I’ve been traveling almost nonstop for the past 7 weeks, first as a Goodbye Tour in the U.S. to visit with my dearest friends and family, and then as a sort of Bonjour Tour in France to visit with my husband’s family and my study abroad host family (from my time in France in high school).
In all of those travels this summer, what most excited me was visiting what France calls it’s “Most Beautiful Villages.” Seriously, there is actually a list of about 155 villages that are given this distinction. Most. Beautiful. Wow! How cool is that?
During my 3 weeks of travel in France this summer, I’ve visited five of these villages, and I’m absolutely in love with each of them. Most of them were built in the middle ages, and have the ancient look of that original village, which, by the way, is Beautiful!
They all maintain historic authenticity by making sure renovations and additions are consistent with the original building style, such as the shape of the windows and doors, and the type of material used on the roof. I didn’t realize how much I loved the old style of windows and doors until I looked back at all the photos I had taken: at least 50% of them were of windows and doors! I even failed to take photos of important things, like the remains of chateaus and other wonders, but managed to take dozens of photos of old glass and wood. Omg, how silly am I!
In addition to the very cool architecture, there are lots of pretty flowers in pots in front of the houses, and laid out tenderly in side gardens. From hydrangeas to climbing orange vines and purple butterfly bushes. All types of flowers and in all colors dotted the window ledges and poked up out of small bits of earth between the sidewalk and the building foundations.
I was shocked by the total lack of graffiti, which is normally terribly prevalent in France. When I say graffiti, I don’t mean the really cool stuff with lots of colors and technical prowess. The graffiti that litters the walls of every French town are boring basic black tags. Needless to say, it was refreshing not to find a bit of that in these Most Beautiful Villages.
Each village was very clean, easy to navigate and had resources for tourists, like a Tourism office and parking lots. Reality tells me that getting the Most Beautiful Village designation is an inherently tourism-driven ploy, designed to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors to these few villages each year. Luckily it’s not a ploy to get you to visit ugly and lifeless places. The designation guarantees a delightful experience in a truly beautiful environment. These 155 villages have pledged to provide certain amenities and maintain a certain level of historic authenticity in return for listing and digital advertising. Personally, I’m their newest fan, and am I can’t wait to see them all!
Now I have 150 places to visit that have been automatically added to my “must visit” list! Can you say Roadtrip?!
Here are a few of my favorite photos from the villages I saw.
Based on the photos below, which would you most like to visit?
Turenne’s slate roofs and well-maintained stone buildings dating from the middle ages are magical and remind me of fairy tales.
Collonges-la-Rouge is entirely RED! The black slate roofs are in sharp contrast to the red stones. Check out those towers!
We did a very speedy walk through Curemonte, but I was enthralled by the windy roads and tall walls of the interior buildings.
Saint Robert was so fun to visit because they had a Marché de Pays, which is essentially a community-wide picnic and party. I loved every bit of it, from the accordian player to the food vendors. I’ve got a video and blog article coming up about it!
Crissay-sur-Manse is a tiny little village near Tours, which was the smallest of all the villages we visited: only 114 people live in the commune (the village and the surrounding area). The authentic architecture and planted flowers made it a lovely visit.
So, which beautiful French village inspires you most?