Independent Schools Cultural Alliance - ISCA – Summer Programs in the UK

France

France is a charming place, bustling and cosmopolitan on one hand, calm and contemplative on the other. If you’re into fine dining, high-adrenaline sports, pristine beaches or historical masterpieces, you’ll find them all in your holidays in France. And, it’s guaranteed to be  quintessentially, uniquely French. 

First stop is the capital city, Paris. The City of Lights has been drawing visitors from all over the world for centuries. It is an incredible destination for travellers who love history, art and the finer things in life. There are 4 top sights you have to see whilst in Paris; the Eiffel Tower, The Louvre Museum, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Champs Elysees. However, make sure you leave room in your itinerary to also discover a few spots that are off the beaten track.

What would a trip to Paris be without a visit to the famous Eiffel Tower? Built for the 1889 World Fair, it stands at 324 metres tall and offers some seriously impressive views of the city. If you don’t like heights, don’t worry, you can also admire this landmark from the nearby parks whilst having a Parisian picnic (a baguette filled with fromage and lots of pastries!)

The Louvre Museum is the most visited museum in the world. Inside the former royal palace, you’ll find some of the most iconic pieces of art in history. From Leonardo Da Vinci’s celebrated Mona Lisa to the famous Venus de Milo statue. If you want more of an insight into the famous artworks, you can sign up for a guided tour of the museum.

Since Notre Dame was completed in 1345, it has been the religious heart of the city. It is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages and is distinguished for its size, antiquity and architectural interest. Unfortunately, during a restoration campaign in 2019, a fire broke out in the cathedral’s attic and the massive blaze destroyed most of the roof, Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th century spire, and some of the rib vaulting. The cathedral is currently closed for visitors but will hopefully be returned to its full glory thanks to the £850 million ($1.1 billion) raised by charitable funds for its repair work.

The Champs Elysees is one of Paris’ most iconic streets. Lining the boulevard on either side are manicured trees leading up to another of the city’s top attractions, the Arc de Triomphe. Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, the Arc de Triomphe was built to celebrate Napoleon’s victory at the Battle of Austerlitz. The Champs Elysees is also a wonderful shopping and dining street and is home to the finish line of the annual Tour de France cycling race.

From Paris, we head to Mont Saint-Michel. The fortified island of Mont Saint-Michel, with its slender spires, stout ramparts and rocky outcrops rising dramatically from the sea, is one of France’s most iconic images,. This island was once a strategic fort, abbey and monastery. Today, the abbey and the narrow alleyways below still manage to transport visitors back to the Middle Ages, but with the modern-day twist of museums, coffee shops, restaurants and souvenir shops as well.

Next stop is Saint Malo to circumnavigate the walls of one of Brittany’s most attractive port cities. Construction of the walled city’s fortifications began in the 12th century. The town became a key port during the 17th and 18th centuries as a base for both merchant ships and government-endorsed privateers against the constant threat of the English. These days, the cobbled streets, the Fort, Ramparts and St Vincent Cathedral are the main attractions here, making it the ideal place to wander aimlessly, soak up the history and eat in one of its famous crêperies.

Our next stop is one of the most delightful places on France’s west coast, Île de Ré. You can cycle around this small island through villages of green-shuttered, whitewashed buildings, eating the most fantastic seafood along the way. The main town is St-Martin-de-Ré, a quaint fishing port filled with Paris-chic fashion boutiques, art galleries and the most incredible sea views.

From here, take a drive down the Côte D’Azur (The French Riviera) and visit St Tropez, Cannes, Nice, Monaco and Monte Carlo. With its mix of old-world opulence, year-round sunshine, vibrant street life and stunning seaside location, no place in France compares to Nice. Start in Vieux Nice. The labyrinth of small alleyways and tall colourful buildings is packed with little boutiques and cafes – a great place for a spot of lunch. Then head to one of the most famous promenades in the world, Promenade des Anglais, and take a casual stroll along the 4 km stretch towards one of the best lookout points in Nice.

Our final stop is the island of Corsica. Though Corsica has been part of France for more than 200 years, it feels different from the mainland in everything from customs and cuisine to language and character. The port town of Bonifacio is a wonderful place to visit. It is split into two parts: the seaside port town and a medieval citadel perched on the cliffs overlooking the turquoise Mediterranean Sea. One of its highlights is the King Aragon steps which were once used to carry water to the citadel. You can walk the 187 steps down from the town to the seaside. A fantastic way to end your virtual tour of France.