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These quaint, historic communities are the ideal starting points for excursions into the countryside of France, and they range from a storybook fortification in the Loire to a clifftop stronghold in Provence.

1. Locronan, Brittany

Brittany Locronan

Saint Ronan, an Irish recluse who established Locronan during the middle times, gave the community its namesake, Locronan, which means “hemp spinning village.” During the 15th century, the dukes of Brittany contributed a significant amount of money toward constructing the beautiful Gothic cathedral. Pay a visit to the Chapelle du Pénity, which is home to the remains of Saint Ronan.

Visit the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire to learn more about the village’s textile industry, which gained notoriety during the Renaissance and was responsible for supplying canvas ships to the French fleet and the East India Company. The village center is still home to the headquarters of the East India Company and residences built in the 17th century by merchants. A Very Long Engagement, starring Audrey Tautou and Jodie Foster, and Tess, directed by Roman Polanski, were filmed in Locronan. Locronan is frequently used as a backdrop for motion pictures.

2. Rochefort-en-Terre, Brittany

Rochefort-en-Terre, Brittany

This medieval settlement was once a Roche fort, also known as a fortification. It controlled trade routes thanks to its location on a stony promontory above steep valleys. It is located approximately halfway between the Gulf of Morbihan and Merlin’s Forêt de Brocéliande. The upper village preserves relics of its flourishing past (which was also tied to the extraction of slate), such as its covered market, church dating back to the 12th century, a medieval fortress, château dating back to the 19th century, and residences dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries.

The American portraitist Alfred Klott, who purchased the palace and began the tradition of flower window boxes that are still practiced today, is largely responsible for the town’s rise to popularity among artists in the early part of the previous century. Concerts in the summertime and a medieval market are among the events that will take place.

3. Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, Normandy

Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei, Normandy

Saint Céneri, an Italian priest, established this community in the Mancelles Mountains in the seventh century by constructing a monastery in this location. The village is located on the Sarthe river. Although it was subsequently destroyed by the Normans, the church that was built on location in the 11th century still stands, with its saddleback roof and spire poking out from among the woods. On the interior, paintings that date back to the 12th century have recently been repaired.

Along with the charming cottages that can be found in the area around the church and the river, there is also a charming sanctuary that dates back to the 15th century. Charcoal portraits of artists and residents, scribbled by candlelight, can be seen on exhibit at the Auberge des Soeurs Moisy (now a museum) in the village and was frequented by renowned painters such as Camille Corot and Eugène Boudin. You should go river kayaking and visit the grounds at La Mansonière.

4. Montrésor, Loire Valley

Montrésor, Loire Valley

Montrésor is a community that looks like something out of a storybook, and it’s located just an hour outside of Tours. Some remnants of a fort date back to the 11th century. Still, the magnificent Renaissance palace is the most prominent feature. An Annunciation by Philippe de Champaigne can be found in the chapel of Saint Jean Baptiste (1602–1674). In 1849, a Polish count named Xavier Branicki, a close companion of Napoleon III, renovated the palace and filled it with works of art, including sculptures by Pierre Vaneau and paintings from the Italian Renaissance, the Dutch Golden Age.

One of the avenues, named after Branicki, features homes partially carved into the granite in the background. The Halle de Cardeux, formerly used as a textile market, has been renovated and converted into a cultural center and exhibition space. The municipal council is located in the Logis du Chancelier, which dates back to the 16th century and features a fortification. The Balcons de l’Indrois is a riverfront path that offers beautiful vistas of the settlement, and the Jardinier Bridge is a pedestrian bridge constructed by Gustav Eiffel’s workshop.

5. Chateau-Chalon, Jura

Chateau-Chalon, situated in the Jura

A Benedictine monastery served as the center of development for Chateau-Chalon, located above the Seille valley’s vineyards. The attractions include the Romanesque chapel of Saint-Pierre and the abandoned keep of a nearby fortress. In this region, where the Savagnin fruit is used to create vin jaune, and the Maison de la Haute-Seille contains an interactive exhibit on wine, the streets are dotted with buildings that have been converted into wineries. There are visits available at the historic cheese factory that demonstrate how unpasteurized cow’s milk comté cheese is produced. Additionally, the old school building can be explored.

Outside the settlement, a network of hiking and bicycling paths passes through the region’s picturesque countryside and vineyards. In addition, there are several celebrations and culinary excursions during the summer, as well as a sound and light display in July.

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