Between land and sea, the Marais poitevin

On the board for your next holidays. Curled up between land and sea, the Marais poitevin is a unique and timeless destination. With its “Natural Regional Park” and “Grand Site de France” labels, its stunning beauty is waiting for you.

Parc naturel régional values

Labelized in May 2014, The Parc naturel régional is a sustainable project driven toward the preservation and valorisation of its patrimony

The brand “Valeurs Parc Naturel Régional” is a recognized brand that is committed to the development of the territory and the preservation of local products. Deployed by the Marais poitevin regional natural park, it offers visitors, tourists and consumers a collective and supportive approach, ensuring structuring effects for sustainable development.

The word Marais is often translated as “marsh,” but this is rather misleading – a better term might be wetlands or water meadows. The Marais Poitevin has both types of environment, with lush green pastureland and lower-lying wetlands criss-crossed by shady canals. As you’ll find out, there’s so much to do and see here — from boat trips to hiking or biking, you’ll be spoiled for choice when explore this delightful protected natural area, centred on the mediaeval town of Fontenay-le-Comte.

The Marais Poitevin by boat

This part of the Vendée is called the “Green Venice.” Located south of Fontenay-le-Comte, the wetlands canals are undoubtedly the busiest part of the Marais Poitevin. The waterways are covered by a green canopy of ash trees and poplars, a romantic and exotic getaway.

guide-boatman will take you on a boat trip along the canals and bays of the marais. You’ll learn how to handle the pigouille (punting stick) and even how to set fire to the water! More about that later…

Boats are undeniably the classic and best way to enjoy and discover the landscapes of the Green Venice. The silence and the mysterious atmosphere that emerge from the marais never fails to leave an impression. If you prefer to be independent, you can also rent a boat to visit the Marais Poitevin on your own – perhaps with the whole family.

Around the Marais poitevin

If boat trips are not your cup of tea, discover the marais on foot, by bike, on horseback – why not, by donkey! A few kilometers south of Fontenay-le-Comte, various  circuitwalking and cycling trails are available.

The wetlands

A three kilometre observation trail in the Nalliers-Mouzeuil-Saint-Martin Biological Reserve leads walkers to a meeting with purple heron and turtle doves. Take the opportunity to visit the Maison de la Reserve, a place of mediation in this protected area. It is one of the last examples of wetland forest in the area.

From Le Langon, a cycling circuit embraces the Regional Nature Reserve of the Poiré-sur-Velluire marshland. Other circuits starting from Velluire, Auchay-sur-Vendée or Doix-lès-Fontaines allow visitors to discover another facet of the Marais Poitevin halfway between wetlands and drained pasture.

Cycling enthusiasts will find bike paths throughout the Marais Poitevin. Greenways and bicycle routes help you discover the Regional Natural Park, from Niort to Marans, following the Vélo Francette® route.

Drained pasturelands

The drained wetlands, now low-lying dry pasture, extend west of Fontenay-le-Comte. They are protected from flood waters and tides by levees and dikes. Complementary to the wetlands, it has open landscapes with plains and hedges.

Around Fontenay-le-Comte, discover the communaux, these great flood-prone natural meadows which in the summer are home to herds of grazing cows and horses. Don’t miss the Regional Nature Reserve at Poiré-sur-Velluire.

The Somme bay

Baie de Somme (Bay of the Somme or Somme Bay) is a large estuary in the Picardie région . The bay drains six rivers into the English Channel, principally the River Somme, and covers a total area of 72 km2. The bay is noted for its ornithological richness, as well as being a major tourist attraction.

When the tide is out, the Baie is characterized by wide, flat areas of marsh and sand, from which the delicacy of glasswort (locally:salicornes) are collected. Small ponds, dug into the marshes and filled with fake plastic ducks, are used to attract migratory birds for hunting. As the tide rises the bay fills, during which time numerous working, leisure and tourist boats cross between the surrounding villages.

The Bay of Somme is the habitat of multiple fauna and flora species, the most famous being probably the Grey seal and the Harbor seal, locally referred as “phoque veau-marin”. Its population can be estimated at around 650 to 700 individuals living in the bay, whereas the Grey seal has a smaller population of around 350 individuals.

The Site represents the largest natural estuary in northern France composed of vast sand, mudflats, and grassy areas. The exceptional character of the Site is reflected by its avifauna diversity with 365 bird species identified. Located at the confluence of migratory routes, the Site is one of the most important European resting and feeding areas for migrating waterbirds. It also provides a refuge during cold weather events, especially for waders and ducks. During the wintering period, the Site sustains over 1% of the individuals of the biogeographic population of the Northern pintail, Northern shoveller and common shelduck. The Site also supports 275 species of plants, including various rare species such as the fen orchid Liparis loeselii. Human activities include cattle grazing, hunting, commercial fishing, shellfish farming, and tourism. The “Maison Ramsar de la baie de Somme” is one of two study centres at the Site. The main threats to the ecological character of the Site relate to drainage, hunting, invasive species, pollution, and recreational and tourism activities. Silting up of the estuary is accelerating and will alter the food web in the estuary which will in turn become less suitable for migrating and wintering waders. All protected areas on the Site have a management plan and a site-specific management plan.

“Petite France” a district of Strasbourg sometimes compared to a little Venice

The district is spread across an amazing river delta, formed by the five arms of the river. Seen from the sky, they look uncannily like the fingers of a hand trying to grab the whole city. Both peaceful and impetuous, the River Ill irrigates the whole district with its charm. Take a leisurely stroll along its quays and admire the reflection of the colourful facades of the old houses.

The charming Place Benjamin Zix Square

This is where you can sit back and simply appreciate the beauty of the place. In the shade of the plane trees on this square, which is very lively in summertime, you’ll get wonderful views of the river and of an exceptional set of half-timbered houses. The Maison des Tanneurs (House of Tanners), generously laden with geraniums from spring to autumn, is the crown jewel of the site. Take a moment to enjoy it by having a drink or eating lunch on the terrace of La Corde à Linge!

The white street: Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes

From Place Benjamin Zix Square, you can reach Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, which features a set of remarkably homogeneous half-timbered houses. They are so mesmerizing that you won’t be able to look away. In this former tanners’ street, each house is absolutely white, highlighting differing shapes and sizes of half- timbering and an additional roof, largely open, which was designed for drying animal skins. The street, with its old-fashioned paving stones, takes you on a journey into the past.

Bridges

At the end of Rue du Bain-aux-Plantes, you’ll discover the Pont du Faisan, a bridge also known locally as the “Pont Tournant” (the swivelling bridge). Small and discreet, this footbridge imposes its will on all passers-by. Indeed, you might have to wait to cross it, because it has pivoted to let a tour boat go by. An unparalleled attraction.

Saint-Martin Bridge, a stone bridge with two arches and a single column, is very close by. From there, don’t miss the view of the mills, dams and locks, as well as of a picturesque little waterside terrace.

These two bridges offer postcard-perfect views full of charm, so you can bring marvellous souvenir photos home with you.

Eternal Covered Bridges

This is where the Ill River breaks up. The place is exceptional; one of the most renowned sites in Strasbourg. The bridge and its three high, austere, massive guard towers, vestiges of the medieval wall, are truly awe-inspiring! From one end to the other, you’ll discover the five arms of the Ill River, encircling little plots of land, while the Strasbourg Cathedral, a bit further off, stands guard over this sublime place.

The protective Vauban Dam

Alongside the Covered Bridges, the Vauban Dam, built during the reign of Louis XIV by the prolific Maréchal, reinforces the defensive curtain wall of the city, which was completely walled in at the time. The dam has thirteen arches. When the dam was completely sealed, the Ill River couldn’t flow in its bed, thereby flooding all of the land south of Strasbourg. The enemy armies would get bogged down. A panoramic terrace offers a wonderful view of the Covered Bridges, the Petite France and the Cathedral on one side, and of the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art and the Hôtel du département (county government office) on the other.

Eight reasons to explore the Bay of Arcachon

Small oyster-farming ports, sandy beaches, pine forests … the Bassin d’Arcachon is located 50km from Bordeaux, but feels like another world. It represents a string of towns and villages, crowned with the famous Pilat dune and the charming peninsula of Lège – Cape Ferret. There are dozens of good reasons to discover this piece of France where the tides and the current have shaped an extraordinary landscape

1-Climb the highest dune in Europe
One hundred and nine meters high, 2,700 meters long, 500 meters wide, 60 million cubic meters of sand: the Pilat dune is a marvel of nature. It is absolutely necessary to climb to the top—at the summit, the 360° panorama over the Bassin d’Arcachon, the ocean, the Pointe de l’Arguin, the point of Cap Ferret, and the sprawling forest of pins is sublime at any moment of the day.

2-Picnic on the bench of Arguin
Nope, you are not in Guadeloupe or St. Martin, though this tongue of golden sand and crystal clear water with 50 shades of blue is reminiscent of the tropics. Arguin, a sandbank in the middle of the basin, is constantly changing form according to the wind and currents. You can reach it by boat, shuttle, or pinasse (a unique type of vessel common in the area). It’s the perfect spot for a dreamy picnic facing the great Dune.

3-Take the height at Cap Ferret
At the tip of Cap Ferret, the calm water of the basin meets the more tumultuous Atlantic. For those with no fear of heights, you should climb up the lighthouse (258 steps!). You will not regret it—whatever’s left of your breath after the climb will be taken away from the view. The panorama of the water, the oyster beds, and the Pilat dune, especially during the sunset, are breathtaking.

4-Enjoy a dozen oysters
Some simple pleasures of the Arcachon Basin include snacking on oysters opened directly by an oyster farmer, strolling along the colorful huts of the small harbors, and spotting the typical boats coming and going with their tasty cargo through the basin. The oyster capital of Gujan-Mestras has a Museum of Oysters dedicated to the little jewels of the sea.

5Birdwatch
There are more than 300,000 birds passing through the Teich Ornithological Reserve on the Arcachon Basin, and 260 species recorded, from the little plover to the great white stork. Soaring and flitting between the swamps, roses, meadows and lagoons, the effect of these beautiful birds flying along the landscaped paths will entrance every age group.

6-Swimming in the waves or at the lake
To each beach belongs a special ambiance: On the Atlantic Ocean coast, be prepared for a bracing and intense dip. On the beaches of the basin, where you swim only at high tide, the tide will be calmer. If you prefer fresh water, head for the large lake of Cazaux, in the heart of the Landes forest. For the most ambitious visitors, you can even sample the three beaches and ambiances in the same day.

7-Pedaling under the pines
About 140 miles of cycle paths surround the bay. The land is mostly flat, meaning perfect pedaling under the pines, in the middle of the forest or along the ocean. Between the green perfume of the pines and the spray of the sea, a total return to nature is guarenteed.

8-Admire the Belle Époque architecture
In Arcachon and Pyla-sur-Mer, the villas are omnipresent—these grand bourgeois houses are from the 19th century up through the 1930s. In Arcachon, in the picturesque district of the Winter City, Swiss chalets, Moorish inspiration, and colonial styles mix genres in an extravagant mélange of architectural tastes.

The Hispano-Moorish style Villa Teresa is considered the most representative construction of the architectural advances of the time.

Mafate, an eco-tourisme laboratory

A true gem in the Hauts of Réunion, located in the municipalities of Saint-Paul and La Possession, Mafate has the particularity of being the only cirque on the island to be accessible only by foot or by helicopter. A listed UNESCO World Heritage Site like its neighbours Cilaos and Salazie, this exceptional, unspoilt territory protected from the nuisance of motor traffic is home to incredible biodiversity, full of native species. A haven for hikers and other nature-lovers, with around 180 kilometres and landscaped paths, this haven of peace and tranquillity, surrounded by dizzying ramparts, will leave you with unforgettable memories… A totally unique place where you can not only admire fantastic wild landscapes, but also meet the residents of Mafate, of which there are around 750 inhabiting the nine islets of the cirque. This adventure will be even more unforgettable if you spend the night there, in one of the gîtes with tables d’hôte dining. A great opportunity to socialise and also appreciate the very special, serene atmosphere of the area…

The Cirque de Mafate is a caldera. It was formed from the collapse of the large shield volcano the “Piton des Neiges.(3070m)”

The very remote and inaccessible cirque was settled in the 19th century by maroon slaves (i.e. slaves who had escaped from their masters), then later by poor white laborers. It owes its name to one maroon leader.

A Mediterranean garden and a winter paradise

When most gardens lie dormant, the “Domaine du Rayol” comes to life in the winter months.
Winter is one of the best times to visit the Domaine du Rayol, Le Jardin des Méditerranées, at Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer in the Var. When the rains of autumn have turned the vegetation green after the long dry summer, Southern Hemisphere plants are in flower and there are fewer visitors. 

In a superb setting on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea, the Domaine du Rayol, labelled Jardin Remarquable, takes visitors on a journey to discover Mediterranean plants as well as those from similar climates across the world. These include South Africa, Chile, California and Australia, as well as others not too different, like New Zealand and parts of Asia. 

map of Domaine du Rayol

The site was originally owned and developed by a wealthy man, Alfred Courmes, in the early twentieth century. He built villas and started to develop the garden. After his death it was bought, in 1934, by a famous aeronautical engineer, Henri Potez. He continued the garden and by 1948 there were 400 exotic species. In 1974, his descendants handed over the site to an insurance company who wanted to turn it into a tourism complex. 
Local inhabitants were against the project and formed an association, Les Amis du Rayol. It took them 15 years to succeed in preventing the development and in 1989, the Conservatoire du Littoral, the public body which protects the French coast, bought the site. 

By that time the abandoned buildings had fallen into disrepair and the gardens were overgrown. The Conservatoire du littoral decided to keep a large part of the twenty hectare site uncultivated, leaving the land to the local Mediterranean vegetation, known as the maquis. 

However, seven hectares were to be developed as gardens, and they asked contemporary and radical-thinking landscape gardener, Gilles Clément, to come up with a design.

‘ The idea is to allow visitors to wander and lose themselves in the spirit of the gardens’ 

His idea was to show the diversity of the planet by introducing plants from similar climates from all over the world. 

The biodiversity of the Mediterranean regions is extraordinary. Its vegetation covers 2% of the earth’s landmass but 20% of plant species, with 26,000 endemic species. There are ten different areas of the garden, each representing a different world region, against an ever present backdrop of the Var maquis. You can visit the Canary Islands, California, South Africa, Australia, subtropical Asia, New Zealand, the arid and subtropical lands of America, Chile, and the Mediterranean garden. 

There are, amongst other plants, mimosa, eucalyptus, bamboo, puya, palms, iris, and Kleinia neriifolia, a plant in the daisy family which comes from the Canary Islands. 

However, as you journey through the garden, you will not learn the names of any of the plants from labels. 

The idea is to allow the visitor to take their time to wander and lose themselves in the spirit of the gardens.

It is not a typical garden as Gilles Clément introduced a new approach.” He is known for developing a form of gardening known as Le Jardin en Mouvement. His inspiration is the wilderness, leaving plants to develop in their own way. The role of the gardener is to direct them gently to get the most out of them whilst not altering their richness. 

Enter a unique paradise…

In the Dordogne Périgord, between Bergerac and Sarlat, the caves of Maxange, masterpiece of nature, offer the magic of a spectacle of eccentric concretions unique in the world. Maxange is today recognized as one of the most beautiful concretion caves in France.

IN THE HEART OF THE TERTIARY AREA

The cave that has been opened up forms part of an underground system that was formed at the beginning of the Tertiary era, in other words, about 60 million years ago.

Between that era and our own, the cavity evolved through a series of changes, which is even now quite difficult to piece together. What one can say is that the flow of water that carved out the galleries and deposited alluvia slowed down with the deepening of the river-valleys. Following climatic changes, the cave was subjected to complex phases of in-fill by sand and clay, washed in from the exterior, alternating with phases of further carving-out. The concretion visible today dates from the latter period, spanning thousands of years, and can only have been formed in those voids that were not affected by sand and clay in-fill.

A PERFORMANCE OF A RARE QUALITY

What makes for the importance of this cave is the quality of its concretion.

This is the term used for mineral deposits that form on the walls of a cave by crystallisation of calcite (calcium carbonate) carried in solution by infiltrating water. When this water drips from the roof of a cavern, it deposits a small amount of the calcite that was dissolved in it. Over the centuries, this produces a more or less cylindrical cluster of calcite crystals that forms downwards, which is called a stalactite. Similarly, a deposit is formed on the floor of a cavern when a droplet of water falls, forming little by little what is called a stalagmite. One can understand that, following the intensity of the infiltration of water, the shape of the galleries and other conditions, these concretions can take on extremely varied forms, in the shape of columns, draped fabric, etc.

BETWEEN CURIOSITY AND RARITY

The shapes of concretion formed by calcite which are both the most rare and the most curious are those referred to as eccentric.

This type of concretion forms finger-like patterns, twisting in all directions, seeming to defy the law of gravity. It is made possible by a combination of several factors: the particular porosity of the rock, and a constant but very slight flow of water through the roof of the cave. In this way (and to simplify a little) the water, laden with calcium salts, evaporates against the cavern wall without falling to the ground (furthermore, that leads to the formation of very few stalagmites in the cavern). The water weeps slowly, penetrating all the porous sections of the cavern wall and of the concretions that have already formed. The water is subject to the force of capillarity, on this scale greater than the force of gravity, and can climb just as well as it can descend. In this way it deposits particles of carbonate in every possible direction, seeming to defy, as one often says, the law of gravity.

A MASTERPIECE OF NATURE

This effect is particularly astonishing and can only be observed in a fairly small number of caves

where the criteria of the porosity of the limestone, the flow of water filtering onto the walls and the micro-climatic conditions of the cavern all coincide to allow their formation.
It is precisely this type of eccentric concretion that one may observe in the Maxange Caves. They form bouquets that decorate the roof and walls over a considerable distance. Their profusion, delicate form and purity, sparkling under rays of light make a display of rare quality, which fully justifies the project of development.
The Maxange Caves are one of the finest examples of what is referred to in geological terms as a “geode”.

Les Grottes de Maxange from Drone Vidéo France on Vimeo.

The Sidobre rocks, a world of legends

Sidobre is a French mountainous region located in the south of the Massif Central, eleven kilometers east of Castres in the Tarn department. It is a granite territory 15.3 km long with a maximum width of 6.6 km (approximately 102 km2), or nearly 5,000 hectares covered with forests. The massif has an altitude of between 400 and 707 meters (highest point is at a place called Le Patau). The Sidobre massif represents the largest group of granite rocks in France and the leading French granite production center.

Formed from a single giant block, it is cracked on the surface (diaclases), where water erosion (underground or surface) has left some remarkable natural constructions, among which:

  • the Peyro Clabado (from the Occitan Pèira Clavada (nailed stone)), in Lacrouzette, a block of 780 tons
  • the Roc de l’oie, rock evoking a goose
  • the Three Fromages, three huge rocks stacked on top of each other
  • the trembling rock of the Sept-Faux, a mobile block of 900 tons
Granit quarry in Saint-Salvy-de-la-Balme

Sidobre granite in figures

  • 200 years: estimated lifespan of Sidobre granite (50 years for concrete)
  • 120 km2: granite surface covered in Sidobre
  • 300 million years: age of the granite massif
  • 65% of the national production of natural granite comes from Sidobre
  • 130 companies showcase this resource
  • 800 direct jobs are generated by this gray granite
  • 70% of the granite is used in the funeral
Video in French

The colorado provencal, an industrial heritage

The important Rustrel ochre deposit and its quarries have earned the evocative name of “Colorado”.
This exceptional site, named for its variety of shapes and colors, combines the pleasure of hiking and discovering an industrial heritage. The beauty of the site is the result of the work done by 4 generations of ochre miners and farmers. The old ochre hill site stretches over 4 km. The site covers more than 100 hectares.

The people of Rustrel named the place “les Ubacs de Rustrel”. Abbot Martel, president of Alpes de Lumière, while surveying the paths with the aim of creating the GR6 hiking trail, christened the site “Provencal Colorado“, for the incredible colors that reminded him of the American canyon and because Colorado means “red” in Provencal.

50 shades of ocher …

In the heart of the Colorado, the colors unfold and enchant the eyes.
The whole range of yellows, reds, oranges, browns even some greens and mauves are represented. The landscape (cliffs, cirques, fairy chimneys and hills) is the result of the exploitation of ochre started in the 18th century in the region. Gradually abandoned, the quarries form today a grandiose site, appreciated for walks and touristic hikes.

From the ocher industry pipes, machines, settling ponds are left here and there … However, the Colorado is also an exceptional and very fragile living environment, characteristic of siliceous areas: maritime pines, heather and chestnut trees grow in abundance.

COLORADO PROVENÇAL DE RUSTREL from JACQUES ROUQUETTE on Vimeo.

Mining ochre

During the 18th century, increasing demand for pigments in the textile industry led to intensified mining of ochres in Roussillon. Numerous quarries and ochre factories, some of which can still be seen today, were situated near the village. One example of an ochre factory, the “Usine Mathieu”, is named for the family that owned it from 1870 to 1901. It has been formed into a “Conservatoire”: a workshop serving as a museum. The quarries and factories were established in the villages of Roussillon, Villars, Gargas, Rustrel (with its Colorado provençal) and Gignac.

During the 20th century, mining techniques were modernised, which meant that more profitable ochre mines became exploitable. This resulted in a gradual closing-down of ochre mines in and around Roussillon. From the 1980s, tourism has replaced ochre industry as a source of income

The Camargue Regional Nature Park

A day in Camargue from L’oeil d’Eos on Vimeo.

Beaches and reed beds, rice and wheat, the salt ponds and the Mediterranean – the Camargue Regional Nature Park is multifarious. Born out of a struggle between river and sea, the Camargue, in biological terms, is one of Western Europe’s richest regions, and an important stopping-off point for migratory birds as they go back and forth between Europe and Africa.
It is also France’s only nesting site for the flamingo, its world-famous emblem. And then there are the bulls, horses, beavers, owls, gulls, terns, herons and wading birds.
The Camargue is a subtle blend of contrasts, both entrancing and ever-changing. It reveals it-self in a multitude of ways, depending on the time of day and the season.

The Camargue is a large wetland in the Rhône delta. It is exceptionally diverse in its flora and fauna, its scenery and the culture of Provençe in all its historical grandeur.
Whether you are interested in nature or in the traditions of the Camargue, we can give you the information you need to appreciate the park, bearing in mind its vulnerability.
Visiting museums or natural features, between the sea and the pools, on foot or on horseback, following the tourist routes or relaxing on the beach – you can organise your visit according to your preferences, while also respecting the quality of your surroundings.

camargue-hd-vimeo from Occidrone on Vimeo.

Freshwater marshes and reed beds

These are common in the upper Camargue and on the banks of the Rhône. Water plants such as bullrushes, cane and reeds are abundant in the marshes, which are used for hunting and, in summer, pasturage. They provide shelter for nesting and wintering birds. Reeds (« sagno », in Provençal) are cut in winter by the « sagneurs ». They are used as a roofing material.

The salt plains (« sansouires ») and meadowlands

Salt plains are a feature of the lower Camargue. Their salt content is so high that only a few plant species such as glasswort, saltwort, obione and statice can survive there. They are prone to periodic flooding, and in summer are marked by white traces due to the presence of salt. Meadowland occupies only small, fragmented areas in which the effects of salt are less obvious.

The salt ponds

These are to be found along the sea. In reality they are lagoons that have been adapted to maximise their salt concentration.The salt ponds are extensive and rich in invertebrates, which makes them an important source of food for birds, and in particular the flamingos, which spend most of their time there.

The beaches and dunes

The Camargue has some 50 km of beaches. Outside the perimeter of the protective dykes – and thus subject to the caprices of the sea – the coastline is in a permanent state of change. The dunes are inhabited by spectacular flowering plants and a number of rare insects.

The ponds and lagoons

The shallow ponds of the lower Camargue are separated from the sea by a sandbar. They are more or less salty, and communicate with the sea via sluice gates. They provide a refuge for birds and fish, and play a major role in water management.

Cultivated land

20% of the Camargue is used to grow rice. The water taken from the Rhône for this purpose desalinates the soil to a certain depth, and the rice fields are also home to nesting birds such as the heron. They are flooded in April and allowed to dry out in September for the harvest.

La Saint-Vincent Tournante

A celebration rooted in the traditions of Burgundy

Who says that winter does not have interesting festivals and tourism? This is a truly local flavour if you like wine, and want to see burgundy and in a different eye, La “Saint-Vincent Tournante” (the rotating Saint-Vincent) is a wine festival that takes place the last weekend of January. It changes Burgundy wine village every year.

What’s in a name?

Saint-Vincent is one of the patron saints of winegrowers. And it is “Tournante”, because it involves a village on rotation, being decorated for the occasion, with stands offering wine tasting.

The Saint-Vincent Tournante as we know it today was revived in 1938 from an old tradition dating from the middles ages that had declined over the centuries. The “Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin” (Brotherhood of the Knights of Tastevin) re-imagined it as an major rotating event that would take place each year in a different village  in wine-growing Burgundy, hence its name of Saint-Vincent Tournante.

The choice of Saint-Vincent as patron saint of winegrowers is still quite a mystery today. According to legend, Saint-Vincent would have stopped at the edge of a vineyard to exchange a few words with the winegrowers and during this time his donkey would have grazed around. In the next harvest, the vine grazed by the donkey would have produced more than the others, so Saint-Vincent was adopted as protector! Another saying is simply that Vincent sounds like “Vin Sang”, the blood of the vine….

This interesting festival perpetuates the Burgundian values ​​of quality, hospitality and mutual aid and is the opportunity to discover the great wines of Burgundy in a warm and friendly atmosphere.

The weekend of Saint-Vincent Tournante

Each edition of Saint-Vincent is an opportunity to showcase a wine-growing village which hosts the statue of the patron saint of winegrowers for one year. The selected village prepares this festival throughout the year, creating a decor and specific activities.

The Saint-Vincent starts early in the morning and with a formal parade through the vines of the different brotherhoods each carrying their statues and banners bearing the effigy of Saint-Vincent, and continues with the ceremony, a religious service in the parish church, and finally enthronements by the brotherhoods

The second part, more convivial, is the occasion for traditional banquets and festive events. The tasting of the Saint-Vincent tournante cuvée (s) take place in different parts of the village of the year. The highlight of the show is of course the opening of the cellars for tastings of local wines * (* always in moderation).

A long standing evolving tradition

The Saint-Vincent evolved over the years. In the 1990’s -2000 it grew to quite large over 100,000 to 200,000 people over two days, but has returned to its cosy 20-40,000 people in recent years.

Each year has a name, and a poster (since 1971), and if you’d like a peek at them, they are on display at the Château du Clos de Vougeot. It has its engraved glass

The 2021 edition was postponed due to Covid, a first time since 1947, but it’s a fun and very local thing to try and it is still foreseen for 29 to 30 January 2022 in Puligny-Montrachet, Corpeau, Blagny

Want to know more?

https://www.tastevin-bourgogne.com/

Official site:

saint-vincent-tournante-2021.com

Learn the History Behind Nice’s Promenade des Anglais

The celebrated 7-kilometre coastal boulevard between the sea and palm trees offers superb views of the Bay of Nice and gives the city its unique identity. The openness and long span of the uninterrupted path gives a sense of freedom and space that is found nowhere else. Sadly become the scene of dreadful events in recent times, it remains an important historical symbol and a popular destination for the Niçois and visitors alike.

Historical Bay of Angels

The history of the Promenade des Anglais dates back to the 19th century. At that time, many European aristocrats had chosen Nice as their privileged sun spot of choice during the winter period. The arrival of the upper class, especially from England, greatly contributed to the economic development and to the improvement of the infrastructure and reputation of the city.

Following an economic downturn due to poor harvest in 1821, Reverend Lewis Way decided to raise funds with his compatriots to finance the construction of the famous stretch of the seafront and to provide work for many jobless Niçois.

In 1824 the work was completed. Honoring the English initiative, the city of Nice named the new walkway “Camin des Inglés”. This appellation was retained until the annexation to France in 1860 when it changed to the current name”La Promenade des Anglais”.

This date also marks the beginning of what is called the “Belle Epoque”, a spectacular period of cultural, technological and economic development in Europe. This marked a climax in the economic prosperity of Nice, as it became a coveted resort for a large number of wealthy winter visitors. These wealthy foreigners would gather on the Promenade and spend their time between prestigious social events and gaming houses.

In order to satisfy the growing demand of these affluent guests, luxury hotels and sumptuous villas, together with casinos, theatres, concert halls and ballrooms sprouted everywhere, especially along the Promenade.

The promenade today

Today, while strolling on the sea path, visitors can stumble on some of the historical landmarks and architectural gems of Nice, such as Hotel Negresco and the Palais de la Mediterranée. Built in 1912, Hotel Negresco takes its name from the Romanian self-made man Henri Negrescou and is the most memorable Belle Epoque building in Nice. The hotel was recently classed as a historical monument. The same designation went to the striking art deco façade of the Palais de la Mediterranée. Opened in 1929, the hotel has attracted outstanding personalities to its casino and theatre.

Following the 1st World War, summer tourism plummeted under and the Promenade des Anglais became once again one of the most sought after places in the French Riviera. During this time several wooden chairs were scattered along the sea path so that walkers could sit and contemplate the stunning panoramas of the Bay of Angels.To this day, the Promenade des Anglais remains the image of past and present Nice and it is the best place to soak up the local atmosphere. Along this famous path, several events take place every year, including the Nice Marathon and the elegant ‘Battle of Flowers’ during the February Carnival.

Gorges du Verdon

Majestic landscapes

Between the towns of Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, the biggest canyon in Europe offers the most incredibly majestic landscapes.
For thousands of years the River Verdon has patiently carved the canyon that you can see today.

Cliffs and vultures

The height of the cliffs varies between 250 and 700 metres and they are the site of a great number of encounters.

A number of birds including griffon and cinereous vultures nest there and in the morning you can watch them from the village of Rougon as they warm their wings and wheel above you in the sky. Thrills and excitement guaranteed.

Want to try flying like them? What about paragliding?

The road around the Gorges which will take you through the Alpes de Haute-Provence and the Var.

For those of you who love views and sensational photos, there are a number of places to stop at: the Point Sublime, the Belvédère de L’Escalés, the Belvédère de Mayreste, the Corniche Sublime, Cavaliers cliffs, the Artuby bridge, the Balcons de la Mescla…

Gorges du Verdon from Daniel Urhøj on Vimeo.

A paradise for sport

If you want to take your time, set off on a family electric bike ride on the Route des Crêtes. Most of this loop is one-way and it will be a fun ride from Palud-sur-Verdon.

A great opportunity to see climbers along the limestone cliffs. There are over 900 ways in the Gorges du Verdon, and it’s pure heaven for climbers from all over the world.

There are a large number of hikes that will take you deeper into the natural surroundings protected by the Verdon Natural Regional Park: the famous Blanc-Martel trail, of course, but also a large number of blazed and signposted trails to suit everyone.

The emerald green waters of the Verdon

After having seen the cliffs from above, you need to see things from another angle? You want to touch the emerald green water and go up the Verdon on a pedalo for a different sort of thrill.

There are a number of leisure bases for safe, supervised white water sports: canyoning, rafting, canoeing and kayaking.

The lake of Sainte-Croix opens out from the end of the Gorges du Verdon and is the ideal place to end your adventure, take the family for a swim, a sail or go windsurfing.

Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, the Jewel of the French Riviera

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild is one of the most beautiful residences of Renaissance style on the French Riviera. The monument, also called villa Île-de-France, is perched at the top of the Cap Ferrat peninsula. Transformed into a museum, it allows visitors to discover the refinement and pronounced taste for the Italian Renaissance style of Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild.

THE JEWEL OF THE FRENCH RIVIERA

Béatrice de Rothschild, born in 1864, married a French banker named Maurice Ephrussi in 1883. Both were passionate about architecture, nature and art. The young woman collected works of art and sumptuous residences. In 1904 the couple separated and the following year, Beatrice discovered Cap Ferrat. She was immediately seduced by the natural beauty of the place and decided to settle there. At the time, the French Riviera was already a popular vacation resort, especially for high society. She acquired a 7-hectare rocky and barren piece of land on which she built a villa whose architecture was reminiscent of the great houses of the Italian Renaissance. Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild imposed pink, her favorite color, throughout the villa.

La Villa et Jardins Ephrussi de Rothschild from Culturespaces • Art & Patrimoine on Vimeo.

It took 5 years of work to build the villa Île-de-France, named after an extraordinary journey on board the steamer of the same name. The shape given to the main garden, with its view of the ocean, reminds us of the deck of a ship. To perfect the illusion, the baroness required her gardeners to wear a navy beret so that she could imagine herself surrounded by a crew on a ship travelling the world. The exterior facades, painted pink, are typical of Renaissance architecture in Italy. Only the entrance porch is of flamboyant gothic inspiration. Inside the house, the furniture is refined, and the decoration is meticulous. Numerous collectors’ items and exceptional pieces have been used to furnish the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

On her death in 1934, Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi bequeathed the management of the villa to a foundation bearing her name so that the building could be turned into a museum. This was done on April 2 ,1938, however, it was not until 1960 and a change of curator for the site to become known to the public. In 1990, the scenography of the place was rethought, the Villa Ephrussi became one of the most visited monuments between Nice and Menton with 130,000 visitors per year.

PARKS AND GARDENS

The Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild has no less than 9 dream gardens. Beatrice was a nature lover and she knew how to honor nature with its exteriors. French, Spanish, Florentine, lapidary, Japanese, exotic and Provençal gardens are to be discovered! A simple stroll through the baroness’s gardens is an invitation to travel that transports the visitor to different green worlds.

REFINEMENT AT ALL TIMES

It was in the patio of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild that the baroness welcomed her guests and held receptions. This inner courtyard is lined with columns in pink Verona marble which support Italian Renaissance style arcades. The musicians stood on balconies on the second first floor, visible from the patio.

The grand salon is undoubtedly the most sumptuous room in the villa. Offering a view of the Baie des Fourmis at Beaulieu-sur-Mer, it bears witness to the baroness’s pronounced taste for the Italian Renaissance. The Louis XVI style furniture is spread throughout the room to form different areas for resting, playing, and sharing. On the ceiling is a painting by the Venetian painter Giandomenico Tiepolo, illustrating The Chariot of Love pulled by doves. The two carpets in the grand salon come from the chapel of the Palace of Versailles and the Great Gallery of the Louvre Palace.

The small salon welcomed the guests after the meal so that they could chat. It is adorned with tapestries representing the adventures of Don Quixote. In this room, collector’s items are displayed side by side: paintings by François Boucher, paintings by Jean-Frédéric Schall, Pellegrini’s marouflaged canvas, a fireplace screen that once belonged to Marie-Antoinette, and a pedestal table with a pewter tray signed Compigné.

BÉATRICE’S APARTMENTS

In the first half of the bedroom, the Venetian bed is decorated with Chinese silk embroidered with flowers and birds. The Rothschild family had been trading silk with the land of the rising sun since 1838. The second part of the piece is in the shape of a rotunda. On the ceiling, an illustration from the 18th century Venetian school depicting the Triumph of a patrician family is painted.

Beatrice received her close friends in her boudoir and would write on a writing desk that is said to have belonged to Marie-Antoinette. In the wardrobe section, Asian-inspired clothing and dresses dating from the 18th century are still present. Baroness Béatrice de Rothschild followed the Chinese tradition of women having tiny feet. To meet this requirement, Beatrice folded all her toes, except for the big one, under her plantar arch. The small slippers she wore are displayed in a showcase.

In the bathroom, also in the shape of a rotunda, woodwork painted by Pierre Leriche subtly conceals small toilets with a washbasin, a dressing table, and a bidet. The bathtub, which was supposed to stand in the center of the room, has disappeared. The dome overlooking the bathroom is decorated with a chestnut trellis.

THE LOUNGES ON THE SECOND FLOOR

The lounges on the second floor are equally richly decorated and surprising. The furniture is a tribute to the know-how of 18th century French cabinetmakers. The tapestries come from the Gobelins Manufactory or were made from François Boucher’s cartoons. A small living lounge exhibits German porcelain from the very first hard-paste porcelain workshop in the West. In another, Beatrice paid homage to her pets by decorating the room with monkey motifs.

THE PORCELAIN COLLECTION

An incredible collection of porcelain is showcased in the dining room of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, as well as in the next room. Having inherited her father’s taste for beautiful tableware, Beatrice assembled one of the richest collections of French porcelain in the world. Most of the pieces presented come from the Manufacture royale (Royal Manufactory) of Sèvres near Paris.

The Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park

The Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park is a French regional natural park created on October 25, 1977. It is located in the heart of the Massif Central, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes administrative region. Covering an area of 389,733 ha, it is the largest regional natural park in mainland France. Forming a landscape, geological and heritage ensemble, the regional natural park includes the Puys chain (puy de Dôme 1 465 m), listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018, the Dore mountains (Puy de Sancy 1 886 m), Artense (granitic plateau 800m), Cézallier (signal du Luguet 1 551 m)and Cantal mountains (Plomb du Cantal 1 855 m).

The Cantal massif is a single, very old volcanic edifice (between three million years and two hundred and fifty thousand years) 150 km around, eroded by twelve or thirteen glacial valleys which converge towards its three main peaks: the Puy Griou, the Puy Mary and the Plomb du Cantal. It is a land of thermal springs and lakes. Man has worked tirelessly to shape his living environment, graze infertile slopes and build villages, castles, burons and Roman churches with lava.

Very different in appearance, the panorama of the Puys range spreads out a flurry of cones and often wooded domes. In total about 80 volcanoes of more recent origin (between twelve thousand and seven thousand years).

in the Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park, le Cézallier seen from the sky… from PHILIPPE TOURNEBISE on Vimeo.

Auvergne Volcanoes Regional Natural Park from Vincent Tiphine on Vimeo.

Lake pavin, a crater lake

Nestled at an altitude of 1,200 meters, near Besse in the Puy-de-Dôme, Lac Pavin attracts many visitors. But do you know the many mysteries that surround it?

Located halfway between the towns of Besse and Super Besse in Puy-de-Dôme, Lac Pavin continues to attract visitors. It is one of the favorite destinations for Clermont Ferrand residents looking for a bit of coolness in summer.

This natural setting in its raw state retains a great deal of mystery. It has fueled the imagination of the inhabitants of the region. Some say it intrigued first before it interested researchers. It is a lake on which there have been hundreds of scientific publications in international journals, dozens of theses defended, numerous research programs.


A unique lake in mainland France

But if it is so intriguing, it is firstly because Lake Pavin is a meromictic lake, that is to say made up of two different layers of water that are superimposed on one another. Christian Amblard is Honorary Research Director at the CNRS and Vice-President of the CSRPN Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (Regional Scientific Council for Natural Heritage). He knows the lake by heart.
He explains: “It is the only lake of this type in mainland France. Everything comes from his training. It is a lake that has a volcanic origin. It is said to be an explosion crater lake. These lakes of this type are generally circular, deep, Lake Pavin is 92 meters deep, but these lakes have a small area. The Pavin is 750 meters in diameter. When a lake is very deep and has a small area, it has a very steep slope. It is this shape that makes this lake unique. In the lakes there is what is called the stirring of the waters. Every year, in the lakes, depending on the temperature and the wind, the waters are mixed. Surface water plunges deep and, conversely, deep water will rise. While in most lakes this mixing of water goes to the bottom, in Pavin Lake this mixing does not go to the bottom.
It is divided into two large areas. There is a zone of the surface at 60 meters, the mixolimnion, a mixed, stirred and oxygenated zone. The area between 60 and 92 meters is never going to be oxygenated. This is roughly the same layer of water since the lake was created, just over 6,000 years ago. Since there is no light, no oxygen, since the temperature is stable, there is a completely original environment. This is what characterizes this lake, this unstirred bottom layer which is called monimolimnion
“.

A rich microbial life

It is this deep layer that makes it so special. “This layer has no light, no oxygen, lots of chemicals like hydrogen sulfide, methane. The temperature there is more or less stable, between 4 and 5 degrees. These are extreme living conditions. And yet there is extremely rich and abundant microbial life. In this medium one finds on average 1 million microorganisms per milliliter. They are very diverse communities. Three-quarters of the species described by our laboratory had never been described in the world before, “explains the scientist. This very rich life fascinates researchers. His study takes them back to the origins of life.
Chrisitian Amblard specifies: “We can say that microorganisms must have developed original metabolisms and life strategies. It got us going in two directions. A direction to seek to have applications in biotechnology. An innovative company has come up to use these assemblages of microorganisms to do work in cosmetics, in the degradation of non-food waste. The second way is to think that the characteristics of the lake bottom resemble the characteristics of the primitive soup of the ocean from which life sprang. There are studies to understand the first stages in the evolution of living things “confides Christian Amblard. Primitive soup is a physicochemical mixture described and studied by scientists who seek to understand, model or reproduce the origins of life on Earth.

Lac Pavin, Auvergne in French from Pascal Vincent on Vimeo.

The Grandes traversées du Jura (GTJ)

The Grandes Traversées du Jura offer 6 main routes across the mountains of Jura where you can practice 6 different ways of trekking.

Along these suggested routes are villages where you can always rest and enjoy good company.

Hikers will enjoy the GTJ hiking route which guides you along marked and maintained trails in a well-preserved and wild environment. Stop-overs every 20 kilometres are recommended to enjoy the Jura mountains peacefully.

For mountain bikers, there is the GTJ mountain biking route. This route is partly easy, partly demanding, but bikers of all levels can bike it: when the route becomes too difficult, “lighter” options are provided as alternatives.

The GTJ road biking route guides you along scenic countryside roads throughout the Jura mountains. Whether you plan to ride a hundred kilometres in a row or to take it easy, this route will let you discover the richness of Jura’s heritage.

On the GTJ horseback riding route, riders can enjoy the beautiful scenery from horse back. Riding 30 kilometres or so per day will give you enough time for a picnic or a dip in a lake. It is the only route of the Grandes Traversées that goes through the wine country. Specific lodging facilities for riders and their horses have been selected along this route.

Skiers can take the GTJ skiing route, which offers marked and maintained ski trails across the country. Cross-country skiing in the Jura’s rough winter climate for a whole day can be demanding, but dining on a fondue jurassienne or baked Mont d’Or cheese in a guest house is such a rewarding experience!

Snowshoe hikers will enjoy nature to the fullest on the GTJ snowshoeing route: no groomed trails, no hiking trails, just wild nature! If you happen to be the first one to leave your footprints on powdery snow after a snowfall, the only way to get around is to follow the posts that mark the way.

GTJ Hiking Route

The Grande Traversée du Jura hiking route takes long-distance hikers all along Jura’s crescent-shaped massif on the mythical GR®5 and GR®9 trails.

It begins in the north, in the country of Montbéliard: do not hesitate to stop for a while and visit the city of the Dukes of Württemberg. It quickly veers upward on the highest plateaux and then goes back down toward the beautiful Doubs river. It follows the river’s banks along the Swiss border all the way to Villers-le-Lac, and then goes through a picturesque scenery composed of pastures, where Montbéliard cows graze, and deciduous forests. This is the country of typical comtois farmhouses, with their imposing “tuyé” chimneys where the sausages and ham you will certainly eat at a guest house are smoked. After Pontarlier, it meets the Joux fortress, then the Saint-Point lake, two places in the foothills of Mont d’Or, the highest mount in the Doubs department (1463 m). The summit gives a beautiful and compelling view over the Alps… This is where the Haut-Jura regional nature park begins. The trail winds its way between spruce forests and lush narrow valleys, in a rich and preserved environment. You will then arrive at Mouthe, a village known for its harsh winters and the place where the river you have been following since the beginning of your trip starts its journey. As a side note, the Doubs department takes its name from this river. Further on, the trail will take you to Chapelle-des-Bois, with its narrow valley and two lakes nestled between the Mont-Noir forest and the Risoux cliffs. In Les Rousses, take some time to listen to the story of the Massacre forest before venturing into it. Try to imagine the bird who lives here, because it is unlikely you will get to see it even if you walk in its territory; the capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus, Grand Tetras in French) that still inhabits our forests is a very discreet animal. Its presence is the result of a well preserved natural environment, and the heritage of a natural and wild mountainous habitat. Only a short hike is required to walk through the beautiful Hautes-Combes, and you will be able to admire the Haute-Chaîne of the Jura.