EXPLORING MONTAUBAN, CAPITAL OF THE TARN-ET-GARONNE

Montauban, on the river Tarn. Photo, sebasnavarrete

Formerly part of the provinces of Quercy and Languedoc, this Occitanie region in the southwest of France is traversed by the Garonne and Tarn rivers from which it takes its name.  It’s one of the most picturesque agricultural départements of the country.  For the visitor, there are charming medieval villages and towns to explore, plus the great draw-card of outstanding gastronomic delights, including game and poultry, fine local wines, and in particular the local specialty, Armagnac.

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AIGUES-MORTES – FROM SALTY SWAMP TO MEDIEVAL FORTRESS

The fortified medieval town of Aigues-Mortes. Photo, reddit

Sitting on the flat marshes of the Camargue in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of Provence, this fortified medieval town is regarded as the purest example of 13th century military architecture extant in France.  The rectilinear town is surrounded by high, crenellated ramparts, four corner towers and numerous fortified gates, all completely intact.

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FONDATION LOUIS VUITTON – FRANK GEHRY’S MODERN MASTERPIECE FOR PARIS

A bird’s eye view of Fondation Louis Vuitton. Photo, Modlar

“I dream of designing a magnificent vessel for Paris that symbolises France’s profound cultural vocation.”

With these words, the famous Canadian-American architect, creator of Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum (1997), gave his blessing to the opening, in October 2014, of his latest masterpiece, the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris.  We were lucky enough to be in Paris that week and joined perhaps 10,000 others for its first open weekend.

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THE VIADUC DES ARTS—ARTISANS’ PRECINCT & ELEVATED LINEAR GARDEN OASIS

A section of the Promenade Plantee. Photo, the Guardian

Built in 1859, this former elevated railway viaduct came into Paris from the east, terminating at Place de la Bastille in the 12th arr.  After the creation of the RER A line in 1969 the Viaduc de Bastille became redundant, gradually declining into another example of neglect and decay that was slated for demolition.  Instead, under a bold urban renewal program by the City of Paris in the 1980s, the Viaduc’s fortunes were revived.

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THE BEAUTIFUL PASSAGES COUVERTS OF PARIS

The magnificent ceiling of Galerie Colbert. Photo, flickr

The famous passages couverts—covered passages—of Paris were an early form of shopping arcades, mostly dating from the first half of the 19th century.  By the 1850s, there were around 150 covered passages in Paris, although Haussmann’s massive urban renewal program of Paris saw a number of these demolished.  Of those that remain, some are still dusty and forgotten, awaiting revitalisation, but there are many that have been beautifully restored to their original Art Nouveau or Neoclassical splendour.  Here are just some of them.

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