The Great Tours: France through the Ages
John Greene is a Professor of French at the University of Louisville, where he also serves as director of the Introductory French Program. He earned a PhD in French from the University of Wisconsin–Madison after completing his undergraduate studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. At the University of Louisville, in addition to teaching language, literature, civilization, and culture courses, Professor Greene teaches business French, French cinema, and a theater practicum that emphasizes language acquisition through performance. He has developed and taught graduate seminars that focus on Paris, French society and class structure, and Enlightenment material culture.
Professor Greene is the recipient of numerous teaching awards, including the President’s Distinguished Teaching Professor Award from the University of Louisville and the Dorothy S. Ludwig Excellence in Teaching Award from the American Association of Teachers of French (AATF). In addition, he won the American Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies’ Innovative Course Design Competition, and the French government named him a chevalier in the Ordre des Palmes académiques for services to education and culture.
Professor Greene’s research focuses mainly on the representation of material culture in Enlightenment and 19th-century French fiction and maritime narratives. His published work has appeared in books and journals on both sides of the Atlantic. He has received external funding to present and publish his research at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, UCLA’s William Andrews Clark Memorial Library, the Museum of London, and Paris’s Musée national de la Marine and Collège de France. He is an assistant editor for the French Review, the official journal of the AATF.
01: Point Zéro: Charting Our Course
Begin by contemplating the French art de vivre (“art of living”), and the timeless appeal that makes France the world’s most visited tourist destination. Take an overview of the course’s journey across the rich cultural landscape of France, and learn about the iconic figure of Charles de Gaulle. Finish with an aerial view over Paris, and a first look at its beloved monuments.
02: The Birth and Rise of Paris
Mine the layers of history that reveal how Paris evolved from an ancient settlement on the Seine to a Roman city and then the capital of France. Learn about medieval Paris through the Cluny Museum, the great cathedral of Notre Dame, and the royal chapel of Sainte-Chapelle. Follow the growth of Paris and its architectural treasures through the Renaissance, to the reign of Louis XIV.
03: The Splendor of Versailles
Discover the remarkable palace of Versailles as the self-contained world of Louis XIV, the “Sun King.” Note how the landscaping surrounding the palace symbolizes features of Louis’s reign, and how the Versailles court prized royal spectacle and appearances. Take account of Louis’s patronage of the arts, and how he and his successor built extravagant private residences within the palace grounds.
04: Paris in Revolution
Examine the social, intellectual, and political background of the French Revolution of 1789. Visit key locations in Paris where the events unfolded, from a legendary coffee house to the site of the Bastille prison and the Place de la Concorde. Then map the turbulent epoch of Napoléon, and witness the lasting impact of his rule on both the look of Paris and the features of French society.
05: Northeast to Champagne
In your journey to the first of France’s diverse regions, begin at the city of Rheims, and chart the fortunes of its glorious and historic cathedral. Learn about the beverage that gives this region its name, and about some of the area’s great champagne producers. Visit the cemeteries and memorials that poignantly commemorate World War I, and a small town that is central to French identity.
06: Normandy at War: Beaches and Bunkers
Travel now to the northern French coast, where three dramatic events in world history took place. Learn first about the 1066 Norman invasion of England, and the role of the famous Bayeux Tapestry. Then visit Dunkerque (Dunkirk), site of the massive evacuation of Allied troops during World War II, and finally the beaches of Normandy, where the D-Day invasion of Nazi-held Europe unfolded.
07: Normandy at Ease: Painters and Pilgrims
The beauty and clear light of the Normandy coast became a magnet for 19th-century painters. Travel these shores in the footsteps of Claude Monet, then visit his home at Giverny, and learn about the inspiration for his famous paintings of water lilies. Sample the region’s fine cheeses, apples, and apple brandy, and finish with the history and architectural wonders of the island citadel of Mont Saint-Michel.
08: Brittany: The Wild West
Investigate the Celtic culture of Brittany, starting in the walled port city of Saint-Malo, with its ramparts, forts, and seafaring past. Experience the wild beauty of the northern coast and note two contrasting cities: Quimper, with its Breton traditions and crêperies, and Lorient, with its superb seafood and dramatic World War II history. Also, view the enigmatic ancient megaliths of Carnac.
09: The Loire Valley: Among the Châteaux
Begin your tour of this famous region with the fabulous Chartres Cathedral and its masterpieces of stained glass. Trace the history of the Loire’s plethora of extraordinary châteaux, explore two of the most celebrated, and learn about some of the region’s notable citizens. Finally, visit the historic maritime city of Nantes, home to a remarkable 19th-century science fiction theme park.
10: Bordeaux and the Coast of Aquitaine
Ponder the mysterious cave paintings of Lascaux and Chauvet, considered some of the greatest treasures of prehistory. Then encounter the extraordinary figure of Eleanor of Aquitaine and the region that bears her name, and view the majestic architecture of the city of Bordeaux. Take in the renowned Bordeaux wine region and study the essential concept of “terroir,” a key to the quality of France’s finest produce.
11: The French Basque Region and the Pyrenees
Trace the origins of the Basque people and uncover their unique architecture and culinary traditions, seen in the picturesque city of Bayonne. Travel to the 19th-century resort town of Biarritz, the historic fishing port of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Then, head into the Pyrenees and the town of Lourdes, a major site of religious pilgrimage and a lightning rod for the modern role of French Catholicism.
12: The Camargue: Land of the Cathars
Start your journey through the Camargue with a visit to the spectacular castles of the medieval sect known as the Cathars, as well as the town of Carcassonne with its fairy tale grandeur. Continue with the extraordinary urban landscape of Montpellier, and end at Albi, taking in its fortress-like cathedral, its memories of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and the delicious regional dish of cassoulet.
13: Arles: A Jewel of Provence
Near the Provençal city of Arles, contemplate two incredible feats of engineering: an ancient Roman viaduct and a 21st-century cable bridge taller than the Eiffel Tower. Stop at the “monarchist” village of Les Baux-de-Provence; then view the Gallo Roman architecture of Arles, see the sites that inspired Vincent Van Gogh, and discover Arles’ lavender fields and local food specialties.
14: Along the Riviera: From Marseille to Cannes
Here, explore the storied Côte d’Azur, starting with the history, culture, and noteworthy architecture of the industrial port of Marseille, France’s second-largest city. Sample the area’s signature dish, bouillabaisse; the game of pétanque; and the local liqueur, pastis. Finish at the summer playground of Cannes, city of literary history and of the world-famous film festival.
15: Corsica: The Isle of Beauty
Savor Corsica’s blend of French and Italian cultures, starting in the capital of Ajaccio, birthplace of Napoléon Bonaparte and a location of beautiful coastal scenery. Learn about the island’s food and drink at the historic port of Bastia. Also, visit the citadel of Bonifacio, home to the renowned French Foreign Legion, and take in the island’s beloved landscapes, flora, and nature trails.
16: Avignon: From Popes to Produce Stands
Learn the singular and colorful history of Avignon, home to the papacy in the 14th century, whose legacy is the city’s magnificent Palais des Papes, now the site of one of France’s most revered theater festivals. See how the rich Rhône valley’s produce is embodied in the region’s celebrated ratatouille and the Côtes du Rhône wines, and climb the legendary Mont Ventoux, Provence’s tallest peak.
17: The French Alps, Lyon, and Beaujolais
In yet another of France’s distinct regions, experience the spellbinding vistas of Mont Blanc, western Europe’s tallest mountain and the birthplace of rock and ice climbing. Then pay a visit to Lyon, the capital of French gastronomy, and encounter its famous chefs, eateries, and Beaujolais wine. Explore Lyon’s historic neighborhoods, World War II history, and its proud invention of the cinema.
18: Dijon and Burgundy: The Delicious Heartland
Trace Burgundy’s history as a politically independent duchy, and begin your visit at Dijon’s Les Halles Centrales market, an exemplar of the lively culture of French street markets. Review Burgundy’s dining specialties before traveling to Baune, with its medieval treasures and iconic wine auction. Learn about the region’s famous citizens, from Louis Pasteur to Resistance heroine Lucie Aubrac.
19: Alsace and Lorraine: France Meets Germany
In this much fought-over region, take the measure of Lorraine’s great heroine, Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc), and how she saved her country. Examine the oldest written document in a proto-French language. Then travel to picturesque Strasbourg, home to the European Parliament; savor Alsatian wine and German-style beer; and ponder Alsace’s poignant roles in French military history.
20: Paris Transformed: La Belle Époque
Witness the massive 19th-century urban planning works of Emperor Napoléon III and city administrator Georges-Eugène Haussmann, which thoroughly altered the urban landscape of Paris, largely creating the city we know today. Against the sociopolitical background of the Second French Empire, take in the Grands Boulevards, parks, sewer system, and standout masterpieces such as the magnificent Opéra Garnier.
21: Bohemian Paris: Artists and Expats
Explore famous artists’ haunts of Paris, beginning with the neighborhood of Montmartre, where the quality of light and bohemian culture were a magnet for painters and writers during the Belle Epoque. Visit the cemeteries of Montmartre and Père Lachaise, the resting places of many famous Parisians and expats. Learn about the literary culture of Montparnasse and enjoy two of its most famous cafes.
22: Paris: The Capital of Design
Get to know Paris as a vital hub for the creative arts. First, visit the Cinémathèque Française and grasp the rich role of the cinema in Paris’s cultural life. Trace how photography came of age in Paris and take note of the many Parisian venues for photography. Discover Paris’s world-famous fashion houses, and visit the Sèvres porcelain factory and the Cordon Bleu culinary school.
23: Paris and the Future
Observe the ways in which Paris has responded to successive waves of modernization. Note how architectural wonders such as the Eiffel Tower and the Grand Palais came to be and tour the Métro, Paris’s much admired underground rapid transit. Then take account of groundbreaking public works such as the Centre Pompidou, the complex of La Défense, the Musée D’Orsay, and the Pyramide du Louvre.
24: United France: Celebrating Together
Conclude your tour with a look at some of France’s great national celebrations. First, visit the Stade de France, a shrine to French sports achievements. Learn about two essential events that conclude on Paris’s Champs-Elysées: the Tour de France and the Bastille Day parade. Finish with national cultural events such as the Fête de la Musique, the Fête du Cinéma, and the national Heritage Days.