France

Spotlight on France

France has been synonymous with romance for as long as one can remember. From romance along the Seine to landscapes on bus-sized canvases to cafes monologuing on the use of garlic, Paris is the essence of all things French. The charming city of Arles is renowned for its Roman remains, houses with striking red barrel-tiled roofs, and shady, twisting narrow alleys. Biarritz is known for fine beaches and world-class surfing. Cannes has a museum and many pretty galleries. The harbor, the bay, the hill west of the port called Le Suquet, the beachside promenade, the beaches and the people tanning themselves provide natural beauty. Chamonix lies in one of the most spectacular valleys of the French Alps. The largest and most lavish chateau is Château de Chambord. St. Malo, one of the most popular tourist destinations on the Emerald Coast, is famed for its walled city and beaches. Toulouse has grand churches, fine art and handsome 16th-century mansions.

Paris, world capital of art and culture, gathers some of the most famous museums and monuments in the world. Like all the world's great capitals, Paris lives at a fast pace, by day, by night and especially at rush hours. Bear in mind that museums and monuments are often less crowded during the week. Sights that should not be missed include: The Louvre and the Musée d'Orsay. Visit any of the many others according to your tastes and interests: the Musée Picasso, Musée Rodin, Musée Carnavalet, Musée Marmottan and the Arab Institute are just a few. Essential Paris monuments are the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame cathedral, the Arc de Triomphe or the Grande Arche de la Défense.

Provence The heart of Provence is in the hills that bind the sea to the Alps. These are the sloping vineyards; the cultivated lands and the colorful scenery that charmed Cezanne (Aix en Provence), Van Gogh (Arles), Chagall or Giono. In Provence or the Midi the local people have a soft singing accent which evokes their whole relaxed lifestyle. Many remains from the Roman times can be seen in Provence, including: Arles, with monuments listed as World Heritage Sites since 1981; Glanum, near Saint Rémy de Provence; Orange; Vaison-la-Romaine.

Nice is undoubtedly the place for the opening up of art and culture. The Côte d'Azur has inspired, from time immemorial, the greatest painters, writers and musicians. It has compelled recognition of its avant-garde across the Atlantic, its museums holding prestigious collections in edifices of renowned architecture. Nice is full of an extraordinary artistic and cultural heritage. The gentle way of life sustains the imaginary world of artists and stimulates their creativeness. A cultural and aesthetic atmosphere prevails here; the cultural life is intense. It is punctuated by temporary exhibitions in the museums and the municipal galleries, by the programming of the theatres of which the most important is the Theatre of Nice - National Dramatic Centre - directed by Jacques Weber. The Opera House of Nice's Theatre proposes events of great quality.

Cannes One visit to this sun-kissed stretch of the French Riviera is enough to explain why stars of the silver screen chose Cannes to host the world's most important film festival. The palm-fringed coastal boulevard hugs the curve of the beach, and is lined with luxury hotels and casinos. With Aérospatiale and Sophia-Antipolis, the leading European technical park, the future is being built here and experienced daily. Thanks to the International Film Festival, which each year attracts stars from all round the world, Cannes is the best known French town after Paris. Prestige and international expertise function together to meet business and leisure travel requirements which represent the major economic activity in Cannes. In the heart of this site of great natural beauty stands the 'Palais des Festivals' Congress Centre, equipped with all ultra-modern facilities, which has enabled Cannes to become one of the world's most important conference towns in the world.

Bordeaux Surrounding Bordeaux are world-renowned vineyards and châteaux. Visitors from all over the globe come here to learn about the winemaking process - from growing grapes to harvesting, fermenting and bottling these top-quality wines. Here in the wine region the title of château can mean anything from a palatial residence to a basic winery. There are thousands of châteaux that rank from very modest family establishments to large famous properties where grapes are raised, fermented and then matured to produce the area’s famous wines. Visit Rue Ste. Cathérine - a half-mile-long pedestrian street leading through the Old Town’s major shopping area and marking the beginning of the elegant 18th-century city. - and Musée des Beaux Arts -- a museum with a large collection of 17th-century paintings by Flemish, Dutch and Italian masters as well as works by Delacroix.

Marseille is a vibrant, cosmopolitan port in the Provence region of France. Craggy mountains provide a spectacular backdrop. As a Mediterranean melting pot, the port virtually rubs shoulders with intimate, picturesque old harbor, the Vieux Port. Packed with watercrafts, this is the heart of Marseille. Two fortresses guard the harbor: Fort Saint Nicolas and Fort Saint Jean. Several vantage points offer spectacular views, including the impressive Basilica Notre Dame de la Garde - a prominent landmark overlooking the city that is crowned by a monumental, gilded statue of Virgin Mary. Marseille boasts numerous fine museums well worth a visit. Sitting at one of the many outside cafes or strolling the streets of the old port area lets you experience the unpretentious charm of this city. Other sights include Chateau d'If - a 16th century fortress-turned-prison; Basilica St-Victor - Marseille's oldest church with the appearance of a fortress; and La Canebiere - a broad boulevard with everything from hotels to cafes and shops.

Loire Valley – The Loire Valley is rich with meandering streams, majestic oaks, quiet roads, and lush green countryside. Its royal châteaux and pastoral villages grace its overwhelming natural beauty. Easy access from Paris, breathtaking architectural masterpieces, tiny discoveries hidden in the gentle folds of the landscape, accommodations from delightful to sumptuous, the excitement of great food and wine, and sports and leisure activities make this an ideal spot for an unforgettable holiday. Visitors can delight in picturesque cobblestone streets and take day tours to many points of interest just minutes from every major Loire Valley town. The patchwork fields, cool forests and lazy rivers of the Loire Valley invite active vacationers to walk, cycle, windsurf, sail and canoe in the gentle countryside. Visitors can drift leisurely over the châteaux and countryside in a hot air balloon or enjoy spectacular sights while floating along on a houseboat or barge.

Rouen Settled by the Celts, Rouen really flourished in the Middle Ages. In a natural amphitheater on the Seine, the capital of Normandy is important as a commercial and cultural center. Today the city is a blend of ancient and modern. Rouen is known as the City of a Hundred Spires; many of its important edifices are churches. The most magnificent one is the Cathedral of Notre Dame, a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture immortalized in Claude Monet's series "Cathedrales de Rouen." Surrounding the large square are picturesque half-timbered houses with steeply pointed roofs. The wealth of architectural treasures and the ambience of Rouen’s historic center will impress any visitor. Exploring the narrow, cobbled streets in the old quarter is a must. The giant clock above the archway spanning the Rue du Gros Horloge is a focal point and famous emblem. Rouen is connected to the sea by the Seine Valley. The city serves as a starting point for trips to Paris and to Norman castles and abbeys.

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