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Visit France on your screen!

This website offers you thousands of photographs of the Regions, Départements, cities, towns and villages of France. Use it for planning your holiday, vacation, travel or even a day trip – or simply enjoy the stunning landscape, architecture and curious corners of France, North, South, East and West. Churches, cathedrals, châteaux, cottages, museums, galleries, playgrounds and parks, you'll find an abundance here.

All photographs ©Hedley Grenfell-Banks

Photographs on this site are restricted to a maximum width of 500 pixels. For larger versions or the original transparencies, contact hedley@grenfell-banks.com.

For the main index, click here.

For a map of France with regions and Départements, click here.

For a table of contents click here.

There are corners of France where the very air is magic; where the past is not merely close to, but actually a part of, the present. These are places not visited by many tourists, yet not inimical to strangers. They are secret places; but once you have found them, why, you are in the secret and therefore a friend.
 
 Take, for example, Brantôme, a little town which must be one of the most beautiful places on earth. Twenty thousand years ago there were people living there in caves hollowed out of the cliffs along the river bank. Twelve hundred years ago Charlemagne – in person – founded an Abbey there. The monks diverted the river and made an island, on which people built little houses with thick white walls and soft red roofs. And that is the whole story. Nothing has changed, nothing has happened since. There are still houses cut into the cliffs. There is water and willow trees, silence and slow time. Visitors come and are swallowed up. Only the bell on the abbey church, one of the oldest bells in France, punctuates the dream.
 
 There is a village in Normandy called Neuilly-la-Forêt. The forest has been gone a hundred years, but the name remembers it. It stands on a hilltop and watches the world. In 1944 the Battle of Normandy raged all around, but Neuilly was not disturbed. It is a beautiful village, and its 600 people love it. Once a year, on the Sunday before the fifteenth of August, they turn back the clock. In 1989 they turned back to 1789. In 1991, they turned back to 1911. The Mayor, in top hat and tricolour sash, presided at a
   

wedding. These were not actors, but the Mayor himself and his people. The bride was the grand-daughter of the girl married that same day in 1911, and she rode off in the same carriage. The fire brigade joined the procession in their brass helmets, and 100 villagers in their grandparents' clothes danced all day and feasted at trestle tables in the village square.

Let us not forget that France is the most modern country in Europe; the France of the Ariane rocket, the Pompidou centre and the channel tunnel, with the fastest trains in the world and fast broadband almost everywhere. But it is also one of the most ancient countries, and its past is still present. In the city of Rouen, for example, they are halfway through their conservation project. So far, 400 medieval houses have been restored. Which means that Rouen alone has 800 medieval houses; and medieval, in Continental Europe, means 'before 1492'.
 
 There is a plateau in the South of the Auvergne called La Margeride. Its villages snuggle in folds of the hills and drowse in the summer heat. They have names like Loubaresse, Signalauze, Combechalde, Orceyrolles. The local council has stopped time in four of the houses; a forge, a school, a bakery and a peasant farm; not preserved, not shown under glass, but simply kept. Look, this is how we are. This is how we always were. 1875 was a good year, but so were all the others. Secret France is waiting. Only an ocean stands in your way.

 

 

 

 
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