Many of us dream about Paris as a destination. It’s got everything: culture, art, history, architecture. It has the Eiffel Tower, Sacre-Coeur, and even the Moulin Rouge. But every bit as stunning as the City of Lights is, France the country has so much more to offer. Be it the rolling hills and vineyards of the Loire Valley to the historical streets of Strasbourg and the silver sands of Saint-Tropez; there are many things to do in France - and to see. Get ready to brush up on your French. After all, any excuse to drink wine is a good excuse.
Everybody who has dreamed of Paris has dreamed of scaling the Eiffel Tower. However, viewing the city from the top of the Iron Lady isn’t the only thing you can do involving the tower. Every evening, for example, the Eiffel Tower has a stunning, sparkling lights show. Although this can be seen from all over the city, it’s most commonly watched from the Place du Trocadéro. As well as this, if you do climb the Eiffel Tower, there’s also a secret lurking on the third floor. That secret is the Victorian apartment of the tower’s designer, Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel and his apartment were the envy of Parisians far and wide as he only allowed the elite to set foot inside of it. Luckily, now visitors who buy a ticket to the top can take a peek through the window at this hidden abode.
The Abbey at Mont Saint-Michel is one of the most visited places in France. Part of its very own island, it sits on the border of the Normandy and Brittany regions. Despite being a tourist destination, the commune is also home to under 50 people including the nuns and monks from the Abbey. Because it's an island, you're advised to be mindful of the tide. As with all water, it ebbs, and it flows, and the Mont-Saint-Michel is as beautiful at low tide as it is at high. As well as exploring this remarkable piece of architecture, you can also take a walk around the museums. Additionally, if you're lucky, you might catch the choristers singing.
Perhaps not the best thing to do in France if you're afraid of heights, the ancient Roman aqueduct of Pont du Gard is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Pont du Gard is positioned over the river Gardon and has been there since roughly 50 CE. The bridge connects Nîmes with Uzès and the area surrounding it is full of Mediterranean beauty. Seasoned hikers and casual walkers alike can enjoy the landscape and explore the gorges, making for an unforgettable French vacation. While the top of the aqueduct is no longer accessible to just anyone, you can freely walk the road beside it.
Everybody knows that France is one of the best countries to go to visit real vineyards. After all, France and wine go together in the same way America and the Wild West do. The Loire Valley in the west of France has thousands of world-famous vineyards, chateaux, and walks. Stretching from Nantes to Sancerre, you can walk the longest wine route in the country. Amidst the green hills, you'll find hidden villages and abbeys, gardens, and chateaux. For all wine lovers, the Loire Valley trail is a must-see. As well as its astonishing beauty and incredible castles, there are huge wine cellars all over. Drink up!
Just a short train ride away from Paris is the Palace of Versailles. Versailles was at its height during the reign of Louis XIV and the Chateau, and its gardens are still pulling in millions of visitors a year. The Chateau itself is as extravagant as its once-King was and worth battling the crowds. However, if you time it right, you'll be able to visit what is perhaps France's most immense and entrancing palaces. That time is most likely during the off-season which, in Paris, is the winter months and early spring. Furthermore, if you buy your tickets online in advance, you can also skip the lines.
One of Claude Monet's most famous paintings is his Water Lilies. Each painting the artist did of these flowers that would become his trademark were inspired by those in Giverny. Now named after Monet himself, the pond and Japanese bridge at Monet's Gardens are a beautiful accompaniment to seeing the art. Monet settled in Giverny at the tail end of the 19th Century. He soon bought neighboring land which is where the gardens now reside. These gardens and their water lilies inspired Monet for decades to the point where it feels like there's still part of him left.
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France doesn't get more stunning than the Gorges du Verdon. One of Provence's most renowned attractions, the Gorges du Verdon might even be the most beautiful river valley in the world. Known to some as France's Grand Canyon, visitors of all types can find something to do here. Sports enthusiasts can take a kayak out on the sparkling green waters while less keen sun-seekers can bathe on its shores. There's also ample choice for walks, one of which leads you to a viewpoint of the entire gorge called "Point Sublime." Visiting the Gorges might even be the most memorable trip you'll ever take.
Truly, France is more than its cities, and if there's anything that can unquestionably prove it, it's the Chamonix Valley. This region in the French Alps provides vacation ideas for every season. Visitors can ski in winter or hike during the summer. There's also something to do for literally every member of the family, no matter what they're looking for. On top of this, Mont Blanc and its surrounding panorama is unreal and the Alpine lakes burst with blossom during spring for all to see.
While it’s true that the top of the Eiffel Tower offers a great view, what is the Paris cityscape without the tower itself? The Pompidou Centre, in the Marais district, gives its visitors the chance to see the entire city - tower included! It’s also free to get to the top of the building. Once up there, you’ll not only be able to see the tower but the Sacre-Coeur, Pantheon, and Parisian rooftops as well. The center itself also has its own unique things to do with modern and contemporary art exhibitions and concerts alike. That being said, the building alone is enough of a modern marvel.
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It doesn't matter where you fall on the religious spectrum, Our Lady of Lourdes is a sanctuary for healing and hope. Even those who perhaps don't believe in a greater being will be astounded by the Shrine. As legend tells it, in 1858, the Virgin Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous on the very spot where the shrine now stands. Lourdes is beautiful at any time of year, but to see the nighttime procession of pilgrims or the Mass at the Grotto will do a lot to move anyone who sees it.