France Uncovered

By: Gregory Hall and Collette Vacations

There is a reason France is the most visited country in the world. See for yourself why… you won’t be disappointed.

Paris. A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a visit to Paris will leave you speechless. The city of lights and love, she is also the capital of the country largely considered to be the philosophical cradle of the Enlightenment. Paris is not only to be savored in the springtime, but summer, fall and winter as well. A quick ride in a Parisian cab or on the Métro will bring you to the Louvre, Notre Dame, Montmartre, Sacré Cœur, the Seine River’s famous left bank, the Hôtel des Invalides where Napoleon is entombed, the Galleries Lafayette or Printemps (or other famous Parisian shops) … the list goes on and on.

The dining: cafés, brasseries, and restaurants offer everything from basic fare to exquisite gastronomy – in the fancier restaurants, it would seem the chef moonlights as a poet, adding to the charm of the experience.

Normandy. Famous for its cider, Calvados brandy, and cheese, to most North Americans, it is better known for the pivotal moment in history that saw the Allied forces break through Hitler’s Atlantic Wall to open the Western Front in WWII. My first visit to Normandy started at the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach. I remember watching the early morning fog rise revealing perfectly arranged Carrara marble headstones shone like white beacons over the beaches the men they commemorate had helped liberate. I later learned why those grave markers are so white: one of the cemetery’s French custodians takes the time to paint all 9,387 of them each year. The whole area around the landing beaches is a living memorial to those valiant soldiers.

The Loire Valley. Cradle of the French monarchy for centuries, this part of France is where the magnificent chateaux of France can be visited. Chenonceau, once seized by King Henry II, was given to his mistress, Diane de Poitiers. After his death, Henry’s wife, Catherine de Medici, had Diane expelled and maneuvered a way to finally call Chenonceau her own. Astonished visitors marvel at the gardens, and this summer party house of royals and nobles, built over the river Cher. Not to be outdone, the chateau in Amboise is also a sight to see, with its secret underground passage. Built by Francis I, the passage connects Amboise to the Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo Da Vinci, who had been invited by the king to France and notably brought with him a painting of a certain smiling lady that now resides in the Louvre.

Provence. The inspiration of artists like Cézanne and Picasso. Many artists and actors have frequented Provence, renowned for the way its striking sunlight bathes its perched villages in a warm glow, the fragrant fields of lavender that blush a purple radiance in mid-summer, the olive groves and their related oil and tapenade, and the easy-going nature of its residents, many of whom gather to play long, relaxing games of pétanque under the shade of plane trees. The Mistral wind blows here, necessitating that many of its church towers be built with open wrought-iron campanile, as well as the planting of cypress hedgerows to protect crops and vineyards.

The French Riviera. This breathtaking area opens up France’s Côte d’Azur, where the rich and famous have been coming since the late 19th century for its Mediterranean climate, movie and music festivals, and Europe’s oldest principality in Monaco. Stone dolmens recall this area’s Paleolithic history, and its flower fields are the raison d’être for famous perfumeries like Fragonard in Grasse. Rénoir, Matisse, Chagall, Van Gogh, and Picasso all lived here, along with royalty from around Europe, and who can forget the fairytale marriage of Grace Kelly to Prince Rainer III.

Contact R and B International Travel and discover France Uncovered.

Gregory Hall, one of our seasoned Tour Managers, a citizen of France, who speaks fluent English, French and German, grew up in West Berlin, Germany, and now lives in Michigan. He spends much of his time guiding tours through Europe – and wants to take you on a virtual tour of some of his favorite parts of France!