When you think about walking around quaint, sleepy French villages with their national heritage sites and leafy squares with petanque pitches, you might consider them the perfect location for holidays for the elderly. And while I wouldn’t disagree that those from older generations will enjoy the relaxing pace and gentle welcome you’ll receive, these villages have much that a wider audience would enjoy. |
In France the designation Le Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages of France) is not awarded lightly, so you can be sure when you visit one, you’ll be experiencing something special.
An independent organisation is given the responsibility for bestowing the title, and it can only be awarded to a village which meets their stringent criteria. A village will not even be considered for the accolade unless the population is under 2,000, it is in a picturesque, rural setting, and it has no fewer than two national heritage sites.
The strictness applied to the appellation gives you some idea how special these selected villages actually are. So while touring these villages may have long been on the itinerary of tour companies offering holidays for the elderly, it’s high time the rest of us got in on the act and shared the delightful experience they can offer.
One of the best ways to explore these remote villages, brimming with authentic French charm, is as part of a River Cruise through rural France. A luxury barging holiday through a region like Burgundy can take you right to the heart of some of these pretty, historic villages set beside some of France’s most beautiful waterways.
At European Waterways our knowledgeable local guides will introduce you to some of the most enchanting settlements to have won the accolade of Le Plus Beaux Villages de France, so that you can discover their secrets for yourself.
The Twelfth-Century Châteauneuf-en-Auxois
Take a trip on the European Waterways barge L’Impressioniste from Fleurey-sur-Ouche to Escommes and you will stop off at the medieval village of Châteauneuf-en-Auxois. With its golden stone merchant houses, church and turreted castle, all nestled into the beautiful rolling Burgundy countryside, it is a true treasure to discover on the banks of the Canal de Bourgogne.
Explore the Market of Noyers-sur-Serein
Definitely not reserved for holidays for the elderly is the beautiful village of Noyers-sur-Serein, with its half-timbered houses overlooking enchanting cobbled streets and leading on to pretty market squares. Visitors aboard European Waterway’s La Belle Epoque can enjoy a unique view of the village’s houses, many of which back on to the river.
The Place du Marché-au-Blé (Corn Market Square), Place de la Petite-Etape-aux-Vins (Wine Square) and Place du Grenier-à-Sel (Salt Storehouse Square) all evoke the village’s important mercantile past. Even today the regular street market gives visitors the opportunity to experience rural French trading as they buy some of the local produce grown and made in the surrounding farms and villages.
A barge holiday in France is the perfect way to discover the country’s hidden rural gems as you meander slowly down its peaceful waterways, enjoying the view while you treat yourself to a glass or two of the famous local wines – the ideal holiday for any generation.
Paul Newman is the Marketing and E-Systems Executive for European Waterways, the UK's most respected provider of all-inclusive, luxury barge holidays. Travelling through France, Italy and other great destinations, itineraries include those suitable for holidays for the elderly as well as wine tours and other cultural and themed activities. Part of a team of experienced barging aficionados, Paul is first in line to endorse the perks of a slow-paced barge cruise to anyone looking for a unique holiday experience.
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