The Champs Elysees. Photo, aparisguide

The Champs Élysées is surely the iconic avenue in Paris.  It conjures up images of a wide, tree-lined boulevard lined with magnificent Beaux-Art style buildings occupied by elegant designer boutiques, discreet luxury hotels, the famous Lido cabaret, and like a giant exclamation mark, the Arc de Triomphe marking the summit.  The reality though is that over the last few years the street was in danger of becoming just another retail strip full of banal chain stores and more than a few fast food outlets.  Two recent spectacular renovations have heralded a rejuvenation of the world’s most beautiful avenue.

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‘A Wheat Field with Cypresses’ by Van Gogh. Photo,

The very name ‘Provence’ conjures up images of brilliant blue skies, ancient golden stone villages with terracotta tiled roofs, and dazzling colours thrown into sharp relief as depicted in a Van Gogh painting.  It’s a land of languid, hot sunny days, leisurely outdoor dining on wonderful food that tastes of sunshine, with the air fragrant from fields of lavender.  It’s also a region whose architectural riches of its ancient past are evident at every turn.

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Roussillon and the richly coloured ochre cliffs. Photo, hotelticati

There would be few travellers nowadays who, when they hear or read ‘Luberon’, don’t immediately conjure up the delightful memoirs by the late Peter Mayle.  His first book, ‘A Year in Provence’ published in 1989 became the model for a new travel genre and spawned any number of imitators on the theme of an outsider taking up residence in a town or region somewhere picturesque such as Provence or Tuscany.  Until then, the Luberon region of Provence was barely known outside France, and then mostly for its typical Provencal produce.

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One of the fabulous shoes at the Christian Louboutin show at the Palais de la Porte Doree. Photo, lifestyle-luxusni

Trying to distil the huge number of exhibitions and concerts happening in any year in Paris into a list of highlights is an almost impossible task.  This year is no exception, but any year will have so many visual feasts and surprises, it’s one of the great pleasures, and dilemmas, in planning a visit.

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A Roman Temple Under a Temple of High Technology

The Head of Mithras. Photo,

One of the most significant archaeological sites ever discovered in London is now open to the public beneath the stunning new European headquarters of media giant Bloomberg.  Constructed around 240 CE, the Roman Temple of Mithras was discovered in 1954, when in the last hours of excavations for a new office block on a WW2 bomb site, the stone head of a handsome young god wearing its distinctive Phrygian cap was unearthed.

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