We all have a travel bucket list – places we’re dying to go, things we’re dying to do, places, we’re dying to stay. While I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to travel so much, there is still an entire world I haven’t visited, and the place at the top of my list is France.
The Iconic Tour d’Eiffel
The Eiffel Tower is one of the main reasons that I would like to visit France. It was built to be one of the main attractions for the 1889 World Fair held in Paris. It was meant to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and show off France’s modern mechanical prowess on a world stage. It was, for four decades, the world’s tallest structure. At 986 feet, the Eiffel Tower was nearly double the height of the world’s previous tallest structure—the 555-foot Washington Monument—when it opened. It would not be surpassed until the completion of the 1,046-foot Chrysler Building in New York in 1930.
France is the official castle capital of the world. It holds over 40,000 castles. The oldest one is the Château de Thil, started in 850 AD, and the most recent one is the Château Louix XIV, completed in 2011. Every castle has a story. There was a dynasty. A king and queen. An army. A fire. A murder. A conflict. A war. There are 40,000 castles. 40,000 stories.
Don’t believe that each one holds a story? Well, take the castle of Versailles. It was built by King Louis XIV. It is located about 12 miles west of Paris, France. It was the house to one of France’s most ironic royals: Marie Antoinette.
Described by her brother, Emperor Joseph II, as “honest and lovable,” Marie Antoinette was an Austrian princess and the wife of King Louis XVI. Nine months after the execution of her husband, Marie Antoinette followed him to the guillotine on October 16, 1793.
Other castles hold the stories of the Valois families, the Guise, and even Charlemagne. Beyond royalty, France has a rich history spanning from the Ancient Romans through the Nazi occupation in WWII.
Beauty and the Beast (French: La Belle et la Bête) is a fairy tale written by French novelist Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve and published in 1740 in La Jeune Américaine et les contes marins (The Young American and Marine Tales). It is French and has had many versions, including the Disney version.
Other movies set in France include Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and many more Disney princess movies as France is the castle capitol.
Books set in France include Les Miserable and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
The History of the Hexagon
France was originally named Gaul or Gallia. Julius Caesar led the Romans into Gaul, whilst the Celts were still dominating the territory. In 121, the Roman troops won a conclusive victory over the Celtic tribes and the Roman Empire established the First Roman Province (in the area of Narbonne).
The Kingdom of France in the Middle Ages (roughly, from the 10th century to the middle of the 15th century) was marked by the fragmentation of the Carolingian Empire and West Francia (843–987); the expansion of royal control by the House of Capet (987–1328), including their struggles with the virtually independent principalities (duchies and counties, such as the Norman and Angevin regions) that had developed following the Viking invasions and through the piecemeal dismantling of the Carolingian Empire and the creation and extension of administrative/state control (notably under Philip II Augustus and Louis IX) in the 13th century; and the rise of the House of Valois (1328–1589), including the protracted dynastic crisis against the House of Plantagenet and their Angevin Empire, dominated by the Kingdom of England, culminating in the Hundred Years’ War (1337–1453), compounded by the catastrophic Black Death epidemic (1348), which laid the seeds for a more centralized and expanded state in the early modern period and the creation of a sense of French identity.
Vast And Fascinating History
Here are some big events in French history, all in the past couple hundred years.
The Paris Commune
The Paris Commune (French: Commune de Paris, pronounced [kɔ. myn də pa. ʁi]) was a revolutionary government that seized power in Paris, the capital of France, from 18 March to 28 May 1871. A barricade was thrown up by the Communard National Guard on 18 March 1871.
Napoleon played a key role in the French Revolution (1789–99), served as first consul of France (1799–1804), and was the first emperor of France (1804–14/15). Today Napoleon is widely considered one of the greatest military generals in history. Learn about Napoleon’s role in the French Revolution (1789–99). He reduced the rights of women. He ended freedom of the press, constrained freedom of association, and created a new, greedy nobility. Napoleon was responsible for a lot of death and destruction. Napoleon kept Europe at war for 15 years. Napoleon also had a habit of keeping his hand in his jacket. Why? Well, the answer is rooted in the gesture’s history. Concealing a hand in one’s coat has long signified gentlemanly restraint and was often associated with nobility. It goes as far back as ancient Greece, when famed orator Aeschines claimed that restricting the movement of one’s hand was the proper way to speak in public.
Huguenots were French Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries who followed the teachings of theologian John Calvin. Persecuted by the French Catholic government during a violent period, Huguenots fled the country in the 17th century, creating Huguenot settlements all over Europe, the United States, and Africa.
Louis XIV, king of France (1643–1715), ruled his country, principally from his great palace at Versailles, during one of the country’s most brilliant periods. Today he remains the symbol of absolute monarchy of the classical age. His health started to decline on 10 August 1715 upon his return from a hunting trip in Marly, when he felt sharp pains in his leg. Fagon, his doctor, diagnosed sciatica. But the pain was always in the same place, and shortly afterwards black marks appeared, indicating senile gangrene. Gangrene is death of body tissue due to a lack of blood flow or a serious bacterial infection. Gangrene commonly affects the arms and legs, including the toes and fingers. It can also occur in the muscles and in organs inside the body, such as the gallbladder.
Seven Years’ War
The Seven Years War was a global conflict which ran from 1756 until 1763 and pitted a coalition of Great Britain and its allies against a coalition of France and its allies. The war escalated from a regional conflict between Great Britain and France in North America, known today as the French and Indian War.
The French Revolution was a watershed event in world history that began in 1789 and ended in the late 1790s with the ascent of Napoleon Bonaparte. During this period, French citizens radically altered their political landscape, uprooting centuries-old institutions such as the monarchy and the feudal system.
Battle of Dien Bien Phu
Battle of Dien Bien Phu, the decisive engagement in the First Indochina War (1946–54). It consisted of a struggle between French and Viet Minh (Vietnamese Communist and nationalist) forces for control of a small mountain outpost on the Vietnamese border near Laos. The 57-day battle was a complete rout for the French army, which lost more than 2,200 soldiers killed in action, and almost 11,000 more who were captured, including more than 5,100 who were wounded. Only about 3,300 of the French prisoners of war made it home.