Category Archives: France

What to do in France; French attractions and the best places to visit in France.

Review of Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port

We stayed at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for four nights in mid April 2105. I booked the accommodation on ebookers during a 20% off hotel promotion, at a cost £183, equivalent to just under £46 a night. However it stated on the ebookers confirmation that there was an additional City Tax of 1 Euro per night per person, which had to be paid at check-in.

I selected the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for its central location, good price and self catering facilities. The hotel isn’t right by Vieux Port, it takes at least ten minutes to walk there. It takes around 15 minutes to walk from the main railway station to the hotel.

aparthotel adagio marseille vieux port exterior

Entrance to Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port

We arrived around one hour before the official check-in time of 3pm. There was some confusion over whether we could check-in early, so we decided to go to buy some supplies at the nearby supermarket.

When we did finally check-in, I was charged 1.5 Euro per person per day City Tax, when it’d said that it would be 1 Euro in the booking confirmation. By that time, I was too hot and bothered to argue over a few Euro.

A few days before arrival, I’d contacted the hotel by email to request a quiet room. My request had been granted as the room faced an internal courtyard.

aparthotel adagio marseille vieux port studio

Twin room at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port

I was extremely happy with the room. It had two large windows, a spacious bathroom and a well equipped small kitchen. The beds were firm and comfy.

The WiFi had a very good signal and you didn’t need to sign in. I would’ve liked another double electrical socket at the desk. We had to charge our mobile phones in the kitchen; it wasn’t ideal having electronic devices near water and the cooker rings.

Cleaning isn’t included in the price if you stay for 4 nights or more; there’s an additional charge of 18 Euro per clean for a studio. Whereas, if you stay for 1-3 nights, daily cleaning is included in the price. The hotel says that rates for stays of 4+ nights are lower to account for this.

I didn’t mind doing a bit of cleaning myself. The other advantage of DIY cleaning is that you don’t get disturbed. I often find that the housekeeping staff appear in the early afternoon, just when I’ve arrived back at the room after a morning’s sightseeing.

Breakfast cost 11 Euro a day. I had a quick look at what was on offer, and decided that I could prepare a similar spread in the apartment at a much lower cost. Plus,  we could have a late breakfast with no need to rush down during breakfast serving hours.

The official check-out time is 11am. As our train to Nice departed at 1pm, I requested a late check-out at noon, which was granted.

I’d recommend the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port for the quality of the accommodation. Paying for daily cleaning and breakfast would bump up the price per night quite a bit. If your stay if for 4+ nights and you are willing to shop for and prepare your own breakfast and spend a few minutes per day cleaning the room, it offers very good value for money.

Click here to check availability and price at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port.

chateau d'if views

Visiting Chateau d’If in Marseille

One of things which I was most looking forward to when visiting Marseille was a  trip out to the Chateau d’If.  It was built in 1529 as a naval fortress on the island of If, the smallest of the Frioul Islands, which lie a couple of miles west of Vieux Port in Marseille.

chateau d'if ferry arrives

The Frioul Islands ferry arrives in If

The Chateau later become a prison. The French author, Alexander Dumas, used it as the setting for the imprisonment of the main character of his novel, ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’.

If you buy a Marseille City Card, the ferry and entrance fee to the Chateau are included in the price of the card.

We had two day Marseille City Cards valid for the Saturday and Sunday. As Sunday was forecast to be wet, we decided to visit the Chateau d’If on the Saturday.  We arrived at the ferry ticket office around 40 minutes prior to the 11.05 departure. It appeared that everyone wanted to make the most of the sunny day, as the queue was so long, that when we arrived at the ticket window just before 11am, the next available tickets were for the 13.15 ferry.

That left us with the dilemma of what to do for the next couple of hours. We decided to take a ride on the road train to Notre Dame de la Garde. However, when we arrived at the starting point, there was a massive queue there too. To avoid standing in the queue later that day, we asked if we could pre-book tickets on a train for early evening, but were told that wasn’t possible. We then decided to have a quick look around the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations (MuCEM).

It was a bit of a rush to get back to embark onto the 13.05 ferry.

You get some great views as you as you head out of Vieux Port on the ferry.

chateau d'if leaving vieux port

Vieux Port from the ferry to Chateau d’If

chateau d'if looking towards marseille cathedral

Marseille Cathedral from the ferry to Chateau d’If

chateau d'if mucem and fort saint jean

MuCEM (black building) and Fort Saint-Jean from the ferry

chateau d'if ferry at sea

The Frioul islands ferry heads toward the island of If

I was glad that the 20 minute crossing was fairly smooth, although there was some heave as you left the shelter of the harbour.

chateau d'if ferry arrvies on the island

The ferry docked at If island

There are toilets, which are rather smelly, and a cafe, which we didn’t visit, on the island.

There’s a courtyard with a well when you enter Chateau d’If. There were some benches in the shade there.

chateau d'if well

Central courtyard at Chateau d’If

There are plenty of prison cells to explore.

chateau d'if door

Cell door at Chateau d’If

The best thing about visiting the Chateau are the views from the top.

chateau d'if looking towards lighthouse

Looking towards the lighthouse on the island of If

chateau d'if roof

The roof of Chateau d’If

chateau d'if view

View of the hills on the mainland from Chateau d’If

I’d recommend a trip out Chateau d’If if you’re visiting Marseille.

museum of decorative arts marseille - flower pot seats

Photo Tour of the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille

I had planned to visit the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille prior to our trip to the city. My interest was further piqued by posters and flyers dotted around the city of the ‘Pop Art Design’ exhibition by Hubert Le Gall at the Museum of Decorative Arts, which runs until 6 September 2015.

museum of decorative arts marseille at chateau borely

The museum, which is housed in Chateau Borely, was renovated for Marseille’s 2013 stint as a European Capital of Culture. The adjacent park is beautiful, but we weren’t able to explore it, as it was raining heavily.

museum of decorative arts marseille - view over parc borely

I loved the hare’s ears seat.

museum of decorative arts marseille - hare's ear chair

There appeared to be a bit of a hare theme, as I spotted another in the dining room, sculpted as a candelabra, balanced on a top hat.

museum of decorative arts marseille - dining room

The bedroom contained some of Hubert Le Gall’s trademark flower patterns. Daisies were emblazoned on a sideboard.

museum of decorative arts marseille - bedroom

There was a black multi flower rug sculpture on the floor.

museum of decorative arts marseille - bedroom floor sculpture

The black and gold table on the first floor landing had what looked like a giraffe refection on the floor.

museum of decorative arts marseille - shadow table

Another of my favourite exhibits was the fish dress.

museum of decorative arts marseille - fish dress

There were some lovely glass pieces.

museum of decorative arts marseille - glass display

The Art Nouveau stained glass was beautiful.

museum of decorative arts marseille - art nouveau glass

The  sun and cloud shelf was pretty.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sun and clouds wall shelf

There was a golden teddy bear style sculpture base for a reading light above a table in the drawing room.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sculpture under table

And another similar sculpture in the fireplace.

museum of decorative arts marseille - sculpture in fireplace

I wasn’t quite sure which animal heads decorated the mirror frame, I thought maybe antelopes.

museum of decorative arts marseille - unusually shaped mirror

The spaghetti style chandelier was different to the more standard reflective crystal prism style.

museum of decorative arts marseille - spaghetti chandelier

The red and green flower pot chairs were fun.

museum of decorative arts marseille - flower pot chairs

I’d highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Decorative Arts in Marseille. If you buy a Marseille City Pass the 5 Euro entry fee is waived.

verteuil charente

A Touring Holiday from Poitiers to Bordeaux in France

I’ve been thinking about visiting the Bordeaux area in France for ages.

As Ryanair have direct flights from Edinburgh to Bordeaux and Poitiers (which lies around 160 miles north of Bordeaux), I thought that a 7 day leisurely self-drive touring holiday between the two cities sounded good.

poitiers

Poitiers

Poiters and Bordeaux are both in the Pitou-Charentes region of west central France. As I’ve previously visited the coastal area of this region, I was keen to explore the interior.

I used the itinerary planner on the France-Voyage.com website to look at various route options. It’s a really helpful, simple tool;  you use sliders to indicate your interests such as culture, nature, architecture and well-being, the pace of your itinerary and factors such as budget and if you’re travelling with kids or pets.

After looking at various options, I went for the auto-selected trip, travelling at a leisurely pace. I chose an emphasis on architecture, culture and nature. I was willing to travel to see the most beautiful sites, and wanted a trip on a low budget.

You can manually select the route from the travel guide list. However, as I don’t know that area, I was happy to go with the auto select. if something which doesn’t take your fancy appears, you can easily remove it from your itinerary.

As you read through the itinerary, you can do virtual visits of the destination and click through for more information about specific attractions, accommodation options and restaurants in the area.

You can then export the itinerary as a pdf, allowing you to print a mini guide book.

I was impressed by the itinerary generated for me, which you can see on the map below.

route map

My France-Voyage itinerary from Poitiers to Bordeaux 

DAY ONE

Explore Poitiers, one of the highlights would be Notre-Dame-la-Grande church, dating from the 11th century. In Summer and during the Christmas holidays, the Polychromies light show is projected onto the facade of the church.

DAY TWO

Start with a visit to the village of Nouaille-Aaupertuis, dominated by an Abbey which was established in the 7th century.

nouaille maupertuis abbey

Nouaille-Aaupertuis Abbey

Then a stop for lunch in Civray, located on the banks of the River Charente.

civray

Civray

Next a stop in Ruffec, on the River Lien. By the river bank, there’s an old communal laundry, mill and castle ruins.

ruffec

Ruffec

The final stop of the day is Verteuil-sur-Charente.

DAY THREE

After a stop in Tusson, spend the rest of the day in Angouleme, the French capital of the Comic Strip.

angouleme

Angouleme

DAY FOUR

A stop to visit the natural springs in Touvre.

touvre

Touvre

Then a visit to the medieval fortress of Villebois-Lavalette.

villebois lavalette

Villebois-Lavalette

DAY FIVE

Begin with a visit to Maine-Giraud Manor House, former home of the poet Alfred de Vigny.

maine giraud manor house

Maine-Giraud Manor House

A stop at Bassac in the Charente Vailley, which could include kayaking in the river.

charente valley

Charente Valley

Next a trip to Barbezieux, with its 15th century castle.

barbezieux

Barbezieux

DAY SIX

After visiting Saint Emilion and buying some of the local wine,  some time to explore Libourne, where the Dordogne and Isle rivers meet.

libourne

Libourne

End the day in Bourg.

bourg

Bourg

DAY SEVEN

A visit to Blaye Citadel, which overlooks the Gironde Estuary.

blaye citadel

Blaye Citadel

End the day in the city of Bordeaux, which has been a world heritage site since 2007. In the evening, I’d head for the Jardin des Lumieres, with its water mirror and illuminated walkways.

bordeaux

Bordeaux

I think that the France-Voyage website is a really useful resource for planning your holiday in France. It’s free to use and has half a million pages of information in five languages. The travel itinerary tool is excellent, as it allows you to tailor your trip to your own interests and budget, since it shows accommodation options ranging from camp sites to luxury hotels.

the eclair diaires by le meridien

The Côte d’Azur Éclair: One of the Stars of Le Méridien Éclair Diaries

Pastry chef Johnny Iuzzini took a motorcycle tour around the Côte d’Azur in the south of France as part of the Le Méridien‘s ‘Éclair Diaries‘. Johnny was looking for inspiration for a new éclair that would embody the flavours of the region and bring a new twist to this traditional Parisian pastry.

Johnny visited a candy maker, a baker, a Farmer’s Market, a citrus orchard and a patisserie shop at which he used to work, taking notes in his diary as he went along. He also chatted with the Executive Chef of Le Méridien Beach Plaza in nearby Monaco.

Johnny was keen to devise an éclair with a fusion of sweet and savoury, containing herbal, citrus and floral ingredients. His creation, pictured below, was the ‘Côte d’Azur Éclair.’

lemon verbena + herbes de provence eclair

The herbs are used in the choux pastry. Leaves from the Lemon Verbena shrub are mixed with eggs, sugar, butter and lemons for the creamy filling.  The ‘Côte d’Azur Éclair’ is glazed with orange blossom, vanilla and jasmine, then garnished with candied mandarin and crystallised flowers.

Click here to download Johnny’s recipe.

I also liked the look of the Pistachio Éclair from Le Méridien Budapest. It’s filled with hard pistachio mousse with flaky marzipan and crushed pistachio on top.

le meridien budapest eclair

Brought to you in partnership with Le Méridien hotels.

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marseille

Should I Buy a Marseille City Pass?

marseille passI decided to investigate the Marseille City Pass in order to decide if I should purchase one for my forthcoming trip to France.

I’ve found that you can’t generalise about the utility of city passes. You have to work it out for each individual city.  It depends on the individual offering; the price, how many attractions are included and if these attractions offer free or merely reduced admission.

Adult prices for a Marseille City Pass

  • 24 Euro for 24 hours
  • 31 Euro for 48 hours
  • 39 Euro for 72 hours

As I’ll be in Marseille from Friday afternoon to Tuesday morning, and the museums are shut on Mondays, the 48 hours Marseille City Pass looks like the best option for me.

Chateau d'If

Chateau d’If Marseille by Jean-Pierre Dalbera

What’s Included in the Marseille City Pass

Free entry to permanent exhibitions at these museums:

– Museum of African, Oceanic, American-Indian Art
– Museum of Mediterranean Archeology
– Marine Museum
– “Cantini” Museum
– Roman Docks Museum
– Natural History Museum
– Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of Marseille
– Museum of Decorative arts and Fashion
– History Museum
– MAC (Contemporary Art)
– MuCEM (Closed on Tuesdays)
– Museum of Fine Arts – Palais Longchamp
– Museum “Regards de Provence”

All public transport including bus, metro and tram.

Guided Tours, which must be pre-booked.

Tourist train to Notre-Dame de la Garde or the Old Town.

Boat trip to the If-Castle (includes entry to the castle) or boat trip to the Frioul Islands.

Calculating How Much I’d Spend on Individual Admission Charges

I selected some things I’d like to do in Marseilles

  1. MuCEM – 8 Euro
  2. Chateau d’If –  16 Euro (boat costs 10.5 Euro, castle admission costs 5.5 Euro)
  3. MAC – 5 Euro
  4. Museum of Decorative arts and Fashion- 5 Euro

The total for these four attractions came to 34 Euro, more than the 31 Euro for a 48 hour Marseille City Pass. As I thought that I might also use public transport to explore outside the city centre, I reckoned that it was worth buying the pass.

Update 2 May 2015 – Buying the Marseille City Pass did work out to be a good deal. I also took a tourist train to Notre Dame de la Garde which costs 8 Euro The return bus fare to the two museums outside the city centre costs 3 Euro. Therefore, I got 45 Euro worth of value from paying 31 Euro.

mucem marseille

Planning a Two Centre Trip to Marseille and Nice in France

I’m off on a twin city trip to Marseille and Nice in France in April.

Flights

The return flights, outward with Ryanair from Edinburgh to Marseille and returning from Nice to Edinburgh with easyJet cost £95.

vieux port marseille

Vieux Port Marseiille by Franck Vallet

Accommodation

Four nights accommodation in a studio at the Aparthotel Adagio Marseille Vieux Port in Marseille cost £183 plus 1 Euro City Tax per person night. Three nights in a superior room at the Kyriad NIce Centre Gare cost £129 plus plus 1 Euro City Tax per person night.

seafront nice

Nice seafront

Transfer Between Cities

The Journey from Marseille to Nice will cost around £25 per person in second class and take around two and a half hours.

Getting Online

Although both hotels offer free WiFi, I find that I can never depend on getting a decent signal. Fortunately, Three’s ‘Feel at Home’ scheme covers France, so I’ll be able to use my  UK phone contract, with no additional costs.

Even if you don’t have a contract with Three Mobile, you can purchase a Three Mobile ‘All in One’ Add-on for £15, which will give you 25GB of data for overseas use on your phone in countries included in ‘Feel at Home’ scheme.

 

Exploring Strasbourg in Eastern France

Strasbourg is the capital of the French region of Alsace, situated three kilometres from the border with Germany. This gives the city an unique mix of German and French influence in everything from architecture and artistic heritage, to food (sauerkraut or choucroute) and drink (Gewürtztraminer and Riesling).

Typical timber-framed buildings in Strasbourg.Maison des Tanneurs by Jonathan Martz

It’s easy to reach the city by rail, as it’s only two hours from Paris on the TGV Est line. Railbookers have some tailor-made rail trips available that can take you from London to Strasbourg via Rail, which will allow you take in the sights of France as you go. There are a number of hotels close to the station, but these tend to be at the budget end. About a ten to fifteen minute walk from the station is the Grande ÃŽle and Petite France, two areas in the city centre that have charming medieval streets and squares with its typical Alsatian white timber-framed buildings. Here you will find a range of good hotels, from affordable to luxury. Being in the city centre you are close to the many bars and restaurants frequented by visitors and locals alike by day and night. Given that much of the city centre is pedestrianised, it is easy and pleasant to just wander around these streets admiring the architecture.

One of the many squares in the picturesque centre of Strasbourg.
Place du Marché aux Cochons de Lait by Rh-67

Strasbourg is an incredibly picturesque city, and is justifiably a popular tourist destination throughout the year. During the summer it is the scenic, mountainous landscapes of Alsace and the typical white timber framed Medieval buildings that attracts many visitors to the area and the city. Whereas during the winter months, particularly in the weeks leading up to Christmas, it is the annual market that draws people in.

A Christmas market in Strasbourg.
Strasbourg Christmas market by Jonathan M

Perhaps the most prominent architectural attraction is the sandstone Gothic Cathédrale Notre-Dame of Strasbourg, with its astronomical clock. This and many other Medieval churches thankfully escaped destruction during the many wars that have plagued this region of Europe.  Time your visit for 12:30 pm to see the procession of Christ and his apostles while a life-size cock crows. The astronomical element of the clock shows an accurate, relative position of the sun and noon, as well as the solar and lunar eclipses. The clock was installed in 1843 during the first period of French possession of the city (1681 – 1870). When observing the clock – look to the left where you will see a statue of the clock’s maker admiring his masterpiece.

The astronomical clock in Strasbourg.
The astronomical clock in the Cathedral by Taxiarchos22

There are a number of breweries in Strasbourg, many offering  free tours during which you can see the production process, and even taste the beer at the end.

Leaving the Medieval city centre, there are more recent parks and castles to explore. The Baroque style Château de Pourtalès and the Parc de l’Orangerie with its Neoclassical castle are two popular attractions to explore on a sunny day.
The Neoclassical Pavillon Joséphine.
The Neoclassical Pavillon Joséphine by Jonathan M

Should the weather not be that great for exploring outdoors, there are plenty of museums to visit. Much of the city’s archaeological heritage is accessible in the Musée Archéologique. The more recent history of the city is explored in the Musée Historique.

There are a number of unusual museums in Strasbourg, some of which are owned and managed by the university. If you were ever curious about instruments that measure earthquakes and other seismic activity – don’t miss the Musée de Sismologie et Magnétisme terrestre. But perhaps the most unusual of the university museums is the plaster cast museum: Gypsothèque de Strasbourg, also called the Musée des moulages. In the basement of a Neoclassical Palace inaugurated by a German Emperor is an eclectic mix of plaster casts of various well known classical works of art – including some of the contested sculptures from the Parthenon in Greece. These casts were moved to the basement at the start of World War II, and have been there ever since. And, it was in this impressive building that the first meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe took place in September 1949.

History of Strasbourg

People have been settling in the area for many thousands of years. Archaeological evidence of human occupation stretches back to at least 600,000 years ago. More recently, during the third century BC, an important Celtic town called Argentorate developed alongside the river. More recently still the Romans established a strategic military settlement here, and the original shape of the Roman fort can still be seen in the layout and plan of the inner city.

The more recent Medieval past is everywhere – and it is this period that gives the city much of its photogenic character.

To many people, Strasbourg is the seat of the European Parliament. Besides hosting a number of European institutions, members of the European Parliament meet here for twelve sessions a year, during which all parliamentary votes that effect the European Union take place. But there is so much more to the city than the EU. Strasbourg’s political significance today reflects a city that has been at the heart of Europe’s history for centuries. Strasbourg was the first city to have  its entire centre listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site – in 1988.

If you enjoy exploring Europe by train, Railbookers offer rail trips to many other European destinations including Luxembourg, Cannes and Monte Carlo.

Brittany Ferries

Ferry Versus Plane for Holidays in France

Brittany Ferries’ infographic highlights some of the advantages of travelling from the UK to France by ferry versus plane.

The comparison is based on a holiday to the Loire Valley for a family of two adults and two kids. The journey by ferry would entail driving your own car to the UK ferry port, the ferry crossing from Portsmouth to Caen and the drive to the Loire Valley. The journey by plane would entail driving to your UK departure airport, flying to Nantes and picking up a hire car at the airport to drive to the final destination.

Check in time for Brittany Ferries is 45 minutes before departure, compared to two hours for flights. Travelling by ferry would avoid the drive to the airport, transfer from the airport car park to the terminal buidling and queueing up to drop off your hold luggage and to get through airport security.

To me, the biggest advantage of travelling with your own car and crossing the Channel by ferry is that there are no luggage restrictions. I’m geting fed up of squeezing all my luggage into one carry on case to avoid hold luggage fees, bag drop off queues and waits at the luggage carousel on arrival at the destination. Never mind the confusion over the differing maximum dimensions and weight of that cary on suitcase between the airlines.

You can fit in loads of luggage in your car, even in a supermini. This is a real boon, especially when travelling with kids. I remember how much gear I needed to take even for a day out, never mind a holiday. If your kids are small, you can use the foot wells at the back seats as extra storage space.


Ferry to France vs Plane

Image source: Brittany Ferries – Ferry VS Plane to France

It’s easier to keep kids entertained on a ferry than a plane. A ferry offers more space to move around.  When you’re on a plane you can be wedged into your seat, with a baby on your knee, unable to even walk up and down the aisle during trolley service. There’s the option to pay for a cabin on the ferry if you want some private space. Click here for information on the various Brittany Ferries routes to France.

I’ve never had a problem getting a seat next to my travelling companian(s) on ferry. With most airlines, you now have to pay an additional fee to select specific seats; the free allocated seats don’t guarantee that everyone in the party will sit together.

Another advantage for me is the free WiFi on board on Brittany Ferries. Although I can get online through Vodafone Euro Traveller, it costs me £3 a day to use my UK allowance, which only includes 1.5GB of data per month.

It can be a real hassle picking up a hire car when you arrive at your destination airport. There’s usually a queue, when all you want to do is get going to your final destination.

Not having to pay for car hire could make your holiday cheaper. You need to watch our for fairly hefty excesses, payable if the rental car is damaged of stotlen,  even on supposedly all inclusive prices with car hire firms.

Diesel is cheaper than unleaded petrol in France. As we have a diesel car, we’d be able to take advantage of this. Whereas, it’s usually more expensive to rent a diesel than a petrol car, so the additional cost of renting a diesel car would negate the savings made on cheaper diesel.

If you’re thinking of taking your car to Europe, check that your car insurance offers EU cover as standard, some insurance companies charge extra for this. Our M&S premier car insurance also includes European breakdown cover.

paris-amphitheatre-640

Discovering Roman Sites in Paris

Unlike many southern French cities, Paris tends not to be associated with a Roman past. Some guidebooks barely mention their presence at all, or they do so only in passing. Not surprisingly then, of all the things to see and do in Paris the Roman sites rarely get a look in. Of course the Roman archaeology that does survive in Paris today is nowhere near as visually spectacular as say the amphitheatre in Nîmes or the theatre in Orange. But, for those interested in a deeper past of European cities there are some interesting Roman sites to visit.

roman-port-paris-640Multimedia display in remains of Roman port in Notre Dame’s crypt

Soon after Julius Caesar defeated the Celts in 52 BC, the Romans established a settlement on the left bank of the Seine River. Although it would never become an administrative centre, its location on the navigable river meant the settlement would always be strategic for shipping and maritime commerce. Visitors to the crypt of the Notre Dame Cathedral can see the remains of the Roman port. A wonderful but simple multimedia display that adds life to the stone foundations, and children today excitedly watch the arrival in port of a Roman ship (below).

The main centre of the Roman town, Lutetia as it was called then, lay to the south of the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Ile de Cit̩. Rue St. Jacques is generally thought to have been the main axis road, or the cardo maximus, of the town on the left bank, while the modern day equivalent on the right bank is the Rue Saint-Martin Рthe road that runs alongside the Pompidou Centre. So while tourists explore the very trendy Latin Quarter and students study at the Sorbonne, beneath them are the foundations of the Roman town.

bathhouse-paris-640

Remains of Roman bath house in Paris

An exception can be found on Boulevard Saint-Michel, where the substantial remains of what was one of a number of public bath houses can be seen from the street (above). This bath house still stands today because it was not destroyed by the Franks when they sacked the city in the mid fifth century AD, and it has been in continuous use since. Part of the building now houses the National Middle Ages Museum.

paris-amphitheatre-640

Reconstruction of Roman amphitheatre in Paris

As with all sizeable Roman towns, Lutetia also had an amphitheatre. Do not expect anything like the Colosseum in Rome Рthat was after all the biggest and most elaborate amphitheatre in the entire Roman world. Today the Ar̬nes de Lut̬ce is a reconstruction of the amphitheatre that was located just beyond the edge of the Roman town. That there is anything there at all today is thanks in part to Victor Hugo who spearheaded a campaign to have the remains preserved when they were discovered in the 1860s.

The Romans were by no means the first to settle in Paris. The earliest evidence of human habitation along the Seine River goes back some 10,000 years. One of the earliest dugout canoes to have been excavated in Europe can be seen on display in the Carnavalet Museum; along with many other archaeological objects from the earliest times in Paris.

More Paris Tips

If you’re in Paris to attend a football or rugby match or a gig at the Stade de France, we’ve ideas for day trips by car from the Stade de France area in our guest post on the carhiremarket.com site. Having a hire car will enable you to visit places such as the Montmorency Forest and the Isle d’Adam, giving you a contrast to the hustle and bustle of the Paris.