Mâcon in 1 day

We used to live in the Atlanta, Georgia area not too far from the city of Macon that was named for statesman Nathaniel Macon in 1823. Now that our home is in France, we’re still fairly close to a city with that same name except this one has a circumflex accent mark (^) and its origin dates to around 50 BC when Julius Caesar referred to it in Latin as Matisco, meaning “wooded hill at the water’s edge” that gradually evolved into its present day form by the middle of the 18th century. Coinciding with that time period was when native son and author Alphonse de Lamartine was his most prolific and we followed numbered bronze plaques honoring him on a heritage trail to trace 2000 years of history.

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Turckheim on a whim

Last week I wrote about our trip to Munster that we made from our temporary “home base” in Mulhouse. We used a local train for the roundtrip and since we didn’t travel during rush hour the ticket allowed a stopover along the way. We had seen photos of this traditional Alsatian town so we thought it would be worth the hour that the tourist office suggests it would take to follow their “historic circuit” through this charming place that got started in 743. Normally we research all of the sites we hope to visit prior to leaving the train station but this time we simply followed the route on the map (link below) taking photos along the way. Some of these we could identify (click on a gallery photo to see the file name below) but others are simply private homes that appealed to us and hopefully to you too. Enjoy the wander!

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Munster for lunch

On a 2-week vacation to Amsterdam a few years ago, we had time to take several day trips to other cities including some that we knew because of their connection to food; Edam and Gouda, for example. According to the National Interprofessional Center for the Dairy Economy there are at least 1200 types of cheese in France, many of them named for the place where it’s produced. We live about 150 km (93 miles) from Roquefort with its famous “Blue” and how often have we had baked Brie or a round of Camembert? On our recent stay in the region of Alsace, we were looking for towns near our base of Mulhouse when “Munster” caught our attention on the map. We remembered the sound-a-like Muenster cheese from the US so we wanted to see if this might be where that originated.

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Belfort in 1 day

If you read our most recent blog post, France’s Favorite Monument, you had a clue about the city we were off to explore today. We were especially interested in watching the TV program that aired just over a year ago to see who the 2020 winner would be since we’d visited some of the 14 candidates. The competition included the Chateâu and gardens of Villandry, the Imperial Chapel in Ajaccio, Corsica, Nice’s onion-domed Cathedral St. Nicolas, the stunning stained glass of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris and the one that received our vote, the Canal-du-Midi that runs through Carcassonne. Even though we hadn’t seen the others, we’d at least heard of all but one, the Citadel and Lion of Belfort, so that went on our list of future vacation destinations. With travel restrictions within the country lifted for the fully-vaccinated, it was time to make good use of our Senior Discount Railcards for another trip.

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France’s favorite monument

Arc

Monuments, do we have monuments! According to the Ministry of Culture there were 45,684 structures in 2020 that had protected status because of their “historical, artistic or architectural interest.” Television channel France 3 annually asks residents to vote on their favorite and this year’s winner was announced on Wednesday night. (If you scroll through the photos below to the bottom, you’ll see who won.) While visitor numbers might be an indication of popularity, that doesn’t necessarily translate into being chosen as number one. Crowds flock to the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Versailles, Mont St. Michel, and even to our own medieval walled city of Carcassonne which is the fifth most visited place in France. The Favorite Monument winner last year, however, was the Citadel and Lion of Belfort, about 55 km/35 miles from the border with Switzerland and in 2015 it was the Belfry of Arras, two hours north of Paris. Who were the candidates this year?

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Figeac in 1 day

When a travel website says that in one town you can see examples of the oldest writing known to humans plus perhaps the oldest house in France, in fact a collection of them, it sounds like a place you want to visit. Figeac is only 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of Carcassonne as the crow flies but since we like to ride the rails, and this journey was going to take 2 trains plus a bus, we’d put it off. Now that any Covid travel restrictions had been lifted, and we were already going to be in that general area (Thiers in 1 day), it was time to see where, in the year 838, an abbey was constructed that resulted in the founding of Figeac.

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Thiers in 1 day

Since we travel long distances by train, our decisions of where to go next are often tied to a rail map of Europe. The one we use highlights scenic routes in green and although we’d already been to Clermont-Ferrand we returned there via the rails that traverse the Cévennes national park near some of the same pathways that author Robert Louis Stevenson and his donkey followed over 140 years ago. It’s convenient to find a base city from which to make day trips as we did a month ago for both Montauban and Rodez and now we wanted to do the same with today’s post about Thiers and next time for Figeac and its connection to the Rosetta Stone.

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