Franche-Comté and Picardie are two lesser-known areas of France, each with its own charm and each just waiting to be discovered.
Franche-Comté: The Swallow Line
I love traveling by train. Trains take you through itineraries filled with surprises that you can’t discover otherwise. One of my most memorable journeys led me across the High Jura Mountains in France Comte. Equipped with a panoramic train, the Swallow Line meanders through mountains, hidden valleys, plains and vineyards that will enchant you. The train climbs from 200 meters of altitude to 950 meters before descending again to 440 meters.
The journey starts at Dole, Jura’s former capital and Louis Pasteur’s birthplace, and ends at Saint Claude, the pipe and diamond’s capital. Immediately after Dole, you will enter the forest of Chaux, France’s second largest deciduous forest. Later at Arc-et-Senans, you will discover a prestigious historical monument: the Royal Salt Pits. Designed in 1779 by visionary architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, the monument is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Next, you will pass the legendary ruins of Alesia, possibly the site of the last decisive battle of the Gallic War in 52 BC between Julius Caesar and the Gaulese coalition led by Vercingetorix. The 120 km line crosses 18 viaducts and goes through 36 tunnels, including the horseshoe-shaped Tunnel of Frasses. The trip takes about two hours and a half – they go by too quickly.
The Swallow Line is open from June through September and many tourist agencies organize week-end trips.
For further information, contact Jura Tourism.
Picardie: The Scent of Roses
“Souviens-toi, ça parlait de la Picardie et des roses qu’on trouve là-bas” (‘Remember, it spoke of Picardy and the roses there’). Yves Montand sang this tune and so did Frank Sinatra among many other famous artists.
Picardie, the heartland of Gothic churches is also the paradise of roses. Over the years, the flower has become the symbol of the northeastern corner of France. Gardens of roses bloom everywhere and are the pride of the locals.
Week-end with roses
Eager to share their love for and know-how with roses, many Picards open their gardens to visitors.
On a hillside near Laon, in this ancient land of vineyards, the Vendangeoir d’Orgeval welcomes both amateur and professional gardeners and curious visitors. The 18th century residence encloses an intimate and delightful garden, protected by walls. Spread over three levels of terraces, the garden displays 170 varieties of roses, clematis, irises, perennial plants and boxwood trees. The residence’s owner created this haven out of sheer pleasure. A perpetual work in progress, the garden centers on bright and gentle colors. A regal experience for the senses.
l13 Grande Rue
Jardin du Moulin Vertu
In the charming village of Roy-Boissy, on the banks of the Petit Theran river, a 19th century watermill greets you. Entirely restored, the mill is surrounded by a garden containing 500 varieties of old rose-bushes and 300 perennials. Welcoming you as if you were old friends, the owners will take you on a tour of their property. They will share with you stories about the walls and flowers to which they have devoted their lives.
1, rue de Fontaine
Abbaye Royale de Chaalis – Rose Days
Less than half an hour from Paris, in the heart of large forests, the Abbaye Royale de Chaalis stands on an exceptional site. Behind the chapel, you will find a garden of roses protected by a crenellated wall. Early June, the Abbaye celebrates the ‘Roses Days,’ an occasion for enthusiasts to meet and amateur gardeners to receive advice from professionals. Visitors may learn how to design sumptuous bouquets, attend conferences or photo exhibitions on the theme of the rose or simply wander through the exquisitely landscaped and scented gardens.
Written by Brigitte Aflalo-Caldreon for EuropeUpClose.com