Spotlight on Warwickshire, England: An Under-rated Gem

Spotlight on Warwickshire, England: An Under-rated Gem

The lush county of Warwickshire is nestled at the very heart of England, only an hour by train from London and just minutes away from the bustling city of Birmingham. Medieval castles, historic towns, famous theaters and lush, breathtaking landscapes are only some of the stimulating attractions that his area has to offer curious travelers. If you are after an off-the-beaten path destination in the UK, read on to discover what we love about this region!

Warwick

Warwick is the county capital of Warwickshire, most famous for its charming medieval castle situated on a bend of the River Avon. Having stood in the city for over 1,100 years, Warwick Castle survived countless attacks and a terrible fire in 1871, and is one of the UK’s most well-preserved castles dating from the Middle Ages.

The current castle was developed from an original commissioned by William the Conqueror in 1068 and rebuilt in stone during the reign of King Henry II. Offering activities for every age, the castle gives visitors exceptional insight into the everyday life of its past inhabitants.

What to Do Around the Area:

If you are planning to visit the castle, we strongly recommend that you take some time to wander around Warwick’s small but gorgeous town center. In particular, if you’d like to try a traditional English cream tea, make sure to stop atThe Brethren’s Kitchen, a vintage tearoom which has been serving food to Kings and Queens, Tudor nobles and Victorian literary figures for over 500 years.

The food here is homemade with products from the Master’s Garden. Both the garden and tearoom are located on Warwick High Street, within the Lord Leycester Hospital, a historic group of timber-framed buildings dating from the late 14th Century: a fine example of Britain’s Medieval courtyard architecture which is well worth a visit.

Kenilworth

Warwick’s is not the only castle open to visitors in Warwickshire: the county is rich in fascinating historical sites, such as Kenilworth Castle and its Elizabethan Gardens. This castle has played a fascinating central role in England’s affairs for 900 years: for example, it was the subject of the longest siege in English history, at Kenilworth, in 1266.

Since it was partially destroyed in 1649, only two buildings remain habitable today. For the first time in 350 years, it is now possible to explore the entire height of the tower that Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, commissioned in order to attract the interest of Queen Elizabeth I, hoping to convince her to marry him (Spoiler alert: he did not succeed).

The tower, built especially for her, had a private staircase, luxurious rooms and glass windows . A newly installed series of stairs and platforms within the ruins take visitors 18 meters high, in order to enjoy the spectacular view from the Queen’s bedroom. If you’re feeling peckish after a long walk within the ruins, we advise you to go for a meal at The Queen and Castle, a fabulous village pub located in the shadows of the castle.

Royal Leamington Spa

Royal Leamington Spa’s Christmas Market on the Parade. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All Rights Reserved

This small town, located on the confluence of the rivers Leam and Avon, grew and prospered thanks to the natural spa springs that were discovered and commercialized here during the 19th century. In 2017, the charming little town was awarded the title of ‘happiest place in the UK’: in our book, this alone makes it well worth a visit.

The main high street, the Parade, offers numerous fine examples of Regency architecture and is lined with busy shops and cafes. We particularly recommend trying the handmade bagels at The Steam House, which are cut, roasted and filled to order. For a real taste of Britain, pop to Bandstand Tea Rooms where you can find the best home backed scones in town.

At the end of the Parade, the Royal Pump Rooms host classical music concerts and arts exhibitions year-round. Across the road from the Pump Rooms, the Jephson Gardens are the perfect place for a walk around the curated flower beds, or to sprawl out for a picnic on the grass during the warmer months.

Coventry

Coventry, situated 18 km north from Warwick, was completely destroyed by Nazi bombings during the Second World War. The city’s Cathedral, in particular, was damaged during a blitz on the 14th of November 1940. Instead of rebuilding the Cathedral, the architect of the new church, Sir Basil Spence, decided to keep the ruins intact as a memorial of that night. As a (touching) result, what remains of the old Cathedral stands as a tribute to peace and represents a unique space for prayers and reflection. This is a site that may deeply move you.

Stratford-upon-Avon

Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All rights Reserved

Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All rights Reserved

Stratford is the most famous town in Warwickshire, being the home to the poet William Shakespeare, who was born here in 1564. If you haven’t already visited Shakespeare’s Birthplace, his New Place and Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, we strongly recommend doing so, since these historical sites represent some of the best-known and fascinating in England.

Theatre fan? Or just curious to see one of the Bard’s famed works in the town where he lived and worked? The Royal Shakespeare Company, based in Stratford, is one of the biggest theatre venues in the UK, staging different adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays and shows by other writers of the 15th century.

If you’re looking for something different to do in Stratford, head to the lovely Butterfly Farm, where you can enjoy the pleasure of discovering hundreds of colorful butterflies flying in an exotic environment of tropical blossom with splashing waterfalls and fish-filled pools. If you’re a book lover and you’re always on the look for a good second-hand and vintage bookshop, visit the Chaucer Head Bookshop, where you will find rare and antiquarian books covering a wide range of subjects.

Chaucer Head Bookshop in Stratford-upon-Avon. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All Rights Reserved

Chaucer Head Bookshop. Photo: Anna Maria Colivicchi / All Rights Reserved

Compton Verney House

Compton Verney House, Stratford-upon-Avon

Just nine miles from Stratford, Compton Verney House offers 120 acres of gorgeous parkland, a lake and an award-winning art gallery that hosts several stunning exhibitions every year. Richard Verney and his brother John, together with the Earl of Warwick Richard Beauchamp, acquired the estate in 1435 and built the manor-house in 1442.

This elegant house passed through different owners and through periods of splendor and decadence. During the Second World War it was requisitioned by the army and used as experimental station for smoke-screen camouflage. By the 1980s Compton Verney had fallen into semi-ruin, but in 1993, the Peter Moores Foundation acquired it, restored it to its astonishing original splendor.

Long Compton’s Rollright Stones

This mysterious complex of Neolithic and Bronze Age megalithic monuments is situated near the village of Long Compton, on the border between Warwickshire and Oxfordshire. The three monuments have surprisingly inspiring names: The Whispering Knights, The King’s Men and The King Stone, respectively.

Read related: The Most Breathtaking Megalithic Sites on the Planet 

The oldest of these monuments was built between 3,800-3,500 BC. According to some legends, they are the petrified remains of a monarch and his courtiers, who were cursed by a witch and turned into stone.

 

About the Author

Anna Maria Colivicchi is an Italian writer who is interested in travel, art and food. She lived in Rome and in the UK, which is her home away from home. You can follow her on Instagram to see more of her stories and photos. 

Anna Maria Colivicchi

The 10 Best National Parks in the World

The 10 Best National Parks in the World

A visit to a world-famous natural reserve is a good way to remind yourself of the spectacular beauty and diversity of planet Earth. In the United States, national parks cover 84.6 million acres; in the UK, there are a total of 15 breathtaking protected natural areas, while Italy counts twenty-four. On the Asian continent, Thailand offers remarkable treasures, boasting over 130 awe-inspiring parks. In short, if you’re after an unforgettable adventure that involves plenty of natural surroundings and wildlife, you’ve got a wealth of options to choose from. Read on for what we consider to be the 10 best national parks in the world: selected for their sheer wild beauty, biodiversity and potential to make your jaw drop.

 

1. Yellowstone National Park, USA

Yellowstone National Park, USA

Extending across Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, Yellowstone is the world’s first national park, established by the U.S. Congress in 1872. The park spans an area of almost 9,000 km, which comprehends breathtaking canyons, clear rivers, mountain ranges and one of the largest high-elevation lakes in North America, Yellowstone Lake. This magnificent area has been inhabited by Native Americans for at least 11,000 years, and it’s still home to hundreds of species of birds, fish and mammals. The park offers an impressing variety of exciting activities, including ranger programs, camping, hiking, boating, fishing and much more.

 

2. Zambezi National Park & Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls National Park

One of the seven natural wonders of the world, Zambezi National Park in Zimbabwe is a precious wildlife refuge that’s home to a stunning array of wildlife and some of the globe’s most jaw-dropping natural scenery. From the mist and rainbow-filled wonders of Victoria Falls, with its thunderous falls and green surroundings, to the Zambezi river and surrounding plains where you can embark on a safari to see everything from elephants and leopards to crocodiles and hippos, this is the place to head if you want to get a sense of what the Earth might look like with fewer humans– and more animals.

3. Cinque Terre, Italy

Cinque Terre, Italy

Italy’s first National Park was established in 1999, and it’s probably one of the most spectacular places on the whole peninsula. This park comprehends the territory of five gorgeous towns: Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso al Mare – “cinque terre” literally means “five territories” – as well as the communes of Levanto and La Spezia. This means that when traveling to Cinque Terre, you can enjoy open-air activities such as hiking and camping, and visit some evocative cliff-side villages which are famous around the world.

 

4. Jasper National Park, Canada

A lake and forest at Jasper National park, Canada

Jasper is the largest and wildest of the Canadian Rocky Mountain parks, encompassing over 11,000 square kilometres. While summer is peak visitor season, we strongly recommend visiting the park during the winter, when the abundant snow creates a truly magical tableau.

Read related: The World’s Most Beautiful Spots for Leaf-Peeping and Fall Foliage

The park is also famous for its “dark sky”: this is a perfect location for stargazing, as the second dark sky preserve in the world. In October, Jasper National Park hosts the Annual Dark Sky Festival, celebrating the astonishing beauty of the night sky with special activities and talks by scientists, experts, night sky photographers and astronauts.

 

5. Los Roques Archipelago, Venezuela

Los Roques Archipelago, Venezuela

By Tucanrecords [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 1972, this National Park consists of an archipelago of nearly 350 islands and cays situated in the Caribbean Sea. These small, white-sanded islands are almost uninhabited; surrounded by crystal-blue water and coral reefs, they harbour some of the best diving and snorkel spots in the world. In fact, Los Roques’ biodiversity is incredible: the park harbors over 60 species of corals, 200 species of crustaceans, 140 species of mollusks, 45 species of echinoderms and 280 species of fish – a real paradise for scuba-divers and sailing lovers!

 

6. Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia

Plitivice Lakes National Park, Croatia

This Croatian park was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Located halfway between Zagreb and Zadar in the mountainous northwestern region of Croatia, it represents the country’s most popular attraction. Over one million visitors throng on the park each year, with peak numbers in the late spring and summer.  Immersed in deep and wild forest vegetation, sixteen bigger lakes and several smaller ones are interconnected by a series of breathtaking waterfalls. Seven different routes are available to tour the stunning lake system, as well as four hiking trails.

 

7. Guilin and Lijiang River National Park, China

Guilin and Lijiang River National Park, China

By Dariusz Jemielniak, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This protected area situated in southeastern China is rightfully famous for its lush, deep forests, limestone cones, cylinders and solitary hills, which are also printed on the country’s paper currency. Among the rocks of Guilin flows the Lijiang River and its tributaries, producing spectacular scenery which has long inspired various Chinese poets.

Read related: What to do in Seoul, South Korea

In order to best appreciate the treasures of this National Park, we particularly recommend taking the 30-mile long boat trip along the Lijiang River, from Guilin to Yangzhou, or embarking along the parallel hiking route on the riverside. Both Guilin and Yangzhou, picturesque cities surrounded by the natural splendors of the National Park, are equally worth a visit.

 

8. Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

Jostedalsbreen National Park, Norway

Are you a true snow and mountain lover who would like to experience glacier river rafting or snowshoe hiking? If this is the case, Jostedalsbreen park is the ideal destination for your next trip. Jostedalsbreen glacier covers half of the National Park, and it’s the largest in mainland Europe. The park is also famous for its amazing variety of natural environments all clustered within a small area, and it hosts different activities year-round. During the winter months, make sure to visit the famous blue ice caves hidden beneath the Nigardsbreen glacier. When accompanied by a guide, groups of tourists are allowed to hike on skis or snowshoes up to the front of the glacier and to explore the fascinating blue caves.

 

9. Kui Buri National Park, Thailand

Kuri Buri National Park, Thailand

By: Tontan Travel via Flickr

Not far from the Burmese border, Kui Buri National Park is a stunning site for wildlife viewing. The park is well-known for the presence of herds of elephants, which can be seen pretty much everywhere in the protected area. Tourists are allowed to drive their own cars around the park, but must take a guided tour to visit the protected sections of the natural preserve. For a real up-close-and-personal experience of the wildlife here, it is also possible to rent tents and bungalows to stay overnight.

(Read related: Top 8 Travel Photography Tips)

 

10. Snowdonia National Park, Wales, UK

Snowdonia National Park, Wales

The name of this beautiful National Park comes from Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, while the Welsh name for this area is Eryi: legends state that this name derived from a word meaning “the land of eagles”. The park is best known for its wonderful hiking opportunities, but it offers much more than that: come here for splendid waterfalls, lakes and mountain biking paths. In particular, we recommend that you hop on one of the vintage steam trains that climb up to the highest peak in Wales. Taking the old-world train will allow you to experience the area just as a traveler would have back in 1896, and you will see for yourself how gorgeous and mythical this mountainous area is, journeying through the clouds to Yr Wyddfa, Snowdon.

 

 

About the Author

Anna Maria Colivicchi is an Italian writer who is interested in travel, art and food. She lived in Rome and in the UK, which is her home away from home. You can follow her on Instagram to see more of her work, stories and pics. 

Anna Maria Colivicchi

The World’s Most Amazing Megalithic Structures

The World’s Most Amazing Megalithic Structures

Megaliths are enormous stones used by prehistoric civilizations to construct impressive monuments without the use of concrete or mortar. The word ‘megalith’ comes from two ancient Greek words: mégas, which means ‘giant’ and lìthos, meaning ‘stone’. Even though we can’t always clearly understand the reasons and history behind their existence, these incredible structures allow us to travel back in time and to reflect on the early past of humankind, and are inspiring sites to visit at least once in a lifetime. Every one of these ancient stones has interesting and fascinating stories to tell. From the world-famous Stonehenge to the mysterious spheres of Costa Rica, here are some of the world’s most incredible — and beautiful– megalithic structures to visit.

Stonehenge, England

Stonehenge, England and its breathtaking megalithic structures

A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1986, Stonehenge is without doubt the most famous cromlech – a circle of megalithic stones – in Europe, and one of the most visited attractions in the UK. Located near Amesbury, in Wiltshire, its name literally means ‘hanging stones’. The actual position of the megaliths was restored between 1901 and 1964, when every stone was straightened or reinforced with concrete to recreate the site’s original circular shape.

In recent decades, there’s been much speculation over the original purpose of Stonehenge’s construction, in 3100 BC. Theories are numerous: some say it functions as an astronomical calendar while still others think it may have been used as a site for ritual human sacrifice!

According to several legends, giants brought the stones from distant lands to create Stonehenge; isn’t it fascinating that some myths held that the massive stones had healing powers? This megalithic circle has always been surrounded by mystery– and since it’s only a few hours away from London, it’s an easy site to visit.

Just outside the visitor center, you can step into five Neolithic houses furnished with replica axes, pottery and other objects; these allow you to get a real feeling for what everyday life might have been like for the ancient people who built Stonehenge.

Carnac Stones, Brittany (France)

Carnac stones in Brittany, France

By Nicolas Raymond/Freestock

Around the village of Carnac, in Brittany, the biggest collection of megaliths in the world – alignments, dolmens, tumuli and menhirs – takes us back to 4500 BC. These prehistoric standing stones, amounting to more than three thousand when counting those situated within La Trinitè-sur-Mer, were erected by the pre-Celtic peoples of Brittany. At Carnac, there are three major groups of stone rows (alignments), which probably formed a single group and then split up when the stones were removed and used for other purposes.

Read related: Experience the Wonder of France’s Lascaux Paleolithic Cave

Since these incredible stones stand in perfectly straight lines, local legends claim they were marching soldiers, turned into stones by the magician Merlin.

A more rational explanation? According to researchers studying the site, the megaliths could have been used as a primitive earthquake detector, but there are also several theories about it being a huge lunar observatory or even a calendar. In the commune of La Trinité-sur-Mer, a much smaller group of stones known as Petit-Menec is nestled in the woods, covered by ivy and moss. If you’re looking for a unique adventure that combines mysterious megalithic structures and fresh air, Carnac is a great choice. Its beautiful beaches are well worth visiting, and the Quiberon peninsula nearby is famous for wind-surfing and sailing.

Photo: Myrabella / Wikimedia Commons

Tombs of Giants and Nuraghi, Sardinia

Sardinia is already well-known for its enchanting beaches and deep blue sea. But if you’re after a peaceful, wild place tucked well away from those crowded holiday destinations, you might want to visit the majestic stone monuments scattered around the island. Several different kinds of megalithic structures grace this gorgeous Mediterranean island: menhirs (singular standing stones), cromlech (similar to those found in Stonehenge) and dolmens (composed of three or more stones).

Megalithic structures in Sardinia, Italy

By ciamabue [CC BY 2.0]  via Wikimedia Commons

The Tombe dei Giganti – meaning ‘Tombs of Giants’, a name given to the site by the locals, but nowadays frequently used by archaeologists – are impressive dolmenic structures, built in the 2nd millennium BC as collective graves and located in various Sardinian regions. We particularly recommend visiting those that stand in Arzachena, in northwest Sardinia.

Read related: Spotlight on Montefeltro, Italy 

By Cristiano Cani [CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons]

Nuraghi are Sardinia’s most well-known symbol and the main type of megalithic structure found on the island.  A trip to Sardinia is not complete without a visit to one of these extremely evocative monuments. According to the experts, there were originally more than 30,000 nuraghi, although only 7,000 still stand today. The exact use of the Nuragic structures is still unknown: they may have served as religious sites, tombs or even fortresses.

Dolmens of the North Caucasus, Russia

Dolmens of North Caucuses, Russia

Megaliths and stone labyrinths have also been discovered in the Caucasus Mountains, 50 km north-east from the Black Sea. While these are not as famous as the European constructions, they are equally mysterious and intriguing. Archaeologists believe they were built between the 2nd and the 4th millennium BC, and previously unearthed dolmens continue to be found on both sides of the Western Caucasus. This makes the site even more fascinating as new discoveries are still underway. Despite their similar appearance to the sorts of structures we’ve highlighted in England, France and Italy, these Russian dolmens are of unknown origin. Experts are still developing theories about who build them and for what purpose.

Diquìs Stone Spheres, Costa Rica

Petrospheres in Costa Rica

By Rodtico21 [CC BY-SA 3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Over 300 petrospheres – the term used by archaeologists to refer to spherical man-made objects – are located on the Diquìs Delta and on Isla del Caño, in Costa Rica. While their exact significance remains uncertain, they have been attributed to the extinct pre-Columbian indigenous culture of Diquìs.

According to ancient myths, these perfectly rounded stones came from the sunken town of Atlantis. Since June 2014, the Diquìs Spheres are on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. Despite the fact that “archaeo-tourism” is still a new concept in Costa Rica, the museum FINCA 6 in Palmar Norte, which holds the largest collection of these stones, is gaining in popularity. Could the Diquìs Spheres be an excuse for planning your next trip to the charming Central American nation?

Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa Dolmen Sites, South Korea

Dolmens in South Korea

By Steve46814 [CC BY-SA 3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dolmens can be found in East Asia too, and one of the biggest collection is situated on the Korean peninsula, which is said to contain more than 40% of the world’s dolmens, summing up these three important archeologic sites. Korean megalithic monuments date to around 1,000 BC: they are far more recent than the others we covered in this article. Objects excavated nearby suggest that they were mainly used as tombs.

Read related: 7 Top Things to See & Do in Seoul, South Korea 

Due to the increasing number of tourists traveling to Korea to see these megaliths, the sites of Gochang, Hwasun and Ganghwa are slowly becoming national symbols: ones that celebrate Korean pre-historic culture and its inhabitants.

 

About the Author

Anna Maria Colivicchi is an Italian writer who is interested in travel, art and food. She lived in Rome and in the UK, which is her home away from home. You can follow her on Instagram to see more of her stories and photos. 

Anna Maria Colivicchi

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