“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved — loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.” -Victor Hugo
Anyone who has experienced the delights of Paris knows there are more than can be attended in one visit. Monsieur Hugo lived in the second floor apartment of Hôtel de Rohan-Guéménée from 1832 to 1848. During those 16 years, he wrote several of his major works including a large part of Les Misérables (a personal favorite).
While touring number 6 place des Vosges you will observe some of Hugo’s furniture, samples of his writing, drawings, family portraits, and first editions of his work. Additionally, you will see a painting of Hugo’s funeral procession at the Arc de Triomphe. The Chinese salon from his home on Guernsey (years of exile) has been reassembled here.
Despite the fact that Hugo spent a number of years in exile, his funeral was a national event and he was buried in the Panthéon.
One of the most important of French Romantic writers, Hugo was a poet, dramatist and novelist. His best known works include Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Have you ever planned to visit somewhere, and found it closed? Then with a quick twist, the day turns magical! My trip to Cucugnan was the first but certainly not the last.
While the bakery was open, the mill itself was not. The keys were not there so we could not get in. As long as I was there, I stopped in the shop for some photos and bought something and went to sit on one of the benches. I went to the opposite end of a group of picnic tables as there was a large
group on the other end and I didn’t want to get in their way. They were such a lively and animated group of friends so obviously enjoying each other’s company that I couldn’t resist getting a picture or two. I asked if I might take a photo and they invited me to join them.
Denis explained to me that they are a group of friends who have known each other since they were seven years old. Each year they hold a reunion. While Denis and wife Alix live on the island of Guadeloupe.
They had just finished their meal and shared their wine, offered me the stunning dessert and gave me a café. After exchanging more information including email addresses we ventured on to the small eglise Notre Dame de Cucugnan to view the statue of the pregnant virgin.
If that key had been available, you would have seen photos from inside. Instead you will see pictures of some charming people who I would not have met otherwise. The story of such a group of friends who welcomed a stranger is something I shall think on for a very long time.
Most likely, I shall return to see the mill and take photos of it and this beautiful village. There are other places of interest and it is only 30km from where I live.
More than half a million people visit Monet’s gardens each year. However, it is only open for seven months each season.
The many inner alleys are closed to visitors to protect the plants and maintain the garden’s beauty. However, you are free to explore the side alleys and all about the garden viewing its various perspectives.
An underground passage will give you access to the water garden. During the time of Monet you had to cross a railway and road. Yes, you can walk across the Japanese bridge and get stunning views of the numerous hidden recess of the water garden.
Let your camera explore with you as pictures are permitted. However, picnic’s, dogs and other pets are prohibited.
The house and its gardens became the property of Michel Monet upon his father’s death in 1926. Michel did not live at Giverny so care of the property fell to Monet’s stepdaughter, Blanche. Sadly, the house and gardens fell into disrepair after the Second World War. It was not until 1966 that Michel Monet presented the estate to the Academie des Beaux-Arts as his heir.
When Gérald van der Kemp became the Curator in 1977 he met with Georges Truffaut, a distinguished gardener who had frequently been invited to dine with Monet during his lifetime. Devillers was able to help reconstruct the garden as it was in the time of the master.
Restoration took nearly a decade to
bring house and gardens back to their former glory. Much had been reduced to shards and shambles from the bombings. Floors and ceiling beams had rotted, a stairway collapsed. Trees were found growing in the former big studio.
The pond had to be dug again. In the Clos normand, soil had to be removed in order to locate the original ground level. Care was taken to replant the same flower species as those discovered by Monet in his time. Private donations from generous donors made the work possible. The house received a facelift. The Japanese prints and ancient furniture were restored. Giverny has been open to the public since 1980.
While touring the house, visitors are asked and reminded not to photograph the inside.
For myself, I enjoyed the day tremendously. Yet the sad exception for me was that Monet’s studio has become a gift shop. I shudder to think of what the master would have said. I do realize that these treasures must be preserved and that it takes a great deal of money. However, I would have gladly paid more for the chance to see the studio as the master would have left it.
Don’t forget to click on each photo so you don’t miss anything!
Saint-Malo was founded in the 1st century BC a short distance away from where it stands today. The Romans later fortified the city. A monastery was established in the 6th century by Irish monks. Around that time the rocky island in the north was named after the celtic bishop Maclou.
The rock known as Saint-Malo was connected to the mainland by a mere causeway of sand. This was its natural defence during the raids conducted by the Vikings. What remains of the ancient ramparts were added in the 12th century by Bishop Jean de Chatillon.
Saint-Malo’s citizens traditionally exhibited a fiercely independent spirit. This strength of character and determination kept them in frequent conflict with the rulers of France, Brittany and England. This spirit was epitomized by the city’s sailor merchants. They gained their riches from pillaging foreign ships out of The English Channel. Granted license by the King of France, they were free to go “coursing” after enemy vessels from which they retained a percentage of the profit of all captured ships and were known as corsairs. Squint your eyes on the shore as the sun is setting and it doesn’t take much imagination to visualise corsairs on the horizon.
While Saint-Malo sustained heavy damage during WWII, much has been done to restore it to its former glory. Today it is one of the most popular places to visit in Brittany.
Regardless of the time of day, the beach of Saint Malo can take your breath away.
Yet, the beaches are stunning and deserve a post of their own. Perhaps they can entice you to visit this charming city? Dig your feet into the sands and gaze out to where pirates once ruled the waves.
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.
Moulin 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), and 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.
Château Termes was first mentioned in records in 1061 in reference to Olivier Bernard. The village and castle wasunder the protection of the Lords of Termenés.
Their power over this ancient district in the feudal era emerging at the beginning of the XI century.
Their allegiance was to the Trencavels, Viscounts for Carcassonne-Béziers. Characteristics of the castle were documented in 1163. In an effort to settle a disagreement between brothers, Guillaume and Raymond de Termes, segments of the Château were appropriated to each. This allowed each of the brothers to append the structure of various portions of the wall. Records also mention the construction of the church below the château in the village. This same church is the present village church and that would place its beginning in the second half of the XII century. From the inception of the Cathar Crusade, Château Termes was under siege. Due to the need of regulating the Christian faith and the foundation of doctrine. Distressed over the spread of the Cathar religion, the church began to eradicate the heretics. Cathars were also known as Bons Hommes (good men) and Bonnes Femmes (good women) but were referred to by Rome as Albigensians. This was part of the effort to mystify the people of the region believed to protect them. The Church was determined not to just stem the growth of Catharism but to eradicate it altogether.
In 1209 the first Holy war in Europe was initiated by Pope Innocent III. The Cathar or Albigensian Crusade was aimed at the nobility of Southern France who were viewed as protectors of the heretics. The battle raged on for twenty years. In 1229 The King of France moved to intervene. His offering of the Count of Toulouse . Despite the horrific slaughter, along the path of the crusaders, the religious Cathars flourished.
Simon de Montford accuses Raymond de Termes of heresy and declares war on the castle. The siege last four months resulting in the imprisonment of Raymond de Termes in Carcassonne and the property returned to the French crown.
Olivier de Termes, son of Raymond, defied the royal armies in 1228 and this siege lasted until 1240 becoming companion-in-arms to King Louis IX. Becoming part of the stronghold guarding the frontier with Aragon. For four centuries, the castle was occupied by a royal garrison.
The castle walls were demolished by a master stone-mason using explosive charges in 1653 and again in 1654 operating under orders by the King.
The site remained abandoned until the XXth century. Now property of the Touring Club of France it became common property with its protective measures. The hill where the castle stood became classified as a site in 1942 with the castle ruins not being listed until 1951 and later classified as a historical monument in 1989.
Le Château d’ Aguilar rises in the Cathar country, ensconced in a landscape of aromatic garrigue vegetation. A stark contrast to the order of the Haut Fitou vineyards. Set on the rock like a crown, the castle looks over the village of Tuchan. The first mention of Puy Aguilar appeared in the testament of the Count of Besalù in 1020.
Possession of The Château fell under the auspices of vassals of the Trencavel family. The crusade to eradicate the Cathars began in 1209 lasting until 1255. At the conclusion of this inquisition, the castle was property of the King of France. Ownership was bestowed to Olivier de Termes as a reward for services rendered in the Holy Land.
In 1258, the castle was brought into service in defending the French-Aragon border. In 1260 the castle was integrated info the royal domain by The King of France, Louis IX and became a royal fortress.
The castle is composted of two hexagonal walls. One composed of two rooms (upper and lower) and constructed in the 12th century. The lower floor was designated for the guards and light came through the vaulted narrow windows. The upper floor served as home to the castle keeper.
The outer hexagonal wall added in the 14th century and is flanked by six semi-circular towers to impede invading armies. Outside its curtained walls to the east stands the Romanesque chapel of St. Anne.
A traditional Romanesque chapel dedicated to St Anne stands on the outside of the curtain-wall, on the eastern side. The castle and the surrounding area obtained status as a Historical Monument in 1949.
Information is available in several languages at the bureau located at the foot of the trail. You can purchase books and postcards or grab a bottle of water. The castle is currently undergoing repairs and excavation to the subterranean levels which have long been inaccessible.