Planning for our 2020 travels is underway. The Fall trip to Italy is complete. We are finalizing the locations of our Spring travels - France and Northern Spain.
More will be added shortly.
In the Occitanie Region we will centre ourselves in the Department of Gers. The territory is hilly with plenty of great views. Some of the sights include:
Sarrant is a fortified door from the 14th century controls access to the alleys of this charming town. Sarrant has retained its ramparts and its particular circular configuration. Since 2017 Sarrant has been known as the village of illustration.
Fourcès is an atypical Gers village. The round square occupies the site of the castle destroyed in the 15th century. Around the square are medieval houses with oak jambs. The Clock Tower is from the 13th century with richly furnished arboretums. This village of 300 inhabitants is written up as charming.
At the end of the 11th century AD, the German monk Albert, returning from a pilgrimage to Rome on the way to Santiago de Compostela, founded a priory attached to the Saint Victor Abbey in Marseille. This priory became the basis of Romieu. The village in the shape of an irregular pentagon, was endowed with crenellated walls, ditches and drawbridge, doors and towers. The parish church on the present square was destroyed after the French revolution. The north door still remains with its primitive appearance. It is surmounted by a square tower with machicolation and corner loopholes. The central square and the arcades, which house the shops, have just been renovated. The washhouse and the Gothic fountain let the water flow from the Petit Auvignon, and invite you to calm and serenity.
The collegiate complex has been classified as World Heritage by Unesco.
In Auch, the Haute-Ville is steep, in medieval times special stairways, called Pousterles, unique to Auch, were built to help its citizens get down to the river safely. There are five of these remaining. The cathedral of Saint Mary is an UNESCO status building, and is on the pilgrimage to Compostela. Built in the 15th and 16th centuries it is a blend of Bothis and Renaissance architecture.
The Armagnac tower, from the Archiepiscopal Palace, used to be a prison with cells still retained. Great spiral staircase to climb.
Other than the Pousteries, there is also a large monumental staircase complete with 370 steps decorated with the statue of D'Artagnan that connects the bottom top of the the city.
Abbaye de Flaran, located on the road to Condom, a half-hour northwest of Auch, is this Cistercian Abbey founded in 1151. It is considered one of the most intact medieval monasteries in the southwest of France.
I think we will be staying at a town about an hour from Bilbao. That will provide an opportunity to drive to Bilbao to shoot the well known Guggenheim Museum Bilbao - which was designed by architect Frank Gehry. The museum opened in 1997.
From there, we are hoping to spend some time in the country side. I am a big fan of Architect Frank Gehry's work. I have had to opportunity to photograph some of his work in various cities. My goal will be to create photo like the above, which is part of the Guggenheim Bilbao Museum website. We are looking forward to spending time in Bilbao which is located just inland from the north coast the Bay of Biscay.
San Sebastián is located in the Basque Autonomous Community of Spain about 12 miles from the border with France. This is one of the most famous tourist locations of Spain.
The Parte Vieja (Spanish) or Alde Zaharra (Basque) is the Old Town, the traditional core area of the city. The Old Town is divided in two parishes relating to the Santa Maria and San Vicente churches, the inhabitants belonging to the former being dubbed traditionally joxemaritarrak, while those attached to the latter are referred to as koxkeroak. Historically, the koxkeroak up to the early 18th century were largely Gascon speaking inhabitants. Especially after the end of Franco's dictatorship, scores of bars sprang up all over the Old Part which are very popular with the youth and the tourists, although not as much with the local residents. Most current buildings trace back to the 19th century. There is a small fishing and recreation port, with two-floor houses lined under the front-wall of the mount Urgull.
Basque Week - this decades long festivity takes place at the beginning of September and features events related to Basque culture, such as performances of traditional improvising poets (bertsolaris), Basque pelota games, stone lifting contests, oxen wagers, dance exhibitions or the cider tasting festival. Yet the main highlight may be the rowing boat competition, where teams from different towns of the Bay of Biscay contend for the Flag of La Concha. Thousands of supporters coming from these coastal locations pour into the city's streets and promenades overlooking the bay to follow the event, especially on the Sunday of the final race. All day long the streets of the Old Part play host to droves of youths clad in their team colours who party there in a cheerful atmosphere.
The last week of our spring travels will be in Paris. It is a toss-up between Rome and Paris, and we always enjoy being in Paris. We return to our apartment, located on rue Bachaumong, just off rue Montorgueil. This is a great neighbourhood, with the accent on neighbourhood.
I hope to link up with Paris photographer Vincent Marcolla (check out his impressive Instagram gallery vm.photoparis) as well as his top notch website. For the past three years we have been linking us when I am in Paris.
OUR TRAVELS IN ITALY | MARCUS TRAVEL JOURNAL