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Tips and Advise for visiting France by Road to Travel Inc.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Versailles, the old city of the French kings

The small town of Versailles is famous across the world for its majestic Château de Versailles, which attracts millions of visitors every year. Only a small number of tourists realizes that the town itself is a real gem. 

Once a tiny humble village, Versailles changes dramatically when Louis XIV, known as the Sun King, decided to turn into the French court’s headquarters and built the lavish palace. Louis XV and Louis XVI continued expanding the city adding new districts with elegant avenues, large squares and magnificent mansions. Today, Versailles is retains its splendour and is a real pleasure to explore. 

The Notre Dame District, Versailles’s oldest, was created by Louis XIV and is a great place to start your tour into the town’s past. The 17th century Church of Notre Dame retains its original façade approved by Louis XIV while the majority of other building were embellished and rebuilt over the later centuries. A short walk from the church, you will find the lively local market, Marché Notre-Dame, considered the region’s finest. Even Parisians come here to stock up on cheese, truffles, meat and snails and other delicacies. Do not miss the former King’s Stables that house the Academy of Equestrian Arts where you can admire the beautiful old building and the horseshoe-shaped courtyard and watch the daily workouts and performances given by the riding school students.

King's kitchen garden
In the Saint-Louis District check out the King’s kitchen garden spread over 22 acres. It was created to feed the entire royal court and remains virtually unchanged. Another must-see sites here are the graceful Baroque Saint-Louis Cathedral with stunning paintings and the Carré Saint-Louis, charming 18th century urban complex.

Church of Notre-Dame
As any self-respecting French town, Versailles has plenty of excellent restaurants. The elegant Le Valmont located in a 17th century mansion serves mouth-watering traditional fish and meat dishes. In Le Boeuf à la Mode bistrot you will find more rustic French fare such as beef bourguignon, veal kidneys and onion soup.

Photos via Flickr by: Wally Gobetz, Joy Weese Moll, Guillaume Speurt

Monday, October 12, 2015

Exploring Nice, the capital of the French Riviera

Nice, the capital of the French Riviera has it all: the old-day glamour and sleek modern architecture, high-end restaurants and cozy old-fashioned cafés, beautiful beaches and mild climate all year round.
To explore the city and soak in its atmosphere you need at least a few days as there are plenty of things to do in Nice. Start from the Promenade des Anglais, or, as local call it, La Prom. It stretches for five miles along the Bay of Angels (Baie des Anges) adorned by palm trees, cabanas and bright blue chairs. On Sundays, it get very busy with local jogging, skateboarding, cycling and relaxing. 

Nice View
Before British aristocrats chose Nice as their favourite destination in the 19th century, local life was concentrated in the Old Town (Vieux Nice) with its narrow streets, ochre coloured buildings and colourful markets. Check out the famous Cours Saleya where apart from its old-fashioned charm you will find freshly cut flowers, seasonal produce, local delicacies and bric-a-brac. 

Le cours Saleya
Nice boasts some spectacular religious architecture: the Russian Orthodox Cathédrale Saint Nicolas with its colourful onion-domed cupolas built in the days of the tragic Tsar Nicolas II, L'Eglise de l'Annonciation and Chapelle de la Miséricorde in all their Baroque splendour. 

The city is an embarrassment of riches for art-lovers. In the stunning interiors of the Musée des Beaux-Arts you can admire works by Picasso, Rodin, Bonnard, Fragonard ad Monet. The Musée Matisse has an excellent collection of the artist's paintings, drawings and engravings. The Musée National Message Biblique Marc Chagall houses some of the most stunning biblically themed works created by the master. If you are into contemporary art head to the Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain with its impressive display of European and American modern art.

Cathedral Saint Nicolas
If you are feeling energetic, climb up the Castle Hill for spectacular views over the bay and city roofs.

Since the 13th century, every February, Nice celebrates the famous exuberant Nice Carnival with costumed parades, colourful floats and flower shows.

Photos via Fickr by: Thomas Dimson, Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, Janet McKnight.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Grasse, the perfume capital of the world

When the coastal towns of the French Riviera get crowded a trip to Grasse, a short drive away from Nice, provides a welcome break. 

Grasse became the world’s perfume capital some centuries ago and still firmly holds the title. Flowers for some of the most famous fragrances are grown and harvested here, including Chanel 
N°5. Several perfume manufacturers based in the town are open to the public. The Fragonard Perfume Factory, Galimard, the oldest parfumerie in Grasse, and Molinard offer tours around the premises, demonstrations of some techniques used by perfume makers nowadays, and, in spring and summer months, visits to the nearby gardens and fields of roses, jasmine, violets, lavender. Some of the perfumeries offer short workshops where you can created your own be-spoke fragrance.

Grasse View

To learn about the history of perfume-making head to the International Museum of Perfume (Museé International de la Parfumerie) with the exposition taking visitors 3,000 years back when humans started discovering the world of fragrances. 

Explore the charming Old Town in Grasse with its pretty squares, elegant palaces and steep staircases. The main cathedral, 11th century Notre Dame de Puy houses precious paintings by Rubens and Fragonard. If you are in the mood for some frivolous French Rococo art check out the beautiful Jean-Honoré Fragonard Villa-Museum where the famous French artist lived. Another art stop that is worth visiting is the Musée Fragonard where you can see other paintings by Fragonard as well as works by Marguerite Gérard and Jean-Baptiste Mallet.

Boutique Fragonard

Other delightful attractions in Grasse include the elegant City Hall, austere Saracen Tower and colourful Jardin de la Princesse Pauline. If you do not feel like walking, there is small train that departs from the Cours Honoré Cresp and goes around the historic centre from April to October. 

Every August Grasse celebrates Fête du Jasmin, a beautiful flower festival with spectacular floral floats, fireworks and folk music.  

Photos via Flickr by: Ivan Matthieu, Etienne Valois.