Lorraine tends to be off the beaten track for the international tourist in France, but I found it to be quite an interesting destination. It is fair to say that the huge, flat plain of Lorraine is not the most picturesque landscape. If fields of corn don’t depress you as much as they do me,Continue reading “The two faces of Lorraine”
Strasbourg is a joyous city to explore, with deep roots, a rich but troubled past, but also spring in its step, for it has solved the painful equation of Alsatian identity. As I travelled through the lovely Alsace, I was struck by how large World War II still looms in the locals’ psyche. The peopleContinue reading “Strasbourg, or the solution to the Alsatian equation”
Firmly in France but forever looking East to Germany, Alsace is not only incredibly pretty, but also a fascinating place to explore for its culture. Already in the Vosges, I could feel its cultural influence. Red and pink geraniums on every balcony and windowsills. The culture of turning fruits into delicious liqueurs and eaux-de-vie. PretzelsContinue reading “The Alsatian chocolate box”
When I arrived in the Vosges, I had a simple problem: I didn’t know where to go. After visiting the Pyrenees, the Alps and the Jura, what new experiences could the Vosges possibly give me? Compared to the other mountain ranges I visited, the Vosges are confusing: they don’t follow a general direction. There isContinue reading “Little Red Riding Hood in the Vosges”
Around la Chaux-du-Dombief, in Jura, it is like a pastoral symphony made landscape. Or is it a fable. The village could be a common Jura village, if it wasn’t for its magnificent surroundings. Just North is a long limestone ridge, that steeply plunged into two lakes, lac du Grand Maclu and Lac du Petit Maclu.Continue reading “The Eagle and the Hedgehog – a fable from Jura”
As I drove north from Annecy the Jura mountains, once again I found landscapes I felt at ease with. The Jura mountains are the north-eastern little sisters of the Alps. Switzerland is very close, as the crow flies, but it is cut off by the high peaks of the mountain range, then by the riverContinue reading “The Jura mountains”
In Annecy, a random change of perspective made me re-consider my whole impression of the place. I was drawn to Annecy after people told me of the turquoise waters of its lake, its beautiful mountain landscape and its fantastic outdoor sport scene. As I drew closer, all I saw was a town built around cars.Continue reading “The two sides of Annecy”
During my wanderings I have met the nomadic peoples of France. Several times on the road as I looked for a place to stay, I saw signs for “Aire pour gens du voyage”, “site for the travelling community”. I hesitated. Technically, literally, those are set up for people like me. But “gens du voyage” isContinue reading “Nomadic people of France”
Quite by chance, I came across the gorges du Tarn. “Le hasard fait bien les choses », it was a happy accident. Driving through the causses, the high plateaux of the South-West of Massif Central, the summer heat kept on pushing me on northwards. After the harvests, the ground was red. Sheep were around – IContinue reading “Deep down in Gorges du Tarn”
Since childhood I have wanted to visit the Cathar castles, “les châteaux cathares”. And thankfully, the vertigo citadels, high on the Corbières’ peaks, were up to my expectations. The Corbières are the hills which link the Pyrenees to the Massif Central; in the wider valleys grow wines, but the hills are covered in Mediterranean garrigue.Continue reading “The Cathar castles”
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