As we settle back into camp life I’d like to share this guest post on three wonderful places for a stop while on a road trip through France~
The rich history and good roads of Europe have seen the popularity of the continental road-trip grow and grow in recent years. And few countries can match France for its incredible range of regions – encompassing pretty seaside towns, rustic landscapes, cosmopolitan centres, Mediterranean beaches, and grand ski slopes. Here we gather a few destinations from within this wide canvas which offer particularly unique experiences.
But one thing to note before you get going is that by law, each car in France is required to carry a warning triangle for unscheduled stops. This is not optional.
It’s very possible you’ve seen photos of this breathtaking structure without knowing much about it. A tiny tidal island town which builds from waterside fortifications all the way up to the spires of a monastery, it could easily be a location for a fantasy film (indeed, it was one of the inspirations for Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings films).
Locals will tell you how the organization of the island reflects the time it was built – simple cottages at the bottom, great halls (for grander citizens) halfway up the hill and the magnificent abbey dedicated to God on top of it all. It was no surprise when the island and the bay it sits in were made a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Tours are available in ten languages, and visitors can also witness a mass in one of the world’s most evocative settings.
Less well-known internationally, this unique region is a marshland which has become fondly known as ‘Green Venice’ for its leafy waterways.
Visitors are encouraged to hire a boat to explore the canals, which weave through a heavily-wooded landscape – although those looking to fully relax can instead opt for a boat complete with a guide who’ll steer you on your way. With an abundance of rich agricultural land abutting the wet marsh, you’ll drift by fields full of curious geese, sheep, cows, and horses.
And the rural calm continues into quaint villages built on the banks – Coulon and Arcais offer picturesque places to stop and stretch your legs. Meanwhile, the nearby bird sanctuary of Saint-Denis-du-Payre has an observatory – complete with embedded telescopes – which allows a close-up view of the many wading species that call the marshes home.
This sleepy corner of the country – sheltered by limestone cliffs – has gradually emerged as one of France’s great attractions for one reason – it boasts the greatest concentration of prehistoric cave art in Europe.
Mostly dating from the fabled Stone Age (from 15,000 to 10,000 years ago) these stunningly well-preserved caves represent a treasury of ancient culture – before writing, there was painting. The complex’s most popular attraction is a unique mixture of the old and the new – Lascaux IV is an exact reproduction of the main cave, made possible by laser measurement and 3D printing. There are nearly 600 separate paintings to see, with additional information about each available on a tour tablet.
Alongside the cliffs and caves is a boldly modern building – the Musée National de Préhistoire – which brings together many prehistoric artefacts found all over the country. These artefacts gathered together in such an evocative setting provides perhaps the most immersive and informative Stone Age attraction anywhere in the world.