France: Hill-walking Through the Wild Moors of Cragou in Bretagne

In a beautiful area in France, not far away from the ocean and with a fabulous climate, lies the wild Moors of Cragou. It is located near Pleyber Christ, Bretagne. The wild Moor of Cragou is managed by the association of Brittany Vivante. It is considered as a Reserve area and serves as haven for the wildlife so that the animals and plants can reproduce. In this area, people are forbidden to build houses, buildings or roads. The rocks stand 282 m above the sea level and remain untouched by mankind, with the exception of a few brave hill-walkers.

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I went there with Alan and one of his nephews. We walked on the hills; we climbed huge rocks; experienced the tremendous beauty of nature; breathed fresh air; and simply enjoyed the view. It was marvelous!

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I had a mixture of feelings while we were walking up and down the hills until we reached the top of these huge rocks. I felt very lucky to experience the wonderful nature far away from the huge crowd, far away from any forms of pollutions and with the feeling that the world was a crystal made of living things. While hiking the hills with a rugged terrain and climbing the huge rocks, I was pretending that I could do it all by myself. Even though my legs ache, I didn’t want to stop. I had a strong desire to continue the hike and reach my goal. And, I did it!

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We climbed two huge rocks with loads of spiky plants surrounding them. When I was on the top of those huge rocks, I could never exactly really explain how it looked like. The breeze blew through my hair and cooled me down instantly. The sun shone just right in my eyes and somehow it felt like a blessing.  I heard the humming birds hovering from flowers to flowers and from tree to tree. I wanted to shout to the world how fortunate I was of having such an amazing experience. I had a feeling of being powerful, accomplished, peacefully excited and calm at the same time. Indeed, I am proud of myself for having made it that far!

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Have you ever been hill-walking through beautiful wild moors?

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France: Exploring the Île de Batz in Bretagne

We travelled to a wonderful Île de Batz. This island is easy to reach from Roscoff, Brittany, France, where we embarked for a short 15 minutes boat trip. The boats to and from the island are available every 30 minutes during the summer. We paid €8.50 for one person for a round trip.

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We enjoyed our stay on the Île de Batz and it was one of our favorite days out. This island is delightful for beaches, the stunning views, restaurants, lovely botanical gardens, wild flowers, and pretty houses surrounding the sea in a very peaceful place. There are lots of butterflies, birds, grazing Breton horses, ducks and swans.

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It is a perfect place for walking or cycling and then sitting down when you are tired. We walked all around the island and paused for photos. We started our stroll at the pier then continued on the west side of the island, where the terrain was rugged and ended our hike at the other end of the island where the terrain was gentler. We enjoyed our 2hrs30 mins walk and didn’t find it demanding, just the perfect walk for a semi-lazy afternoon.

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So, if you are in Roscoff area, this island is well worth a visit. Image

France: The Beautiful Collection of Megalithic Sites in Carnac

We traveled to Carnac in the Southern part of Brittany, France, with our dearest friends to see the exceptional 6000 year old Neolithic sites. It is thought to be the largest collection of megalithic sites in the world because there are more than 3,000+ large, free standing stones scattered around the countryside of Carnac; which is only a fraction of what was originally there. The estimate for what was originally there was 10,000+ Neolithic Menhirs (from the Britton “Long / Upright Stones”), also popularly known as standing stones. The magnificent collection of standing stones in Carnac is one of the hidden gems of Brittany; it has been protected by UNESCO World Heritage since 1996.

Stones as far as the eyes can see

It was erected by the pre-Celtic people of Brittany during the Neolithic era which is approximately between 4500 BC to 2000BC. The reason why those stones were erected remains a mystery. There are several hypotheses, such as: First, it might be related to astronomy, the way Stonehenge is supposed to be. Second, it might be related to religion. Third, successive generations might have visited the site and erected stones to see who had the biggest one. One might see a correlation with the way even humble villages all over Brittany had been building big churches with rather impressive bell-towers from the 15th century till the end of the 19th century to see who had the biggest one. Possibly. Occam’s blade and all…

Lots of stones

We went there during the summer, July 2013, during which the number of people in Carnac swells from the influx of tourists, since this place is very popular, especially during July and August. We wanted to get inside the sites so that we could see the Menhirs closely and appreciate them even more, but when we arrived at the place there was no available guide and we couldn’t get inside the site without a guide even if we had tickets.

Amazing number of standing stones

It was a nice wander.

There are many sites which display outstanding collection of these upright megalithic Menhirs and if you wish to visit all the sites you need to buy a ticket for each site. The ticket costs €6 for an adult and free for children below 18 years old. It used to be free all, indeed it had been free for about 6000 years, but the UNESCO decided about 15 years ago that tourists were a danger to the standing stones. One even has to wear closed shoes to get inside the Menhir fields. Strange. Not even Petra, the Mont Saint Michel, the Angkor Wat or Notre Dame de Paris have so stringent rules for visitors. It seems to me that the UNESCO had turned a 5-star walk into a succession of graveyards for standing stones.

We spent few minutes relaxing here. Love the different shades of green. 🙂

We walked around the sites in order to bring the prehistory to life for a short while since we couldn’t get inside the sites. I was told that 15 years ago, there was no fence and everybody was free to get closer to the Menhirs. There is a local association called “Menhirs Libres (Free Standing Stones)”, which still campaigns for the right to see those Standing Stones without having the feeling that both the visitors and the Stones are in some kind of jail-like cemetery.

A local organization called Menhirs Libres

Anyway, during this visit, I have learned that the size of each monolith varies from thigh-high size up to roughly 6 meters high. Awesome! Also, the megaliths include: Alignment which means rows of standing stones, Dolmen which means Lying Stone, Cairn which means a stone monument covering burial places, Enclosure which means a space which is closed off by adjoining or close megaliths, and Menhirs which means large, free-standing stones.

A Cairn

I would say that it was a lovely walk amongst the megaliths. Indeed, Carnac is a place one should not miss when you visit Brittany, France. 🙂

Have you visited the Megalithic sites in Carnac?

France: The Arc de Triomphe in Paris

One of the things to do when you are in Paris is to visit this beautiful massive and impressive landmark called the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe was built by Napoléon Bonaparte to commemorate his military victories. In that, he followed a tradition dating back to the Roman Empire. Well, it cannot be denied that we had a great time seeing this site.

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It was too crowded when we visited the Arch, so at the last minute we decided not to go up since the stairs were very tight and very steep. It seemed like I would have been pressured to walk up faster especially with people behind me, especially since the stairway was quite narrow. However, I’m sure the Arc provides an absolutely stunning view of Paris.

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Even though we just saw the base of the arch, it surprised me with its size and the history behind it. Below the arch, on the ground, are the symbolic eternal flame and the grave of the Unknown Soldier, which honor the many unknown soldiers who died during the First World War. I have heard that there are 30 shields at the top of the arch and each of them bears the name of one of the Napoleon’s successful battles.Image

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It is quite easy to get to the arch since there is a major metro station just nearby. It also offers a very nice view for picture taking. Moreover, in order to complete our tour we walked down through the Champs Elysees after we visited the site. It is quite a nice walk around the Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe and Champs de Mars… We ended our walk below the Eiffel tower.

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The Fabulous Rocky Meneham

The Meneham is a small village which was built as a guarding post in the 18th century. It is located in the northwestern of France, more precisely in Kerlouan, not far from Brest and Morlaix, in Brittany.Image

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The Beach of Meneham is one of the hidden gems of Brittany. It is popular because of its stunning gigantic granite rocks with peculiar shapes, formed by ancient glaciers that had pushed rocks along with ice across the land. It is a center for leisure especially during the summer holidays.Image

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We went there twice and it was always during the summer, but the wind was very strong and chilly.  The temperature was about 10°C to 15°C. It was fantastic! A few days later the weather got warmer and we switched from hiking to sunbathing.Image

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The guard house was used to guard the shore against bootleggers and pirates. It has the distinction of having a stone roof and it was built between two huge rocks. Since it was made entirely of stone, it was the only original building still standing after 300 years. When you enter the house, you can watch a video about the history of the place for free.Image

This place became a fishermen village after the soldiers left. These old cottages have been turned into Village Inn, restaurants and shops where tourists can relax after walking on the beach and seeing this wonderful site.Image

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Rock hopping, hiking, walking with your pets, sunbathing, swimming, kayaking, sailing and simply enjoying the view are the common holidays occupations around this place. Image

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France: The Sacré Coeur Basilica in Paris

The Basilica of the Holy Heart of Jesus (also commonly known as Le Sacré Coeur) is another landmark that one should not miss while visiting Paris. The Sacré-Coeur Basilica is situated on the top of the hill of Montmartre, which gives you a heavenly view of the lovely city of Paris. It is the first Basilica I have visited outside my country. It is quite a steep climb and you do have to confront endless stairways, but it is part of the magic of the place: when you reach the top, you do feel like you have deserved the view and Le Sacré Coeur.

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The Sacré-Coeur Basilica looks very shiny and white, which makes it different from other churches in Paris. It was built in the 19th century and I have heard that it was constructed to honor the people who lost their lives in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. The architectural style of the church was heavily influenced by Asian and Middle-East cultures, and the dome of the Sacré Coeur is not so unlike that of a Mosque. Asian art, way of thought and architecture were very much the trend at the time in France, trend that would later give rise to the “Art Nouveau”.

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On our way in, we had a healthy walk and climbed the hundreds of steps up the hill. It was quite tough for me, but I enjoyed it.  We visited the Basilica in the afternoon and there were plenty of tourists. Maybe if you try to go there in the morning you can dodge most of the crowd.

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The Basilica is a truly wonderful place. It is beautiful outside and it is certainly marvelous inside. The atmosphere of peace and calm in this sacred place is stunning.

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Tourists have the opportunity to view the inside of the church as it is open to the public. When we were inside the church, everybody was asked to be respectful and quiet as we glimpsed this amazing religious sanctuary. We were able to walk through the church and see the different chapels, light some candles, sit, pray and get some souvenir items. However, we were not allowed to take pictures inside. Apart from that, I enjoyed seeing the stained glass and the architecture inside; there was one thing inside that stood out for me: the mosaic which is known as “Christ in Majesty.”

The outside of the church provided us with an amazingly breathtaking view over the city. Then we walked down the hill while enjoying the scenery. On the sides of the hill Montmartre, there were some restaurants, vendors, musicians and artists of all kinds who sold some paintings or drew a painting of you.

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