From Paris to Rome with Bettany Hughes

Friday: From Paris to Rome with Bettany Hughes - (Channel 5, 9pm)

Over the past 20 years, Professor Bettany Hughes has made historical documentary programmes about Troy, Athens, Egypt, Rome, Alexandria, The Nile and Pompeii, linking the past to the modern-day world.

And although she made her name on TV as a classicist, the 55-year-old historian, author and broadcaster’s new series is much more of a travel show, albeit with plenty of history and culture thrown in.

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In From Paris to Rome, she embarks on the journey of a lifetime through France and Italy to discover how travel, arts and culture, and the finest foods can enrich our lives, as well as rattling off a few fascinating stories explaining how the destinations came to be.

Inspired by the 18th century’s grand tourists, Bettany is making her own modern, pleasure-filled trip to some of Europe’s most beautiful cities.

On her travels, she will encounter the stunning beauty of Venice’s canals, visit the sumptuous Lake Como and cruise down the Seine in Paris – all in her search for the good things in life. It is a rich treat-filled adventure revelling in all that makes life worth living.

Bettany starts this journey of a lifetime in the French capital and the ‘City of Love’ – Paris.

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With special access to the world’s most-visited museum, The Louvre, Bettany comes face-to-face with the Venus de Milo, the ancient Greek sculpture that was created during the Hellenistic period, sometime between 150 and 125 BC. From there, she checks into five-star boutique L’Hotel – playwright Oscar Wilde spent his final days before his death in 1900 here and it now has a cosy cocktail bar named after him.

Bettany then breakfasts at the famous literary haven Le Deux Magots in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area of Paris, before taking part in the great Parisian institution of lunch at an haute-cuisine bistro, where she discovers the city’s gastronomic delights.

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Later, designer Christian Louboutin, best known for his high-end brilliant red-soled shoes, helps her understand why Parisienne style is so iconic and chic.

After a sunset cruise along the Seine to say farewell to Paris, the presenter travels to the French lakes and Annecy near the border with Switzerland to stay in the grand belle-epoque hotel Imperial Palace, where former guests have included former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Hollywood star Charlie Chaplin.

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Here, she also discovers how the lakes inspired artists like Paul Cézanne (he described it as a scene one might expect to find in ‘the albums of young lady travellers’), and provided a haven for Queen Victoria, whose first land purchase on the continent was in Aix-les-Bains.

Heading south, Bettany visits Provence and a picturesque town that lured creatives like DH Lawrence, Marc Chagall and Pablo Picasso.

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She also sees first-hand why French painter Henri Matisse was drawn to the Côte d’Azur – Nice is the home of the Musée Matisse.

And finally, she toasts the first leg of her adventure with a delicious local rosé. Well, it is a travel show, after all.