Author: Cheryl Brooks

SARLAT, MEDIEVAL GEM OF THE DORDOGNE

The beautiful medieval town of Sarlat. Photo, wikipedia

The town of Sarlat-la-Canéda is the capital of the Périgord Noir.  Located between the Dordogne and Vézère Valleys, it is regarded as having one of the most beautiful and cohesive collection of medieval buildings in Europe and classified as a Ville d’Art et d’Histoire.  Sarlat has the highest density of listed historic buildings per square metre in France.  Every year thousands of visitors are attracted to its picturesque squares, charming medieval streets, splendid architectural heritage, multiple markets, shops and restaurants.  Food lovers are drawn to Sarlat for its array of delicious local specialities, notably duck, particularly foie gras, walnuts and of course that rarest and most prized of delicacies, truffles.

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LES PLUS BEAUX VILLAGES IN THE DORDOGNE-PÉRIGORD

Views such as this are typical of the Dordogne-Perigord region. Photo, macsadventure

Boasting more villages designated as Les Plus Beaux Villages de France than any other region, except perhaps Provence, the Dordogne has some of the finest treasures of natural and cultural heritage in the country.  You’ll find fortress châteaux, churches, honey-coloured stone buildings, troglodyte cave dwellings, ancient barns, medieval villages, beautiful woodlands, meandering rivers and panoramic views.  The food is sensational, based on locally grown produce and specialties such as duck, walnuts and truffles.

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LES PLUS BEAUX VILLAGES DE FRANCE

The village of Polignac and its fortress, listed in Sept. 2021. Photo, france-voyage.fr

In September 2021 two more villages achieved the highly prized acceptance into the association of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, namely Polignac in the Haute-Loire, and Le Malzieu-Ville in the Lozere.  It’s certainly no secret that France abounds with picture-perfect destinations.  If you’ve ever spent time exploring rural France, you probably thought that surely you must have discovered the most beautiful villages in the country—and we all have our favourites.  There are villages that exude a deep sense of timeless, ancient France, where rural life exists, unhurried by modern pressures and the intrusiveness of excessive technology.

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WHEN A PARIS PÉNICHE IS MORE THAN JUST A BARGE

A variety of boats & peniches moored along the Seine in Paris. Photo, wikimedia

One of the most pleasant ways to relax in Paris is to take a stroll along the banks of the Seine.  It’s a busy, working river with a constant flow of craft of all descriptions.  Ranging from the many tourist boats crammed with sightseers enjoying the unique perspective of the city’s great landmarks from the river, to serious, business-like barges riding low in the water, filled with anything from building site rubble to bales of shredded paper heading to the recycling depot, while others are piled high with freight.  Many also have homey touches such as pot plants, plastic garden furniture, laundry fluttering in the breeze, and perhaps a small car and bicycles perched on the back deck.  As well, there are other barges, tied up dockside, that are clearly used as floating homes.  Aside from these though, there are a number of traditional barges, or péniches, that have been converted to quite different uses.

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MONT SAINT-MICHEL, NORMANDY’S JEWEL IN THE CROWN

Rising tide at sunset, Mont Saint-Michel. Photo, citywonders.fr

It is surely one of the most stunningly beautiful sights in Europe, and in its setting in a bay shared by Normandy and Brittany, Le Mont Saint-Michel draws the eye from a great distance.  It has been a great Christian pilgrimage site from the early 8th century when a local bishop claimed that the Archangel Michael himself came to him in a vision and pressured him into constructing a church atop the island just off the coast.  It’s safe to say there’s nowhere in the world quite like this magical island, topped by its Gothic-style Benedictine abbey that arises out of the bay like a heavenly apparition.

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