Feed your mind and indulge your senses with our quick-fire selection of French cultural escapes:

1. Rouen, Seine-Maritime

The light dancing on Rouen’s cathedral inspired Monet but elsewhere in this richly historic port city, the Gros-Horloge clock, timber-framed houses and pedestrianised streets complete the feel of yesteryear, while the city’s museums permit a more imagined look at the past.

2. Poitiers, Vienne

On a hilltop overlooking two rivers, Poitiers has a quiet country charm that belies its important historical role. To absorb the vibes, inspect up close the Cathédrale St-Pierre and Notre-Dame-la-Grande church, wander the narrow streets or head for the lovely public gardens.

3. Caen, Calvados

Memories and scars of war make this Normandy town a fascinating place to explore.

4. Ajaccio, Corsica

If ever a city had a major connection to France’s history, it’s the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte. But as well as ample nods to the diminutive Emperor, the Musée Fesch and Cathédrale Sainte-Marie will engage the cerebrally inclined.

5. Nîmes, Gard

With the superb Carré d’Art gallery, Roman architecture (the Pont du Gard is nearby) and all manner of fascinating museums, this Provençal gem strikes a perfect balance between the classical and the contemporary.

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