This French Renaissance-style castle would probably have remained largely unknown if it hadn’t become home to the secret wife of Louis XIV, Madame de Maintenon. Françoise d’Aubigné – her real name – was a woman of humble origins who is often compared to Cinderella.
After Louis secretly married her, the Château de Maintenon underwent numerous transformations as she put her own stamp on it. Meanwhile, the French-style garden was designed by renowned landscape architect André Le Nôtre but was only laid out in 2013.
Of Roman origin, it was referred to in 557 as Compendium, a name derived from a word meaning “short cut” (between Beauvais and Soissons). The town flourished in the Middle Ages and was the site of assemblies and councils under the Merovingian kings. In 833 Louis the Pious was deposed there. Charles II the Bald enlarged the town and founded the Abbey of Saint-Corneille, now the home of the municipal library. Compiègne became a commune in 1153, and a monument to Joan of Arccommemorates her capture there by the Burgundians in 1430.
Amiens is a city in northern France, divided by the Somme river. It’s known for the Gothic Amiens Cathedral and nearby medieval belfry. Shops and cafes line the Quartier St.-Leu’s narrow streets. Floating market gardens (“hortillonnages”) dot the city’s canals. The Musée de Picardie shows art and antiquities spanning centuries. Nearby, the Maison de Jules Verne is a museum where the science fiction author once lived.
Vincennes, town, eastern residential suburb of Paris, Val-de-Marne département, Île-de-Francerégion, north-central France, immediately outside the Paris city limits.
The château of Vincennes, which succeeded an earlier fortified hunting lodge on the site, consists of four principal buildings—the keep, the chapel, and two pavilions—enclosed by an enceinte with nine towers. The magnificent and well-preserved keep, the finest surviving in France, 170 feet (52 metres) in height, was begun under Philip VI, completed under Charles V (reigned 1364–80), and used thereafter as a royal residence until Versailles was built. The chapel, not completed until 1552 but in Gothic style, has a Flamboyant facade and a great rose window. The two pavilions—the Pavillon du Roi and the Pavillon de la Reine—were built by Louis Le Vau, under the direction of Jules Cardinal Mazarin, during the third quarter of the 17th century.
Chartres, a city in north-central France southwest of Paris, is famed for its massive Cathédrale Notre-Dame. The Gothic cathedral, completed in 1220, features 2 towering spires, flying buttresses, Romanesque sculptures, pavement labyrinth and elaborate rose windows. The interior’s blue-tinted stained glass is distinctive, and the nearby Centre International du Vitrail has workshops and exhibits on stained-glass art.
Orléans is a city on the banks of the Loire River in north-central France, and it’s the capital of the Centre-Val de Loire region. Joan of Arc famously saved the city from English siege in 1429, an event celebrated with an annual festival. A re-creation of the house where she stayed during the battle, the Maison de Jeanne d’Arc, features multimedia exhibits on her life.
Le Havre is a major port in northern France’s Normandy region, where the Seine River meets the English Channel. It’s joined to the city across the estuary, Honfleur, by the Pont de Normandie cable-stayed bridge. Following WWII, Le Havre’s heavily damaged city center was famously redesigned by Belgian architect Auguste Perret. Today it features many landmark examples of reinforced-concrete architecture.
Caen is a port city and capital of Calvados department in northern France’s Normandy region. Its center features the Château de Caen, a circa-1060 castle built by William the Conqueror. It stands on a hill flanked by the Romanesque abbeys of Saint-Étienne and Sainte-Trinité, which both date from the same period. The multimedia Mémorial museum is devoted to World War II, the 1944 Battle of Normandy and the Cold War.
Cabourg is a commune in the Calvados department in the Normandy region of France. Cabourg is on the coast of the English Channel, at the mouth of the river Dives. The back country is a plain, favourable to the culture of cereal.
Deauville is a seaside resort on the Côte Fleurie of France’s Normandy region. An upscale holiday destination since the 1800s, it’s known for its grand casino, golf courses, horse races and American Film Festival. Its wide, sandy beach is backed by Les Planches, a 1920s boardwalk with bathing cabins. The town has chic boutiques, elegant belle epoque villas and half-timbered buildings.