Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Southwest France

Salon has an ongoing feature called The Literary Guide to the World. As a geography geek, I love the interactive map. Doesn't this trip in southwestern France sound great? I am definitely checking out the books cited here. I've read "The Three Musketeers," but it's been a while.

If you tell people you're taking a trip to southern France, they're likely to assume you mean the South of France -- that land of pastis, sunflowers, celeb-swarmed film festivals, and sunburned Brits. It's an honest mistake; though the Côte d'Azur and Provence have long been celebrated by tourists (and romantic chateau-restoring writers) for their improbable mix of big-money glamour and precious country charm, few American travelers realize that the towns and villages along the western half of France's rolling southern border offer a great many picturesque pleasures of their own. Ribboned with three of France's great rivers, penned in by the Pyrenees to the south, hollowed by some of the world's most remarkable caves, and -- in parts -- populated by more geese than people, the limestone Causses and green valleys of Gascony, the Dordogne and the Lot feel continents apart from the crowded beaches and high-rise hotels of their Mediterranean neighbors.

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