9- In the footsteps of the Impressionists
Rouen - Le Havre (4 days)
Famous for Mont St. Michel, Normandy is still as popular a tourist destination as the capital.
Rouen enjoys an exceptional cultural heritage. But above all it has that little something extra that only its visitors can understand.
Of course, there are the buildings… the fresh, milky-colored “butter stones” of the cathedral, the stonework of the Gothic and Renaissance architectural masterpieces, and the equally masterly classical-period mansions. There are also the picturesque fronts of the half-timbered houses that have triumphed over time…
However Rouen is not just a reflection of the past. Even though the image is still relevant and very real, its status as a “ville d’art et d’histoire” (city of art and history) proves the point. The capital of Normandy has about 50 historic monuments of major importance, and some of the richest museographic resources in France and the world. Not to mention Joan of Arc, Pierre Corneille, Victor Hugo, Gustave Flaubert, Guy de Maupassant, Claude Monet, Roy Lichtenstein, and Marcel Duchamp, who put the city on the map as one of the leading centers of the world’s intangible heritage.
Although Rouen is above all a modern city winning back its river, waterfront and maritime identity, it is also a metropolis with a global outlook.
Rouen is first and foremost the guardian of an eternal mystery that has always fascinated painters, writers and travellers.
Rouen is the city of the most enigmatic natural light in the world. Ever-changing, pearly, transparent skies, dazzling orange sunsets, the unreal frailty at high tide times, the barely perceptible vibration of the ice blue air on winter days or the brash garishness of the summer sun… you will find it here in Rouen and nowhere else in the world. Experience it for yourself!
•Cathédrale Notre-Dame, Abbaye Saint-Ouen (abbey), Gros-Horloge (astronomical clock), the Jewish Monument “la Maison Sublime,” half-timbered houses, the Impressionist collection at the Musée des Beaux-Arts, the Ceramics museum and the Secq des Tournelles (unique in the world).
•Visitors not only eat well, but sleep well, thanks to 3,700 hotel rooms, supplemented by bed and breakfast guest houses in the town and the surrounding countryside.
•Spend a fascinating weekend discovering Rouen: food, painting, relaxation and artisan crafts. An audio-guided tour is available in seven languages.
- By Car: 1 hour from Paris via the A13 motorway, 2½ hours from Mont Saint Michel via the A13 and A84. 2 hours from Calais and 3 hours from Tours by the A28 motorway.
- By Train: 1 hour from Paris-Saint Lazare station.
- By Air: Rouen Vallée de Seine Airport (connections to a hub in Lyon for numerous European destinations), 2 hours from Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, 1 hour from the budget Beauvais airport.
Contact: Tel. +33 (0)2 32 08 32 40 / www.rouentourisme.com
A shipping port, boating center and seaside resort, Le Havre is symbolized by the modern architecture of its Porte Océane, a World Heritage site since 2005. In addition to the buildings designed by Auguste Perret, other great names in architecture, such as Niemeyer and Nouvel, contributed to Le Havre's reconstruction.
•Saint-Joseph church, Le Havre's interpretation of a New York skyline, a collaboration between Perret and Marguerite Huré (for the stained glass).
•The "appartement témoin," a restored apartment that is a showplace for Perret's style and that of French decorators in the 1950s.
•The reconstructed town center.
•The Espace Oscar Niemeyer (arts center) with "Le Volcan," a theater and cultural center.
•The "Bains des Docks" aquatic complex, designed by Jean Nouvel, inspired by Roman baths.
•The Musée Malraux and its Impressionist collection, is second only to the Musée d'Orsay.
•The Maison de L’Armateur, a late-18th-century architectural gem; the Prieuré de Graville (museum) and Notre-Dame cathedral.
•The Port of Le Havre: the busiest container port in France.
•The 2 km (1.2 mile) beach, with terraces, expanse of sand and skate park.
By car: 2 hours from Paris via the A13 motorway
Less than 1 hour to Etretat, Deauville, Honfleur.
By boat: Portsmouth / Le Havre (all year) – Newhaven / Le Havre (high season) > LD Lines
By Train: 2 hours from Paris (St-Lazare train station)
By Air: Le Havre/Octeville Airport (connections to a hub in Lyon)
Contact: Tel. +33 (0)2 32 74 04 04 / www.lehavretourisme.com
Versailles, home of the Sun King
Naturally, the château, its grounds and the Trianon are not to be missed, as well as the "Domaine de Marie-Antoinette." But don't forget to visit the town of Versailles and its principal sights
•The Château de Versailles: Open daily except Mondays.
Information: +33 (0)1 30 83 78 00. www.chateauversailles.fr
•L’Académie du Spectacle Equestre: conceived and created by the renowned French equestrian Bartabas, it features horse shows as well as training in horsemanship.
•Le Potager du Roi: King Louis XIV ordered La Quintinie to create a new kitchen garden that provided fruit and vegetables for the king's table all year round.
•Le marché du quartier Notre Dame: one of the best-known open air markets in the greater Paris region, where numerous restaurateurs gladly make the trip to stock up on fresh produce.
•Les Antiquaires de la Geôle et du Bailliage: for a quarter of a century this district has been establishing its reputation as having the biggest concentration of antique dealers in the west of Paris.
•With the unveiling of 3 fully signposted pedestrian walking routes, the Office de Tourisme de Versailles helps visitors explore the city and three of its districts. Additionally, a guide entitled "Versailles, côté ville" is on sale at the Office de Tourisme for 3 euros.
-By train: 30 minutes from Paris from Montparnasse or Saint Lazare stations, or by RER line C commuter train.
-By car: A13 motorway from Paris.
-By Air: The nearest airport is Orly.
Contact: Tel. +33 (0)1 39 24 88 88 / www.versailles-tourisme.com