The Heart of French History

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette

One of my favorite sights to visit in Paris is the gorgeous and historic Basilica of Saint Denis in the suburb of Saint Denis. The church and abbey have been the burial place of French royalty since the 10th century (although kings from as far back as the year 500 have had their remains moved here). Parts of the church itself were constructed more than 1,300 years ago. The history here is mind-boggling. Continue Reading →

Where Marie Antoinette Played Make Believe

Marie Antoinette's hamlet

One of the most interesting parts of the sprawling Versailles compound outside of Paris is the Hameau de la Reine (The Queen’s Hamlet), a fake rural farming town built solely so Marie Antoinette could escape the “pressures” of being queen of France and pretend to be a simple milkmaid. Seriously.

The town (which actually does function as a farming community) includes a farmhouse, dairy, dovecote/pigeon coup, mill, tower and the “queen’s house and billiard room,” set in the very center of the village. Continue Reading →

How Did the Croissant Become a French Staple?

Food and Pastries 10

Croissants are ubiquitous in Paris. Every pastry shop and boulangerie makes them. Every café sells them. A typical Parisian breakfast? Croissants and coffee. And for travelers to the City of Light, indulging in a buttery, flaky croissant (or several) is every bit as important as a trip to the Eiffel Tower or a bateau ride on the Seine. But how did this simple pastry become so ingrained in French culture? No one is absolutely certain, but theories abound. (And here’s a guide to where you can find the 10 best croissants in Paris!) Continue Reading →