Friday, March 31, 2006

Friday Blogalicious France II

Having finished with the cave art, let's take a lovely car trip around the south of France. We'll make it a leisurely trip, stopping in the wonderful little restaurants and inns, staying where we please. Here is a terrific list of the amazing museums we can visit as we tool around Provence, Avignon and the Riviera. Ta-Da! Everything from the Corkscrew Museum, to Cezanne's studio and VanGogh's bedroom, to the Silk Tester's Museum and a Lapidary Museum. This lovely bed and breakfast is Le Château de Saint-Côme chez Famille Poutet as photographed here. You can almost smell the vines and the lavender.

When we are done with Provence, perhaps we might plan a bicycle route through the Loire Valley. This beautiful river valley and its history takes us to the heart of France -- Paris. But along the way, it might be nice to see some of those famous castles and châteaux. Here is a handy website to help us plan: the bike trip. The river valley is lovely and fruitful. It is often called "the garden of France. The Loire River floods occasionally when rains have been heavy, and levees built in the 1500's still control the river. The castles reflect the embattled history of this central valley, which leads to the capital. Many of the châteaux were begun in the 1400's and 1500's when building was done with defense rather than beauty foremost in the planners' minds. But of course, now, the châteaux have been remodeled and are most charming, filled with art, tapestries and beautiful gardens. We will tour a few as we go. I think we will have to set aside another day to visit Paris, though.

The headwaters of the Loire river rise near the famous pilgrimage route of Santiago de Compostela (Saint James of Compostela), a site famous for its healing properties, not far across the mountainous border into Spain. The pilgrimage was such a major route throughout the Middle Ages that Unesco has declared the Routes to be a World Heritage Site here. See here to visit the rich churches along the French mountainous portion of the route. Much easier than bicycling up all those mountain passes! The thing to consider is how long and how many thousands, perhaps millions of faithful pilgrims have followed this route over the course of the centuries. For more than a thousand years, pilgrims have walked, ridden and been carried over these mountain trails. There are guest houses still in operation to care for the pilgrims who still come.

So, we finish looking at the pilgrim's church, and take one last look at the beautiful Loire River. We can slip into the boat and take our bicycle back down to the lowlands with us the easy way.

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