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A World Heritage Site and the cradle of the French Renaissance mark this intriguing region. Lodging at the Sanctuaire… only $15

Sunday, May 2nd, 2010

The monastery's site has been a place of pilgrimage since1877.

The Sanctuaire is positioned in a small village in the hilly countryside separating the basins of the rivers Indre and Cher. The town preserves a handsome 12th century Romanesque church and several ancient chateaux.

The town of Bourges is a short distance away. At the geographical heart of France, the Gallo-Roman town retains ancient walls and rich historical foundation. The past is evident in the maze of paved stone streets, medieval and Renaissance architecture and vestiges of ancient ramparts. The city is also home to the extraordinary French Gothic masterpiece, the Cathedral of St-Etienne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A handsome edifice it is replete with five sculpted portals on the west façade while the interior features a soaring nave, an unbroken line of columns and medieval stained glass windows.

Also near the sanctuary is Tours, chief town of the Loire valley. The original home of the French language, 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. Martel’s halt of the invasion turned the tide of Islamic advances. Tours was also the cradle of the first French Renaissance. In the atmospheric old quarter, around the pedestrianized place Plumereau, the medieval lanes are fronted by an array of 12th to 15th century half-timbered houses, stairway towers, bustling cafes, boutiques and galleries.

For more information visit monasteriesoffrance.com

Want to visit Spain for 20 Euros a night?

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

A majestic monastery in La Rioja

Spain is a bargain, especially if you choose to stay at any number of monasteries, convents and casas that offer hospitality to all, without religious obligation. These are working monasteries and convents in metropolitan cities and walled towns, whitewashed villages and quaint fishing ports. These monasteries that have withstood the conflicts of the ages and continue to offer hospitality at unbelievably low prices just as they have for centuries. Don’t confuse these unique places with paradors, one-time houses of worship that have been turned into pricey hotels with a smidgen of history left behind.

Spain is an unusual combination of elements – a country of history and architecture combined with cities of great tempo and sophistication. If Moorish architecture with its grand golden domes and romantic gardens or ancient Jewish heritage represented in dozens of quaint medieval towns and villages appeals to your senses, visit Spain. It’s a country that has a significant place in European culture.

Immerse yourself in history and visit Spain’s Castilla-La Mancha region, an area strongly connected to the story of Don Quixote and the windmills made famous by Miguel de Cervantes. Dulcinea, alias Dona Ana Martinez Zarco, the woman who inspired Cervantes, was born in the town. Her house has been restored to its original 16th century style and attracts many visitors each year. The town is also the locale for the Biblioteca Cervantina, a museum that shelters the masterpiece by Cervantes in eighty different languages.

A beautiful corridor that leads to the guest rooms in a monastery in Castilla-La Mancha

The drive along the plains between El Toboso and Cuidad Real evokes Cervantes’ world of Don Quixote and Sancho. Campo de Criptana is a representative village of whitewashed dwellings sprawled on a hillside topped by windmills. Near Villarrubia de los Ojos, in the heart of what is known as wet La Mancha, is the National Park of Las Tablas de Daimiel. A vast region peppered with inland lagoons, the wetlands are covered with masiegas and reeds and provide wintering and resting places for thousands of migrating water birds. The Lagoons of Ruidera are also nearby. Comprised of fifteen linked waterways, the wetlands are separated from each other by natural barriers broken in places by spectacular waterfalls.

For additional information: monasteriesofspain.com