Gardens, churches, abbeys, parks, rivers, hiking. There is a lot to do. If you've seen the chateaus or at least the ones you want to see . . . or you have seen a few too many . . . consider the abbeys and churches. Click on the picture for ideas.
Of course, the cathedral at Chartres is justifiably famous so if you are in the area, it is definitely worth a day trip. Chartres Tourist Office
We've had fun over the years keeping up with the restoration of Fontevraud Abbey near the convergence of the Loire and Vienne Rivers. It's a great stop near Chinon and the picturesque village of Candes-St.-Martin on the Loire.
Fontevraud Abbey is no longer a French National Monument; it is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It also holds a 52-room hotel if you want to spend some time there. The hotel web site is: Fontevraud Abbey Hotel
Here are some of my Travel Pages you may want to check.
Chartres by Beausoleil
Chateau Chaumont Gardens by Beausoleil
Fontevraud Abbey by Beausoleil
Chateau & Gardens at Villandry by Beausoleil
Type Loire into the VT Search Window and click on Pays de la Loire for more information.
This is Verdun, it is a magical tragic city in the region of Lorraine, dept of the Meuse, France. Trying to bring back my photos here.....
It is the history of a great battle in WWI, with lots of memorials alongside the river Meuse and into the countryside. As one historian rightful said, « Verdun est le symbole et le sommet de la Grande Guerre. C’est sans doute le seul nom qui survivra à l’oubli des siècles », BY Guy Pedroncini.
"Verdun is a symbol and the summit of the big war or WWI. Without a doubt, the only name that will survive the forgetfullness of the centuries passing"
Its a must to visit to remember, respect ,and never forget. ,the city page
you have the tourist office page here
just walk the meuse along the quais and go up to the mémorial
Update: We revisited the Dordogne to show it to our youngest daughter. We stayed in the same lovely gite in Cenac-et-St.-Julen and enjoyed a few of the places we'd visited before. There is so much to see that we also found a lot of new places and plan to return to explore again. Our daughter is now hooked on the Dordogne too. ;^)
Original Review: We just returned from an area we had driven through a few times but not explored. This was the year to explore. We rented a gite in the tiny village of Cenac-et-St.-Julien on the Dordogne River and, after escaping the Iceland volcanic ash cloud that grounded flights all over Europe, we settled in to a delightful visit and decided the Dordogne was one of our very favorite regions of France.
Officially, the Perigord Noir is part of Aquitaine. It is called the Perigord Noir (black) because there are so many forests that the hills look dark. Needless to say, it is green and lovely and the many rivers flowing through it add a wonderful dimension. This is an area that was fought over for hundreds of years so there is a castle on every hilltop and most are magnificent. Many are open to the public and if you climb to the highest part (the Keep), you are rewarded with incredible views.
Places to visit include:
Sarlat-la-Caneda (Old Town, historic buildings and really interesting market)
Domme (fabulous views up and down the Dordogne river and lovely Old Town)
Chateau Bonaguil (castle dating to 1271 with later additions)
Chateau at Castelnaud-la-Chapelle (castle with medieval military museum)
Les Cabanes du Breuil (dry stone bories (cabins) as part of a living history museum
Chateau des Milandes (home of chanteuse Josephine Baker)
Abbey at Cadouin
Caves with prehistoric paintings in the Vezere Valley
Museum of Prehistory at Les Ezyies de Tayac-Sireuil
Many lovely Plus Beaux Villages of France
Eating in the Perigord is a joy. Even the simplest meals are delicious. In season you have the freshest of produce and this is the home of fois gras if you enjoy it. Duck, lamb and rabbit are on virtually every menu. If you don't like exploring foods, the beef and pork here are also excellent. This is the walnut capital of France so you will even find walnut wine and walnut liqueur. The liqueur is potent! It is also a famous wine region and your waiter will help you find something to your taste. We try to drink local wines just to see what is available.
There are the little tourist trains you find all over France, but more fun are rides in a Gabare. These are the flat-bottomed boats that were used for shipping in the past. They have been motorized and now carry tourists. You chug down the river and see the castles and abbeys on the surrounding hillsides with herons and hawks swooping overhead. There are few better ways to spend an afternoon.
Exploring caves is fun but if you have limited mobility, you may want to try the cave at Rouffignac. There is an electric train that takes you through the cave. The commentary is in French and it would not be wheelchair accessible but it is fine for someone who can walk a normal city street and climb onto a small train. We had a family from New Zealand with us and the guide gave a brief explanation of everything in English for them so make your language known if you want help. Les Eyzies Official Web Site
Here are some of the places we enjoyed. Just click on each link to see the page.
Beynac-et-Cazenac by Beausoleil
Brantôme by Beausoleil
Condat-sur-Vézère by Beausoleil
Daglan by Beausoleil
Sarlat-la-Canéda by Beausoleil
Villefranche-de-Rouergue by Beausoleil
Castelnaud-la-Chapelle by Beausoleil
When you travel through small towns and villages there is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy quiet and nature. You can walk and walk and breath fresh air and be with yourself. You just need the weather to be nice^)
But on top of that France is definitely is the placу where you can try and enjoy gourmet cuisine and wines. Try those nice family restaurants that I recommend on pages related to France. I am sure it will be an unforgettable experience.
This is a serious attraction. One kilometre long and 80 metres high, it is the largest of its type in Western Europe.
Sadly, we didn't have time to actually go in, but I can assure you it's worthwhile. Even wandering around the site with your camera is fun.
Inhabited for an estimated 55,000 years, it has survived through the ages in different guises due to its prime location overlooking the road and the river.
Île-de-France or Island of France is the wealthiest and most populated of the twenty-seven administrative regions of France and includes Paris the capital which it surrounds to a radius of about 50 miles. The name Île-de-France comes from the rivers that form the regions boundaries.
See My Travel Page for more information.
Bretagne consists of 80% of Brittany which is a province in the Northwest corner of France corresponding to the departments of Finistere, Cotes- d'Armor, Morbihan, Ille-et-Vilaine and Loire -Atlantique. Part of the reason why Brittany was split between two modern day regions was to avoid the rivalry between Rennes and Nantes.
Rennes (pop.203 533) is the administrative and cultural capital of Brittany. It has a large industrial zone and is also a major agricultural and business centre.
See My Travel Page for more information.
Beynac is one of the more popular spots to visit in Dordogne. The chateau/castle, set on a dominant outcrop, will test your physical fitness should you try and walk to the top.
Located 8 km south-west of Sarlat in the Dordogne department. (Note that Beynac is more correctly called 'Beynac-et-Cazenac', Cazenac being its close neighbour, although the full name is not used very often).
Its picturesque location is spread along the northern bank of the river and continues up the hill to the chateau perched above. Beynac is another one of the many listed as one of the 'most beautiful villages in France'.
The village stands out if you are in the Dordogne region and makes for an excellent photo if you're on the other side of the river. The current tranquility of Beynac is so in stark contrast to the turbulent battles it has known during the course of the last few centuries.
Start your visit with a stroll along the riverside to appreciate the setting. Walk a little way to the east of the village for a roll in the grass and a stunning view across the village with the castle perched on the cliff above.
Back in the village centre take the main street that climbs the hill - this steep street up the hill is called the basket-makers path (Carnival del Panieraires). Exploring Beynac is easy as you simply follow this narrow lane as it winds its way up through the lovely traditional Dordogne honey-coloured buildings with their floral coatings and taking occasional detours into tempting narrow alleys.
Along the way up the hill you will pass the Church of Sainte-Marie, the one time chapel for the castle.
Eventually you reach the Beynac's crown jewel, the castle set on top of a high cliff looking down on a bend in the Dordogne River and high above much of the little village of Beynac itself.
Beynac Chateau was an unbreached French stronghold, while the English had to make do with the similarly magnificent Chateau de Castelnaud on the other side of the river. The castle has a suitably colourful history, dating from the Hundred Years War and the Albigensian Crusade, and is a very interesting chateau to visit.
For the historically interested, you might overlook the magnificent views across miles of beautiful countryside and will surely want to stand in the same spot as Richard the Lionheart.
There is also an interesting 'archaeology park' in Beynac, where typical 'neolithic France' buildings have been constructed. Sadly, I didn't have time to see it.
Millau has always been on the tourist map, but with the construction and opening of the Millau Viaduct it has become a much more popular place to visit.
It is a bustling town set in a valley with steep cliffs and impressive rock outcrops on all horizons surrounding it.
The main reason you're probably here is the Millau bridge, but having viewed the viaduct from the tourist area set aside for just such a thing (also try Peyreau for a good shot), it is well worth dropping into the town. There are many good eateries to choose from and plenty of cafes and bars if you just want light refreshment. If you want a substantial meal try some of the ways stretching out from the central fountain (itself worth a look) where there are numerous little bistros tucked away.
I'm not that big into shopping but, if you're staying in the area, as I have twice, it's almost a relief to get into central Millau and wander around civilization for a while, away from the tiny villages that dot the Gorges du Tarn.
If you're into nature then there's a wealth of things to do within easy driving range of the town; spectacular walks (Pas de Loup out of Le Rozier is my pick), scenic drives, boating or kayaking down the rivers or visiting the villages are just some.
Millau is more of a place to base yourself than a destination and you'll be amazed at how much the Gorge du Tarn have to offer when you get there.
For instance, the belfry dominates the heart of the old town from the top of its 42m. The building is composed at its base of a 12 century square tower, surmounted by a 17th century octagonal tower.
The Belfry dominates the heart of the old town from its 42m. Built in the 12th century probably on the site of a primitive château of the Counts of Millau, the mediaeval dungeon, or Tour Carrée (square tower), insured the security of the fortified walls at their south west corner. Private property from the 13th century, it was bought by the Consuls de Millau in 1613 as a base for the octagonal tower before sheltering the communal bell. And so the belfry was born. The Tour Carrée served as a prison from the 17th to the 19th centuries and notably during the revolutionary period. The building, as we see it today, has lost its beautiful spire, destroyed by fire after being hit by lightning on 19July 1811.
There's a swag of museums and other unique attractions as well (such as the excellent Micropolis), so don't just drive through, allow time.
I am talking about travelling by car from Nancy to Strasbourg.
Instead of following the main road, we decided to take a much more scenic route.
From Nancy, we followed ROUTE N59 to St. Die, and from there, took ROUTE N415, through towns of Anould, Fraize over the mountain range to Riquewihr.
It was a pity there weren't places to stop for photo's, as the views heading up the range were fantastic, and were just as good on the other side. Right on the Mountain top, there was a small village and still snow in April.
A nice drive.
The Auvergne may be one of the hidden wonders of France. It has no sea coast so escapes a lot of tourists. On a map you'll find it below Centre and Bourgogne and in between Limousin and the Rhone Alps. Directly south of it are the Midi-Pyrenees and the beautiful Languedoc-Roussillon.
The Dordogne has the most Plus Beaux Villages (Most Beautiful Villages) of France but the Auvergne comes in very close. It is mountainous and there are lovely little surprises hidden in the hills. Check the Plus Beaux Villages for Central France-Auvergne at The Most Beautiful Villages of France
We make a habit of searching them out and in Auvergne have visited Najac, Conques, Peyre, Belcastel and Brousse-le-Chateau. We spent several days in Brousse-le-Chateau once to take a boat ride under the magnificent Viaduc de Millau. The Viaduc de Millau Official Site
Beausoleil's Travel Page on the Viaduc de Millau
Here's the boat ride web site and it's great fun. Bateliers du Viaduc
A good web site for the Auvergne is listed below and the Auvergne is a great vacation combined with a visit of either Languedoc-Roussillon or the Dordogne. If you have time, do all three. It may be the best vacation you've ever had.
Let's face it, there's only two reasons you're going here. You're taking a drive along the Gorges du Tarn or you've come for the boat ride....actually, you might want to do both like we did.
I'd planned the drive and knew about the boat ride but it was a fluke that we ended up doing the latter; but so pleased we did. We'd stopped for lunch at La Malene and, just as we finished, I ducked over to the office on the bridge and asked about the trips. One was leaving in five minutes, it took 1 1/4 hours and, in no time at all, we found ourselves on the gabare having a great time.
The ride takes you to places you can't otherwise access and your guide can point out things you'd otherwise miss if you simply hired a kayak.
This is one of the best spots in all the gorges so my advice would be to include it in your itinerary if possible.
The royal Château de Chambord, one of, and the largest in, the Loire valley,is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures and a few other oddities, such as the double helix staircase. The building, which was never completed, was constructed for King François I.
Chambord is the largest château in the Loire Valley ; it was built to serve as a hunting lodge for François I, who maintained his royal residences at Château de Blois and Château d'Amboise. The original design of the Château de Chambord is attributed, though with several doubts, to Domenico da Cortona. Some authors claim that the French Renaissance architect Philibert Delorme had a considerable role in the château's design, and others have suggested that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed it. This is popular with those who want to give it more pubicity.
The roofscape of Chambord contrasts with the masses of its masonry and has often been compared with the skyline of a town as it shows eleven kinds of towers and three types of chimneys, without symmetry, framed at the corners by the massive towers. Writer Henry James remarked "the towers, cupolas, the gables, the lanterns, the chimneys, look more like the spires of a city than the salient points of a single building. How fitting then that when François I commissioned the construction of Chambord, he wanted it to look like the skyline of Constantinople. The château also features 128 meters of façade, more than 800 sculpted columns and an elaborately decorated roof line that continually draws your gaze.
On some of the ceilings inside is the emblem of Francois I, the salamander. It's literally plastered all over some rooms.
Chambord was altered considerably during the twenty-eight years of its construction (1519–1547) during which it was overseen on-site by Pierre Nepveu. With the château nearing completion, François showed off his enormous symbol of wealth and power by hosting his old archnemesis, Emperor Charles V at Chambord.
In 1792, around revolution time, some of the furnishings were sold and timber removed. For a time the building was left abandoned, though in the 19th century some partial attempts were made at restoration. During the Second World War art works from the collections of the Louvre and Compiègne were moved to Château de Chambord.
Condom is a town on the Via Podiensis, one of the three major French arms of the famous pilgrimage route, the Way of St. James. This particular route begins in Le Puy and ends in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. Pilgrims arrive at Condom after Miradoux and continue on to Larressingle. This partly explains why Condom has a magnificent cathedral. Unlike certain other VTers, I struggled to get excited about Condom, though it must be added we only spent a couple of hours there. However, we did walk the streets for much of that time and even the river, aside from the old mill, struck us both as a bit colourless.
Condom is known for the production of Armagnac ( a type of brandy) for which there is a museum, an international music festival of "bandas", an international chess tournament and an international chess marathon. It is also known for its tourism with farm campings and boating on waterways.
We deliberately avoided having our photo taken in front of the sign, not wishing to appear crass, but were impressed with the local plaza where the cathedral is located.
There is an historical walk (part of which we did) that you can get from the tourist office.
The sculptor of the Three Musketeers and D'Artagnan is Zurab Tsereteli, a Russian. The sculpture was inaugurated on September 4 2010. Interestingly, Alexander Dumas, the author, was a fencer himself.
D'Artagnan (the main character of Alexandre Dumas' novel) really existed. His name was Charles de Batz Castelmore, comte d'Artagnan. He was born in the family castle near Lupiac, not far from Condom.
Chartres was the goal, the “jewel in the crown of Gothic architecture”. We’d left Charles du Gaulle airport in record time, heading south in a rented Opel that smelt like a 50’s pub in Oz. It absolutely reeked of cigarette and, had it been easy to turn around and go back we would have returned it.
As it was we drifted around Paris for ¾ hour before being released by “Miss Direction” (as I call my GPS) into the countryside. The verdant fields of the north flowed by until we reached our first destination, parking beside a culvert beneath the hill on which the standout edifice was positioned nearly a thousand years ago.
We crossed the stream and headed upwards, through ancient stone walls and ramparts up to this wondrous spectacle, a story on its own.
Though only a few parts of the original Romanesque building remain after a disastrous fire in 1194, when you see the 176 stained glass windows that cover 2,600 square metres, your attention is immediately and irrevocably locked into the wonders of this place. Perhaps just as fascinating is the fact that all the windows were removed during WWII and put into safe storage.
You have to bear in mind that 800 years ago so few people could read written text that the windows had an importance beyond their beautiful colours. They invariably told stories in pictures and thus the bible and daily life, usually of those that donated the windows, are reflected in their brilliant hues. The quantity and quality are mesmerising as you can’t help but constantly rubberneck at those on high.
The cathedral was suffering the dreaded European scaffold disease inside while we visited, but its magnificence was undiminished. In the middle of one of the floors is a labyrinth and such is its fame that while we were there people were continually walking around it to perhaps unravel its mysteries. Though they predate the Christian era, they continued through the centuries and supposedly “..... its principal purpose, both physical and spiritual, is to lead us intelligently to a contemplation of that which is within us.” Personally I contemplated why you had to walk around (on your knees if you were really serious) in a maze to do such a thing.
The height of the ceiling is another thing; it’s over 120ft high. At 154ft Beauvais is the tallest but it’s in such a chronic state it’s been propped up with unsightly brackets everywhere.
The entrances were also special and full of meaning. Over one of the three doorways, with a combined title of the Royal Portal, are sculpted the seven liberal arts and those who best exemplified them, like Euclid and geometry, Cicero and rhetoric, Aristotle and dialectic, Boethius and arithmetic, Ptolemy and astronomy, Pythagoras and music, Donatus and grammar. Also present are the zodiac signs and representations of their correlated monthly activities.
We left via this portal and dined beside the church in a wonderful salon de the, not only for the repast but to escape the bitter wind that pushed around the corners and buffeted your clothing.
Thus refreshed we once again moved, first back down the bastions and then onwards to Blois, a town we practised saying for weeks before we went.
The Four Seasons George V is truly one of the world's great hotels. I really, really love to stay...more
The hotel was amazing, right on the beach. It was very clean and the rooms were of excellent...more
1190ff per room per night. Superb location, excellent standard of decoration and lovely public...more
More Regions in France