FRENCH BASQUE COUNTRY AND THE PYRENEES

Typical Basque countryside. Photo, basquecountry.bike

Located down in the most south-westerly tip of France, this small area is the last region in the country before crossing into its larger Basque neighbour over the Spanish border.  Most visitors cling to the beautiful coastal area around the trés chic city of Biarritz, but venture further inland from Bayonne and you’ll soon be immersed in the rich Pays Basque with its own distinct culture.

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SOME OF THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGES OF GASCONY-GERS

The beautiful bastide village of Larressingle. Photom mazacars

The traditional name of Gascony nowadays refers to modern-day French departments of the Gers, the Landes and the Hautes Pyrénées.  To the west, it’s bordered by the Atlantic ocean and to the south by the Spanish border.  The name ‘Gascony’ conjures up a rich agricultural area, warmth, sunshine and a traditional rural way of life.  It’s one of the great gourmet regions of France and produces some of the country’s finest wines.  There are fortified villages, sections of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, and home to the story of d’Artagnan and the Three Musketeers.

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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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