Spotlight on Beaucaire, France: A Gem Near Nimes & Avignon

Spotlight on Beaucaire, France: A Gem Near Nimes & Avignon

At The Loftus Guides we seek to inspire you with suggested destinations that are unique and off-the-beaten-track: places that many travelers overlook, but shouldn’t. While we do aim to provide you with plenty of inspiring lists to peruse, we also want to bring you some local flavor, showcasing places around the world that deserve a closer look. This week, we train a spotlight on the charming town of Beaucaire, France. 

Beaucaire is nestled in the department of Gard right beside the Rhone River, which forms a natural boundary between Provence and Languedoc-Roussillon. The massive floodgates at the water’s edge are proof that flooding has at times been a real threat to this low-lying part of the region. The surrounding landscapes are lush and green, and the town is bathed in that extraordinary Southern French light that so many of us know and love. 

The Light of Beaucaire, southern France

An Easy Trip From Nîmes, Arles or Avignon

Beaucaire lies at the centre of a triangle formed by the important Southern cities of Nimes, Arles and Avignon. Only 30 to 40 minutes away by train or car, it makes an easy and lovely trip from all of these places. It also lies in close reach of the ancient Roman town of Orange, the village of Uzès, the UNESCO-listed Roman aqueduct known as the Pont du Gard, and numerous other iconic destinations in the South of France. 

Read related: A Visit to France’s Lascaux Caves and Their Paleolithic Wonders

Starting to understand just how well-situated this little town is? Now let’s take a look at why it’s special in its own right.

Top Things to See & Do in Beaucaire

Although it’s not especially touristy, Beaucaire has so much to offer, from picturesque strolls to canal-side cafes, restaurants serving delicious local gastronomy and quaint little shops. Do turn down the town’s many small alleys and streets: you never know what you’ll find!

Take a Walk by the Canal

Port and boats in Beaucaire

The canal adds much to the charm of this little town, with its lush waterside trees, decorated houseboats and opportunities for boat tours. Visiting around Christmas-time? The boats are all decked out with lights, and there’s a festive Christmas market to explore as well. 

Visit a Local Market

Beaucaire is very much a market town. There’s a colorful food market that springs up each Thursday and Sunday morning on the Place Georges Clemenceau. Here, you’ll find everything from delicious local cheeses and produce to fresh bread, olives and flowers. 

For clothing, household items and textiles, take a whirl at the Cours Gambetta market along the canal, held on Thursday and Sunday morning.

Read related: These Are the World’s 11 Most Enticing Food Markets

During the summer, don’t miss the Beaux Quais de Vendredi, an evening market held along the banks of the Canal in Beaucaire each Friday night through July and August. Arts and craft stands, live musical performances and other festivities take over the canal strip, adding plenty of summery ambience.

Market Day in Tarascon

A lively market in nearby Tarascon. Image: Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

For a bonus, follow the bridge over the river to the adjacent town of Tarascon which has its own share of treasures to discover, including a vibrant, large open-air market and numerous cafes. 

Visit Two Castles (Overlooking One River)

Beaucaire Castle/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Beaucaire Castle/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Beaucaire and Tarascon each have an impressive castle and ramparts facing one another on their respective sides of the Rhone river. The walk and climb up the hill to Beaucaire’s medieval castle is a treat, with the view becoming more and more impressive as you climb. Free to visit, this impressive site gives you a glimpse of its past grandeur.

Chateau de Tarascon/Wolfgang Staudt/Creative Commons 2.0

Chateau de Tarascon/Wolfgang Staudt/Creative Commons 2.0

The Tarascon castle across the river is extremely well-preserved and is considered one of the grandest examples of a medieval fortress in France. It was built starting in the 15th century by the Dukes of Anjou.  

The Chateau often hosts events such as concerts and performances; ask at the tourist office for current details.

Enjoy Music & Dancing on a Hidden Square

Dancing at Place de la Republique, Beaucaire

Dancing at Place de la Republique/Michelle Loftus/All rights reserved

Find the Place de la République, which the locals call la vieille place (the old square). This is a term which might come up frequently when you’re asking for directions, so don’t be confused by it!

The charming square is surrounded by restaurants and café terraces. On certain evenings there’s free entertainment by local musicians, offering the perfect opportunity for an evening of free dancing.

Taste Locally Made Olives and Olive Oil

Olives and olive oil are a local delicacy, and we recommend you spend some time tasting some of these gourmet specialties. You can notably visit a local olive oil mill at Huiles Robert. Take a tour of the facility and taste the delicious oils! The shop here has many options for gifts to bring back home.

Read related: Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France

Address: 105 Allée Sergius Respectus, 30300 Beaucaire

Telephone: +33 (0)4 66 74 40 46

See the Abbaye Saint-Roman

Saint-Roman Abbey Beaucaire View

Situated right on the edge of town, this Abbey is a truly exceptional site. Carved into the caves and hillside by hermit monks from as early as the 5th century, it’s absolutely worth the uphill walk. The views alone are spectacular.

Address: Abbaye de Saint-Roman, 4294, route de Saint-Gilles, 30300 Beaucaire

Telephone: +33 (0)7 81 56 44 51

Visit the Pont du Gard Aqueduct 

Pont du Gard Aqueduct, France

The famous Pont du Gard aqueduct is nearby, so if time allows we recommend you see it firsthand. Enjoy this tour de force of Roman architecture and its mythical setting, as well as the onsite museum. For a fabulous evening outing, witness the spectacular son et lumière (a light and music show) that brings the site to life in the summertime.

 

See an Exhibit or Light Show at an Old Quarry

Chateau des Baumes and View

 Also just under half an hour from Beaucaire, take in the superb exhibits and light shows at the old quarry known as the Carrières des lumières. Then enjoy breathtaking views from the Chateau des Baux, a vast ruined castle situated high in the hills at the village of Les-Baux-de-Provence and billed as one of the finest sites in historic France.
Click here to see a full events calendar for the Carrière des lumières.

Accommodations We Recommend in Beaucaire 

Our general recommendation at TLG is almost always to book local holiday rentals and lodgings. Rent a flat, a house, a studio or even a furnished houseboat: in today’s world, this is possible just about anywhere you might choose to travel. 

What better way to experience a destination locally? You’ll be able to bring home local fare from the market, eat on your own schedule, pack a picnic for a day-long outing– all the while treating yourself to a morning or afternoon pause café, to use the French term. I don’t know about you, but I prefer not to eat out at every meal. 

Visit one of our favourite sites to find the perfect place to stay in Beaucaire. You can also find accommodation reviews and recommendations at sites such as Booking.com and TripAdvisor.

If you do choose to stay in a hotel, be aware that in Beaucaire and in Tarascon most of these offer basic comforts (remember that French 3-star hotels are about equivalent to 2-star counterparts in North America). You can expect good service, but grand luxury isn’t usually on offer here. This may be another good reason to consider self-catering accommodations, at the end of the day!

Where To Eat in Beaucaire?

Restaurant Menu Beaucaire

Beaucaire, like most towns in France, boasts plenty of restaurants serving high-quality fare. We recommend that you simply take a canal-side stroll to make your choice. Daily menus are displayed on traditional chalkboards outside of each establishment.  You can ask the servers to help you translate if you don’t quite understand the options.

In addition to the typically-offered menu— consisting of three and sometimes more courses– there is usually also a daily ‘set menu’ that is more affordable. You can also order a la carte, of course. 

For specific restaurant reviews and suggestions in and around Beaucaire, we recommend that you visit this page. 

 

For More Info: Visit the Tourist Office

In our opinion, the local tourist office should always be one of your first stops– no matter your destination. There’s no better way to find out about local events and activities such as market days, art tours, current exhibitions, concerts and performances, to name just a few.

Interested in a canal cruise with lunch? They’ll have a recommendation. Want to visit an olive oil mill? They’ll set you on the right course.

Getting There: The Beaucaire Tourist Office is located at 8, rue Victor Hugo. You can also visit the official website here for more information ahead of your trip. 

Please leave your comments below if you have any questions about your plans to visit Beaucaire: we’re here to help. Especially since some of the above resources are available in French, you can feel free to get in touch with any questions you may have about your trip.

You can also use our contact form and connect with us on Facebook.

Bon voyage! 

 

 

The 8 Most Beautiful Leaf-Peeping Destinations in the World

The 8 Most Beautiful Leaf-Peeping Destinations in the World

Nature Puts On Her Fall Coat

As we sail into the fall season, one of the things many of us look forward to the most is the opportunity for leaf peeping. As temperatures begin to dip and deciduous trees change from summery green hues to fiery shades of yellow, orange and red, the splendor of autumn announces itself in a colorful show.

Haven’t we all experienced moments of joy on a quiet walk in a forest, perhaps with a loved one or even alone? There’s something about trees: they seem to act as a balm for body, mind and soul. Now, healing therapies are bearing this out. 

Did you know that Japanese people (and specifically many Tokyo residents) have been indulging in a practice called “forest bathing” for decades? Called Shinrin-yoku and developed in Japan as a healing therapy in the 1980’s, forest bathing is a nurturing experience for the senses: a way to calm body, mind and spirit by spending time in wooded areas. It’s been scientifically proven to boost your sense of wellbeing, and even lowers blood pressure and stress hormone levels. In the autumn, of course, the colorful sights can enhance the soothing effects even more.

Forest bathing amid yellow fall foliage

Destinations abound for viewing this autumnal tour de force from Mother Nature. When you think of magnificent fall leaves, what’s the first place that pops into your mind? England or New England? Canada or Australia? Depending on where you happen to live, you will no doubt have your own favorites. The truth is that there are many worthy destinations for an awe-inspiring autumnal experience, on almost every continent.

Read on for 8 of the world’s most stunning destinations for leaf-peeping. Take a drive, boat or train to any of these splendid places- and once there, make sure you have time to indulge in your own version of “forest-bathing”! Let us know if you have a personal favorite among them by leaving a comment below. 

1. Agawa Canyon Park, Algoma Highlands, Ontario, Canada

This favorite fall destination in North America is best reached by train! The video below shows some fantastic highlights from the route. 

Hop on the famous Train Tour through the spectacular Agawa Canyon in northern Ontario, Canada, which begins and ends at Sault Ste. Marie. There’s an hour-and-a-half stop along the way, allowing you to enjoy the surrounding wilderness trails and scenic viewpoints in all their glory.

Travelling to just over 100 miles north of Sault Ste. Marie and back via a breathtaking ride through the Canyon, this is definitely one for the bucket list. Of course, you can enjoy the vast pristine wilderness and its numerous provincial parks by car as well. The Train Tour simply adds a “truly extraordinary” element while you sit back and enjoy the unparalleled views of fall foliage. 

When does it run?

The train runs from late June through mid-October. The last two weeks of September and the first two weeks of October are the recommended times for leaf peeping. This time-frame varies with each year as it is dependant on seasonal conditions: in years when cooler temperatures arrive earlier, so do changing colors. 

Be sure to reserve well ahead, as this tour definitely sells out. Click here for inclusive packages for the Train Tour, Accommodations and a Pass Book.

Visit this page to view the map and trails in the Agawa Canyon Wilderness Park.

2. Japan

Gorgeous fall leaves in Japan

More famous for its cherry blossom season and its population’s general love for trees, nature and gardens, Japan is in fact equally spectacular in the fall season. Home to millions of maples and other deciduous trees, Japan puts on an autumnal spectacle that is among the world’s most extraordinary– and we highly recommend that you travel by train to take it all in. As for the inimitable style and diverse fauna found in Japanese parks and gardens, they can’t be beaten. You will revel in the seasonal enjoyment of neatly and precisely planned natural settings, some of which contain thousands of trees. 

Read related: Top 7 Tips for Exploring Seoul, South Korea 

When to See Fall Leaves in Japan?

As temperature differences between mountainous and lowland areas vary and can greatly affect the best viewing times, possibilities for leaf-peeping in the country come as early as mid-September and as late as early December. The earliest times begin in the northernmost region and the latest are in and near Tokyo.

A beautiful autumn scene in Akiyama Township Valley, Japan

Use this resource to find out when and where to visit. Scroll down the page for a map and list by region with the full forecast for all of Japan.

In the Kansai region, a unique Train Tour allows visitors to enjoy the autumn display of color (also recommended earlier in the year to gawk at breathtaking cherry blossoms). This is the Sagano Scenic Railway, also known as Kyoto’s “romantic train”, and viewing times for leaf peeping are from November into December. This is a one-way ticket– with the option of returning via a river cruise on the Hozugawa River to your point of departure at Arashiyama, a short distance from Kyoto. (Of course you can return by train, but you’ll need another ticket.)

Note: If you have a Japan Rail Pass, this will get you to and from Arashiyama, but the Sagano Scenic Railway is not included in the pass. Tickets for the Sagano Railway can be purchased on arrival at the Saga-Arashiyama Station or at any Japan Rail ticket office in the Kansai region. Pre-purchasing is recommended at peak times, as is checking available days for the Train Tour.

Travel Tip: For nature lovers, the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove near Kyoto is also not to be missed.

3. Kootenay Lake, British Columbia, Canada

Love mountain landscapes? Add a crystal-clear glacial lake, and you have an idyllic autumn setting at Kootenay Lake, British Columbia, Canada.

This video speaks for itself and is likely to prompt you to put this part of the world on your bucket list!

Alongside Kootenay Lake and its pristine views, you can also bask in surrounding provincial parks, activities, artisan studios, cultural events and more. Even better: Plan to be there during the salmon-spawning season which runs from August through October. This is an incredible experience in and of itself.  See this page for more details.

For accommodation resources, click here to see a selection of different accommodation types–from hotels to Bed & Breakfasts– in the Nelson and Kootenay region. Prefer something self-catered? Take a look here using “Kootenay Lake British Columbia” to create your search. Yes, there are log cabins on this list!

How to get to this part of the B.C. interior? Click here to learn more.

4. New England, United States

Autumn Leaves in New England

The problem with including New England on our autumn leaf-peeping bucket list? There are simply too many marvelous destinations in this part of the United States to properly account for. Places like Maine, Connecticut, Vermont and other New England states offer opportunities for viewing fall foliage at its most glorious.  

With their winding country roads, billboard-free drives, sinuous rivers and picturesque small towns all accumulating in idyllic pastoral scenes, these are destinations sought out by hordes of tourists every year. Visit this page for a spectacular selection and a fully comprehensive list of leaf-peeping destinations from Town And Country Mag. 

Experiencing New England Fall Foliage by Train

What is it about trains? They’re both charming and relaxing, eliminating all need to worry about the road ahead. Sit back and enjoy, take some travel pictures you’ll treasure forever, and wend your way through some truly gorgeous landscapes.

The Essex Steamboat and River Company offers some truly unique excursions that allow you to take in breathtaking fall foliage as you cruise through the Connecticut River Valley.

5. Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada

The splendor of autumn at Niagara Falls

Let’s face it: a spectacular autumn visit to Niagara Falls would be incomplete without some serious leaf peeping involved. Southern Ontario is yet another place to see the gorgeous colors of autumn burst into full expression. The protected Niagara Escarpment is wooded as far as the eye can see, and an uncountable number of maple trees, birch trees and other deciduous varieties offer up a feast for the eyes as you make your way to the world-famous Falls.

Further, surrounding vineyards provide a spectacular autumn vista, since the vines also change in hue as cooler temperatures set in. Better yet, it’s harvest time for the grapes– although this is closely monitored for each varietal and by each winery. Maybe you’ll be lucky, and get to observe as the grapes arrive ‘in the back’ to be crushed. This is yet another fall experience that’s both festive and fun.

Best Places to Leaf-Peep in Niagara?

For a superb vista of the Niagara River as it makes its way northward to Lake Ontario through a densely-wooded landscape, check out the Lookout Point just below Queenston Heights Park, about ten minutes north of Niagara Falls along the Niagara ParkwayThe Niagara Parkway itself is a stunningly beautiful drive that takes you north to Niagara-on-the-Lake, billed as the prettiest town in Canada with its quaint shops, wineries and B&Bs. We think it’s true! This beautiful, tree-dense drive will not disappoint, as you take in rolling vineyards and a fall display unlike any other. 

The area just near Niagara Falls has many parks and gardens, all of which afford opportunities for lovely strolls and something to see outside the Falls themselves. Free to visit, the Niagara Botanical Gardens— a 99-acre year-round marvel that is vastly appealing in the fall– is well worth adding to your list.

For those visiting from Toronto with a wine tour in mind, there are certain tours that will drive you there and back for a day-long outing. The drive takes you along part of the magnificent Niagara Escarpment: all you need is the right time of year and, ideally, a sunny day. Fall foliage colors truly come alive against the backdrop of a bright blue sky.

Colorful leaves and grapevines in autumn

Toronto’s iYellow Wine Club offers an annual Niagara Harvest Tour that will take you to three wineries as you are driven through the beautiful landscape of this viniculture region. Check their page for dates and information on how to book. 

If you’re already in the Niagara Region and want to take a wine tour, with leaf peeping as an added bonus, there are several companies to choose from. Click here for a number of options from Niagara Vintage Wine Tours, including a half-day wine and cheese tour, an evening wine tour with dinner, design your own private tour and others.

Last but not least and for something truly out-of-the-ordinary, consider this: fly down from Toronto’s downtown airport to Niagara and be whisked away in a private car to one of Niagara-on-the-Lake’s premium winery estates, the Two Sisters vineyard. Take in the escarpment’s gorgeous fall colors from the air, then enjoy a VIP tour and luncheon in their famed Kitchen76 restaurant, or on the patio for the very finest Italian fare. Romantic, much? We think so! Click here for all the details and to book your tickets.

Note: The Niagara Grape and Wine Festival generally runs for most of the month of September, a time to enjoy Niagara at its most colorful.  The Discovery Pass offers multiple wine-tasting opportunities, events and more. 

For tons of authentic features and travel tips on visiting Niagara, see our dedicated Secrets of Niagara site. 

6. Paris (With a Stopover in The Loire Valley)

Paris Park in Autumn

Famous for its many elegant parks, Paris is a city that’s glorious in the fall. if you’ve already planned your trip there for around the end of September or early October you’re in for a treat, as its many trees transform to show glorious autumnal hues. Whether it’s the Jardins des Tuileries and Luxembourg, the vast Bois de Boulogne or simply a window-shopping wander along the Champs-Elysées you’re after, cooler temperatures and perhaps fewer tourists are all added bonuses. 

Read related: These Are the World’s 10 Most Romantic Honeymoon Destinations 

If you’re planning on a day trip or weekend whirl through the Loire Valley and its iconic châteaux, you’ll be equally amazed by the fall splendor of vast, sprawling parks and ancient trees that abound there. Vineyards bursting with autumn colors only adds to the overall charm. The autumn season really is one of the best times to visit– we highly recommend it!

7. Patagonia, Argentina

An increasingly popular tourist destination, Patagonia has an autumn season running from March through May, due to its location in the far southern hemisphere. Here’s a leaf-peeping opportunity for the more adventurous and intrepid among you: this remote location has an incredible array of its own distinct flora, as the world’s most southerly forest of the “subantarctic” variety.

A travel photographer’s dream, Patagonia offers rugged mountains and dramatic plains bursting with autumn foliage. This part of the world is beyond compare, and an ideal destination for anyone wishing to get off the beaten path. See this page for a great list of reasons to consider an autumn visit.

To visit here, you will need to join a tour and don your best hiking boots. Visit this resource for some options and to learn more about the Torres del Paine National Park— described by so many as an “otherworldly” experience.

8. New Zealand

Last but certainly not least, New Zealand is another intrepid destination for the ambitious autumn traveler. Here’s the consensus on the best time to visit: mid-April. Offering more yellow hues than fiery reds because of the varieties of trees most commonly found here, the contrast provided by pristine landscapes and waterscapes makes it all worthwhile. The best recommendation we can find is for Lake Tekapo on the South Island with its turquoise blue glacial water and yellow-hued leaves. There are a number of reasons many choose to visit Lake Tekapo, as outlined here, including the striking blue color of the lake, a whimsical statue of a dog gracing the shore and the opportunity to stargaze into the light-pollution-free night sky.

Click here to learn more about this incredible stargazing opportunity, complete with hot springs from which to observe the stars. We’re pretty sure there aren’t too many places on the planet where this is possible- what an experience!

Looking for a place to stay in the area? Visit this page for a list of good Lake Tekapo accommodations.

Our List Is Just the Beginning…

This list isn’t exhaustive, of course- but represents some of our favorites, and will go a long way in giving you a bit of inspiration for your next autumn adventure. Do you have other leaf-peeping spots you love and recommend? Feel free to tell us about them and share them with others by leaving a comment below!

 

 

Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France

Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France

France is rightfully famous for its rich crop of lavender, and nowhere is more famous for its rolling fields of “blue gold” than the Provence region. The yearly harvest is one of the most beautiful sights in France, and it’s something that everyone with a love of travel and nature should experience at some point in their lives. 

If you want to see and smell the most gorgeous lavender fields in France, read on to learn how to make the most of your experience. 

Where and When to See Lavender in Full Bloom?

As mentioned above, the most important region of France for lavender is Provence-– and more specifically, the Luberon and Verdon plateau regions. Flowering season is typically between mid-June through early August, though this depends on where you’re visiting. Lower altitudes have slightly warmer climates than colder areas with later blooming seasons.

Read related: A Visit to the Magnificent Lascaux Cave in France 

In 2017, most of the Luberon was harvesting the lavender crop in mid-June, for example, but in the higher altitude plateau around Sault, it happened a bit later. Climate and rainfall have a big impact on the lavender crop, so it’s tricky to predict exactly when the flowers will bloom.

To play it safe, you should try to book your trip on the early side. A good range is sometime from late June through July. Avoid the beginning of the season and the late end.

Valensole

Arguably the most famous lavender farms in the world are in Valensole. At high growing season, it’s the biggest tourist attraction in Provence, and you can expect many other lavender-pilgrims visiting the area to take photographs, even at dawn and dusk. Still, it’s probably worth it for the sheer scale of these farms. Rows of lavender stretch out for as far as the eye can see– and it’s a colorful, breathtaking sight to behold.

Where to See Gorgeous Lavender Fields in France?

Sault, Ferrassières, and Aurel

These towns situated in higher climates still have lavender growing much later in the season, and there are far fewer tourists around to spoil the view. You can often see lavender here as late as mid-August, and the surrounding hilltop villages are beautiful. Look out for local scenic terraces overlooking the fields– ideal spots for a sunset aperitif or meal. 

Drôme

This northernmost department in Provence is one of the region’s best kept secrets. With the lavender here as beautiful as it is in more renowned spots, but with virtually no tourists present, you can experience the intense purple flowers and their delicate scent in almost total solitude.

The town of Montbrun-les-Bains is officially designated as one of France’s most beautiful villages, and its mountainous, late-blooming lavender is a local favorite. The village of Venterol is another well-kept secret, popular among locals for its ancient, poetically sinuous olive trees.

Lavender Museum

To learn more about the region’s most famous product, you can visit the adorable Musée de la Lavande (Museum of Lavender) in the village of Cabrières d’Avignon. Learn about the industry of planting, harvesting, and processing lavender at the collection here. You can even see an example of a lavender distiller from the early 20th century that uses an open flame to reduce the lavender into its potently fragrant essence.

The museum was opened in 1992, and it is closed in January. Audio guides are available in many languages, and you can watch documentaries, smell lavender, and try high-quality fragrances and cosmetics using pure AOC essential lavender oil. The museum is free for children under the age of 15.

The Lavender Museum (Musée de la Lavande) in Cabrières d'Avignon, France

Notre-Dame de Sénanque Abbey

For another unforgettable view of lavender fields, don’t miss Provence’s famous Cistercian abbey in the village of Gordes, part of the Vaucluse-en-Provence area. Founded in 1148, the abbey has been home to Cistercian monks ever since. There’s something distinctive about witnessing the centuries-old abbey surrounded by acres of blue gold. 

Note that while you can tour the site, it is still a fully functioning monastery, so you have to maintain absolute respect for the solemnity and religious devotion of the monks. A limited number of tours are available with reservations, and a French guide will take you around the Cloister, Church, Chapter room, Dormitory and other room.

Annual Lavender Festivals

If you want to really celebrate lavender in a stylish and authentic way, don’t miss Provence’s fabulous lavender festivals! With local goods on sale, artisan demonstrations, folk food and music to enjoy, these day-long events are a blast. Festivals put you in touch not only with the plant, but with the artisans who build their lives around it. Artists, farmers, and chefs are just some of the people in France who depend on lavender for their livelihood, and you can get a bigger picture of the area’s most famous export at these festivals.

The town of Ferrassières has the first festival of the year in early July, and it’s a very laid-back experience–  one that’s especially ideal for those  who don’t like big crowds. Valesol, on the other hand, holds the biggest and most popular festival in the region on the third Sunday of July, and the spa town of Digne les Bains has a festival that lasts a whopping five days in August!

Be sure to book accommodations ahead of time. Lavender festivals are popular in the area, and reservations go quickly.

Lavender products from France are sold at many annual festivals around Provence.

Where to Go Next for Blue Gold Sightings?

If Provence piques your interest in all things lavender, don’t assume that France is the only place where you can see it in all its glory. You can visit some stunning lavender farms all around the world, including New South Wales, Western Australia, Tuscany, and even some places in the United Kingdom (including Hertfordshire and Kent). Visiting Provence is just the beginning! 

 

 

A Visit to the Lascaux Cave in France: Paleolithic Wonders

A Visit to the Lascaux Cave in France: Paleolithic Wonders

If ancient history and stunning prehistoric artwork interest you, the Lascaux Cave is something you must see during your lifetime. Part of a complex of caves located near the village of Montignac in the Dordogne region of southwestern France, the cave is famous for its elaborate, Upper Paleolithic paintings. The cave is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination that puts you up close and personal with an exact replica of the original cave.

There’s a lot going on at this mesmerizing location, so let’s break it down.

We’ll start with some of the history, before giving you some need-to-know information, and finally some more details about what you can expect from this experience.

Some Brief History

The Lascaux Cave was first discovered by 18-year-old Marcel Ravidat in 1940, and it was eventually opened to the public in 1948. However, it was closed in 1963 after the influx of visitors began to damage the delicate surface of the paleolithic paintings it housed. An exact replica of the cave called Lascaux II was opened in 1983. The successor to that replica is Lascaux IV, which is the updated replica cave that you can visit today. With its attached museum and down to the millimetre-level accuracy, Lascaux IV is nearly identical to the real thing.

A Visit to the Lascaux Cave (2)

Important Information

When you visit Lascaux Cave, you can expect a roughly two-and-a-half-hour long experience from start to finish. That includes the tour of the replica cave, the self-guided tour, galleries, and art exhibits that add to the experience. The tour through the cave itself takes about an hour, and the rest of the experience is self-guided with the aid of a digital tablet.

Getting Tickets:

You can buy tickets online in advance of your visit here. Tickets are available up to 90 days in advance, right up until the day before your intended visit. Please note that you cannot purchase online tickets the day of your visit, but if you can get them day-of at the ticket centre in person. Tickets are non-exchangeable and non-refundable, so be sure you’re confident when you book.

Tickets are currently 17 EUR each for adults, and 11 EUR for children, and you have the option to choose between English, Dutch, and French tours (Please note that while these prices were accurate at the time of publication, they may change at anytime). 

Lascaux IV is open every day from 9am-7pm.

What You’ll See

The Lascaux experience is broken up into four main spaces: the Belvédère, the Shelter, the Cave itself, and the Studio.

Belvédère and Shelter

The visit starts when you receive a tablet and take an elevator up to the top of the roof of the museum. From there, you can look out over the Vézère Valley and use the augmented reality interactive map on your tablet to see information about the view in real time. It’s a great way to learn about the many surrounding archaeological sites.

At the shelter (also on the roof), you can stand in front of a screen and watch the evolution of the Lascaux area shift and change. It feels like you’re looking into the past through a window. It’s incredible to see how different the landscape looked back in the time of the cave painters. It sets up the “time travel” feeling you get when you move onto your next destination: the Lascaux Cave.

A Visit to the Lascaux Cave (4)

The Cave

You’ll have an appointed entry time to visit the cave with a group of other visitors and a trained guide. Walking into the replica, it feels exactly like you’re going into a real cave. Cool and damp, the re-creation is incredible, and it’s very easy to suspend your disbelief. Of course, it helps that the recreation is built into the same hill as the original, and that you really do go underground for your visit. It’s as real as it can get these many years later!

The main attraction are the paintings. The first one you see is a curiously named painting called “The Unicorn,” even though the animal has two horns. Then you’ll proceed into the famous “Hall of the Bulls” where enormous paintings of bulls seem to leap and run right off the walls. From there, you go deeper, into a series of smaller caves with multicolor paintings of horses, cows, bulls, and symbols in shades of black, brown, red, and yellow. The presence of all these colours is part of why Lascaux is so justifiably famous. Polychromatic caves are very rare, and when you walk through the tour, you’ll feel awed and inspired by the achievements of the people who made the paintings at a time where there was no written language.

A Visit to the Lascaux Cave

The Lascaux Studio

After you leave the hallowed halls of the cave, you can wander at leisure through the Lascaux Studio space, where eight cave walls have been reproduced for you to explore. These include the cave’s most famous works: “Two Crossed Bison”, “The Great Black Cow”, “The Panel of the Imprint”, “The Apse”, “The Shaft Scene”, “The Axial Gallery”, “The Upside-Down Horse” and “The Hall of the Bulls”.

These reproductions include enhanced reality information available on your tablet, giving you more information on the techniques and history of the specific scenes.

Other exhibits of note are the virtual reality version of the cave, which you can view at your own pace on the tablet, the art exhibit where you can create your own virtual cave paintings, a historical exhibit on the history of the cave and why it was closed to the public, and an area with real objects that were found during the archaeological dig.

A Visit to the Lascaux Cave

The Big Picture

Aside from the cave being just plain cool, visiting the Lascaux Cave puts you at the heart of two exciting developments in the history of art. First and foremost, the cave gives you access to some of the world’s earliest and most incredible cave paintings. The discovery of the Lascaux Cave brought Stone Age culture to the modern world, giving us rare access to a time that has few surviving records.

With its high-tech re-creation and careful archaeological preservation, you can experience this wonder without worrying about damaging the original. Lascaux’s reproduction took years to make, and it represents an exciting development in the world of historical preservation.

Seoul Travel Guide: 7 Key Sights And Attractions

Seoul Travel Guide: 7 Key Sights And Attractions

Seoul, South Korea is a huge, vibrant city that is home to more than ten million people. With a population that size, it’s no surprise that there are endless things you can do while vacationing there. From its historic palaces, serene gardens, vibrant shops, incredible food, and some of Asia’s coolest night spots, this capital has pretty much everything you could want and much more you never knew about. If you’re looking for a good Seoul travel guide for the curious beginner, you’ve come to the right place. 

In no particular order, here are 7 key sights and attractions you should check out if you’re visiting South Korea’s largest city. These are essential, but also original and intriguing: the perfect places to encounter the city for the first time in an authentic way. 

Namsan Park

Once the site of a protective city wall, Namsan Park is famous for its incredible city views over Seoul. Palgakjeong viewing pavilion is a free spot to appreciate the view, but it’s definitely worth it to buy a ticket to the viewing platform of N Seoul Tower. At 1,500 feet in the air, the views are breathtaking, and lovestruck couples can attach padlocks to the fence to celebrate their love. On Saturdays, you can stay on the observation deck until midnight, and the night views are incredible. Bring a jacket: It can get windy at the top! If you feel like a treat, there’s also a restaurant in the rotating platform at the very top of the tower.  

Exploring Seoul, South Korea Our Top Picks

Changdeokgung Palace

Though this palace isn’t the largest one in Seoul, it’s my personal favourite for its incredible landscaping and architecture. As Korea’s longest, continually inhabited palace, and its most intact royal residence, Changdeokgung has well earned its UNESCO World Heritage Status.

Aside from the stunning, colourful architecture, the real treat at this palace is the incredible “Secret Garden” that takes up about 2/3 of the property. Traditionally reserved exclusively for the monarch, visitors can now take guided tours of the garden, which features a model nobleman’s home, some incredible scenery, fountains, and even a lotus pool!

The Secret Garden tour and the palace tour require two separate tickets, but they’re inexpensive and well worth the price. English tours run Tuesday through Saturday, and the palace is closed on Mondays.

Exploring Seoul, South Korea Our Top Picks

Hongdae

If you want a taste of Korean youth culture, Hongdae is the neighbourhood for you. Located around Hongik University, this area is a great place for tourists to stay because of its incredible night life, street food, and art. If you’re a night owl, Hongdae is one of the best places to go! Hongdae’s “Club Day” on the last Friday of each month gets you access to the hottest area clubs and music venues for around $14 USD, and you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants.

But if you’re looking for something a little less festive, don’t miss the weekend markets near the university on Sunday. Hongdae’s student-heavy population means shops here are a bit cheaper than the rest of Seoul on average.

Exploring Seoul, South Korea Our Top Picks (3)

Insa-Dong

This neighbourhood is the place to be if you’re hunting for traditional Korean goods. Tea, ceramics, calligraphy, and wooden carvings are all popular wares, making this area a perfect place to hunt for souvenirs and local art. Plus, the whole neighbourhood is picture-perfect and full of windy, adorable alleys lined with street merchants, musicians, and street performers adding a lively energy. Come on weekends to experience the area without any vehicle traffic, and you can almost imagine you’re back in the Joseon Dynasty! Weekends do tend to be a bit more crowded, so for a more laid-back experience, come on a weekday.

Exploring Seoul, South Korea Our Top Picks (4)

Bukchon Hanok Village

To get a glimpse at the traditional style of a Korean home (called a hanok), Bukchon is a beautiful neighbourhood to check out. Located in the hilly north-central area of Seoul, Bukchon Village is comprised of around nine hundred privately-owned hanoks that date back to the Joseon Dynasty. Visiting here is free, though you can stop into some of the hanoks that have been converted into coffee shops or art galleries to take a look inside! Additionally, you can rent a hanok as your home base while you travel.

The area is very hilly, so wear walking shoes and expect to be on your feet for a while. Since it is also a neighbourhood where people actually live, remember to obey noise rules and be respectful of the people who live there.

Exploring Seoul, South Korea Our Top Picks

Cat Cafes

Korea started the cat cafe trend, so you definitely shouldn’t miss visiting one! Visitors to cat cafes can hang out with a small herd of beautiful, friendly cats while drinking coffee or tea. For sanitary purposes, you sanitize your hands upon entering and you usually take your shoes off and replace them with slippers. Then you order your drink or food and take it into the cat section!

You can hang out with the cats as long as you like, and the owners and workers are usually characters who have a lot of passion for their feline friends, so it’s a great place to people-watch. And cat-watch.

Cat cafes are a great place to rest on a busy trip. Who wouldn’t feel relaxed with a cat on their lap and a hot drink?

There are a ton in Seoul, but here are a few recommendations:

  • Y Cat Café: 3F, 358-125, Seogyo-dong, Mapo-gu, Seoul, Korea
  • Café Café MyeongDong : 8-5 Myeongdong 8-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul, South Korea

Exploring Seoul, South Korea Our Top Picks

Jongmyo Shrine

Built in the 14th century, this incredibly well-preserved Confucian royal shrine was once the worship place for the Joseon Dynasty rulers. The original temple was destroyed during the 16th century Japanese invasion, but the 17th century rebuilt temple still stands today. The main shrine and the Hall of Eternal Peace are the notable buildings on the site, and every year the Jongmyo Jerye ritual attracts huge crowds to honour rulers of the Joseon dynasty.

Except on Saturdays, you can only visit the site through a guided tour, so remember to think ahead. A tour is really the way to experience this place; the peaceful atmosphere and restrained decorations might make wandering around here without any context a little dull.

Still, the shrine is incredibly beautiful and relaxing in and of itself, so it’s worth a visit for the peaceful atmosphere alone.

Exploring Seoul, South Korea Our Top Picks

I amsterdam City Card: Should You Get One?

I amsterdam City Card: Should You Get One?

Famously known for its cyclists, lively atmosphere, and chocolate, Amsterdam is a terrific place to travel. It has all the charm of Europe without any fuss, and you can have some really unique cultural experiences. If you’re currently planning a trip to the Dutch city, the I amsterdam City Card might just be for you!

(And yes, that’s the official spelling with a lowercase “A.”) Without further ado, read on to learn why the pass might be a good option on your next trip. 

I amsterdam City Card Should You Get One (3)

THE BASICS

The I amsterdam City Card uses the same basic model as other travel passes: you buy the card and get free entrance to museums, attractions, and public transport systems for the duration of your travel package.  

Here’s what the City Card includes:

  • Free entrance to 50+ museums and attractions
  • Free unlimited public transport
  • Free canal cruise
  • Discounts and coupons
  • A city map and guide book

How it works:  

You buy your City Pass online, and you can choose between 24, 48, 72, or 96 hour passes.

You’ll get a confirmation email immediately, and then you pick up your City Card at any of the following locations:

  • Amsterdam Central Station:  I amsterdam Store, on the North side of the station
  • Amsterdam Airport Schiphol: I amsterdam Visitor Information Centre Schiphol Airport, Arrivals Hall 2: Holland Tourist Information
  • Amsterdam Central Station: I amsterdam Visitor Information Centre at Stationsplein, Stationsplein 10 (opposite the main station entrance)

Your pass becomes active the first time you use it.

Included attractions:

The City Pass covers most of the big name attractions in the Amsterdam area. The Van Gogh Museum, the Stedelijk Museum, the Rembrandt House Museum, the Royal Zoo, Rijksmuseum, and about fifty other attractions are all included. Here’s a link to the full list of participating attractions.

Plus, you can take a canal ride on any participating tour boat company! We suggest taking a tour that goes out onto the sea. Seeing the city from the water is an incredible experience, and even on cloudy days, the views are incredible.

The Anne Frank Museum is the only big name attraction not included in the City Card, so you’ll have to buy a ticket separately. It costs nine euros, and while the museum is being renovated you must purchase tickets online.

Getting around:

The I amsterdam City Card includes unlimited use of the GVB public transport system, including all buses, trams and metros in the city for as long as your pass is valid. One important point of note here is that your card does not include train rides, including the train you’ll need to take from the airport to Amsterdam Central station. You will need to purchase your own tickets to get from the airport into Amsterdam itself.

Pricing:

Pricing is solely based on the duration of your stay, so in terms of pricing structures, it’s very easy to decide which pass to get.  

Duration lengths:

  • 24 hour pass: €59
  • 48 hour pass: €74
  • 72 hour pass: €87
  • 96 hour pass: €98

SHOULD YOU GET ONE?

Some pros:

  • With one pass, you get access to almost every attraction in the city. It’s a massively simplified touring experience that saves you a lot in terms of planning time.
  • The pricing structure is very simple and easy to understand, and the website purchasing process is seamless. This pass is seriously low-fuss.
  • If you love sight-seeing, the City Card will absolutely save you money. Individual tickets can really add up, and you don’t have to see a ton of sights for the card to end up being the cheaper option.
  • You don’t have to worry about figuring out how to buy tickets for public transport, which can ease a lot of travel anxiety. Just scan your card and hop on!
  • The free canal boat trip is awesome. Boating around the city is one of the best ways to experience it, and the canal boat drivers are usually funny and friendly.   

I amsterdam City Card Should You Get One (4)

Some cons:

  • The card won’t give you travel from the airport into the city, so you’ll have to arrange your own transport.
  • You have to physically pick the card up at a pre-determined location, and that means you can’t pre-book tickets for larger museums until you physically have your card. This can be annoying if you’re trying to plan an itinerary, since you can’t pre-book before your trip. 
  • Your pass will automatically expire once your time frame ends.
  • You can’t go to the same museum a second time; your pass only includes one visit to each attraction.

Should you get it?

The short answer is: Yes! If you like to visit attractions, then the I amsterdam City Pass is a money-saving and convenient way to do it. You only have to buy one pass, and in return, you get access to museums and attractions without having to wait in ticket lines. The pass makes public transport easy and convenient, and you get some extra perks.

That said, the pass may not actually be much cheaper for shorter stays. The longer the pass, the greater the savings, so do some quick math on a short itinerary to see if you’ll actually save money. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of public transport. And, of course, use your best judgment for your trip!

Happy planning and safe travels!