Thursday, September 30, 2010

France a place of beauty

Western France a Place of Beauty

After being in Southwest France for a missionary concave for missionaries from Spain and France, we were making our way to the city of St. Nazaire where we would stay for a few nights as I spoke in the various churches in western France; namely Nantes, Lorient and St. Nazaire.

Since we had flown into Madrid, Spain, we had been taken to the retreat by Spanish missionaries and would be transported by French missionaries to the city where we would stay in the home of a furloughed missionary.

These were great days visiting each church, missionary family and meeting families from their labors.

The trip from the resort up to St. Nazaire was in my opinion this is one of the most beautiful areas of France, because the area around Bordeaux is so well-known for its vineyards and resort settings. It is one of the most fascinating regions of France, often labeled as the Land of fine art and living where local life has a slow pace.

This area is known for its many species of birds and the area provides opportunities for sight-seeing, outdoor activities and a wealth of habitat for wildlife.

Far East of Bordeaux is one of the most important changes was the construction of the Burgundy Canal (Le Canal de Bourgogne) which I had seen on a previous trip through France. It completely changed the social evolution for hundreds of small villages and hamlets. The canal is a masterpiece of pre-industrial revolution technology, spanning more than 250 kilometers in length and two centuries of construction.

The canal struggles to span across the region, slowly winding in smooth curves along the plains, or rising steeply with a concentration of locks which appear like staircases, before reaching the summit at Pouilly en Auxois. For almost two hundred years the waters of this man made canal have carried the weight of wooden or steel hulled barges.

The construction of the canal has changed the destiny of Burgundy, raising its status from a rural farming area to that of a great state with navigable waterways connecting the north of Europe to the Mediterranean Sea.

Today the canal retains a small float of cargo carrying vessels, but its purpose has temporarily changed in offering voyages for people on barges which have converted into luxury hotels.

One cannot enjoy these regions without knowing it was the Celtics, Romans, Cistercians and Dukes sculpted the towns and villages as well as to learn how the feudal rule was imposed for many years by the local lords. The dukedom of Burgundy was at one time a large empire spreading though eastern France, into Germany, up to Belgium and the Flanders. Enemies of the French crown and allied with the English king, the succession of Dukes held a solid frontier which eventually became a province with Louis XI, then finally entering the realm of France at the end of the 17th century.

As Burgundy is a historical crossroads for the north of Europe and the routes to Italy, Spain and the Mediterranean coasts, the region has inherited influences from many other cultures and regions.

Since there were many markets in the city of Bordeaux that sold local fresh products which are plentiful, due to the fertile river plains of the Saone, our missionary friends suggested we stop and look over the fresh produce.

This was the largest market I had ever been in before and saw items in huge array for the perspective buyer. We looked around for quite awhile, and I needed to excuse myself as I began to look for services for the male. To my surprise, there was no division in this facility, but all used the same place. This was the first time in my entire life that I had to share services with the opposite sex, and timidly I looked around to make sure that I was the only one in the facility and hasten to get out.

After we boarded at the little station wagon again, our missionary friend suggested that we stop and eat as he began to look for a place he thought we would enjoy. While this was not my first time to be in France. It was the first in what I would call a farming region.

As the seven of us were seated, we began to look at the menu which had a very refined cuisine. I immediately saw the cuisine would be a gourmet one and he table was set with the talent and experience which you would find in some of the world’s finest restaurants. It was great!

The traditional cuisine in this region is rich and tasty which can be enjoyed at a very affordable price in many of the small traditional restaurants in villages and towns; whilst the gastronomic restaurants with the highest standards and star ratings can be found in all the corners of the region. Frankly, the taste in this place was as good, if not better, than those I have eaten at in Paris.

After we left the city we began to see a rainbow of colors from the sunflowers, fields of poppies and suspended baskets full of geraniums on every house. I was glad that we were there in the flowering season, but I’m sure that each season brings a different character and range of tints which show the changing faces of nature. Spring, summer and autumn all have a unique signature, with snow drops, cherry blossom, lilac and in fall a splash of gold, yellow and red when the oak leaves of the Cote d'Or change in autumn.

As far as we could see there were vineyards that spread for miles across the sloping south facing hills, with many producers still using the traditional methods, oak barrels and years of aging in the coolness of the vaulted cellars. While I don’t drink, it was fascinating to view how this process was done.

Later on we were able to see white Charolais cattle, in the green pastures on the hill slopes, bred to give a remarkable quality of beef.

After a few hours we were at St. Nazaire where we met another couple we had known for many years. They took us to the house where we would stay and view his church. Then they showed us the places where the German navy had their naval port during World War II and to us to view the Château de la Bretèche. Now private property, it was formerly owned by the Pomereu family for over two centuries. It was sold to King Louis XIV in 1700 for the Comte de Toulouse who housed his hunting equipment on the premises. The castle was subsequently purchased by numerous lords, one of whom was Jean-Pierre Richard, father of the famous painter and engraver Jean-Claude Richard. This was indeed a beautiful place and the grounds around the mote and castle well kept.

Later in the week another missionary couple serving in Lorient showed us the German submarine base that remains from WWII. The town was flattened by allied bombs during the war to prevent freshwater and supplies from reaching the submarines, because the base itself was too fortified to damage. Their home was a top of a ridge overlooking the Atlanta Ocean where I sat for hours viewing this beautiful setting.

I am so grateful to have known and shared with these precious couples. Missionaries are close to my heart and I am eternally grateful to have helped so many over my 55 years of ministry.

Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” --Colossians 1:28

Dr. Alton Loveless is the former CEO/President of Randall House Publications, Nashville, Tn.; He is a freelance writer and has written for assorted publications printed both nationally and internationally. To see photos and read other stories click on

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Unknown Boppard is no secret place

After visiting a whole day in Luxembourg, we traveled to a small village on the Rhine River for the night. This was indeed a beautiful place to stay because we are overlooking the beautiful Rhine Valley. It was from near here that we would award a cruise down the Rhine the next morning.

We boarded the boat at Koblenz for what would be a 25 mile trip to the town of Boppard where we would visit this old and historical town that is also situated on the Rhine.

Boppard is a small town of about 17,000 situated close to the midpoint of the Rhine River in Germany at a stretch of the river known for its many castles and geographic interest. Boppard belongs to a part of the Rhineland which is famous for its very old history, which has been influenced by different royal families, princes, electors and bishops.

We had been on the boat for some time before we entered the Valley of the Lorelei and the heights of the nearby Hunsrück Hills as we made two sharp bends in the river before seeing the town of Boppard. Just north of Boppard at the largest bend is the twin-towered St. Severus Church and remnants of the medieval city wall which contribute to Boppard’s medieval charm.

The town has a lot to offer in many respects both to residents and guests. In the course of history, all kinds of people have felt at home here, whether Celts, Romans or Franconians. All of them have left their mark on the 2000 year-old history of the town and at every turn there is witness in stone of their presence.

Not many towns on the middle Rhine have so much to offer and to discover, from over 2000 years of cultural history, as Boppard has. The town is a living experience of the artistry and creativity of the Romans and early Christians, right through to the Middle Ages with its knights in shining armor. The Rhine valley has, in its time, seen many travelers come and go but always leaving their markings.

Boppard offers its guests so much with its many Castles, stately homes, churches, monasteries, gardens and parks but also the genius of past composers and inventors. The town’s treasures can be found in many different ways by passing romantic squares and small lanes in the old town and by strolling along the Rhine Allee filled with trees and flowers.

The town area comprises 75 square kilometers with more than 50% in forest. The town and its inhabitants do not only exist from tourism, although more than a million visitors and about 300.000 overnight stays make it a major tourism location. It is an important industrial place as well.

The area offers a very good public transportation. There is the railway along the
Rhine that connects Boppard practically hourly to most cities north and south of the Rhine Valley, as well as motorway and federal roads that bring one to this lovely town.

Boppard is a popular tourist holiday spot due to its geographic position on the Rhine and its dramatic, gothic architecture. This is suggested by its slogan, "Boppard, the pearl on the Rhine.” Its forests, valleys and mountains are beautiful and are located where grapes grow along the steep hillsides catching the maximum rays of the sun for growing grapes at such high latitude.

The majority of our afternoon was spent buying souvenirs and stopping for some of the most delicious German food I’ve eaten in some time. Due to the beautiful architecture, I was able to take many pictures that are still in my inventory.

While the River cruise was only a morning, and not as long one as it is presently advertised that last for days, it was a good taste of what a river cruise would be like. Frankly, I was unaware of how busy this famous river was, with the constant passing of cargo boats going in both directions. The Rhine is an extremely busy river route.

“The gates of the rivers are opened, and the palace is dissolved.”-- Nahum 2:6


Dr. Alton Loveless is the former CEO/President of Randall House Publications, Nashville, Tn.; He is a freelance writer and has written for assorted publications printed both nationally and internationally. To see photos and read other stories click on

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Beautiful Lexington

Bluegrass Country around Lexington, Kentucky

I love to travel, and Lexington, Kentucky is one of my favorite cities. This city is full of history, famous Americans, and is the horse capital of the world.

I fell in love with beautiful horses when I worked for Winthrop Rockefeller on Petit Jean Mountain in Arkansas each summer.

Many times on a long weekend while living in Columbus, Ohio, we would drive down to Lexington to visit the many horse farms in the area. To view the many thoroughbreds in the area was a breathtaking surrounded by the beautiful fences and barns were a real enjoyment.

Lexington is listed in the National Geographic Traveler's "50 Best Places of a Lifetime", and I can see why, because it is in Kentucky's famed Bluegrass Region is at the heart of this region of rare beauty, but the region is dotted with charming small towns to explore.

A number of years ago, a Doctor, who was a close friend of mine at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, had the opportunity to join the staff at the medical school at the University of Kentucky. Since he knew I was a traveler asked me what I thought of the town and the area, and I suppose he liked my answer because he now is a professor of his specialty at this well known medical school.

I am especially interested in Civil War sites, historic homes, folk arts and crafts, hiking, bird watching, antiques, horse farms, museums, art galleries or memorable dining, and this Bluegrass area has a wealth of attractions to discover.

When we visited Lexington In the early spring, there is a hint of blue in the grass which prompted the early settlers to call the area, "the Bluegrass".

Lexington it’s far from being a rural community because this region is the second-largest city in Kentucky and the 65th largest in the United States with a Combined Statistical Area of 666,707 people. The city also ranks 10th among US cities in college education rate, with 39.5% of residents having at least a Bachelor's Degree. The major colleges here are Transylvania University, the University of Kentucky and Bluegrass Community & Technical College.

And for us computer lovers it is home to the headquarters of Lexmark International.

And we seldom visit this area of Kentucky without visiting the Kentucky Horse Park where there are a number of horse sculptures in the Kentucky Horse Park including the Man o' War statue on a pedestal near the entrance. There is also a life-size statue of the 1973 U.S. Triple Crown winner Secretariat with jockey Ron Turcotte aboard. The equestrian facility is a 1,224-acre park dedicated to "man's relationship with the horse." Open to the public, the Park has a twice daily Parade of Breeds, showcasing both common and rare horses from across the globe.

Lexington was founded in June 1775 in what was then Virginia and 17 years before Kentucky became a state in 1792. The town was grounded by frontiersmen, led by William McConnell, camped on the Middle Fork of Elkhorn Creek . Upon hearing of the colonists' victory in the Battles of Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775, they named their campsite Lexington after Lexington, Massachusetts. Colonists defended it against a British and American Indian attack in 1782, during the last part of the American Revolution. The town of Lexington was established on May 6, 1782, by an act of the Virginia General Assembly.

Another reason I like to visit Lexington is because many of 19th-century America's most important people spent part of their lives in the city, including both American president Abraham Lincoln and Confederate President Jefferson Davis (who attended Transylvania University in 1823 and 1824), Civil War General John Hunt Morgan, US senator and vice president John C. Breckinridge, and US Senator and presidential candidate Henry Clay, who had a plantation nearby. Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, was born and raised in Lexington; the couple visited the city several times after their marriage in 1842.

The home where Mary Todd lived still exists and the gravesites of many 52 notable leaders are buried in the beautiful Lexington cemetery.

I returned and saw under the sun that-- The race is not to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor bread to the wise, Nor riches to men of understanding, Nor favor to men of skill; But time and chance happen to them all.”-- Ecclesiastes 9:11

Dr. Alton Loveless is the former CEO/President of Randall House Publications, Nashville, Tn., He is a freelance writer has written for assorted publications printed both nationally and internationally. To see photos and read other stories click on

From my weekly Column.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

History of the Bad lands

Black hills South Dakota

After nearly 2 weeks of visiting the national parks and monuments in western United States, we found ourselves in the Badlands of Wyoming and South Dakota.
The legendary Black Hills of South Dakota is an oasis of pine-clad mountains on the Great Plains. The mountains and forests of the Black Hills include a treasury of six national parks.
The highway is a road of nearly 100 miles of National Scenic Byways with waterfalls, watchable wildlife, and acclaimed recreational trails abounding. Trout fishing is available in many of the small stream and old West landmarks like Deadwoods and Wounded Knee are near.
I had heard the Badlands National Park was famous for its deep gorges and sharp lunar-like spires while not an expected, I found them very beautiful.
The Lakota gave this its name, "mako sica," meaning "land bad." Located in southwestern South Dakota, the Badlands National Park consists of 244,000 acres of sharply eroded buttes, pinnacles and spires blended with the largest protected mixed grass prairie in the United States. It is desolation at its truest, where you can look for miles and see no sign of civilization.
I was moved by a unique and striking geologic wonder that is steeped in Indian legend which today is a modern day national park and where climbers' challenge the difficult Devils Tower which sits across the state line in Wyoming before you enter into South Dakota. The tower is a solitary, stump-shaped granite formation that looms 1,267 feet above the tree-lined Belle Fourche River Valley, much like a skyscraper in the country. Once hidden below the earth's surface, erosion has stripped away the softer rock layers revealing the Tower.
I watched many young men and women as they climbed to the very top of this tower and felt their jubilation as they looked down and waved denoting their success.
Afterwards, we were able to view where the Crazy Horse Memorial is being carved into the Black Hills granite. Another secret is that the second-longest cave in the world, Jewel Cave, is in the Black Hills
The region enjoys an unmatched brand of Old West history; with legendary names like Crazy Horse, Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, General George A. Custer, Wild Bill Hickok, Calamity Jane, Jim Bridger and Jedediah Smith.
Soon we had entered into South Dakota where few attractions stir the emotions of visitors the way Mount Rushmore does. Since its completion in 1941, it has joined the Statue of Liberty and the Stars & Stripes as one of America's most inspiring symbols of democracy.
This whole area was beyond my expectations and would love to visit it again.

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous run to it and are safe. “--Proverbs 18:10

Dr. Alton Loveless is the former CEO/President of Randall House Publications, Nashville, Tn.; He is a freelance writer and has written for assorted publications printed both nationally and internationally. To see photos and read other stories click on

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Largest Private Home in America

Biltmore estate’s beyond imagination

After two days of visiting the great Smoky Mountain, we decided to drive over to Asheville, North Carolina and visit the famous Biltmore home which is reported to be the largest privately-owned home in the United States, at 175,000 square feet and with 250 rooms.

George Vanderbilt created Biltmore as an escape from everyday life, and today his descendants maintain the home for others to enjoy his legacy of hospitality. Admission includes self-guided tours of the breathtaking Biltmore House & Gardens and the new Antler Hill Village, Village Green, and Farm.

Beside the home there are 8,000-acres with an array of outdoor activities and one can indulge in one-of-a-kind shopping, and savor in one of the restaurants' with exceptional fare.

After visiting the home and grounds, we decided to stop for a meal and in one of the spacious restaurants. After which, my wife wanted to buy some souvenirs of the place. One could spend a good part of the day in the shops.

Although the dishes reflect the flavors of the Blue Ridge Mountain retreat, you could be forgiven for thinking you've stepped into a café somewhere in Provence or Tuscany. The tables surround an open kitchen where today's harvest is sautéed and stirred, grilled and flavored with the themes of the region. The cafes feature the bounties from their own fields, farms, and vineyards together with wood-fired pizzas and handmade pastas.

George Vanderbilt spent many years traveling the world to find the wonders that filled his magnificent house. The shops offer Appalachian crafts, dry goods, and old-fashioned candy.

What began in 1895 as an estate continues to be an amazing experience for today's visitors. The Biltmore will always have the natural beauty of the mountains as well as the majestic house and gardens to inspire us and allow us to escape from the every day.

Biltmore is still family-owned, and they are passionate about their mission of preservation through self-sufficiency—a philosophy embraced before the first stone was ever put in place.

Now, you can experience life as a Vanderbilt guest at their new Inn on the Biltmore Estate.

I guess I’ll have to wait for the mansion prepared for me.

In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”-- John 14:2

From my weekly newspaper column

Dr. Alton Loveless is the former CEO/President of Randall House Publications, Nashville, Tn.; He is a freelance writer and has written for assorted publications printed both nationally and internationally. To see photos and read other stories click on