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The churches of Saintonge have magnificent portals with the arches divided into three or four voussoirs and covered in innumerable motifs; acanthus leaves, palms, roses, scrolls, cables inspired by Gallo-Roman tradition, embroidery or weaving. The central portal is often flanked by two false bays suggesting the entrance to side-aisles, and the façade has several storeys of decoration, separated by a cornice. The Benedictine Abbaye-aux-Dames in Saintes is the most elegant example of the Romane...
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +13 votes | 5 comments
Gothic architecture was born in Picardy, perhaps at Morienval, near Crépy-en-Valois, where an unpretentious and somewhat heavy example of the style can be seen in the ambulatory of the Abbey Church of Notre-Dame. Reacting against the Romanesque Style, whose austere purity it sought to replace with a soaring aspiration towards the divine, Gothic architecture took firm root in Picardy, after this modest beginning. With its six cathedrals, the province has an outstanding place in the history of ...
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +8 votes | 3 comments
The ancient church of Saint-Pierre of Chauvigny, between Poitiers and Saint-Savin-sur-Gartempe, hangs from the strong walls of a ruined fortress. Several of the distinctive characteristics of the local Romanesque Style are brought together here. The capitals, signed by a certain Godfridus, show an imaginary bestiary that perhaps derives from images brought back by the Crusaders. Around the choir, dragons, a sphinx and birds of prey all plunge the pilgrim into an apocalyptic world. This monster d...
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +11 votes | 3 comments
The Vanoise National Park provides protection for all the plants and animals threatened with extinction within its 60,000-hectare area: flowers that thrive in an arctic climate; rare birds such as the ptarmigan; and animals threatened or driven from their habitat, by ubiquitous skiers. One such animal is the nimble Alpine ibex. High up in the reserve of wild life, nature and peace, all that can be heard is the song of birds, the murmuring of insects, the sighing of the wind and the splashing o...
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +7 votes | 5 comments
Grenoble the ancient capital of Dauphiné, has a great reputation for dynamism. It was a pioneer in promoting tourism, and in 1889 became the first French city to create a local tourist board. Towering above Grenoble is the Plateau du Vercors where some 4,000 partisans perished after defying several Nazi divisions. Their heroic stand is today commemorated by a monument on the plateau. Nearby, La Grande Chartreuse is one of the world's most famous monasteries.
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +9 votes | 7 comments
The Jura has breathtaking "reculées", these fabulous steephead valleys you will never forget. Victor Hugo described the beautiful city of Besançon as "an old Spanish town", alluding to the historic Spanish influence in Franche-Comté. In Arc-et-Senans, the Utopian architect Claude Nicolas Ledoux set out to build his ideal city in the 18th century. The factory buildings he erected for the royal salt works were to be the starting point for a model city which would have been the setting for...
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +13 votes | 8 comments
The Basque Country is criss-crossed by a network of hospices and priories built to assist the pilgrims to cross the Pyrenees. These were by no means wealthy abbeys, but rather a crowd of chapels and priories. Three of the four main pilgrimage routes to Compostela converged on Ostabat, and the region was not able to escape the great architectural drive that was inspired by Cluny and the Monastic Orders. It was from Navarre that the Crusade was launched in the 11th century to reconquer Spain.
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +14 votes | 4 comments
The existing church was built in the 11th century. The long nave, with its nine bays, and the radiating chapels tell of the success of this Benedictine monastery. Saint-Savin Church is full of bold architectural innovations, but it is best known for housing the most complete collection of Romanesque paintings in France. The great art historian, Henri Focillon, called it: "The Sistine Chapel of the Poitou".
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +17 votes | 3 comments
The French Riviera is Provence's glittering showcase, but it is only one aspect of this sun-drenched region. Between the Riviera and the Rhône delta there is another Provence, less cosmopolitan and less hectic than the coast but just as beautiful and more deeply rooted in the soil. In the arrière-pays, in Summer, the scent of lavender wafts gently over the fields on gusts of warm wind. The calanques between Marseille and Cassis bite deep into the white cliffs and then extend inland in the ...
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +18 votes | 6 comments
Arles is a truly exceptional town not only by virtue of its setting but through its history, its monuments of various periods and its atmosphere. Its many Roman remains include public baths, temples, a theatre, one of the most celebrated cemeteries of the Roman period, the Alyscamps (Elysii Campi), and a stone amphitheatre today regularly used in the summer for bullfights. The Musée de l'Arles Antique opened in 1995 is a real must-see.
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +16 votes | 8 comments
It was long the abode of fabulous beasts and craggy-browed peasants. Auvergne was a lost land where muleteers could never quite suppress a shudder, for wolves prowled these sunken lanes, spine-chilling legends became shrouded in swirling twilight mists, while the maze-like forest was apt to devour those who ventured beyond its fringes. The rough-hewn yet subtle land also harbours some strangely sophisticated spots, such as the Château de La Bastie d'Urfé where in a rustic setting, Greek my...
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +12 votes | 9 comments
Lascaux, that has had to be closed to visitors in order to protect the paintings from damages caused by bacteria, is the most beautiful link with prehistoric times in the world. The paintings are richer and more graceful than anywhere else. Their colours are brighter, their narrative thread is more powerful. Discover these paintings suffused with a sense of the divine mystery and why the Art of Lascaux had a definite function.
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +14 votes | 5 comments
The scenery of the Dordogne has sometimes been compared with that of Greece. The Valley of Tempé, where Fénelon set his Télémaque, a treatise written for the education of of the Duke of Burgundy in which the adventures of Telemachus in search of Ulysses are told in the form of a political novel, is based on the Valley of Dordogne. Fénelon was born in Périgord and wrote Télémaque at the Abbey of Carennac, whose tympanum is a masterpiece of Romanesque sculpture.
Published by Francois Hagnere 81 months ago in France | +13 votes | 6 comments
Périgueux is renowned for its gastronomy, its truffes, its foie gras and its famous cathedral. Sarlat is a jumbled labyrinth of streets lined with houses from many periods, their façades with a lovely shade of light ochre. Roofs of volcanic stone or flat tile add to the charm of the city. Explore the winding streets of the old town. You will find a wonderfully preserved record of French urban architecture from the 14th to the 17th.
Published by Francois Hagnere 82 months ago in France | +13 votes | 5 comments
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