Arras in 1 day

Carcassonne has 2 UNESCO World Heritage sites (Canal-du-Midi and the Medieval Walled City) plus 48 listed historic monuments, which I find pretty impressive. Arras also has 2 UNESCO sites (the Belfry and the Citadel) but 225 monuments. Well, it would seem that this city, 45 minutes north of Paris by train would be worth a visit. Since we were already in Lille this was going to be an easy train trip with 2 departures each hour so we would have time for sightseeing, lunch, and still be back “home” to the hotel for dinner. With so many choices of places to visit, where should we start?

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Lille in 2 days

Legend says that Lille was founded in the year 640 and for the next thousand years control of the city included the Dutch, the French, the Vikings, the Spanish, and the Flemish before Louis XIV, the Sun King, took the city back in 1667 and it has remained in France ever since despite periods of occupation by the Austrians and the Germans. Much of the Flemish influence remains today in the baroque architecture from the 17th and 18th centuries in the section of town called “Old Lille”. Since friends had suggested that we stroll along the cobblestones of Place Louise de Bettignies (featured photo above) and rue de la Monnaie, that’s where we began our first day of exploration.

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Why France is so popular

When two news sources in two different countries publish an article asking the same question, it tends to catch your eye. Based in Paris, The Local, and across the channel in London, The Telegraph, both wanted to investigate why France consistently attracts more visitors each year than any other country in the world. One story offered 6 reasons while the other almost tripled that with 17 ideas about why this country had a target of 100 million visitors for 2020 following on from a rising trend from several previous years. Obviously Covid had a huge impact on reaching that goal but the signs are good that people are returning. What is it that everyone wants to see?

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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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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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