Just 50 kms southwest from Paris, Chartres is within easy reach if you’re visiting the capital. Notre-Dame de Chartres looms over the surrounding countryside and its tall spires are clearly visible as you approach the town. Its inscription as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1979 describes it as being “the high point of French Gothic art”. After recent restoration to both the interior and exterior, Chartres and its delightful town is a must-visit for all lovers of medieval architecture.
The history of Versailles is inextricably linked with Louis VIV, although there had been a residence there for centuries before he ascended the throne. As Dauphin, Louis XIV had loved to hunt in the forests surrounding the small chateau that his father Louis XIII had rebuilt from the original brick and stone hunting lodge. These works were ongoing until 1634, which laid the basis for the chateau we know today.
Sitting high on a rocky promontory above the valley of Gueuzon and the River Arz, Rochefort-en-Terre is a village in the countryside of the Morbihan departement of south-west Brittany. Not only classified as one of the ‘Plus Beau Villages de France’ it has also been designated a ‘Petite Cité de Caractére’ and a ‘Ville Fleurie’, making it one of the Brittany’s most visited sites. As well as the charm of the village itself, there is also a medieval chateau on the edge of town. It was not surprising that Rochefort-en-Terre was voted by the French themselves in 2016 as their favourite village of the year.
The approach to the historic walled city of St Malo, on the coast of Brittany, is surely one of the most dramatic of any city in France. The charming old town stands on a granite islet joined to the mainland by an ancient causeway. It’s enclosed by high ramparts which are bordered by beautiful sandy beaches at the foot of its steep walls.
The capital of Brittany, Rennes is a picture-perfect gem that will richly reward a couple of days’ exploration. At a little over an hour and half by TGV from Paris, it’s the ideal starting point for a tour of Brittany.