Have you been following the saga of the Crawley family in the PBS series, "Downton Abbey"? If so, then you're probably enthralled by the majestic rooms, buildings and grounds of the Downton Abbey estate. After all, who wouldn't want to have that library as part of their home? Downtown Abbey, the series, is filmed at an actual British estate called Highclere Castle, the home of the Earl of Carnavon and his family, though they bear little resemblance to the fictional Crawleys.
The celebrations are massive, the national pride most evident and the smiles too many to count. Add the ooh and ahh factor of colorful fireworks blazing overhead and the pomp and circumstance of military parades and you have Bastille Day in France. This is one country that knows how to party, so why not indulge?
History of Bastille Day, or as they say in France, Le Fete Nationale is a celebration of freedom. Fed up with the monarchy, on July 14, 1789 residents of Paris stormed the fortress-prison, known as the Bastille. This is where those in power imprisoned others who dared speak out against the reigning monarchy. The idea was to set the prisoners free.
France is often referred to as Paris et al Province, which basically means that when you travel to France there is Paris, and then there is everything else. Similar to New York City, Paris is like an island in its own country.
A City Brought to Life
Paris is a full-sensory experience. There are cafes, outdoor markets, parks, side streets, hidden alcoves, and enough historic landmarks, museums and galleries to keep your travel itinerary hopping. While munching a chocolate croissant and ambling the cobbled streets might be something of a Parisian pastime, a holiday bike tour is a more convenient way to explore the city, and a professional tour guide will have the type of witty and insightful anecdotes that will bring a foreign city to life. If you're hungry for the sights and sounds of Paris, a bike tour is perfect.
The Chateau de Chantilly, located about 30 minutes north of Paris, is actually two mansions--the Petit Chateau, which dates from the mid-16th century, and the Grand Chateau, which was destroyed during the French Revolution and rebuilt in the mid-19th century. Both structures as well as the grounds and adjacent art museum make a delightful diversion from fast-paced Parisian life.
If you are planning on traveling to the Les Baux de Provence area of France, make sure to set aside time in your itinerary for the Carrieres de Lumieres multimedia show, which offers guests a truly unique sensory experience. Located in the middle of the Alpilles, this extraordinary show features paintings from great artists projected onto the walls, floors and ceilings of a huge cave. As you make your way through the different chambers of this former bauxite mine, accompanied by beautiful classical music, you will feel as if you have been totally immersed in these colorful projected artworks.