Le Tour 2004 - A Virtual Cultural Trip

Reply Sat 17 Jul, 2004 03:35 pm
Great, great thread, Walter. Thank You
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2004 11:22 am
Monday, July 19th

Today is

Rest day in Nîmes

That gives me the chance, to thank you all for your kind remarks, but especially again those, who didn't bother that I stole textes, commends and photod from their websites :wink:

What are we doing today?

At first some information, which might be especially of interest to osso:

The Canal du Midi is the oldest working canal in the world, a magnificent feat of seventeenth century engineering once used for commerce, now for leisure. You can travel along the 240 km of its length by barge on the canal, or walking or cycling along side it (and eating and drinking at various beautiful spots along it). The Canal is a beautiful and tranquil waterway, connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterannean sea, much admired by everyone who sees it. Those who know its history find it even more impressive.
The Roman emperors Nero and Augustus had both thought about such a canal. So did Charlemagne, and the kings Francois I, Charles IX and Henri IV. The advantages of avoiding the sea voyage around Spain were considerable: a tenth of the distance, no storms, and no piracy. Each ruler in turn commissioned a study, and some even started work, but none came anywhere near succeeding. Apart from anything else the canal would have to rise to almost 200 metres above sea level. In the seventeenth century an exceptional man came up with another plan. He was Pierre Paul Riquet, Baron de Bonrepos, a Royal Judge with the right to collect taxes in the Languedoc (outsourcing is not a new idea). Already almost 60 years old, Riquet persuaded the Louis XVI in 1663 that a canal to join the Atlantic to the Mediterranean was technically feasible, using water feeds from the Montagne Noire. Work began in 1666 (the year of the Great Fire of London)
Riquet's plan was to join the River Garonne to the Mediterranean. Since the Garonne flowed into the Atlantic, this meant that the ocean would be connected to the sea. The difficult part was the Languedoc, where countless obstacles stood in its path, calling for imaginative hydraulic solutions. The main part of the work was Toulouse to the Mediterannean coast. Work began on the Saint Férreol reservoir, the largest artificial reservoir in the world, near to where Riquet lived. Royal funds were slow to materialise, so Riquet himself financed this work and the first section (Toulouse-Trèbes),. The second (Trèbes to the Etang de Thau) was started in in June 1668. The third from the Etang de Thau to the Mediterannean included the building of the port of Sète, then a small fishing village called Cette).
The whole project took 14 years. Riquet was a model employer, taking care of the health and wellbeing of his 12,000 or so workers. The responsibility put a great strain on his health, and he died a few months before the canal was completed. He had used his own fortune, and dedicated his life to it. It was officially opened in 1681. The canal is 240 km long, 10 metres wide and two metres deep, displacing some 7 million cubic meters of eath and rock. It is a magnificent feat of engineering, with 328 locks, dams and other engineering marvels, still fed by a complicated system of feeder canals and reservoirs. The locks at Fonseranes are the most remarkable work of the whole canal: a succession of 7 locks allowing a descent of 21 metres. A little further along there is a bridge which allows the canal to flow over a river.
Places on the Canal worth visiting include Fonseranes, Naurouze, Carcassonne, Homps, the Oppidum d'Ensérune, Ventenac en Minervois, Beziers and Sete. You can tack trips along it in boats and barges, or cycle along the towpath.
Originally the canal was called the Royal Canal in Languedoc, but that of course changed in 1789. The canal was extended in the nineteenth century to the Rhone, which was connected to the Garonne by the Canal latéral à la Garonne. It is now possible to travel by canal between the Atlantic and Mediterranean just as Riquet planned. Since the waterway consisted of two parts (the Canal du Midi and the Canal lateral to the Garonne) it was sometimes referred to in the plural as the Canaux du Midi. Later it was called the Canal d'Entre Deux Mers, and in recent times the Canal des Deux Mers.
The canal is the oldest functioning in Europe In December 1996, the canal was added to UNESCO's list of World Cultural Heritage Sites.
Pierre-Paul Riquet, Baron de Bonrepos, is still remembered in the Languedoc with pride and affection. A statue of him stands in Béziers where he was born, probably on the 29th of June 1604. Another can be found in Toulouse where he died on the 1st October 1680.

The following websites give much more information:
History of the canal's construction: http://www.canalmidi.com/anglais/historgb.html
About the Canal du Midi: http://www.canal-du-midi.org/english/rubriques/canal/m-histoire.htm
The Story of the Canal: http://www.franceforfreebooters.com/Article5.htm
Maps and Photographs of the Canal: http://www.midicanal.com/canal/index.htm
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2004 12:13 pm
Okay, let's have a look at the so-called

Cathar Castleshttp://www.cathares.org/tourismeloisirs/images/logochateaua.jpg http://www.amerginnovation.com/media_3/00020362.jpg
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2004 12:21 pm

There are basicly three kinds of building covered by the term château. First, there are the medieval castles, most of which are branded as "Cathar Castles" in the Languedoc. The second are post-medieval defensive buildings designed for the age of gunpowder. They are typically squatter than ancient castles, and feature pointed bastions rather than circular or square towers. Third are the later comfortable country houses, often dressed up with cosmetic towers and machiolations - the typical Loire valley type.
In English these three types are distingushed by the names "Castle", "Fortress" and "Country House". In French they are all châteaux but the defensive ones may be distinguished as "châteaux forts".


For many centuries the Languedoc witnessed repeated invasions, bloodshed and massacre. It was for this reason that the Greeks had built hill top fortresses called opidda (one oppidum, more than one oppida).
Even when no wars were raging, bands of armed brigands would terrorise the population. In the middle ages such brigands, called "routiers", roamed the area. In this territory and with the prevaling local politics, the Counts of Toulouse and of Barcelona had little hope of eliminating this menace.
As the Greeks had build oppida, so the locals now built bastides, fortified hilltop villages, some of them "circulades". Local nobles did the best they could, and built not merely hill-top castles but mountain-top castles. These castles were wonderful defensive positions, often described as unassailable or "inexpungible". They came in handy for the next major war against the local population, or rather series of wars, which is generally known as the "Albigensian Crusade" or "Cathar Crusade".
The local nobles could have simple handed over known Cathars to the Crusaders, but they chose not to. Bound to the land and their people, speaking Occitan, imbuded with the ideals of the troubadors, champions of toleration, and often Cathar believers themselves, the nobles naturally helped and defended their Cathar families, friends, allies and vassals. Castles throughout the area became Cathar strongholds, but only in this sense. These strongholds were never "Cathar Castles", as much tourist literature would have you believe.
After the Cathar Crusades, the position was little better. Even after the the area had been annexed to France at the end of the Crusades, the local population occasionally petitioned the King of Aragon to come to their rescue. The Black Prince terrorised the area. The French and Aragonese fought over it for centuries to come, and it was ravaged again at the end of the sixteenth century when the Catholic Church tried to exterminate yet another belief system that it regarded as a "heresy" - this time Protestantism.
With this continual instability it made sense for the French kings to consolidate their hold on the area. And they did this by demolishing the old mountain top fortresses and building their own brand-new up-to-date state-of-the-art castles on the same sites. Especially important were the "Five Sons of Carcassonne", Aguilar, Queribus, Pierrepertuse, Termes and Puylaurens: five castles strategically placed to defend the French border against the Spanish.
The need to keep up these these border fortresses disappeared after the present French-Spanish border was established by the Treaty of the Pyrenees in 1659. Some of the old border castles were "slighted", deliberately damaged so that no one else could use them, and then abandoned to the elements. For the most part it is these later constructions, deliberately destroyed by their owners, that the tourist literature will advertise as "Cathar Castles".
The flip side of this - all but ignored by the tourist industry - is that, after 1659, Louis XVI commissioned a military genius to build (or repair) another set of castles to protect the new border.

0 Replies
Rick d Israeli
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2004 12:25 pm
WOW what a beautiful panorama!
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2004 12:40 pm
<Rick, there's a nice panorama in your place as well :wink: >
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Reply Sun 18 Jul, 2004 12:55 pm
I'm thrilled to know about that canal system, what a feat that was.

Thanks for the castles as well. This last photo makes me want to hold on to a railing...
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2004 02:15 pm
Tuesday, July 20th

Stage 15
Valréas > Villard-de-Lans


is the capital of the "Enclave des papes". This commune is found in the département of the Drôme while at the same time belonging to the département of the Vaucluse...Situated on the left bank of the Coronne river, Valréas is an important agricultural and tourist centre. Classified as a "station verte de vacances", the village is surrounded by renown vineyards and visitors are invited to discover its rich history.

District-town of Vaucluse. 8,500 inhabitants. "L'enclave des Papes" (The Papal Enclave). A French geographical exception: the district of Valréas, which belonged to the old Comtat Venaissin, was an enclave of the Drôme, before becoming part of France in 1791.

Located at the tip of Provence and the Vaucluse, belonging to the Pope until the revolution, Valréas is part of a region with a 1,000-year history. Since the 19th century, Valréas has been the carton capital, and today enjoys an industrial network revolving around printing and packaging. Farming remains an important activity with specific products such as truffles, lavender and quality wines.

The Enclaves de Papes
In the 14th Century until 1378, there were Popes based in Avignon.

The Comptat Venaissin region is a plain lying between Mont Ventoux and the Rhone and Durance rivers, which Phillip III of France ceded to Pope Gregory X in 1274 and stayed under Papal control until 1791 when the King of France took it back again.

Pope Clement V was already based in Comptat Venaissin, and had the protection of the King of France when Bishop Jacques Duese became Pope John XXII in Avignon in 1316.

As part of his plan to expand the papal territory around Avignon, in 1317 Pope John XXII bought the area around the town of Valreas from the Dauphin, and subsequently Visan, Richerenches and Grillon. However, this was still separated from the Papal territory of Comptat Venaisson by the narrow strip of land near Buisson between the Aigues river and the D94 when King Charles VII forbade any further expansion.
Pope John XXII also decided to rebuild a dilapidated castle to strengthen Avignon's defences and Châteauneuf du Pape was completed in 1333.

After a referendum, the Enclave was annexed by France in 1791. When the Departments of the Drome and Vaucluse were created, the Enclave was allowed to retain its historical link and is part of the Vaucluse although entirely surrounded by the Drome





Situated at the heart of the Parc Naturel Régional of Vercors, Villard-de-Lans is a charming mountain village, lively and bustling year round. Tourism is a tradition there, with the famous air and milk cures. Since last century, Villard-de-Lans has evolved to become a major Alpine resort blending tradition with modernity. Its easy access, 30 km from Grenoble, its pleasant landscapes, its top sport and leisure facilities and excellent ski areas make it one of the most desirable mountain locations.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Mon 19 Jul, 2004 02:33 pm

has many historical sites, the castle, the "collégiale saint-Sauveur" (the church), the belfry, the "fontaine du mail" (fountain of the mall)...

The village is flourish with many species of old roses which cover the village walls during the spring. Grignan is also the country of lavender and the truffle.

The Marquise de Sévigné, famous writer of the 17th century used to come and see her daughter Madame de Grignan in her castle, in Grignan.


Lavender from Grinan <click!>

Situated in Provence, between the Rhone valley and the Alps, Nyons and the surrounding countryside enjoy an exceptionally good climate. Sheltered from the wind by the encircling hills and with a greater than average amount of sunshine throughout the year, the town offers the advantages of a warm and reinvigorating climate.


Olives and Olive Oil
Olives and olive oil. Olive oil from Nyons was the very first olive oil in France to be recognized "Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée", in 1994. This AOC label rewards the people's unrelenting efforts and their savoir-faire. Nyons olive oil is made from the variety of olive known as the "Tanche". Tanche olives are picked when they are black and very finely wrinkled, in December and January. They are then taken to the mill where they are sorted and calibrated. The bigger olives go for table olives and the smaller for oil. The olives are washed and crushed, and the olive paste which is obtained is cold-pressed to separate the oil from the water in the fruit. It takes approximately 5 kg of olives to obtain 1 liter of oil. The olive oil is the pure juice of the fruit, obtained simply by pressing the olive, without the addition of any chemicals or preserving agents. The oil is Extra Virgin quality, which means its acidity is less than 1 gram/liter.
AOC Nyons olive oil is extremely unctuous, very delicately fruity (with aromas of green apple and fresh-cut grass), and is a golden green in color.
The benefits of using olive oil have been known since time immemorial - not to mention the gastronomic quality which enhances countless culinary preparations.
The olive itself is prepared in two ways:
• The olive soaks for at least 6 months in 10% brine (water + sea salt). This enables the salt to penetrate the olive and the olive's bitterness to dissipate in the salt water. The olive is then good for eating, and can be kept in the brine or vacuum packed.
• The olive is pricked all over and dusted with fine salt just after being picked. The salt penetrates the olive, and the olive "cries" and loses its water and its bitterness. Prepared this way, the olive cannot be kept long, but this type of preparation provides an outstanding olive with an extraordinary taste of hazelnut and prune.

Olive oil mills, olive oil producers, olives... <click>
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2004 12:42 pm
Wednesday, July 21st

Stage 16 - Individual Time Trial

Bourg d'Oisans > L'Alpe d'Huez


Bourg d'Oisans
At the heart of the valleys and mountains of Oisans, gateway to the natural, preserved domain of the Parc National des Ecrins, Bourg-d'Oisans offers a wealth of activities. Here there is a natural harmony. Looking for excitement in winter? Come and ski at Alpe d'Huez and les Deux Alpes and bask in their calm atmosphere. Looking for something more relaxing? Discover the network of hiking itineraries. In the summer, Bourg-d'Oisans becomes a prime location for cycling tourism, and is the departure point for adventures along fairy-tale trails. Whatever your level, this central location is ideal as a base for visiting the area.
Nestling at the heart of Oisans is Bourg-d'Oisans, a village of many contrasts. You can stroll through the lively streets, visit the market and experience the pleasure of meeting the friendly locals. This is a village in bloom, and its two nicknames "snow village" and "green holiday resort" carry the promise of an unspoiled and natural setting that attracts people looking for relaxation and leisure. The grandiose and imposing sight of natural valleys, steep or rolling hills, gives this area a very special flavour.




L'Alpe d'Huez
Alpe d'Huez is a winter and summer sports resort, facing due south at 1,860 m altitude, at the foot of the Grandes Rousses mountains. Awarded 3 stars by the Michelin guide, the majestic panorama of the Pic Blanc, its tip standing at 3,330 metres, covers the Parc National des Ecrins and its peaks over almost 20% of French territory.
The tradition of Oisans lies in the local gastronomy and transhumance. With a wealth of sporting, cultural and leisure activities on offer, Alpe d'Huez is the scene of exciting events such as the Marmotte, the Tour de France, the Mégavalanche, the Supermotard, etc.

0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2004 01:01 pm
Grenoble, the Isère River, and the Belledonne Moutains in the Alps

town, capital of Isère département, Rhône-Alpes région, southeastern France (Dauphiné), southeast of Lyon. It lies along the Isère River, 702 feet (214 m) above sea level, at the foot of Mount Rachais. The Isère divides the city into two unequal parts. The oldest part of the town, cramped between the river and the mountains, lies on the right bank; the major part of the city spreads out into the plain on the left bank. The town has one of the highest population growth rates in France. Its population multiplied fivefold between 1860 and 1960 and continued to increase throughout the ensuing decade. To deal with the rapid expansion, a vast urban renewal plan was drawn up and largely executed in time for the 1968 Winter Olympic Games, which were held in Grenoble.

The town's numerous industries include the manufacturing of plastics, rubber, cement, and paper. Advanced techniques are used in the chemical, metallurgical, and nuclear industries. Although a university was founded there in 1339, Grenoble became an important educational centre only at the beginning of the 20th century. A nuclear research station and a school of electronic engineering are now affiliated with the university. The fine 15th- and 16th-century Palais de Justice formerly housed the Dauphinois Parliament. The sports stadium and the House of Culture are interesting examples of contemporary French architecture. The library has a rich collection of manuscripts, including most of the works of the novelist Stendhal, who was born there in 1783. The museum, in the same building, is reputed for its gallery of modern paintings.
The present name of the town is derived from Gratianopolis (4th century), given in honour of the Roman emperor Gratian. After being occupied by the Arabs in the 9th century, the town passed into the hands of the counts of Albon. In 1349 it was ceded to France with the rest of the province of Dauphiné. Grenoble suffered during the Wars of Religion, as well as after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In June 1788 the town successfully rebelled against a royal decree limiting the powers of the local parliament. During World War II the French resistance movement was particularly active in Grenoble.




0 Replies
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2004 09:20 pm
Again fantastic, Walter. Ok, so what does transhumance mean?
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Tue 20 Jul, 2004 11:48 pm
Don't know the English word for that, osso:

it's when the cows (cattle) leaves the Alp-meadows and returns to the stables.

Looks in Bavaria/Austria/Switzerland like this

In France perhaps more "puristic"

0 Replies
Reply Wed 21 Jul, 2004 12:08 am
well, transhumance (Englishfrench ;-) ) is also english and means even:

Walter Hinteler wrote:

it's when the cows (cattle) leaves the Alp-meadows and returns to the stables.
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 21 Jul, 2004 12:20 am
Never been to the English part of the Alps, so I wasn't aware of that, Thok. Laughing

Thanks, anyway :wink:
0 Replies
Rick d Israeli
Reply Wed 21 Jul, 2004 05:39 am
You mean, the Alps in New Zealand?

0 Replies
Reply Wed 21 Jul, 2004 09:23 am
A heart made of sheep!
0 Replies
Rick d Israeli
Reply Wed 21 Jul, 2004 12:25 pm
Hmm, I didn't even notice that...
0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 21 Jul, 2004 12:44 pm
Thursday, July 22nd

Stage 17
Bourg d'Oisans > Le Grand-Bornand

Well, I've made some remarks about

Bourg d'Oisans already yesterday.

So let's go on straight towards


Le Grand Bornand

with its location at the heart of the Aravis mountains, ideally situated between Mont-Blanc, lake Annecy and Switzerland, offers the best of the Alps! In winter, its 90 km of alpine ski slopes and its 58 km of Nordic ski slopes offer fabulous facilities.

In summer, the mountains have just as much to offer, with a wealth of activities. Many events are held here, including the "Au Bonheur des Mômes" festival. Le Grand-Bornand has also become the "Capital of Cow Art", with a permanent artistic exhibition!


0 Replies
Walter Hinteler
Reply Wed 21 Jul, 2004 01:00 pm
Let's have a view at a town, which seems to be combination of Colmar, Venedig, Innsbrück ...




city, capital of Haute-Savoie département, Rhône-Alpes région, southeastern France. It lies along the northwestern shore of Lake Annecy at the entrance to one of the cluses (transverse gorges) of the Savoy Pre-Alps, south of Geneva. Traces of the Gallo-Roman Boutae have been found nearby. The seat of the counts of Genevois from the 10th century, Annecy was attached to the dukedom of Savoy from 1401 and became important during the Reformation when the bishop's seat was transferred there from Geneva in 1535 along with monastic institutions expelled from Geneva during the Reformation. St. Francis de Sales was bishop (1602-22) and, with St. Jane Frances Chantal, founded the first Convent of the Visitation of the Virgin in Annecy. In 1728 the 16-year-old Jean-Jacques Rousseau took refuge in the city.


Annecy, along with the rest of Savoy, became part of France in 1860. The old part of the city has arcaded streets that are interlaced with canals. Tourism is an economic mainstay; the city's industries include electronics, confections, and precision instruments.


0 Replies

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