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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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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ROUEN- NORMANDY’S VIBRANT, HISTORIC & CULTURAL CAPITAL

The Gros Horloge Rouen. Photo, travelawaits

Situated on the banks of the river Seine, Rouen is the capital of the Haute Normandie region.  An active port and commercial city even in the Roman era and Middle ages, Rouen has a number of ornate Gothic churches, beautiful medieval half-timbered houses, a cobblestoned pedestrian centre and its famous astronomical clock.  Even if you’ve never been there, you’ll likely to recognise its Cathedral of Notre Dame from the numerous paintings of Claude Monet and J.M.W. Turner, and of course, know it as the place where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431.  As well as its long, and often turbulent history, Rouen is also a modern city known for its art, culture and excellent food.

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HISTORIC NORMANDY – FROM THE BAYEUX TAPESTRY, CHÂTEAUX, MEDIEVAL TOWNS & A RICH CUISINE

Beauvour-Druval, on the Route de Cidre. Photo, tripadvisor

Normandy offers a rich feast of contrasts for the visitor, ranging from fashionable beach resorts, stunning scenery that inspired the Impressionists and the dramatic coast of the D-Day Landings, which we’ve touched on in the last couple of blogs.  There’s a whole lot more to explore though, from historic artefacts, medieval fairs and ruined abbeys, to châteaux, cheeses, cider, conquerors and the childhood home of one of the greatest couturiers of the 20th century.

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NORMANDY AND THE D-DAY LANDINGS

‘The Braves’ sculpture on Omaha Beach. Photo, ricksteves

As well as the delightful seaside towns such as Deauville, Trouville and Honfleur and the extraordinary natural phenomena of Étretat, there’s another important aspect of the Normandy coast.  It’s something of a pilgrimage site for travellers who want to visit the landscape of the momentous day that changed the course of history.  The D-Day Landings just before dawn on 06 June 1944 were nothing less than the largest and most complex combined airborne and amphibious military operation of all time.

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