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- Madame Brasserie, the Eiffel Tower's Restaurant
Just imagine – you're dining at the most exquisite restaurant you can dream of. You're perched at a window-seat table 58 meters above the most magical city in the world. The view is spectacular – and the food? Even better. You feast your tastebuds on a dish (or several) that a Michelin star-winning chef created. The atmosphere is relaxed and you're in great company. But wait, it's not a dream. You've just arrived at Madame Brasserie. In June 2022, the Eiffel Tower reopened its first-floor brasserie after two years of major renovations, renamed Madame Brasserie. The French restaurant aims to provide the most exceptional dining experience that encapsulates all that Paris has to offer. Open from breakfast through to dinner for all occasions, Madame Brasserie is a culinary experience that is simply like no other. With two-time Michelin star-winning chef Thierry Marx leading the kitchen crew, you have much more to be excited about than just the stunning views of Paris. Marx's approach to cuisine is one of sustainability and eco-responsibility. The very best local, seasonal produce are the centerpieces of the dishes served here. The dishes are cooked with creativity and heart, and are unmatched with anything else available on the French gastronomy scene. "As an artisan, my mission is to make the ephemeral memorable. My challenge is to create simple, healthy, pleasurable cuisine, as sustainable as the monument itself." - Thierry Marx, chef at Madame Brasserie and two-time Michelin star winner Included in your reservation to Madame Brasserie is the elevator trip to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. Dining guests are granted access to the private elevator, meaning that you don't have to wait in queues for hours on end. Also included in your personalised service is walking access to the second floor, where you can relish the breath-taking cityscape of Paris from the 360-degree viewing deck. There are a variety of meal packages to choose from, including your dining table location (window or elsewhere) and the number of meals and drinks included. If you'd like to learn more about the Madame Brasserie experience, you can email Maud at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us an inquiry. Madame Brasserie is a culinary experience like no other. It is one of the only places where you can dine inside a world-famous monument, much less experience top-of-the-art cuisine by a French mega-chef. This is a truly unforgettable experience that you will remember forever. Here at France Travel Solutions, we aspire to make your dreams come true. Whether it's embarking on that once-in-a-lifetime trip that you've been saving up for, or a desire to experience true French culture, our team has you covered. Maud is the French-born director of France Travel Solutions and her expertise in small-group tours makes her the perfect fit to help you achieve all your travel dreams! Not only does she speak the language, Maud knows the ins and outs of all things French culture and lifestyle and her unique approach to travelling means that you will be in extremely safe hands. And what's more – you'll get to experience France like a true local. You will make incredible memories that focus on the true nature of France's culture: traditional food, music, art, places, transport and lifestyle. What's better than that? If you'd like to learn more, visit the France Travel Solutions webpage or get in touch by filling out the Contact form. We'd love to hear from you!
- The History of the Eiffel Tower
When you picture France, the first thing that pops into your head is likely the elegant metal monument that dominates the skyline of Paris, the Eiffel Tower. While the structure is now infamous on a global scale, the story of how the Eiffel Tower came into existence is much more complicated than that. Its construction was highly contested at several periods in time and it was almost not completed. Now the Eiffel Tower is a symbol of France and welcomes millions of visitors each year. In October of 1886, French construction designer Gustave Eiffel was appointed an honorary citizen of the United States for his contribution to the Statue of Liberty which was gifted to the USA by France as a champion of freedom following the American Revolution. Eiffel had been responsible for designing the internal framework of the Statue of Liberty, which was regarded as highly advanced engineering at the time for its durability to withstand extreme weather events. The American authorities were confident it would stand for hundreds of years. Following Eiffel's incredible success off the back of designing a monument for the USA, his fellow French colleagues urged him to design a monument for the Paris World's Exhibition in 1889. Eiffel did not believe that the design of a temporary moment for the exhibition was worthwhile, and felt that an underground metro would more beneficially serve the people of Paris. He believed that the metro was modern and would ease the transportation difficulties that were faced by many Parisian citizens. The Paris World's Fair 1889 was to exhibit the great industrial advancements of iron and steel structures at that time. Eiffel decided to scrap the metro idea and worked towards designing a monument for the city of Paris. He proposed a temporary 300-metre-tall metal structure that would become the Eiffel Tower. Early-stage prototypes of the tower were regarded as ugly by Eiffel's colleagues, and the tower was speculated to be 'a wart on the face of Paris'. However, Eiffel's intelligence, attention to detail, and likable personality saw him persevere to complete the tower's design despite these criticisms. During the presentation of his finalised prototype when Parisian authorities raised their concerns that the tower would scare visitors away from Paris, Eiffel took this as an opportunity to highlight what France could gain from the tower. He proposed that the contrary would occur, that people would flock from all over the world to see the incredible statue. Gustave Eiffel claimed that the tower was not simply to be a feature of the country, it was to embody all the France represents. The tower would represent national pride, reclaim independence and stand for the freedom of the French people forever. It was designed especially to withstand strong winds and storms, the curvature of the tower absorbing the wind and channeling it upward. Eiffel's critics were swift to raise concerns that the tower was to be built next to a bed of water, which would increase the difficulty and risks during construction. This did not phase Eiffel, however, as he was actively involved in the design and construction of a bridge over the Bordeaux river 20 years earlier. Eiffel's solution was caissons, a watertight retaining structure that allowed the construction of a stable foundation for the tower to be built on. Gustave Eiffel's design for the A-shaped tower won the competition to be showcased in the Paris World's Exhibition for 1889. He immediately got to work, organising labourers and materials. Despite Eiffel's commitment to the safety and security of his workers - which he had demonstrated at the building of the Bordeaux bridge in 1860 when he rescued a worker from drowning - there were concerns that the caissons were dangerous and working conditions were poor. This led to Eiffel's workers going on strike even before the first level of the tower was completed. Following the worker's strike, the board of Paris refused the completion of the Eiffel Tower. Eiffel's determination and drive once more shone through and he promised the men that he would double their wages when they completed level one of the tower, which he said would take two weeks. Eiffel had an amazing crowd presence and an ability to muster strength and encouragement in his group of workers. From that moment on, Gustave committed to seeing through the completion of the tower's construction, even if he were to be in debt for the rest of his life. The tower was indeed built to completion and its formal inauguration at the 1889 Paris World's Exhibition was an enormous success. From this day, Gustave Eiffel would go down in history as one of the world's greatest construction designers. The Eiffel Tower is comprised of 18038 pieces of metal and 2.5 million bolts. There are 1665 steps to the very top of the tower. Since its opening on March 31, 1889, the Eiffel Tower has had close to 300 million visitors. It has attracted people from all over the world and represents the charm and beauty of the city in which it stands. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited monuments in the world today. The 2021 movie 'Eiffel' is an incredible depiction of the history of the Eiffel Tower, and features an amazing cast including Emma Mackey and Romain Duris. The Eiffel Tower is now also fitted with the Madame Brasserie restaurant, offering a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience in the world-famous monument. There are plenty of options to choose from, including a variety of drink and dessert packages. You could have the opportunity to dine at one of the most exquisite restaurants in the world, overlooking the beautiful city of Paris. If you'd like to see the Eiffel Tower in all its beauty, look no further than France Travel Solutions. French-born Maud Dunne is the founder of France Travel Solutions, and her expertise in tourism and group tours means she is truly qualified to provide you with your dream trip to France. Maud is on a number of tourism boards and has incredible connections with tourism managers all over France. If you've been looking for a sign to book a small-group trip to France with a tour guide who knows the ins and outs of the country, you can learn more by visiting the France Travel Solutions webpage or by registering your interest here. We can't wait to hear from you!
- Honfleur - The Gateway to Normandy
The beautiful town Honfleur is situated on the mouth of the Seine estuary, where the infamous French river meets the English Channel. Honfleur is a port town as quaint as they come. The colourful timber houses contrast with the strong blue of the harbour water, providing picturesque views as you dine, stroll or shop. Honfleur's beauty inspired many artists such as Monet and Boudin and it has been suggested by experts that the Impressionist movement began in Honfleur. It is said that these artists found the constantly-changing light in the quay inspiring, and it was well known amongst famous landscape artists that Honfleur was 'the most ravishing spot in the world'. Today, you can go down to the port, take a photo, and notice that the lighting will appear different the next day. For the art lovers wanting to see these incredible works in the flesh, look no further than the Musee Eugene Boudin. This incredible museum houses many of the Honfleur paintings completed by 19th and 20th artists such as Boudin, Monet, Dubourg and Gernez. Additionally, there is a collection of works by Boudin that were bequeathed to his birthplace in 1898. There are a plethora of other galleries and museums that may interest tourists as well. From the Musee du Vieux Honfleur - showcasing the history of the port and domestic life there - to the Musee de la Marine, there is something for everyone. The Vieux Bassin (old dock) of Honfleur is arguably the most picturesque part of the port town and offers the best views over the harbour. It is the social hub of the riverside town, offering a gorgeous carousel for Honfleur's youth and a variety of restaurants with dining options right on the harbour's edge. When in Honfleur, you can't look past the local seafood that tops the menus at the many incredible restaurants. We recommend feasting on fresh oysters and sipping champagne as you overlook the beautiful port. The cobblestone streets and variety of markets and stores also make Honfleur a great stop for shopping. From seaside-themed clothes stores, to authentic souvenir shops, rest assured that you will find something to enjoy in this pedestrian-friendly town. The Honfleur Normandy Outlet (Galeries Lafeyette) is an incredible department store shopping experience, housing popular brands as well as authentic French fashion and lifestyle items that you won't find anywhere else in the world. Click here to read our recent blog about why Galeries Lafayette is one of the most luxurious shopping experiences in the world. If department-style shopping isn't for you and you're looking for a more laid-back, local shopping experience, the Marche Tradionnel D'Honfleur is your go-to. The farmer's market offers the best of Honfleur's fresh produce, as well as cheeses, cider and other foods unique to this little French paradise. Experience the beauty of this stunning town for yourself on our Jewels of the North tour in 2024. This tour offers a 3-day visit to this stunning region, in addition to many other beautiful northern French towns. Maud has specially designed this itinerary to provide a unique insight to some of France's overlooked gems. Click here to see the full itinerary and learn more about the Jewels of the North tours in 2024. Places are filling fast so head over to France Travel Solutions to book your spot now!
- A Weekend in Lille
Situated on the river Deûle, only 16km from France's border with Belgium, Lille is a French hotspot for culture, history and education. As the fourth most populated city in France after Paris, Lyon and Marseille, it is no surprise that Lille is the capital of the Hauts-de-France region and attracts between two and three million tourists annually. Lille is popular student destination, boasting nine prestigious universities in the small city. Its bustling student nightlife, youthful atmosphere and affordable student living attract both domestic and international students from all around the world. There are over 110,000 university students in Lille, making up about 45% of the city's population! The city square, Place du Général de Gaulle, is bursting at the seams with culture and cuisine, featuring an array of cafes, restaurants and trinket shops. The chatter of uni students catching up on their summer break and the distant clink of glasses can be heard as you stroll through the centre square, located in the stunning Vieux Lille area. The early morning sun casts dramatic shadows of the elaborate buildings in the square, such as the La Voix du Nord headquarters, the leading daily newspaper of northern France. If you have the time, I highly suggest taking an early morning stroll down to the square and sitting in a cafe as you watch the slow balk of curious early risers gradually turn to the hustle and bustle of the work day. Cafe L'Abbaye does a magnificent chocolat liégeois which is the perfect drink to accompany a croissant as the sun rises over the walls of the buildings and shines down on the square, seemingly waking up the small city. Like many French cities, Lille is incredibly pedestrian-friendly. Walkable towns are great as I believe it's the best way to explore a new place. Some of my most memorable travel finds have been from strolling the back streets of a town, and Lille is no exception. I spent 8 hours roaming the cobblestone streets and alleys on a lovely sunny Saturday in early November with my Panasonic camera looped around my neck, capturing all the beautiful nuances of the city. A walk through Vieux-Lille led me to the river Deûle, where I stumbled across the Pont Napoléon (Napoleon Bridge). The curious appearance of this bridge led me to research its origins and I discovered that it is the only covered pedestrian walking bridge in France! It was built in 1812 and has had several reconstructions since its erection over 200 years ago. To learn more about this fascinating story, you can click here. Le Pont Napoleon connects the northern and southern sides of the river, creating a convenient crossing point for pedestrians. The riverside walk stretches for kilometers along the river's edge, running all the way into the center ville. In early November, the leaves were a stunning, deep auburn colour as the season changed from autumn to winter. I felt the bite of the crisp morning breeze as I strolled the riverbank, and felt a content warmth as the sun peered through the trees, reducing the chill even if just by a little. The huge orange leaves crunched loudly under my feet and the river gently flowed and trickled alongside me. It felt magical. My time in Lille was short, and so I had little time to indulge in the many attractions that the city has to offer, such as the Lille Citadelle. Lille saw the birth of a citadel between 1667 and 1670, ignited by the marriage of King Louis XIV of France and his cousin Maria Theresa of Spain. A promised dowry that never arrived drove Louis XIV to claim payment through a siege on Lille, a city under Spanish rule. Louis XIV tasked Marquis de Vauban, a renowned architect at the time, with transforming the town into a powerful citadel. The structural success and resulting pressure that was placed on the city of Lille saw the siege last only nine days before the surrender. The beautiful Vauban gardens are a lovely attraction situated next to the Citadelle that are well worth a visit according to locals. To learn more about the story of the Lille Citadelle, read here. Though small in size, Lille has plenty to offer such as the Braderie de Lille, the annual street market that takes place on the first weekend of September. It dates back to the 12th century and welcomes nearly three million visitors each year. The Braderie de Lille is one of the largest gatherings in France and the largest flea market in Europe. It hosts musicians, a fun fair and even a half-marathon running event. It is even estimated that the cumulative length of market aisles stretches for 100km! Lille is the birth town of former French president Charles de Gaulle, an extremely notable figure in French history books and society. His maison natale (birth place) attracts many visitors to the city, offering guided tours and temporary exhibitions. You can read more about Charles de Gaulle's upbringing and young life, along with information about the tour here. Lille is no doubt home to some of the richest cultural and historical experiences that France has to offer. Its quiet, humble atmosphere paired with the seasonal buzz of excitement from tourists and students make it an enjoyable, relaxing place to visit. To learn more about Lille or tours of the region, contact France Travel Solutions by visiting our webpage or sending us an expression of interest.
- The most luxurious shopping experience in Paris - The Galeries Lafayette
By Hannah Noye When it comes to luxurious shopping experiences, the Galeries Lafayette in Paris stand out as an iconic destination that offers so much more than just retail therapy. The stunning architecture, designer products, and unique experiences all lend themselves to the enriching and memorable experience of the Galeries. From its almost art exhibition-like ambience to its breathtaking rooftop restaurant, the Galeries Lafayette embody a world of timeless elegance and sophistication. 1. A Visual Feast Beyond Shopping: Upon entering the Galeries Lafayette visitors are greeted with the breathtaking sight of the famed glass dome and intricate stained glass windows. The vast space is made up of levels and levels of fashion, beauty, café’s, etc all circling around an immense gap from the ground floor all the way up to the dome, allowing shoppers on every level to take in the stores beauty from a number of different angles. At Christmas time this space will also house the traditional Galeries Lafayette floating tree, which attracts tourists from all over the world. 2. Creatures – A culinary Journey in the sky: Located at the top of the center, the restaurant ‘Creatures’ offers a dining experience like no other. After a day of arguably the most beautiful shopping experience of your life, there is no better place to rest your feet as you indulge in delectable cuisine and take in panoramic views of Paris’ iconic landmarks. This rooftop restaurant not only satisfies your taste buds but also provides an opportunity to soak in the breathtaking beauty of Paris from a unique vantage point. 3. The Theatre of Fashion – The store offers an extensive and highly curated selection that caters to every taste and style, and is consistently up to date with the newest offerings from world-class designers. The many clothes sections spanning over the stores many levels are beautifully presented, turning each visit into a visual spectacle – the shopping experience has never had such drama and excitement. Not to mention, the Galeries Lafayette boasts the largest shoe department in Europe – need I say more? It’s a fashion paradise! 4. Exclusive Privileges and Unique Offerings – for those seeking an even more exceptional visit, the Galeries offers other exclusive perks. Take part in an exclusive private heritage tour of the Galeries before weekend opening hours to immerse yourselves in the rich history of the store and its architectural significance. Additionally, by spending 650 euros or more you will be granted access to a special room with VIP amenities, including a taxi ride back to your accommodation and the personal delivery of your purchases to your residence in Paris. 5. Relax or Enrich! The Galeries further transcend traditional shopping by catering to the shoppers desire to learn or relax in style! Cooking classes for both adults and children encourage visitors to embrace the culinary arts and learn about French cooking culture with wonderful native chefs. The presence of a massage centre also provides relaxation amidst the excitement of shopping. Additionally, exclusive fashion shows held on Thursdays and Fridays provide insights into the latest trends and designs and offer a more intimate demonstration of the fashion offerings of the Galeries for those who are overwhelmed by the sheer size of the store and would rather choose from a smaller collection of curated favourites. Note – these shows are often booked out in advance, so its definitely something to organise ahead of time! 6. VAT Tax Refund – For international tourists, the Galeries Lafayette make shopping even more appealing by offering an immediate 12% VAT tax refund on purchases exceeding 100 euros! The Galeries Lafayette are a celebration of fashion, art, and luxury. Anyone with a lust for the romance of Parisian food and culture will easily be able to spend an entire day taking in the unforgettable journey promised by this remarkable testament to elegance and grandeur. There is something for everyone, and even if you are in Paris for just a short time, it is worth at least popping in to see in person the breathtaking architecture, and the view of Paris from the Galeries roof. In fact, for those looking to visit the Galeries, France Travel Solutions is thrilled to offer you a number of vouchers for rare discounts at the Galeries. To receive your free vouchers, just go to our website at francetravelsolutions.com and fill out the Contact form at the bottom of the page, making sure to write ‘Galeries Lafayette’ into the subject box! And if you have any questions for us, or would like us to organise a bespoke tour for you including a set itinerary (perhaps including the Galeries?) don't hesitate to get in contact with us! You can reach us through our website or through messages on Instagram and Facebook. Until then, Au Revoir!
- The Australian Sappers in Amiens
Australian Troops photographed at the Battle of Amiens Lieutenant Colonel George Hulse OAM has lived his life serving the country of Australia as a combat engineer. As a Vietnam War veteran, George became the President of the First Field Squadron Group Association who are also known as the ‘Tunnel Rats’. These were the soldiers who entered into deeply dug underground tunnels and bunkers where they recovered masses of enemy information, ammunition and other materiel vital to the enemy war effort. At that time, these Sappers thought themselves as the first of their kind, but in fact George Hulse and his Association’s historians found out that there were a group of Australian Sappers who did the same thing during World War One. From there the Corps of Royal Australian Engineers investment in preserving the memory of these men has grown immensely, and lead to today’s efforts to establish a friendship Bridge in Amiens, France; the place from where Australian Sappers marked a significant role in Australian military history. George Hulse pictured in the Vietnam War George recounts the story of one day in particular, the 8th of August, 1918 – the Battle of Amiens. At 4:20am in the morning the British, French, and Americans jointly attacked the Germans to great success. On a roll, the armies of course wished to continue their success and push back the Germans farther. The Australian troops were given 4 days to get from Villers-Bretonneux to the town of Harbonnieres, a distance of about 15 kilometres – but these brave men were able to succeed in their task in only 8 eventful, courageous hours. The above map shows the distance travelled by the Sappers within 8 hours - a distance rife with danger and enemy forces The role of a Sapper (a combat engineer) is vastly overlooked and undervalued – they are the first soldiers into a dangerous situation and the last to leave. They facilitate the crossing of dangerous lands, the defusing of difficult situations, and more while under life-threatening circumstances. On this particular day, one group of Sappers led by Lieutenant Ralph Hunt, and including his Body Guard Sapper George Hook, were tasked with building three bridges to cross the Somme river near the town of Cerisy. One of the bridges, codenamed ‘Cherry Bridge,’ which had been assumed to be demolished was in fact still standing, and so the Sappers captured it. Unfortunately above them on Chipilly Spur were a number of Germans unaffected in the morning assault, and they shot down George Hook who despite the best effort of Hunt died of his wounds. The location where the team was supposed to erect ‘Sapper Bridge,’ was thought too dangerous, and as such Hunt left just 6 men to guard Cherry Bridge and pushed forward to find a better spot for his bridges with the rest of the Sappers under his command. At this moment, only 500 metres from the remaining 6 Sappers at Cherry Bridge, loud fighting and gunfire commenced, and 2 of these men, Sapper Arthur Dean and Sapper William Campbell, were sent to investigate. The scene they came upon was that of the London Fusiliers being brutally machine gunned from a German position farther up the hill. Despite being vastly outnumbered these two brave men decided that they had to do something. They penetrated behind the German position and making as much noise as they possibly could, entered the scene. Throwing bombs and doing their best to create the illusion of more soldiers, the two Australian Sappers attacked the German position and it worked! The German officer thought they were surrounded and surrendered, giving the British the chance to quickly take back control of the situation. These two sappers were nominated for the Victoria Cross, surely warranted by their remarkable bravery, but instead only received the Distinguished Conduct Medal. These events were not the only miraculous successes to occur on this day however. The Sappers made their way on to a place called ‘Warfusee.’ There they found a Command Post dug under the ground – the Sappers entered the dugouts. And Viola – there they found 5 senior German officers totally ignorant to the defeat of their men and subsequent advancement of the Australian troops. After making the appropriate capture of these important people, the Sappers continued on the town of Bayonvillers, which was being abandoned in a rush by the Germans who realised the Australians were en route. In their haste they failed to take with them their maps and other documents with critical information about battle strategy and the location of their stores dumps. From here they continued to Harbonnieres where it was taken by the Australian 31st Infantry Battalion. German Troops pictured with the Amiens Gun prior to its capture by the Australian Sappers But the story doesn’t end here. 200 metres onward, in ‘no-man’s land”, there was a massive gun placed on a railway line, too large to be fired on normal terrain. Three Sappers, Lieutenant George Burrows, Sapper Les Strahan and Sapper John Palmer made the dangerous decision to cross no mans land to take the gun, and they did so, all the while being fired at by the Germans. In the fashion of true engineers they managed to start the locomotive, hooking up the gun and disconnecting the carriages, and taking the gun as far from the Germans as possible via the railway track. During that night, the rest of the engineer field company managed to transfer the train all the way back onto the Australian side by taking the railway tracks from the back of the train and then moving them to the front of the train, slowly and surely moving the massive weapon well into Australian held territory. This is now known as the Amiens Gun, and the enormous barrel of the Amiens Gun can be seen at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra today. The names of the three Sappers, Burrows, Strahan and Palmer were written out of history - the books written at that time mention only the 31st Infantry Battalion in the capture of the gun. These Sappers, all mentioned here by name – Dean, Campbell, Burrows, Strahan, and Palmer drifted into obscurity after their heroic feats, none sufficiently celebrated for what they did. How many other Combat Engineers may have contributed to the successes of wars around the world and never received their due? Up until 2022, there was no memorial dedicated to the World War One, Australian Corps of Engineers anywhere in the world. There is now a Bridge of Friendship located in ANZAC Park, Toowong in Brisbane as a monument to those Australian military engineers and a twin bridge to this one will be dedicated on 24 April 2024 located in the City of Amiens in France. These Friendship Bridges proposed by George and his team will, at long last, honor these men and their work. It will also be a celebration of the special relationship between the French people of Amiens and the Australian soldiers. The people of Amiens carry a longstanding sentiment of momentous appreciation for the Australian contribution to the success of the war and their help in saving their city from German capture. The fund for the Amiens Bridge is supported by the Royal Australian Engineers Foundation. If you would like to support the construction of the Amiens Bridge, you can do so at raefoundation.org.au/product/one-time-donation
- Nice, France
The South of France is often portrayed as the epitome of European Summer, boasting dazzling beaches and delicious cuisine. There are many beautiful towns dotted along the southern coast of France, but Nice is simply inoubliable (unforgettable) and a must-visit should you be fortunate enough to find yourself in the region. Situated on the infamous French Riviera in the Cote d'Azur region, Nice is a picturesque coastal town that attracts over 5 million tourists each year. In the summertime, locals and tourists flock to the seaside to bask in the crystal clear water, dine on fresh seafood and stroll the beachfront. Nice offers a variety of activities for visitors of all ages. One honourable mention is the Promenade des Anglais, a 7km long pedestrian and cycling pathway that follows the Nice coastline. It offers spectacular views, ranging from the sapphire-blue water lapping the beach to the old-style architecture perched haphazardly on the cliffs. A stroll along the Promenade des Anglais is wonderful at any time of the day, but be sure to pack sunscreen and a hat because the summer rays may leave you with a nasty red sting! When I visited Nice in early August last year (2022), the days were warm and the beaches packed. My friend Emily and I struggled to secure a spot on the (surprisingly) pebbly beach, but the ocean itself was near empty. I swam out deep into probably the clearest water I'd ever seen and floated on my back for some time in utter bliss. A few days later, we found a cliff (albeit a tiny one) to jump into the clear water of the Mediterranean. Cliff jumping had been on my bucket list of things to do in Europe so I was pretty stoked to get to tick it off. I felt even more accomplished when a local lady commented that she'd never seen anyone do it before. (Was it a ballsy or stupid thing to do? We may never know). Another great thing to do in Nice is climb Castle Hill, which is situated at the south-east end of the Promenade des Anglais and offers incredible aerial views of Nice and the surrounding beaches (See the cover photo for this article at top of page). There is a beautiful waterfall near the top lookout, with a lovely tree to perch in and rest your legs after the hefty uphill hike. If you're a keen walker, you can continue on over the headland to Villefranche-sur-Mer, a quaint little town nestled between two headlands. There's another stunning beach (not bustling with tourists!) and many beautiful pastel-coloured buildings and restaurants that you can lose time exploring. However, if your legs are too sore from the walks up Castle Hill and the Promenade des Anglais, you can catch a 10 minute bus to Villefranche-sur-Mer. If those weren't enough options for things to do, you might fancy taking a 50-minute train to Menton, the city of luxury and grandeur. Otherwise, you'll be spoilt for choice along the Nice beachfront, where you can stroll the markets if you're peckish or discover some delicious cuisine typical to Nice. My friends and I spent our three days in Nice sipping aperols, eating oysters and lazing on the beach. Nice offers something for everyone, whether you're a thrill-seeker or in need of a relaxing holiday. It is accessible by train from Paris and easily connects to other popular coastal destinations like Montpellier and Trieste (Italy) by bus or train. Nice is undeniably one of France's most magical destinations and with the broad scope of experiences that the city has to offer, it's little surprise. Maud can arrange itineraries to suit your desired travel locations! Get in contact to find out more information about tours and itineraries here.
- La Maison de St Claire
La Maison de St Claire is a unique French immersion program founded and run by Frenchman Gilles Berger in the beautiful Crystal Creek region in northern New South Wales. Gilles has combined his expertise in education and language with his strong passion for French culture and lifestyle to provide unforgettable experiences for many students. Gilles' programs are flexible and tailored to meet the specific needs of each student. La Maison de St Claire offers online and in-person programs for students who wish to begin or continue their French learning journey. Gilles also has specially designed programs to assist students with success on their final high school French exams, offering QCE, HSC and VCE study plans. The most renowned aspect of La Maison de St Claire experience is the one-week immersion program that is offered to school groups. Students can get a true taste of France through total immersion in the language, cuisine, culture and lifestyle. Authentic French dishes are provided at meal times, and the students can participate in the viewing of classic French films. Just like us here at France Travel Solutions, La Maison de St Claire has deep connections to their roots. The richness of the French lifestyle has left a mark on us forever, even after years of living in Australia. The desire to share the beauty and distinctness of the French culture is at the heart of our work, and our emotional connection to our homeland is the secret ingredient to bringing this dream to fruition. Unlike other local travel or language businesses, France Travel Solutions and La Maison de St Claire are true experts in their fields, with first-hand expertise of the French culture. This means that they can discern cultural and language nuances exceptionally well, ensuring that you have the most wonderful experience when indulging in their services. Supporting local business owners who are experts in their field is a core value of France Travel Solutions and La Maison de St Claire. In both of our immersion experiences -be it through language or travel- we opt to stay in locally-owned guest accommodations such as B&Bs. We work closely with La Mas de Boissiere to combine the best experience for visitors to truly delve into all that France has to offer! France Travel Solutions, La Maison de St Claire and La Mas de Boissiere are ecstatic to be working together. Stay posted as we have some very exciting news to share in the coming weeks!
- Amiens, a Northern France gem
Home to the famous World War I battlefield of the Somme Valley, Amiens is a dainty town situated in northern France, just over an hour’s train trip from Paris. Its quaint houses, peaceful streets and tranquil canals – in addition to its rich history and accessible location – make it a relaxing and enjoyable trip away for everyone. I was lucky enough to spend a weekend in Amiens with some Australian friends last September when I was living in Paris. By early evening the weather was crisp and breezy, and we strolled along the canals admiring the soft pastels of the buildings and the flowerpots bursting with colour. Searching for a restaurant offering some warmth in the form of meals or electrical heating led us to a cozy ‘Australian’ restaurant by the canal’s edge. The group was ecstatic to get their hands on a steak, but I was just grateful to be warm because I had not adequately equipped myself for the cold (note to the reader: a jumper will not suffice in late September, pack warm). Amiens is home to the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady (Notre Dame). It is the tallest gothic church in France at a height of 42 metres and was commissioned by the Bishop of Amiens in the 20th century to replace a smaller cathedral that had burned down in 1912. Its intricate, detailed exterior in addition to its stunning, high-arched interior make it a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Visit late afternoon to see Notre Dame turn gold as the sun sets. From July 8 through September 18 each year, crowds flock to the cathedral to feast their eyes on the 50-minute, free-of-charge ‘Chroma’ light spectacle. During the show, the cathedral is illuminated by various coloured spotlights to mimic how it appeared when it was originally painted; check out France Travel Solutions' social media pages for a sneak peek of the show! The lights are also used to create optical illusions, such as the cathedral swaying from side to side and spiraling inwards. For more information on show times and details, click here. Take advantage of the peaceful early-morning atmosphere of Amiens’ town centre and explore wherever the cobblestone paths guide you. Some of the most beautiful sights from my whole France trip were found on my hour-long Sunday morning stroll in Amiens. I found a pond full of swans gliding their way through the chilly morning water, and a small street lined with brightly painted houses that lead to a beautiful view of the Notre Dame. As I wandered through town, I caught a whiff of freshly baked pastries and bread coming from a cute corner-store boulangerie. It felt like I'd landed in heaven. On Sunday around midday, we piled into the tiny hatchback and made the short drive to the Somme Valley to visit the Australian national war memorial. The details of the war are exceptionally documented in the ‘sometimes harrowing, often moving’ John Monash Centre at the memorial. The exhibition includes interactive experiences and an audio tour which I highly recommend. I entered a small cinema from the main exhibition room, which displayed a five-minute, three-dimensional war video capturing the Somme Battle from the perspective of the ANZACs. The sound effects of bombs exploding and strobe lights to depict gun rounds firing made the experience very realistic. I walked out of that room crying at the horror that many of the Australian men who fought wouldn’t have been much older than me. A warning: some graphics were disturbing (serious injuries, blood) but for me, the experience was incredible despite the discomfort. Approximately 215,000 Australian service personnel were sent to France during the war. The graves of some soldiers lie at the memorial centre, and the names of 10,719 casualties whose grave locations are unknown line the three enormous wing walls surrounding the memorial’s central viewing tower. The eerily whoosh of the wind hushed me into a solemn silence as I looked out over the dull landscape, seemingly tainted by the tragedies of a once-battlefield. One quote from the John Monash Centre stuck with me about how every victory celebrated by the French is equally a celebration of gratitude to the courageous and selfless Australians who served as an ally to the country all those years ago. Before coming to France, my great-uncle assured me, “Don’t worry. The French love Aussies — we helped them in the war!” However, when recalling my weekend to my French host mother, it was unbeknownst to her that Australia was France’s ally in WWI, let alone that a memorial existed in their honour. Amiens is a hidden gem of the French countryside, packed with opportunities to delve into the cultural and historical aspects of the country. One weekend is enough to visit Amiens but should you be lucky enough to spend more time there, a morning row on the river or a group tour may also be on the cards. Amiens is one of the locations on the 'Jewels of the North' tour in 2024. Click here for more info or to register your interest.
- Why Travel with France Travel Solutions?
Why Travel With France Travel Solutions? Overseas travel is, for most people, one of life’s most rewarding and exciting experiences, particularly now in the wake of Covid. However it can also be overwhelming. There is often a lot to plan and organise and it can be scary to have to worry about semantics of time and organisation - particularly in a country where the primary language isn’t English! Luckily, France Travel Solutions is available to make sure your trip to France carries all the wonders and life-enrichment these adventures are supposed to have, without the strain! Read on to find out more reasons to travel with France Travel Solutions! Photo cred: Ange Costes A French Perspective Unlike other agencies, France Travel Solutions is owned and run by a French native, our very own Maud Dunne. Growing up in France gave Maud a great passion and love for the many diverse and beautiful regions of her home country. Now, after living for many years in Australia Maud is a uniquely perfect person to organise tours for Australians in France – familiarity with the people of Australia coupled with her comprehensive knowledge of France mean that she has a rare understanding of both her customers and the country they will explore! Tours organised by Maud always benefit from her deep connection with the country, taking travellers to the less commercialized hidden gems that people would not usually see. Additionally Maud through devoted commitment to finding the best of the best, and by virtue of growing up in the country has a wide network of connections across France. This means you will always receive experiences, stays, and care from authentic and reliable French locals. Our tours are also run by exclusively French individuals (who can of course speak English) so you will always have an expert on hand to help with culture shock! In fact, where cultural differences may lead to confusion for the lone traveller, with French tour guides you have the opportunity to gain insight into the lives and traditions of your fellow human internationally. Most importantly, having native French tour guides and operators mean that your experience will be rooted in seeing the culture of France with the familiarity and respect of a native. Photo Cred: Ange Costes A Stress Free Holiday Stress can get in the way of having a good time and truly taking in the advantages of cultural change and immersion. That’s why we take such care to ensure you never need to be stressed in your travels! Help is available at every stage of your journey, and someone is always available to answer questions and quell anxieties. Packing, currency exchange, all the small intricacies that can overwhelm you as you prepare for travels can be advised upon by FTS. One of the most stressful aspects of travel is trying to cultivate a working itinerary for a country you are unfamiliar with and then having to consistently keep up with the times you’ve laid out. With France Travel Solutions this stress is totally removed and managed by us. Your itinerary will be carefully planned by Maud and then managed by your tour guide – meaning you can just enjoy yourself. You will be driven to and from most locations so no need to worry about reading a map in French or driving on the wrong side of the road! Frolick, have fun, and let go of the responsibility! Photo: The Chateau of Chenonceau - one of the many places available to visit on our tours! Small Tours FTS tours are really set apart by our small group tour structure. Instead of upwards of 20 people crammed into a bus, our tours average about 6 people per tour! This means you will actually have the opportunity to befriend your fellow travellers and tour guide and form a sense of community and kinship as you explore. It further means you have more say in your activities and the specifications of your tour, as it is catered specifically to you and the few others traveling with you, as opposed to a massive unidentifiable crowd. Photo Cred: Ange Costes Bespoke Tours New tours are always in development to so we can offer different experiences of the wonderful country of France. However, for those who have something precise in mind, we are happy to offer bespoke tours! This means designing your own personal tour based on whatever experience you are after. You will have all the perks of our usual tours -stress-free, organised with native knowledge and advice – as well as the luxury of having each step perfectly catered to your desired adventure. Regardless of what you are after, we have a tour for you ! Culture, gastronomie, history, terroir – we have something for everyone. Our tours are personal, lovingly and carefully made, by an absolute expert in French and Australian culture, and thus offer you a chance to step into France and really take it in without the distraction of flashy tourism traps and stressful schedules to manage hanging over your head. Book a France Travel Solutions tour today!
- Mont Saint-Michel, an island village
By Hannah Noye It’s hardly possible to believe that Mont Saint-Michel is not a fictional place from a fairytale, such is its out of this world beauty. This stunning tidal island located off the coast of Normandy, France is known for its beautiful medieval architecture, rich history, and stunning views of the surrounding landscape. The island is dominated by the famed Abbey of Saint Michel, a towering Gothic structure of turrets and brick that sits atop a rocky outcropping. The surrounding winding streets and long alleys, lined with medieval houses and quaint shops and restaurants are testaments to the islands long and storied past. Mont Saint-Michel was first used as a monastery in the 8th century, when the bishop of Avranches founded a small chapel on the island. Over the years, the monastery and Abbey grew in size and importance, eventually drawing pilgrimage from those all over Europe. In the centuries that followed, Mont Saint Michel became a symbol of French resistance against English invaders. During the Hundred Years War, the island was besieged several times, but it always managed to hold out against the English forces. It wasn't until the 17th century that Mont Saint Michel was turned into a prison, a role it continued to serve until 1863. Today, Mont Saint Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in France. It is interesting enough to simply take a day to walk around the unique layout of the island and its little gems – the views of the surrounding landscape and the ocean stretching into the distance are gorgeous. If you seek more historical insight into the islands past, then you can take a guided tour of the Abbey and island with the expert knowledge of a passionate French local. The Abbey is a real highlight, a beautiful and massive echoing building with high ceilings and windows, a sacred space in many ways. There are also several exhibitions and museums available that offer cultural and historical displays. Mont Saint-Michel is located in a tidal bay which can rise and fall very quickly. The tides as they move around the sides of the island can be a source of relaxation and introspection. It is a beautiful environment in which you can enjoy a quiet moment and the spectacular beauty of Normandy. Mont Saint-Michel celebrated its 1000th year anniversary on April the 8th this past month. In its 1000 years it has never ceased to attract visitors with its beauty and cultural significance. Accessible only via a pedestrian bridge, or a causeway, and without the cars and other modern machinations of modern life, it is a place perfectly preserved despite the passing years. See its magnificent silhouette and medieval architecture on our Jewels of the North tour next year!
- The Gardens of Claude Monet at Giverny
By Hannah Noye Even if you aren’t an avid art fan, I would be shocked if you were not familiar with the works of Claude Monet. His famous impressionist artworks, particularly those of the water lilies in his garden can be appreciated by anyone with a love of beauty and nature. In 1883 Monet purchased a house and gardens in the small village of Giverny in the Normandy region of France, and dedicated the rest of his life to cultivating the gardens that inspired his pieces. Amazingly, these gardens are still open today and we will be visiting next year on our newest tour! If you are familiar with Monet’s works, entering his garden will be like walking into a painting. At every corner there is the potential to see the subject of one of his paintings; to see two dimensional reflections of a garden in 100 year old artworks still before you in all its continuing life and beauty is an overwhelming feeling. To stand in the same enduring garden as Monet is an opportunity to be connected to history, and to enter the mindset of the artist and his process. Monet’s pink house rises like a spring flower itself from the gardens. This is also open for exploration – in small numbers at a time you can see his art space and living quarters, preserved as they were when he lived and painted there. The gardens are divided into two main areas, the Clos Normand and the Water Garden. The Clos Normand is a flower garden of many differing blooms, including tulips, roses, peonies, and more that change with the seasons. The garden is divided into flowerbeds and is bordered by paths and hedges. The Water Garden is probably the more recognizable part of the gardens, the Japanese Bridge, weeping willows, and lily pond being the subject of many paintings. Monet was particularly inspired by the reflections of the sky and trees in the water, and he would often paint the same scene throughout the year to capture the changing of the seasons and its effect on the nature around him. This magically preserved piece of the past is worthy of a long stroll and the perfect place to sit, ponder and appreciate the garden, as Monet did in capturing its many faces in his work. His love for the garden is what has made it so renowned and allows so many others to see it themselves! There is of course a wonderful giftshop with prints of his art and other fun souvenirs, and lovely restaurants/cafes in Giverny if you seek refreshments. This is not a day to be missed – whether you enjoy art or not, this is a wonderful spot with much to see. We’ll see you there!