France is world-renowned for its mighty chateaux, scattered across hillsides, next to rushing rivers and overlooking wonderful cities, towns and villages. The South-West of France is one of the country’s most beautiful regions and is home to many imposing chateaux that boast incredible vistas of the mountains, meadows and water.
Well known as a superb holiday destination, south west France provides spectacular scenery, brimming with flourishing vineyards. This part of France is a prolific wine-producing area. Whether your preference is red, white, rosé or sparkling, there is limitless amount of opportunity to sample, buy and improve your knowledge of wine by exploring some of the 100,000 vineyards scattered across the region, (no, that is not a typing error). You can also sample some classic vintages at festivals, chateaux and wine tasting festivals.
St. Tropez on the shimmering Cote d’Azur is renowned for its glamour, glitz and elegance, but is it a realistic holiday destination with children in tow? Vintage Travel explores whether this ultra-chic French Riviera coastal resort is feasible with the kids…
The picturesque and quaint market town of Castillonnes in the northern Lot et Garonne department of south west France can only be described as a ‘must-see’ village in a region of France that is brimming with culture, character and beauty. With a hilltop location, Castillonnes boasts magnificent views of the Lot et Garonne countryside rolling into the distance.
When planning a wedding, the honeymoon has to be one of the most exciting aspects of wedding organisation. You’ll be happily married, all the pre-wedding jitters will be behind you and you and your ‘other half’ will be jetting off to a week or so of romantic freedom.
The biggest question related to planning a honeymoon, is, of course, where do you go?
With its swathes of romantic towns and cities, set amongst a stunning diverse backdrop of rivers, valleys, gorges and mountains, not to mention world-quality wine and cuisine, France has long been a favourite destination for couples on their honeymoon.
But whereabouts in France should you head to for an unforgettable honeymoon?
Vieilles Charrues in the heart of Finistere countryside is one of the world’s biggest music festivals. Being a just a quick boat ride from Britain this huge music festival offers an interesting alternative for the unlucky 200,000 or so who tried and failed to get a Glastonbury ticket.
With five stages and more than 80 artists performing there really is something for the 230,000 spectators who congregate in Carhaix in Brittany for the Vieilles Charrues.
And this year’s line-up certainly rivals, if not exceeds, the rosters of many of Europe’s better known music festivals. Take a look at some of the bands headlining at Vieilles Charrues 2014, France’s biggest music festival.
The Arctic Monkeys
Alex Turner and the rest of the Sheffield band will headline the festival on the Saturday night. The Arctic Monkeys have developed into one of England’s finest rock bands. Led by Turner, the band have taken us on a fascinating musical journey through their recorded material and live shows.
Sir Elton John has been around so long he has become a quintessential extravagant rock star who is as English as fish and chips. Elton’s list of hits are massive, as are his album sales. Elton John plays Vieilles Charrues on Friday 18 July. If you have not already seen the legendary British artist perform, it would be really worth the trip to Carhaix.
Miles Kane writes great songs and is rapidly becoming an inspiring force on the music scene. The Last Shadow Puppets’ frontman will undoubtedly put on an exciting show in Brittany this July.
Other well-known musicians who will be taking to Vieilles Charrues stages include Lily Allen and Franz Ferdinand, along with many more.
Vieilles Charrues is taking place 17 – 20 July 2014.
For more information and to get tickets for France’s biggest music festival visit the official Vieilles Charrues website.
Surrounded by rolling green hills and healthy forests, Le Clos de Redon in south west France is the perfect country house for those looking to escape to peace and tranquillity. This four bedroom house is set within the most idyllic of French countryside and is in striking distance to some of the most beautiful villages in France.
Starting its life as a simple French barn, part of this private villa in South West France’s charm is the fact it boasts many original features. Traditional stone walls are evident throughout the house, which help keep the interior cool in the summer. The shuttered windows and doorways epitomise a French countryside style and fit in beautifully with the traditional old houses of the region. Le Clos de Redon is comforting in its simple old farmhouse style but all the modern world necessities can be found inside.
The kitchen is well-equipped with modern appliances yet is tastefully softened with pretty ornamental touches. With terracotta tiles, chunky wooden beams and a hearty farmhouse table, the rustic vibe is carried through to the living and dining room.
Le Clos de Redon’s four bedrooms are as tastefully decorated in subtle pastel tones. This conveniently laid-out house can sleep up to eight guests in comfort. Guests sleeping in one of the double bedrooms will have the pleasure of direct access to the swimming pool terrace via patio doors.
The views outside put a five star stamp on this fine house. Distant grey stone farmhouses and every shade of green imaginable are mixed with blue sky, white clouds and of course a burning golden sun. The swimming pool completes the stunning landscape of this seemingly never-ending wilderness. Mature shrubs and fragrant citrus trees slope away from the enclosed pool, augmenting the quintessential rural French bliss the whole of Le Clos de Roden affords.
You really do have the best of French village life on your doorstep at Le Clos de Redon. The 20 kilometre drive to the Bastide de Montpazier is worth every drop of fuel. Montpazier is the finest example of a Bastide and has remained unchanged for 700 years. King Edward I of England founded the town in 1284 which has remained one of the most beautiful places to visit in the whole of south west France. Golf enthusiasts will be pleased to learn an 18-home golf course awaits at Castelnaud-de-Gratecambe, just ten kilometres from the house.
It’s safe to say life is ‘tres belle’ at Le Clos de Redon.
For more information, photos and availability, click HERE.
On the face of it, the small and sleepy town of Mirande in the Gers department in South West France would be an unlikely place to play host to the largest country and western festival in Europe.
Not only is the festival the biggest Country and Western event in Europe but it is also recognised as being the first musical festival of this genre to have been established in Europe. In a word, Mirande’s love for country and western has made the town legendary.
For six days in July Mirande turns into an all American town. Last year actors from the cast of Dallas showed up, augmenting the authenticity further. The event is attended by some 165,000 country and western lovers from around the world.
Local Alain Ribaut started the first Mirande festival in 1993. After a shaky beginning with sparse attendance, the following year saw 30,000 people popping by to enjoy the party. Since then the Mirande Music Festival has never looked back.
Eighty or so concerts take place over the course of the festival. Acts from the four corners of the globe will be appearing on stage. Though there is much more to this event asides the recognisable twang of the country and western chord. Visitors can soar high above Mirande and its surroundings on a balloon flight. 200 stalls line the town’s streets, selling authentic North American Indian and Western clothes. American car and motor cycle shows are present as drivers and riders from all over France converge on Mirande to show off their pride and joy.
The festival is a real family affair catering for all ages. Little ones may well need to be in bed before the last act is over though as the music goes on until dawn. The Gers area is renowned for its fine cuisine. Fans of French and international gastronomy will not be disappointed with the superb range of seriously good dishes on offer at the festival.
Nestled deep in the green hills of Gascony, and with a pretty ‘bastide’ dominating the vista, Mirande is a beautifully seductive town all year round. And, as we said, the most unexpected of places to experience the traditional country and western atmosphere of the USA.
The Millau Viaduct that spans the valley of the River Tarn near Millau in southern France is an awesome monument to man’s ingenuity and intelligence. It is sleek, elegant and beautiful and if any of the great Roman bridge builders of the distant past could be beamed into our era then this is the bridge that would have them on their knees!
Prominent Victorian social thinker John Ruskin once said mountains are “best viewed from below”. Whilst that may not always be true about mountains it is almost certainly true about the Millau Bridge. Lucky guys in helicopters may well get a fantastic view, as would daredevil rock climbers, but for the most of us, seeing this great white bridge from nearly one thousand feet below is a never-to-be-forgotten sight.
Driving over the Millau Viaduct for the first time is a thrill for sure. It is however well worth slipping off the main road onto a much older and minor road which spirals down to the pleasant town of Millau. From here not only will you be acquainted with the beautifully-positioned and interesting town of Millau but you will be able to catch a stupendous view of the viaduct, seemingly floating in the clouds.
In the pre-viaduct days, Millau was home to fairly heavy traffic. Today traffic in the town is much sparser and you can save the toll charge of going over the bridge by driving for 20-30 minutes down through Millau and up the other side to rejoin the A75.
The chief architect on the Millau Bridge was Englishman Norman Foster. The inspiring English architect is responsible for some of the most iconic buildings in Europe. Asides the Millau Viaduct, Mr Foster created the ‘Gherkin’ in London in 2004, which rises high above the 13th century church St Helen’s Bishopsgate.
Standing an immense 270 metres above the valley the Millau Bridge is the tallest viaduct in the world. It is also the tallest structure in France, defeating the Eiffel Tower in terms of loftiness. Construction for the bridge started in 2001 and cost 400 million Euros to build. The bridge has unquestionally made travelling to the south west of France and to northern Spain by car much easier.
In reference to the Millau Bridge Norman Foster once said he wanted motorists to “feel as if they were flying their cars.”
If you are travelling in this beautiful corner of France, cross the bridge and see for yourself whether, as Norman Foster hoped, you feel as though you are flying.
The old town of Albi in South West France is beautiful, historic and interesting whatever time of the year you go there. To discover Albi at its busiest and most vibrant, early July would be a good time to visit when the Pause Guitare Music Festival takes place.
From 7 – 12 July, 2014 festival goers from around France and beyond will gather at this scenic French town. Female group sensations Yodelice will be joining the artists playing at Albi this year. Louis Cedid, Christophe and Adebert are all scheduled to play. They will join M, The Hives, Zaz, to name just several of the great musicians playing at this year’s Pause Guitare Music Festival.
Whether you are in striking distance to Albi or further afield, this festival is definitely worth travelling to see, as is Albi itself.
This elegant medieval town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. History and culture radiate down the town’s picturesque streets, squares and alleyways. The great French artist known as Toulouse-Lautrec was born in Albi, which has continued to be a Mecca for artists. The 13th century Cathedrale Sainte-Cecile was built when the heretical Cathars were defeated. Consequently, the cathedral has a distinct military look. Adjacent to the cathedral is the stout Palais de la Berbie. Today this impressive building hosts the town’s museum, which contains works of art by Toulouse-Lautrec, Matisse, Dufy, Gaugin and many more.
Albi’s ancient, traffic-free, medieval streets are a delight to walk around. Superb and reasonably-priced restaurants are a dominant feature of the town’s tourism make-up. Another impressive site that is worth seeing in Albi is the Chateau du Bosc, the place where Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec spent a happy childhood.
With flat-bottomed boats making their way down the Tarn and a whole host of cultural, historic and artistic sites to explore, there are many reasons to visit Albi – the Pause Guitare Music Festival is just one of them.
For more information on this popular summer festival in South West France visit: http://www.pauseguitare.net/.