Paris is possibly the world’s most popular destination for a city break and it is the 3rd city of my 40 cities to visit/write about in Europe this year. I could write pages and pages about Paris, but I have decided to focus on Paris’ Fontainebleau…
This former royal residence has 1,900 opulent rooms and exquisite landscaped gardens. It rivals Versailles in grandeur and history but has the bonus of fewer crowds. Louis XIII was born here and Napoleon I signed his abdication papers within these walls.
You enter the chateau through the stately Cour du Cheval Blanc (Courtyard of the White Horse), also known as the Cour des Adieux. Napoleon Bonaparte bade farewell to his Imperial Guard at the horseshoe staircase here before being exiled to the island of Elba. Inside, your tour begins on the first floor. Look out for the dazzling Renaissance Salle de Bal (ballroom), with its wood panels and frescoes illustrating mythological and hunting themes, and the Galerie François I, with frescoes painted by the Florentine artist Rosso, a pupil of Michelangelo.
Farther on, highlights in Les Grands Appartements des Souverains include the ornate Empress’s Bedchamber, with a bed made for Marie-Antoinette, and Napoleon’s preposterously extravagant Throne Room. L’Appartement Intérieur de l’Empereur offers a glimpse into some of the more personal aspects of the emperor’s life, although this is not his private apartment, which can be seen only on a guided tour, along with the Napoleon Museum.
The Abdication Room has the unassuming round table where Napoleon signed his deed of abdication on 6 April 1814. Save time to wander around the stunning grounds, with the elegant Grand Parterre and vast Carp Pond.
Fontainebleau has attracted kings since the 12th century, keen to hunt in the surrounding forest. Much of the chateau dates from the Renaissance, when François I built a sumptuous royal residence. He employed the cream of Italy’s artists and craftsmen to decorate the interior and laid out the garden with lakes and canals. A century later, the gardens were re-landscaped by André Le Nôtre, who also designed Versailles’s stately parterres. Various kings commissioned modifications to the chateau and Napoleon I refurnished it in 1804.
The George Pompidou Centre in Paris is possibly one the wackiest buildings in the French capital and has one of the largest collections of modern art in the world.
You will either love it or hate the brazen design of the Pompidou, and you may well feel the same about the contemporary art it contains. The venue has sparked controversy since it opened in 1977, gracing the historic heart of Paris with a modern building that resembles a giant air-conditioning system. But while its design may not be to everyone’s taste, the arts complex attracts around six million visitors each year, roughly the same as the Louvre!
France attracts millions of holiday visitors every year; many making their way to the capital from all around Europe, the US and South East Asia. It may surprise you that camping is very popular here, with many campsites near Paris, catering for families who opt to go camping in the sorrounding countryside and travel in to the city.
Surprised that Michelin Star dining has made it to the pages of a camping blog? Don’t be. There are many things I like about France, and enjoying great French food and wine is definately one of them. Whilst I have cooking on my camping stove down to a tee, I will never reach the culinary heights available in many of the local restaurants and bistros.
With a little help from friends in Paris, I’ve found a few places in the French capital to experience Michelin star dining without paying through the roof. The trick is to identify the Michelin star chefs working at famous restaurants and then find the restaurants/bistros they own themselves.
I have picked out 4 Michelin-star chefs working in Paris’ grandest restaurants that also have their own eatery:
Robuchon’s restaurant in Paris, L’Atelier, is very popular with 3-course lunches starting at £90. Instead try his expert cooking at La Table in the 16th arrondissement, where 3-courses start at £60.
Gagnaire’s signature restaurant at Hotel Balzac offers beautifully crafted modern evening dinner from £235 for 3-courses. Instead try his informal seafood restaurant called Gaya Rive Gauche at Rue du Bac. In contrast, 3-courses start at £58. If you want to try his culinary skills without going to France try Sketch in London!
Alain Ducasse is known for his master cooking at Plaza Athenee, where a three course lunch will set you back a staggering £245. We’ve discovered that M. Ducasse has 3 bistros in Paris with 3-courses starting from £35. Rech a fish restaurant in the 17th arrondissement, Benoit serves authentic French dishes in the 4th & Aux Lyonnais serves traditional dishes from France’s gastronomic capital, Lyon, in the 2nd.
Jean-Francois Piege is possibly one of the more famous chefs in Paris, his work at Hotel Crillon, one of the world’s grandest hotels, lifted him to stardom. But Piege, who left the Crillon, has a bistro by the name of Thoumieux offering three courses for £35, in start contrast of the £190 charged at the Crillon. The bistro is located in the Invalides district of Paris.
These 10 European campsites offer excellent facilities for children. They have been selected for their close proximity to sandy beaches; on-site facilities for young children; nearby family-friendly attractions and can be reached easily by plane, ferry or car. The campsites also offer families the choice to book a pitch for their own tent, a 2 or 3 bedroom mobile home, a ready-erected furnished tent or a wooden lodge/chalet.
Le Soleil, Argelès-sur-Mer, Languedoc, France
Le Soleil is a four-star campsite right on the beach so families can walk there without struggling to cross busy roads. The Mediterranean sea is crystal clear and warm for young swimmers in the summer and the views of the Pyrenees are stunning. Luckily you can reach this area of the south of France via a number of airports, including Perpignan, Carcassone, Beziers and Girona (Spain); Ryanair is the airline to try first for flights to these airports.
La Bien Assise, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
La Bien Assise, a 5-star French campsite located in the grounds of a beautiful chateau, is close to Calais and the Tunnel making it one of the easiest of our featured campsites to reach. The park has a stately feel with the shop and bar located in former stables and the restaurant set in a farmstead and boasting a first class gourmet menu to match. The pool is covered when the weather is iffy and there is plenty to do for everyone in and out. Perfect for anyone trying a camping holiday for the first time.
La Croix de Vieux Pont, Berny-Riviere, near Paris
La Croix de Vieux Pont in Berny-Riviere, is situated on the outskirts of France’s capital, and is perfect for a day trip to Paris and Disneyland Paris, France’s most popular attraction. The campsite’s own bus service* can take you directly to the centre of Paris or Disneyland, and pick you up in the evening. What makes this site special is its location, it’s just two and a half hours easy drive from Calais, and its on-site facilities that include a sandy beach, indoor pool and a pony trekking centre. * There is an additional charge for the bus service.