Visiting churches is one of the absolute highlights of a trip to Europe, and provides a fascinating insight into the most powerful influencethat has shaped European cultures of the past couple of millenia.
Unlike some other religions - where access to places of worship may be restricted to members of that religious group or a specific gender - the vast majority of Christian churches will allow tourists to visit at most times, including routine services (although some may charge an admission fee for doing so, and access may be denied for private events such as weddings and funerals). However, tourists should realise that most churches are still active places of worship, and so visitors need to exhibit a certain sensitivity to display respect to the culture and avoid giving offence to people at prayer.
The following guidelines are based on wonderful advice offered by Homer (homaned) - who does this for a living - in a forum response, and although specifically written for Christian places of worship, would apply equally to places of worship for other religions
So, here is a general list of do's and don'ts for people wishing to photograph during a church service:
READ THE SIGNS
If photography is not permitted - because, for example, it may damage paint on delicate murals - this will usually be indicated by a pictogram of a camera with a red line through it. Under most circumstances, you can assume that photography will be allowed (unless otherwise indicated), but may not be permitted during services. If in doubt, ask for clarification - this shows respect and will very seldom be met with anything other than a helpful response.
TURN OFF YOUR FLASH!
Every camera on the market has a button on it which will turn off the flash. The number one most alarming and distracting thing that can happen during a liturgy, and one which will even get you kicked out of some churches, is the bright flash that goes off when you take a picture. Not only is it distracting, but it usually makes the picture turn out dark, because your camera's flash only has about a 10-15' range. Turn off the flash, and hold the camera up against your eye, using the viewfinder, and you will likely get a better picture (and you definitely won't have any red-eye problems!).
DON'T MOVE AROUND ALL OVER THE PLACE! (UNLESS YOU HAVE PERMISSION)
Instead of walking all over down the main aisle and in front of everybody, pick a good place from which to take a picture at the beginning of the liturgy, and stay there. Unless you're a professional photographer with practice at stealthily moving during liturgies, you're a distraction, and you're being disrespectful. Even if you're a pro, try to stick to one out-of-the-way place, and use a zoom lens and zoom in to get pictures. Walking in front of people is a surefire way to distract and disrespect and closing in on priests or other celebrants just to capitalise on a photo opportunity is offensive.
TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S SOUND!
Every camera has some way to mute all its 'cute' beeps and clicking noises. If you press a button, and hear a beep, or if you take a picture and hear an obnoxious shutter clicking sound, you need to turn off those sounds (the muting option is usually in one of the menus). Along with the flashing, it's an obvious sign that someone is taking pictures and not showing much respect for those trying to pay attention to the liturgy.
TURN OFF the 'focus assist' light!
If your camera can't focus without the little laser-light that shines in everyone's eyes before your camera takes a picture, then don't use your camera. You have to turn that light off! It is very distracting to be watching a lector or priest, and see a little red dot or lines pop up on his face all of the sudden. It's as if some rifleman is making his mark! Turn the light off (again, look in the menus for the option to turn off the 'AF assist' or 'focus assist' light). If you can't turn it off, put a piece of duct tape or some other opaque material over the area where the light is, so the light won't shine on someone.
TURN OFF THE CAMERA'S LCD!
You should never use the LCD to compose your shots anyways; just put your eye up to the viewfinder, and that will not only not distract, it will also steady your camera against your face, making for a better picture (especially if you don't have the flash on). And if you must review the pictures you've taken, hold the camera in front of you, down low, so people behind you don't notice the big, bright LCD display on your camera
CERTAIN PARTS OF THE CEREMONY ARE PARTICULARLY SENSITIVE
Photographing the blessing of the eucharist (bread and wine) and distribution of communion to the congregation are considered to be particularly sacred parts of the service, and it is offensive to photograph these activities.
The main thing is to try to be respectful of the culture and of other people present at the service. Don't distract. And, if you are asked to not take pictures, or if there's a sign saying 'no photography allowed,' then don't take pictures. You can always ask a priest's permission before the liturgy, but if he says 'No,' put away your camera and enjoy the freedom you have to focus on the privilege of being able to share an experience with people who consider these religious rituals core to their culture and identity, rather than focusing on your camera's LCD!
Homer's Rules ... Homer rules!
OK I do not want to put anybody off here from Cycle Touring in France - you just have to have some common sense about you.
On very warm days Snakes like to bask in the Sun; Now if you are cycling in England you would always be looking aheah to wear are you going - so just the same in France. In England you hit a stone in the Road and it can throw you off - well in France you could hit a snake and it could throw you off.
Take particular care however around the edge of Golf Courses and the fact that Snakes can also look like a peice of vegetatin - so do not ride over anything that could look like a piece of vegetation in the road.
I think that i did and maybe i had a lucky escape because maybe Snakes do bite you - or not bite you when you cycle over thm.
It was only a small thing and it only when it was too late that i saw stripes on it and it was not vegetation - i was going at speed - i did not come off the bike - and because of speed i think the small snake was a bit dissorientated - it did that whipping thing that Snakes do - and either bit my Pedal or maybe the solid part of my cycle shoe.
I shoulld have been more careful because i saw a snake earlier when passing the course.
I think Snakes would be a much bigger problem if you was Mountain Biking or HIking for instance - where you cannot always see where you are going.
If travelling alone though - i never though of this before - but maybe could idea to always have your mobile - and to be reminded that Emergency Services is 112 from Mobiles in Europe; in a country like France however you are usually not always far from somebody passing you in a motor vehicle if something was to happen.
Although i stayed in Avignon and travelled each day from here - for some people - especially those on their first cycle trip - it is not the ideal place to be - there is a big arterial road that runs through Avignon and even i got a little scared at times - at oine roundabout i had to get off and walk.
If however you stay accross from Avignon to the other side of the campsite - all the roads here are much quieter and it hs a completely different feel to it. It is a nice region and much less touristy - It is also a different Region of France.
So Avignon is in the Provence Region - well i can't remember what the Region is called on the other side - but 2 days i went this way and it was nice. Once day i followed the River - just quiet lanes on this side. Bonnie Tyler was once lost in France - and on this other day i went off road a little bit and got lost amongst the Vineyards on top of the hill where i got nice views of Avignon beyond - and later i was lucky to arrive in a village on a typical French Market day - i also discovered that Beer inthe Cafes was considerably cheaper in this region - it is busy in the Bars here - and not a foreigner in sight (expect me) but to drink alcohol and cycle is not a good idea - so i had my Orange Cordial and for lunch i ate some Paella from the local Market with my tyre lever (yes they make good use as spoon - or you can put 2 together and try to use them like chopsticks
Beg to differ here, out of all the many places my family and I visited in a month long trip through France,Italy and Spain, this place gave our family the creeps. Couldn't wait to get out of there--planned on 3 days but only stayed one night. Unlike any other city we visited in France, we noted that decent people were nowhere to be seen after the sun went down. They appear to be resigned to giving the streets over to the seedier and more agressive elements in their midst. Their abscence confirmed my street-sense observations. Watch-out for this place.
You must visit the church but the towns people do not like you photogrpahing inside it. My dad was video taping inside the church while people were whorshiping and an old women waved her index finger at him as if she were saying, "You should be ashamed of yourself."
WARNING: in front of the second youth hostel in Avignon (auberge jeunesse barthelasse) at the river rhone there is always a group of young criminals. They do always the same and there are always problems with them.
When you sit in group of travelers drinking your red wine the will join you and offer you some dope. Dont take it because after that they try to get on with the girls. The only way to get out of it is be unpolite. Just dont talk to them and if problems getting too serious contact the security of the hostel. To avoid this just go to the other hostel (see my recomended accomodation)