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VILLAGES

MAP: The beautiful French villages you have to visit in 2019

Fourteen villages in France are battling for the title of the country's "favourite village" in 2019. Here's a closer look at the contenders, where they are in France and why you should visit them next time you're in the area.

MAP: The beautiful French villages you have to visit in 2019
Erbalunga in Corsica is one of the must-visit villages in France in 2019. Photo: AFP

Each region in France nominates a candidate and last year’s winner was Cassel in the north. An interesting twist this year is that there is also a candidate from French overseas territory for the first time with an entry from Guadeloupe.

The winner will be chosen on March 21st, but no announcement will be made until it is broadcast on a television programme presented by Stéphane Bern in June.

There are some changes to this year’s competition. The show will now be broadcast on France 3 and it will not be live. This means you have to vote now, right now. Votes can be registered either by SMS (number 3245) or through the show’s Facebook page until the closing date of March 21st.

You can find out more voting here.

This map below shows the location o the 13 villages in mainland France. You can zoom in to find their locations and click on the icons to find out the name and see picture.

These are this year’s finalists:

Overseas : Terre-de-Haut (Guadeloupe)

Lying 10km off Guadeloupe is Terre-de-Haut (pictured below), the largest of the eight small islands that make up Les Saintes. Since the island was too hilly and dry for sugar plantations, slavery never took hold here. Consequently, the older islanders still trace their roots to the early seafaring Norman and Breton colonists, and many of the locals have light skin and blond or red hair.

 

Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes : Souvigny (Allier)

Located in the centre of France in the  heart of the historic province of Bourbonnais, Souvigny has preserved a rich architectural heritage, mainly due to its affiliation with the Abbey of Cluny. It became known as the “eldest daughter” of Cluny.

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté : Mouthier-Haute-Pierre (Doubs)

Renowned for its traditionally-produced kirsch, the charming village of Mouthier-Haute-Pierre, is in the heart of the Loue valley in east France, close to the Swiss border. Surrounded by rock faces, the natural setting is simply magnificent.  Mouthier-Haut, with its 15th-century church and its old houses, and Mouthier-Bas, on the river's edge, are within walking distance from each other.

Brittany : Pont-Croix (Finistère)

Pont-Croix is a small town with a population of 1,624 people in the west of France. It is not far from the coast in the Finistère department at the western end of Brittany. This is a municipality that has chosen to focus everything on heritage for its revitalization, explains its mayor, Benoît Lauriou.

Centre-Val de Loire : Frazé (Eure-et-Loir)

Frazé is located in northern France in the northern Loire region. It is a tiny town with a population of just 500 inhabitants. One of its many picturesque assets is its 15th century castle, with its impressive military architecture.

Corse : Erbalunga (Haute-Corse)

Corsica’s candidate is the picturesque hamlet of Erbalunga. Its nickname is  “The painters' nest” as, in the 1960s, this beautiful port village inspired many island painters who came to immortalize it… Today, it is the photographers who pay tribute to it.

 

Grand Est : Les Riceys (Aube)

Les Riceys is a commune in the Aube department in north-central France. It is situated in an important viticultural area, and in particular is known for Rosé des Riceys wine. This  unique town is in fact three former fortified villages : Riceys-Haut, Ricey-Haute-Rive and Ricey-Bas. It has the distinction today of being the largest wine-making village in the Champagne region.

 

Hauts-de-France : La Ferté-Milon (Aisne)

Nestling on the banks of the Ourcq river and dominated by the ruins of an imposing fortress, the charming little town of La Ferté-Milon is a commune in the Aisne department in Hauts-de-France in northern France. Its castle was founded in the late 14th century but never completed because of the assassination of the Duke of Orleans in 1407. It is still very interesting with its impressive façade with window holes, portcullis towers and low reliefs, a particularly remarkable example of which illustrates the Coronation of the Virgin.

Ile-de-France : Bourron-Marlotte (Seine-et-Marne)

This commune in northern France seems to have been occupied since prehistoric times. Traces of human presence such as rock carvings of men and deer have been discovered at La Vignette, an archaeological site located between Recloses and Bourron, now abandoned. In 1234, Berruyer de Bourron, the town’s namesake, welcomed King Louis IX, the future Saint-Louis, to his residence.

Normandie : Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue (Manche)

Located on the east coast of the Cotentin, this town of Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue in north-west France is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Described as a land of sailors, at low tide, the oyster beds provide a link between the French mainland and another jewel of Saint-Vaastais: the island of Tatihou, a unique point of view for painters for more than two centuries.

Nouvelle-Aquitaine : Mornac-sur-Seudre (Charente-Maritime)

Mornac-sur-Seudre is a commune in the Charente-Maritime department in southwestern France near La Rochelle. This picturesque town has already garnered awards for its charm. Formerly a fishing and commercial port, Mornac-sur-Seudre is nowadays mainly about oyster farming and the salt produced by its marshes.

 
Occitanie : Lauzerte (Tarn-et-Garonne)

The medieval city of Lauzerte has been classified as one of the “Most Beautiful Villages in France” since 1990, due to the quality of its heritage, architecture and environment. Located in southwestern France, it is representing the Occitanie region in this competition.

PACA : Cotignac (Var)

This village in southeastern France is another special one. It spans a cliff and the houses below have been well restored and decorated in a typical Provençal style. Those on the cliff, troglodyte dwellings, have a particular charm. And, from the top of the rock, you get a magnificent panorama over the hills in terraces where olive trees, cypresses, pines and oaks against a background of blue sky.

Pays de la Loire : Le Thoureil (Maine-et-Loire)

Located in western France and stretching along the banks of the Loire river, Le Thoureil boasts oodles of charm. This commune with just 444 inhabitants has been described as a “balcony overlooking the Loire”. Dating back to prehistoric times, the local woods are full of megaliths and the river has developed with much touristic trade.

 
 

Member comments

  1. You may consider adding to your Beau Villages en France
    My village Morteamrt 87330 tres petit mais tres beau.

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TRAVEL

The 12 best places in south-west France to enjoy the great outdoors

Need some space? Want to get away from the crowds? Roger Moss at Living Magazine gives us a rundown of perfect spots in south west France to enjoy the great outdoors.

The 12 best places in south-west France to enjoy the great outdoors
A view from the Lac de la Vassivière straddling the Creuse/Haute-Vienne border. Photo: Living Magazine / Roger Moss

We’re social creatures, but after a prolonged confinement, and with an open-ended need to avoid big social gatherings, the idea of heading off to enjoy the great outdoors is sounding more attractive than ever before. Fortunately, here in Nouvelle-Aquitaine we don’t need to venture too far to find perfect peace, so here are some of our favourite away-from-it-all spots.

Canoe or kayak on the Dordogne (24)

When visitors are jostling for parking spaces at Périgord’s attractions, both big and small, why not take to the water and see things differently at your own pace? You can hire a canoe or kayak from various locations on the Dordogne (and other rivers around the region). Choose from a short 90min taster or a longer trip lasting up to a full day, paddling gently downstream to a pick-up point for a bus-ride (included) back to where you originally set off. 

Canoeing on the Dordogne. Photo: Magazine Living / Roger Moss

Pointe de l’Aiguillon (85)

Located on the tip of a modest peninsula extending into the Baie de l’Aiguillon below La Tranche-sur-Mer, there’s a satisfying sense of away-from-it-all remoteness among the windswept sand dunes. The nearby reed-beds, tidal mudflats and wetlands at the mouth of the Sèvre Niortaise river make this a halt for countless migrating and nesting birds, so the spot is a protected nature reserve. There’s also a small beach, if you feel like a bracing stroll. 

Vibrac (16)

There are few more relaxing pastimes than gazing idly into the gently flowing currents of one of our rural waterways. They make great walking or cycling companions, and the antics of those messing about on the river can be high on entertainment value, particularly when negotiating locks. Vibrac, between Angoulême and Jarnac, offers just this kind of escape, as the River Charente divides briefly into three courses – and there’s a lock. 

Vibrac, between Angoulême and Jarnac, offers the perfect peaceful escape. Photo: Living Magazine / Roger Moss

Côte Sauvage (17)

This near endless succession of fine sandy beaches between Ronce-les-Bains and La Palmyre offers lots of opportunities for anyone in search of some plage-style open space (with more beaches almost to Royan). Along the way lie some interesting landscape features, including WWII defences and the incredible Phare de la Coubre lighthouse overlooking the Gironde Estuary. There are lots of cycling opportunities too, including a section of the 1,200km Vélodyssée long-distance route. 

Vallée du Thouet (79)

Here’s a little-known area whose leafy lanes take very little traffic, even in summer. Add the fact that there are few hills but some great unspoilt scenery and you have fantastic cycling country. It’s now part of the Vélo Francette, in fact, which links Caen Ouistreham (14) with La Rochelle (17). A good starting point is historic Parthenay, from which you can ride to Gourgé for a lunch stop, or continue to the chateau town of Thouars (37km). 

A view of the Vallée du Thouet. Photo: Living Magazine / Roger Moss

Lac de la Vassivière (23/87) 

A glance at the map reveals the vast scale of this outdoor playground straddling the Creuse/Haute-Vienne border. With a surface area of 1,000 hectares and shoreline paths extending to around 30km, there’s plenty of potential for walking, cycling, fishing or waterborne activities – or simply finding your own secluded space away from the rest of the world. Here and there you might almost believe you’re in Canada, and there’s lots more landscape to explore on the surrounding Plateau de Millevaches (see separate entry). 

The Plateau de Millevaches in Limousin. Photo: Wiki

Plateau de Millevaches (19, 23 & 87)

Limousin’s vast upland Parc Naturel Régional benefits from green tourism, yet remains sparsely populated – what isn’t forested is mostly pastures and rugged heathland grazed by hardy sheep and cattle. Here and there granite outcrops compete for attention with the outlines of the nearby Monts d’Auvergne, while the Vienne and other rivers spring into life here, adding to the biodiversity and making this a haven for walkers, kayakers and anglers. 

Réserve du Pinail (86)

A real curiosity, some 142 hectares of the landscape below Châtellerault is peppered with thousands of indentations from centuries of granite extraction for circular millstones. Around half are water-filled, and the rich diversity of habitats, flora and fauna makes this a protected national nature reserve. Freely accessible all year, there’s a 2km discovery trail to help you get the most from your visit – or join a guided tour. 

Lacs de Haute-Charente (16)

For a relaxed waterside walk, and perhaps a family picnic, two large man-made lakes between Chabanais and Massignac are worth getting to know. Lac de Lavaud and Lac du Mas Chaban offer canoeing, sailing, windsurfing, angling, etc., but without compromising their natural appeal. That’s something which attracts many bird species, which can best be appreciated at the Observatoire Ornithologique de Foucherie on the shores of Lac de Lavaud. 

The Pointe de l'Aiguillon. Photo: Living Magazine / Roger Moss

Fôret de la Braconne (16)

Get back to nature with a host of flora and fauna for company in the ancient Forêt Domaniale de la Braconne, which covers around 4000 hectares of the Charente landscape between Angoulême and La Rochefoucauld. The kind of forest you always hoped you’d find, around half of the trees are noble, mature oaks, among which are way-marked trails, with interpretation panels giving information about wildlife you might encounter. There are also picnic tables plus a 4km discovery circuit, supported by a  ‘Défi Braconne’ smartphone app. (Find out more – see our dedicated feature in the Oct/Nov 2018 issue of Living.)

Trek with a horse or pony (86)

Robert Louis Stephenson famously travelled through the Cévennes with a donkey, and you can still do something similar nearby with a four-legged friend for company. You’ll find that it’s an enjoyable way to unwind for an afternoon, and if you want more you can do it in style by spending several happy days exploring lanes and tracks through villages, peaceful valleys, rivers, streams and much more in the rural landscapes of Poitou and Limousin. Everything is organised. You’ll be following a carefully pre-prepared itinerary, and can sleep soundly each night under canvas, in a caravan or if you prefer in chambres d’hôtes.

Île Madame at the mouth of the Charente river. Photo: Living Magazine / Roger Moss

Île Madame  (17)

Summertime is a busy period for popular sites on the coast, but come to this diminutive island in the early evening and you should have few people for company. You’ll find it at the mouth of the Charente river, just off Port des Barques, from which it’s accessed via a slender tidal causeway – la Passe aux Bœufs. Beyond it are some surprising features, including a 17th/18th century fort complex, a poignant monument to 254 martyred priests, an organic ‘ferme aquacole’ with a restaurant, an auberge and some contented Scottish black-face sheep, all set within a rocky shoreline dotted with traditional fisherman’s carrelets. 

© Living Magazine 2020

Living Magazine is the leading English-language magazine for the south west of France written by individuals who live here and are passionate about the region, it’s landscape and its culture. Every two months, we produce a 68-page magazine celebrating the area with stunning photos and in-depth features. Read the online copy or better still, subscribe and have the October edition delivered to your door anywhere in the world.

Subscribe to Living Magazine HERE.

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