CHAMPAGNE HALF-TIMBERED CHURCH TRAIL
Favorite thing: I happened to come across this trail when I was researching the Champagne area of France. On a closer look, and with a print-out of the map from the website, it was decided to follow it as much as we could.
This was country France, "THE GREAT LAKES DISTRICT," where many Lakes and fields of crops were growing, Farmers were busy cultivating their land and sometimes we were caught behind them on the narrow roads. The Villages were small and old, quite a find, as were the very old wooden Churches. Altogether, there are 10 Churches and 1 Chapel, all dating from the 15th - 18th Centuries. Not all of them could be visited inside, but some I was able to.
This is a scenic drive, throw in the Churches, and I think you will agree, one that is worth doing.
Fondest memory: The Half-Timbered Church Trail.
- Road Trip
- Historical Travel
THE CHAMPAGNE WINE ROUTES
Favorite thing: A good way to see the best of the Champagne area, is to follow one of the Champagne Route's.
There are 5 routes you can choose from.
The one we followed off and on, was the "Cote des Blancs" route which heads south from Epernay. This is the home of the white Chardonnay grape. The views were wonderful, even though it was a rainy day. No photo's though - too wet.
If you are interested in doing any of the routes, and I would have been if we had more time in the area, check out the listed website.
These routes are good, as they take you through the prettiest of villages, to viewpoints and other points of interest in the area, they make sure you miss nothing on the tour.
On one such tour, you will go to Hautvillers, famous for its abbey where Dom Perignon is said to have discovered the secret of champagne making in the 17th century.
Family ‘vignerons’ are dotted through-out the countryside, and it's at these you can try the Champagne. Each champagne is different, so elect somebody as the car driver and try the pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay.
You will have a wonderful time here!Related to:
- Road Trip
- Wine Tasting
Nice - Free WiFi
Favorite thing: As of May 14, 2013, the City of Nice municipality has launched a project that offers free WiFi in selected city areas with possible future expansion to additional locations. Current spots are in the pedestrian areas of Cours Saleya (Marche' aux Fleurs in the Old City) and Palais de Justice square.
Free surfing, after registration, for repeated 30-minute sessions at 512 Mb max speed.
Based on GOWEX systems, it follows similar projects in Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille.
Favorite thing: In the South West of France, at the foot of the Pyrenees, you will find the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Betharram. In a way, the Virgin has taken over the whole región. – Lourdes, the center of pilgrimages known world wide, is 15 kilometers from here. In the XIX century, Saint Michael Garicoïts made the the cradle of a new community, the Priests of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
According to some the origin of the Sanctuary goes back as far as the XI century, at a time when the whole of Europe, instigated by Saint Bernard, was covered by homes of Marian devotion. When returning from their campaigns against the Moors, the knights of the Crusades came to render homage to the Virgin. Betharram was also a staging post for the pilgrims who marched from all over Europe toward Compostelle. Its name appears for the first time in 1493 under the title of Gataram.
The popular tradition bears witness to three miracles attributed to the Virgin Mary in this place.
One day when the shepherds were leading their flocks along the mountain stream, or Gave, they were suddenly attracted by a very bright light coming from the rocks. When they approached they claimed to have seen a beautiful image of the Virgin. As soon as the people of the village of Lestelle were informed, they decided to build a chapel to put in a statue (as you would), but on the opposite side of the stream to the sighting, because of the lack of space where they had found the image. But, every time they placed her there, mysteriously, she crossed to the other side of the stream. The people from the village then understood that Mary wanted to remain in the initial place. And so it was then that they constructed the first Marian Building of Betharram.
The second miracle dates back to the year 1616. Some peasants from Montaut, not far from Lestelle, were returning after a long hard day's work out in the fields when a violent wind arose and devastated the hill, threatening Betharram. The cyclone blasted the great wooden cross on the summit, but as soon as it fell on the ground, it was seen completely surrounded by a halo of light. The news rapidly spread around the country, and an immense crowd gathered there coming in procession to the chapel of Betharram to thank God for this prodigy. Now we come to the third extraordinary event; this is important since it gave its name to Betharram. A young girl bent over the edge of the Gave to pick a flower but she fell headlong into the swirling, whirling water. She was about to be drowned when she invoked the Virgin of the Sanctuary, with a loud cry. Miraculously, a branch appeared and in this way she was able to retrieve the shore and save her life. As a sign of gratitude, she wanted to offer a golden branch to the Madonna and thus she became for all the Virgin of Betharram – that is to say – “a beautiful branch”, in the local dialect.
You can see all the stuff that was erected all around the site and get some understanding of how important this place was then and still is today, even down to the small bronze statue by the river, largely unnoticed by the majority of tourists.
To these three miracles, narrated by ancient authors, popular piety has added many others, of a similar nature. One of these was even mentioned by Bernadette Soubirous who, upset because of the great curiosity of which she was subjected to, one day exclaimed: “Why seek at all cost to see me? What more do I have than others? God serves himself of me just as he served himself of the bullocks of Betharram”. Bernadette refers here to a tradition according to which some bullocks went away from the herd to dig the ground, and they found on their hoof a statue of the Virgin.
Whatever may be the historical exactitude, these miracles give witness to a fundamental truth: Betharram has always been considered as a sacred place that has nourished faith and the Marian devotion.
Fondest memory: Hubert Charpentier (1565 –1650), a priest architect had the idea to open a hospice for the pilgrims and a house for the priests in charge, also rendered services in the parishes around. And thus, the first chapel was enlarged in order to build a Sanctuary worthy of that name, extended by a monastery belonging to the chaplains of Betharram. In addition, Hubert Charpentier also had a monumental Way of the Cross –Via Crucis – set up above the Sanctuary at the side of the hill.
The whole gave way to make this Sanctuary one of the most visited in France in the XVII-XVIII centuries, the golden centuries of Betharram. At that time it was the third most popular pilgrimage of the Kingdom, according to Saint Vincent de Paul. But the French Revolution interrupted this expansion, at the end of the XVIII century, destroyed the Calvary, confiscated the property and expelled the chaplains. The only thing saved was the Sanctuary.Related to:
- Religious Travel
- Historical Travel
Favorite thing: The "hôtel particulier de la Scipione" (Scipione house) was built in the XVIIth century. It is now the tourist information center for your visit to La Couvertoirade.
Here you can get a free laminated map and also access the ramparts.
It is also the seat of the Association "les amis de La Couvertoirade" (Friends of La Couvertoirade) that is constantly working to keep the village as a living and habited village and not as a zoo with a Middle-Ages village preserved only for tourists.
At the entrance there's a plane tree that would bring a spot of shade during the hottest days. Plane trees need a lot of water to grow and are frequent here, despite the fact that in summer the Larzac plateau is dry.
The trees survive because there is plenty of water in the porous rock beneath the soil, not visible at the surface.
An intact surrounding wall of round and square towers connected by a rampart walk is what you get and this allows you to imagine what a mediaeval city was like.
Hordes of tourists invade this historic spot, but idling in the cobbled streets and shops permits an authentic understanding of the excitement of the Middle Ages marketplace. On the ground floor, a vaulted roof sheltered the sheep's pen and today, this type of space is frequently occupied by artisans' shops.
Fondest memory: The original Saint-Christophe church at La Couvertoirade was built in the 11th century but, since then, a more recent restoration from the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century has replaced it. Part of the church is built into the rock and its tower, which also forms part of the ramparts, was built in the 15th century. Outside the church, visitors will find a Templar graveyard with its original tomb stones and you can exit the walls here also through the portanelle, a small gateway in the wall.
The tombstones are very Celtic in design, indicating the heritage of the area.
It might pay to keep an eye on the kids if you're on the rampart, for there is no barrier but it reeks of authenticity and gives an excellent oversight of the village and an insight into how it might have been defended as well as how cramped it was.
To get there you need to go to the tourist office and that gives you access to the tower on the left as shown in the first photo.
There you ascend a winding staircase to the top.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Museum Visits
The beaches of France
Favorite thing: The beach is glorious here,even if the weather limits your time on them, they are a match to any at the right time. My favorites are in the town of Lacanau-Océan, the webpage for the town tourist office is here in French, http://www.lacanau.com/default.htm . You are along the ocean here, you can go south or north from here or over the pines central section of the Medoc to the wine chateaux. Lacanau-Océan is a world center of Surfing in Europe and the best come here to compete in the Lacanau Pro event.
Another wonderful area is to head for the beaches of Cancans and Hourtin as well like our playground area, crisscrossing this wonderful region, great beaches there if a bit smaller. There is a lake beach at Maubuisson , the webpage for tourism there and Hourtin,and Lacanau in English! is here http://www.medococean.com/uk/accueil.php .
The Hourtin area has a huge lake too, and its own tourist office webpage here http://www.hourtin-medoc.com/uk/index.html . Then you have a webpage for tourism in the entire Medoc peninsula with English translation here http://www.medoc-tourisme.com/ . There is also a webpage for Carcans-Maubuisson here http://www.carcans-maubuisson.com/Prive/US/index.asp
The very tip of the peninsula at Vendays-Montalivet are wonderful beaches too.So far is the Médoc, my back yard in France.
The beaches of France runs the territory for about 5500 kms ,all along the Manche, Atlantic ocean,and the Méditerranean, representing about 20% of the entire coastline of Europe!
Some nice ones closer to present home are in the charente Maritime region at St Georges d'Oléron. Not to forget the beaches in my new backyard of Carnac, Quiberon, and Port Navalo,Perros Guirec, and Crozon peninsula.
Deauville,and Trouville sur mer.
Le touquet - Paris
Further south on the Atlantic side there are nice ones at Le Pornic,Arcachon,Socoa,St jéan de Luz, Biscarrose ,Mimizan.
Les Sables d'Olonne;
Pyrénées orientales you have Argéles sur Mer, with plenty of nice ones there.
in the Hérault there are nice ones at Vias Plage, Marseillan Plage,Sété, and la Grande Motte.
the Gard has le Grau du roi
Bouches du Rhône has Cassis, La Ciotat,and Ste Marie de la Mer
The Var is loaded with Bandol,Cavalaire sur mer,Frêjus,le lavandou, St Râphael, and Ste Maxime.
Alps maritimes you have them nice at Antibes, juan les pins, cagnes sur mer, cannes,St jean cap ferrat,
of course ,there are many others ,i am just starting !!) This site gives you good info on all of them in French, best info, you can translate and google their name for specifics, the ones above are all great for families.
Fondest memory: beach time reminds me of my origins and its sublime, the ocean, the sand, the well wonderful memories. In France, the romance feels stronger, maybe because it is France n'est pas, oh la la la la!!
all of these photos are personal family gathering so I rather don't post them. Just take my word for it.Related to:
- Water Sports
- Family Travel
Villefranche de Conflent
Favorite thing: In 1092, Guillaume Raymond, the Count of Cerdanya, decided to build a town where three rivers meet, the Têt, the Cady and the Rotja, so as to protect the valleys from invasion. In the same year, the Bishop of Elne gave permission for the construction of the church of St Jacques.
In 1095 the newly-built town was named VILA FRANCA, or Town of free-trade in English, by the Count of Cerdanya.
As a means of stimulation, tax privileges were bestowed on Villefranche in order to attract different trades: weavers, tanners, drapers, stonemasons, merchants etc.
In 1277, exclusive market rights were granted to some for the sale of meat, fish and vegetables on the Place de l'église.
In 1654, the Treaty of the Pyrenees brought about the division of Catalonia into South Catalonia and North Catalonia (currently known as the Pyrénées Orientales department).
In 1681 Vauban, the great rebuilder under the Sun King Louis XIVth, built Fort Liberia and remodelled Villefranche, making the ramparts higher. He oversaw the construction of a barracks, a hospital, watch towers, gunpowder stores and also the demolition of the Franciscan convent in the town.
From the 18th Century to the present day, under Louis XVI (1783), the narrow carriage gates and bridges were replaced by larger gates in pink marble with a drawbridge as well.
In the 19th Century, Napoleon III, who was keen on architecture, ordered extensive building works, notably the construction of the underground passage "of a thousand steps", linking the village to Fort Liberia on high via 775 steps (starting point by the Pont St Pierre, a Roman bridge).
Fondest memory: The fortifications that were added by Vauban (1633-1707) consist of 12 groups of fortified buildings and sites along the western, northern and eastern borders of France. They were designed by him and were added in 2008 to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Villefranche is an outstanding example of his handiwork.
If you're interested in history, Vauban is worth some boning up on.
This fascinating man changed sides during his career and was a greatly influential engineer during the reign of Louis XIV.
Though wounded several times he proved to be a courageous man and very inventive, coming up with a technique known as ricochet fire and inventing the bayonet.
During his illustrious career he fortified over 160 towns, often using new designs of his own invention.Related to:
- Castles and Palaces
- Historical Travel
Cascades Du Herisson - Waterfall wonder
Favorite thing: I'd heard about this place but never quite had the urge to go until this trip when I slotted it in between accommodation. How glad I am now that I went - it's a stunner.
From my notes at the time:
".......then, suddenly, all other water experiences became second rate.
We’d driven there in fog and light rain, winding over a 4,000ft mountain pass, saying goodbye to Switzerland for the last time and eventually heading up a dead end road past a lovely lake with some unattended open boats accumulating precipitation. It costs 4 euros to park but you get a free (and welcome) map before trudging off past the lone tourist shop and on the path adjacent the river.
That’s about where the gasps start. Just 100 metres in the largest and most dramatic fall, L’Eventail, can be seen through the foliage but travel another 20 metres and, off to your right is the prettiest of all the falls though it’s but a sidestream to the main event.
Now L’Eventail becomes clear. Claimed to be a 65 metre drop, it’s not the height that thrills us but the volume. It’s clearly in flood, great sheets of water plunging, spraying and dashing themselves on the rocks beneath. As we approach, normal conversation becomes impossible, drowned by the furore.
Fondest memory: If that was all we came to see we would have departed satisfied, but nay, we climbed above and the enshrouding mist and moss laden forest added to the enchantment of the next fall, Grand Saut, itself draped by the sparkling leafiness of the vibrant spring shoots. At 60 metres it’s also impressive but difficult to get a decent photo of, so I slipped over a couple of barriers to get something decent.
We moved on, at times even the trail was overcome with the volume, steps were slippery, fallen leaves saturated and a danger sign with skill and crossbones and a death warning appeared but we walked on by because that’s only for the French.
The further we went the harder it was getting to see anything as rain laden clouds moved inexorably up the valley. We called it quits, apparently, according to the map, having seen the best of it. So we left for our new digs just over two hours away.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Cantobre, a visual delight
Favorite thing: On the western edge of the Cevennes National Park in the Gorges du Tarn at the junction of the Dourbie and Trevezel rivers stands Cantobre, built on the site of a 12th century Castle. The south-facing village is situated some 580 meters above sea level, which gives it clear hot sunny days with cooler pleasant evenings.
Sadly, the castle was destroyed during the religious wars of the 17th century and the present village evolved over the centuries as a home for the peasants who worked the terraced hillsides and in the local small mines. The village suffered in the middle of the last century from de-population brought about by the end of mining and the general movement from countryside to town.
We are a group of families of different nationalities who own a number of houses in Cantobre; we have been in Cantobre for up to 30 years. We all fell in love with Cantobre and its amazing surroundings and we now wish to offer other people a chance to experience the beauty of the area by letting out some of our homes
In the second half of the last century water, telephones and reliable electricity were brought to the village and over the past 30 years the village has again blossomed with the 25 houses of the village being steadily rebuilt, renovated and modernized. The whole village still retains its ancient aspect, which is tightly controlled by the ’Batiments de France’.
The village skyline is dominated by its 12th Century village church, which, standing at the apex of the village, overlooks the village square with its restaurant and bar. The village remains a working community with the village gardens spilling down the hillside below the village towards the Dourbie River.
Cantobre is located in an area of high limestone plateaus and deep river valleys and there are numerous caves, a number of which are open to the public (Aven Armand is 3 star rated by Michelin). In the area rivers disappear underground only to reappear elsewhere.
Historic sites abound. In the middle ages the area was a major crossroads for armies on the way to the Crusades and near Cantobre lie a number of preserved fortified villages built by the Knights Templar and Hospitallar. The villages, which are still living communities, stage jousting and feasting displays in the summer to give visitors a taste of old Aveyron and life in the Middle Ages (this applies particularly to La Couvertoirade).
All our local villages, like all villages in France, have their local fetes where visitors can mingle and join in the festivities with the locals.
Fondest memory: The village has no shops, however, several visiting tradesmen who supply its daily needs serve the village. The local small town, Nant, is only a 10-minute drive away and is amply served with shops, bars and restaurants.
The nearest large town, Millau, is 25 Km away through the Gorges of the Dourbie and has all the facilities you would expect from a town dedicated to the tourist. Millau has a large weekly market on Fridays, a flea market on Sundays and in the summer a food market each Monday evening when the local population gather in the town centre to eat the local specialties. There are a large number of restaurants and bars in Millau and it has a number of supermarkets. It's also the location of the world's tallest bridge.
The location of Cantobre is ideal for the tourist who wants a special holiday amid the spectacular scenic countryside of southern Aveyron and Languedoc. The opportunities for sightseeing are many with new vistas and delights around every bend in the road. Go just 20km south and you drop down from the heights of the Central Massif into the world’s largest wine growing region of Languedoc/Roussillion with over 950 wine producers giving numerous opportunities for sampling their wares. Go 20km north and you meet the river Tarn with its famous 300 meter deep gorges and its ancient spectacular towns and villages.
Southern Aveyron is famous for the quality of its local produce. Near by Cantobre is Roquefort famous for its cheese and a visit to its caves, in which the cheese is matured, is very popular.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Cirque de Gavarnie
Favorite thing: I'd been to Pau the year previous but the weather had been unkind and thus I was denied the chance to do the walk. This time the weather was almost perfect, barely a cloud in the sky and the temperature was spot on for hiking. It's about 1hr 45 mins from Pau, deep in the Pyrenees.
These are my notes from the day:
GOING AROUND IN CIRQUES
I had wanted to go there last time but time and weather were against me. This time I had my weather good luck charm (self appointed) called Lorraine and so I was assured of favourable skies. With only two days at Pau I couldn’t believe our luck as we drove south west into the Pyrenees and the clouds that hung around Pau slowly but surely were left behind. We paused at the village of Betharram that surely has the ritziest way of the cross I’ve ever seen, and moved into the tall peaks.
By the time we reached Cirque du Gavarnie you couldn’t have asked for better weather. The snow remnants in the carpark merely whetted our appetite for what lay ahead. One of the Pyrenees great attractions was already partly visible as we donned appropriate garments and headed out, uncertain as to just how long it would take. We’d heard everything from 1 ½ hours to about 4 and fortunately time wasn’t an issue.
The easy trail criss-crossed the river over small bridges as we would our way closer and then started upwards. Cirques are roughly half circles of rock and appear in many places of France. The most stunning I had seen was Cirque de Navacelles so I didn’t expect anything better. Indeed, it wasn’t better or worse, but different.
The higher our ascent, the more imposing the rock faces became. Below and beside us the roaring waters of the spring melt played a constant reverberation to stimulate the senses. Up through the small forest we climbed as the snow became an overall coverage rather than sporadic drifts.
Finally we reached Hotel de Cirque, a modest and unreliable establishment. We’d come to expect places to be closed and this place, right at the key point to view Cirque du Gavarnie, didn’t let us down, so we pushed on, another 200 metres to the point where it was inadvisable to go any further.
Fondest memory: You could see avalanche tracks at different points across the face. It was a tad disappointing because here is the tallest waterfall in Europe. However being a little bit of an aficionado (self appointed also) in this department, it is worth knowing whether it is a single drop or multitudes of cascades. Here it was the latter so it didn’t really rate with me but the cirque itself was awe inspiring.
Massive cliffs wrapping around with the lesser slopes still holding plenty of snow and the snow melt well under way beneath crisp clean skies left an indelible impression on us both. By the time we returned to the car, a few hundred photos each to the good, it was around three hours, and when we later motored down the mountain on twisting switchback roads with peaks all around and verdant spring pastures nearby, we could but reflect that it had been one of those special days you have when travelling.
TIP - Don't go looking for waterfalls, go to check out the mountain scenery.Related to:
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
- Family Travel
To take a tour or go by yourself . . .
Favorite thing: This was a reply to a lady who asked about visiting the French countryside. They had gone on tours and cruises but were thinking about renting a car and house on their own to get outside tourist areas and see the "real" France. Here is my answer to her and I am answering her direct questions.
You say you have not traveled on your own, so I suspect you may have gone on organized tours. We've never done that but I think it's a good idea to get your feet wet and see what you want to explore on your own. Now you seem ready to take that step.
Our first trip to France was a driving/camping trip because as teachers with 3 kids that is all we could afford. I spoke a bit of Haitian Creole and my husband had French in high school so language was a problem for us and we were nervous. We quickly discovered it is possible to communicate pretty well because a French national pasttime is helping people. You can count on it. If you need help and they don't speak English, they will find someone who does.
Driving is not a problem. It's as easy to drive in France as it is in the US. We have driven on nearly all of our trips. The only time we don't get a car is when we are spending the entire time in a large city like Paris. In a city, a car is a nuisance . . . but in the country, a car is a joy. If you can manage to plan your trip for 21 days or more, you can lease a brand new car with 24-hour road service. We always get a Peugeot 207 automatic for our trips. [There is now a Citroen available for lease for a 17-day stay. It's available through the same web sites listed below.]
We usually fly into Paris, Nice or Toulouse, visit the city for a few days and then return to the airport to pick up our leased car. We have used AutoFrance, AutoEurope, Kemwel and Sodexa for our leases. Here are three of the web sites so you can check the program. It is all paid ahead of time so there are no unpleasant surprises when you hand in the car.
Auto France ((800) 572-9655 in the US)
For fewer than 21 days, try Nova Car We haven't used them but friends have and were satisfied. They do rent to folks over the age of 70.
Our 2010 trip was unhinged by the Iceland ash cloud. We were transferring planes in London when British air space was closed. After 4 unplanned days in London (paid for by British Airways), we managed to get a train to Paris. Our car was in Toulouse so we spent 2 nights in Paris before we got on a train to Toulouse where we finally managed to get our car, so yes, taking a train to another city is a great idea if you want to do that.
You will not escape tourists anyplace. However, most of them will be French tourists visiting other parts of France so it's not like you will be spending your French vacation with other American tourists. If you are near a border, you will see lots of tourists from those countries too, i.e., Italian tourists in southeast France, Spanish tourists in western France, German and Dutch tourists in northeastern France, and French tourists everyplace. We enjoy our interactions with all these nationalities; it's part of the fun of going to Europe.
Where to stay? Well, we stay in hotels in cities and we rent farmhouses when we are visiting the countryside. We once rented an apartment in Paris but that was because it was the cheapest way to spend 9 days with our family along. The hotel staff is usually a great help.
We love renting farmhouses or small houses in tiny villages. There you interact with the owner and several have become fast friends over the years. You visit the local grocery, boulanger, boucherie and interact with the local shopowners and their customers. We've both picked up a lot of French over the years but language has never been a problem. If no one speaks French in the store, often another customer will help or there is the point and mime method of purchase. If you don't know numbers, you can always read the price on the cash register. Easy. Take your own shopping bags; they charge for bags in Europe. When we forget, we buy the first bag and then keep using it.
Yes, they take credit cards at most groceries and even in the occasional street market. Small places and most markets will use cash. Groceries cost the same as or less than they do at home. The trick to saving money on food is purchase local products in season. If you try to find Jiffy Peanut Butter, you will find it but pay too much. Coca Cola costs more than the local excellent wine.
We eat breakfast in our gite (rented house) and then eat lunch at a restaurant where we are sightseeing for the day. Lunch is usually cheaper than dinner so that's a money-saver too. Then in the evening, we stop at a boulanger and epicerie (grocery) and get bread, cheese, fruit and wine and take it back to our gite and have dinner there as a picnic.
For hotels in the countryside, we use the Logis de France. This is a chain of small family-owned hotels in nearly every town and village in France. They are always clean and friendly and most have an excellent restaurant. Here's the web site. You can see what they offer. Logis de France
For rentals we use a couple web sites. Our favorite is Gites de France, an umbrella organization that oversees rural rentals. We have never had a problem with anything we've rented through them so I highly recommend them. We have also used VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) twice and had a fabulous experience but we don't have much experience with the company. We have also used Home-Away Holiday Rentals, a British company. We've used them many times and have had good experiences with all but one. We chalked that up to a learning experience; it wasn't a dead loss, just less than we expected. Since we've had so many good experiences with them, I would recommend them and we certainly will continue using them. Here are the 3 web sites.
Gites de France
Vacation Rental By Owner
Fondest memory: Average cost for eating? That depends on what and how you like to eat. Restaurants range from inexpensive to very expensive. We try to keep it in a range comfortable for us. Obviously you pay more in a city. A small country auberge will be excellent and may cost as little as 9 euros a meal plus wine. If you are in a popular tourist area, plan on 15 to 30 euros for a meal. The French menu (as you probably already know) offers what they call a "Menu" or sometimes it's called a "Formula" in a couple different price ranges. These are usually the best deal and offer several courses for a fixed price. We usually get these although if we decide to splurge, we'll blow 30 euros on a dinner. That doesn't happen often because my ancestry is Scot. ;^)
You have to buy groceries at home, so buying them in France is not much different. If you want to eat at your rented house, most epiceries and certainly all supermarches have precooked (like deli) meals you can microwave. These are often excellent. We just enjoy the restaurant experience in France and there are plenty of excellent reasonably-priced restaurants in the countryside.
I've babbled on way too long so I'll stop here. If you have any specific questions or want to ask about a specific area, please feel free to e-mail me here on VT. Also type the names of places into the VT Search Window and see what has been written about them by all the VT members. There will be lots of photos, web links and reviews on VT.
Have fun planning and don't be afraid to go on your own. It's lots of fun to control your destiny.Related to:
- Road Trip
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
the gardens of France
Favorite thing: I know many , millions, come to France to see its wonderful gardens, from the time of Le Notre and beyond, the gardens had pull a powerful magnet for visitors. As usual, we tend to focus in Paris bien sûr mais il faut réve et chercher autres endroits quasi belles or méme plus beaux que dans Paris. Just a bit more sites as beautiful or even more so than Paris.
I try to tell you some of my favorites over the years in this special post. First, some sites that tell you about gardens in the Ile de France :
and get together from the ministry of culture of France, http://www.rendezvousauxjardins.culture.fr/
And now my favorites in the ile de France , my former region ,even if will move in mid july 2012.
Seine et Marne ,dept 77; Jardin du Domaine National de Champs-sur-Marne, French and English style gardens with a castle of course! http://champs-sur-marne.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/
Jardin Médiéval de la Commanderie des Templiers, at Couloummiers, medieval gardens and the Templars story, http://www.commanderie-templiers.fr/
Domaine National du chateau de Fontainebleau, of course at famous Fontainbleau, http://www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr/
La Fontaine aux Pigeons on medieval, La Ferté-sous-Jouarre, English gardens of 6 hectares, http://www.la-ferte-sous-jouarre.fr/component/content/article/20/886.html
Jardin de Vaux-le-Vicomte, of course the other beautiful castle of the Paris region, French style gardens, http://www.vaux-le-vicomte.com/
One near to me as my wife was born here, and we first talk dated walking this garden, Jardin Bossuet, in Meaux (as in brie cheese) ;French garden next to Cathedral,where the Bossuet rose was created, see it better in French, http://www.ville-meaux.fr/Le-Jardin-Bossuet.html
La Roseraie, see the rose of Provins, http://www.roseraie-provins.com/ gorgeous
Moving to the Yvelines, dept 78, where have my house. Abbaye des Vaux de Cernay, private gardens in an abbey see on weekend or with appointment in weekdays, http://www.abbayedecernay.com/
Jardins du Chateau de Breteuil, French gardens, http://www.breteuil.fr/castle/accueil.php
Musée Promenade de Marly-le-Roi, where kings used to walk, wonderful, many of the statues now at the Louvre. http://www.musee-promenade.fr/
Musée National de Port-Royal des Champs,historical gardens ,protected, see it, http://www.port-royal-des-champs.eu/
Domaine National de Rambouillet-Bergerie nationale, English gardens and regular,historical, and animals, http://www.bergerie-nationale.educagri.fr/
Arboretum de Chévreloup, English gardens and trees, plants, near Versailles, http://www.mnhn.fr/chevreloup/
Domaine National de Saint-Germain-en-Laye, by the castle, gardens 18C, traces of renaissance, http://www.musee-archeologienationale.fr/ , Jardin du Musée Experimental Maurice Denis, in town, garden of the artist, http://www.musee-mauricedenis.fr/
Chateau et Parc de Vaux-sur-Seine, landscape garden from the 19C, http://www.vauxsurseine.fr/Le-chateau-de-Vaux-sur-Seine.html
Versailles, of course, my town, the one and only in the world, French and English style gardens, and veggie and fruit potager du roi lol! http://en.chateauversailles.fr/gardens-and-park-of-the-chateau- and http://www.potager-du-roi.fr/ensp/default/EN/all/potager/index.htm
The Essonne dept 91, we have Conservatoire National des Plantes Médicinales, at nice Milly-la-Fôret, http://www.cnpmai.net/
Potager Fleuri du Domaine de Saint-Jean-de-Beauregard, flower veggy plots from the 17C! and castle, http://www.domsaintjeanbeauregard.com/v2/
We move now to Hauts-de-Seine, dept 92 ,just near Paris, Musée et Jardins Albert Kahn, parc and scenes with oriental motifs, http://albert-kahn.hauts-de-seine.net/
Parc de Boulogne, Edmond de Rothschild, landscape garden and japonese dating from 19C, http://www.boulognebillancourt.com/cms/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=231?&leftid=477&mpid=3&submid=0&submid2=1&Itemid=489
Parc de la Maison de Chateaubriand et Arboretum, La Vallée aux Loups, romantic gardens, http://maison-de-chateaubriand.hauts-de-seine.net/web/chateaubriand/le-parc-de-la-maison-de-chateaubriand
Parc des impressionists, modern with rosaries, http://www.rueil-tourisme.com/FR/visite-le-parc-des-impressionnistes_4623.html ,and on same town of Rueil-Malmaison, the castle of the lady of Napoleon, Josephine. Parc du Chateau de Malmaison, nice gardens, http://www.chateau-malmaison.fr/
Domaine de Saint-Cloud, landscape huge nice, many events here like rock on the seine, http://saint-cloud.monuments-nationaux.fr/en/ and near there ,also, the Jardin Stern, design by JCN Forestier, to allow her handicapped daughter to walk inwheelchair in the gardens from back in 1927, nice, http://www.jardinstern.com/
Domaine de Sceaux, parc et musée d’ile de France, a museum of the region, and garden design by the great Le Notre. Wonderfully nice and big, http://domaine-de-sceaux.hauts-de-seine.net/
We end at dept Val d’Oise or no 95 where the airport of Paris CDG is (not Paris), Parc et Jardins de l’Abbaye Royale de Royaumont, http://www.royaumont.com/fondation_abbaye/
Jardin de l’Atelier de Daubigny, http://www.atelier-daubigny.com/ , also same town, Jardins duMusée de l’Absinthé, http://www.musee-absinthe.com/ , continue in the area of Van Gogh with the jardins du Chateau d’Auvers, http://www.chateau-auvers.fr/index.php?PHPSESSID=1e1022b3c98c8aa32e0fdec046610e01
Maison du Docteur Gachet, garden from 19C, http://www.valdoise.fr/6387-la-maison-du-docteur-gachet-a-auvers-sur-oise.htm
Domaine de Villarceaux, a gem, go there for shopping farm goodies too, and a gourmet event everyyear, http://www.iledefrance.fr/villarceaux
Parc du Chateau D’Ecouen, also a museum of the renaissance, http://www.musee-renaissance.fr/homes/home_id20392_u1l2.htm
Chateau de Stors, English style terrace gardens, town of L’isle-Adam, http://chateaudestors.com/
Chateau de la Roche-Guyon, fruits gardens and views of the Seine, nice tunnel withhistory of wwII, http://www.chateaudelarocheguyon.fr/
Parc et Chateau de Méry-sur-Oise, with great water fountain, lakes, http://www.merysuroise.fr/download//horaires-parc.JPG.pdf
Jardin du Musée Jean-Jacques Rousseau, http://museejjrousseau.montmorency.fr/fr
Parc de l’Abbaye de Maubuisson, old abbatial park, nice, http://www.valdoise-tourisme.com/diffusio/fr/voir-faire/nature/st-ouen-l-aumone/parc-de-l-abbaye-de-maubuisson_TFO106590495640.php
There is a long list indeed, but all very nice, and some spectacular, you will have a good guide toget you started while in the Ile de France region,where Versailles and Paris for example are. Cheers
Fondest memory: walking playing, jogging, just been royal at the gardens of Chateau de Versailles, my home of almost 10 years. Visiting and helping on my first one, whre my wife is from the region in Fontainebleau,and on her native town gardens of Bossuet, Meaux.Related to:
- Family Travel
- Historical Travel
- Arts and Culture
Favorite thing: The Provençal village of Orange has nothing to do with the color or the fruit. Instead, it derives from Arausio, the name of the Celtic god of water.
Orange was colonized by Julius Caesar's Second Gallic Legion in 35 B.C. Although originally called Arausio by the Romans, at some point its name became Orange. The town became an important economic and political center, and was the capital of an area that is now northern Provence. The Visigoths sacked the town in 412 A.D. as Rome's hold over its empire weakened.
In the fourth century Orange became a bishopric, and in the twelfth century it became a minor principality, the Principality of Orange, that was a fief of the Holy Roman Empire. In 1544 Orange was incorporated into the holdings of William the Silent, Count of Nassau. Since William the Silent was Dutch, Orange became Dutch territory.
The town was badly damaged during the Wars of Religion in the late 1500s when the Roman Catholics and Protestants fought for control of France. In 1672, Orange fell to the forces of King Louis XIV of France during the Franco-Dutch War. It was formally ceded to France in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht which ended that war.
Nowadays, Orange is renowned for the number and quality of Roman ruins in and around the city, including this amphitheater, called the Théâtre Antique d'Orange, which is still used today for concerts and plays. The Roman ruins of Orange are described as the most impressive still existing in Europe.
Favorite thing: The French Riviera is dotted with small picturesque villages, such as Menton. Often referred to as the "Pearl of France," Menton is known for its lemon trees (and a lemon festival). It is a lovely village of about 29,000 that is right on the French-Italian border, which is within walking distance.
The first settlement at the site that would one day become Menton was established in the eleventh century, when the Count of Ventimiglia built the Château de Puypin on Pépin Hill, northwest of the town's modern center. The region around the chateau became the Seignury of Puypin, but in the thirteenth century the Seignury of Puypin fell to Genoa and became part of the Republic of Genoa.
In 1346, Menton was acquired by Charles Grimaldi, the Lord of Monaco, and the town was ruled by the princes of Monaco until the time of the French Revolution. After the French Revolution, Menton was annexed by France. However, in 1814 it was included in a reconstituted principality of Monaco which itself became a protectorate of the Kingdom of Sardinia.
In 1848, Menton seceded from Monaco due in part to a tax the principality imposed on lemon exports. The town declared itself a free city, but was not able to make a go of it on its own. In 1850, it put itself under the protection of the Kingdom of Sardinia once again, and was ruled by the House of Savoy for the next ten years.
In an 1860 plebiscite, the citizens of Menton voted overwhelmingly to be annexed by France. By the late nineteenth century, tourism had become a major part of the local economy. English and Russian aristocrats settled in the town and built lavish hotels, villas, and palaces. Nowadays, Menton is still a popular town for tourists visiting the French Riviera, as well as the nearby Italian Riviera.
Favorite thing: Located in southern France, Avignon is one of the few French cities that still retains its original ramparts and historic center. It is often referred to as the "City of Popes" because of the presence of popes and antipopes (claimants to the Papacy in opposition to legitimately elected popes) during the Roman Catholic schism in the twelfth century.
Avignon was first settled by members of a Gallic tribe called the Cavares (sometimes written as Cavaris) who called their settlement Avenio. Throughout the following centuries, the town was conquered and controlled by the Romans, the Goths, the Seracens, and the Franks. Avignon became part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1033, and in 1251 it was absorbed into the Kingdom of Arles.
In 1309, Pope Clement V fled political turmoil in Rome and chose Avignon as his residence. The city therefore became the seat of the Papacy, rather than Rome, causing a schism in the Roman Catholic church. Between 1309 and 1377, seven French-born popes resided in the city. Avignon remained a possession of the Papacy until 1791, at which time it was incorporated into France as a result of the aftermath of the French Revolution.
Avignon's most notable attraction is the Pont d'Avignon (pictured here), more properly called the Pont Saint-Bénézet, made famous by the French nursery rhyme, Sur le Pont d'Avignon. The 2,953-foot (900-meter) bridge was constructed in about 1350. All but four of its original 18 spans were washed away during a flood in 1669. The small Romanesque chapel of Saint-Bénézet stands on one of the remaining spans.
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