Arlempdes (pronounced Arlandes), is buried deep in the heart of France. Although it is officially one of the 155 “Most Beautiful Villages in France,” it’s not exactly typical of the other towns you’ll find on the list.
One of my “most embarrassing travel moments ever” came during a family trip to Germany. In a beer garden in Stuttgart, a woman sitting alone at the next table overheard our struggles to order dinner in German and asked (in English) if she could help. As the conversation developed, she moved to our table and asked where we were from. We said we were living in Clermont-Ferrand in the middle of France, and she brightened. “Oh, my father was there during the war!” “Wow, that’s great!” I said, trying to make awkward small talk…realizing seconds too late that if her German father had been posted to Clermont-Ferrand it probably was not a reason to celebrate our commonalities! This incident came […]
A while ago, La Montagne, the main newspaper chain covering central France, had a great idea: interview a group of French tourists arriving in the Auvergne for the first time just as they are getting off the bus, then catch up with them again a few days later to see if their opinions have changed. The question: “What preconceptions do you have about the Auvergne and its inhabitants?” Jean, a 70-year-old from Paris, said he thinks of Auvergnats as “coal merchants and brasserie owners”. Denise, also from Paris, said “When you say Auvergne to me, I immediately think of volcanoes and the stinginess of the people.” The final word came from Bernard, another Parisian: “For me, the Auvergne means ‘prehistoric’”. […]
Although I usually prefer to visit these places at my own pace, many of the small chateaux in the deep heart of France require you to take a guided tour. They’re proud of their history (most of which is never reported in mainstream books); they often have original furniture and family heirlooms to protect from curious visitors; and (I suspect) they want to give their caretakers an opportunity to make a little extra income from gratuities and gift-shop sales. In any case, it wasn’t surprising that the only way to visit the Chateau d’Anjony in Tournemire – one of France’s official “most beautiful villages” — is in the company of a guide. And what a guide! Monsieur Martin took more […]
Someday I’ll write about why it’s a great idea to visit Sarlat-le-Caneda, the perfectly-preserved medieval town in the heart of the Périgord Noir in the Dordogne. It’s one of France’s most popular tourist destinations (last time I was there I heard more British accents than French!), and within 30 minutes of some of France’s most interesting historical sites – great castles, prehistoric cave painting, troglodytic homes. It’s also a perfect base for cycling, canoeing, hiking, or any other outdoor activity that appeals to you along the ancient Dordogne River. In every way that matters to a traveler, Sarlat earns the rare 3-star rating that it holds in the Michelin Green Guide. Today, though, I want to talk about the town’s […]
I’ll confess that 2017 was not my favorite year for many reasons that have nothing to do with a blog about traveling around the deep heart of France. In fact, if it weren’t for the places I saw and the people met in my travels, I think it would have been easy to be miserable under the weight of the world’s problems in 2017! For this round-up, I’ve enjoyed walking back through my memories of some of the best, most interesting places I saw this year. These don’t necessarily represent most popular posts for 2017 — just my personal selection of the stories and places I’d like most to revisit in the months ahead. This may seem like a sneaky […]