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Tips and Advise for visiting France by Road to Travel Inc.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Celebrating the Lemon Festival in Menton

The small sleepy town of Menton is overshadowed by its famous neighbours on the Côte d'Azur such as Saint-Tropez, Cannes, Nice. Located on the eastern edge of the French Riviera, just before the Italian border, the town has a stunning old town with medieval architecture, beautiful beaches, excellent restaurants and boasts 316 sunny days a year.

For many centuries Menton was one of the most important European centre of citrus fruit production. However, with time, the citrus orchards were abandoned and slowly disappeared. Very few farmers still grow the famous Menton lemon that has a very distinctive flavour. To celebrate its past, every February, Menton hosts the Lemon Festival (La Fête du Citron). Celebrated since the end of 19th century, the event attracts more than 200,000 people and is the second most important event on the Riviera after Nice Carnival. For three weeks, Menton fills up with the beautiful fragrance of oranges and lemons that are used to create spectacular decorations and sculptures. 145 tons of citrus fruits turned into the most spectacular designs by 300 professionals working for the festival.

Citrus Sculpture
Every year the festival organizers choose a different theme: Disney, Music of the World, China, Spain. This year’s theme is Cinecittà the Italian cinema of the 50s and 60s. 
The town’s gardens Jardins Biovès become an open air gallery filled with citrus sculpture, some of them up to 10 metres tall. At night time, the garden illuminates with light shows and fireworks. One of the most exciting event of the festival is the Golden Fruit Parade with giant citrus floats carried along the town’s streets accompanied by music, dances and cheering of thousands of excited spectators. 

Citrus Sculpture

There is also an arts and crafts show where local artisans exhibit their work: wooden sculptures, glass engraving, ceramics, pottery and food stands sell delicacies such as citrus liqueurs, lemon infused olive oil and many other. During the Lemon Festival local restaurants try to outdo each other with special selections of citrus-based exquisite dishes.

Photos by: Ian Britton/Flickr, Fête du Citron/Facebook.

The most beautiful parks and gardens in Paris

You have been busy strolling down Champs-Élysées, climbing up the Eiffel Tower, visiting museums, shopping and dining, so now it is time to relax, listen to birds and stretch on the grass. It is surprisingly easy to find beautiful green spaces in Paris to escape the city’s hectic rhythms. 

Jardin des Plantes
Jardin des Plantes

Created in 1626 as the royal medicinal plant garden, the Jardin des Plantes on the Left Bank is the main botanical garden in France. It has over 10,000 plant species, elegant glasshouses, rose, winter and Alpine gardens and even a small maze and a mini-zoo. 

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Once an execution place for criminals and public waste ground, Buttes Chaumont was transformed into a romantic park by Baron Haussmann in 1867. Located in the 19th arrondissement, Buttes Chaumont boasts spectacular views of Paris, three miles of walking paths, a lake with a waterfall, grotto and large meadows where you can have a picnic.

Bois de Boulogne

This large public park was Paris’s answer the London’s Hyde Park. Covering over 2000 acres, the park includes woodland, English landscape gardens, a large lake with swans and ducks, two racecourses, restaurants and sports clubs. The Jardin de Bagatelle in the park is famous for its romantic Nymph Pond with water lilies and the prize-winning rose garden with 1,200 stunning varieties.  

Parc Monceau
Parc Monceau

Situated in the 8th arrondissement this public garden covers 20 acres. It was landscaped in the 18th century and later re-styled to look like an English garden with a pond, lovely shaded paths and beautiful statues. Parc Monceau is a great place to have a glimpse into Parisian life as it is popular with local residents.

Jardin des Tuileries
Jardin des Tuileries

This 17th century formal Garden of the Tuileries is the largest and oldest in Paris. It can get crowded in summer months but the views of the Place de la Concorde and Arc de Triomphe from here are unbeatable.

Photos via Flickr by: Tom Hilton, Guillaume Baviere, Steve Shupe, Norio Nakayama.

What to see in the Loire Valley

The land of romantic castles and excellent wine, the Loire Valley is one of the most visited destinations in France. Although, the majority of tourists go to the Loire to see the majestic chateaux, there are many more things to do and see in the region. Here are just a few highlights to consider when you are planning your visit.

Chateau de Chambord
Historic chateaux

With more than 100 historic castles open to the public, you can spend days admiring their splendour. The Renaissance Chambord, the largest chateaux in the region; Cheverny where the descendants of the noble family the Hurault de Vibrayes still live,  Chenonceau  spanning the river Cher, - apart from opulent interiors, they all have something unique to offer. 

Chartres Cathedral
Abbeys and cathedrals

Some of France’s most spectacular cathedrals are found in the Loire Valley. Chartres cathedral with its 12th century stained glass windows, Bourges cathedral often described as a masterpiece of Gothic art, the elegant cathedral in Tours. Make sure to visit the splendid 12th century Fontevraud Abbey where Henry II king of England and his son King Richard the Lionheart are buried.

Charming towns and villages 

Visiting towns and villages in the Loire Valley is like travelling back in time. Narrow cobbled streets, half-timbered houses, splendid palaces and charming village cafes will steel your heart. Montrésor, Chinon, Le Grand Pressigny, Sancerre and many others are worth stopping for a day or two to soak up the atmosphere of joie de vivre.

Fine vineyards

The Loire Valley might not be as famous as those of Bordeaux or Burgundy but it produces some fine wines such as Sancerre, Pouilly-Fumé and Muscadet appreciated by connoisseurs across the globe. Many family-run vineyards around Nantes, Tours, Angers and Saumur are open to the public for tastings and cellar tours. 

Photos via Flickr by: Thomas Conté, Tim Rawle, Daniel Jolivet.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Rouen, the historic capital of Normandy

The historic city of Rouen lies on the Seine River in the region of Normandy. Although a large part of the city was damaged during the World War II, there is still a great deal of ancient buildings in the old town, which was painstakingly restored.  

Once described by the French writer Victor Hugo as the city of “a hundred spires”, Rouen boasts numerous architectural gems from different eras. The most famous of them is the Cathédrale Notre-Dame, immortalised by Claude Monet in many of his paintings. One of the largest and most impressive Gothic churches in France, Cathédrale Notre-Dame took almost 300 years to complete. Its 151-metre spire is the highest in the country.

Rouen Cathedral
A short walk away from the cathedral is the ornate Gros Horloge clock tower, which you can climb following a steep staircase to admire the clock’s mechanics and a magnificent view of the city. It is a real pleasure to wander along the winding narrow streets flanked by old half-timbered houses, stumbling upon Gothic architectural treasures. Check out the magnificent Palais de Justice with its detailed façade with elaborate gargoyles with a few shell holes left in the walls as reminders of an Allied bombing in 1944, which badly damaged the building. 

Another fascinating landmark is the medieval Aître Saint-Maclou with macabre carved skulls and bones. During a plague outbreak, which devastated Rouen, the lovely green courtyard served as a burial ground and the building served as an ossuary. 

Gros Horloge Clock Tower

The legendary Joan of Arc went on trial and was burnt at the stake in 1431 at the Place du Vieux Marché, which today is dominated by a striking looking modern Church Église Jeanne d'Arc.
Art buffs love Rouen’s excellent Fine Arts Museum with a large collection of paintings from the 15th to the 20th centuries that includes works by such masters as Rubens, Caravaggio, Corot, Modigliani, Monet and many others. 

Photos via Flickr by: Frédéric BISSON, Julien Lozelli, Marko Kudjerski.