A monument is defined a structure built to commemorate people or events. Disregarding for a moment Le Tour Eiffel and l'Arc de Triomphe, there are many fascinating monuments sprinkled over the whole of France. Some of these monuments are obscure and strange, but some are beautiful. Take a step off the beaten path, wander into the rich history and architecture of France and dare to be different.
The Ancient and the Modern
Perhaps you wouldn't expect it, but the cave of Font-de-Gaume is listed on the French National Monument register. Located near Les Eyzies in southern France about two hours east of Bordeaux, the cave is an amazing example of art from the Ice Age circa 17,000 years ago. Rich carvings and paintings of animals decorate the walls; buffalo and reindeer dance in an astounding example of prehistoric art. Step back into another time; enjoy the breathtaking expression of early man.
Visitors are limited to 180 per day, in groups no larger than 12. For those intrepid adventurers who don't speak French, there are one or two tours every day that are conducted in English. Tickets should be bought in advance. There are many more prehistoric sites in the area. Be sure not to miss them.
Hall d'accueil de Font-de-Gaume 4
avenue des Grottes 24620
tél: (33) (0)5 53 06 86 00
fax: (33) (0)5 53 35 26 18
From Primitive to Majestic
Chateau de Chambord in the Loire valley is widely acknowledged as the most majestic of the region and the largest castle in existence in France today. Built by François the First early in the 16th century, the chateau took more than 25 years to build. In classic mountain to Mohammed style, François diverted one of the tributaries of the Loire river so that it flowed past the castle. A tribute to period architecture, it has been suggested that Leonardo di Vinci helped design the chateau. At the very least, he had a hand in designing the magnificent double staircase called "The Lovers' Stairs," because two people simultaneously can go up or descend and never meet. Rumor had it that this kept the king's wife and the king's mistress from running into one another.
Domaine national de Chambord
Maison des Réfractaires
tél: 02 54 50 40 00
And Something in Between
Conceived by France's then president Georges Pompidou--and built in the 1970s as a tribute to "modern and contemporary creation"--the Centre Georges Pompidou was intended to house venues for theater, art, music and literature. The current home of the Bibliothèque publique d'information (an enormous public library) and the National Museum of Modern Art, the structure is indeed a monument to one man's vision for a modern Paris. Closed on Tuesdays and also on May 1, the Centre offers a modern cultural smorgasbord of the arts for Parisians and visitors alike.
Centre Georges Pompidou
79, Rue Quincampoix
75003 Paris, France
tél: 01 44 78 12 33
Head to the top of the Eiffel Tower after dark; that's when the city of lights stretches out before you like an endless sea. When your feet are back on the ground, hopefully you'll find a nice little bistro to sit and sip wine. Watch Paris go by.
Article Written By Ruth St. James
Ruth St. James is a freelance writer as well as a produced playwright and script writer, including a documentary on religion in small societies for Discovery. As the former CFO of a consulting firm, she brings business acumen to the table, as well as expert knowledge in the fields of health and spirituality.