Occitanie, France

It has been quite some time since I last visited my blog, and I was astonished that it has been about 8 months since my last post. I have been busy with work (and the occasional trip away), that I have found it difficult to find the time or the motivation to make an entry, but finally I have found the time and some motivation, so here goes!

Back in February I travelled to the Azores and spent an amazing week there, and managed to take some lovely images, but I will be sharing these at a later date. Last month I spent a week just outside of Toulouse, and with a hire car, travelled around the region of Occitanie. A lovely part of France, and I look forward to returning in December.

 

 

Toulouse

 

 

Montbel

 

 

Rocamadour & La Forêt des Singes

 

 

Cité de Carcassonne

 

 

Pyrénées-Orientales

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Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur

A week ago I visited the southeastern region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur in France and stayed in Cavalaire-Sur-Mer in the department of Var. With a hire car and a camera, I explored what the region had to offer and I was not disappointed. This was my second visit to the region and it was just as beautiful the second time around as it was the first.

 

Bonporteau Beach, Cavalaire-Sur-Mer

 

 

St-Tropez

 

I couldn’t visit Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur without making a trip into St-Tropez. Saint-Tropez is a town about 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of Nice and is located on the French Riviera. After the war it became an internationally known seaside resort, well known for its influx of artists of the French New Wave and it also became a resort for the European and American jet set with the occasional chance to do a bit of celebrity spotting.

Away from the hustle and bustle of the ports, boats and the busy high streets, you can take a stroll in the side streets where you feel like you have been transported back in time, being surrounded by beautiful old buildings.

 

 

Castellane & Gorges du Verdon

 

Taking a drive to the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, I decided to revisit Castellane. Castellane is a charming place to visit, very scenic and a very peaceful place. Here you can visit La Chapelle Notre Dame du Roc…if you can handle the climb!

 

 

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie

 

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is considered to be one of the most beautiful villages of France and I have to say that I agree. The views are simply breathtaking.

It lies at the western entrance to the Gorges du Verdon. The village has been a centre of the pottery trade, especially faïence, for centuries. A spring flows out of the cliff and creates a waterfall in town, providing water power. The village was built on platform terraces a hundred or so metres up the side of a limestone cliff.

 

The Gold Star

“Moustiers evokes a Nativity scene: confined between two rock ledges, a star dominates the village from a great height…”

According to Frédéric Mistral, the star is an ex-voto dedicated to St. Mary. The knight Blacas decided to hang a star there as a homage to the Virgin on his return from the Crusades.

Other versions talk about love stories, the Three Kings or Chivalry… Although many versions exist about the origin of the star none have been verified to date. The mystery remains total on the origin and meaning of the star above Moustiers… The size of the star we see today dates from 1957. It is the eleventh to hang above the mountain road. In 1995 it was covered in gold leaf before returning to its vigil over the village. The size of the star, which originally had five points has changed over time from 1.80 to 30 cm. Today, the chain is 135 m long, weighs 150kg and the star covered in gold leaf measures 1.25 m.

(Office de tourisme Moustiers Sainte-Marie – Gorges du Verdon, 2016)

 

 

 

Lac de Sainte-Croix

 

 

Domaine du Rayol

 

Towards the end of the trip I visited the Domaine du Rayol, also known as the Jardin botanique du Rayol and the Parc botanique à Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer, a botanical garden and arboretum located on the Avenue des Belges, Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer.

 

 

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur and can’t wait until I return again sometime next year.

 

Au revoir France, à bientôt…

 

 

 

References

Domaine du Rayol. (2016). Le jardin des méditerranées. [online] Available at: http://www.domainedurayol.org [Accessed 5 Oct. 2016].

Office de tourisme Moustiers Sainte-Marie – Gorges du Verdon. (2016). The legend of the star. [online] Available at: http://www.moustiers.eu/?Legende-de-l-etoile&lang=en [Accessed 5 Oct. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Alpes-de-Haute-Provence. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alpes-de-Haute-Provence [Accessed 5 Oct. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provence-Alpes-Côte_d%27Azur [Accessed 5 Oct. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Saint-Tropez. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saint-Tropez [Accessed 5 Oct. 2016].

Brittany & Pays de la Loire

10 years after my last visit to Brittany, I felt it was time to visit this beautiful part of France again. My first visit to Brittany was rather different, staying in a cheap hotel and eating fast food but my second visit was much more pleasant, this time staying with family in the comfort of their home and being treated to home cooked meals…what could be better? With a hire car I explored what the Côtes-d’Armor had to offer.

 

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Château de la Roche-Jagu

 

Pontrieux

 

Binic

 

Île-de-Bréhat

Bréhat is an archipelago composed of two main islands, separated only at high tide and many smaller ones. It is well known for its pink granite rocks, very mild micro-climate and Mediterranean vegetation, due to the warm Gulf Stream coming from across the Atlantic.

Visitors come to Brehat every day by the ferry service (les Vedettes de Bréhat) to visit the main tourist attractions which include the Paon & Rosedo lighthouses, the St-Michel chapel, the Guerzido beach, the Birlot water-mill and the Verrerie of Bréhat.

I took a trip to the island and was not disappointed. It is great for walks and escaping from it all.

 

 

Fort-la-Latte

 

Cap Fréhel

 

Nantes, Pays de la Loire

Nantes is a city in western France, located on the Loire River. The city is the sixth largest in France, with a metropolitan area of about 900,000 inhabitants.

Nantes is the capital city of the Pays de la Loire region and the Loire-Atlantique département, and it is the largest city in traditional Brittany and in the whole Grand-Ouest (northwestern France). Together with Vannes, Rennes and Carhaix, it was one of the major cities of the historic province of Brittany and the ancient Duchy of Brittany. Nantes is still widely regarded as its capital city.

 

Nantes & Brittany

The city of Nantes and the Loire-Atlantique département, were formerly part of the historic province of Brittany. Nantes was one of its traditional capitals, along with Rennes. Depending on who you talk to, Nantes is still considered to be a part of Brittany and there is still much debate on this topic. Despite this, Nantes is a fantastic place to visit with beautiful architecture and many sites to observe.

 

 

After visiting Nantes, it was nice to head back to the Côtes-d’Armor where the pace of life was less hectic. Brittany is a great region of France to visit, no matter what your interests are. For me personally, I love the countryside and the small quaint towns and villages. I look forward to returning in the not to distant future, as there are more places that I would like to visit.

 

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Chapelle Notre-Dame de l’Espérance

 

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Saint-Quay-Portrieux

 

References

Castle la Latte. (2016). Fort la Latte – Monument historique classé. [online] Available at: https://www.castlelalatte.com [Accessed 6 Sep. 2016].

Vedettes de Bréhat. (2016). Vedettes de Bréhat. [online] Available at: http://www.vedettesdebrehat.com [Accessed 6 Sep. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Île-de-Bréhat. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Île-de-Bréhat [Accessed 6 Sep. 2016].

Wikipedia. (2016). Nantes. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nantes [Accessed 6 Sep. 2016].

 

 

Switzerland

A place of beauty that extends across the north and south side of the Alps in west-central Europe, Switzerland encompasses a great diversity of landscapes and climates on a limited area of 41,285 square kilometres. It is unusual in the sense that it comprises four main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, Italian and Romansh in a relatively small area.

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Ferney-Voltaire, France

My travels took me to Ferney-Voltaire in eastern France, a commune in the Ain department which lies between the Jura mountains and the Swiss border and forms part of the metropolitan area of Geneva. My hotel was just 5 minutes walk from the Swiss border and allowed me easy access to transportation that would take me into Geneva. Within 15 minutes I was able to board a tram at Meyrin that would take me straight into the heart of Geneva, the journey took no longer than 10 minutes. I was really impressed with the trams, not only did they run on time but they were also in a good state of repair and were clean, something that can not always be said about transportation in the U.K.

Geneva is definitely one of my favourite cities in Switzerland, despite the fact that it is not very big in size and is known as “the smallest of big cities”, it somehow feels spacious and not overcrowded like some cities do. I took this opportunity to take a few photos, even though my hands were frozen and I did not want to take them out of my lovely warm pockets. I shall remember in future to pack my gloves with me if I visit Switzerland in the month of February.

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This was the second time that I had visited Geneva but I was able to view it through different eyes, as the first time I visited was during the summer months and the city has a completely different feel at this time of year. Gone was the greenery and the vast array of flowers that colour the city over the course of summer, like those at L’horloge fleurie and instead there were bare trees and cold bitter winds but somehow the city still seems to hold a sense of charm. It was lovely to see all of the swans and other birds dwelling in Le Rhône just off Lac Léman. I only spent a short time here in Geneva but it was definitely time well spent.

The following day I had planned to travel to Lausanne which is located 62 kilometres (38.5 miles) northeast of Geneva. Lausanne is the second-largest city on Lake Geneva and is the lively capital of the canton of Vaud. I was looking forward to this visit, as Lausanne was a place that I had not visited before. The “Old Town” Lausanne is extremely picturesque and is largely car free, which is ideal if you are a pedestrian. Compared to Geneva, I found Lausanne to be busier and less spacious and at times reminded me of London, UK. The pace of life seemed to be much quicker here and the fact that it had a Metro system gave it more of a “London” feel. The Old Town is home to the Notre-Dame Cathedral which dates back to the 12th Century. The Cathedral is impressive not only on the outside but also inside and there are some great views of the city to be found here.

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Views over Lausanne

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Views over Lausanne

Notre-Dame Cathedral

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Just a short walk away (maybe 20-30 minutes) there was a chance to escape from it all and I found myself a place of peace and tranquility. I visited Lac de Sauvabelin, an artificial lake in the Sauvabelin forest, above Lausanne which started construction in 1888. As well as the lake there is also a petting zoo which was a pleasant surprise and better still it was free of charge. I especially loved it here as I like the peace and quiet and I have a great fondness for animals. A great way for me to spend the afternoon before heading back into the hustle and bustle of the city.

Lac de Sauvabelin

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Before heading back into the city I took the opportunity to climb the the Tour de Sauvabelin (Tower of Sauvabelin) which is a wooden tower located in the Sauvabelin forest. The tower was constructed in 2003 and is 35 meters high and provides panoramic views of Lausanne, Lac Léman and the surrounding countryside and mountains. Well worth the climb.

Tour de Sauvabelin

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Tour de Sauvabelin

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Tour de Sauvabelin

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View from tower

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View from tower

Back in the city I also visited Port d’Ouchy which is a popular lakeside resort located south of the city at the edge of Lake Geneva (Lac Léman). I can imagine that in the summer months the port could get very busy but in February it was fairly subdued which made it a pleasure to visit. There are great views over the lake that look over to France (weather depending), unfortunately it was a little overcast during my visit but I could just make out the mountains on the other side. The Compagnie générale de navigation sur le Lac Léman or Lake Geneva General Navigation Company (commonly abbreviated to CGN) is a public Swiss company operating boats on Lake Geneva connecting towns in both France and Switzerland including Geneva, Vevey, Montreux, Évian-les-Bains, and Lausanne. The boats can be seen at the Ouchy Port.

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The Lausanne CGN boat in Ouchy

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The Lausanne CGN boat in Ouchy

Ouchy was once a small fishing village which was incorporated into the city of Lausanne in the mid-19th century to serve as a port on Lac Léman. Today it is a popular place amongst skateboarders and roller skaters as well as tourists for its incredible views of the lake and the Alps.

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Waterfront statue

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Giant chess board

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View of Port d’Ouchy

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View of Port d’Ouchy

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View over Lac Léman towards France

I also managed to see the Château d’Ouchy (“Castle of Ouchy”), an old medieval castle that has since been converted into a hotel.

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Château d’Ouchy

All in all I enjoyed my visit to Lausanne but my favourite part of the visit was to the Bois de Sauvabelin and I would urge anyone visiting Lausanne to pay a visit. My time away in Switzerland was brief but it was a nice break and I shall definitely miss the view from my hotel room.

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View from hotel room, overlooking France

I am looking forward to my next getaway in a few weeks when I travel to Gran Canaria, hopefully capturing some great images.

 

References

 

Chateaudouchy.ch, (2016). Château d’Ouchy Lausanne. [online] Available at: http://www.chateaudouchy.ch/uk/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

MySwitzerland.com, (2016). Lausanne. [online] Available at: http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/lausanne.html [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

MySwitzerland.com, (2016). Notre-Dame Cathedral. [online] Available at: http://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/interests/excursion-summer/historical-switzerland/abbeys-churches/lausanne-cathedral-lausanne.html [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

Ville-geneve.ch, (2016). Welcome to Geneva – Ville de Genève – Site officiel. [online] Available at: http://www.ville-geneve.ch/welcome-geneva/ [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

Wikipedia, (2016). Compagnie Générale de Navigation sur le lac Léman. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compagnie_Générale_de_Navigation_sur_le_lac_Léman [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

Wikipedia, (2016). Ferney-Voltaire. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ferney-Voltaire [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

Wikipedia, (2016). Lausanne. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lausanne [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

Wikipedia, (2016). Lausanne Cathedral. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lausanne_Cathedral [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

Wikipedia, (2016). Ouchy. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ouchy [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].

Wikipedia, (2016). Switzerland. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland [Accessed 29 Feb. 2016].