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 Alsatian chocolate box

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”

Little Red Riding Hood in the Vosges

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”

The Jura mountains

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”

The two sides of Annecy

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”

Nomadic people of France

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”

Deep down in Gorges du Tarn

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”

Along the Pyrenees 4: Massat, mountain capital of countercultures

Another nomad told me that in Ariège, Massat, a village south (and therefore uphill) from Saint-Girons, was the hippies’ HQ. So I decided to go, mingle, and see what happened. As I drove up the valley toward Massat (you pronounce the t), I went past several organic vegetables and fruits shops. On the road, moreContinue reading “Along the Pyrenees 4: Massat, mountain capital of countercultures”

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”

Along the Pyrenees 1: Béarn

From the Basque country, I drove westwards along the Pyrenees, staying on the French side of this magnificent mountain range. Straight as an arrow between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, a natural border between France and Spain, between the Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts. If you want to go anywhere fast, stay in theContinue reading “Along the Pyrenees 1: Béarn”