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Archive for france

Medieval Splendor in France

By Linda Tancs

Château d’Angers, a medieval fortress in Angers, France, is a massive fortification in schist and limestone. Punctuated by 17 towers, it extends over 1,600 feet, surrounded by gardens large enough to complement its size. The gardens include the usual box trees and yews, as well as a vineyard, vegetable garden, rose garden, hydrangea garden at the royal dwelling, the hanging garden with medicinal and tincture plants and a number of species depicted on the Apocalypse Tapestry. A magnificent work of art, the tapestry is based on the New Testament’s Book of Revelation. Like every other part of the castle, its scope is grand, measuring 338 feet in length and nearly 15 feet in width. Once the property of René of Anjou (of the ducal line who occupied the fortress in the 14th and 15th centuries), the tapestry is situated in a specially-lit room to preserve it.

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Celebrating Plums in France

By Linda Tancs

You’ll go plum crazy in Metz, France, during the annual Mirabelle Plum Festival. Rounding out the summer program of festivities in the Lorraine region in August, the event promotes the iconic fruit of the region. The highlight is the election of the Plum Queen, but you won’t want to miss the parade, fireworks, local arts and crafts or les montgolfiades (hot air balloons) in the town center by the lake.

Europe’s Renowned Pilgrimage

By Linda Tancs

For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have trekked over the Pyrenees from France into Spain via a network of trails that make up the Way of St. James—El Camino de Santiago—converging at the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. Originating as a spiritual pilgrimage in honor of St. James, the 500-mile trek offers intrepid travelers a cultural immersion as well with cathedrals, bridges, Roman roads, monasteries, palaces, stately homes and traditional regional architecture placed amidst varying landscapes like plateaus and mountains, meadows and coastline. Be prepared for a 30-day hike if you commit to the entire route from France to Spain. Shorter routes could take less than a week to complete.

At the Foot of the Pyrénées

By Linda Tancs

Beautifully set between the mountains and the ocean, it’s easy to see why the ancient royal city of Pau, France, was a prestigious resort for aristocrats from around the world in the 19th century. No less popular today, this charming city at the foot of the Pyrénées is a winter mecca for skiers and a go-to destination for art and history buffs. Enjoy a walk along central Pau’s Boulevard des Pyrénées where countryside views and mountain panoramas prevail on clear days. The boulevard leads up to the castle of Château de Pau, birthplace of King Henry IV of France and Navarre. Another treasure is the Pau Museum of Fine Arts, one of Aquitaine’s biggest museums and home to masterpieces from the 15th to 20th centuries, including a famous painting by Degas.

The Oak Chapel

By Linda Tancs

The oldest known tree in France is an oak located in the small French farming village of Allouville-Bellefosse known as le chêne chapelle. Dating back purportedly at least 1,000 years, it presided over such seminal events in the nation’s history as the French Revolution, the reign of Louis XIV and Napoleon’s expansion of the empire. Its ancient trunk is now hollowed out and home to two chapels accessible via a spiral staircase around the trunk. Given its age, you’d better make haste to see this heavenly treehouse.

A Writer’s Inspiration in France

By Linda Tancs

Jules Verne was a French novelist, poet and playwright best known for his adventure novels like Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. A native of Nantes, France, he was inspired by the sailors’ tales that he heard on the docks of this maritime city at the mouth of the Loire River. So it’s appropriate that the Jules Verne Museum overlooks the river, in the Loire hillside where the Verne family’s country house can still be seen nearby. Located on rue de l’Hermitage, the museum is an easy walk via Chronobus 1 (Lechat) or Tramway 1 (Gare maritime).

French Wildlife in Savoie

By Linda Tancs

Vanoise National Park in southeastern France is the country’s oldest national park. Occupying over 130,000 acres, it stretches to the Italian border and is contiguous with the Gran Paradiso National Park in Italy. Originally founded in 1963 for the protection of the Alpine ibex (a wild goat that suffered greatly from hunting beginning in the 16th century), conservation efforts have proved fruitful. About 2,000 ibex reside in the park, the largest national population. Other animals found there include 5,500 chamois as well as marmots, foxes,  golden eagles, black grouse and perhaps rarest of all, the three-toed woodpecker, which purportedly has only ever been seen in Savoie and Haute-Savoie.

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