The two faces of Lorraine

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, or the solution to the Alsatian equation

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”

The Cathar castles

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”

Along the Pyrenees 3: Saint-Bertrand-de-Commingues

The village of Saint-Bertrand-de-Commingues was a turning point as I made my way east along the Pyrenees. It was the first time I felt I was going towards the Mediterranean. It was the first day of unblinking sunshine in a while, and I welcomed the dry heat, after the cool, damp high mountains. But theContinue reading “Along the Pyrenees 3: Saint-Bertrand-de-Commingues”

La Roque-Saint-Christophe

The Roque-Saint-Christophe is a striking site. It encapsulates the extraordinary history of Périgord, mind-bogglingly long, and full of bloody twists and turns. The South of Périgord is structured around powerful rivers, such as the Dordogne, the Isle and the Vézère, and the steep valleys they have carved out. Cliffs and rocky outcrops everywhere mark theContinue reading “La Roque-Saint-Christophe”

Climate changes, or seeking shade in Périgord

Exploring a new land means getting to grips with its climate. It took me a few days to acclimatise to the July heat of Périgord. I became frustrated with how little exploring I could do, but the weather is a master you must obey. In the South of France, in July, my Parisian hyperactivity wasContinue reading “Climate changes, or seeking shade in Périgord”

France down the middle

Driving through France is like taking a road-trip through Europe, on fast-forward. Such is the variety of its landscapes. But each terroir has its unique identity, too. Setting off South from Paris, once out of the tangle of ring roads and suburbs, I hit the south of the Bassin Parisien. Huge cereal fields fill theContinue reading “France down the middle”

Huelgoat and Bretons d’ailleurs

Eventually I tired of the wind along the coast. I was near Roscoff,and it was blowing from dawn to dusk, kicking up the dust and driving off trains of thoughts. I headed both inland and inwards, to Huelgoat. Huelgoat, “the upper wood” in Breton, is pronounced “U-èl-go-a-t”. It is a quaint village in the centerContinue reading “Huelgoat and Bretons d’ailleurs”

Monsters, saints, queens, and shipwrecks

The Coast of Legends is dotted with shoals, rocks, islets, islands, peninsulas. Some islands are accessible on foot at low tide still, if you don’t mind risking wet feet. Rocks seem to rise up to the ocean. Mounds, towers of huge granite boulders won’t budge for waves or sea spray. Some look like petrified monsters,Continue reading “Monsters, saints, queens, and shipwrecks”

Tall tales of stone

On the southern bank of the aber Ildut, people have widened and deepened the river valley. The local granite, the renown “Laber”, is beautiful, with its pink feldspar crystals up to five centimetres long. It resists well to erosion, and is, apparently, easy to carve. It is also (relatively) easy to transport from here, asContinue reading “Tall tales of stone”