Though some may argue that Versailles is ‘where it’s at’ in terms of monarchical magnificence, we’d much rather a trip to this far less crowded household – surrounded on all sides by perfectly kempt courtyards full of flowers, foliage and of course, fountains – where the delights of uppercrust French fanciness can still be observed.
Other advantages that place this palace above its better known counterpart include its proximity to the immense and ever so scenic Forest of Fontainebleau, where activities such as bouldering and tree climbing should satisfy more adventuresome visitors.
1 hour 20 minutes
This pretty little village, situated on the right bank of the Seine, owes much of its reputation to one of France’s most famous sons. And it certainly seemed to be love at first sight when Claude Monet first clapped eyes on the place from a train window, as he took up residence here for 43 of his most formative years.
Though the artist’s house and honorary museum provide the most obvious draws, archaeological discoveries dating back to the Neolithic period have added an even more intriguingly historical air to the hamlet, and give further insight into Normandy’s significance in bygone eras.
An area which continues to grow old gracefully, a walk around the notorious lily ponds might just awaken the artist in you.
1 hour 25 minutes
Though Champagne may call to mind many a celebratory evening of indulgence, a sojourn to the heart of the region which gives the tipple its namesake won’t fail to satisfy.
From the striking facades of the infamous Renaissance style champagne houses, Pommery for example, to the quarried ‘caves’ which house slowly aging bottles by the barrel load, there is something here for everyone to admire, whether they want to get a handle on the creation process or not. For those less inclined to delve into the industry’s history, a stroll through the rolling vineyards and a few free samples might win them round.
A short while away, you can visit the hugely prominent ceremonial city of Reims, where many a former king was crowned before great crowds in the spectacularly designed, 800 year old cathedral that could easily give Notre Dame a run for its money.
1 hour 50 mins
Another area with multiple cultural claims to fame, this city counts author Jules Verne amongst its former residents.
Amiens’ tumultuous past, throughout revolutions, occupations and wars, has helped shape it into one the foremost artistic centres in the country, with many avant-garde attractions to boast about. From street art tours starting in belfries and day trips to former battlefields, to contemporary art museums and sound and light shows on the side of churches, the city makes every effort to surprise both new and returning visitors.
Fans of both town and country will be satisfied with the tremendously green scenic offerings along this decent stretch of the River Somme, and the flourishing foodie scene will delight those seeking local gastronomic treats.