Claude Monet

Sweet Normandy

In the valley of the Seine the river winds its way in great loops.. these are the contours of Vexin.

Les Andelys dominated by a former fortress of Richard the Lion Heart, Chateau-Gaillard overlooks the river. Giverny is intimately linked to Monet who lived there; here you will find the famous Japanese-style water garden. Go too to see the paintings at Vernon.

Rouen is the port where Flaubert and Corneille were born; it is a museum town with its old districts of houses with timber framing, its gothic churches, its marvelous cathedral - the superbly designed openings of its immense facade, surrounded by pinnacles. It was in the place du Vieux Marche that Joan of Arc was burnt. Also see the Aitre Saint-Maclou, an old cemetery a unique place bearing some very old traces of rituals.

The pays d'Auge with its gentle hills and its bocage is a fertile land, a paradise for gourmets: cheeses, cider, and the famous calvados. Rich in manors and half-timbered farms. Not far away, Lisieux hosts the great christian pilgrimage.

Caen now has a "museum for peace" through the Memorial. Its convent and monastery are magnificent examples of Normandy Romanesque art. From the same era, you will also see the powerful ruins of Jumieges located in a beautiful setting, a fascinating and striking spectacle.

Take the pretty route des abbayes which runs alongside the Seine.

Nearby, the sunken valleys of la Suisse Normande - a truly rural scene - whose hills have a profusion of gorse and broom. Normandy has some fine forests. The forest of Ecouves and also the forest of Lyons (one of the finest beech groves in Europe), are ideal for outings; follow the routes and go into Le Perche with its beautiful verdant landscapes... Chateau de Josselin

Brittany's Fortresses

In inland Brittany you will be struck by the beauty of the bocage, the hedges of hawthorn, the beeches, the ash trees...

The Monts d'Aree and the Montagne Noire offer panoramic views over the countryside from a variety of perspectives. In the forest of Paimpont, set off in search of Merlin, the wizard..

There are many fortresses and chateaux to see in inland Brittany; that of Josselin, home of the Dukes of Rohan; the chateau de Vitre with its fortified town is one of the best preserved medieval constructions in Brittany - it also has the remarkable tapestries of Aubusson. The chateau Fougeres with its five towers and its overhanging walls stands on a bend. The medieval chateau de Combourg, near Saint-Malo where Chateaubriand spent his childhood.

Vendee, the Land of Chouan

Land of the bocage, ideal for rural tourism, the beautiful forest of Vouvant, the chateau des Lusignan whose construction was no doubt ordered by Lhe fairy Melusine... Your holiday will be made memorable by visits to numerous chateaux where you will be told the history of the "chouans", the peasants who rose against the French Revolution.

The Marshland of Poitiers

Marais Poitevin Water has replaced the roads and links the villages in a mysterious maze; this green Venise in the soft light offers magical monuments. Don't hesitate to take a boat trip through wet or dry marshland.. soon you will arrive at the Ocean, passing through the reeds, a succession of charming, florid bridges, thousands of birds. Your voyage of discovery might commence near the very pretty town of Niort. Here you will find a double keep in the Romanesque style, and a museum where you will learn all about the region's history.

Inland in Charentes

To appreciate this area, you should start at the very fine Rochefort; a former arsenal created by Colbert the town nestles on the loop of a river and is surrounded by marshlands. Especially worthy of a visit is the Corderie Royale, with its international Center of the Sea and the Maison de Pierre Loti with its exhibitions of the "merveilleux ailleurs".. This region is famous for its Cognac; you will visit the great factories some of which date from the 18th century.. tasting in the stores is the order of the day! And then there is Saintes with its ancient remains. In the middle ages, this was an important stopping place along the route of Saint Jacques, and it has a most interesting religious heritage. Angouleme, girded with ramparts, has a Poitiers-style cathedral embellished with numerous sculptures. During your stay you will be able to take the routes of the Romanesque churches of Angoumois, Poitou, Aunis and Saintonge. These are exceptional tours.

The Towns

Rennes is a lively town, the center of which has some fine buildings of classical style. You can stroll through vast squares and along old medieval streets lined with houses with wooden facades; or you might prefer to visit the law court and the Museum of Brittany..

A visit to the beautiful town of Poitiers is a must. Situated at the top of a promontory this is one of the major towns of Romanesque art. Visit its numerous churches especially Notre Dame; the statues on its facade are amazing. Take a trip to Futuroscope for a very "science fiction" voyage .

Le Mans, town of the 24 hour race and the Grand Prix of France Moto. Its racing track is legendary and in its museum you will discover cars from historical races, the oldest are almost sacred monsters..

Nantes, the capital of the Pays de la Loire. The Duchess Anne made this the capital of Brittany.

It was in its ducal chateau that the Edict of Nantes was signed. Wend your way through the narrow streets of the old town. Visit its superb cathedral with its flamboyant gothic style, its museum of Fine Arts with its wealth of 20th century Renaissance paintings. Go along the famous Pommeray passage, a covered walkway dating from 1843, which inspired so many artists with its pure style typical of the great passages of Brussels.

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