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! 

 

 

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.

10 Delicious Moroccan Dishes to Try (at Home or Abroad)

10 Delicious Moroccan Dishes to Try (at Home or Abroad)

If you’re a fan of delicious and flavorful food, Morocco is one of the best places in the world to visit. Boasting a cultural character whose diverse roots resemble an elaborate quilt more than a mashup, Morocco’s medley of Arabic, Berber, sub-Saharan, Spanish, and French cuisine is unparalleled. And if that sounds like an overstatement, a visit to Morocco (or at least a restaurant serving the country’s wonderful fare) should be on your short list of adventures to take. Here are some of the best Moroccan dishes you can try the next time you get a chance– whether at home or in cities such as Marrakesh and Fez. 

CLASSIC MEALS

Moroccan cuisine is, as mentioned, incredibly diverse. Yet a few favorite staple dishes feature on most traditional menus.

Couscous

Tiny steamed balls of crushed durum wheat semolina, couscous is traditionally served for lunch on Fridays after Friday prayers. Trust us though, it is delicious all week long. Served in a round platter and topped by heaps of vegetables such as eggplant, squash, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, onions, and chickpeas, you can eat it vegetarian or serve it with meat, traditionally beef or chicken.

Where to eat it: Restaurant National, Oujda

Located in Morocco’s largest city, Restaurant National is one of the most popular restaurants on the Algerian border. They make incredible couscous every Friday, and their rotisserie chicken is delicious.

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

Tagine

Tagine (also spelled tajine) is a savory stew made from sliced meat and vegetables that are slow-cooked with spices and nuts. It gets its name from the distinctive peaked top earthenware pot in which it’s cooked, and it combines the savory warmth of soups without ever getting too heavy. They’re commonly prepared with ginger, turmeric, saffron, cinnamon, and cumin, and served with chicken, fish, or lamb. They are usually served with bread. There are a huge variety of tagines you can try, and each region has its own specialty.

Where to eat it: L’ibzarMarrakech

This modern, stylish restaurant serves distinctly home-cooked Moroccan food, including some incredible tagines. The owner and operator is usually onsite, and there are great options for vegetarians and vegans here as well!

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

Tanjia

Local to Marrakech, tanjia is a specialized tagine that is traditionally prepared by men by slow-cooking an entire lamb over coals that heat local hammams. Fresh meat (usually lamb), herbs, preserved lemons, and spices are placed in a tanjia pot, which is then covered with butcher’s paper. It roasts for at least five hours and is then served in a tagine pot with the juices.

Where to eat it: Latitude31, Marrakech

With its leafy courtyard and traditional cooking techniques, Latitude31 is the perfect place to get some tanjia.

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

Pastilla

Originally from the Spanish region of Andalusia, this flaky stuffed meat pie is commonly made of pigeon or chicken meat. Though originally from Spain, today it is a favourite in Moroccan cuisine and generally served as a starter at the beginning of special meals. You can usually find it at food stalls in medinas. The Fes region is famous for their pastilla, which are flavored with almonds and savory spices. Don’t forget to wash it down with some mint tea!

Where to eat it: Darori Resto, Fes

This elegant medina restaurant has classic Moroccan cuisine and flawless presentation, and their pastilla are amazing!

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

Mechoui

Another of Morocco’s excellent slow-cooked dishes is mechoui, a whole lamb cooked overnight in an underground oven. The end result is meat that is so tender it literally falls off the bones, you don’t even need a knife to eat it! Because of the labour-intensive nature of the meal, it’s a favourite at special occasions, like weddings.

Where to get it: The appropriately named “Mechoui Alley,” Marrakech (Jemaa el Fna near the olive souk)

Or, if you prefer a setting that isn’t an alley, the other end of the spectrum is La Grande Table Marocaine, a restaurant so nice that the Moroccan king owns it.

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

SMALLER DISHES

In addition to the major staple items listed above, these smaller dishes add to the distinctive flavors and surprises of Morocco’s gastronomy.

Sardines

Whether you’re eating them grilled at a restaurant, in the open souks with tomato and onions, or served in a tagine with bread, sardines pop up all over the place in Moroccan cooking. The Safi region is justifiably famous for their fresh sardines, though you’d do well to be a little wary of street sardines. Don’t forget to try charmoula, a Moroccan traditional marinade that pairs really well with fresh sardines.

Where to get it: Essaouira harbor

There’s nothing better than fresh fish, and vendors at Essaouira’s seaside will barbeque the fish right in front of you.

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

Makouda

Makouda are beautiful, golden, deep-fried potato cakes. They’re delicious served on their own, with salad, or in a sandwich. They’re available in many medinas as a snack, but they’re especially prevalent in the north of Morocco: Meknes, Fes, Essaouira, and Moulay Idiss are all hotspots for makouda.

Where to eat it:  Café Clock, located in Fes, serves up makouda with harissa yogurt and fresh salad! Because makouda are so carbohydrate heavy, this is a great way to have them.

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

Patisseries

Morocco’s baked goods use some of the most beautiful ingredients in the world: orange blossom water, rose water, almond paste, and delicious dates, among others. Pair these delicacies with a steaming cup of delicate Moroccan tea served in a small glass, and you have a place that really knows how to do teatime.

Chebakya, a fried pastry covered in honey, sesame seeds, and rose water, is perfect with a bowl of harira soup. Or try almondy ghoriba biscuits with a cup of hot tea for a sweet afternoon pick me up.

Where to eat it: Patisserie des Princes in Marrakech is one of the finest bakeries in Morocco! Don’t miss their mint tea and delicious treats.

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

Dried fruits and nuts

If all this eating has exhausted you, you may need to opt for a snack instead. You can’t beat dried fruits and nuts when it comes to a quick energy boost, and the fresh nuts grown in the Atlas Mountains, such as almonds and walnuts, are locally roasted right in Morocco. And don’t forget dates and figs from the south!

Where to eat it: Souk Al-Attarine in Fez is home to some of the world’s best spices, dried fruits, and nuts. This market is definitely one to visit!

The Diversity of Moroccan Cuisine 10 Dishes to Try

Bring The Cozy Comfort of Classic French Style into Your Home

Bring The Cozy Comfort of Classic French Style into Your Home

French country design is a classic and warm style of interior decorating that mixes cottage touches with elegant and thoughtful finishes. It’s a timeless look for a reason! If you want to bring a little France into your own home, here are a few ways you can enliven and enrich your space with classic French style elements– without importing an entire cottage from Provence.

Get Inspired

Start off your interior design makeover by getting inspired. Browse Google Images, Pinterest, and reference books to help you identify what particular elements of French country design you would like for your home.

Cut out or photocopy pages or magazine spreads that speak to you and assemble them into a collage. You can also use scraps of fabric or other textiles to help you bring all your ideas together.

We recommend the fantastic book French Accents: Farmhouse French Style For Today’s Home to get started.

Add in Creams

A hallmark of this style of decoration is soft pastel neutrals like creams, whites, light blues, and teals. These timeless classics all look great mixed together, so you don’t have to worry about perfectly matching your ecru couch to the eggshell walls. You’ve got some color flexibility and a little variety adds to the overall effect!

When in doubt, always opt for a cream or off white color.

Use Rustic Textures

A neutral color palette gives you more room to play with textures, so incorporate as many of the style’s trademark materials as you want. Unfinished or distressed wood, rough linens, canvas, worn rugs, and buttery soft leather all go hand in hand with this style. A little wear and tear brings the warmth this style is known for, so don’t worry about finding pristine items.

Go Antiquing

Speaking of well-worn items, French country style looks fantastic with antique finds. Rococo, Louis XIV, and similar styles all blend in well, but don’t feel limited to what’s authentic. Look for colors, textures, and designs that evoke the calm, rustic vibe of a French country cottage, and display them with pride! There are many amazing guides to French Antiquing if you’re interested in perusing the countryside looking for diamonds in the ruff.

Minimalism may be trending, but we think everyone likes a good cheval mirror.

 

 

Mix Old and New

You don’t have to reinvent your whole style to enjoy this look. Throw a slipcover on your current couch, reframe your art in some vintage frames, or paint your walls a mellow hue. Add in the design pieces that you really like to enhance the effect, and play around with your space until what you have works well with pieces you add.

Remember that you shouldn’t imitate the style, but bring your own personal flair to it! This will also ensure that you make it your own, incorporating elements that best fit your home and personality. 

Bonne chance!

4 Reasons Why Kindles Are The Best E-Readers for Travel

4 Reasons Why Kindles Are The Best E-Readers for Travel

Have you ever heard anyone say they wanted to take a covered wagon journey across the country and lose half their traveling party to Rocky Mountain Fever along the way? Yeah, we didn’t think so.

It’s a simple truth that modern technology has made travel easier and more pleasant– and the advent of tablets and e-readers is no exception. Here at The Loftus Guides, we’re big fans of the Amazon Kindle, because we think it’s an ideal travel companion for any twenty-first-century traveler. Read on for 4 good reasons why Kindles are, in our book, the best e-readers for travel.

Considering purchasing one? Here’s our take!

Kindles are lightweight. These things are some of the lightest pieces of tech you can buy, especially at such a low price point compared to iPads or laptops.

And that’s not even getting into the weight of taking even a single book with you. Books are heavy and bulky, and even if you bring a few only have little flexibility in your reading material.

You can tuck a Kindle in your carry-on without feeling a difference, and, even better….

The battery lasts forever. Seriously. On an e-ink Kindle, the battery life can last you weeks on end. If you brought a portable charger- read for a month completely off-grid. Covered wagon journey, anyone?

 

But if you opt for the more full-featured Kindle Fire model, your battery life isn’t as impressive, however you have an LCD screen and a host of apps you can use to make up for the decreased battery life.

 

Still, we’ve been consistently stunned by the battery life on Kindle e-readers.

 

Plus, they’re cost effective. You can get an entry level kindle for under $80, which is pretty mind-blowing considering the battery life and weight of these things. Buying a single Kindle is about the same cost as buying four regular books at a bookstore.

Read related: 7 Travel Journal Ideas to Perfectly Suit Your Personality 

 When you add in the sheer number of free or incredibly inexpensive books on Amazon (or wherever you like to buy books), the savings of switching to a digital reader are immense. For people who travel a lot, this can really add up. Plus, if you have Prime, you’re entitled to a suite of free (or next to free) books.

 

They’re flexible. When you’re choosing between Kindle models and deciding which is best for you, there’s a whole range of options you can select from. If you’re a no-frills reader, the entry level models give you all the space and flexibility you want at a low price point.

If you value having a backlit screen, you can get a Paperwhite model for not too much more money. For people who travel a lot, this can be a really helpful feature if your light source is unpredictable. For example, it’s nice to be able to read on airplanes at night without having to turn on those horribly glaring overhead lights.

And if you want something with more advanced features and reading options, the Fire model gives you the reading, bookmarking and scrolling power of a sophisticated tablet.

All in all, we think the Kindle is the way to go in terms of price, size, flexibility, and battery life. Do you have any travel tech essentials? Drop us a line and let us know!