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Archive for france

Capital of Christmas

By Linda Tancs

The magic of Christmas is in full swing in Strasbourg, France. It’s recognized as having one of the best Christmas market destinations in Europe, spread across more than 10 sites within the Grande Île district. Known affectionately as the Capital of Christmas, its market (Christkindelsmärik) was established in 1570 and is one of the oldest in Europe. The whole city is festooned in Christmas cheer, featuring the Great Christmas Tree over Place Kléber, where a sound and light show takes place on the hour in the evening. Lights are everywhere, like the promenade of stars lining the walk from Pont du Corbeau up to Pont Saint-Guillaume. Getting there is easy; there are over 20 daily trains between Paris and Strasbourg alone.

France’s Sea of Ice

By Linda Tancs

One of the biggest attractions in France’s Chamonix Valley, Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice) is the country’s largest glacier, measuring over 4 miles long. The best way to get to it is to take the little red train from Chamonix (site of the first Winter Olympic games) to Montenvers. One of only a handful of rack-and-pinion railways in France, the train climbs a steep track to around 7,000 feet, reaching a stunning vantage point above the glacier. From there you take a cable car to a point near the glacier, which leads to over 400 steps and some ramps into a man-made ice grotto. That may sound like a lot of work to see an ice cave, but you’ll be rewarded with ice sculptures lit in a colorful, otherworldly fashion. You can also view an exhibition of beautiful mountain crystals found in the region.

Gateway to Burgundy

By Linda Tancs

Dating to pre-Roman times, the French city of Auxerre is officially labeled a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire (city of art and history) for its cultural significance. In the Old Town sector of the city, the 15-century clock tower (part of the original Roman fortress wall) dominates among ancient roads dotted with medieval wooden buildings. Another magnificent building dominating the skyline is Saint Germain Abbey, home of the Bishop of Auxerre from 418 until his death in 448. It houses a Museum of Art and History, which traces the history of the city from prehistory to medieval times. The city is also sometimes referred to as the Gateway to Burgundy, producing all of the usual varietals of the region. Once thriving with wine merchants and vineyards, Le Clos de la Chaînette (one of the oldest vineyards in France, dating to the 7th century) remains today. You can get there in under two hours from Paris.

An Impressionist’s Dream in Normandy

By Linda Tancs

Étretat is a commune in the Seine-Maritime department in the Normandy region of France. Long a haunt of Impressionist painters, it’s well known for striking rock formations carved out of its white cliffs, including the Porte d’Aval arch and L’Aiguille (the Needle), a pillar rising up from the Atlantic. The clifftop views are unforgettable and free to access. Once upon a time, Étretat thrived on its fishing trade and kelp was commonly harvested and burned on the beach for its iodine. At low tide, you may be treated to a kelp-covered beach at Porte d’Aval. Arrive at sunrise or sunset for spectacular photos.

Fortified in Corsica

By Linda Tancs

The fourth largest island in the Mediterranean, Corsica is a territorial collectivity of France sandwiched between France and Italy. Among its many charms is the 16-century fortified tower at Pointe de la Parata. It survives a series of defensive towers built between 1530 and 1620 by the Genoese (who once controlled the territory) to protect the island against Barbary pirates sailing from North Africa. Take advantage of direct flights from cities including Marseilles, Nice, Paris and Toulouse throughout the year.

A Beauty in Aveyron

By Linda Tancs

Belcastel is a French beauty. That’s not just mere opinion; it’s been officially annointed by the authorities as one of the most beautiful villages in France (Les Plus Beaux Villages de France). Located in the Aveyron region of southern France, the bulk of the village and its medieval castle are situated on the steep north bank of the Aveyron River. More than just a historical landmark, the castle hosts several art galleries. It even features a royal suite, where visitors can enjoy spectacular panoramic views of the Aveyron countryside, the village of Belcastel, the drawbridge and moat and some of the chateau’s gardens and courtyards.

Prehistoric Europe in France

By Linda Tancs

Move over, Stonehenge. Impressive (and famous) as it is, England’s prehistoric monument is dwarfed by Carnac, the largest collection of megalithic standing stones in the world. Situated around the French village of Carnac in northwestern France, the Neolithic structures are believed to be funerary monuments. Comprising more than 3,000 prehistoric standing stones cut from local rock, the site features stone alignments, dolmens, tumuli and single menhirs erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany. Due to Brittany’s abundance of megalithic wonders, take advantage of the Megalithic Pass, which will give you reduced rates of entry to nearby attractions.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

France’s Opulent Bunker

By Linda Tancs

Arguably, the most interesting aspect of Château de Brézé in France’s Loire Valley is what’s beneath your feet. That’s because the castle boasts an underground fortress opulent enough to function as the main house, which is why it’s referred to as a castle under a castle. The vast, limestone-hollowed tunnels include a kitchen, a stable, a drawbridge and wine-making rooms. Dating from the Middle Ages, the bunker was likely built to protect its owners against marauders. Less than a mile of this labyrinth is accessible to visitors. Of course, the tasteful apartments of the castle proper are not to be missed. Also be sure to check out the dry moats, the deepest in Europe at around 60 feet!

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Decorated Caves of the Vézère Valley

By Linda Tancs

Lascaux is the setting for a complex of caves near the village of Montignac in the department of Dordogne in southwestern France. It’s part of the prehistoric sites and decorated caves of the Vézère Valley. Anthropologically significant, it’s also a draw because of cave paintings, especially those of the Lascaux Cave. Discovered in 1940, the cave is of great importance for the history of prehistoric art. You’ll find richly detailed and colorful drawings in sectors with evocative names like the Hall of the Bulls, the Chamber of the Felines, the Apse and the Shaft. Best of all, you can tour it from the safety and convenience of your armchair.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Springing Up in Burgundy

By Linda Tancs

Tonnerre is a small town in France’s Burgundy region. Its vines date back to Roman times. So does its seemingly bottomless spring, Fosse Dionne. Used by the Romans to supply water to a nearby palace, it morphed into a public laundry in the 1700s. Encased in stone and surrounded by an amphitheater, it’s a popular tourist attraction today. Springtime snow melts produce a copious gush of water from this karst spring, the source of which remains unknown to this day.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

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