Small French Villages you’ve probably never heard of
France is quite large as far as European countries go, and in addition to well-loved and popular tourist destinations such as Paris, Lyon, Marseille and other large cities, there are lots of smaller towns and villages that are so-charming in a typically French fashion that it would be a crime not the visit at least some of them.
Each French village has its charm and own personality, and discovering their particular quirks is one of the most pleasant activities that you can get up to while in France. So here are some picturesque French villages you (probably) never heard of.
Beynac-et-Cazenac in south-western France is a commune in the department of Dordogne, and a fair contender to the title of France’s most beautiful village. Beynac-et-Cazenac can boast of the lovely Château de Beynac, one of the best preserved medieval castles in the region. The imposing structure was built on the banks of the Dordogne River, perched atop some jagged cliffs, overlooking charming houses and winding streets.
The charm of this village lies in its simplicity and inspiring natural setting. The medieval village overlooks the lush vineyards of the Côtes du Rhône on one side, and the Ardeche Gorges on the other. The Romanesque cathedral of the village dates back to the 14th century, and there are other designated historical monuments in the village.
In the Roman times, Gordes was an oppidum; the tribe that lived there was that of the Vulgientes or Vordenses which gave its name to the original village; the “V” usually became a “G” (Vordenses – Gordenses) in the Gallo-Roman days.The History of Gordes goes back to a much older age: already in the Gallo-Roman days, Gordes was the most important oppidum for the city of Cavaillon. The diocese of Cavaillon was one of the oldest in Gaul. Until the French Revolution Gordes has been located on a border, and in a very peculiar way was answerable to a diocese located abroad. This border was even marked on all the Roman maps.
The terrible insecurity caused by the many invasions forced the local populations to find refuge on the hills. This explains why so many villages are “perched”. The strategic value of these fortified cities will last during the whole of the medieval times and part of the Renaissance, notably during the religious wars.
This is the reason why Gordes has lived on a defensive mode and has learnt, maybe more than others, how to protect itself. This explains why to this day, the village has a tough and even austere appearance. It is like a labyrinth of stones marked by the torments of the past, which is given in heritance to the inhabitants. Because of the multiple invasions, the religious wars (including the massacre of the Vaudois), the plague, two earthquakes (thankfully light ones), a bombing at the end of the second World War and all the consequences thereof (starvation and depopulation), the inhabitants of Gordes, have had many an opportunity to show their bravery and their strength and to prove how attached they are to that little village strongly clinging onto its rock! Gordes is listed as one of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” (“The Most Beautiful Villages in France”). Gordes has been able to build a world reputation for itself, yet be respectful of its past and of its traditions. It is a well-appreciated centre for numerous artistic and cultural happenings.
Minerve is probably one of the most amazing members of our list of picturesque villages you (probably) never heard of. Used as a defensive stronghold in the Middle Ages, Minerve has a strategic position, on top of the gorge of the River Cesse. It used to be a Cathar fortress destroyed in 1210 by Simon de Montfort, and of the original buildings only a slender tower, named Candela, survives.
Riquewihr is a popular tourist attraction among Europeans due to its wonderfully preserved medieval architecture, but also for the delicious wines produced in the region. Riquewihr looks like it hasn’t changed at all since the 16th century, and the cobbled streets and colorful houses haven’t suffered any damage during WWII, luckily.
U.S. Air Force Assignments and travel. 1980 – 2002
Alconbury England, 1981
I first joined the Air Force in 1980 directly out of high school. As most Air Force members go, I wasn’t stationed at a lot of different bases. After six years of working on smaller fighter aicraft, I was assigned to heavy bomber type airframes and most who work on these airframes are kept at stateside bases and are moved around less. Many say that it’s harder to get promoted with not moving around the globe a lot but I have also seen where to much moving around take it’s toll on some good people.
I suspect they have some valid points, but as a heavy bomber crew chief, my supervisors, peers and team members provided me with a great number positive opportunities, that also forced me to mature and deal with issues wether I wanted to or not.
Some of those opportunities allowed me literally travel around the globe meeting great people and foreign military members and civilians. I’ve been privileged to have had the opportunity of conducting actual combat, as well as combat training and aircraft maintenance units around the world.
My first assignment was to Europe near Cambridge England. At 19 years old, I found myself maintaining F-5 fighter aircraft used primarily as aerial dog fight training to keep pilots sharp at a cost savings of flying more expensive and newer aircraft that were kept on alert. Back in 1980 the cold war was warmer than ever. Our mission statement was clear, “Peace through Strength.”
Sardinia Italy, 1983
The beautiful city of Cagliari, on the coast of Sardinia Italy. The beaches were perfect. 1981.
I was assigned to an air base nearby Cagliari, Italy (above) for 3 weeks at a time on 8 or 9 different occasions. It was rough to say the least :). If you could survive the 110 degree flightline work, afterwards we would go downtown on the weekends. It was as if you had gone back in time to say the 1950’s. The beautiful clear water mediterianinan beaches are burned into my memory.
My next assignment took me to a pilot traing wing in the deep south of Mississippi. Columbus Air Force Base to be precise. It was an enjoyable place. If you loved to fish, you were in heaven. The part I liked was that I was close to both my Morther and sisters home in Arkansas.
After that it was off to Texas to the West Texas town of Abilene. Known in the military world as home of the B-1 Bomber. Luckily I was assigned the KC-135 refueling tankers in the inspection docks. It was nice to be at an Air Force base that was big, spread out and that had everything. After several years on the Tankers, I made the switch to the B-1’s so that I could stay at Dyess as the tankers were being shipped out. It turned out to be a great and enjoyable switch.
Assigned to Dyess Air Force Base. Abilene, Texas, 1987
7th Equipment Maintenance Squadron, Dyess A.F.B. Texas 1995
Incerlik, Turkey, 1991
During Operation Desert Sheild, we were shipped off to Turkey in order to supply the aircraft in the area with aerial refueling. They put us all up (several thousand of us) at an old condemed base and barracks and setup make shift chow halls for us. There was a lot that we didn’t have and had to make do without, but the cargo aircraft flew in every day with mail and dozens of pallets of beer (everyday).
What an opportunity! Stationed at Osan Air Base Korea as my last assignment. I think I saw every square mile of that beautiful country. Having my wife and daughter there with me and being allowed to ship my car over there, made for a perfect 24 month long vacation. I still can’t believe I was paid to be there. For those interested, I wanted to share my story of this wonderful experience we call the Air Force and to offer some advice on opportunities, challenges and becoming a better person.
Sangtan, S. Korea, 2000
Townsville, Austrailia, 2000
Okinawa, Japan, 2001
The Air Force is full of opportunities; so don’t let them all pass you by. Leaders and supervisors, continue to challenge your troops to seek and capitalize on even the smallest of opportunities. They will become more valuable to your team and ultimately the Air Force team.
In closing, my 22 years in the Air Force were incredible; I enjoyed every moment and will truly miss the people and the assignments.
Saudi Arabia, 1999
Pulling First Sergeant duty in Saudi Arabia, 1999. Fourth from left with 13 other first Sergeants.