Located in Central France, Moulins is in the region of the Auvergne and is approximately 2.5 hours south of Paris. The towers of the Cathedral and Eglise du Sacre-Coeur dominate the skyline. The eglise is home to a Black Madonna and child statue in wood and is from the 15th century.
Moulins grew up in the 10th century and takes its name from the many mills, which once lined the department (Allier).
Because Moulins was the capital of the duchy of Bourbonnais (c. 10th-16th century). It has noteworthy artistic and historic treasures. When I visited in 2006, the House of Bourbonn was wrapped in scaffolding and limited my photo options. I look forward to rectifying this and visiting this stunning city again. Naturally, I will post the next visit here.
While in Moulins, visit Grand Café. It has the notable first of having the first telephone and the first automobile in the area. The owner would proudly park his new motorcar outside and watch the tourists pour in.
Until the time of the French Revolution, Moulins served as capital for the province of Bourbonnais and the seat of the Dukes of Bourbon. Its existence can be documented as early as the year 990.
The town gained in prominence when Charles IV elevated Louis I de Clermont to Duke of Bourbon in 1327. Before establishing her career, the orphaned young Coco Chanel was educated here. Moulins was the birthplace of the great 19th century operatic baritone and art collector Jean-Baptiste Faure.
With its position on the Mediterranean, Collioure has been a highly desired location. It has been occupied by Roman and Greek Sea Merchants and sailors
and they left a very rich legacy.King Wamba of the Visigoths occupied Collioure in 673. He named the village Caucoliberis and the town was established as major trading port.
This idyllic town perched on the rocky coastline. Its colorful houses seem to rise up out of the sea. This tranquil Catalan harbor with its sheltered bay is where the Pyrenees bows to The Mediterranean. My first visit to Collioure was in November and it was not too cold for a relaxing swim.
Art de vivre has its origins in this Catalan village. The artist Matisse brought his family to Collioure for summers and was quite prolific. He was later joined by André Derain with whom he founded the Fauvist Movement. The artists following this school were often referred to as “la cage aux fauves” or the wild beasts. There works wild with vibrant colors and brushstrokes like Collioure itself. Between the two the produced a formidable amount of work with over 240 drawings, paintings and sculptures in Collioure and its surrounding area.
When you visit Collioure you can discover some of their works by following a trail that winds itself through the village, with replicas at 20 sites where these Fauvist works were first painted or drawn. For maps, information & tours visit Espace Fauve, Quai de l’Amiraute, when in Collioure.
Collioure was also a favorite place to work for Picasso, Van Gogh, Monet and many others. As you might imagine you will see many artists at work on your visit and often they will have something you might purchase to take home with you.
Life is all too short. Visit Collioure and discover its magical powers to inspire!
In the old days, Montmartre was the end of some Metro lines. “Direction Montmartre”. Not any more. It’s actually hard to find the appropriate station to go to “Matha’s hill”. I recommend Lamarck-Caulaincourt. No stairs, just walk up from the back. (The first half of this post has just been wiped out by WP. Grrr. Start from scratch. Patience, patience.)
Le chat noir, the black cat, has become a symbol of Montmatre. Who doesn’t have this sketch on a mug? A cabaret, it was founded by Rodolphe Salis in 1881. It soon drew a crowd of artists and “bohemians”, establishing the reputation of the “hill” as a haven for artists, then and now.
Sleeping angel. Montmartre, 2018.
Urban strawberries. Strawberries? Seriously? Yes. Check the leaves. (Do not expect any kind of logic here. This is a Montmartre Pot-pourri)
– Last weekend, possibly the final weekend of glorious sunshine for another year, we went to Strasbourg, the final birthday celebration, a city that is fully French, was once German for almost 50 years and is now filled with pretzels, flammenkueche, and all around adorability… And good cocktails! What? I’m Irish!!! Seriously, I wanted to […]
are two typical Alsatian towns. The architecture, is fairytale, meets living history, with the added benefit of French dessert! There are little towns like these scattered all over Alsace, exploring, (note Jupiter near clock tower) and eating, here is a delightful way to spend your days! Cheers to you from beautiful Alsace~
Due to a number of photos I wish to share, we are still in Narbonne. I do hope you find them worthwhile. Alas, I had to dodge a number of workmen, vehicles (yes, even in the park) scaffolding and a number of the earlier tourists. Yet here in the area, our tourists can be found in any season. Within another week or two, the crowds will swell in all these locations.
The sun dial is directly behind Place de ville seen in part one. It is a small but lovely park with flowers, benches and oh what a view!
Turning left as you exit the park and a right turn onto the street ahead you will find the the haven for tourists with questions. In a city the size of Narbonne you will be welcomed in several languages and the latest in information offered. You might guess that the Canal de Robine is just behind the bureau.
Of the many shops lining the street, this one seemed to sweep me inside. I do hope you will understand?
If you haven’t had your minimum daily requirements of chocolate, this may be the time… the aroma of chocolate permeates everything in the shop and I believe that I smelled it for awhile after parting.
While I’ve been to Holland and Belgium a few times and their chocolate is unbeatable. The Swiss and German chocolate is lovely but do not imagine that France’s chocolate cannot compete. For those, yes I am aware there are a few of you out there, that are not chocolate lovers we have something else that is very French.
Now I must admit to trying a few macarons in the eight+ years in France. Yet none have come even close to these delectable clouds of perfections! They should be sold with a warning that they are habit forming…
I do promise that the next post will be from a different location. However, if Narbonne is on your vacation list you won’t be disappointed and try to stay over for the market day, visit the museums just footsteps away for the square.
Yes, we just went down these same paths last week, but I went back on Market Day and thought you might like to see it for yourselves. I hope you don’t mind re-visiting so soon.
The vendors commence right up to the road and to the canal. There are many vendors on both sides of the canal and most anything is on offer. How is your French? You can haggle down a price on some goods and some of the vendors speak more than one language.
As you can see from this photo, table coverings must be sufficiently weighted down or clamped. When the Mediterranean winds kick in, things can become airborne.
While Les Halles is only closed about two or three days in the entire year, it’s vendors are finished and closed up by noon. The restaurants serve lunch but close up afterwards and do not serve any other meal.
Until you have bought and used fresh spices in your cooking, it is hard to know what you are missing.
I do love Lavande (Lavender). There are sachets in several drawers and with the linens. Once I read that if you put it under or next to your pillow it would sweeten your dreams and it can be comforting if you are lying down with a headache.
Yes, these are on mens sport socks and I’m afraid that I just couldn’t resist including the photo.
I keep telling myself to buy one. Alas, I wear them so infrequently. They do provide a lot of colour for the price.
The clothes are a big clue as to the season. The next few photos leave no doubt.
After all that shopping it is time for an aperitif…or perhaps lunch? There are many restaurants that would be happy to serve you.
Despite the plaza being filled with items for sale, this is only a small part of the Thursday market. Not far off there is a parking lot that is set aside each Thursday morning for Marché and in addition to what is offered here, there is also have fresh produce, cheeses, and other assorted foods.
The city of Narbonne looked nothing like this when Roman troops descended on it. Yet they left their mark as did others. Today, you can still walk along the Via Domita and it is the heart of this city. As you travel through these photos, be sure to click on and really take it all in.
From this side of the canal you can proceed to the first small street to the right. There are shops on both sides and from some of them you can look out over the canal. At the end of the street is the heart of the village and VIA DOMITA lies directly in front of you.
Les Halles has been in this enclosure since 1901 and is only closed a few days of the year. There are stalls all around and in clusters in between. On offer is fresh seafood, breads and pastries, fruits and vegetables, cheeses, olives and so much more. There are restaurants inside but they are all set up as bars and the food cooked to order. If you want to have lunch there, don’t wait too long as they get crowded quickly. Different seasons and festivals will have specialties on offer. Of course, there is plenty of wine. Do your shopping early as it closes up at noon except for the restaurants.
Just after Les Halles is l’estagnol restaurant. It has changed little over the years I’ve been here. A few menu changes and decor but the biggest change is the additional space in front. As the season progresses, additional chairs and tables will be brought out to the newly tiled area between buildings and the canal. Thursdays is market day in Narbonne and as large as the extended plaza is, the vendors and café’s fill it so you can just about make your way through.
A light but delicious lunch at l’estagnol was just the thing.
l’estagnol like many of the other restaurants and shops have begun displaying are by local artists. I prefer to sit outside, weather permitting, or a window seat. However, I had not seen this work before so decided to take the rear view.
It is my hope that these photos will give you an idea of just how large this area is. Make sure you are clicking on each photo to get an enlarged view. To the right you may notice the elevator to provide improved access to the canal.
A view of the other side of the canal with the heart of the city in the back right corner.
The canal is still a bit quiet but that changes rapidly as the tourists stream in. Narbonne is a very popular destination here in Europe. Often I’ve sat at a table in Place de Ville and practically made a game out of the variety of languages coming from the nearby tables.
This little street opens out to the heart of the village . If you turn right you go back to the grand plaza. Left will take you to the tourist office.
Soon many more café tables and chairs will encroach on the center of the city. You could not choose a lovelier place to have a café or glass of chilled rosé. On sunny days I will spend an hour or so at my favourite café reading and people watching.
Yes, you can actually walk on the VIA DOMITA. There is a plaque on one end and a map on the other. The next photo and a few others were shot while standing on the ancient road to Rome.
Hôtel de ville
Behind the windows where you see the flags is a very large room, ballroom size. It is hung with elegant tapestries and filled with ornate chairs and other such furniture. The mayor’s office is also inside as are other offices.
Once you enter this arch way, it is much like walking on the Via Domita.
Saint-Juste is one of the most impressive cathedrals. Alas, no photos were allowed inside. I’ve taken many photos from other cathedrals, including Notre Dame de Paris but not here.
There are a few more photos of this cathedral but with all the other photos I’ve taken, I’ve decided to do a part II so we shall return to Narbonne soon.
When I began putting this post together, I had made many historical notes but then decided to just show you around a city I spend so much time in. If you come to Narbonne one day, you may see me out on the Place de Ville with a book or journal and a glass of rosé.
Carcassonne will always have a special place in my heart. When I first visited France it was with a backpack, rail-pass with eyes and heart wide open! I was privileged to stay within the fortified cité for a week. That six weeks traveling France went by in a flash. The lovely bridge leads you into the heart of the town and all that lies beyond. Between the ancient fortress and the river Aude are a playground, picnic areas and vast parkland. To the rear are vineyards.
This ancient Roman town was established around the VIII Century BC, the Carsac oppidum was just two kilometers south of the present city. The town extends over more than twenty hectares on the apex of a plateau protected by both a ditch and the angled entrances. Due to demographic growth it was reorganized around the late VIIth Century. Another ditch was reinforced by levees and palisades of wood and made to protect the new extension. While we don’t know why, the Carsac oppidum was abandoned in the early Vith Century BC then moved to its current resting place on the mound which dominates the Aude plain. Vestiges acquired from archaeological excavations show us that it was occupied from the beginning of the Iron Age up until the Roman conquest. Among the artifacts are drystone walls, grain silos, bronze foundry ovens and pottery. The discovery of the vast number of goods, especially earthenware (amphoras, vases, goblets…) attests to the activities that took place in this colony which was accessible to trading in the region of the Aude and also the Mediterranean basin.
The citadel takes its reputation from its 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) long double surrounding walls which are interspersed by 52 towers. The town has approximately 2,500 years of history which has seen it inhabited or invaded by Romans, Visigoths, Saracens and of course, the Crusaders. It originated as a Gaulish settlement then in the 3rd century A.D., the Romans began to fortify the town. It was annexed to the kingdom of France in 1247 A.D., and provided a strong French frontier between France and the Crown of Aragon.
After the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659, the province of Roussillon was included as part of France and the town no longer had military significance. The town became one of the economic centers of France focusing on the woolen textile industry and the fortifications were abandoned.
The French government decided to demolish the city fortifications in 1849. The local people were strongly opposed. The campaign to preserve the fortress as an historical monument was staunchly aided by the efforts of Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille and Prosper Mérimée, a renowned archaeologist and historian. The government reversed its decision and the restoration work commenced in 1853. The architect, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was charged with renovating the fortress. Viollet-le-Duc’s work received criticism in his lifetime. Claims were made that the restoration was inappropriate for the traditions and climate of the region. Upon his death in 1879, the work continued under the direction of his former pupil, Paul Boeswillwald and later by the architect Nodet.
If you are interested in the area, may I recommend the book Labyrinth by Kate Mosse. Her descriptions of Carcassonne are excellent and her story weaves in and out of the 12th century and modern day. It was her book that I was reading when I first arrived in Carcassonne.
There are accommodations from four star hotels to the youth hostel within the fortified cité and it can provide an excellent place to stay during a visit. The train station is a short walk away from the centre of town and the airport is nearby. It is not to late to plan a holiday here in the south west of France the summer will be here soon but there are activities here all year around.
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