SeeFrance

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Lavish Lacoste

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

Lacoste is a small but pretty Provencal village that is best know for serving as home to the castle of the Marquis de Sade that overlooks the village. If you are driving to Lacoste, then there are plenty of parking options. The best place to keep your car is in the free car park that is near the village tourist office. When you visit the tourist office you will see that nearby is the Church of Saint-Trophine which has retained some of its original Roman style.

Stone gateway

You should take your time and explore the old village of Lacoste. You should begin by walking up the hill from the village centre to its original stone gateway. The gateway was constructed during the 14th century but then rebuilt two centuries later and was renamed La Porte de La Garde. When you pass through the entrance you will hit upon a narrow-cobbled street that winds its way through the village.

The main attraction

The street is Lacoste’s main attraction because it is largely unspoilt and no extensive renovation. This means nearly every building is eye catching giving you an authentic feeling of wandering through a village as it was centuries ago. As you wander through the village make sure to check out the belfry and bell tower. As you eventually reach the top of the village, you will find the track narrowing until you reach the castle that overlooks Lacoste.

The Marquis de Sade

From the castle there are some amazing views to be had and as we said in the introduction it used to be the home of the Marquis de Sade. For those of you who need an introduction, he was an 18th century author who was imprisoned for his writings which promoting sexual deviance and from whose name the word sadism is derived. The castle funnily enough is now owned by Pierre Cardin. It is occasionally used to host events and displays and apparently during the summer is open to the public.

Some nearby attractions

If you head back to Lacoste’s lower part you can exit the historical part of town and wander along the main road where there is a café and terrace that has some lovely views across the valley. If you want the natural regional Park of Luberon is near by filled with quaint villages set against a backdrop of lovely countryside. If you have the time check out Gordes in particular which is arguably one of France’s loveliest villages and is not far away from Lacoste.

Lacoste by Shadowgate, on Flickr

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Guide To Lac de Sainte-Croix

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

The Lac de Sainte-Croix is in the Regional Natural Park of Verdon. It is a leisure lake and reservoir that was established in the seventies and if you visit, there are a number of places worth checking out on the lake shore as well as in the region itself.The Lac de Sainte-Croix is surrounded by roads but many of them sit quite far away so you will not always get to see the water, nevertheless the countryside itself is extremely beautiful as well.

Exploring the Lac de Sainte-Croix

On the lake’s Eastern shore, you will find Les Salles-sur-Verdon which is extremely popular with tourists. It is a new village built after the lake was created and serves as a replacement to the historic village that bears its name that was destroyed by the creation of the dam and lake. There are supervised beaches that are perfect for the family to relax at and there is plenty of parking. There are other small beaches on Lac de Sainte-Croix which are not supervised and you should be careful if you visit because there are unpredictable currents in the water.

Head to the bridge

There is a bridge located at the point where the River Verdon enters the lake named Pont de Galetas on the East end of Lac de Sainte-Croix. From this vantage point there is a wonderful view of the entrance to the Gorges du Verdon. If you enjoy water sports, hire a canoe or a pedalo and set about exploring. Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is a small village that is not quite located on the lake shore but is close enough to visit but is worth visiting because it does have some great views that extend across the lake.

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie appears on the “most beautiful villages of France” list because it has spectacular backdrop of cliffs that sit behind the village. It is also an interesting place in it of itself and you will find it extremely picturesque. You will need to spend a little time to explore it properly and if you have time after doing that, head to Aiguines which is not far away and has a few sites that visitors will find extremely interesting.

Lac de Sainte-Croix by Tristan Ferne, on Flickr

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La Turbie Is Little But Lovely

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

La Turbie sits on the French Riviera a short distance away from Monaco. In fact, it is situated on the beautiful Grand Cornice Road that connects Monaco to Nice and is one the region’s most scenic highlights. The village itself is extremely lovely and has some wonderful views from the cornice. The main reason that people come to visit however is its spectacular Roman monument that dominates the village.

Exploring La Turbie

La Turbie dates back to medieval time and whilst it is small it remains beautifully preserved. La Turbie developed around the Roman monument and if you do visit, don’t just content yourself with seeing the monument, take the time to explore the village itself. In order to enter the village, you will have to pass through a medieval stone gateway where you will find some lovely medieval streets as well as a pretty village square in the centre which is home to a small chapel amidst a gaggle of colourful houses.

The church

You should pay a visit to the baroque style Church of Saint Michel which dates back to the 18th century where you will find a number of paintings and frescoes as well as a wonderfully decorated altarpiece. Of less interest to people who visit is the rest of La Turbie. There is a market that takes place on Thursdays but you won’t find anything more than cheap clothes which is in contrast to the traditional Provencal market that most people love.

Trophy of the Alps

The monument is known as the ‘Trophy of the Alps’ and dates back to the 6th century BC. It used to feature a gigantic statue of the Emperor Augustus sitting on top of a set of circular buildings that were surrounded by great columns which themselves stand on a large stone pedestal. The monument used to mark the boundary between the Roman Empire and the area controlled by Gaul. Not surprisingly the monument was designed to symbolise the imposing power of the Roman Empire as well as celebrate the victory of Augustus over Gaulish tribes.

Renovated monument

The statue unfortunately did not stand the test of time and its structure fell into disrepair and ultimately ruin over the intervening centuries. Much of the village it stands watch over was in fact built using the very same stone that was used to construct the monument. In the 20th century there was a renovation effort which has had a profound effect and recaptured some of the lost glory of the monument. The monument now sits in a small park and overlooks the sea.

Spectacular views

If you visit the monument, be sure to check out the small on-site museum which houses a scale model of the original monument. The views from the monument are spectacular and you will find it hard to obtain a better view of the French Riviera anywhere in France. On the left side of the monument you will find a belvedere where you can obtain some good views without having to fork out cash to pay for admission to the Trophy des Alpes.

La Turbie 08 by Ben Bowes, on Flickr

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Little La Grave

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

La Grave is a village that sits high up in the mountains and is about an hour drive North-West of Briancon. The village appears on the ‘most beautiful villages’ of France list and because there is a mountain range facing the village, many people refer to it as La Grave – La Meijie. It should come as no surprise if you haven’t visited before that the imposing mountains surrounding the village is the reason it is so scenic.

Exploring La Grave

Because La Grave sits at such a height there are no trees and this means you will not find any wooden chalets in the village. Another reason for the lack of wooden chalets is the village has in the past been consumed by fire so that definitely discouraged the idea. Instead you will find buildings constructed from rock complete with stone rooves. The houses are built mainly from volcanic rock and the village is perched on a slope and filled with a warren of narrow streets that wind in between the houses and the Roman style church constructed during the 12th century in the centre of town.

Spectacular views

The residents of La Grave are extremely proud and have a right to be because the village has been able to avoid the visual impact of tourism and the facilities blend seamlessly into the rest of the village. The views from La Grave of the surrounding countryside are nothing short of spectacular. If you decide to visit during the summer you will really enjoy some of the hiking trails in the region. Another very popular activity during that time of the year is rock climbing.

La Grave skiing

Whilst summer is a great time to visit, the best time to come to La Grave is without question the winter if you happen to be someone who enjoys winter sports. This is because La Grave is most famous for being a ski resort and if you do come for the skiing, then make sure you have experience because there are no established pistes and you will find yourself skiing on glaciers more often than not. It is possible to reach what is arguably one of the best ski runs in Europe by tram and lift and it is hardly a surprise that the village attracts so many experienced skiers thanks to its magical setting and incredible challenge.

2012-08-01 by Guillaume Baviere, on Flickr

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Luscious La Croix-Valmer

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

La Croix-Valmer is a little town on the French Riviera to the South of Saint-Tropez, as you would imagine with any town on the Cote d’Azur it is quite attractive thanks to its beaches and pine covered Maures Massif. There are some lovely villas from the earlier part of the 20th century that are worth checking out. The two most impressive are the Maison des Peres du Saint Esprit and the Orangery. However, it goes without saying, if you are paying a visit to La Croix-Valmer then you have come for the beaches and scenery.

Beaches of La Croix-Valmer

There are a number of fantastic beaches in La Croix-Valmer and they cover many kilometres of coastline with lovely backdrops consisting of rocks and trees. The water is crystal clear and the beaches are very sandy. As a result, the beaches of La Croix-Valmer have been given the blue flag award for cleanliness and facilities. The town even lays on free shuttle buses from its centre to some of the more popular beaches.

Visit as many as possible

Arguably the most popular beaches are the Plage de Giagaro and the Plage du Debarquement both of which have complete facilities and during summer time are extremely busy. There are other beaches which are much quieter but have no facilities so you will have to make a choice as to which you prefer. It is highly recommended that if you do come to La Croix-Valmer, you should visit as many beaches as you can since they tend to differ quite substantially from one another. You should also be aware that these beaches were extremely important landing beaches during the invasion of Southern France as the Second World War was drawing to a close.

Sights close to La Croix-Valmer

Once you have had your fill of all the beaches you can take a walk along some very lovely coastal paths that have their origins in La Croix-Valmer. There are some fabulous views across the Gulf of Saint-Tropez to be had and the scenery varies from place to place. You should also take a hike across the Massif Maures Hills which is a very pleasant experience. There are a couple of villages nearby that are extremely beautiful (Gassin and Ramatuelle) both of which have spectacular views fanning out across the Mediterranean. If you have time, about an hour’s walk away is Port Grimuad which is worth visiting in its own right.

La Croix-Valmer – Plage de Gigaro by Frederique Voisin-Demery , on Flickr

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Guide To La Ciotat

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

La Ciotatis located in Provence and sits on the coast in between Marseille and Cassis. Thanks to its location there is some lovely coastal scenery to enjoy plus there is easy access to the beaches. La Ciotat itself serves as a fishing port complete with attractive harbour that is filled with pleasure crafts. The easiest place to park if you visit is at the large car park next to the ocean on the Western side of the port. From there it is a short walk to the tourist office where you can begin your exploration.

Exploring La Ciotat

You should make sure you visit the Church of Notre-Dame which was built in Roman style during the 17th century and continues to dominate the western harbour. The church was renovated during the 70’s and there are several frescoes painted during the renovation by Gilbert Ganteaume that are simply beautiful. You should then head to the old town where there are some very impressive houses that are at least four centuries old that you can admire plus a shady open square where you can sit and relax.

Parks and gardens

There are a number of parks and garden all of which are worth visiting. Some of the gardens are located in town.The the one you should definitely make room on your itinerary for is the Parc du Mugel which is a 12 hectare botanical garden. There is a huge variety of flora in this garden and it sits in a lovely setting, on a peninsula which gives you some lovely views across the Calanque du Muguel.

The beaches

If you want to spend some time at the seaside then the Plage de La Ciotat is where you should visit with its six kilometres of beaches but it requires a little bit of travel from the town centre. On the Eastern side of the port you will find the Gulf d’Amour which is where most of the sandy beaches are located. If you don’t want to trek very far head to the Plage des Capucins. If you are non-smoker then the beach to head to is the Plage Lumiere where smoking is prohibited which is unusual for France. If you are adventurous then continue further North-East where you will find some lovely smaller beaches.

Port de La Ciotat By Gerard Colombat, on Flickr

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Lovely La Brigue

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

La Brigue is a lovely little village that sits in an extremely beautiful riverside setting in between Tende and Menton. The village was originally part of Italy but was made officially part of France as a result of the Treaty of Paris in 1947. Very few people are aware of this gem because it is usually little more than a footnote in most travel guides, nevertheless the village of La Brigue is very picturesque thanks to its steep rocky hills on either side of the village. There are also a number of important historical sites that are well worth visiting so if you are in the region you should stop off for a visit.

Start on the bridge

You should start your tour of La Brigue on the bridge across the river in the very heart of the village. There are some lovely views to be had of the houses that dot the river banks and the river valley itself. At one end of the bridge you will find a small square where there is a chapel, church and a statue. The most important attraction here is the Church of Saint-Michel built during the 14th century. The church was constructed in Roman style with a baroque façade and given that La Brigue is so small it is much larger than one might expect.

Check out the frescoes

If you venture beyond the square you will eventually reach the older parts of the village where you will find some very attractive houses and a square that is adjacent to the river featuring arcaded buildings. Above the village lies the ruins of Chateau Lascaris which is well worth visiting. You should follow the road leading East out La Brigue and after a short while you will arrive as a small chapel nestled in the woods called Notre-Dame des Fontaines. The chapel sits in a peaceful setting and features a very simple design that is very unassuming. Upon entry however you will discover a very impressive set of frescoes painted by a 15th century artist named Canavesio.

Attractions nearby

While you can easily drive from La Brigue to Notre-Dame des Fontaines, it is highly recommended that you follow the path between the two instead. This is because by doing so you will better appreciate the location and countryside. If you follow the river upstream you come across a medieval bridge and a number of oratories on your way. The route is known as Chemin des Oratories and your walk will take a couple of hours to get there and back.

44320011 by Helen Morgan, on Flickr

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Visit L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue

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

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue is an extremely pleasant place to visit sitting on the banks of the RiverSorgue. The main centre in town is completely surrounded by both parts of the Sorgue River. Whilst it is tempting to stroll along the river it is recommended that you begin your visit in the town centre at the Tourist Office in Place de la Liberte. There are plenty of waterwheels dotted around town which are the main feature you will notice on your visit and the best way to see the most interesting ones is to use the route suggested by the Tourist Office.

The church

When you are in the town centre, pay a visit the church of Notre-Dame-des-Anges which is a wonderful example of baroque architecture and is arguably the most impressive in Provence both inside and out. Whilst you are at the Place de la Liberte you will see an ancient stone tower which were once part of the town’s defences. The main attraction however is without question the areas along the river where there are some lovely views and plenty of cafes to sit at.

The park

If you plan on bringing the kids along with you to L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, then make sure you visit the Parc Gautier which is a large park that surrounds a 19th century villa and is the perfect spot for a picnic because of its children’s play area. The town also has a reputation as being a centre for antiques and many collectors visit at the weekends. Sunday morning is a great time to be there because there is a weekly market that is a pleasure to stroll around.

Attractions nearby

Not far away, to the East of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue you will find Fontaine-de-Vaucluse which is a village where you can take a lovely walk all the way up to the source of River Sorgue. If you head past that you will find yourself at Gordes which is one of the most visited French villages. If you head North from L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue you will reach the small town of Pernes-les-Fontaines which doesn’t attract a huge number of visitors but is extremely pleasant and well worth exploring.

2010-08-14, on Flickr

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Explore L’Argentière-la-Bessée

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

During the latter stages of the 19th century this town had an extremely busy centre thanks to the silver mines that are located in this part of France. The Romans were the first to start mining for silver in this location and the practice continued right until the beginning of the 20th century. There was a brief resurgence in mining due to the discovery of aluminium, but by 1910 all activity ceased.

Visit the museum

It is only in the last few years that the mines have once again opened their doors, this time serving as a tourist attraction. It is possible to visit the mines and see all the tools and techniques that were used to extract silver in the museum. This is an extremely popular attraction with the tourists, and if you do intend to visit, you should allow at least hours for the completion of the tour.

Other attractions

Within the town itself, you should pay a visit to the Church of Saint-Apollinaire which was constructed during the 16th century and sits on the banks of the River Durance. The church is another popular attraction in large part due to its very attractive frescoes which also date back to the 16th century. The other attraction you should take the time to visit is the Chapel Saint-Jean which was built during the 12th century and sits in a very pretty hillside setting and on the site of a much older church that was demolished. You will also get a good sense of the traditional old buildings and farmhouse that surround the village.

Activities in the region

At winter time,Argentiereturns into a ski resort, but if you wish to visit at any other time of year then feel free to do so because it alsoserves as a gateway to the Ecrins National Park. The park is a wonderful holiday destination for the whole family because there are plenty of opportunities for hiking, canoeing, rock-climbing and outdoor sports in the mountains. If you are planning to visit Provence, then you should certainly make sure you pay a visit here.

2012-08-04 by Guillame Baviere, on Flickr

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Jammin Juan-les-Pins

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

Juan-les-Pins sits on the French Riviera right next to Antibes and both resorts are often combined and called Antibes-Juan-les-Pins. Juan-les-Pins itself only became famous during the early 20th century because many celebrities such as Ernest Hemingway and Charlie Chaplin used to visit. Its popularity has continued since those early days and during the summer it is an extremely lively summer resort complete with beaches and ocean during the day giving way to a nightlife filled with casinos, clubs and bars.

Beaches at Juan-les-Pins

Whilst the more historically inclined may prefer to visit Antibes instead, if you are a beach goer then Juan-les-Pins is the better choice. Check out the Plage de Gallice and Plage Epi Hollywood, both of which are small beaches located in the heart of town. They are extremely popular however large sections are private and off limits to the general public. If you want a longer beach head west where the main beach is located. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from on the beach in the centre of Juan-les-Pins and it is possible to obtain hotel accommodation very nearby.

Jazz festival of Antibes-Juan-les-Pins

The beaches in these resort towns serve as host to a jazz festival that spans ten days during the middle of July every year. This festival has been an annual event for the last half century and is the second most important jazz event in the world on the calendar. Over the decades it has attracted all the jazz greats ranging from Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, John Coltrane and Sonny Rollins. If you are a jazz fan then you will love the fact that some of these jazz greats have had their handprints preserved for posterity near the stage area. The festival continues to attract jazz legends to this day so if you are planning to visit, you could time your trip to coincide with the festival because it is a great time to visit.

juan les pins by mauro, on Flickr

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