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Excellent Eze

March 14, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Eze is a medieval French village sitting high up on a hill overlooking the French Riviera in Provence. As you would expect from such a location, there are fantastic views of the coast and across the sea. Whilst Eze is indeed extremely close to the Mediterranean and the resort of Eze-sur-Mer, because of its unique location it takes about half an hour to reach by car if you are driving from the coast. We highly recommend you pay it a visit, because Eze is one of France’s most beautiful villages which is high praise indeed. Its beauty and its location meansEze attracts lots of tourists and can become crowded but don’t let that put you off visiting because it really is worth it.

Exploring Eze

The entire village is pedestrianised which means if you drive there you will need park in the car park below the village. Right next to the car park is where you will find the village tourist office where you can obtain a tourist guide and map that will make exploring the village easy and provide you with information about attractions you should keep an eye out for. As you climb the hill on your way to the village you will spot the church and eventually reach the narrow-paved streets of the village centre that are entered through a 14th century gate.

Alleys and streets

There are a myriad of alleys and streets to explore in the village and you will find beautiful courtyards or a picturesque house every time you turn a corner. Most of the houses now serve as shops, art galleries or restaurants. Make sure you take a stroll along Rue du Barri which will take you to the Chateau de la Chèvre d’Or hotel. From there keep climbing the hill and wander through the village alleys and staircases where you will stumble upon many places of interest.

Galleries and cafes

You should check out Place Francis Blanche and its many streets that are extremely picturesque and filled with art galleries and cafes. You will also see some small fountains and beautiful windows and doors all of which add to the charm of Eze. On the edge of the old village you will find an orange church that was constructed between during the 18th century and features a neo-classical façade. Whilst it does look plain on the outside when you enter the building you will be impressed by the décor, paintings and frescoes.

Exotic garden of Eze

If you visit Eze make sure you visit the gardens and pay the entry fee, you will not regret it.In fact, if you don’t you will be missing out. The entrance to the exotic gardens are near the top of the village and the gardens are set amidst the ruins of a medieval castle. The semi-tropical gardens are beautiful and there are splendid views across the village rooftops and coast to be had which more than makes up for the cost of entry. There is a wide range of plant life as you would expect from a garden, plus there are areas where you can rest and relax. When you reach the summit of the garden you will arrive at the belvedere which is the best vantage point of the village and the Mediterranean.

Jardin exotique d’Eze by Sylvain Leprovost, on Flickr

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Electric Entrevaux

March 7, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Entrevaux is a small medieval village in Provence. It is extremely picturesque thanks to its position that is raised above a bend in the Var river. The village is surrounded by mountain slopes and you enter it by crossing a narrow bridge and passing through a gate in the town’s fortified walls. Entrevaux has three medieval gateways in various parts of the town. If you are thinking of heading to Provence for a holiday you may want to make a stop at Entrevaux and see what it has to offer.

Exploring Entrevaux

Within the town walls there exists a warren of winding streets dotted by ancient houses just waiting to be explored. You will see some lovely squares and their prerequisite babbling fountains. If you enter the houses you will find that many have some fascinating features so make sure to take a gander along the narrow side streets to get a real sense of the town.

Check out the sun dial and communal bakery

There is an oil mill in Entrevaux that dates back to the 18th century and continues to operate to this very day which even for Provence is extremely unusual. Another attraction of interest is the sun dial on the Maison Fulconis which has been serving as time keeper for the village residents since the 16th century. Make sure you check out the communal bread oven which is nicknamed the “four banal” because it used to be the town’s only bakery and residents were forced to purchase their bread at prices set by the local aristocracy.

The church

You should also pay a visit to the small ‘Cathedral of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption’ which is located on the edge of town. Many people still call the church a cathedral but in fact this building which was built during the 17th century lost its official role in 1790. There is a carved stone entrance that you need to pass through in order to get inside the building where you will find an ornate choir and an 18th century organ.

Visit the citadel

After you have toured all the main attractions in the village wander up to the citadel that was constructed during the 11th century and sits on a high rocky outcrop overlooking the village. The citadel can be reached by climbing a steep path that will take you right up to the edge of the rock. It’s a bit of an effort and you will end up feeling hot and sweaty but the views of the village from the citadel will make all the effort to get there worthwhile. If you head back in to Entrevaux, end your tour with a visit to a most unusual museum dedicated to small motorbikes and mopeds. It’s a pretty strange concept for such a small village but there are examples dating back to the 1920’s so it worth checking out.

Entrevaux by dierk schaefer, on Flickr

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Enticing Entrecasteaux

February 28, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Entrecasteaux is located towards the North of the Côtes de Provence vineyards and wine producing region and the town is set against a backdrop of wooded hills. It sits in a relatively quiet part of Provence and is one of the region’s many unspoiled towns. Whilst few people visit this part of Provence, it is actually easy to reach either from the Mediterranean coast or from Gorges du Verdon. If you wish to see something new, then Entrecasteaux with its traditional Provencal charm that these days is hard to find is a great alternative destination.

Exploring Entrecasteaux

Entrecasteaux is extremely pretty and there are lots of things to see and do along its medieval streets. There aren’t that many important monuments but there is plenty of beautiful architecture such as pastel painted houses, cobbled staircases and vaulted passageways that add a lot of individual character. There are a couple of Roman style churches in Entrecasteaux. You should check out the Church of Saint-Sauveur and also pay a visit to the Chapel of Notre-Dame l’Aube. If you want a lovely view across the village rooftops then head to the Chapel of Saint-Anne.

Entrecasteaux castle

Towering over the village is a chateau that stands at one end of Entrecasteauxand is the main tourist attraction. The chateau sits on the site of an earlier fortress and was built between the 15th and 17th centuries. There is very little left of the medieval fortress that used to be located where the chateau now stands. The chateau is built in a typical Provencal style and does not have an ostentatious exterior that you find in other parts of France. Inside Entrecasteaux castle the rooms are filled with tapestries, period furniture and other items.

The gardens

The gardens of the castle were laid out by le Norte who was the designer responsible for planning the gardens of Versailles. These gardens of course are far less grand, nevertheless the geometric clipped hedges serve as a fantastic backdrop for the castle. If you wish to visit the castle then you need to come between Easter and the end of September when it is open to the public. The cost of entry is eight Euros and the castle is closed on Saturdays.

Entrecasteaux, on Flickr

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Exciting Embrun

February 21, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Embrun is located about 30 kilometres away from Gap in France’s Provence region. The town sits on a cliff just above the river Durance and underneath Mont Guillame. This means Embrun is in a very attractive location which unfortunately has meant some parts of the town and the countryside which surrounds it have been over-developed. Despite that fact, much of the historical centre of the town has been retained and there are some tourist attractions that are well worth seeing. If you are thinking about visiting Provence for a holiday then you may want to think about checking out Embrun whilst you are there.

Exploring Embrun

You should begin your visit to the old town centre, more specifically, around Place Barthelon which serves as the location of the town hall and some lovely cafes. You should take a stroll through the streets many of which have been pedestrianised. What you will find is that Embrun is quite a typical Provencal town. There are lots of cafes and shops, plus plenty of interesting buildings painted in wonderful colours and there are a wide variety of architectural highlights including some beautiful little squares which contain some decorative old fountains.

The cathedral

Embrun does have some historical monuments and the most important of which are the Cathedral Notre Dame du Réal and the streets that surround it. The cathedral was built in Lombardy style and is particularly impressive thanks to its uniquely decorated façade featuring a large central rose window. Make sure you go inside to see the fabulous organs and the treasury. The walls inside also feature some lovely patterns as well.

Stroll along the river

Adjacent to the cathedral is a 13th century square donjon that used to be part of Embrun’s defensive structure. Other interesting attractions in this town include the Archbishop’s garden and the chance to take a lovely stroll to a vantage point across the river. You should also be sure to visit the Maison des Chanonges which was also built during the 13th century and has an understated beauty and features a wonderful decoration of a lion feasting on a goat (don’t worry it’s not gory).

The Maison

The building has some beautiful arched windows and a doorway which were revealed following extensive renovations. You should take a look at a photo of the building prior to its renovations which hangs on the wall and you will be amazed by the fact that such a wonderful looking building now looks so ordinary.

Embrun, by Office de Tourisme Embrun on Flickr

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Dynamic Draguignan

February 14, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Draguignan is a major conurbation in Provence. Whilst this town is not a traditionally important destination for tourists visiting Provence, over the last few years there have been improvements made to the town centre and it has become an increasingly popular destination. The town is also attractive because it has one of the region’s largest shopping centres, so if you are visiting this part of France on holiday, you may want to think about checking it out.

Exploring Draguignan

Much of Draguignan’s historical old town was demolished in order to make way for broad tree-lined boulevards during the 19th century that now completely surround the old town. These wide avenues are a significant contrast to the old town which consists of a warren of narrow streets that open on to squares with the pre-requisite traditional fountain and some interesting looking houses. In fact, if you like medieval architecture then some of the best-preserved houses from that age can be found on the Rue de la Juiverie.

History and culture

The clocktower that was built during the 17th century is a particular highlight of the town. It is a square tower that sits on a raised rocky piece of land right above the town. Draguignan also features a beautiful public garden as well as a war memorial and cemetery for American servicemen killed during the Second World War landings off the coast of Provence in 1944. There are also a couple of museums in town that are worth visiting. You should check out the Museum of Provencal Traditions which presents a detailed history of agriculture in the region. You should also pay a visit to the Municipal Museum which displays artefacts representing the town’s history at various points in time. If you do intend to visit, do it either on a Wednesday or a Saturday because those are the town’s weekly market days.

Attractions nearby

On the outskirts of Draguignan is a site called the Fairy Stone which is a large prehistoric dolmen. It is extremely impressive and consists of a giant slab of stone that sits two metres above ground, supported by three enormous rocks. Draguignan is relatively isolated in comparison to some of the more visited towns and cities of the Var department which is why it doesn’t attract more tourists. There are a number of other small towns and villages that are close by such as Les-Arcs-sur-Argens andFlayosc that to this day continue to exhibit the traditional character of old Provence that are well worth visiting.

toitures, centre-ville (DRAGUIGNAN,FR83) by Jean-louis Zimmermann, on Flickr

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Guide To Digne-les-Bains

February 7, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Digne-les-Bains is a town in Provence located below the Cousson mountain on the banks of the river Bléone. It sits in a region filled with thermal springs in the South-East of France. The town likes people to refer to it as the lavender capital because this variety of flower is grown across large parts of the surrounding countryside. The town used to simply be called Digne until 1988 and many people still use that name. The name was expanded because of the town’s connection to thermal baths and spas.

Explore Digne-les-Bains

Digne is an important regional town and this obviously means there are plenty of shops and a wide range of facilities. In the centre of the town which dates back to medieval times you will find most of the attractions worth visiting. The most important tourist attraction in Digne is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame-du-Bourg which was built in a Roman style and was constructed between the 11th to 13th centuries. The Cathedral Saint-Jerome is a more recent building that has a gothic style and dates back to between the 15th to 16th centuries though it did undergo a facelift during the 19th century.

A place to relax

You should also be sure to check out what remains of the city’s original fortifications as well as several sculptures that were added during the 20th century to beautify the town. The thermal spas are the main attraction however and people have been visiting them since Roman times. The spas offer a wide range of treatments for visitors who wish to be pampered and there are also plenty of alternative leisure activities which makes Digne the ideal destination if you are someone who is seeking to relax and chill.

Nearby attractions

One unusual attraction located quite close to Digne is a bed of fossilised ammonites that rewind history as far back as 200 million years ago and covers an area of approximately 350 square metres. You will find it towards the North of town and it is estimated that there are more than 1500 fossils locates on the site, measuring up to 70cm in diameter. If palaeontology is not your thing you can visit the Musée de la RéserveNaturelleGéologique de Haute-Provence instead. This attraction is known for its extensive butterfly gardens which are extremely beautiful.

Hiking and cycling

If you like that sort of thing then be sure to also check out the Botanic Garden of Cordeliers which is housed in a medieval convent. The surrounding countryside is also quite beautiful, filled with valleys and mountains and streams, not to mention the famous lavender fields. You will have plenty of hiking and cycling options to choose from so make sure you check it out if you do decide to pay a visit to Digne-les-Bains.

Digne _34 by ADT 04, on Flickr

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Dramatic Dentelles de Montmirail

January 28, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

The Dentelles de Montmirail is a mountain range located in Provence. They can be seen from quite a distance away and you will immediately notice their distinctive jagged outline that dramatically emerge from Cotes du Rhone. When you get up close to the Dentelles, their appearance becomes even more dramatic thanks to the sheer cliffs that are 100 metres high the deliver a landscape that is truly inspiring.

Visiting the Dentelles

The best thing about the Dentelles de Montmirail region is its scenery and the range of outdoor activities it has to offer. If you visit but choose to stay in your car, you will most certainly be missing out. The Dentelles de Montmirail also has a number of villages that are close by that are well worth exploring as you pass them by. This mountain range easily offers some of the most spectacular scenery in all of France and it is best visited on foot. There are plenty of hiking opportunities throughout the region, and there are several well-trodden paths that will help you explore the area. You can choose from short trails below the peaks or if you happen to be the adventurous kind you can opt for the ambitious granderandonnée that traverses the range.

Suggested walks

The most popular hike is one that provides a wonderful introduction to the region and ends at the summit of Mont Saint-Amand. Don’t be put off by the word summit because the peak is in actual fact just 725 metres above sea-level and you start your journey at about 300 metres above sea level so the hike is not that intense. The path is fully sign-posted right from parking and the round trip will take you about 4 hours. There is another walk that starts from the same place and also features spectacular scenery but is significantly more challenging.

Other activities

Other popular activities for those who are not for the faint of heart include rock climbing along the dramatic cliffs and if you prefer something less adrenaline intensive you could go mountain biking instead. The Cotes du Rhone region is full of vineyards and there are some fantastic wines produced here. You should pay a visit to the village of Gigondas which has the best-known wines in the region, but there are also plenty of other villages that produce very reputable wines as well.

Dentelles de Montmirail, on Flickr

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Pretty Cucuron

January 21, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Cucuron is a small village that is extremely attractive and located in Provence. The village sits against a backdrop of exceptional scenery just below what is left of a castle that was built during the 14th century. Between the 15th and 17th centuries Curacon had a population of 3,000 and was very busy, however with the outbreak of the plague in 1720, more than 1,000 villagers died causing irreparable damage to the village’s economy from which it never fully recovered.

Exploring Cucuron

There are three gateways that serve as entrances to the village and when you visit you will pass through one of them. They were meant to serve as fortifications for the old town and along with the castle, they dominate the layout of Cucuron. Though the towers are not particular impressive, they are very interesting and offer some fabulous views of the village and its surrounding countryside. It is best to start your visit at one of the towers and finish at the other, taking the whole village in along your journey.

The village centre

The village centre is in Place Maurice Taron which lies smack bang in between both towers. The village houses are quite lovely and there are some extremely interesting buildings such as the Hotel Bérard de Roure, the Maison des Consulsand the Maison de la Reine Jeanne. Other tourist attractions in the village include its clock tower and the Church of Notre-Dame-de-Beaulieu which dates back to the 13th century. There are also a number of traditional stone fountains and wash-houses that you will see as you explore the centre of town.

Visit the pond and the museum

If you head towards the Northern part of the village and go past its fortifications you will find a man-made pond that was built during the 19th century to serve as a replacement to a natural pond that used to occupy the same location. The pond is surrounded by cafés and shady trees and it is actually the liveliest part of town. If you need a reminder that there has been a settlement at Cucuron since prehistoric times visit the Museum Marc-Deydier which sits in a very beautiful townhouse that dates back to the 18th century. There you will be to see some artefacts that date back from Roman and Neolithic times. If you are visiting Provence take the time out to pay a visit to Cucuron.

l’Étang à Cucuron By Salva Barbera, on Flickr

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The Attractive Village Of Colmars-les-Alpes

January 14, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Colmars (also known as Colmars-les-Alpes) is a small mountain village that is extraordinary because it sits in a picturesque setting in a valley between the mountains. Colmars location has been historically strategic, particularly between the 14th and 17th century. You can tell this is the case because of the two fortified walls that surround the old town and the two forts that were built to stand on either side of Colmars-les-Alpes.

Struggle for control

This means you should pay a visit to Fort Saint-Martin which is located just above the Northern side of the village protecting it from potential attack on that front. On the Southern front the town was protected by Fort du Calvaire. The two forts are actually relics from a period in time when France and the Dukes of Savoy were both seeking to establish control of the region, a struggle which lasted until the 17th century. During the 14th century the French controlled Colmars whilst other villages that were nearby such as Allos and Barcelonnette were effectively under the control of the Savoy Dukes.

Attractive village

When you enter the village of Colmars you will do so through either own of the two gateways that pass through the fortified walls. The Porte de France and Porte de Savoie are the names of the two gateways and once you enter you should visit the extremely attractive but small village centre. You will really enjoy yourself as you wander along the village’s narrow streets. Much of the village was actually destroyed by fire back in 1672 so what you see today dates back from after that.

Colmars les Alpes (10) by ADT 04, on Flickr

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Charming Chateauneuf-du-Pape

January 7, 2018 · Filed Under See France Destination Guides · Comment 

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is a small village that is located in between Avignon and Orange in Provence. The village has a reputation for producing some fabulous wines and it is also very charming so if you have time try and check it out. The village itself is quite small so this means it is very easy to explore. At the bottom of the village lies the main square from where the road up to the ruins of the castle leads.

The fountain

When you visit, your first stop should be at the old fountain located in the main square that is aptly named Grande Fontaine. There are four carved nymphs that are positioned to be permanently looking into the water. The fountain itself serves an important function, acting as the village’s main source of water since the 17th century. The fountain draws water from a spring that is located a few kilometres away and there have been years when the fountain dried up, forcing villagers to visit the spring much further down the hill and if that too was dry, then they had on occasion to get their water from the Rhone river.

Climb the hill

You should climb the hill where you will pass by a number of fascinating houses that have been constructed from stone. As you climb you should follow the cobbled streets and drop in at one of the several cafes and restaurants along away. The most interesting tourist attraction is the Town Hall which is an imposing building that was constructed with a round clock tower on its side. During the 19th century the buildings ground floor functioned as a school and on some occasions, was even used as a small prison!

The castle

When you get to the top of the hills you will approach a castle that is also an imposing structure that was built by Pope John XXII when the Popes were forced into exile and had to live in Avignon at the start of the 14th century. When you get to the castle you will find it is not as intimidating as you would expect. The main wall is virtually the only thing that remains of the building after it was destroyed in the 16th century during the Wars of Religion.It is still really worth making the effort to visit the castle because its ruins are extremely evocative.

Try the wine

As you would expect, from the location of the ruins which sit at the top of the hill, there are some spectacular views across Avignon, the Rhone and surrounding vineyards. There are also a number of shops where you can taste and purchase some of the wines that are made in the region. There are approximately 350 different wines that are permitted to use the appellation Chateauneuf-du-Pape. You can even visit the Museum of Wine which provides a thorough explanation of the history of local vineyards beginning with their planting by the very Pope who built the castle. All in all, this is a charming little village that is well worth the visit.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape by Robert Lihou, on Flickr

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