Unique Places in France

  • L'Institut du Monde Arabe
    L'Institut du Monde Arabe
    by shrimp56
  • Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France
    Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris, France
    by TrendsetterME
  • Abbaye de St Hilaire (France)
    Abbaye de St Hilaire (France)
    by Redang

Most Viewed Off The Beaten Path in France

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    Visit Alpe de Grande Serre...

    by b1bob Updated Mar 25, 2014

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    Visit Alpe de Grande Serre about a 2-hour drive east of downtown Lyon in the foothills of the Alps. In the winter, it's a ski resort. In summer, it's a place to escape the hurry of the city. There is a hotel there called Hôtel Nivose.

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    Eaux Bonnes

    by iandsmith Updated Feb 5, 2014

    Situated at the start of the climb to Col D'Aubisque, this town achieved fame in the 16th century when the Bearn, wounded by arquebuses in the Battle of Pavia in 1525, came to relieve their suffering by bathing in the sulphuric waters.
    After that, certain doctors promoted the recuperative benefits of bathing here and its success was assured.
    In the late 19th century the place was booming, particularly when the future wife of Napoleon III , Empress Eugenie Maria, came here between 1851-1870.
    Politician Louis Barthou, poet Francois Coppee and musician Francis Plant also came and added to the fame of the village
    It was also just above here that the first ski resort in the Pyrenees came into being.
    The place is like a Hollywood setting.

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    Chateau Larcher

    by iandsmith Updated Oct 14, 2013

    There it was, a sign in someone's window, beyond the garden - Office de Tourisme. I found it hard to believe but here in France, it could be possible. Of course, it wasn't open, like most things around lunch time in France but it did indicate that someone might be interested in this village - I was. We'd stumbled on this place, about 27kms south of Poitiers, en route to Hautefort and Segur le Chateau from Sarlat.
    The most surprising feature you come across when entering this small town is its ancient fortified castle and truncated dungeon which looms above the main street on a high point. The church ( 12th C ), once the château's chapel, is an integral part of the fortification and offers a lovely view of the wooded Clouère valley.In the midst of the village's cemetery, a lantern for the dead rises which dates back to the middle of XII th century.
    Apparently nearby, which I regretfully missed, are the ruins of the Arlait dolmen, testimony to the presence of a vast necropolis (more than 100 tombs) edified in these territories around 3500 B.C.

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    Fougeres sur Bievre

    by iandsmith Updated Jun 16, 2013

    Let's be honest, I wasn't going to go here; nay, it was on the way to somewhere else, namely Chambord, but it was the 2nd day of our holiday and we hadn't visited a chateau or castle yet so, when we stopped at Fougeres castle to take some pics, we both got excited and went inside.
    First impression is that it looks like a castle, feels like and castle and, well, that should be no surprise. It has a distinctly military layout, as emphasised with the machicolations, dating back to the late 1400s though later editions reflect the Renaissance style with the rounded towers and pointed roof. The solid walls are made of hard calcareous Beauce ragstone.
    The furnishings are sparse but that only serves to add to its allure and it has been listed as an historic building for over 100 years.
    On the first floor the timbers of the upper gallery are shaped like an unturned boat and in the corner is a watchtower.
    The pamphlet they give you has some interesting information, not only about the castle but about gardens in ancient times and highlighting the importance of herbs.
    If you want to visit a castle and avoid crowds, this is a place you could well consider.

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    Sallanches

    by iandsmith Written Jun 16, 2013

    Sallanches is situated on the Sallanche river with dominating views to Mont Blanc, west of Chamonix-Mont-Blanc and north of Megeve. We jagged it en route from Megeve to Burgundy when we had to stop and photograph the gorgeous town square.
    Sallanches has two notable historic monuments; the bridge of Saint-Martin, and the collegiate Church of Saint-Jacques.
    The collegiate church was constructed in baroque style in the 17th century on the site of an older church) and has a decorative interior with wall and ceiling paintings added in the 19th century by Italian artists. The sundial on the church was added in the middle of the 19th century.
    The bridge dates from the 14th century or earlier and, although the river has several times damaged the bridge, it has been rebuilt at various times over the centuries. Now pedestrian only there are lovely views from the middle of the bridge along the wood lined banks of the river and to the mountains beyond.
    There is also the smaller Church of Saint-Martin and several small chapels in Sallanches, and a walk along the river banks.
    An interesting and extensive nature centre in Sallanches is found in a 14th century manor house, and provides a good introduction to the landscapes and wildlife of the region,

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    Cascades de Arpenaz

    by iandsmith Written Jun 15, 2013

    The waterfall at Arpenaz is a 270 metre high series of waterfalls above a nicely maintained picnic area. It's a standout amongst waterfalls in France and I'm surprised they don't publicize it more.
    We were stunned by its presence and wished we'd had more time to get closer but, in the end, we were glad to have even seen it.

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    Larressingle

    by iandsmith Written Jun 14, 2013

    Larressingle is a medieval fortified village towards the northern edge of the Gers department, 5 kilometres west of Condom and is listed as one of the 'most beautiful villages of France'.
    It's a tiny village almost completely surrounded by heavy fortified walls dating from the 13th century. Larressingle is not quite 300 metres around and creates a very impressive sight on arrival. Medieval home to the bishops from Condom it is the most visited destination in the Gers, which, frankly, says a lot about Gers as, in my experience it only rates as average.
    The village is entered by its only gate through the fortifications, across a pretty little double-arched stone bridge that was at one time a drawbridge across the now dry, but still visible moat and through an arch in a tower. The defences are almost completely intact.
    Within the walls of the smallest fortified town in France are a small church, Roman style and fortified in design with a few modern stained glass windows, a small chateau (largely in ruins, and dominated by the donjon) and various smaller buildings and houses, mostly set with their backs to the fortified walls.
    There was nothing open when we visited though, apparently, in summer there are a couple of shops and a place to eat. My advice is that, if you're in the area, it's worth a look but I wouldn't go too far out of my way to see it.
    Just outside the fortified town of Larressingle there is an 'exhibition' of medieval weaponry - essentially a recreation of a medieval siege camp at the walls of the fortified town. It was entertaining to see and use the trebouchet, battering rams and other weaponry that would have been used to attack such a village in the 12th century.
    Larressingle is on one of the major pilgrimage paths to Santiago de Compostella. The stone bridge across the Osse river at nearby Artigues is one of the oldest structures along the pilgrimage route.
    Fourcés and Montréal-de-Gers are also nearby and also listed as 'most beautiful villages of France'.

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    Martel

    by iandsmith Updated Jun 13, 2013

    It was because our hosts had recommended this place that we called in. Somehow, it didn't quite cut the mustard for either of us. Perhaps it was because we had just visited Sarlat that it paled by comparison.
    One thing it was was clean. One of the tidiest European towns I've ever visited. However, we came expecting to find lots of mediaeval stuff and, though there were a few turrets here and a cannon or two there, somehow it didn't excite.
    If you're handy then it's probably worth an hour or two and it's easy to get around while you're there and there are places to eat and it does have a mediaeval flair.
    It's also close to tourism destinations such as as Rocamadour (13 km), Gouffre de Padirac (15 km), La Roque Gageac (31 km) or Dordogne River Boat trips (31 km) which are all worth visiting.
    I'm guessing the town was named after Charles Martel (c. 688 – 22 October 741) a Frankish statesman and military leader who, as Duke and Prince of the Franks and Mayor of the Palace, was de facto ruler of Francia from 718 until his death. He kept the Moors at bay and thus retained Christianity as the dominant religion.
    It has a distinctive skyline as this small town contains seven large towers. Once the capital of the Viscount of Turenne, the town and its buildings are steeped in history.
    The town developed because of its prime location on the intersection of trading routes between Paris and Toulouse in one direction and a key route from east to west for the trade in salt and wine.
    The 13th century brought wealth to the town and many merchants houses were built within the defensive walls of the town. The town grew and spread into ‘barris’ or suburbs outside the town. The Hundred Years War threatened the town and led to the building of a second defensive wall.
    The town recovered quickly from the war and the 15th century saw another period of affluence for Martel.
    For the record, here are some of the key things to see: The Palais de la Raymondi - built between 1280 and 1330 for the town’s tax collector Bernard Raimondi. It now houses the tourist office. Its tower, one of the seven, was originally a status symbol but became a belfry.
    - The Place de la Halle - have a look at the woodwork of the roof of the halle, it is a particularly beautiful example. The Palais de la Raymondi is on one edge of the square, the Penitents tower (another of the seven towers) is also on the square along with other very attractive houses.
    - Saint Maur’s church - the church formed an integral part of the town’s fortifications and has a rather fortress-like appearance.
    - La Tour Tournemire, a square tower which once served as a prison.
    - The Maison Fabri, a beautiful house where Henri Shortcoat, eldest son of Henri II, died after pillaging Rocamadour.
    - The Cordeliers Tower - the only remains of a 13th century Franciscan

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    On the way to somewhere else - Vitteaux

    by iandsmith Updated May 31, 2013

    The village of Vitteaux is a small french village located east center of France. The town of Vitteaux is located in the department of Côte-d'Or of the french region Bourgogne and the district of Montbard.
    So much for information! This attractive little village isn't a destination in its own right but, having been through it a couple of times I took a half hour out (under sufferance from my partner) to explore it a little.
    If you find yourself passing through might I recommend you do the same. Some half timbered houses, an old market place, the usual stream passing through the back streets; all conspire to give you a happy time with your camera.
    The population is just over a hundred so don't expect high rise hotels here, better you should look for an ancient market place instead.

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    Parthenay, I did but see it passing by

    by iandsmith Written May 31, 2013

    I only stumbled on Parthenay en route to somewhere else, but found the couple of hours I spent there very interesting; here are some of the things I saw.
    The Romanesque style entrance door to the castle's Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-la-Couldre is still standing, although the remainder of the chapel was demolished after the revolution, as were many others.
    Due to the absence of documents, its exact age cannot be determined but architecturally it obviously belongs in the 12th century
    The main portal is surrounded by rows of four semi circular mouldings depicting the lamb of God surrounded by angels, the Annunciation, Virtues and vices and the old men of the Book of Revelation.
    This portal is flanked by two blind arcades whose ornamentation consists of motifs borrowed from the vegetal world.
    The north arcade houses a horseman and the south one Samson fighting a lion, though you'll be hard pressed to see some of the badly eroded detail.
    The bastille was what stopped me. This bastille was erected in 1442 under the direction of Arthur de Richemont, new lord of Parthenay. As constable of the king's army, he was interested in technological developements in warfare which led to him to improve the defences with a mind to what artillery could do.
    All that is missing today from this part is the crenellated parapet.
    The Thouet that runs through Parthenay is not one of the world's great rivers, let's be honest, but it was the reason for establishing the town as water was a necessity, and still is, for civilization.
    Parthenay castle is a reminder as to how important the town was as a regional centre in medieval times, although most is now in ruins with the lower parts of three castle towers and a section of ramparts along the river front being the principal parts remaining. Today grass grows where once the feet of defenders trod.
    The original castle and its later additions were impressive structures, built in the 11th century and further reinforced in the 13th and 15th centuries - at one time with nine towers and substantial walls encircling the residential section and the stables.
    The three parts visible today are the Bastille de Richemont, added in the 15th century to provide additional reinforcements, and the two older towers - the Tour de la Poudriere (the most intact of the towers), and the Tour d'Harcourt (of which little now remains), both dating from the 13th century.

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    Gorge de Trezevel

    by iandsmith Written May 26, 2013

    I just happened to be heading somewhere when I had to go down this road. It was so pretty I thought I'd share it with you.
    The Trezevel is one of the rivers that ends up in the Tarn but has cut its own attractive gorge.
    There are walks along the streams that you cross over astride old stone bridges; oh, that I had time to do some of them.

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    Le Villaret

    by iandsmith Written May 26, 2013

    Gosh, if you want an out of the way experience, Le Villaret is for you.
    Let's be honest at the start, there's not a lot to see here. It's located just a few kilometres up a back road from Meyrueis deep in the Gorges du Tarn.
    There's an old building with miniature towers, a stream running through and some old buildings but not much else.
    The road in is sealed and runs through some pretty countryside but it is narrow and not for the faint hearted driver.

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    Vebron, another place, another time

    by iandsmith Written May 25, 2013

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    These days there are almost as many empty buildings in Vebron as there are occupied houses in Vebron.
    It's a little village 641 metres up and not all that far from Florac, a small town you might more readily find on a map.
    The only reason people stop here I suspect, and certainly the reason I did, is because there's an attractive bridge that begs your camera to take a picture.
    Having said that there's also a ruin above the road that I've never had time to climb up to but I suspect that it could be quite photogenic.

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    St. Marcel de Careiret

    by iandsmith Written May 25, 2013

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    I'll wager you've not got this village on your itinerary! We just happened to be passing by and I liked the look of the steeple so we turned and went to the local town square, such as it was. The church was closed but the facade with Gothic arch and Corinthian columns seemed to indicate the Middle Ages.
    There was also an old portal, from who knows what time, but most likely 12th to 14th century. The thing that fascinated me though, was just down beyond the square because here, adjacent to a creek, were some baths I suspect, supported by eight Doric columns and seemingly of more modern origin. Still, I found it fascinating and share it with you in the hope someone can unlock the mystery.

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    Peyrelade

    by iandsmith Written May 24, 2013

    Another day we went to Peyrelade in Gorges du Tarn. Sadly, on a holiday, it was closed. Had Lorraine not been there I’d have jumped the fence to this most improbable of sites atop a lone rock but we walked around and above it and were mostly satisfied since it’s still a work in progress.
    The Château de Peyrelade is a ruined castle in the commune of Rivière-sur-Tarn in the Aveyron département of France.
    The name is derived from the occitan "Pèira Lada", meaning wide rock; an accurate description of the site. Objects found on the site suggest it was inhabited in prehistoric times.
    Thanks to its position controlling the entrance to the Gorges du Tarn, it was one of the most important castles in the Rouergue province. From as far back as the 12th century it was listed here and the castle was the scene of incessant battles and sieges until 1633 when it was dismantled on the orders of Richelieu.
    The ruins give a good idea of the layout of the castle. The outer wall was more than 250m (~800 ft) long, 10m (~33 ft) high and 2.1m (~7 ft) thick. The castle was dominated by a natural rock keep more than 50m (~163 ft) high, only accessible from a round tower attached to it.
    The Château de Peyrelade is part of a group of 23 castles in Aveyron who have joined together to provide a tourist itinerary as La Route des Seigneurs du Rouergue. Château de Peyrelade is open to visitors from mid-June to mid-September.
    When I was there it was undergoing repair and you could only go on a guided tour on certain days.
    You should be warned, the road up is narrow (I mean narrower than normal around these parts) and you may have to back up in a couple of places if contra-flowing traffic is encountered).
    Also, in spring, some of the fields may bedecked with fruit trees in bloom which makes it all a bit special.

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