Favorite historical cities in France are numerous and interesting. They let you relive the Medieval past with remnants of those years still present today, many of which can be toured for enjoyment and education.
Avignon, where the Rhône and Durance rivers come together, is a beautifully preserved town which was once a major artistic center and also rivaled Rome as a City of Popes. The spectacular Palace of the Popes, which was built as a fortress with heavily fortified battlements, offers tours. A Festival of Dance, Music and Theater occurs in late summer. There is a little Romanesque chapel that is now a museum, shop and ticket office. The Avignon Opera,built in the 1700s and rebuilt in 1846, presents performances year-round. An imposing virgin is at the top of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-des-Doms.
In 1988, Strasbourg had the honor of being the first time that an entire city center became a UNESCO World Heritage site. This port is the Rhine River’s second largest and is considered a “bridge of unity” between Germany and France. The most famous landmark is the pink sandstone Gothic Cathedral with its intricate interior carvings and its 1800s astrological clock that puts on a show every day at 12:30 p.m. This was the tallest building in the world from 1625 to 1874. The city’s popular Christmas market is in its courtyard. The Rhine National Opera and the Strasbourg National Theatre play host to varied musical events. There are often free concerts in Parc des Contades and Parc de l’Orangerie.
The seaport town of La Rochelle is on the Atlantic coast in southwest France and has architecture, fortifications and monuments from the 17th and 18th centuries. The old Vieux Port has fishing boats amid pleasure vessels and has fine restaurants and sophisticated shopping. The Maritime Museum features the Calypso, Jacques Cousteau’s expedition boat, which sunk after an accident in Singapore but was then raised and was made a gift to the Museum.