If you want to see one of the best and most memorable art collections in Europe come to Amsterdam and catch a train or bus to Otterloo to make a visit to the Kröller-Müller Museum.
It has a remarkable collection of the best of a variety of great artists. The choice of the original collection was made by a very discerning art collector. The best Van Goghs are there which you can compare with those in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam.
And there are many other artist’s works and sculptures in the park set in open countryside.
Anatomist Honoré Fragonard flayed the skin off his subjects, soaked them in alcohol, and preserved them with a secret-recipe varnish.
But his best ingredient was a bizarre sense of humour. In the Musée Fragonard, you meet a trio of dancing foetuses, ‘Sansom’ - a toothless man waving a jawbone, and a horseback rider with veins of brightly coloured wax.
Until the 1990s it was only open to those with a ‘specialist interest’.
Fragonard was deemed insane and lost his job. But perhaps he was only trying to bring a human face to medicine – a leering, monstrous, pop-eyed one at that.
cole Nationale Vétérinaire de Maisons-Alfort
7 avenue du Général de Gaulle
94704 MAISONS-ALFORT Cedex
tel: 01 43 96 71 72
fax: 01 43 96 31 62
Climb the Cathedral spire to achieve excellent views over the city and the Vosges mountains.
Visit the European Court of Justice, and end your day with an aperitif and meal at the Petite France Hotel on the balcony by the river.
It may not be the first Eurostar city that you associate with cutting edge European culture, but in fact Strasbourg is the home of television channel Arte – a station that many would assume is broadcast from Paris or even Amsterdam.
The ‘Channel 4’ of the European world, they bring ambitious, cultural programming to France and surrounding countries.
Check out their website in advance to see if there is a themed evening of films and discussions showing when you are in town. If you are lucky you may even catch a live opera broadcast!
Go hiking in the Black Forest - just a short distance away over the Rhine from Strasbourg.
No need for a car – there’s excellent public transport on tram-trains via Baden-Baden and Karlsruhe to Freudenstadt on a cheap day ticket or ‘Tageskarte’ that can also be used on regional German trains and rural buses.
Karlsruhe is worth a visit in its own right, for the Stats Baden-Wuerttemburg museum.
While in Germany, enjoy a reasonably-priced ‘Kaffe und Kuchen’ mid-afternoon, perhaps including a real Black Forest Gateau, quite different from what we get here.
Visit the astronomical clock at the right hand side of the Cathedral at 12.30pm when there is a show of automata.
The 12 apostles parade in front of Christ at the top level of the clock and a cock spreads its wings and crows.
Cherubs turn an hour glass and hit a gong and there are automata that represent the four ages of man.
Built during the period when Strasbourg was German, the Bains Romains/Bains Municipaux are a splendid example of a 19th century bathhouse.
You can pop from sauna to plunge pool to hot pool, surrounded by sea nymphs, statues of Neptune and fine art nouveau design. The perfect way to relax and warm up on a bitter Strasbourg winter day!
The Cathedral of Notre Dame de Strasbourg - once the world's tallest buildings - is an absolute must-see in Strasbourg.
A very well crafted astronomical clock chimes "noon" at 12.30pm each day, when figures of the 12 apostles appear in parade.
Fancy burning some calories? Have a go at the 330 steps to the platform..
However it's worth it, as the spectacular view on the Black Forest and Vosges are a wonderful reward.
Besides, Strasbourg is linked with the Alsace's wine route and is one of its civic centres.
The Dapper Museum is small and beautifully formed. Although its name comes from a 17th century Dutch scholar, it suits it perfectly.
Tucked away on the rue Paul Valery in an architecturally stunning building, the museum features art from the African continent, focusing on single aspects of African art and culture in depth (e.g. Congolese sculpture, Gabon masks).
It also has a gift shop and a wonderful café that serves African dishes. While getting to know a city’s major museums can be hard work, the Dapper is a museum you can learn to love in an afternoon.
No trip to Paris is complete without some celluloid experience. Studio 28 (10 Rue de Tholoze) is undoubtedly one of the best places to watch film in Paris.
Opened in the twenties, its history is closely entwined with the avant garde. It has been upgraded, but keeps its original atmosphere thanks to the impressive light fittings by Cocteau.
The charming garden bar is well worth a visit on it own. If your French isn’t up to it, look out for VO (version originale) which means the film will be shown in its original language with French subtitles.
Climbing the staircase from the lower Church to the higher Church in Sainte Chapelle is a huge surprise.
Not visited as often as many buildings in Paris because it appears tucked away in the courtyard of the Palais de Justice.
On the Ile de la Cite most people flock to visit Notre Dame but at the upstream tip of the island you will find the memorial des Martyrs de la Deportation - a humble and moving reminder of the 200,000 French citizens who were sent to German concentration camps during WWII.
When time is short don't join the long queues at the front of the Louvre,by the Pyramid, and loose precious minutes, even hours.
It is easier to enter by the side door towards the rear.You can then walk round more quickly to see all the prime exhibits and be out in about an hour. Perfect for a day trip!
Visit the Deportation memorial on Ile de la Cite behind Notre Dame.
It is the most poignant, peaceful place imaginable and cannot fail to bring me to tears that in the middle of such a beautiful city.
There is a reminder of the horrors that cleaved Europe in the 20th century. Everyone should visit, sit and think.
Visit one of the greatest theatres - Le Theatre du Soleil. It's on the outskirts of Paris, and just getting there and being there is an experience.
The plays are avant garde and after being there you feel like you've become part of a Parisian secret. Not to be missed!
Shakespeare and Co. is the English language bookshop in the Latin Quarter, recently featured in the film Before Sunset. The shop sells rare books and offers a bed to aspiring writers and practising bohemians in return for a little work.
Former owners Sylvia Beach, publisher of Joyce’s Ulysses, and Marxist fleamarket devotee George Whitman may have passed on, but the shop still offers a window onto the Paris of the Modernists and the Beats.
On Sundays at three Paris’ Anglophone community gathers for tea, cake and bookish gossip.
The house and garden of the painter, Claude Monet (1840-1926), are now so popular that it is difficult to explore them without being accompanied, four abreast, by hundreds of people all keen to see and photograph every last feature of his kitchen, dining room, iris bed, wisteria arch and lily pool. But persist! The effort is worth it, especially if you can avoid the peak holiday periods.
The place is very beautiful, highly evocative and thoroughly well maintained. Everywhere you look, the paintings Monet created between 1883 up to his death are marvellously brought to life.
The inevitable shop, which is housed in the painter's former studio, where the huge waterlily paintings were made, is worthwhile and comprehensive. There are extensive free car parks nearby.
Fondation Claude Monet, 84 rue Claude Monet - 27620 Giverny, Eure, France. Tel (0033)(0)2 32 51 28 21. Entry 5.50 euro per person. www.fondation-monet.com
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