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Lodging in France’s Monasteries

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Lodge in a monastery in a castle

Spend a night or a week as a guest at a working monastery and come away filled with the essence of France, its history, art, architecture and local traditions.

There are hundreds of monasteries, maisons and convents throughout France where travelers can enjoy a holiday touring France, including its perched villages and ancient walled towns.  You’ll get a chance to mingle with the locals at the daily market or enjoy a glass of Bordeaux or hot chocolate in a friendly café. Perhaps you’d prefer to people watch from an atmospheric plaza or stroll the medieval quarters and cobblestone streets of a quiet hamlet. Engross yourself in France’s idiosyncratic timber-framed houses and royal castles, as charming today as they were hundreds of years ago or visit a bastide, a town layout unique to France.

Monastery travel represents a singular experience, a travel experience that Europeans have enjoyed for centuries.  Each institution is open to all regardless of religious denomination and without any religious obligation. Whether you prefer the sophistication of a city, the allure of the countryside or the simplicity of a tiny walled village, each offers an experience that will linger long after you’re returned home.

For more information: 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