1. The Loire Valley’s Chateaux
The finest of the French chateaux is the Loire Valley. The chateau is not just a castle or palace, it is an elegant country residence with tall, shuttered windows overlooking sweeps of rolling parkland, although some can be run-down and tired-looking keeps, Gothic castles that are simply sublime or even enchanting Renaissance mansions. The finest chateaux are captivating noble treasures set in vast acres of hunting forests. Owners of these chateaux offer tours and even a chance for you to live in the premises to give you a first-hand personal experience of the patrician past of France. In Anjou, the chateau de Brissac is one such place where the four-poster beds are originals from the 17th century. There are several national monuments to see here. The Chambord is a fascinating sight with its hundreds of chimneys and Fontainebleu which used to house the Mona Lisa once in its royal bathroom. These are juts some of the stunning must-sees for a sense of the noble culture of the past.
2. The Eiffel Tower
Almost all around the city centre, you will be able to catch glimpses of this looming structure that is omnipresent over the skyline. The best backdrop to the views from the top is the golden-pink dusk but it can be a very long and excruciating wait in line to get up the tower. As you wait in line, admire the tangle of metal, which as the sky darkens, will be golden-lit and truly impressive-looking. As you ride the elevators to the top, and step out of the lifts, the wind will whistle in your ears and the city of Paris unfurls like a blanket below you. Distinguishing landmarks like the Louvre and the Champs-Elysees can be seen from up here and on the hour, thousands of lights magically appear all over the rusty-red metal, turning the tower into a beautiful lit-up structure that is the quintessential Parisian experience. This is definitely one of the best of France that shouldn’t be missed. The tower is open daily till around 11pm.
3. Mont St-Michel
Mont St-Michel is wonderful and unique with its harmonious blend of natural and man-made beauty. On the coast of Normandy, this glowering granite outcrop rises eighty metres from the waters of the bay, with an entire commune living on its steep boulders, its tiers of building topped by a magnificent Benedictine abbey. From a few kilometres away, the sheer scale of the Mont provides a surreal backdrop to rural Normandy and this World Heritage Site’s grandeur becomes apparent the closer you get to it. The narrow streets with Romanesque and Gothic buildings are unique and seem to be built almost one on top of the other. The abbey is perched at the summit where it was built in the 11th century. Beautifully Gothic, it is also very serene and quiet and a perfect place to contemplate the Mont’s beauty and tranquility.
4. Pont du Gard
A notable Roman aqueduct building, the Pont du Gard once supplied Nimes with fresh water. It is an iconic structure that is a tribute to the engineering prowess of its creators and their aesthetic sensibilities, with its lofty, elegant triple-tiered arches. The original aqueduct was 50km long but most of it is long-gone today except for the bridge that has endured. There is a visitor centre there where you can learn about the construction and history of the bridge. You can also get close to the architectural marvel by swimming in the River Gard where you can experience the tiers of the arches rising high above you. You can even float right under the arch which casts a dense shadow onto the shallow water. Beyond the bridge, the river widens and after your refreshing swim you can tuck into a picnic on the rocky banks as you enjoy the splendor of the Pont du Gard, which is located 8km from Uzes, from where there are frequent shuttle buses.