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

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