"France cannot be France without greatness", asserted the legendary general Charles de Gaulle. Renowned for its exquisite cuisine, legacy of artists ranging from Watteau to Monet, penchant for glamorous fashion, and the incomparable richness of its wine country, France does indeed define greatness. Within these pages, readers embark on a fascinating tour from Paris to Provence, from the magnificence of Versailles to the simple charm of sleepy fishing villages, sampling myriad French delights along the way.
Beginning with a sweeping history of the country from ancient times, when it was called Gaul, to the Hundred Year's War of the Middle Ages, author Lee Server brings the reader through the war-torn years of World Wars I ad II, when much of the country was under siege. Yet France rises once more on Chapter One, devoted to its glamorous capital city, Paris. Covering such celebrated landmarks as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame, this chapter also tours more intimate venues, such as the rose-covered Bois de Boulogne and the city's bistros, filled with habitués enjoying delicious crusty breads and perhaps a glass of wine.
In Chapter Two, the book takes a quiet turn into the Loire Valley - land of Joan of Arc and the famed Loire Châteaux, exquisite castles of almost unimaginable grandeur. Particularly distinguished is Saché, where Balzac lived and wrote during the 1830s. Yet most notorious is Chenonceaux, where the love triangle between Henry II, Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitiers was dramatically played out.
When Lewis Carol wrote, "The Further off from England the nearer is to France", he may well have been alluding to Brittany, that northern province whose settlers still speak the ancient Breton language. In Chapter Three, the mysteries of this province unfold, as well as the splendours of nearby Normandy, with its ancient city of Rouen and exquisite Gothic architecture.
The birthplace of champagne, eastern France is highlighted in Chapter Four. This area is also noteworthy for Lorraine, with its ancient capital of Nancy, and Alsace, where visitors take in the park-filled city of Strasbourg, , as well as museums devoted to such diverse subjects as vintage motor cars, Dutch and Flemish masters, and the decorative arts.
Search for the soul of France, and you may find it in the Rhône Valley and French Alps, which comprise Chapter Five. These bordering regions encompass the world-class restaurants of Lyon, the legendary wine-producing region of Beaujolais, and of course the wondrous beauty of spas, lakes, and snowy peaks where visitors ski and hike.
Land of lavender, Roman ruins, and the massive Papal Palace, Provence is the jewel of France. In Chapter Six, this province is presented in dazzling images. The book moves on to the Riviera, whose natural allure has long attracted artists, writers, royalty, and the very wealthy. Finally, the richly historic south-west region is explored - Aquitaine and Languedoc - as well as the Basque country of the Pyrénées, the shrine at Lourdes, and the world-famous resort town of Biarritz.
Filled with extraordinary photography, this unforgettable journey to both town and country, seaside and mountaintop, is an insightful compendium of la vie Française.