Cordouan, the lighthouse of Kings

A unique lighthouse

The Cordouan lighthouse is not a lighthouse like the others.
A few kilometers out to sea, in the middle of the Gironde Estuary, it embodies the creative genius of men and the great phases in the history of lighthouses.

While the Cordouan lighthouse was built for the primary purpose of keeping guard over the mouth of the Gironde estuary, it has far exceeded this utilitarian function. Its architecture proves irresistible to visitors to this unique building.

The Cordouan lighthouse has long been referred to as the “lighthouse of kings” and has just been named “2019 Lighthouse of the Year” by the International Association of Marine Aids to Navigation and Lighthouse Authorities to mark World Marine Aids to Navigation Day. In 2020, France has nominated the Cordouan lighthouse for inclusion on the World Heritage. In 2021, it was inscribed on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

This remarkable building deserves such recognition. The care taken over its construction is impressive considering it’s found in the middle of the sea and can’t be seen from the coast. Built in stone and sculpted on all sides, the lighthouse was commissioned in 1584 by Henri III, who entrusted the project to Louis de Foix. Its construction was finished in 1611, but work resumed from 1786 to 1789 to add a further 20 metres in height. This took it to 67.5 metres tall. Another interesting fact is that it is the last remaining lighthouse to be continuously inhabited by its keepers and visitors.

Using limestone dressed blocks, De Foix first built a round base 41 metres in diameter and 2 metres high to take the onslaught of the waves. Within it was a 2-square-metre cavity for storing water and other supplies. Above it were constructed four storeys of diminishing size. The ground floor consisted of a circular tower 15 metres in diameter, with apartments for four keepers around its inner wall. In the centre was a richly decorated entrance hall of 2.0 square metres and 6.1 metres high. The second storey was the King’s Apartment, consisting of a drawing room, anteroom and a number of closets. The third storey was a chapel with a domed roof notable for the beauty of its mosaic. Above this was secondary lantern, and above that the Lantern itself. This was 60 metres above the sea and visible 8–10 km away, the original light being provided by burning oak chips in a metal container.

Throughout the building, de Foix took as much trouble with the decor as with the durability of the building, and on every floor was a profusion of gilt, carved work, elegantly arched doorways and statuary.

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.

Vélodyssée, the atlantic cycling route

La Vélodyssée, French part of the Atlantic Coast Route – EuroVelo 1 is a bicycle route that crosses Brittany and along the Atlantic to the Basque Coast, La Vélodyssée is an invigorating cycling journey through landscapes of unspoilt beauty.
Get on your bike and explore this cycle tour of over 1200 km with its beautiful ocean backdrop! Between Roscoff and Hendaye, 70% of the route is on traffic-free paths. Discover our regional treasures as you follow the longest, fully-signposted cycle route in France.

The route (click on map to see detailed routes)

The spirit of La Vélodyssée is:

A new kind of holiday, with a more sustainable, slow tourism experience

No more hurrying from place to place. Really take the time to explore a location using ‘slow’ (non-polluting) modes of transport with destinations close to you. 

Whether you’re travelling with family, as a couple, or with friends, discover France’s west coast at your own pace, with all of its treasures along a safe route marked from north to south and south to north. Route guidebooksGPS tracks, and our website will make it easy for you to plan your holidays and will guide you along the way.

Exchanges and encounters at the heart of your journey

Share a moment with family or friends, the ideal opportunity to talk and connect with each other as you roll along France’s west coast.

Take advantage of accommodations specially for cyclists in Accueil Vélo (Cyclists Welcome) lodging, as well as services dedicated to cycling. 

Meet men and women who are the heart and soul of the regions traversed by La Vélodyssée: visit an oyster farmer in Charente-Maritime, a winemaker in Landes, a chocolatier in Basque Country, a lock keeper in Brittany, and more. Try out a session of surfing, land sailing, canoeing, boating, or another fun activity with a local professional. Go bird watching, guided by a specialist from the Vendée.

All along the cycling route, meet fellow travellers on La Vélodyssée: families, couples, groups, or single riders, young people and less-young people, riders going ‘down’ towards the south and those going ‘up’ towards the north. You’ll meet people going on day trips or just a weekend and others going long-distance, not even stopping at the end of La Vélodyssée and instead continuing along the rest of the EuroVelo 1 cycling route.

Incredible diversity!

From Brittany, the land of legends, to the Loire Estuary, from marshes in the Vendée to beaches in Aquitaine, from north to south on this French cycling route, you’re guaranteed to find a huge variety of magical, natural landscapes: canals, moorlands, marshes, dunes, beaches, pine forests, wooded countryside, pools, and more.

So many choices! You’ll fall head over heels for quintessential French cities like Nantes, La Rochelle, Rochefort, Royan, Bayonne, Biarritz, and more.

You will be stunned by emblematic tourist sites like the Nantes-Brest Canal, the Poitevin Marsh, Fort Boyard, Arcachon Bay, Dune du Pilat, and the Landes forest. And let’s not forget about those stops along the way to taste local farm products you don’t want to miss.

Welcome to the world of Latour Marliac in Lot-et-Garonne

Visitors to Latour-Marliac gardens can see nearly 300 varieties of water lily growing in one hectare of pools, some of which are the original, restored basins from the 19th century

Monet’s worldwide famous series of water lily paintings would never have happened without nurseryman Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, who was the first man to produce coloured hardy water lilies at the end of the 19th century. Up to then European water lilies were all white.

He owned a nursery, Latour-Marliac at Le Temple-sur-Lot, Lot-et-Garonne, and his gardens are still open for the public to visit and still selling water lilies to a growing number of gardeners discovering the world of aquatic plants.

There is one of the biggest collections of tropical water lilies with a glasshouse for the giant Victoria water lily and a collection of night-blooming lilies, as well as lotuses. There is also a botanical garden, a bamboo collection, Japanese bridge, waterfall and gazebo.

‘France does not realise that in the same way the Dutch have the tulip, the French have the water lily’

says American owner Robert Sheldon, who bought the gardens in 2007

History

The nursery was founded in 1875 by Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac for the propagation, cultivation and commercialisation of hardy water lilies. Prior to setting up his nursery, Latour-Marliac had found a way to hybridize hardy water lilies through a process that remains mysterious. There was a need, for at the time the only hardy water lily in Europe was a white one. We know from Latour-Marliac’s letters that many of his hybrids were the result of a so-called intersubgeneric cross, which is to say the crossing a hardy variety with a tropical one. The resulting hybrid, named Laydekeri Floribunda, soon went extinct, but not before he was able to cross it with species and subspecies he obtained from North America and elsewhere, including N. mexicana, N. odorata rubra and N. alba rubra. Latour-Marliac was ultimately able to build a collection of water lilies with a colour palette that ranged from delicate yellow to fuscia and deep red.

CLAUDE MONET

We know from our archives that Monet placed several orders with Latour-Marliac. He placed his first order (transcribed and translated further down) in 1894. This was the year that the painter finished construction on the water garden at Giverny. Since there would have been no plants whatsoever in the pond at that time, we see that he mostly ordered aquatic plants. It is also interesting to see in this order that he purchased as many lotus as he did water lilies. Had he had better luck with the lotus, his paintings Les Nymphéas might have been Les Nelumbium!

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Ravel’s Bolero in “bodytap”, the performance of 200 college students shot in Saint-Jean-de-Luz

Six hours of filming, around forty shots, 200 singers, two drones, two cameras, a Maurice Ravel four meters high and the Bolero on a loop… The kiosk on the Place Louis XIV in St Jean de Luz (south west of France) served as the setting for a incredible moment of music : this is the place chosen by the Choeur des Colibris of the Saint Michel Garicoïtz college in Cambo-les-Bains to shoot its second performance of body percussion, a technique that uses the body as an instrument.

After the success of the interpretation of Beethoven’s 5th symphony last year, the video of which has been viewed 850,000 times, Nelly Guilhemsans, the professor behind the project, wanted this time to pay tribute to Maurice Ravel, born in Ciboure, taking up his masterpiece which, soon to be a hundred years old, is one of the most played pieces in the world.

For more than six hours, the more than 200 college students stampeded their feet and hands, snapped their fingers, hit their thighs, their chest and the back of their neighbour, giving a show halfway between music and choreography. The result will be a video of about four minutes, for more than seven months of work for Nelly Guilhemsans. “Imagining the choreography is a bit complicated, I took the two summer months,” says the teacher. “We started rehearsals in September, two hours a week. It’s difficult, you need motor skills, you have to have a sense of rhythm. And then, little by little, second by second, we do the four minutes. They have incredible energy.”

Pont du Gard, country’s most visited roman site

It is unique in its construction, as well as being the highest aqueduct to be built in the Roman Empire. Situated 20km from Avignon and 23km from Nîmes, it has been a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1985 and it is the most-visited Roman site in the country.

The Roman architectural marvel

The bridge was built by the Romans in around 50AD and was the centrepiece of an astonishing aqueduct which took running water to what is now Nîmes for around three centuries. 

It fed the fountains installed in every street, the spas, gardens and private homes.

Nemausus, as Nîmes was called at the time, was one of the major Roman cities in France, with an estimated 20,000 inhabitants. It had all the characteristics of a modern town, with a forum and temple, but although water was available from wells and rainwater, it was not abundant, and the population was growing.

To give the city real status, it needed flowing fountains in its gardens and the ability to change the water frequently in its public baths.

There are no records of who came up with the idea of an aqueduct, nor of who financed it, and no one knows who the architects and engineers of this extraordinary structure were, but it is likely the experts came from Rome, where they already knew how to build aqueducts.

Built with slave labour

It is estimated the bridge took five years to build and the whole aqueduct, from source to city, took 15 years.

Around 500 workers were taken on to build the Pont du Gard, and the same number again for the rest of the aqueduct. Some were paid, but slaves were also used, not just for the manual labour but for skilled work such as shaping the stone.

First, the pillars on the bottom bridge were built, followed by the arch and then the top, and this process continued up each of the levels. Wooden scaffolding was used, built by skilled carpenters. There were also cranes, powered by slaves walking within a treadwheel, which drove the hoisting and lowering device, capable of lifting huge blocks of stone.

It is thought the aqueduct worked until 500AD. However, it is likely it took water to Nemausus for only around 300 years, after which the city’s importance dwindled and, with it, its population.

Keeping the water flowing freely required a lot of maintenance work to clear the limestone deposits which built up. This was a physical job, no doubt carried out by teams employed by the city, and which would have come to an end with the decline of Nemausus.
The water which still ran through the aqueduct for the next 200 years was probably used by farmers for irrigation.

Transformation into a historic monument 

By the Middle Ages, however, the structure was no longer in use and people pilfered stone from it for their own building projects.
Though the aqueduct was never designed as a road, people began using it to cross the river in about the 11th century. They hacked away stone from the pillars on the first level to make it wide enough to take a horse and cart.

A toll was charged for crossing the bridge, making it a valuable source of income. Otherwise, it might have been entirely dismantled over time for its stone.

Much later, in 1743, a parallel bridge was built, which could take more traffic.
It was only in the 19th century that the intrinsic value of ancient monuments began to be appreciated.

In 1840, Prosper Mérimée, the first inspector of historic monuments, listed the Pont du Gard as one of the most important structures in France, meaning its future was assured and the pillars were restored.

From the 20th century, the bridge started attracting thousands of tourists. The parallel bridge was closed to traffic and, in 2000, the site was revamped to better accommodate tourism, while preserving the bridge and the local environment.

There is now a museum showing how it was built, and it is also possible to book a guided tour along the canal at the top of the bridge.

The first small section is open to the sky but most is in a tunnel, as the waterway was covered along its whole length to protect it.

Unique discovery in the Mediterranean of an 8,000-year-old underwater forest off Palavas

A submerged forest, 8,000 years old, has just been discovered off Palavas and Carnon, thanks to movements of sand and sediment. There are only 2 others in the world. Researchers from the University of Montpellier are trying to understand what our coasts looked like at that time.

septembre 2020. • © F3 LR

At 10 meters deep, off Palavas, on the continental shelf, divers and scientists first thought they had found a wreck. But it is actually a completely different discovery, as fragile as it is exceptional: plant remains. Back at the University of Montpellier, the researchers hasten to protect their treasures. They must quickly be placed away from air, light and heat.

It is a tree stump. It was extracted with its gangue and its roots and remained submerged for around 8,000 years.

Jean-Yves Jouvenel, doctor in biological oceanography

An underwater forest dating from before the Neolithic?

The hypothesis of a forest floor under the sea also seems supported by the collected sediments. These stigmata of an ancient forest are located less than a kilometer from the coast and would still have an area of ​​several hundred square meters.

The objective of the analyses is to date these discoveries more precisely and to determine the nature of the Mesolithic landscape.

The structure of the wood will tell us what species it is. The problem, under sea water, is the waves, the movements of the water which risk causing these strains to leave. There, there is an exceptional state of preservation.

Lucie Chabal, researcher at the Institute of Evolutionary Sciences in Montpellier.

With these analyses, the researchers want to understand what was the environment in which the trees grew. Were they at the edge of a lagoon, near a river? Because at that time, the sea level being lower, at least 10 meters today, we were in a continental environment and not under the sea.

The discovery of this site in France, off Palavas and Mauguio-Carnon, is unique in southern Europe and the Mediterranean. Only 2 other submerged forests have been recorded in the world, one off the American coast of Alabama, in the Gulf of Mexico and one facing the coast of Cornwall, at the southwestern tip of England.

The excavation operation will be renewed next year. The submerged landscapes have not finished revealing their secrets.

Europe’s only elephant sanctuary in France welcomes first resident

An ageing zoo elephant called Gandhi has become the first inhabitant of a groundbreaking retirement home after nine years of work to get it open

Elephant Haven, near Limoges, Haute-Vienne, is Europe’s first sanctuary for former zoo and circus elephants and currently has space for three females.

Obtaining permits and constructing infrastructure and fences was only half the battle to get it ready – building relationships with other welfare organisations was key before welcoming the first resident in October.

Gandhi was born in the wild in 1969, probably in Thailand, transferred to Givskud Zoo in Denmark in 1973, and arrived at Les Terres de Nataé Zoo in Brittany in 1998. She is now 52 years old, weighs 3.6 tonnes and has never had a calf. The precise details of her story are lost, but what is known is that she has arthritis, and behavioural difficulties relating to other elephants.

“In time, we hope to introduce her to other females,” says Tony Verhulst, who co-founded EHEES (Elephant Haven European Elephant Sanctuary) with Sofie Goetghebeur.

Montésegur castle and the Cathar fortified site

About Montségur Castle

The Château de Montségur is a former fortress near Montségur, a commune in the Ariège department in southern France. Its ruins are the site of a razed stronghold of the Cathars. The present fortress on the site, though described as one of the ‘Cathar castles,’ is actually of a later period. It has been listed as a monument historique by the French Ministry of Culture since 1862.

History of Montségur

The earliest signs of human settlement in the area date back to the Stone Age. Evidence of Roman occupation such as Roman currency and tools have also been found in and around the site. Its name comes from Latin mons securus, which evolved into mont ségur in Occitan, which means “safe hill”. In the Middle Ages the Montsegur region was ruled by the Counts of Toulouse, the Viscounts of Carcassonne and finally the Counts of Foix. Little is known about the fortification until the time of the Albigensian Crusade.

In about 1204, Raymond de Péreille, one of the two lords of Montségur decided to rebuild the castle that had been in ruins for 40 years or more. Refortified, the castle became a centre of Cathar activities, and home to Guilhabert de Castres, a Cathar theologian and bishop. In 1233 the site became “the seat and head” (domicilium et caput) of the Cathar church. It has been estimated that the fortified site housed about 500 people when in 1241, Raymond VII besieged Montsegur without success.

The murder of representatives of the inquisition by about fifty men from Montsegur and faidits at Avignonet on May 28, 1242 was the trigger for the final military expedition to conquer the castle, the siege of Montségur.

In 1242 Hugues de Arcis led the military command of about 10,000 royal troops against the castle that was held by about 100 fighters and was home to 211 Perfects (who were pacifists and did not fight) and civilian refugees. The siege lasted nine months, until in March 1244, the castle finally surrendered. Those who renounced the Cathar faith were allowed to leave and the castle itself was destroyed.

In the days prior to the fall of the fortress, several Cathars allegedly slipped through the besiegers’ lines. This led to legends that they escaped with a secret treasure or esoteric knowledge. In 1906, esoteric French writer Joséphin Péladan proposed that the treasure was really the Holy Grail, arguing that Montségur was the Munsalväsche (or Montsalvat) of Wolfram von Eschenbach’s 13th-century Grail romance Parzival.

This idea was followed and expanded upon by various later writers, especially in France, and has inspired legends, conspiracy theories, and fictional works associating the Cathars and Montségur with the Holy Grail.

The present fortress ruin at Montségur is not from the Cathar era. The original Cathar fortress of Montségur was entirely pulled down by the victorious royal forces after its capture in 1244. It was gradually rebuilt and upgraded over the next three centuries by royal forces. The current ruin so dramatically occupying the site is referred to by French archeologists as “Montsegur III” and is typical of post-medieval royal French defensive architecture of the 17th century. It is not “Montsegur II,” the structure in which the Cathars lived and were besieged, of which few traces remain today.

Montségur’s solar alignment characteristics, visible on the morning of the summer solstice in particular, are part of what set this castle apart as an architectural wonder. This often mentioned solar phenomenon, occurring in an alignment of two windows in the fortress wall, has been observed by hundreds of students, astronomers, spiritual pilgrims and locals alike who come to the chateau specifically to view it every year.

Montségur today

Montségur is open to the public today – it’s a steep climb and there are somewhat limited facilities around, so be sure to bring plenty of water. There’s a small museum in the town of Montségur which has a good potted history of the castle and the legends surrounding it.

The castle is open year round, with longer hours and slightly higher prices in the summer. The views over the Pyrenees are glorious on a clear day.

Getting to Montségur

Montségur is located deep in Cathar country in south west France: it’s a twisty 90 minute drive from Carcassonne via roads full of sharp drops and hairpin bends

3D reconstruction of the Cathar settlement and the castle (in French)

Villa Arnaga: Edmond Rostand’s house in lush greenery.

The Arnaga Villa is a house-neo – Basque style villa of the early twentieth century , a park- botanical garden around, located in Cambo-les-Bains , department of Pyrenees – Atlantiques. It was built between 1903 and 1906 by the writer and playwright Edmond Rostand (author of Cyrano de Bergerac), who lived there until his death, and currently houses the “Musée Edmond Rostand” which is open to the public all year round.

Villa Arnaga was subject to a classification in the title of historical monuments in 2016.

History

Edmond Rostand arrived in Cambo in 1900 on the advice of Dr. Grancher to recover from a pleurisy contracted during the Aiglon trials. He was quickly conquered by the climate of the Basque Country and his good life, and decided to settle there. After purchasing land near the village, he commissioned the Parisian architect Joseph Albert Tournaire to draw up the plans for a house to be made in externally Basque style, conceived for the development of comfortable and sunny spaces indoors. The work started in 1903 continued until 1906.

Gardens

The gardens were designed and assembled, along with the house. To the east, the French garden (12ha) is organised around three ponds, with the greenhouse and the Poets’ corner. A pergola inspired by the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna, which is reflected in a water plane, was built around 1912 , it seems to close the perspective without limiting the gaze towards the mountain, towards the Ursuya and Baïgoura. To the west, the English garden (1ha) leaves nature in apparent freedom.

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.

Innovative service offering airline recycling and storage

While planes are getting more efficient, and airlines insist they are doing all they can to reduce emissions pollution, the spotlight is shifting to another eco concern – namely, what happens when machines reach the end of their lifespan?

Until the early 2000s, few considered this to be an issue. Old planes that could no longer be kept in working order were disposed of like used cars – either crushed and buried or left to rust in ghostly, giant scrapyards.

In 2007, a French firm was created to offer a solution to the problem and at the same time take advantage of a business opportunity.

A redundant plane might no longer be airworthy but it is still full of components that can be used as spare parts for planes still flying.

It just takes the facilities, the tools and the know-how to turn grounded junk into a stock of profitable pieces. Tarmac Aerosave, based across the runway from Tarbes Lourdes airport in Hautes-Pyrénées, is a consortium owned by plane-maker Airbus, Safran, a high-tech aerospace and aircraft engine manufacturing company, and Suez, which specialises in waste management.

It is the world’s number one for aircraft and engine recycling.

When a plane reaches the end of its life, it is flown to Tarbes where specialist teams get to work on it.
They start with the soft stuff – seats, carpets and other fixtures and fittings – and gradually reduce the fuselage to a shell. Engines, meanwhile, get special treatment in a hangar set aside for precision dismantling.
The final stage is to cut the aeroplane into chunks using a special diamond saw so that the steel and aluminium can be recovered.

Every piece – from seats to the black box – is sorted and stored ready for resale. What cannot be reused is sent for recycling. The windowpanes, for example, are turned into fleece jackets.
The whole process, from the plane’s final landing to the recycling bin, can take as little as two weeks, depending on the size of the aircraft. Almost 300 planes have been processed in this way over the last 14 years.

Dronisos, the Light show startup

You probably heard of drones aiding in search and rescue operations, delivering food and essentials to inaccessible locations, carrying blood and medical supplies to rural hospitals, inspecting bridges and dams for structural defects, etc. However, you might not have heard of drones being used purely for aesthetic purposes in the form of drone light shows, and even if you did, it would have only been very recently.

Drone light shows are pre-programmed choreographies performed by drone swarms that have been fitted with LEDs.

Dronisos is one of the few drone show providers that specialise in both indoor and outdoor shows. Their indoor drone shows can cost anywhere between €7,500 and €75,000, while our outdoor shows start at €40,000 and can go up to €250,000 and higher. They also have an option for permanent/recurring drone shows for theme parks, circuses, etc. These are tailor-made shows and the price will depend on the requirements.

Like with all new technologies, the cost of drone light shows will find its equilibrium as the technology matures in the coming years. Although the prices have dropped considerably over the past few years, they are still relatively expensive. So if you’re planning on painting the sky with a marriage proposal, that might have to wait a few more years :).

There are no fixed price brackets for drone light shows as every show is tailor-made specifically for a particular event. Many factors like the country hosting the show, whether the show is indoors or outdoors, and the overall budget are all taken into consideration when designing a show.

What kind of drones do they use?

They use all types of drones from commercial brands ( DJI, Yuneec, etc…) ; but their favorite ones are from Parrot. They deeply modify Parrot drones hardware and software in order to make them perfect for drone light shows.

How many drones can they put in the sky ?

Just for your info, Dronisos hold the indoor world record for a drone show – 200 drones indoor at the same time.(see the video below)
They can fly up to 1000 drones. If the performance is indoor, they may be limited by the size of the venue. The optimum number of drones is determined by the available space and creative needs of the project.
Having a huge number of drones is great… but having a decent time to create the show is even better !

The biggest achievement and main highlight for Dronisos is the exclusive collaboration created with Expo 2020 Dubai. Following a global tender, the Dronisos drone show system was chosen by the organisers to provide daily indoor and outdoor shows during the entire six-month event. Expo 2020 opened its doors to the world on October 1st, 2021, will run for 182 days, and will be the largest ever event in the Arab world. For the first time in World Expo history, each of the 195 participating countries will have its own pavilion. For 6 months, Expo 2020 as a major attraction is said to be the meeting point for innovation and creativity bringing together 25 million visitors

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

Le Mascaret is a natural, spectacular phenomenon

If you are holidaying in the South-West of France near Bordeaux you may hear about the famous tidal bore on the River Garonne. The Mascaret wave is mysterious and spectacular tidal wave enjoyed by surf-board enthusiasts.

What is the Tidal Bore?

The tidal bore is a natural phenomenon on estuary rivers. The tidal bore is produced when the water level is lower and the tidal coefficient exceeds 90 (late spring to autumn). It starts at the mouth of the estuary, at the time of the falling tide / rising tide with the rising flow of the ocean against the downward flow of the river. The Tidal Bore is independent of the wind, however it can thwart the phenomenon if it blows from the east.

Surf on the Garonne, Dordogne and Gironde …

This wave, occurs often in the Gironde estuary. It can reach up to 2 meters high, and travels between 15 and 30 km/h. Surfers can ride the wave for up to 10 minutes.

New Aquitaine, Occitanie

Ocean or Mediterranean sea? Summer is coming… so let’s enjoy the beautiful and sunny Southwest of France (Nouvelle-Aquitaine & Bordeaux)

Do you want some inspiration for the coming summer holidays? This month let’s explore the treasures of the Southwest within both Occitanie and Nouvelle Aquitaine regions.

These two regions are seen as great rivals when speaking about quality of living (the French Douceur de vivre), gastronomy, sunny weather and consequently they are also competing in attracting most of the Parisians and Northern Frenchs. And this is not only for summer holidays… do you know that big southwest cities like Bordeaux, Toulouse or Montpellier are ones of the most dynamic cities in France gaining each more than 10.000 inhabitants per year?

However, people from southwest of France are facing an unsolved existential question: how to know which is part of the Southwest and which is not – and thus is usually called “the (unlucky) others”-?

From a geographical and administrative point of view, both regions are in the southwest quarter of France. They share the Garonne watershed and are bounded by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Pyrenees mountains and Mediterranean cost to the South, and Massif Central mountains to the Northeast.

From an historical perspective, they were both part of the Occitania region where Occitan was historically the main language spoken (see the map with the flag and the Occitan cross). Both regions share a very rich gastronomy, making marvellous wine (and not only from Bordeaux region…), dish specialties based on duck breast and foie gras as well as typical cheeses such as the Roquefort nicknamed very modestly “Le Roi des Fromages”.

From the past, these territories have kept a prestigious cultural heritage between traditional countryside and towns of art and history whose names may be familiar to you, among others: Albi and Toulouse (les villes roses), Bordeaux (et son “port de la Lune”), Carcassonne (la citée médievale), Bayonne (et sa culture basque) or Perpignan (la catalane).

But on the top of their great history, gastronomy or beautiful landscape, there is maybe one thing people from South-West are the proudest… their typical Southwest accent (l’accent du Sud-Ouest!) which make them really unique and endearing!

(to know more about accents and their particularities in France see this little interesting video)