3 December 2013
Route des Cretes (Route of the Ridges) is an 89 km road in the Vosges Mountains in eastern France, which passes through the Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges. It connects Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines (north) with Cernay (south) and runs on the border of the departements of Haut-Rhin and Vosges . Most of the route is at an elevation in excess of 950 m, with the highest point being at the Col du Grand Ballon. The road is generally open from April to November, but most of the route is closed in the winter by snow.
16 November 2013
Saint-Michel d’Aiguilhe is a chapel in Aiguilhe, near Le Puy-en-Velay, France, built in 962 on a volcanic formation 85 metres high. The chapel is reached by 268 steps carved into the rock. It was built to celebrate the return from the pilgrimage of Saint James.In 1429, the mother of Joan of Arc, Isabelle Romée, was said to have come to the site to pray.
27 October 2013
Blois is a city & the capital of Loir-et-Cher department in central France, situated on the banks of the lower river Loire between Orléans and Tours.Though of ancient origin, Blois is first distinctly mentioned by Gregory of Tours in the 6th century, and the city gained some notability in the 9th century, when it became the seat of a powerful countship with «Blesum castrum» («Le château de Blois»). In 1171, Blois was the site of a blood libel against its Jewish community that led to 31 Jews (by some accounts 40) being burned to death. In 1196, Count Louis granted privileges to the townsmen; a commune, which survived throughout the Middle Ages, probably dated from this time. The counts of the Châtillon line resided at Blois more often than their predecessors, and the oldest parts of the château (from the thirteenth century) were built by them. In 1429, Joan of Arc made Blois her base of operations for the relief of Orléans. Joan of Arc rode the thirty-five miles on Wednesday 29 April to Blois to relieve Orléans. After his captivity in England, Charles of Orléans in 1440 took up his residence in the château, where in 1462 his son, afterwards Louis XII, was born. In the 16th century Blois was often the resort of the French court. The Treaty of Blois, which temporarily halted the Italian Wars, was signed there in 1504–1505.
19 October 2013
Yvoire is a medieval city in Haute-Savoie department, in the region of Rhône-Alpes in south-eastern France.Being located at the tip of the Leman peninsula (presqu’île de Léman), Yvoire delimits the two main parts of the Leman lake, the “petit lac” and the “grand lac”.It is well known for its medieval buildings and beautiful flower decoration during the summer season. It is also one of the “most beautiful villages of France“.
17 September 2013
Sarlat-la-Caneda or simply Sarlat, is a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine in southwestern France.Sarlat is a medieval town that developed around a large Benedictine abbey of Carolingian origin. The medieval Sarlat Cathedral is dedicated to Saint Sacerdos.
Because modern history has largely passed it by, Sarlat has remained preserved and one of the towns most representative of 14th century France. It owes its current status on France’s Tentative List for future nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage site to the enthusiasm of writer, resistance fighter and politician André Malraux, who, as Minister of Culture (1960–1969), restored the town and many other sites of historic significance throughout France. The centre of the old town consists of impeccably restored stone buildings and is largely car-free.
16 September 2013
La Roque-Gageac is a commune in the Dordogne department in Aquitaine, southwestern France.Perched above the Dordogne River, the village is a member of the Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (“The most beautiful villages of France”) association.
13 September 2013
The Château de Beynac is a castle situated in the commune of Beynac-et-Cazenac, in the Dordogne département of France. The castle is one of the best-preserved and best known in the region.
This Middle Ages construction, with its austere appearance, is perched on top of a limestone cliff, dominating the town and the north bank of the Dordogne River.The castle was built in the 12th century by the barons of Beynac (one of the four baronies of Périgord) to close the valley. The sheer cliff face being sufficient to discourage any assault from that side, the defences were built up on the plateau: double crenellated walls, double moats, one of which was a deepened natural ravine, double barbican.The oldest part of the castle is a large, square-shaped, Romanesque keep with vertical sides and few openings, held together with attached watch towers and equipped with a narrow spiral staircase terminating on a crenellated terrace. To one side, a residence of the same period is attached; it was remodelled and enlarged in the 16th and 17th centuries. On the other side is a partly 14th century residence side-by-side with a courtyard and a square plan staircase serving the 17th century apartments. The apartments have kept their woodwork and a painted ceiling from the 17th century. The Salle des États (States’ Hall) has a Renaissance sculptured fireplace and leads into a small oratory entirely covered with 15th century frescoes, included a Pietà, a Saint Christopher, and a Last Supper in which Saint Martial (first bishop of Limoges) is the maître d’hôtel.At the time of the Hundred Years’ War, the fortress at Beynac was in French hands. The Dordogne was the border between France and England. Not far away, on the opposite bank of the river, the Château de Castelnaud was held by the English. The Dordogne region was the theatre of numerous struggles for influence, rivalries and occasionally battles between the English and French supporters. However, the castles fell more often through ruse and intrigue rather than by direct assault, because the armies needed to take these castles were extremely costly: only the richest nobles and kings could procure them.
The castle was bought in 1962 by Lucien Grosso who has restored it.
Visitors to the castle can see sumptuous tapestries showing hunting and other scenes from the lives of the lords of the period. The Château de Beynac has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1944.Beynac castle has served as a location for several films, including Les Visiteurs by Jean-Marie Poiré, in 1993, La Fille de d’Artagnan by Bertrand Tavernier, in 1994, Ever After by Andy Tennant, in 1998, and Jeanne d’Arc by Luc Besson, in 1999. The village of Beynac below the chateau, also served as a location for the film Chocolat by Lasse Hallström, in 2000.
10 July 2013
Fort de la Prée is situated on Ile de Ré the near a small port that was the crossing point to La Rochelle since the middle ages. At this point the crossing is only 5 kilometres.In order to control the Protestant population of the Ile de Ré in the early 17th century to make sure they wouldnt collaborate with the English enemy, and at the same time to protect the island against this same enemy, it had to be fortified.The Ile de Ré was strategic because it could be used by the enemy as a base from which to mount an attack on La Rochelle and to a lesser extent on Rochefort.The feelings of the island’s inhabitants were taken into consideration and it was decided to build a fort at la Prée before fortifying St Martin de Ré. Building a fort at Saint Martin straight away could have made them feel threatened and driven them into the arms of the English, who were ready to support Protestant rebels. At the same time, the main access point of the island was secured, giving the crown a firm grip on the island and providing it with an important means of access.
The first plans date from 1625. They show a small star shaped fort surrounded by a ditch, on the landside fronted by an revetted outer envelope with a ditch in front of it. This ditch is preceded by a covered way. The fort had a small harbour, covered by the outer envelope.The fort had a chance to prove its value as early as 1627, when the English laid siege to Saint Martin, which was still not fully fortified and Fort de la Pree formed a safe harbour from which the French launched their counter attack. The English were forced to give up their siege and retreat.In the following years the seafront of the fort was reinforced and the covered way on the landward side was doubled, making the fort a lot bigger. In 1684 Vauban’ordered the destruction of the covered ways and the outer envelope of the fort.The defences round the harbour were strengthened, barracks were built along the straight seafront (of which the foundations are still visible today) and a new covered way was made. These changes gave the fort the appearance it has more or less retained until the present day.An interesting thing about Fort de la Prée is the way it was seen by the engineers who worked on it. Most of them complain about its size, claiming that it is too small, rather than about the fact that the semi circular curtain walls didn’t flank the bastions adequately and that there is not enough drinking water. Still they all wanted to preserve the fort and they themselves reduced its size.Looking at the original plans, it can be seen that the star-shaped fort functions more as a donjon (central tower), with the outer envelope and the covered way forming the first layers of defence. Seen this way the form of the fort appears more logical.In the 1930s the fort lost its military importance and over the centuries it hasnt changed much; bombproof shelters were added and some of the buildings inside the fort were altered (e.g. the powder magazine) during the 19th century. Later, in the Second World War, the Nazis built a bunker inside the fort.