Category: Loving History

Lyon, France: Behind Closed Doors

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Lyon is truly one of the most beautiful and interesting cities the Barefoot Blogger has visited in France. Aside from its magnificent river views, churches, and extraordinary food, Lyon hides some of its best features out of sight, behind closed doors.

Secret passageways or traboules du Vieux Lyon, were created shortly after the Romans left this area of France, the aqueducts failed, and the citizens moved to the river Saone. The hidden, enclosed walkways were intended to provide protection from the elements to those living nearby as they made their daily treks to gather water. 

Later, the traboules were busy passageways for the silk makers of the city. Their long rolls of silk were much too precious to transport by ordinary means through the streets.

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Traboules in Lyon, France

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

When wars raged in and through Lyon, traboules were used as hiding places and hangouts for locals who knew how to find their way from one place to another. Today, traboules act as hallways and elaborate entrances that lead to shops and apartments. 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Some even open onto elevator entrances.

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

 

Lyon Behind Closed Doors

While wandering through a traboules, I ran into a most interesting shop. Medieval wear at Mandragore. Imagine the fun going through the racks of gowns and robes and imagining times gone by in Lyon.

More about Lyon

What Does a Southern Gal Think of Lyon? “Hog Heaven!”

Lyon’s Musee des Beaux Arts: “The Most Elegant Woman in Paris”

Lyon: A Feast For the Eyes

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse and New Chaussures


Lyon Behind Closed Doors

mini rocamador

Discovering Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

Along the way back to Uzès from my first visit to the Dordogne, I received an email from my good friend, artist Andy Newman.

“If you like Rocamadour, you must see Najac. It’s a mini Rocamadour,” Andy wrote.

With GPS onboard, I found that Najac was an easy stopover.

Narjac: A Mini Rocamadour

As it was definitely a last minute decision, I was lucky to find an Airbnb room for the night near Najac. Even luckier that it was a seventeenth century mas with the most delightful hosts.

mini Rocamador

Property deed

Arriving just before dinner, I was greeted with open arms and a most unexpected and delicious meal. French hospitality at its best.

The next morning I was off to explore Najac.

Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

Following the Aveyron River as it wove around narrow country roads, through lush green hills and valleys, I was forced to stop along the way to Najac to take photos and enjoy the views.

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Najac: A Mini Rocamadour

When I arrived in Najac it was all very quiet. The village center, literally a small square area with timber-framed shops, cafes, and other commercial establishments, looked like it was everyone’s day off. In fact, the only store open was a pottery shop.

Yes, I did buy the little red pitcher on the shelf.

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Since I had no idea where I was going, I strolled down what appeared to be the only road in town. Before long I saw a castle (château) in the distance.

mini rocamador

The Château de Najac

The farther I roamed the more interesting the vistas became.

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The town beyond the square was spread out along the long road, perched above the river. A splendid example of a 13th century bastide.

Château de Najac

Known for its medieval buildings and its château, Najac has been near major events of history since its beginning, including the first English occupation, the Albigensian Crusade, the Hundred Years’ War, the imprisonment of the Knights Templar, the peasants’ revolts, and the French Revolution. The château was built in 1253 at the summit of the hill overlooking the Aveyron at the bidding of Alphonse de Poitiers, the Count of Toulouse. Its location and design were key to controlling the region.

mini rocamadour

Najac

Today it remains a prime example of the type of military defense used in the 13th century to fight against the Cathars and during the Hundred Years War. The dungeon of the castle was used as a prison for the last Knights of the Rouergue.

Mini Rocamadour

Towers at each corner and a square tower, once part of the castle, helped guards coordinate defense of the château and the town.

Mini Rocamadour

The castle is known for its high, thin apertures — the tallest in France. The openings were used by archers, three at a time, who defended the castle and its inhabitants.

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Najac: Mini Rocamadour

Najac is one of the Plus Beaux Villages de France — the most beautiful villages of France. The castle, owned by the Cibiel family, has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1925.

Andy Newman, thanks for the tip. Pass it on! 

mini rocamadour

 

Marseille, Resilient After All

Admittedly, my old view of Marseille came from mob and war stories in books, on TV and movies.

Now after visiting the city, I’m impressed. To me Marseille’s story is one of resilience. It shows how perseverance conquers adversity.

Marseille’s Story: Prehistory and Ancient Massalia

Marseille’s StoryThe earliest settlements in the area, now know as Marseille, date back to the Paleolithic period (60,000 BC). Residents lived along the Marseille basin which was about the size of the current city. The location was ideal for all types of sea activities. It was protected on the opposite side from the strong northerly wind, Les Mistral, by a range of tall mountains.

Around 600 BC the Phocaeans, Greeks from Asia Minor, arrived in the area to be close to their trading partner, Gaul. They named the city “Massalia.”

Marseille’s Story

Remains of Greek temple

A popular legend is that Massalia was a wedding gift from the Gallic king, Nannos, to his daughter upon her marriage to a Greek sailor. The story supports the belief that the nations were peaceful at that time. We do know the blending of the two cultures resulted in the introduction of olive oil, wine, ceramics and Grecian gods into the Gaelic world.

Marseille’s Story

From 600 BC to 49 BC the independent Greek city of Massalia grew into a prestigious seaport. Its sea trade, its infrastructure and its political system dominated the trade routes. They distributed goods along the coasts of Gaul to Iberia.

Marseille’s Story

Model of early Massalia

Marseille’s Story: The Roman City

Caesar captured Massalia in 49 BC. Artifacts unearthed at a site where the History Museum now stands attest to the Roman influence on the town. Massalia’s habits and customs, however, remained strongly Greek. Even the language.

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: Sacked, Ravaged, Back on Track

From the Roman age through medieval times, the city that became Marseille saw great prosperity and near-total destruction. The Visigoths captured Marseille and the Franks sacked it. In the early 10th century, Marseille experienced a revival as part of a Provençal territory which was divided in two. Arles and Marseille were the capitals.

During the twelfth century, Marseille was an independent republic with strong trade relations and naval prowess. A currency of its own boosted the city’s stature as well.

Marseille’s Story: A French Center of Commerce

Marseille’s StoryMarseille maintained political autonomy until it was absorbed into the Kingdom of France in 1481 along with Provence. Through years of religious wars and changes in French rulers, Marseille maintained its role as a major center of commerce and a vital port for defense. The city had an arsenal and fleets of warships.

Marseille’s Story

Fort Saint John

Under Louis XIV, Marseille was given “free port” status. To affirm his political power, the king ordered a new urban plan for the city. The size of Marseille went from 65 hectares to 195. Straight streets lined with mansions appeared, including the Canebière that leads to the Old Port. The new city had a fort and a new town hall.

The Great Plague

Thought to be carried from Central Asia through ship crews, the Great Plague of 1720 devastated Marseille. Over 30,000 out of the city’s population of 90,000 died from the outbreak.

Marseille’s Story

Marseille’s Story: The Revolution

The people of Marseille supported the Revolution sending hundreds of men north to Paris to fight. Along the way the rebellious marchers sang a song that is now the French national anthem, La Marseillaise.

Marseille’s Story

Troops from Marseille as depicted on the Arch de Triomphe in Paris

Marseille’s Story: Boom Time and Gangs

The middle of the nineteenth century was a “boom” time for Marseille. The port became a maritime hub for the rest of the world. Trade with the Far East and major shipping lines boosted the creation of a modern culture. At the same time, prosperity cut a deep wedge between the already divided city. The rich against the working class.

Marseille’s Story

Refugees, expelled or fleeing from their countries after WWI, brought droves of Italians, Corsicans, Germans, Armenians and Spaniards to Marseille in search of work. The world of gangsters and the underground grew under leaders such as Carbone and Spirito.

Marseille’s Story

Paul Carbone (top) and François Spirito

Marseille’s Story: Modern War and Destruction

The image of Marseille as a den of violence, drugs and crime is persistent in the eyes of many. Big screen movies and TV series, still today, such as “Marseille” help perpetuate the city’s reputation. Marseille is the second largest city in France today, so an element of such activity can be expected.

It’s how Marseille survived the apocalypse during World War II that is nearly incomprehensible.

Marseilles’ Story

German troops seal off the Old Port quarter of Marseille, the harbour side community.

The Old Port and surrounding districts were bombed and destroyed. The Germans, the Vichy government, the Militia and the French Popular Party actively suppressed the people. In January, 1943, more than 2,000 Marseillais were rounded up and sent to concentration camps. 

Like a phoenix, Marseille thrives. 

Marseille has an enduring charm. The metropolitan area of 1.5 million people consists of a melange of people of all races, creeds and nationalities. It is a place of huge economic, social and cultural significance to France. Marseille is proud and it shows.

Marseille’s Story

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

Memories Tour Day 12: A Wine Harvest Finale

How do you cap off an unforgettable twelve day tour of the South of France? By taking part in a wine harvest done the old fashion way, of course.

To make the day extra special, Nick Martin of A Wine Affair arranged for the “sensational sixteen” to visit a fifteenth century Mas and vineyard to experience grape picking and stomping.

Patricia Sands, author and tour leader, tells about the final day which ends with a spectacular dinner party in Arles.

And what a day this was! Have you dreamed of a mas in the south of France like this? Everyone in our merry band of travellers agreed they had.  This was a dream come true (Click here to read more)

Memories Tour Finale

Wish for France

Easy Day Trips from Uzès: UNESCO Pre-Historic Caves and Ardeche River Gorges

For visitors to Uzès there’s always something to keep you busy. If you’re not shopping on market day or wandering through the ancient town and discovering its charming streets and alleyways, you’re walking beside the stream in the Valle du l’Eure.

Perhaps you would like to venture out a bit more? See a totally different part of France, but travel only an hour or so away? Taking easy day trips to scenic and historic spots is another thing that makes Uzès so appealing.

Easy day trips from Uzés

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Gorges de l’Ardèche

The Ardeche River runs through southeast France from the Massif Central to the Rhône River at Pont-Saint-Esprit near Orange. Along the way the Ardeche tumbles into a gorge that’s surrounded in some places by limestone river walls over nine hundred feet high. Known as the “European Grand Canyon,” the area draws over a million tourists each year.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

In summer folks head to the Pont d’Arc at the entrance to the Ardeche canyon for canoeing, kayaking, swimming and picnicking.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

As you can imagine, in autumn the drive along the river and through the multicolored hillside is spectacular. Add a stop for lunch in the town of Vallon-Pont-d’Arc.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Whether pre-history or cave drawings interest you or not, the UNESCO park and Cavern du Pont-d-Arc is a must-see if you’re in this part of France.

You can spend hours exploring the nature trails in the stunning park.

Easy day trips from Uzés

Friend Paula is leading the way. Or not.

Or head straight to the ultra-modern, twenty-first century exhibition center, the Cavern du Pont d’Arc, that houses a replica of one of the most important prehistoric finds in the world. The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc Cave.

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The Chauvet-Pont d’Arc cave was discovered in 1994 by three amateur cave explorers. The cave’s interior is approximately 1300 feet (400 meters) with numerous chambers and galleries. Displayed on the walls, crooks and crannies of the cave are more than 1000 drawings dated from 32,000 to 36,000 years ago.

Cavern du Pont d’Arc

Caverne du Pont-d’Arc is a near-exact copy of the Chauvet cave which is the oldest known and the best preserved cave decorated by man. The modern-day designers of the Cavern were scientists and computer geniuses who mimicked every aspect of the original cave with the help of 3D graphics and highly advanced computer imaging techniques.

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On entering the exhibition area of the Cavern Du Pont d’Arc, you are immediately enveloped with the sights, the sounds, and, yes, even the smell of a 30,000 year old, Paleolithic shrine.

Easy day trips from Uzés

You transcend time to a place where Stone Age artists visited and left behind drawings to depict their everyday lives, images of themselves, their animals and their imaginings. Disney could not have done it better.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

 

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

“This is a scientific and cultural site with touristic potential,” says Sébastien Mathon, a scientist and one of the 500 artists, engineers and special effects designers who worked on the Pont d’Arc project.This is a place to give a sense of the origin of us all.”

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

If you’re wondering why you must visit a replica and not the real cave, there’s a good reason. The Chauvet cave was discovered in 1994 and sealed off to the public the same year. Why? Scientists discovered from the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne that CO2 from  humans breathing creates mold that deteriorates cave drawings. The destruction within the Lascaux Caves in the Dordogne was not to be repeated here.

The Aurignacian Gallery

While at the cavern plan to spend a few minutes … or hours, especially if you’re with children, at the Aurignacian Gallery. There you literally step back in time as you walk past life-sized humans and creatures that roamed this part of the world 30,000 years ago.

Easy Day Trips from Uzès

Easy Day Trips from Uzès: A Holiday Special Occasion

Visitors to the Cavern du Pont d’Arc December 27 and 28, January 3 and 4, 2018 are in for a big treat. You can meet the discovers of the Chauvet Cave, Eliette Brunel, Jean-Marie Chauvet and Christian Hillaire.

The cavern and park are open year round. If you want to skip the line, be sure to order tickets in advance.

https://m.facebook.com/cavernedupontdarc/

Behind French Garden Walls: A Bit of Silk Mill History

When driving down the backroads of France near Uzés, it’s a common sight to ride alongside tall stone walls. You know these beautifully laid stones must conceal something amazing. Perhaps behind French garden walls there’s a story to be told.

Behind French Garden Walls

Not too long ago I was privileged to be invited to visit inside the stone walls of a property I’d passed by often. I was given a tour through the magnificent seventeenth century home and the gardens, as well.

It was everything I’d imagined. And more.

Behind French garden walls

The home is owned by a charming Belgian woman whom I’ve been privileged to know over the last two years. She bought the property in 1992.

Behind French garden walls

Built in 1684, the house was part of a farm that later was devoted to the production of silk worms. A “Magnanerie” to the French.

Behind French Garden Walls

My friend was unsure of the dates the property was used for silk worm farming, but during a period of time after the house was built, the silk industry in France was heavily supported by the government. “There were 2000 mulberry trees planted on the property at one time,” she said.

Behind French Garden Walls

History shows that under Louis IV, grants, free water usage, interest-free mortgages and more were offered to encourage silk production.

Behind French garden walls

By 1815 the French were dominant suppliers of silk traded around the world. There were over 2300 communes in France that cultivated mulberry trees and milled silk, employing up to 350,000 people. More than half of them were in and around the Cevennes.

In 1809, the Prefect of the Gard counted 1,140,680 mulberry trees and 4,713,000 in 1831.

Silks from France experienced a blow in the mid-nineteenth century when an epidemic fatal to silkworms hit the region. Never fully recovered from the setback, the Franco-Prussian War, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the introduction of nylon, were the final death knell to the silk industry France had known.

Behind French garden walls

Behind French Garden Walls

A vineyard of 1200 apple trees replaced the chestnut trees behind the garden wall sometime during the twentieth century, my friend said. She removed most of them to install an array of gardens, filled largely with roses.

Behind French garden walls

Today the garden and house are open only to invited friends and visitors. I visited in the Fall then asked for photos taking of the gardens during the summer. So you can see how the seasons change so beautifully around the Magnanerie.

Behind French garden walls

The interior of the home is arranged and decorated just as artistically as the massive property.

Behind French garden walls

I hope you have enjoyed this visit behind one of the garden walls of France. For any who might be more than intrigued, the home and property are for sale.

Behind French garden walls

Perhaps it’s your turn to live the “dream.”

Behind French garden walls

Perfect Day Trip to sete

A Perfect Day Trip to Sete: Gourmet Tour and Oyster Farming

Co-leading a tour of the South of France with Patricia Sands for sixteen ladies was the ideal opportunity to design the perfect day trip to a Sete—one of my favorite places to go along the Mediterranean. But where to start? 

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France, my friend and tour destination planner extraordinaire, created a plan that highlighted Sete’s history, famous foods and oyster farming.

Come along and join the fun. Imagine you’re right there with us on the South of France Memories Tour with Nancy Mcgee and Patricia Sands.

Perfect Day Trip to Sete

Accccccccchhhhhhh

Pretend you’re enjoying the video I created about our perfect day in Sete. Guess what? I’m in the hospital. .. the video won’t download over the hospital WiFi! I’ll save the video for another place and time. While I’m experiencing technical difficulty and a new part of my adventure in France, the hospital system, please stay tuned to the Barefoot Blogger on Facebook for daily updates. 

Meanwhile… 

Patricia Sands is revisiting the Memories Tour on her blog. Oh, it’s so much fun traveling with these ladies! Read on…

On our first morning in Arles, we met on the front terrace of our hotel Le Cloître to set off on today’s adventure. This would become a favourite gathering spot, morning and evening, under the magnificent giant Paulownia tree.

 

South of France Memories Tour 2018

Day 1: South of France Memories Begin in Nice

Day 2: Around and About Nice: Memories Tour Day 2

Day 3-5 Hot Spots on the Côte d’Azur: Memories Tour Day 3-5

Day 6:Aix-en-Provence in One Day

Day 7: A Perfect Day Trip to Sete: Gourmet Tour and Oyster Farming

Day 8: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 8 ~ Arles

Day 9: Memories Tour/18 ~ Day 9

Day 10: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 10 – St. Rèmy and Les Baux de Provence

Day 11: Memories tour/18 ~ Day 11(part 1) – Pont du Gard and San Quentin la Poterie

Day 11: Memories tour/18 – Day 11, part 2 – Uzés

Day 12: Memories tour/18 ~ day 12 – Wine Harvest

Memories Tour Interrupted

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

6 Reasons Why You’ll Love Pézenas

Why will you love Pézenas? 

Pézenas is a small town that reminds many people of Uzès. In fact, when some expats are choosing a place to locate, it seems to be a toss-up between the two. Read on for a reason you’ll love Pézenas!

#1 Reason You’ll Love Pézenas

Saturday Market

Although the Saturday Market in Uzès has won awards and acclaim as one of the best markets in France, the market in Pézenas isn’t far behind.

#2 Reason You’ll Love Pézenas

One of the “most beautiful towns” in Languedoc

Pézenas, is considered to be one of the most beautiful towns in the Languedoc-Roussilon area of France. Once the political center of the États du Languedoc and the home of Parliament, the consul’s palace (Hôtel des Consuls) stands on one of the main squares (Place Gambetta). On market day the palace is surrounded by shoppers and tourists.

Hôtel des Consuls (Consuls’ Palace) on Place Gambetta in Pêzenas

#3 Reason You’ll Love Pézenas

Moliere Festival

The French Ministry of Culture designated Pézenas a Protected Area (Secteur sauvegardé) because of its over 30 historical monuments, including a monument dedicated to the French playwright, Moliere.

Apparently Moliere spent only a few days in Pézenas where he put on several of his less important theater works. Nevertheless, the town honors his contributions to the arts in France. Remember Moliere from the movie “Mozart.” If you’re like me, you’d like to know more.

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

#4 Reason You’ll Love Pézenas

Marianne, a symbol of the French Republic\

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

Statue of Marianne in Pezenas

She stands atop a column which is surrounded by cherubs riding dolphins. The column is inscribed with the motto of France: “Liberté, Égalité, Fraternité.” The statue in the Cours Jean-Jaurès. was molded in 1880. The fountain was built in 1887.

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

“Marianne”, a symbol of the French nation, standing in Pezenas

#5 Reason You’ll Love Pézenas

Architecture in Pezenas

During my short half-day stay in Pézenas, I was struck by the awesome architecture in the town. I understand most of the large building were hotels or homes. The French and other Europeans of long ago loved to stay or visit in Pézenas because of its beauty, culture and proximity to the Mediterranean.  Many of the town’s structures qualify for the  “Inventaire des Monuments Historiques” for their “porte à colonne et ponton” or “entrance with columns and carvings.”

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

Street scene on market day in Pezenas

#6 Reason You’ll Love Pézenas

Food!

For a solo female traveler, one of the things I often judge about a place is how comfortable I feel having a meal alone.  In Pézenas, the scenery around the eateries — especially those in the city squares — is enough to keep you company. Here’s my view at lunchtime.

The Plat Du Jour

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

Plat du Jour in Pezenas

Later, after spending more time than I should visiting with the designer at a fabulous jewelry shop …

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

… here’s the view when I stopped for an afternoon refreshment.

Pézenas is a MUST GO BACK TO! place. There’s so much more to see and do.  Stay tuned for more …

Reason You'll Love Pezanas

It’s St. Louis Festival in Sete. Time for Water Jousting!

It’s time for the St. Louis Festival in Sete. Gee, I hate to miss it this year. It’s always so  much fun: beach time, parties and the Sete water jousting competitions.

I’m in the States with family. Why now?  After four years in France, I’ve learned that August is a good time to leave — it’s hot and too many tourists in Uzés! Yet …

Sete water jousting

Water jousting on the Grand Canal

Sete Water Jousting

History of Water Jousting

If you’re not familiar with water jousting, it started centuries ago. Most notably in Egypt and Greece. Evidence of the competitions was found in stone carvings. The Romans were known to enjoy the sport. In lieu of water, they sometimes flooded the city arenas they used for people sports like gladiator fights.

Water jousting, or “joutes nautiques” began  in Lyon, France in the 12th century. In the 13th century, crusaders embarking on the Holy Wars with King Louis IX (Saint Louis) teamed up against each other in small boats outside Aigue-Mortes.

In Sete water jousting was first seen when the city celebrated the opening of harbor in 1666. Today the sport has become a tradition and is played pretty much the same.

Sete Water Jousting

The first time I saw the sport of water jousting was on a visit with Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. It just happened to be the St. Louis Festival. After that, I intentionally planned my visits to Sete for the late August wild and crazy weekend.

Some of you might remember one of the St. Louis Festival trips to Sete. I met the Bad Girls Groove Band of London for the first time. They rocked the main stage at the festival’s award ceremony.

Then there was the time when I was up close and personal with the winner of the week’s event.

Sete water jousting

Water Jousting Champion and “kiss the trophy”

Sete Water Jousting

By far the most exciting St. Louis Festival celebration for me was when the Sete Tourist Office invited me to attend the finals as a member of the “press.” Events included parties at the tourist office for jousting club members and special guests. And yes! Specialties from Sete like mini tielles and oysters were front and center.

Meanwhile at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) local members of the town administration and the jousting federation, in all their festive regalia, readied themselves to meet the crowd.

Yes, there was a party going on! Town square was mobbed with entertainers, jousters and fans.

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When time came for the championship match, the press crew marched alongside the dignitaries to the canal for the grand finale.

The Barefoot Blogger was in the parade! Yahoo! If that wasn’t enough, the press members were invited to jump in a boat and try their luck at jousting!

Nooooo…. not me!

Sete water jousting

A brave member of the Press ready for action

Sete Water Jousting

Yes, I’m missing the St. Louis Festival and a whole lot more. Where else can you run into this? Water jousting in Sete. Love it!

St. Louis Festival 2018 August 23-28, 2018

For a closer look at the tradition of water jousting in Sete, here’s a video from Culture Trip. Be sure to watch it in full. It’s a wonderful story about a family and their passion for jousting that’s passed from one generation to the next. 

 

Loire Valley Châteaux: Amboise and Clos Luce

Revisiting the Loire Valley …

The Barefoot Blogger is off to explore the middle of France: the Loire Valley châteaux and vineyards.

Along with me on the adventure through the Loire Valley is my good friend Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. The tour expert extraordinaire and I started out on the three day trip, plus two travel days.

Our home base on this trip is an Airbnb ‘chalet’ in Amboise. From there we can easily reach more châteaux and wine than we can possibly cram into three days.

Loire Valley Chateaus

Loire Valley Châteaux

Château Royal du Amboise

The Château de Amboise is in the center of the charming city that shares its same name. The first trenches of the château were built in the 4th century to defend the residents of the town.

Loire Valley Châteaux
The château was the home and place to stay for the Valois and Bourbon kings. Charles VIII was born here.  King Francis and children of Henri II and Catherine de Medici were raised here. Leonardo da Vinci, friend of King Francis, is buried on the property.

Loire Valley Châteaux

Château Amboise

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Inside Château Amboise

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Chateaux

The Gardens at Château Amboise 

An overcast morning made views of the gardens at Château de Amboise impressively dramatic.

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

After bidding Château de Amboise “avoir,” our next stop was the town of Amboise. 

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux

Loire Valley Châteaux: Clos Luce

Chateau Clos Luce and Leonardo da Vinci

The small château, Clos Luce, is within easy walking distance of downtown Amboise. It was here that Leonardo da Vinci was invited to live by King Francis I. DaVinci stayed at Clos Luce from 1516 until his death in 1519. He is buried on the grounds of Château de Ambroise.

Château Clos N itself houses over 40 of da Vinci’s inventions. An audio-visual presentation of his life and work, presented by IBM, instructs tourists as they move through the rooms.

Loire Valley Châteaux

 

Loire Valley Châteaux

Stayed tuned…

Follow the tour!

Hanging Out In The Loire Valley

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Wine Caves and Parties

3 Days in the Loire Valley: Château Clos Lucé and Leonardo Da Vinci

Loire Valley: Château Villandry and Living Large

 

Why Nimes is a “Must See” for Roman History Lovers

This a republished post by the Barefoot Blogger from France Today

Why is Nimes a “must see” for Roman history lovers? Because it’s a city where you can literally see, touch and experience Roman life in France during the days of the Roman Empire.

France has so many amazing places to visit it’s hard to decide where to start. If you’re a Roman history buff, you must visit Nimes to learn about Roman life in France. Unlike other places with rich Roman history that are now in ruins, there are many artifacts from Augustus Caesar’s time that are in active use still today.

Roman Life in France

Nimes

Roman Life in France

In Nimes you can walk on the same streets, into the same buildings … literally sit in the same seats as the Romans who once occupied this part of Gaul.

Visiting Nimes is more that seeing “remnants” of a Roman civilization. There are intact, still-standing Roman structures. A Roman temple, a Roman arena, a Roman tower. Places that are enjoyed now by real, 21st century people.

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée

 

Roman Life in France

Roman Amphitheater , the Arènes de Nîmes

 

Roman Life in France

The Tour Magne

 

Roman Life in France

The Roman History of Nimes

The area that is now Nimes was an established community as early as 400o BC. It was founded as a Roman colony (Colonia Nemausus) by Tiberius Claudius Nero in 45 or 44 B.C. for veterans that had served Julius Caesar under his command in Gaul and the invasion of Egypt. The name “Nemausus” was derived from the name of a Celtic god — the protector of the nearby spring that provided water for the early settlement.

Roman Life in France

Coin of Nemausus circa 40 BC

 

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 AD) and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée in Nimes

As part of the Roman Empire, Nemausus benefitted from great wealth — especially during the reign of Augustus (27BC-14 BC) — and from an era of relative peace, Pax Romana (Roman Peace).  The city reflected its opulence with grand architecture typical of a prosperous Roman colony. Among the most famous, the Maison Carrée was originally a Corinthian temple that dominated the city’s forum.

It is said that Thomas Jefferson became so enamored with the Maison Carrée during a visit to France, as foreign minister to the United States, that he had a clay replica made. He later used the model to design the capitol building of Virginia, his home state.

Roman Life in France

Virginia State Capitol Building in Richmond,VA

Roman Life in France

The Arènes de Nimes or the “Amphitheater”

In Roman times, the Arènes de Nimes could hold up to 24,000 spectators spread over 34 rows of terraces.  Divided into four separate areas, each section could be accessed  through hundreds of galleries, stairwells and passages.

Roman Life in France

Aréna in Nimes

The amphitheatre was designed for crowd control and ultimate viewing pleasure. There were no bottlenecks when spectators flooded in and all had unrestricted visibility of the entire arena. Several galleries and entrances were located beneath the arena so that animals and gladiators could access the arena during the Roman games.

The “games” included animal hunts with lions, tigers and elephants and gladiator matches. Executions were held, as well, where those in town who were convicted to death were thrown to the animals as punishment.

Roman Life in France

Inside the Aréna Nimes

 

Roman Life in France

After the times of the Roman Empire, Nimes fell into the hands of the Visigoths, then the Muslims. The Visigoths turned the arena into a fortress or “castrum arena” where the townspeople could gather in the event of an attack. When Pepin the Short, father of Charlemagne, captured the city in 752, the splendor that was Nimes was pretty much in ruins. It was not until 1786 that work began to be restore the arena to its original grandeur.

The Tour Magne (Magne Tower) remains a prominent structure in Nimes, erected during the reign of Augustus in 1 BC. It is said to have been built atop an earlier Celtic/Gallic tower from 15BC- 14BC. The tallest structure for miles around, the Tour Magne was used as part of the fortification that surrounded the city. What remains of the tower can be seen from throughout the city.

Along with the Roman buildings that are still in use today in Nimes, there are ruins of the early civilization that visitors can wander through or view.

 

Roman Life in France

The Porte d’Auguste, part of the fortifications of Nemausus, Nîmes

 

Roman Life in France

The so-called Temple of Diana, built during the Augustine era
(Photo by Carole Raddato)

 

Roman Life in France

Your Walking Tour of Nimes

The downtown area of the Roman city of Nimes is still alive. The most historic Roman monuments are within walking distance. To reach Les Jardin de la Fontaine, you might want to hop on a local bus. Visit the Temple de Diane while you are there. If you climb up to the highest levels of the terraced stairway, through more  gardens, you will reach the park-like area of Mont Cavalier. Further up the hill is the Tour Magne. It’s a hike to reach the tower, but it’s worth it if you want a view of the city from all directions. Take along plenty of water and, perhaps, a snack so that you can stop and enjoy the view along the way.

Roman Life in France

Historic area of Nimes

 

Step by step guide

  • Nimes can be reached by train, bus and car. The train station (GARE) is in the center of the historic area. Regional buses stop behind the train station as well. From the station, a pedestrian promenade leads straight from the station to the amphitheater.
  • Park at any one of the downtown parking lots. Just follow the blue P signs.  Some of the parking is outside and some in a garage. When I visit Nimes I park at the Marché (city market) that is outlined in purple on the map because it is so close to the Maison Carrée.
  • Start your tour at the Maison Carrée. A  20-minute film runs every 30 minutes during tourist season. It’s excellent and it gives you an overview of the history of Nimes. You can buy combination tickets that give you admission to the film, the amphitheater and the Tour Magne.
  • Walk to the Arèna (amphitheater). There are self-guided tours of the amphitheater with headphones and an audio presentation describing the days of gladiators. Stop along the way to the amphitheater, or afterwards, at any of the many cafes and restaurants for a more leisurely visit.
  • Walk past the Porte d’Auguste to view a part of the fortification that protected the ancient city. It’s not a short walk from the amphitheater, but it’s on the way to your next stop.
  • Les Jardin de la Fontaine is a “modern” part of Nimes that has a rich Roman background. It was built in the 18th century atop the ruins of Roman baths (thermal). You can stroll for hours in the garden enjoying the fountains, canals and seasonal plantings.

 

  • Tour Magne is your last stop. The tower is open for tourists (check the schedule) to wander through inside. A very narrow, spiral stairway leads to a viewing area where you can see the city of Nimes from all angles.

Here’s another reason why you must see Nimes

 Nimes blends the “new” with the “ancient”. A modern world among ancient Roman buildings.The Amphitheatre, for example, is the entertainment center used for rock concerts and other popular musical events. 

 Roman Life in France

Times amphitheater is home for huge music events

Roman history reenactments, with all the pomp and ceremony, are staged in the Nimes amphitheater each year.

 

Amphitheater in Nimes

Then there are the Ferias or bull fights in the amphitheater. The events are popular in the south of France still today and draw crowds for the weekend events. 

 

 

Regardless of the time of year you visit Nimes, there’s a party going on. 

Roman Life in France

Maison Carrée

 

For more information about the arena

Maison Carrée

More places to visit history in Provence

Film trailer of the history of Nimes, on view at the Maison Carrée

 

Roman Life in France

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

What a day! What a way to end the week traveling and touring in Dordogne. Let’s just say, it ended on a very high note.

My traveling companion and long-lost and found friend from grade school, Julie, and I put some serious miles behind us. We drove over four hours straight from Sarlat to Tours. I’m dropping Julie off at the train station in Tours tomorrow and heading back toward Uzes. Julie’s going on to Paris for a few days before returning to Colorado.

Before we ended our “reunion” tour, we were giving ourselves the last “treat” of our journey. As you may remember, we planned two special treats for the trip. One was an overnight stay and dinner in a chateau.  The last we scheduled for today. We ventured into the Loire Valley to see one of the most magical royal chateaus in France. More than that, we experienced the chateau from every angle possible.

Touring Chenonceau

The Château at Chenonceau 

Known as the “Ladies Château,” Chenonceau was built in the 16th century on the remains of a 14th century castle and mill belonging to the Marquay family. There are writings, however, that mention the castle and mill as early as the 11th century. Still intact from the Marquay era is the chateau’s well and the Marques tower which was restored in the Renaissance style.

The property is in the Loire Valley and has been inhabited throughout history by the mistress of a King, Queens, heiresses and business tycoons. It is currently owned by a member of the Menier family, famous for their chocolates.

I’ll leave the history and stories of the château for a later post. Today will be a photo tour. A most unusual one, too. I was particularly interested in the “crooks and crannies” of the place since everything else is in hundreds of books.

Touring in Dordogne

Château at Chenonceau

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

 

Touring in Dordogne: Chenonceau 


Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Touring in Dordogne

Part 2…stay tuned…

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 

 

inspirational-travel-quotes-13

 

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

Sarlat. You’re the winner. Of all the places I’ve been on my Dordogne tour these past five days,  I like you the best. 

Ok. I’m a sucker for market days. That’s how I fell in love with –and moved to– Uzes.

Take a look at Sarlat!

Dordogne tour

Market day in Sarlat

Dordogne tour
Dordogne tour

Dordogne tour

 

Dordogne Tour

Maybe what I fell in love with in Sarlat was the cool hand-made bag I bought from this guy…

Dordogne tour

 

Or the foie gras…



Dordogne tour

Dordogne tour

Dordogne tour

 

Or the walnuts (“noix” not “noisette”)



Dordogne tour

Dordogne Tour

Perhaps it was the buildings and the alleyways
Dordogne tour
Dordogne tour
Dordogne tour
Dordogne tour

Dordogne tour

 

…and the amazing church where I could feel the Spirit…

Dordogne tour
Dordogne tour
Dordogne tour
Dordogne tour

Dordogne Tour

I wish you could have been there to taste the galette and the cider.



Dordogne tour

The macaroons…

Dordogne tour

I’m sure you’d feel the same. 

Dordogne tour

It was so much fun we almost ended up with feathers braided in our hair!

Dordogne tour

Tomorrow’s adventure? A surprise!

Stay tuned…

For more about the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

Day five in the seven-day Dordogne marathon trip with my long-time friend, Julie, was one thing we looked forward to the most– Visit Rocamadour.

The village carved into a hill, Rocamadour, takes at least a half-day to explore. It is recommended you arrive early to catch the best view because it is east-facing. Oh well…today we took our time leaving the hotel and probably enjoyed the visit more because we were rested. There are lots of hills and steps to climb.

Visit Rocamadour

Walking tour map of Rocamadour

 

Visit Rocamadour

Walking tour map Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour

Rocamadour

 

Visit Rocamadour

I’d heard of Rocamadore many times, and seen pictures, I knew little about its history. Did you know the name of the village is really “Roc-Amadore” and it was named for Saint Amadore? Did you know that Saint Amadore was thought by many to be Zacchaeus of the Bible. Did you know a bone of Saint Amadore’s is enshrined at the chapel in Rocamadour?

Visit Rocamadour

Relic Bone of Zacchaeus

 

That’s only the beginning of the tales and legends of the place so many have visited. The eleventh century. Rocamadour is, in fact, a pilgrim’s center.

Visit Rocamadour

 

Aside from being along the trail of Compostella, Rocamadore’s holy relics bring worshippers there to “admire” to “contemplate” and to “pray.”

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Admiring” Rocamodore is easy. 

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour


“Contemplating” wasn’t easy with the crowds of people everywhere, even though vacation season is over. 

 

Visit Rocamadour

Praying” is inevitable when you realize the importance of the shrines throughout the village.

 

Visit Rocamadour

Remains of Saint Amadour inside

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Almost every town you visit in France has a memorial to their war dead. Rocamadore is no exception. Mostly remembered are the veterans of the “Great War” — World War I

Visit Rocamadour

Statue honoring war dead in Rocamadour

Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour
Visit Rocamadour

 

Of course, a day in France always means great food. That’s a given. And what’s a meal without a pichet of rose? 

Visit Rocamadour

Beautiful lamp chops!

Truly, I adore Roc-AMADORE.

Visit Rocamadour
Tomorrow.. Market day in Sarlat.

Stay tuned…

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 

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Seven Day Dordogne Tour

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

On the third day of the seven day Dordogne tour with my friend since kindergarten, we finally got it right.  

We narrowed down the “to do” list for our seven day Dordogne tour to a manageable number of places to see in one day. We came up with the concepts of “walkabouts” and “drive by photo shootings.” In other words, there are places where we want to park the car and walk around, and there are others we just want to drive through and take pictures on the run.

We’ve gotten quite good at spotting a perfect photo opportunity, slowing the car down to a near-stop, then Julie taking a picture out the window.

Today’s adventure started after we took more photos and checked out of our “dream” Chateau Mercués outside Cahors.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Chateau Mercués

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Home of Josephine Baker

First stop: Les Milandes, Chateau built by Caumont family in the 1400’s and former home of Josephine Baker. 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Chateau Les Milandes

The self-guided tour through the chateau and the immaculate grounds was well worth the time and 3.5 euros fee. Costumes and possessions of the American songstress and philanthropist, who dazzled Paris during the 30’s at the Follies Bergere were displayed throughout the chateau. Most rooms had the furnishings and decorations that were owned and used by Baker and her large family, the “Rainbow Tribe,” while living there. (No inside photos allowed.)

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Seven Day Dordogne Tour:  Roque Gageac

As if carved into the side of cliffs, Le Rogue Gageac is a small and friendly tourist town alongside the Dordogne. There were lots of tourists, but not so many as we imagined had filled the town a few weeks earlier.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Le Rogue Gageac

It was here we began to see our first signs of foie gras– the duck delicacy found famously in this part of the world.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Seven Day Dordogne Tour
Could there be anything better than a salad with duck gizzards, slices of smoked duck and foi gras, and a cold glass of beer on a day with temperatures in the high 90’s? (35 degrees Celsius)

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Domme

The picturesque town above the Dordogne valley was a bit of a surprise to me. I thought it was going to be much larger than it is. While quite a nice place with cute shops and cafes, Domme was a quick stop for us. Parking the car for an hour and walking around taking photos was quite enough for us to say we’d “done” Domme

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

I will say,  if we had not already stopped for lunch, this spot that looks over the valley would have given us a great view.

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Domme

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Sarlat

If I didn’t love Uzes so much, Sarlat could possibly be my next home. Oh my! To die for! 

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

After a “drive by photo shooting” in Beynac-et-Cazenet where the pictures of the town and chateau are still in Julie’s camera, we landed in Sarlat.

Today’s visit to Sarlat was short — mostly to find where to park and where to go on Saturday for market day. I can tell I want to spend more time exploring the place, its shops, cafes and intriguing back street.

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Sarlat

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour: Marquay

I’m not certain how we decided on this spot to stay for the next three nights, but the tiny village of Marquay is giving us a welcomed respite from our hurried pace.

 

Seven Day Dordogne Tour

Marquay

Actually, the small, family-owned hotel outside Sarlat is a good jumping off place for each of the next days on our trip. A “home base,” so to speak. It’s a far cry from the luxurious chateau last night, but it’s cozy and friendly, and everything we need to recharge and move on.

 

 

Next stop: Lascaux 

 

Stay tuned…

 

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

Day two on the week-long car tour from Uzes to Tours, through the Dordogne with my long-time friend, Julie, was hurried and hot–35 degrees centigrade. Happily we ended up in total luxury–a chateau!

There are two luxuries Julie and I splurged on during our 7-day Dordogne auto tour. One was to spend a night in a hilltop chateau and enjoy a fancy dinner. The other I’ll divulge later.

Check this out!

Dordogne auto tour

Château de Mercuès near Cahors

Château de Mercuès near Cahors is a dream come true! The thirteenth century chateau with its vineyards that produce superb Georges Vigouroux wines is a haven for travelers in search of history, truffles, saffron and Malbec.

 

Dordogne auto tour

Wine storage at Château de Mercuès

Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour

Starting the Dordogne Auto Tour

After a stop and start, scenic ride from Albi, through Galliac, Montauban, Lauzerte and Cahors, we landed at the Chateau in the late afternoon. Had we known better, we would have gone straight  to Cahors, spent time there, then we would have enjoyed a more leisurely visit at the chateau. Oh well…now I’ll just have to go back sometime!

 

Dordogne auto tour
We had plenty of time for dinner at the chateau, thank goodness. Plus a private tour of the winery with the hotel manager.

Here’s just a sample to whet your appetite. More details later.

 

Dordogne auto tour

Wine tasting with the General Manager at Château de Mercuès

 

Dordogne auto tour

Dinner menu at Château de Mercuès

 

Dordogne auto tour

Dordogne auto tour

Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour
Dordogne auto tour

 

Tomorrow, Sarlat! Stay tuned…

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 


Dordogne travel guide

7 Days in Dordogne: Step-by-Step 

A couple of years ago a friend from my growing up days in Charlotte, North Carolina and I reconnected on FaceBook. She now lives in Denver, Colorado. We were in school together from kindergarten through high school. Julie came to visit me in France after a cruise on the Seine. Together we took off to wander through Dordogne.

I challenged myself to record the highlights of our stops and share them with you along the way.  Here goes…

Day one: Uzes to Albi

A full day at Pont du Gard and Nimes meant we got a late start from Uzes today. Oh well…it’s a pleasure trip, so being rested to start was important.  Nevertheless, we were on the road and at our first stop — lunch — by 1:30. We had no idea where we’d take our first break, but decided we’d get beyond the major roads to Albi. Our goal was to reach Albi before the close of the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum at 6pm. Pulling off the road at du Bois du Four, seemingly in the middle of nowhere, there was a hotel, bar and restaurant. After a plat du jour of roasted chicken, potato au gratin and a corgette tartine, we rushed out to get back on the road.

Albi and Toulouse-Lautrec

The new Garmin for the car proved its worth in getting us “almost” directly to Albi. A few turnarounds is par for the course on any trip I make, it seems. Still we made it to check into the hotel and run across the Tarn River bridge to the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum.

It was so worth the rush!

The museum contains, perhaps, the largest number of pieces of original artwork, by one famous artist, that I have ever seen in one place. The exposition reveals the story of Toulouse-Lautec’s life as well as the evolution of his style. The presence of his work in the magnificent La Berbie Palace, in the center of town, is an homage to the respect Albi holds for one of its favorite sons.

Sainte Cécil Cathedral

As impressive as the rich collection of Toulouse-Lautrec’s work at the la Berbie Palace in Albi is the Sainte Cécil Cathedral. The gigantic religious structure is a testament to respect the area has for art, religion and architecture through the ages.

The project to build the cathedral was started in the thirteenth century. It’s history, that follows the tribulations and the triumphants of French religion and culture from that time, is a story unto itself that I promise to explore. Meanwhile, the beauty and reverence of the place is breathtaking.

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Because no day in France is complete without rosé and cheese, we finished our near-200 mile journey with hot chèvre and a creamy, cold gazpacho at a bistro near the banks of le Tarn.

dordogne travel guide

Stay tuned….

For more on the Dordogne

7 Days in Dordogne: Albi to Cahors

7 Days in Dordogne: Cahors to Sarlat

7 Days In Dordogne: Lascaux to Brantôme

7 Days in Dordogne: Rocamadour

7 Days in Dordogne: Market Day in Sarlat

7 Days in Dordogne: Up, Up and Away!

7 Days in Dordogne: The Finale

 

Albi to Cahors

travel-quotes-book

Visit Uzés France

Visit Uzés, France: Inside the Château de Duché

Any who visit Uzés, France are in awe of the Château de Duché. It’s the centerpiece of the town and home to the Duke of Uzés — the oldest ducal peerage in France.

If France was still a kingdom, the Duke of Uzés would rank just below “princes of the blood.” It is he who would announce Le Roi est mort. Vive le Roi! at each state funeral, and defend the honour of the queen mother.”

The Château de Duché was built in the 12th century by Lord Bermonde of the House of Crussol. Along with the château, three distinctive towers were erected within the wall of the medieval town. The most prominent tower of all carries his name — Bermonde Tower. All of the structures are standing today. The wall has disappeared and the wall’s watchtower is in ruins.

Visit Uzes, France

visit uzes franceThe gothic chapel, a striking feature of the château’s courtyard with its glittering red tiled roof, was added in the 15th century. During the 16th century, the cháteau underwent extensive renovations. Duke Antoine — the first peer of France, ordained by Charles IX — ordered refurbishments that morphed the medieval castle into an elegant Renaissance cháteau. The courtyard became the main attraction.

The château served as a defense unit during the War of Religion and the Revolution.  It was never attacked or destroyed. As the town went through various phases of wealth and decline, the château was used as a school dormitory, workshops and classrooms. During WWII the buildings were occupied by the Germans.Jacques de Crussol, the current resident of the Château de Duché and 17th Duke of Uzès has this to say about the state of Uzes during the era of his grandfather (1943-1999).

“Uzès was then steadily declining. The population of eight thousand at the time of Louis XIV had dropped to three and a half thousand. The revocation of the Edict of Nantes had already prompted some of the inhabitants to leave. Since the Revolution, the town had lost the bishopric and its tenure, the silk industry was practically non-existent, the Piémont régiment had gone, and so had the sub-prefecture. The arcades surrounding the Place aux Herbes rested on makeshift supports and many houses were in a state of neglect.”

It was the Duke’s grandmother, Anne de Rochechouart de Mortemart, who lobbied the Minister of Culture under Charles de Gaulle to list Uzés as a protected site, enabling the chatéau and the town to find funding for the much needed restorations. Due to the efforts of the Duchess of Uzes, a law is now in place in France that similarly benefits other cultural and historic sites throughout the country. The gutsy grandmother was the first woman in France to be granted a driver’s license. She was instrumental in campaigning for women’s rights, including the right to vote.

Tour of the Château de Duché

I’ve spent day after day staring at the Duché from my apartment windows and I’ve taken hundreds of photos every angle. Finally I found the perfect opportunity to visit inside — along with hundreds of other sightseers — during the Journées Européennes du Patrimoine or European Heritage Days. 

Come along and let’s take a tour.

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Visit Uzes, France

 

 

visit to Marseille

Marseille: A Stormy Past. A Brilliant Future.

A recent weekend in Marseille turned my perception of the city inside out. Now I can’t wait to return.

I’ll admit, a weekend in Marseille was not at the top of my travel list. Even though it’s less than two hours away from Uzés. It’s surely because I’ve watched too many movies and TV shows about seaports and gangsters.The trips I made to Marseille to the warehouse district and to the airport didn’t help either.  The warehouse district is definitely not a place for tourists. The airport is sprawling, uninviting and confusing.

Thank goodness, I was invited to Marseille to celebrate the birthday of a friend from Uzès. That, plus the promise of a great bowl of bouillabaisse, was enough to weaken my resistance. 

Marseille: A stormy past

For any who visit Marseille, start your trip at the History Museum. The totally modern museum that’s within easy walking distance to Le Vieux Port represents the history of Marseille in 13 sequences.

At the History Museum you have a glimpse of the ancient town, formerly known as “Massalia.” As you wander through the sprawling museum, generations of life and events in and around the seaport town unfold. Exhibits tell of of times from the Phocean Greeks of Asia Minor who founded the colony, to the 21st century when Marseille was named “European Capital of Culture.”

 

weekend in Marseille

 

Through its history of fortune and misfortune, Marseille has maintained a unique character that thrives on its diversity. 

 

Your Weekend in Marseille

What’s to do in Marseille over a 3-day weekend? Plenty. Even in the rain.

Tourist Office – Go here first for maps, tours and informations

Hop-on-Hop-Off Bus – Take your initial tour of the city on a bus with multi-language narration. Hop on/off as you please.

History Museum of Marseille – A look back in time 

Notre Dame de la Garde – Climb the steep hill to the Cathedral and enjoy the neighborhood and gardens along the way. 

Maison Empereur – The oldest hardware store in France (since 1827) A HUGE store to ramble through and purchase tools, kitchenware, toys, and more.

Vieux Port – The old seaport of Marseille, now a center of tourist activity with shops, cafes, fishing boats, sea vessels and the site of the Norman Foster “Umbrella”. 

Gare Saint Charles – The train station in the center of town, also a historical monument site, with its magnificent stairway that leads to the city.

La Canebrière – Shop along the lively street for a the taste, look and sounds of Marseille and its diversity. 

La Panier – The oldest district of the city, now an arty, funky tourists’ favorite.

MUCEM – An amazingly striking piece of architecture on the former port pier. Exhibits were disappointing but a visit to the building and adjacent Fort Saint Nicholas are a must.

Hôtel de Ville – Just a walk by is fine, but don’t miss seeing the bust of Louis XIV above the door.

Les Goudes – Just out of town from the city of Marseille, this small village is packed over the weekend, but the coves and views of the calanques are worth the drive.

For more about Marseille:

The Doors and Windows of Marseille

Marseille is for Foodies

weekend in MarseilleVideo soundtrack by George Brassens. Among his visits to Marseille was this signing event at the bookstore “La Boîte à bouquins” at 1, rue de la Bibliothèque

 

 

 

 

visit Orange, France

Three Very Good Reasons to Visit Orange, France

Not everyone who goes to Provence makes a stop in Orange, France. I’m not sure why because it’s not that far from popular places like Avignon and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. Plus, it’s an extraordinary place to visit. 

I’ve been to visit Orange, France three times now. For three different reasons. The first visit was with my son when he came to Uzés to see me for the first time. It was literally a “drive by” to take photos of the Triumphal Arch and the Roman Theatre (Théâtre Antique) and to stop at Vaison-la-Romaine. Mon fils loves to go to as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible. He’s also a wonderful photographer, so most of the photos I’m sharing with you are his. The second visit to Orange was to attend the opera, Madame Butterfly, at the Théâtre Antique d’Orange. The third trip was for a meeting of Network Provence (women’s business group) that gave me another chance to explore the theatre and town.

Orange is a town of just over 30,000 only 20 kms (12.7 miles) away from Avignon. It was founded as a Roman city in 35 BC. Like Nimes, Orange was established by Roman soldiers who were awarded with land for their service. Also like Nimes, the town was a cultural center with impressive structures like the Roman theatre, built before 25 BC.

1) The Roman Theatre (Théâtre Antique d’Orange) is the first good reason to visit Orange, France

One of the best preserved theatres from Roman times, the Théâtre Antique was classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. It still has its original stage wall which serves as the external wall. Once covered by an awning, the stage is now covered with glass. The theatre is has three tiers which can seat up to 9.000 spectators. The best seats are up front although none are what you would call comfortable. Hard as a rock, matter of fact.

visit Orange, France

 

visit Orange, France

2) The Opera is the second good reason to visit Orange, France

In 1869 the Théâtre Antique’s three tiers were restored so that the venue could rediscover its past,  hosting performances of the great Greco-Roman tragedies, as well as promoting French authors. Since 1971 the theatre has been home to one of France’s leading summer opera festivals, the “New Chorégies.

Last year I splurged to buy a ticket for “Madame Butterfly.” Seeing it in the magnificent amphitheatre was one of my most treasured memories of France. It’s well worth the cost to just be there.

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 3) The third very good reason to visit Orange, France is to see and experience the country’s biggest and most important sites of Gallo-Roman artifacts

Even if you’re not into history, you can’t help but be amazed by the ancient structures, including whole cities of Roman ruins that remain in and around Orange. In addition to the Théâtre Antique, a Roman Temple was discovered during the excavation of the amphitheatre. A Roman arch is a famous landmark in Orange and not far away are two Roman neighborhoods in Vaison-la-Romaine –Puymin and La Villasse.  Once part of the Roman city of Vasio, the neighborhoods span over two eight-hectare sites. While there can stroll along the paved streets where the Romans lived, worked and shopped. You can walk through the homes of the town’s wealthiest families. You can see what remains of the fountains and pools, the kitchen, the living areas and garden. You can witness the grand design of “Maison à la Tonnelle,” a 3000-m2 “mansion” built on 3 levels.

From the two neighborhoods, paths lead to a Roman theatre that was unearthed in 1912. Dating from the 1st century BC the theatre could seat 7000 people. Today it still serves as an event venue for theatre, chorales and dance. In the center of the Puymin site is the Théo Desplans Archaeological Museum. It contains a collection of more than 2000 everyday objects and decorative statues.

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Other reasons to visit Orange are the little shops and alleyways with all types of Frenchy things…

 It’s even more fun when you visit with a really good friend like Yetunde from Cook’n with Class who’ll show you the best places to eat.

Have you been to Orange? Tell me about it on a comment. What did you enjoy the most? 

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