The Palace of Versailles
When in Paris, visiting Sun King Louis XIV’s chateau is a must. From 1682 up until the French Revolution in 1789, the magnificent 17th-century masterpiece was the country’s seat of power. A prime example of French classical art is the opulent Hall of of Mirrors, a highlight. The palace’s meticulously trimmed gardens with its ceremonious fountains and Grand Canal running down the middle are considered the epitome of perfection.
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Barbizon, arty village
About an hour’s train journey away, this charming 19th-century village was the hub for landscape painters like Jean-François Millet who started the Barbizon School movement, precursor of Impressionism. Lunch outside in the courtyard at La Bohème and pop into the art galleries of the village before taking a bucolic walk in the forest of Fontainbleau.
The Monet Foundation in Giverny
Idyllic Giverny, an hour northwest of Paris, was the home of the celebrated French painter Claude Monet for over 40 years until he passed away in 1926. A veritable work of art in their own right and unparalleled labour of love, his gardens, home and studio are the second most visited site in Normandy after the Mont Saint-Michel, and are the inspiration for many of his paintings.
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A hub of inspiration for painters like Van Gogh, Monet and Pissaro, the village is said to be the cradle of Impressionism. Familiar monuments seen in the paintings of these famed artists remain untouched to this day, like Doctor Gachet’s house, Van Gogh’s last house and the village cathedral.
A small town north of Paris, the main attraction here (aside from being the birthplace of Chantilly cream) is the magnificent chateau that looks like it’s floating on the lake. There are often exhibitions, as well as special events and tours for children.
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A UNESCO World Heritage Site with impressive fortifications from its days as the home to one of the country’s key Champagne fairs, Provins makes for an interesting day out today. It hosts a number of events recalling its medieval past, and is a bewitching town to stroll around and stop for lunch. Visit its gardens and its 10-km- underground tunnels.
The French capital city of the north is only an hour away and, marked by its history as part of Flanders, is wonderfully different from Paris. Explore the Vieu-Lille, the historic town centre and its winding cobbled stone streets, and stop for a locally brewed beer at a tavern.
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