Introducing France Virtuelle or France From Home!
Can’t get to France but want to experience it virtually? Already in France but need more? Allow me to introduce a new feature: France Virtuelle!
As promised in my last newsletter (sign up here!), I will be doing a new monthly post highlighting some of the amazing Paris and France related video content that is worth sharing every month. Of course, we’ll have videos on history but also on the modern aspects of La France, since this impacts our travels and understanding of what we experience.
First Things First
Before we dive into a few videos to help you escape, I want to address the one thing that we shouldn’t ignore: the invasion of Ukraine. The historical parallels between this war and previous wars cannot be ignored. But it doesn’t mean that they are doomed to be repeated. We must fight authoritarian leaders, abroad and in our own countries. Take it from the historian: authoritarian governments and dictatorships never end well.
Please don’t ignore the plight of the Ukrainian people, the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of leaders across the globe and in our own countries, and do what you can: vote, stay informed, and help those in need as you are able. Check out some ways to help and be informed here and here and here.
Several years ago, Rick Steves put together a video on the rise of fascism in Europe. Before we move on to our regularly scheduled content, I urge you to watch and see the connections between the horrors of the past and where we are now.
My primary goals for Paris Gone By are education and a much needed escapism, so thank you for understanding the need to break protocol and address current events.
Now for a few moments escape from the heaviness of the world to keep us going!
Back to France
Every month, I want to share a few external videos that caught my eye and I thought worthy of sharing. You can also find them in the France Virtuelle playlist on the PGB YouTube channel.
As with some of the sources I share in my articles, not all of the videos will be in English but I’ll try to make sure they have subtitles or are easy to understand without language. Everything will be labelled accordingly.
Without further ado, the inaugural selection of videos:
Paris of the Past
Since we do love our Parisian history around here, let’s start with a video of old images of the City of Light from 1850-1970! It is not in chronological order, which is both fun and occasionally confusing. The hardest part for me is refraining from looking up all the streets and places I’m not familiar with and finding out more! An epic but delightful rabbit hole. This is basically how I ended up starting PGB in the first place. 😂
Any photos that made you want to know more? Let me know in the comments!
Paris of the Future
As some may already know, Paris is very committed to going green in the coming years. Less traffic, more trees (so many trees), and other improvements to make the city a more livable place. I think more pedestrian zones and less pollution will make Paris an even more grand city. And will hopefully help it feel a bit less claustrophobic in some areas. Narrow streets + cars + people = no fun.
That said, I hope that it will be done well. I’m not keen on how unattractive, if functional and necessary, the changes made during the pandemic were. And I hope that the government continues to clean up the city as part of the process. Lastly, I really hope that the funding needed for these changes doesn’t make Paris even less affordable for the average person!
Let’s take a look at some of the plans for a greener Paris:
Which of these ideas excites you the most? Do you have any improvements you would like to see in Paris? You know how to let me know.
Love it or hate it, Châtelet–Les Halles (C-LH) train station is an unforgettable experience. Though, really, does anyone love it? 😉 C-LH is one of the busiest and largest train stations in the world, serving 3 RER (suburban train) lines and 5 Métro lines, plus external bus lines. It also has a shopping mall, a movie theater, and an enviable location near the Seine.
For now, the major construction works are done and you can move through the belly of the beast unobstructed. If you have survived the gauntlet, this video will bring back memories! If you haven’t had the “pleasure,” this is a bit of a primer before you attempt it alone.
Brought to us by the transit enthusiasts at Le Ferrovipathe, this video is in French with English subtitles. I love their videos and this one is especially great for both the history of the station and the current experience. Let’s go deep into Châtelet–Les Halles!
What are your experiences with Châtelet–Les Halles? On my last trip to Paris, I had an apartment whose closest transit stop was C-LH. Let’s just say I’m not a fan, even though I am absolutely fascinated by its complexity!
Restoring Loire Châteaux
Our final video takes us outside of Paris to the Loire Valley. France 24 gives us a behind-the-scenes look at some of the never-ending restoration required to maintain the beautiful châteaux. The dedication of the artists to their craft is incredible. I know we have amazing artisans here in the U.S. too, but I feel like Europe does a better job of supporting, even allowing, these crafts to survive. Of course, it also helps when you have an endless supply of work sites for the artists to work on. My 1950s apartment building is sadly lacking in sculptural embellishments or murals!
After seeing how much work goes into maintaining a protected château, would you want to own one of your own? Do you already own one? Let us know!
For The Traveler
Since we don’t have a time machine (yet!), if you are travelling to France, we can only currently see Châtelet–Les Halles and the Loire Valley. Here’s how you can experience them further:
Even Le Ferrovipathe’s video can’t fully encapsulate the C-LH experience. If you want the full monty, I recommend trying it jet-lagged and with luggage. To achieve this, take the RER-B from Charles de Gaulle airport and get off at Châtelet–Les Halles. From there, you can navigate the labyrinth to a different RER or Métro line or attempt escaping to the surface, hopefully through the exit closest to your destination.
The Loire Valley
The sprawling Loire River Valley is home to some of the most incredible and beautiful architecture, gardens, and historic sites in France. Just a few hours southwest of Paris, it can be tasted in a very long day-trip or savored over a longer multi-day journey. I can’t do justice to it in a little quick summary, so here are a few resources for planning and dreaming:
Rick Steves Loire Valley Travel Guide
Lonely Planet Loire Valley Guide
Collection of Loire Articles from the French Tourism Board
I hope you enjoyed this first France Virtuelle article! Which video was your favorite? Do you like this type of blog post? Do you have any suggestions for future video topics? Please let me know below. Merci!
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