Exploring rustic French Villages
There are many picture-postcard villages to visit in France. Browsing through the limestone streets of a charming village gives you an authentic glimpse of rural France.
Enjoy the mouthwatering aromas of cheese, produce and freshly baked bread at the local fromagerie, chartucerie, boulangerie and patisserie.
Hear the sound of the church bells chiming the hour echoing through the village. The cobblestone streets seem deserted at noon as locals take their midday siestas. Then it is time to find a cafe to enjoy some local cuisine, or grab some local bread and cheese for a picnic by the river.
As we travelled through eastern France we saw frequent “En Vendre” signs on crumbling terraces and abandoned farmhouses. These evoked scenes from the movie “Under the Tuscan Sun” as we imagined “what if?”
Crumbling old houses “En Vendre” awaiting loving restoration
Below we share with you some of the charming villages we had the chance to explore during our road trip through France.
Ornans is known as the “Little Venice of the “Franche Comte”. We spent an afternoon wandering around the canalside village on our way to Dijon.
The sixth century village is not far from the town of Besancon. Old wooden and stone houses on stilts overhang the Loue river.
The Roche du Mont overlooks the town, where you can see remains of the 13th century castle.
Ornans was the home of famous artist Gustave Courbet. His former home is now a museum exhibiting some of his artwork.
Gilly les Citeaux
Located between Dijon and Beaune, Gilly les Citeaux is the site of a sixth century Benedictine priory.
Today, the former fortress is a luxury hotel and restaurant. Visitors can wander through the landscaped gardens and around the former moat surrounding the castle.
The church of St Germain was once enclosed within the fortress walls.
In the surrounding village, former trout ponds and irrigation channels hand-dug by the monks can still be seen.
In the centre of town you can see the sprial tower on the old postmasters building and the ancient wash house on the Vogue River.
Former moat surrounding the abbey at Gilly Les Citeaux
Clos du Vouget
The monks from Gilly les Citeaux once operated their winery in the ancient walled vineyard and Chateau outside the village of Clos du Vouget.
Today the Chateau is a function centre, however visitors can still view the dormitories, cellars and pressing rooms.
The limestone village along the Vouges River contains some remnants of the past, including the town hall which is established in an old stable building.
A number of old inns remain and visitors can sample the local Burgundy wines in the tasting room in the village.
High on the hillside overlooking the Cure Valley stands the historic 12th century Fortress of Vezelay, 50 kilometres from Auxerre.
The village is one, long steep street leading to the Basilica.
The Basilica of Saint Mary Magdalene is said to contain the relics of St Mary Magdalene in the crypt below, and the pilgrims hall was the meeting place for pilgrims on two crusades.
Strolling along the ancient ramparts, and the adjacent abbey ruins, you have an unrivalled view over Burgundy.
Noyers Sur Serein
It is easy to see why Noyers sur Serien is listed as “one of the most beautiful villages in France.”
Located on the banks of the River Serein, the medieval fortress still features many traditional colombage and stone houses lining the cobblestone streets.
Public buildings dating back as far as the 15th century are decorated with carved gargoyles.
The remains of the original castle can be found at the end of the village.
Outside the ramparts, a stroll along the riverside takes you past gardens bursting with spring, another view of the castle ruins and the many ancient buildings on the village perimeter.
Chablis was arguably one of the prettiest villages we called into on our travels.
Vibrant flower boxes bedeck the bridges over the rivers and canals.
Many of the village’s Roman origins remaining, including the public baths.
Horseshoes left on the St Martin’s church door by pilgrims on route to Vezelay remain today.
The Roman style Collegiale Church of Saint-Martin dates from the 13th century, and you can still see the traditional village wine press.
The most outstanding feature for me however was the patisserie…..so many baked goods, so llittle time!
Aix Les Bains
The site of the ancient Roman baths where some Roman relics remain today, Aix Les Bains was a booming tourist town during the Victorian era.
Situated on the Lac du Bourget, the largest glacial lake in France. Visitors can still stay in many of the manificent hotels from this era, overlooking Lake Bourget.
In the main square, you can still see the Roman Campanus arch dating back to the first century, Here you will also find, remnants of the Roman temple of Diana and statue of Diana.