Today’s Travel Tuesday destination is Île-de-France, France, courtesy of the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die Page-A-Day calendar.
- Château de Versailles (pictured above): Housing the most flamboyant court since ancient Rome, France’s most-visited château, Versailles, was home to the French monarch at the height of its glory. Of the palace’s 700 rooms, the most famous is the 246-foot-long Galerie des Glaces (Hall of Mirrors), whose 17 large beveled mirrors reflect an equal number of arched windows. The room has witnessed everything from the marriage of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles after World War I.
- Where: 17 miles/28 km southwest of Paris. Tel: 33/1-30-837800; www.chateauversailles.fr
- Tour Eiffel: Possibly the most recognized structure in the world, the Eiffel Tower was built as a temporary centerpiece for the 1889 Universal Exhibition; the much maligned “metal asparagus” was saved from demolition only because, as the tallest structure in Europe at the time (1,063 feet high), it was useful as a radio tower. Today it’s the symbol of Paris, providing a view of up to 40 miles from its observation platforms.
- Arc de Triomphe: The largest triumphal arch in the world (163 feet high and 147 feet wide) was erected by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his imperial army’s victories. It’s the site of France’s Tomb of the Unknown Solider and at the top is a viewing platform and multimedia exhibit allowing you to inspect the arch’s glorious sculptures and friezes up close.
- The Louvre: One of the largest palace in the world, now one of its largest art museums, the Louvre is home to the Mona Lisa, the armless Venus de Milo, I.M. Pei’s controversial glass pyramid, and some 400,000 works of art—35,000 of which are on permanent display. Stretching for half a mile along the northern banks of the Seine, the palace was initially a medieval fortress and was expanded into a luxurious royal residence. It was designated a museum immediately after the Revolution, and its collection was significantly expanded with spoils of war taken by Napoleon.
- Notre Dame: A “symphony in stone,” according to Victor Hugo, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is the historic, spiritual, and geographic heart of Paris. Its foundation stone was laid by Pope Alexander III in 1163, and construction was completed nearly two centuries later. A 422-step climb to the top of the north tower provides close-ups of the bestiary of gargoyles, the 13-ton bell Emmanuel in the south tower, and a magnificent 36-degree view.
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