September, 2010

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Travel to Tours, original home of the French Language and stay in a beautiful Monastery for $40 full board

Saturday, September 25th, 2010

732 depicts a triumphant Charles Martel (mounted) facing ‘Abdul Rahman Al Ghafiqi (right) at the Battle of Tours.

The monastery is situated in the hilly countryside of Center in the Loire valley. There are numerous day trips to nearby cities including Tours, chief town of the Loire valley and capital of the Touraine region. The capital is rich with history and a well-preserved heritage. It was in Tours in 732 that Charles Martel halted the Moorish conquest of Europe when his Frankish army defeated the Arab army. Charles Martel’s halt of the invasion of French soil turned the tide of Islamic advances.

Tours was also the cradle of the French Renaissance. Signs of this artistic development include masterpieces such as the tomb of Charles VIII’s sons, the remains of St. Martin cloister and several mansions. In the atmospheric old quarter, the medieval lanes are fronted by an array of 12th to 15th century half-timbered houses, stairway towers, bustling cafes, boutiques and galleries. Quite close to the square the Hotel Gouin is an exemplary specimen of Renaissance domestic architecture. Musee des Beaux Arts is in the former archbishop’s palace. It preserves paintings from the Middle Ages to the 20th century including Mantegna, Rubens, Rembrandt, Boucher, Delacroix and Degas.

Historians have evidence of Jewish life in Tours as far back as the late 6th century. In the Middle Ages Jews lived in an area near the rue de la Caserne. The Jewish community still maintains a synagogue and community center.

The beguiling town of Saumur is among the most beautiful in the Loire valley. Fashioned out of the chalky tufa stone typical of the Loire, Saumur’s fairy tale white limestone castle perches atop the town and is home to a famous miniature, the Book of Hours. Nicknamed the “white town” most of Saumur’s architecture reflects its stone foundations but there are a number of restored half-timbered houses as well. Among its outstanding monuments is the 12th century Romanesque Church of Notre-Dame de Nantilly. Renowned for its sparkling white wines, Saumur’s wine cellars provide tastings of the famous Saumur Champigny, Cremant de Loire and the regal dry Saumur Brut. Beneath the city, mushrooms grow in the caves carved out of the limestone rock. Guided tours of the underground caves are available.

For more information go to: Monasteries of France

DISCOVER RUINS AND AN IRON AGE HILL FORT… $60 per person for a twin in this historic institution.

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Salisbury is home to a 17th century theological college offering hospitality to all.

Salisbury is home to a 17th century theological college offering hospitality to all. An historical town its earliest foundation dates to the 11th century. It is only two miles from a hill called Old Sarum, site of the original castle and cathedral, now impressive ruins. The massive Iron Age hill fort of Old Sarum was re-used by the Romans, Saxons and Normans before growing into one of the most flourishing settlements in medieval England.

From the Iron Age ramparts, there are fine views of the countryside. Medieval Salisbury has much to offer including historic chequers (squares) and alleyways, charming half-timbered buildings and Britain’s finest medieval cathedral, unique Salisbury Cathedral, Unlike its cousins, the cathedral did not evolve gradually over centuries but rather was built to completion within a single generation. As a result, it presents a remarkable unity of vision. Begun in 1220, the 404′ spire is the tallest in England, a fact known by most English school children. What is not as well known is that the medieval builders of the spire accomplished their masterpiece with foundations only five to six feet deep in the wet ground to bear the strain of 6,400 tons. There are 323 steps to the spire and excellent views of Salisbury and the countryside.

The Cathedral Library houses the original copy of the Magna Carta, brought here by William Longpre, Earl of Salisbury and half brother to King John.

The Cathedral Library houses the original copy of the Magna Carta, brought here by William Longpre, Earl of Salisbury and half brother to King John. Longpre is buried in the cathedral, the first person so honored. The nave houses the oldest working mechanical clock in the world dating to 1386. There are no hands and no clock face; rather, it rings a chime of bells every hour. It was originally built to call the bishops to services.

Just as there is more to the cathedral than the spire so there is more to the city than the cathedral. A wide green space, The Close envelops the cathedral. Essentially it is a walled city within the city ringed by wonderful period houses. Among the most memorable is Mompesson House, an elegant spacious 18th century structure, it displays magnificent plasterwork, a fine oak staircase and splendid furniture and contains the Turnbull collection of 18th century drinking glasses.

For more information got to: MonasteriesOfBritain.com

Homemade pastries in Andalucia Spain monastery. Stay for only $6 dollars per night.

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

The monastery is well suited for touring the Pueblos Blancos, a route through fortified hilltop towns and villages amid a charming tangle of gorges, cork forests and vast rocky peaks.

The monastery was originally founded by a group of twelve women who had formed a community although they did not belong to any specific order. In 1518 a group of nuns from San Juan de la Palma, a monastery in Seville, joined the group and established the Franciscan monastery. During the religious suppressions, the sisters remained in residence, however, a small part of the building was set on fire. “The damage was small and nothing serious happened,” said one of the nuns. Since the order lives in seclusion, the monastery is not open to visitors. “But guests staying in our guest house can visit our church,” said the Madre Hospedera. ”It is a beautiful Baroque building with a central and two lateral retablos,” she added.

The sisters of this monastery in Andalucia are renowned for their pastries. The monastery is well suited for touring the Pueblos Blancos, a route through fortified hilltop towns and villages amid a charming tangle of gorges, cork forests and vast rocky peaks. Framed by Moorish arches and draped in bougainvillea, these cliff-top towns are so named because they are whitewashed in the Moorish tradition. They retain an atmosphere reminiscent of the Middle Ages.

The architecture and appearance of nearby Seville, capital of bullfighting in Spain, can be traced to the Moorish occupation from 741 to 1248. The monuments from that period represent the sum and substance of Andalusian culture. The Alcazar is ensconced in the historic center and is protected by walls; the neighborhood is underscored by symbolic whitewashed buildings and iron filigreed balconies. Adjoining the cathedral is the Reales Alcazares, one of the oldest royal residences in Europe. Built in Moorish style, it rivals the Alhambra in its exquisite embellishments and grand halls.

Only women are welcomed as guests and extended visits are preferred. The cost is $108 per month or $6.00 per night. For more information about Spanish monasteries click: MonasteriesOfSpain.com