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Mont Saint Michel Castle – France

Mont Saint Michel Castle – France

Have you ever seen Victor Hugo’s “Pyramid in the Ocean”? If not, then the Lower Normany in the North of France awaits you because that is the home to UNESCO’s World Heritage site of Mont Saint Michel. It is a rocky island with the Abbey of St. Michel and the Mont Saint Michel Castle which is worth a watch in France apart from the other popular tourist destinations of Paris and Versailles.

Position and Plan of the Mont Saint Michel Castle

The island of Mont Saint Michel Castle is located on a cliff and has the mouth of the river Couesnon opening to its one side. The rest of the sides of the cliff are surrounded by the sea. With the Abbey and monastery being on the top of the cliff, followed by the main room of the castle below them, the planning of the entire Mont Saint Michel Castle seem to reflect the feudal society where God was seen on the highest pedestal, followed by the king, and then the subjects. The side to which the river runs also houses a dam which provides the 2 kilometre long connection of the island to the mainland. This connection which goes in to the island castle has a number of shops and eating joints on both sided of it which cater to the 3 million tourists who visit the destination every year.
A couple of legendary stories do the rounds of the Mont Saint Michel Castle which try to justify the creation of the rocky cliff. The history of creation of the Mont Saint Michel Castle also dates back to the 11th to 14th centuries and has been a constant focus of contest between France and England. However, through the years, the French have made sure that the castle is not taken over by the enemies.

Mont Saint Michel Castle as a Tourist Destination

The Mont Saint Michel Castle started with being a holy place with the presence of the abbey and the monastery. Post the French Revolution of the 1790s, the castle turned in to a prison which housed famous prisoners before initiatives were taken in 1836 to protect the entire geographical and architectural entity as a national treasure. Thereafter, in 1874 it was opened as a tourist place and by 1979 got named by UNESCO as a world heritage site which was both naturally spectacular and culturally rich.
The most important reason that attracts such huge numbers of tourists is that only two times a year, fall and spring, the sea comes to the cliff. The rest of the times the sea is about 25 miles away from the castle.
The best and cheapest way of reaching the Mont Saint Michel Castle is perhaps driving because public transports like trains are not there between Paris and Mont St Michel. Trains are available only till Pontorson and the last distance to be covered by bus.
The last reason of popularity of the Mont Saint Michel Castle is that it got filmed for the ‘Lord of the Rings’ as a kind of Minas Tirith.

Palace of Versailles – France

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When in France do not miss to see the things which are exclusively French like the Palace of Versailles which is better known as the Château de Versailles. Hailing back to the seventeenth century when Versailles was more of a village, about 20 kilometres on the southwest of Paris, Louis XIV converted his father’s hunting accommodation to the mammoth Palace of Versailles. It remained the French political centre from 1682 to 1789 when during the onset of the French Revolution; the royal family was forced to return to Paris.

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Versailles first attracted Louis XIII when he was invited by Albert de Gondi and the scenic beauty of the place encouraged him to build an accommodation for his hunting trips. Following that his successors decided to not only expand the lodge in to a grand palace but also shifted the power centre from Paris to Versailles. The expansion venture of the Palace of Versailles took place in four campaigns. While the first one involved the rebuilding of the chateau and the garden so that about 600 guests could be accommodated. The second one gave it the appearance which is retained even today. The grand apartments and suites were built during this time. In the third phase the further current look was achieved when the Hall of Mirrors, the north and south wings, and the Orangerie were brought to form. The focus of the fourth phase was the Royal Chapel which was completed by Robert de Cotte under the design of Hardouin-Mansart.

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Louis XV gave further modifications to the Palace of Versailles though it was not as extensive as that taken place before.  However, the French Revolution took the monarchy back to Paris leaving the Palace of Versailles to people of Versailles and then to various political and royal powers over the decades. It is during the Fifth Republic of France that the Palace of Versailles got converted in to a tourist attraction. Though the important political functions still take place over there but the museum and the exhibitions taking place draw a significant number of tourists.

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The main floor of the Palace of Versailles contains the grand apartments where the king and queen resided. The King’s Apartments thus make an important place to visit. Apart from that there is the Hamlet of Mary Antoinette, the Hall of Mirrors, the Grand Trianon, the Chapel of Versailles, the L’Opera, and last but not least the Museum which showcases the history of France. The surroundings of the Palace of Versailles are occupied by the Gardens of Versailles which showcase the designs of French Gardens.

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The magnificence of the Palace of Versailles has made it a venue for a number of musical extravaganzas in the modern times like The Momentary Lapse of Reason Tour of Pink Floyd, the concert of Tina Turner, the French Live 8, and the Pocket Symphony Tour of Air.

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Visitors can see the Palace of Versailles with the help of guided tours which ask for tickets. Access to the location is possible through trains, coaches, and cars.

Millau Viaduct – France

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France boasts of a number of wonderful and scenic tourist destinations one of which is the Millau Viaduct Bridge which covers the Tarn River valley near Millau in the southern provinces of France. Started in December 2004, the Millau Viaduct Bridge has a number of features which make it remarkable.

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Firstly it is a cable supported bridge and next it is known to be the tallest bridge of the world where the tip of the mast is 343 metres above the base of the bridge. The Millau Viaduct Bridge is also famous for having the 12th highest deck amongst all bridges across the world which is at a height of 270 metres. The famous Millau Viaduct Bridge falls on the way to Paris from Montpellier.

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The Millau Viaduct Bridge was designed by the architect duo Norman Foster and Michel Virlogeux and it took €400 million for the construction of the bridge. The architectural magnificence not only got recognition to the Millau Viaduct Bridge but also attracts more than 3000 visitors per day to the area. So far the bridge has got 40 million vehicles which passed through it.

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The construction work of the Millau Viaduct Bridge was conducted by three member companies of the Eiffage group. While the concrete works were done by the Eiffage TP group, the steel works for the roads were undertaken by the Eiffel Company and the hydraulic supports which were needed for the roadway on the bridge were provided by Enerpac Company. The other companies which got involved in the project were Setec, Appia, Forclum, and Freyssinet. The total amount of concrete which went in to the construction of the Millau Viaduct Bridge was 127,000 cubic metres, 19000 tonnes of steel and 5,000 tonnes of steel through the cables. After using such volumes of raw material the builders committed a lifetime of 120 years for the bridge.

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During the construction of the Millau Viaduct Bridge various departments like the WWF, France Nature Environment, federation of motorways, and so on raised objects to the venture. While some authorities said that introducing toll would reduce the usage of the bridge, and the cost will never return back, that it cannot solve the congestion problems of Millau, others said that such a voluminous bridge would not be sustainable. The successful creation and working of the bridge let all of them down.

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The magnificence of the Millau Viaduct Bridge can be best captured from the motorway rest area which is there on the northern side of the bridge. The sunrise in the autumn when the bridge emerges from the veil of overnight mists is known to be the best time of capturing the glimpse of the Millau Viaduct Bridge. Toll booths are located near the northern end of the bridge and the rates vary during the various months of the year. The Millau Viaduct Bridge also gets broadcasted in some programmes of the French television