The architectural heritage in the Loire Valley's historic towns is notable, especially its châteaux, such as the Château d'Amboise, Château de Chambord, Château de Chinon, Château du Rivau, Château d'Ussé, Château de Villandry and Chenonceau. The châteaux, numbering more than three hundred, represent a nation of builders starting with the necessary castle fortifications in the 10th century to the splendor of those built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of power, followed suit. Their presence in the lush, fertile valley began attracting the very best landscape designers and architects. The Loire Valley is an area steeped in history and because of its riches, one that has been fought over and influenced by a variety of adversaries from the Romans to Atila the Hun. The formation of the region as we know it today began after its conquest by Julius Caesar in 52 BC. It is however, Emperor Augustus who is credited with bringing peace and stability to the Loire Valley. This stability saw the growth of towns such as Orleans (Genabum), Tours (Caesarodunum), Le Mans (Noviodunum), Angers (Juliomagus), Bourges (Avaricum) and Chartres (Autricum). The Roman's greatest influence however might be considered to be the introduction of the first grape vines to the region, as shown in the wine AOC map shown above.
The Pont Neuf runs between the right and left banks of the Seine River in the middle of Paris, on its way touching one end of the Ile de la Cite where Notre Dame stands. As you can see in the photograph it is divided into two parts, one of seven arches joining the right bank to the Île de la Cité, another of five joining the island to the left bank. The little park in the center is called Square du Vert-Galant, a park named in honor of Henry IV, who was nicknamed the “Green Gallant”. The park is a great place to relax if you are at Notre Dame or the Louvre, go up to the other end of the island if you are at Notre Dame or just down from the Louvre. The best views are from the Pont des Arts, a pedestrian bridge just upstream, which is why I included both in the post. Get some ice creme from Berthillon (see my post) or bring a lunch.
The Hall of Battles is longer than the Hall of Mirrors, 394 feet, and is lined with huge paintings of French victories through the ages, including oils by Delacroix and Fragonard. Its creation was the idea of Louis-Philippe I, King of the French and it replaced apartments which had been occupied in the 17th and 18th centuries. There are literally hundreds of busts and 39 paintings, I will not present them all.
Versailles started out as a hunting lodge for King Louis XIII. When Louis XIII was younger, he had accompanied his father King Henry IV on hunting trips to the estate of Albert de Gondi, a French general originally from Florence. At this time, Versailles was a fair distance from Paris, heavily forested, with only about 500 people living around an old castle. In 1622 Louis XIII bought land for his private hunting reserve and in 1624 bought more land to build a small hunting lodge on top of a hill. In 1634 he bought the rest of the land and gradually enlarged the building to a small chateau by 1635.
If you are visiting the Eiffel tower and looking for something else to do, you might consider the French Maritime Museum at the Trocadero, the largest in the world. Apart from Napoleon’s canot, seen below, another striking feature in the first room at the Paris Musée de la Marine is the painting of the arrival of Napoleon III at Gênes in 1859, by Théodore Gudin seen above.
In 1748, Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau offered a collection of models of ships and naval installations to Louis XV of France, with the request that the items be displayed at the Louvre and made available to students of the Naval engineers school, which Duhamel headed. The collection was put on display in 1752, in a room of the first floor, next to the Academy of Sciences; the room was called “Salle de Marine” (Navy room), and was used for teaching. King Charles X decided to create the maritime museum in 1827, which he named the Musée Dauphin but after 1830 the name was changed to what we know it as today, the Musée de Marine.