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Bubbly Bonnieux

Post by Sharat | August 21, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Bubbly Bonnieux

If you are travelling in Provence, then Bonnieux is certainly worth taking a detour for. The village is extremely attractive as it sprawls down a hillside, and though it has not been developed for tourism like many of the other villages in the region, it is well worth a visit. The village’s main road cuts through the centre of it and effectively disectsBonnieux into two parts. Most of the shops and restaurants sit in the lower part of the village whilst the winding alleys can be found in the upper part as they lead you to the church that stands at the very top of the hill.

Start of in the lower half

You should begin your tour in the village’s lower half. Start off by paying a visit to Bonnieux tourist office which is located on the corner of Place Carnot. You should ask them for a map that shows the village’s highlights. There are a number of information boards strategically placed through the village and the map will guide you to them. The only problem is that they are in French but they do show photos of how the places used to look.

Check out the lower half church

Whilst there are no cultural attractions in Bonnieux lower half, there is still plenty to see and enjoy as you stroll along the winding streets that meander through the village. In particular check out the lower church that was constructed in 1870 and has various items of interest that used to reside in the old church such as a number of paintings dating back to the 16th century.

Climb the staircase

After exploring the lower half of Bonnieux, you should climb up the long straight staircase named Rue des Penitents which will take you all the way up the hill to the top of the village. The journey will take you past the old town hall with its overly grand stone entrance. As you ascend the staircase you will see a number of narrow passages that lead off to the side and wind their way around the hill. Make sure you spend some time exploring these passages because there are some beautiful gardens and houses hidden away.

Lovely views

When you reach the summit of the staircase along Rue des Penitents there are some lovely views of the roofs of Bonnieux and the countryside stretches for miles beyond. The Chapel Notre-Dame des Sept Douleurs originally stood at this location but due to an earthquake early last century had to be demolished. The only remaining trace of the chapel unfortunately is the chapel. Nevertheless, the climb is worth it.

Bonnieux by Salva Barbera, on Flickr

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Beautiful Beaulieu-sur-Mer

Post by Sharat | August 14, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Beautiful Beaulieu-sur-Mer

If you want a lovely little holiday you should visit the small resort town which sits on the French Riviera called Beaulieu-sur-Mer. The main attraction of this village for visitors is without question the seaside. We cannot deny that Beaulieu-sur-Mer does not possess the immediate charm of some of the other towns and villages that are close by because it does not have the same kind of history nor cluster of seafood restaurants, but we still recommend that you do pay the village a visit because of its lovely promenade.

Lovely beaches

There are a couple of separate beaches at the seafront, plus there is an attractive small harbour that sits in the natural bay that separates the two. As you stroll around the harbour you can also enjoy the wonderful scenery of the cliffs behind the town. Right next to the coast is a very attractive building named the rotunda which is a round building built during the 19th century and is used to stage a variety of exhibitions. There is also a small park and a commemorative plaque that serves as remembrance for when the building was used as a hospital for wounded soldiers during the Second World War.

Villa Kérylos

Without a doubt, Beaulieu-sur-Mer’s main attraction is the Villa Kérylos which was constructed during the early part of the 20th century. The villa is basically a recreation of a luxury Greek Villa that you would have expected to see in Greece during the second century BC and the building sits right next to the water front. When you go inside the building you will find plenty of rooms filled with mosaics as well as a colonnaded central courtyard, marble panelled walls and other decorations you would associate with that time period (though it must be said that some of the furniture does look like it was made in the 19th century). There is also a gallery that features a number of casts of famous Greek statues. The villa is also regularly used as a centre for many musical and theatrical events so it is best to as what is happening there when you visit.

France July 2004 (20) Beaulieu-sur-Mer by Mark Hills, on Flickr

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Guide To Les Baux-de-Provence

Post by Sharat | August 7, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Guide ToLes Baux-de-Provence

Les Baux-de-Provence is a small village that is located about a 20-minute drive South of Avignon in Provence. The village lies within the Regional National Park of the Alpilles and it is believed to be France’s most visited village. An estimated 2 million people come to visit every year and it should come as no surprise that it is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in France.

Exploring Les Baux-de-Provence

Les Baux-de-Provence is a typical perched style village that is associated with region. There is a very scenic drive up the to the village and when you arrive, you will find that it is completely pedestrianised. When you arrive you can park your car outside the Northern end of the village. You can enter Baux-de-Provence through the Porte Mage gate which was built in the 19th century to complement the village ramparts. The tourist office lies just inside the entrance to Baux-de-Provence and is named the King’s House. You should request the attendant for a plan of the village before you begin your tour. Today’s village mainly dates back between the 15th and 16th centuries.

The museum

Les Baux-de-Provence most important tourist attraction is its museum which is located on the right, less than 100 metres after entering the village. It is called the Musée des Santons and there are a number of exhibits of figurines that were made in Naples during the 17th and 18th centuries that depict what most people would call traditional Provencal costumes as well as a Christmas crib. You should continue your tour along the Rue de la Calade until you reach the village centre which consists of two small squares, the Church of Saint-Vincent and the Chapel of the Penitents Blancs.

The church and chapel

The Church of Saint Vincent was built in traditional Roman style during the 12th century and also has a Renaissance extension that was added to it during the 17th century. The chapel was also built during the 17th century and features a number of frescoes that were added during the 1970’s. When you arrive at the Place Francois de Herain you will see a lovely town house named the Hotel de Porcelet that was built during the 16th century and features leaded windows. When you wander inside you find rooms decorated with 17th century frescoes that are well worth checking out. If you are planning to visit Provence you should certainly put Les Baux-de-Provence on your itinerary.

Les Baux-de-Provence {juni 1996} by Esther Westerveld, on Flickr

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Visit Barjols

Post by Sharat | July 28, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Visit Barjols

Barjols is a small town in Provence that sits on a hillside that is gently sloping in the quiet countryside of the Var department. The town’s most unusual characteristic is the sheer number of wash-houses, fountains and waterfalls that you will find as you wander around it. Many of them come with decorative stonework and are really beautiful to look at. In total, the number of fountains and wash-houses exceeds 40. Arguably the most unusual of which are the mushroom shaped Fontaine du Champignon and Fontaine Raynouard.

Centre for leather production

Because there were so many sources of natural water, Barjolsnaturally prospered as a centre for tanning leather over a period of several centuries. In fact, by the time the 19th century arrived, Barjols was perhaps the most important centre for the production of leather in all of France, which persisted until the 1970’s when cheaper leather started being imported from North Africa.

Tanneries converted into art galleries and workshops

Many of the original tanneries have been converted into artist workshops or art galleries. Some of them exhibit art to the general public and several contain paintings and sculptures that have reached a very high standard. This means you make sure you give yourself enough time to explore as much as you can. You should begin on the Rue des Tanneurs which is located in Barjols historic centre.

Visit the church

The Collegiale Church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption is Barjols most important religious monument. The church itself is ancient and can trace its origins as far back as the 11th century. The structure itself has been substantially modified since then and despite five centuries of reconstruction work, the church continues to retain some of its original interesting features. This include the decorative doorway from the original 11th century church, whilst the rest of the structure is built in a gothic style dating back to the 16th century. When you enter the church, you will see carved stalls that also date back to the 16th century as well as plenty of beautiful large stained-glass windows. If you are planning on visiting Provence, you should consider putting Barjols on your list of places to see.

Barjols, by s.jon80 on Flickr

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3 Day Short Break Offer To France From P&O Ferries – Offer Ends 18-08-2017

Post by Sharat | July 25, 2017 | Travel Deals | Comment
P&O Ferries

P&O Ferries have a great offer on three-day short breaks between Dover and Calais for a car and 9 persons. All you need to do is make a booking and travel on or before 18th August 2017, enter coupon code –SUMMERBREAK1 at checkout and you could get a three-day return ticket for just £69.  Hurry. This offer ends on the 28th of September 2017 so head on over to the P&O Ferries site today.

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Lovely Bargeme

Post by Sharat | July 21, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Lovely Bargeme

Bargeme is a lovely little quaint village located in the North-Eastern part of Provence’s Var department. It is officially the department’s highest village, standing at 1097 metres above sea level. This means it should come as no surprise that Bargeme has some spectacular views across the region. However, there is more to this village than its views since Bargeme has officially been classified as one of France’s most beautiful villages.

Exploring Bargeme

Bargeme is small and quiet outside the summer season. If you are visiting Provence, then taking a detour and visiting the village is an experience worth having. Because it is rather remote, getting there does take a while, though you will be rewarded by the views and unspoiled character of the village once you arrive.

Head in through the old town

You should make your way into the village through the lower part of the old town where there is a large stone entrance. The entrance is part of the original fortifications of the town. There are several of these old fortifications that you will come across and it is difficult to believe that a few centuries ago this isolated village required such imposing defences.

Wander round the village

You should take a stroll up the hill and wander through the quiet streets that pass through the village. You will come across some traditional old houses, small gardens and stone walls. Whilst the village centre is small it is also extremely beautiful with plenty of plants and trees that line the cobbled paths. At the village’s highest point, you will find the very imposing Chateau de Sabran de Pontaves. The chateau was constructed during the 13th century and the village developed around it.

Visit the castle

The castle is now in ruins as a result of the damage done to it during the Wars of Religion. Don’t let that dissuade you from making the trip because a substantial part of the main building still exists and its walls and towers still dominate Bargeme’s skyline. Right next to the castle you will find the Church of Saint Nicolas which was built in gothic style. If you are planning a trip to Provence then we highly recommend you tread slightly off the beaten path and visit the lovely village of Bargeme

Bargème by Jean Latour, on Flickr

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Beautiful Barcelonnette

Post by Sharat | July 14, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Beautiful Barcelonnette

If you decide to visit Provence then you should certainly put Barcelonnette on your itinerary. There is plenty to enjoy in this charming little town although conspicuous by their absence are extremely old buildings. There is good reason for this, much of the town was destroyed by a fire which took place in the early 17th century. As a result, it should come as no surprise that most of the buildings in Barcelonnette can trace their origin back to the 17th century.

Explore Barcelonnette

Arguably the top attraction when you visit Barcelonnette is its clock tower which was built during the 14th century and was originally part of a convent that was established during the 13th century. The convent was damaged during the fire and was subsequently rebuilt during the 17th century with additional modifications and restorations made during the 19th century. You should also check out the bell-tower on the Church of Saint-Pierre also built during the 17th century and the fountain which you can find in Place Manuel which serves as the town centre.

Barcelonnette is also famous for its many sundials that feature on a number of buildings. It may sound a little strange but if you do decide to visit Barcelonnette then you should make a stop at its cemetery. There are huge tombs set against a spectacular mountain backdrop that make it well worth visiting. As you stroll through town, there are lots of shops and restaurants that you can stop off at for a meal or a spot of shopping to distract you.

Mexican Villas

Barcelonnette has one extremely noticeable characteristic. The town has several grand houses that are collectively known as the “Mexican Villas” and are built in numerous styles more often than not surrounded by extensive gardens. They were constructed between 1890 and 1920 by people from the town who had made a fortune in Mexico and then returned to establish a community in the town. Oddly enough, whilst many of the houses do have Mexican names and are known as Mexican villas their architecture is not Mexican in nature.

The Mexican connection

It was Barcelonnette’s harsh winters that led to a connection being established with Mexico. Whilst some people who lived there chose to lay low during the cold season, keeping themselves busy weaving wool or with other indoor activities, others chose to go abroad to look for work. The Arnaud brothers from the town settled in Mexico during the 1820’s opening a textile shop. Their success provided other people with the incentive to leave Barcelonnette and try their luck as well. Some were very successful whilst others who decided they had made enough money chose to come back home and build beautiful villas for themselves.

_DSC3233, by Herman Pijpers on Flickr

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Brilliant Bandol

Post by Sharat | July 7, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Brilliant Bandol

Bandol means different things to different people. For example, for boating enthusiasts the town is loved for its vibrant harbour which can house up to 1500 boats of all sizes at any particular point in time. Another example is if you are a land lover then Bandol is a beautiful beach town that buzzes with activity. Bandol is located in the Western part of the Cote d’Azur that is very popular with tourists because of its proximity to the coast and wines that are grown nearby.

The promenade

If you do visit Bandol then the highlight of your trip will be the promenade around the harbour. The promenade is a beautiful tree lined walk surrounded by some lovely pastel painted houses. There are a number of bars and restaurants around Bandol port which are ideal for chilling out, people watching and of course eating. If gambling is your thing there is also a casino as well.

Explore the square

Apart from the harbour, there are a number of beaches that are near to the centre of Bandol. The accessibility to the good beaches which are separated by rocky coves as well as the hills behind Bandol make the town a very pleasant resort. You should also take the time to explore the streets surrounding the square which is a fascinating experience with something that will surprise you around each corner. For example, there are small ancient houses, a very old fountain and much more.

Bandol beaches

As we said earlier if you are a beach lover then you will love Bandol with its wide variety of beaches to choose from. There are a number of sandy beaches in the town as well as smaller creeks and rocky bays that you can get to by taking a short walk along a path that follows the coast for a short distance. The vast majority of the sandy beaches lie East of the centre however it should come as no surprise that the sandy beaches in the centre of town are the most popular with tourists and during the summer can become very crowded.

Downtown Bandol by Robert Nyman, on Flickr

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Avignon Bridge

Post by Sharat | June 28, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Avignon Bridge

The Avignon bridge was built in the 12th century and is part of the UNESCO listed historical centre of Avignon. There are only remnants of the bridge that remain. Just four of the original 22 arches which stretch across the Rhone are left. Nevertheless, the bridge itself continues to be one of Avignon’s most popular attractions. If you are visiting Provence then Avignon must certainly be on your itinerary and so you should certainly check out the bridge.

History of the bridge

Bénézet was a simple shepherd who claimed he heard the voice of god commanding him to have the bridge built. He also had an amazing ability to get people to listen to him and it was he who raised funds to get the bridge constructed. Up until that point, the only way to cross the river was by boat. Once the bridge was completed, traffic across the river dramatically increased and at the same time the local council was able to raise a great deal of money by charging a toll for every crossing.

Oak foundations

The foundations of the bridge are of oak. The bridge builders used great oak trunks that measured up to a metre across and sharpened them like pencils. The pointed ends were reinforced with iron straps and then the posts were driven into the river bed. This became the base upon which the stone bridge was then built. There also used to be a chapel on the bridge also dating back to the 12th century where Bénézet was buried.

Visiting the Pont d’Avignon

You enter the bridge through a tower which has been fortified and also provides access to the top of the bridge. Unfortunately, the first part of the bridge now passes through an extremely busy road which is a major distraction. You can however, walk out along the top of the bridge to the end of the remaining section. One thing you will definitely notice, is that when you are on the bridge, the one thing that is not possible to see clearly is the bridge itself! This is because railings runs all the way round the edge of the bridge so you are essentially walking out onto a platform with no indication that it really is an ancient bridge. If you want a good view of the bridge, then head to the banks of the Rhone a little upstream from the bridge.

Avignon – Pont St Bénezet (3) by JeroSig, on Flickr

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Ancient Aups

Post by Sharat | June 21, 2017 | See France Destination Guides | Comment
Ancient Aups

You can find Aups in the Northern part of the Var region. In fact, it is located in the very heart of Upper Var. Aups is one of the thousands of lovely looking hilltop villages you will find in Provence. Beauty aside, exploring Aups is a very pleasant experience. You will find something on every corner in the town’s narrow street ranging from fountains to small squares filled with cafes, sundials and shady trees. The village is set against a pretty backdrop right on the edge of a plateau with what remains of a medieval castle standing watch above the village.

Exploring Aups

You should start your tour of Aups at the village tourist office which you will find located just outside the village’s historic centre. The first monument of interest you will come across is the Collegiale Saint-Pancrace which was built during the 16th century and now houses a small museum of art. From here you should journey further into the ancient village. Wandering the streets of central medieval Aups is a truly enjoyable experience. You will love the small chapels, ancient houses as well as the original village fortifications and its gateway.

The sights are all located near one another

The main sights you should seek out are clustered close to the Chapel Notre Dame de la Délivrance which is a small chapel that was constructed in the 19th century. From here you will be able to see a clocktower with a campanile that can trace its origin back to the 16th century and was originally built to serve as a lookout tower. You should also check out the Porte des Aires which is a gate that you enter and exit the medieval ramparts of Aups and date back as far as the 12th century.

Some interesting museum

You should also pay a visit to the Simon Segal Museum which features some interesting local and other paintings. Even if you decide you won’t visit, you should still check out the pretty old convent building the museum is housed in. There is a small statue of the Virgin Mary embedded in the wall that commemorates one of the worst days in Aups history. In 1574 the village was attacked and many young people were slaughtered at this location.

A window with a tile drip hood, Aups, Var, Provence by Spencer Means, on Flickr

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