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Ile-de-France

Ile-de-France

Ile- de-France or ‘Isle’ as it is sometimes written is the most populated and wealthiest region of France. Economically it is Europe’s biggest regional economy. It is made up of eight departments centred on the capital city, Paris.

The region consists mostly of the Paris metropolitan area which covers 4637 square miles. Through it runs the river Seine on the way from the Massif Central to the English Channel along with its tributaries the Oise and Aube. This group of rivers creates an area of lowland known as the Paris basin.

The climate of the Ile –de-France is similar to that of the UK. However, summers tend to be a little warmer, winters a little milder and there is generally less rainfall. Spring and autumn are considered the best seasons to plan a visit to Paris.

Transport links to the region are obviously excellent. Eurostar will take you from London, Ebbsfleet or Ashford directly to the heart of Paris. All the city’s railway stations are located around the city centre with bus and metro links close at hand.

Several motorways run through the region and access to Paris by car is via the peripherique which circles the capital. Thirty ‘portes’ serve the various districts but for those preferring not to travel into the centre by car can use the car parks located on the edge of the ring road and continue by metro.

Paris has two international airports: Charles de Gaulle to the north; Orly to the south. The flight from London takes about one hour twenty minutes and there are several low-cost carriers to choose from. There is also a small airport at Beauvais, about one hour fifteen minutes’ drive from Paris.

Apart from Paris itself, one of the world’s greatest cities and tourist attractions, the region has other features of interest to visitors. Beyond the capital can be found
extensive areas of woodland and several historic villages.

Once the unofficial capital of France, Versaille is located ten miles outside Paris. The chateau is easily reached by train and it is well worth the price of a day ticket to view the glorious interior. Its magnificent gardens are open to the public for no charge.

Also lying to the south of Paris but a little less busy is the Chateau of Fontainbleu. Its stunningly furnished rooms were completely revamped by Napoleon during his visits there. Surrounding the chateau is the Foret de Fontainbleu, one of the biggest forested areas in France with 49,000 acres of woodland and distinctive sandstone boulders which once provided the royal hunting grounds.

The Ile –de –France region has a number of attractions popular with families. Probably the most well known of them is Disneyland Paris at Marne-la-Vallee, about 30 miles north of Paris which was opened in 1992. Not far away in Plailly you will find the slightly older Parc Asterix, a theme park with a more French connection. The rides, mostly of the roller coaster type, are based on the famous Asterix stories. Of a more educational nature is the Exploradome located in Vitry-Sur-Seine. This museum of science and modern technology offers hands on experience for children.

The biggest attraction of Ile de France is, of course, the cosmopolitan city of Paris itself. With its elegant tree-lined boulevards, plethora of museums and art galleries and iconic landmarks, it is a tourist destination which caters for every conceivable taste.

The easiest way of getting around all these attractions is by the city’s Metro. Opened in 1900, it is the second busiest network in Europe. The beautiful Art Nouveau stations are located in close proximity to each other so you will never be far from your intended destination.

The river Seine provides a fantastic backdrop to the city with over 30 bridges within Paris itself. One of the oldest and most attractive is the Pont Neuf which dates back to 1607 and is the subject of many works of art. The river banks are well -worth exploring and offer many entertainments along with some pricier restaurants. There are also many opportunities to experience the city from the water with a wide variety of cruises on offer.

Paris is also well-known for its parks and open spaces. The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of the most delightful. With free entry, it is lovely place to relax away from the bustle of the city.

One of the delights of Paris is eating out and you will find the cuisine of almost all nationalities. A popular choice is the archetypal bistro which can be found all over the city centre. They offer a good selection of traditional French dishes and wines at reasonable prices and have a lively ambience. For the sweet-toothed, the best ice-creams are to be found at Berthillon situated near Pont Marie.

Another great Parisian pleasure is shopping. One of the most elegant shopping locations is the prestigious Galerie du Palais-Royal. For an excellent selection of gourmet food, head for the Grande Epicerie du Bon Marche on the left bank.

Culturally, the Ile de France enjoys a rich heritage. One of the manifestations of this is the Festival d’Ile de France which takes place annually during September and October. The programme consists of some thirty concerts encompassing a wide range of musical styles. Venues include chateaux, churches and other less conventional locations. The events attract around 20000 to 25000 visitors a year.

Whatever your requirements as a tourist you will be to certain to find them in the Ile de France region.

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