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What’s New in France in 2013

By Rick Steves Modified: February 17, 2013 at 12:39 pm •  Published: February 17, 2013

At Mont St-Michel, the causeway that's long brought tourists to the dramatic island abbey was closed to car traffic in 2012 (and will eventually be replaced by a new bridge). Instead of parking along the causeway, drivers now leave their cars on the mainland and either walk, ride a free shuttle, or hop a horse-drawn wagon to the island.

            Down south, in Provence, the Ancient History Museum in Arles is showing off a recently discovered Roman barge and much of its cargo (exhibit opening in late 2013). This almost 100-foot-long vessel and more than 3,000 ceramic jugs and artifacts were pulled from the Rhône River in 2010. Along the Riviera, the big news in Nice is the reopening of its 100-year-old onion-domed Russian Cathedral, claimed by many to be the finest Orthodox church outside Russia.

            Through 2014, you won't be able to cross the Alps from France to Italy by cable car, as the lift from Helbronner Point (near Mont Blanc) down to the Italian valley station of La Palud is closing for renovation. (You can still side-trip to Italy by bus from Chamonix to Aosta.) Gondolas will continue operating on the Mont Blanc lift up from Chamonix to the Aiguille du Midi and over to Helbronner--but only in summer and, even then, only in good weather.

            The Alsace's top art sight, Colmar's famed Unterlinden Museum, is scheduled for renovation sometime in 2013. When that happens, the jewel of the museum, Grunewald’s gripping Isenheim Altarpiece, will likely move to the nearby Dominican Church, where it should remain on display while the museum is under construction.

            With all this renovating and reorganizing, there’s one thing that won’t change in France: The owners of family-run hotels will still run from bakeries through the streets at the crack of dawn, lovingly bringing fresh-baked croissants back to their breakfast rooms so their guests can get a proper start to their sightseeing days.

(Rick Steves ( writes European travel guidebooks and hosts travel shows on public television and public radio. Email him at and follow his blog on Facebook.)