Discover Benelux, Issue 76, April/May 2020

Page 32

Le Fort aux énigmes. Photo: Philippe Massit


Between nature and culture TEXT: ANNA VILLELEGER

Far away from the crowds, the northeast of France is brimming with hidden gems — nowhere more so than the idyllic Ouest des Vosges region. Here, you will find beautiful countryside mixed with historic hotspots and cultural gems. With its rugged landscapes, verdant forests and clean, fresh air, Ouest des Vosges is the perfect place to enjoy the great outdoors. The region is home to some wonderful hiking and cycle routes, not to mention great campsites, holiday homes and sites for camping cars. “Spring and summer are probably my favourite seasons here,” begins Virginie Vallée-Ségault, director of the Ouest des Vosges tourist office. “Everything is in flower and there are amazing sunsets.” 32  |  Issue 76  |  April/May 2020

Gallo-Roman amphitheatre When asked about the area’s must-see sites, the director’s first suggestion is the village of Grand, with its impressive Gallo-Roman amphitheatre. “When you look at this small village you wouldn’t expect there to be such an amazing site there — it’s really impressive,” she enthuses. While you are there, you also need to see the beautiful mosaic, which was unearthed in 1883, and restored to its original colours in 2009.

Joan of Arc It is also worth paying a visit to Domremyla-Pucelle, home village of the French national heroine Joan of Arc. In the centre of the village you can see the house where she was born, while there is also an interpretation centre nearby which offers vis-

itors multiple resources and educational tours. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the canonisation of Joan of Arc, so there are some special events taking place. Virginie’s top tip for visitors to Domremy-la-Pucelle is the basilica of Saint Jeanne d’Arc. “It is perched above a hill and offers an outstanding view over the river Meuse,” she enthuses. Look out for some spectacular sound and light displays here in June and July.

History and architecture Another must-visit in the region is the city of Neufchâteau, which will delight history buffs and architecture aficionados alike. Featured in the French tourist guide 100 Plus Beaux Détours (100 Most Beautiful Detours), the city boasts many historic moments and attractions, including