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Northern France

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Region Information

Nord/Pas de Calais

Many of the towns of Northern France have managed to preserve all the charm of their original early 20th century architectural styles. It is an area full of cycle routes and can be easily visited both by bicycle and on foot. The hundreds of small cemeteries full of white crosses are a poignant reminder of the enormous loss of life suffered during the bitter battles of World War I.

Dunkerque is France’s third largest port and a dynamic city which looks out on to the busiest shipping lanes in Europe. Its famous lighthouse is open to the public.

Calais is regarded as "The Gateway to Europe" and it is the busiest port in Europe. The main shopping streets are Boulevards Jacquard and Lafayette. The huge Auchan hypermarket on the outskirts of the town, exit 14 from A26, is worth a visit to stock up with French wines and goods before returning home.

Cap Gris Nez and Cap Blanc Nez are two enormous cliffs that offer magnificent views over the busiest navigation channel in the world. On a clear day the British coastline is visible.

Boulogne-sur-Mer is a charming old town perched on a hill, has cobbled streets, ramparts, a beautiful cathedral and a superb château museum.

Nausicaa:  France’s National Sea Centre is an amazing high-tech exhibition including a shark ring, touch tank and sea lion area, with the emphasis on ecological management of the sea.

Picardy

It is wonderful walking, riding, cycling and golfing country. The acres of woods and forests are home to a remarkable range of wild flowers and animals. Majestic white chalky cliffs mark the southern end of the Picardy coastline while to the north splendid sand dunes border the beaches.

The River Somme meets the sea in the spectacular Baie de la Somme, classified as one the most beautiful bays in the world and home to France’s largest colony of seals.Le Parc Marquenterre d’Ornithologie is a unique bird sanctuary situated in this bay near St Valéry. It is full of wild birds and magnificent fauna. A minimum of 2 hours is recommended for a visit, more if you are a keen ornithologist.

The Great War
Like the Pas de Calais, the entire region of Picardy is dotted with battlefields and memorials to the brave soldiers who died in the Great War. The Historial de la Grande Guerre museum in the old ramparts at Péronne gives a fascinating analysis of the First World War.

Châteaux
The region’s spectacular castles such as Compiègne, Pierrefonds and Chantilly reflect the royal glory of the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries.

Paris

 is a city to explore on foot, strolling along the Boulevards, discovering side streets, window shopping in the top stores or relaxing in pavement cafés. You can also visit by bus, métro and boat along the Seine. Like all beautiful capital cities you could explore Paris for weeks and not visit everything. The main tourist attractions not to be missed are listed below. 

Eiffel Tower  - climb the steps to the 2nd floor (120m) or take a lift to the top (280m) to be rewarded by exceptional views of the city.

Notre Dame Cathedral situated on the Ile de la Cité and reached via the famous Pont Neuf was completed in 1345 and is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture. The three dimensional stone carvings on its façade depict the scriptures and legends of saints and biblical kings. The nave rises to a height of 35m and is famous for its dazzling stained-glass window. You can climb the 69m twin towers to view the gargoyles and celebrated bell tower.

Sacré Coeur on Montmartre Hill is a beautiful white basilica featuring small cupolas surrounding a central dome in a Neo-Byzantine style. The style of the Place du Tetre still reflects the Bohemian way of life at the turn of the 20th century.

Champs Elysées is one of the world’s most famous avenues and leads down to the

Arc de Triomphe, a colossal neo-Classical style monument built on the vast Place d’Etoile from which radiate 11 further avenues.

Place de la Concorde at the eastern end of the Champs Elysées, is a magnificent square adorned with sumptious fountains and the 3,300 year old obelisk which came from Egypt.

Hotel National des Invalides is an august building that was once a hospital for wounded soldiers and is now a war museum housing over half a million items from wars dating from ancient times to the Second World War. The impressive tomb of Napoleon lies in the crypt.

Musée du Louvre A former royal residence first built in the 16th century which is now one of the most famous museums in the world. An immense glass-sided pyramid which stands in its centre designed by a Sino-American architect is a testament to the creative inspiration which pervades this building.

Centre Georges Pompidou is a vast multi-purpose cultural centre made of a unique design of steel and glass piping, housing an immense collection of 20th century and contemporary art.

Château de Versailles is a grandiose palace south-west of Paris created by the Sun King Louis XIV. A visit concentrates on the royal apartments, the illustrious Hall of Mirrors, the chapel and the opera as well as its magnificent landscaped gardens.

Château de Fontainebleau is another prestigious royal residence south-east of Paris set in a forest full of game. Its magnificent architecture and gardens make it a jewel of French art.

Two theme parks not to be missed are:-

Disneyland®Resort situated at Marne-la-Vallée 40km west of Paris. It is an action packed park with over 80 attractions and rides, daily parades and regular visits from Disney characters as well as Waltdisney Studios®

Parc Astérix,
 50km north of Paris is a theme park based around the "Gaulish" world of Astérix and Obélix. It offers several adventure areas, including some amazing roller coaster rides, the Flying Chairs ride and a Dolphinarium.

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