Vaux Le Vicomte is a dazzling chateau about 30 miles southeast of Paris, a nice alternative to the crowd-laden Versailles. In many ways, it offers a more personal experience than Versailles too. The Vaux Le Vicomte epitomizes high society in 17th-century France. The sweeping 1,200-acre estate features extraordinary landscaping and gardens, with 100 acres of exquisitely manicured hedges, stunning fountains and golden statues. The grand chateau is elaborate and opulent, a glimpse into the time of wealth, power and prestige. For a fully immersive experience, you can rent period costumes for the whole family to wear while on the estate. Try to schedule your visit for the two Saturdays a month that the fountains perform their brilliant water show or to revel in magical evening candlelight displays.
While others are planning their business class flights to France to enjoy the Louvre and other crowd favorites, you can enjoy the relative tranquility of Musée d'Orsay. Located on the Left Bank, this gorgeous Belle Époque museum offers a different experience than many other Parisian art museums. The setting, of course, is different; it’s a converted railway station with a towering barrel vaulted ceiling made of glass. Inside this museum, you’ll find a wide range of art mediums, from Rodin’s “The Thought” to modern and vintage photographs like Forest Stream by Le Secq. Plan to spend a full afternoon here so you can fully take in all of the amazing sights. In the summer, visit on a Wednesday or Thursday for quieter crowds.
Paris is famous for its stunning Gothic medieval churches like Notre-Dame, Sainte-Chapelle and Chartres. Your first class flight to Paris deserves something a little different though. A trip to the 18th arrondissement neighborhood of Montmartre and its hilltop Sacré Cœur Basilica hits just the right notes. Wander a bit through Montmartre’s cobblestone back streets first to see a bit of the charming neighborhood and the cemetery where Degas and Moreau are buried. Then take the cable car up to Sacré Cœur. This spectacular Basilica is awash in incredible sights, inside and out. The inspirational interior features gilded mosaics and Our Lady’s Chapel bejeweled with vividly hued stained glass windows and a luminous ceiling mosaic. A climb to the top of the dome gives you a magnificent view of the city. If you are observant, you can even rent a room in the adjoining guest house to attend one of the church’s adorations.
While Paris is best known for its gorgeous cathedrals and stunning shopping districts, the city’s picturesque cemeteries offer a different experience. Père Lachaise Cemetery is a perennial favorite, an ideal spot to spend a couple of free hours if you're in the city on business. Filled with grand mausoleums, the site teems with graves honoring artists, composers and musicians. It’s not surprising, then, that many of the grave markers are creatively conceived. Oscar Wilde’s Art Deco tomb features a pursed-lip flying man. Writer Victor Noir’s tombstone is topped with his life-size bronze statue, prone in the position in which he died during a political fight. Georges Rodenbach is immortalized in a statue appearing to break out of his own grave and artist Vivant Denan’s life-sized statue features an outstretched hand that visitors often fill with flowers. Other notable residents of the cemetery include Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Chopin, Bizet, Molière, Colette, Marcel Marceau, Gertrude Stein, Isadora Duncan, Seurat, Sarah Bernhardt and Proust.