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

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Exploring Avignon

Known for its beautiful historic buildings and museums, Avignon is a delightful destination to visit on private tours of France

Enjoy the charming Provençal atmosphere exploring the town’s old streets and picturesque squares. The imposing Palais des Papes is a great place to start you tour of Avignon. Europe’s largest Gothic palace, dominates the town with its spires and towers reminding of the unlimited power of the Papacy in the Middle Ages. 25 rooms are open to the public where you can see old frescoes, paintings, Gothic tapestries, imagine grand feasts that were held in the huge Banqueting Hall. 

Palais des Papes
The Place du Palais is spacious cobbled square flanked by beautiful historic buildings. Pop in to the Petit Palais, a former archbishop's palace with a stunning arcaded courtyard, to see an excellent collection of Italian Renaissance painting.

Although only a fifth of the 800-year-old Pont St-Benezet has survive to modern days, the bridge is still an iconic symbol of Avignon. Check it out for a few snapshots and great views of the city. 

Another spot to admire the panoramic views of Avignon is the gardens of Rocher des Doms that overlook the city’s main landmarks, the mighty Rhône river and surrounding countryside. 

Pont St-Benezet
The beautiful square of Place de l'Horloge is a perfect place to chill out in a café and people watch. 

While sipping your coffee admire the local theater and the pretty Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) with a 14th-century clock that strikes the hours. To rub shoulders with locals head to the lively indoor market Les Halles where you can sample the best of local delicacies.

Avignon is famous for a variety of festivals that take place throughout the year: the International Jazz Festival in August, Epicurean Festival in summer, Blues Festival as well as a vibrant Christmas market in December.  

For a traditional tasty meal check out the elegant the bistrot L'Épicerie to devour hearty Provençal dishes and excellent foie gras washed down by local wines.

Photos via Flickr by: Guillén Pérez, Stephen Colebourne.

The mystery of the Carnac Megaliths

Brittany’s mysterious megaliths near the town of Carnac are often included in private tours of France. Despite several archaeological excavations and numerous published scientific papers no one knows exactly what these 3,000 stones signify with some theories saying they were used for druidic rituals, others suggesting they served as astronomical observatories. While the jury is still out on the exact purpose of the Carnac Megaliths, there is no doubt they make up an unforgettable site where visitors can ponder on the mysteries of civilizations.

Carnac Megaliths
Dating back to around 4000 BC, the ancient standing stones are located in three fields: Ménec, Kermario and Kerlescan with various circles, alignments, dolmens, passage and mounds. The dolmens are thought to have been once graves of prehistoric people, however, no bones have survived to modern times. In the Dolmen of Kercado that retains its original shape, archaeologists found some fascinating artefacts such as pearl, axes, arrowheads, pearls and beautiful Nephrite gem beads.

Dolmen in Carnac
Several mounds (tumuli) built over chambers that once contained tombs of important families with artefacts that can be seen today in the Museum of Prehistory of Carnac located a short walk from the Ménec field. The museum has an excellent, one of the best in Europe, collections of prehistoric stone chests, tools, pottery, jewellery and other objects. 

The stones are fenced off and are only accessible on a guided tour in summer months, so plan your visit accordingly. 

Beach at Carnac-Plage
The old town of Carnac, Carnac-Ville, is worth a visit after you have explored the mysterious megaliths. The pretty old centre retains its old days charm and has plenty of pretty streets, flower-bedecked old buildings, cosy cafes and excellent restaurants that serve delicious local oysters and hearty traditional dishes. A short walk from the old town is the seaside resort of Carnac-Plage with a 2km-long beautiful sandy beach swept by waves and winds typical for Brittany.

Photos via Flick by: Nicolas Raymond, Jürgen Mangelsdorf, Jérôme Choain.

Alsatian Wine Route

The Alsatian Wine Route is one of the most popular destinations among wine lovers on private tours of France. Running from Thann to Marlenheim for 170 km, it takes travellers through the area where wine has been made for thousands of years. Apart from excellent local wines such as riesling, gewürztraminer, sylvaner and pinot noir, the region has a lot more to offer with its picture-perfect medieval villages, cultural and enogastronomic events and friendly locals.

Alsatian Wine Route
100 villages are scattered along the Alsatian Wine Route, one more beautiful than the other. Riquewihr, Kaysersberg, Ribeauvillé, Turckheim, Eguisheim are among the most popular which means they might get rather crowded in summer and during harvest celebrations. If you like quieter places head to Saint-Hippolyte, a sleepy village near a grand castle, Haut-Koenigsbourg. The village of Bergheim has well-preserved medieval walls and the imposing gate with a fortified tower that has been used for many centuries as the entrance to the village. The brightly painted half-timbered houses have not changed much since the 15th century creating a charming atmosphere that takes visitors back in time. The capital of Alsatian wine, Colmar, is filled with flower-bedecked half-timbered houses, museums and wine cellars offering degustations to visitors. 

The Alsatian Wine Route is famous for its wine and food festivals loved by tourists and locals alike. In August Eguisheim hosts the annual Wine festival with open wine cellars, village dances and traditional feasts. There are great wine festivals in Mittelbergheim and Bergheim in July. In Autumn, many villages celebrate the grape harvest with wine tastings, parades, concerts and traditional meals.

Apart from fine wines, you can enjoy hearty Alsatian cuisine. Locally made foie gras, classic choucroute cabbage with tasty sausages, jambonneau pork knuckle, veal tripe braised in Riesling and baeckeoffe slow cooked meat stew. Every village has at least one Winstub, a traditional Alsatian restaurant that serves great wine and simple local dishes.

Photos via Flickr by: Travis Nobles, Tjeerd Wiersma, Francois Schnell.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The most beautiful bridges in France

There are so many things to see on private tours of France. Towns steeped in history, elegant palaces, ancient castles, sunny seaside resorts and art museums. Some French bridges are often compared to works of art. Here we have selected some of the most beautiful ones in France for you that are worth a trip across the country.
Pont du Gard

Pont du Gard, Gard

Built across the Gardon River between 19 BC and 150 AD, this aqueduct is a living reminder of the Roman Empire’s engineering genius. The bridge was constructed with stones weighing up to six tons cut with such precision that no mortar was needed. 49-metres high, the aqueduct carried water to the homes, baths and fountains in Nîmes and was used until the 6th century. Over time it has become one of the country’s most popular tourist attractions.

Millau Viaduc

Millau Viaduct, Millau

The world's tallest vehicular bridge, the Millau Viaduct spans a valley not a river and is part of the autoroute from Paris to Montpellier. It is almost 2.5 kilometres long, weighs 290,000 tonnes and sees between 10,000 and 25,000 passing vehicles daily. Inaugurated in 2004, it remains one of the greatest engineering achievements of our time.

Pont Alexandre III

The Pont Alexandre III, Paris

With its Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs and gilt winged horses the 19th-century Pont Alexandre III is certainly the most ornate and beautiful among the 37 bridges that span across the Seine River in Paris. Classified as a French Historic Monument it connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with the Invalides and Eiffel Tower

Pont du Diable
The Pont du Diable, Céret

The single elegant arch bridge raises at 22 metres above the river Tech in the town of Céret. A local legend says that when the Pont du Diable was constructed in the 14th century, the builders asked the devil for help (hence the name), who agreed in exchange for the first soul to cross the bridge. When it was finished, the clever locals sent a cat across the bridge to trick the devil. 

Photos via Flickr by: Julian Fong, Richard Leeming, Joe de Sousa, Thierry Llansades.

Historic fortified city of Carcassonne

The picture-perfect city of Carcassonne is a must-see on private tours of France. The country’s second-most visited tourist spot after the Tour Eiffel, the medieval La Cité citadel attracts nearly four million visitors a year. 

La Cité Citadel
Surrounded by impressive concentric double walls and a moat, the citadel is a marvel of drawbridges, towers, basilica and a small town, which inspired Walt Disney’s The Sleeping Beauty. Visit the stunning 12th-century Château Comtal with 31 towers and stroll along the cobbled streets. If you are not fainthearted, check out the fascinating Torture museum inside the La Cite to see graphic reconstructions of torture instruments from the Middle Ages through to the French revolution. Linger on the grassy river banks below outside the citadel to admire the views over Carcassonne and the snow-capped Pyrénées on the horizon.
Pont Vieux
Most tourist stay inside the walls and never cross the river to see lower part of the city known as the the Ville Basse. Dating back to the Middle Ages it is full of charm, shops, cafés and restaurants and is certainly worth a visit. Walk across the pretty 14th-century Pont-Vieux, one of the few surviving medieval bridges in France that connects Carcassonne’s lower and upper towns. Check out the colourful busy food market that sprawls across Place Carnot in the centre of the town every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday where you can stock up on the best cheeses, charcuterie and other delicacies from the area. Stroll along Rue du Verdun wondering into tiny dusty shops and admiring the medieval buildings lining the street. Pop in to the Chapelle des Dominicaines to see the time line of the city’s history on its walls and look at the 17th-century paintings in the Church of Saint-Vincent

Canal du Midi
Hop on one of the boats on the Canal du Midi that will take you on a trip through the countryside along its tree-lined banks. 

Before you leave Carcassonne make sure you sample some of the delectable local dishes such as cassoulet, a meat stew with white haricot beans or duck breast.

Photos via Flickr by: Rob Glover, Thierry Llansades, Jeremy Eades.