bayeux

A Year on France: My Top Five France Attractions

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For a year now I have been writing for the Europe a la Carte travel blog. Besides a post on London and another on the Byzantine churches on Crete, each week I write on some of the best places to visit in Europe that France has to offer. I thought on this occasion I would give you what are my top five attractions in France.


Viewing the Bayeux Tapestry today.

At the top of my list has to be the Bayeux Tapestry РI can not get enough of this amazing artifact from the Medieval period of Europe. Although it is now housed in the Mus̩e de la Tapisserie de Bayeux in Normandy, it is generally accepted to have been made in the south of England sometime during the 1070s. At just over 70 metres long, the tapestry, which is more correctly an embroidery, tells the story of Harold II and William the Conqueror.

pech-merle2
The so-called spotted horses at Pech Merle, some 12-1500 years old.

My number two on my top ten list of France attractions is perhaps a biased choice, but valid nonetheless. My expertise as an archaeologist is in prehistoric cave art – and France not only has some of the most well known painted caves, such as Lascaux, Pech Merle and Niaux, but some of these have been instrumental in furthering our understanding of the World’s earliest artistic traditions. The painted caves are to be found in the south of France, and some of the more popular ones (e.g. Lascaux and Niaux) have associated ‘prehisto’ theme parks that are great for children.


‘Maisons de vigne’ in the vineyards of the Loire Valley

When most people think of France two things repeatedly come to mind, castles and wine. And nowhere better do these two come together than in the Loire Valley. The Loire Valley is World renowned for some of the finest wines. And any holiday to this area would be incomplete without visiting the vineyards. You will not be able to miss the castles, they dominate the landscape – they were intended to do just that. For anyone wishing to visit the Loire there is now a great online resource for 19 of the most important castles.


La Cathédrale Notre-Dame, before and after being lit up.

Keeping with the ancient art and architecture theme, my fourth favourite attraction in France is the Cathedral in Amiens. The front façade of the imposing Cathédrale Notre-Dame is spectacular at any time of the day or night, with hundreds of amazing carvings. The façade has recently been restored, and during the restoration process it was discovered that these carvings were once coloured. Now, during from the beginning of June to the end of September, and again during December, just after nightfall the façade of the Cathedral is lit up just as experts believe it appeared in medieval times. It really is one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.


Musée de la Louvre.

And of course there is Paris, number five on my list! And, Karen has produced a must-read post for those of you wanting to know about the best things to do in Paris.

These are my favourite places to visit in France, and ones I would suggest no one misses – but they reflect my interest. Share your top five French attractions by leaving a comment below, and I will collate the various responses in a future post.

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About Thomas Dowson

Hello, I am Thomas Dowson - a freelance writer and archaeologist living in Normandy, France. My field of expertise is prehistoric art - such as the cave paintings in the Dordogne and South Africa. But I am becoming passionately interested in France more generally, and Normandy in particular, and what this country and one of its very well known regions has to offer people with all sorts of tastes and desires. In 2005 I exchanged a university archaeology lecture room for a Bed & Breakfast in Normandy. More recently I started the Archaeology Travel website; sharing my expertise and love of archaeology and travel with others who also want to explore the many different pasts around the World.