dimanche 31 janvier 2016




Ancient History...
The historic French region of Provence, located in the southeast corner of France between the Alps, the Mediterranean, the Rhone River and the upper reaches of the Durance River, was inhabited by Ligures since Neolithic times; by the Celtic since about 900 BC, and by Greek colonists since about 600 BC. It was conquered by Rome at the end of the 2nd century BC and became the first Roman province outside of Italy. From 879 until 1486, it was a semi-independent state ruled by the Counts of Provence. In 1481, the title passed to the Louis XI of France. and in 1486 Provence was legally incorporated into France. Provence has been a part of France for over 400 years, but the people of Provence, particularly in the interior, have kept a proud cultural identity that persists to this day.

Roman vestiges, world-renowned markets, olive groves and vineyards, and tranquil villages with shady squares...


Image result for avignon   Avignon

The ancient town centre enclosed by its medieval ramparts.

Between 1309 and 1377 during the Avignon Papacy, seven successive popes resided in Avignon and in 1348 Pope Clement VI bought the town from Joanna I of Naples. Papal control persisted until 1791 when, during the French Revolution, it became part of France. The town is now the capital of the Vaucluse department and one of the few French cities to have preserved its ramparts.The historic centre, which includes the Palais des Papes, the cathedral, and the Pont d'Avignon, became a UNESCOWorld Heritage Site in 1995. The medieval monuments and the annual Festival d'Avignon have helped to make the town a major centre for tourism.Avignon,


A city on the Rhône River in the Provence region of southern France. It's famed for inspiring the paintings of Van Gogh, which influenced the contemporary art displayed at the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh. Once a provincial capital of ancient Rome, Arles is also known for many remains from that era, including Arles Amphitheatre, now hosting plays, concerts and bullfights. A large part of the Camargue is located on the territory of the commune, making it the largest commune inMetropolitan France in terms of territory (though Maripasoula, French Guiana, is much larger). The city has a long history, and was of considerable importance in the Roman province of Gallia Narbonensis. The Roman and Romanesque Monuments of Arles were listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1981. The Dutch post-Impressionist painter Vincent van Gogh lived in Arles from 1888 to 1889 and produced over 300 paintings and drawings during his time there. An international photography festival has been held in the city since 1970.

This made it an attractive destination for the painter Vincent van Gogh, who arrived there on 21 February 1888. He was fascinated by the Provençal landscapes, producing over 300 paintings and drawings during his time in Arles. Many of his most famous paintings were completed there, including The Night Cafe, the Yellow Room, Starry Night Over the Rhone, and L'Arlésienne. Paul Gauguin visited van Gogh in Arles. However, van Gogh's mental health deteriorated and he became alarmingly eccentric, culminating in the well-known ear-severing incident in December 1888 which resulted in two stays in the Old Hospital of Arles. The concerned Arlesians circulated a petition the following February demanding that van Gogh be confined. In May 1889, he took the hint and left Arles for the Saint-Paul asylum at nearby Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

Image result for uzes     Uzès 
Originally Ucetia, Uzès was a small Gallo-Roman oppidum, or administrative settlement. The town lies at the source of the Eure, from where a Roman aqueduct was built in the first century BC, to supply water to the local city ofNîmes, 50 km (31 mi) away. The most famous stretch of the aqueduct is the Pont du Gard, which carried fresh water over splendid arches across the river Gardon.

Image result for pont du gard     The Pont du Gard
is an ancient Roman aqueduct that crosses the Gardon River in the south of France. Located near the town of Vers-Pont-du-Gard, the bridge is part of the Nîmes aqueduct, a 50-kilometer system built in the first century AD to carry water from a spring at Uzès to the Roman colony of Nemausus (Nîmes)[4]Because of the uneven terrain between the two points, the mostly underground aqueduct followed a long, winding route that called for a bridge across the gorge of the Gardon River. The Pont du Gard is the highest of all elevated Roman aqueducts, and, along with the Aqueduct of Segovia, one of the best preserved. It was added to UNESCO's list of World Heritage Sites in 1985 because of its historical importance.

 St Remy de Provence

The painter Vincent van Gogh was treated here in the psychiatric center at Monastery
Saint-Paul de Mausole
(1889–1890), and he painted a large number of his most famous paintings while he was here.

is located in the foothills of the Alpilles in the Parc Naturel Regional des Alpilles some 22 km south of Avignon and 15 km north-east of Arles. Access to the commune is by the D27 road from Maussane-les-Alpilles in the south which passes through the village and continues north to join the D99 east of Mas-Blanc-des-Alpilles. The D5 also comes from Maussane-les-Alpilles in the south and passes through the east of the commune as it goes north to Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. The D27A links the two roads in the commune. The D78F branches from the D27 in the commune and goes south-west to join the D17 west of Paradou. Apart from the village there are the hamlets of Mes de Mai, Carita, and Manville. The commune is farmland in the south-east and forested hills in the rest. It has a spectacular position in the Alpilles mountains, set atop a rocky outcrop that is crowned with a ruined castle overlooking the plains to the south. Its name refers to its site: in Provençal, a bauç is a rocky spur.

wikipedia 2016 

mardi 26 janvier 2016



Come and be royal, on one of our Self-Guided Loire Valley cycling tours. Pedal to the magnificent and extravagant Chateau of Chambord set in the heart of an extensive hunting park for the King of France’s leisure. Then on to the elegant Chateau de Chenonceau, spanning the Cher River and site of bitter enmities between the king’s powerful wife Catherine de Medici, and his beautiful mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Or enjoy the machinations imagined by Leonardo da Vinci in his home under the King’s protection in Amboise. The biking is perfect, the scenery rich and varied, the food and wine sublime. Plan now and start dreaming!

See these places on our Loire Valley Self-Guided cycling holidays:

Image result for blois    Blois 

Blois, a hillside city on the Loire River, is the capital of the Loir-et-Cher region in central France. The late Gothic Blois Cathedral towers over its cobbled city center. Nearby is the Château Royal de Blois, a former palace with ornate royal chambers, plus paintings and sculptures from the 16th–19th centuries. Opposite, La Maison de la Magie Robert-Houdin explores the history of magic and holds live performances.

Image result for chateau de chambord    Château de Chambord 

The royal Château de Chambord at Chambord, Loir-et-Cher, France, is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends ...
Image result for clos luce amboise    The Clos Lucé 
The Château du Clos Lucé is a small château in the city of Amboise, France. The place is famous for being the official residence of Leonardo da Vinci between 1516 and 1519, when Leonardo died. 

The Royal Château at Amboise is a château confiscated by the monarchy in the 15th century, it became a favoured royal residence and was extensively rebuilt. Wikipedia Amboise is famous for the Clos Lucé manor house where Leonardo da Vinci lived (and ultimately died) at the invitation of King Francis I of France, whose Château d'Amboise, which dominates the town, is located just 500 m (1,640 feet) away. The narrow streets contain some good examples of timbered housing.

Image result for chenonceau chateau   Château de Chenonceau 

The Château de Chenonceau is a French château spanning the River Cher, near the small village of Chenonceaux in the Indre-et-Loire département of the Loire Valley in France. It is one of the best-known châteaux of the Loire valley. Wikipedia

Image result for azay le rideau  Château d'Azay-le-Rideau 
The Château d'Azay-le-Rideau is located in the town of Azay-le-Rideau in the French département of Indre-et-Loire. Built between 1518 and 1527, this château is considered one of the foremost examples of early French renaissance architecture. Wikipedia

Image result for fontevraud abbey  Fontevraud Abbey 

The Royal Abbey of Our Lady of Fontevraud or Fontevrault is a complex of religious buildings hosting a cultural centre since 1975, the Centre Culturel de l'Ouest, in the village of Fontevraud-l'Abbaye, near Chinon, in Anjou, France. The tombs of Richard the Lionhearted and Eleonor of Aquitaine can both be seen here. Wikipedia

Image result for saumur  Saumur
The historic town is located between the 
Loire and Thouet rivers, and is surrounded by the vineyards of Saumur itself, Chinon, Bourgueil, Coteaux du Layon, etc. which produce some of France's finest wines. Its skyline has often been compared with that of Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia.

Image result for loire valley garden GARDENS  Chateau de Chenonceau Gardens
Gardens of the Chateau de Villandry
International Garden Festival of Chaumont sur Loire

The Loire Valley is known as the garden of France. The climate is mild the soil is fertile and the land is watered by the lovely River Loire as well as the Rivers Eure, Loiret and Cher.
When the magnificent Chateaus of the Loire Valley were built many also had fabulous gardens designed  for the French aristocracy to enjoy. The most notable example in the Loire Valley (and indeed one of the best formal French style gardens in the world is the garden of the Chateau de Villandry.
However the region has much more to offer than an impressive selection of French formal style gardens. There is also a fabulous Japanese garden - the Park Oriental de Maulevrier. The park has been approved by Japanese horticulturists as authentic.  For more English style borders take a look at the superb Parc Floral de la Source and for a charming personal garden the Jardin d'Atmosphere du Petit Bordeaux takes some beating.
To get some ideas for the future visit the International Garden Festival at Chaumont sur Loire in the grounds of the Chateau Chaumont.


Vineyard in the Loire Valley
The Loire Valley wine region[7] is one of the world's most well-known areas of wine production and includes several French wine regions situated along the river from the Muscadet region on the Atlantic coast to the regions of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé just southeast of the city of Orléans in north central France. Loire wines tend to exhibit a characteristic fruitiness with fresh, crisp flavors.[8]
The Loire Valley is France's most diverse wine region, producing exemplary wines in every style. Popularity of Loire Valley wines with sommeliers and wine writers has been growing steadily for the last ten years because for all their variety, Loire Valley wines share important characteristics that make them perfect for contemporary taste. Moderate alcohol, refreshing acidity and minerality make them ideal food wines. Pure expression of varietal and terroir unmasked by oak. Excellent value...


The architectural heritage in the valley's historic towns is notable, especially its châteaux, such as the Château d'AmboiseChâteau d'Azay-le-RideauChâteau de ChambordChâteau de ChinonChâteau du RivauChâteau d'UsséChâteau de Villandry and Chenonceau. The châteaux, numbering more than three hundred, represent a nation of builders starting with the necessary castle fortifications in the 10th century to the splendour of those built half a millennium later. When the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of power, followed suit. Their presence in the lush, fertile valley began attracting the very best landscape designers. In addition to its many châteaux, the cultural monuments illustrate to an exceptional degree the ideals of the Renaissance and the Age of the Enlightenment on western European thought and design. Many of the Châteaux were designed to be built on the top of hills, one example of this is the Château d'Amboise. Many of the Châteaux had extremely detailed and expensive churches on the grounds, or within the actual Châteaux itself. This was because all of the French kings who reigned during the building of the Châteaux were devout Catholics.

 information from Wikipedia 2016