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Have you heard of Narbonne France?

I had no idea that Narbonne France existed until visiting the South of France. Narbonne was a stop on my cruise of the Canal du Midi aboard the Athos hotel barge. We stopped at several tiny towns on our slow drift on the canal. Narbonne was a short drive from where our boat docked the previous night. Narbonne is right along another canal, the Canal de la Robine.

It’s no wonder that I’d never heard about Narbonne before. Most of its tourists are French or fairly local to the region. While the nearby medieval town of Carcassonne has a huge international draw, the majority of them will never venture just east of it towards Narbonne. In fact, 80% of tourists to the Languedoc region are French. For travelers interested in going off the beaten path to visit this enchanting little town, stunning views and an intriguing history await.

Roman History in Narbonne France: The Via Domitia

Long before France was ever a country, Narbonne was established as the first Roman colony in Gaul as Colonia Narbo Martius (also known as Narbo). Later, it was a capital of the Visigoth Kingdom. Around the 14th century, Narbonne fell into decline due to changes in the waterways, war, plague, and the growth of other ports.

The Via Domitia was the first Roman road that linked Gaul to Italy and Spain, and its route ran right through Narbonne. The remnants of the Via Domitia are very visible right in the middle of Narbonne. You’ll find evidence of this in the main town square, Place de l’Hotel de Ville. Narbonne is a city of layers, and you can see how the modern street was built right on top of the Via Domitia. Venture down and feel this ancient Roman cobblestone road beneath your feet!

Towering over the old Via Domitia, you’ll discover the Archbishops’ Palace (Palais des Archevêques). There are actually two palaces here: the Old Palace (Roman architectural style) and the New Palace (gothic architectural style). Inside the Archbishops’ Palace today, you’ll find the Narbonne Town Hall, the Archaeology Museum, and a Fine Arts Museum. You can also explore the Saint Theodard Bell Tower and Le Cour de la Madeleine (palace courtyard).

Shop on the Merchants’ Bridge

Upon first glance, you’d never imagine that this shopping street is actually a bridge. The Merchants’ Bridge (Pont des Marchands) crosses the Canal de la Robine, and you’d never know that water flows beneath it. It’s a row of colorful houses spanning across the canal with tons of shops underneath them.

The Merchants Bridge is paved with pink marble and lined with shops. If you’re hunting down that perfect souvenir, this is the spot where you need to be. There are only a handful of bridges in the world that are lined with shops and you can visit one of them in Narbonne France.

Saint-Just and Saint-Pasteur Narbonne Cathedral

One of the top things to do in Narbonne is exploring the Narbonne Cathedral, Saint-Just and Saint-Pasteur Cathedral. I am certain that this had the potential to be one of the most visited cathedrals in all of France. However, there’s only one slight problem. The cathedral was never finished.

Even though the Narbonne Cathedral is super impressive, it’s only a quarter of a cathedral. The choir is finished, but the rest of the building was never completed.

The placement of the cathedral dates back to the year 313, which was the site of a Constantinian basilica. Destroyed by a fire in 441, a Latin basilica was constructed in its place (completed in 445). Not much remains of this church, but you can see two Roman columns in the present day nave of the cathedral dating back to this time period. Yet another cathedral was erected in 890 on the same site, but it fell into ruin.

In 1268, the former archbishop of Narbonne, Pope Clement IV, wanted to build a Gothic cathedral at this site. There were great plans for a massive cathedral in Narbonne. In 1332, the choir was finished, but that’s where construction came to a halt. As the plans for the cathedral were so vast, any further construction would have meant tearing down the Narbonne fortified city walls (which no longer exist). As there were many invasions of cities back in these times, it wouldn’t have been a great choice to tear down the fortifications. Also, financial constraints led to the abandonment of the original plans to build the rest of the cathedral.

Thinking that this unfinished church isn’t worth a visit? Think again! It has one of the highest Gothic naves in the South of France. Marvel at brilliant stained glass windows from the 14th century. Admire many original statues, tapestries, and even an old relief work (rediscovered after being covered by plaster for centuries). On the exterior of the church, there are large and impressive flying buttresses.

Where to Stay in Narbonne France

Looking to spend the night? Here are some awesome places to stay in Narbonne.

Check out the Narbonne Market

The Narbonne Market, Les Halles de Narbonne, is a must visit when you travel here. Dating back to 1901, it’s open every day of the year from 7:00am to 2:00pm. There are 66 local merchants and artisans offering the freshest produce and high quality products from the region. If you’re looking for an authentic dining experience, you’ll want to head directly to Les Halles.

For the vegans in the crowd like myself, the Narbonne Market is a place that’s quite abundant in meat and cheese (it is the South of France, after all). However, you’ll find loads of fresh fruits, vegetables, spices, and bread that are the makings of the perfect picnic. Unfortunately, you won’t find vegan cheese at the Narbonne Market yet (as you might in shops around Paris and other major cities). Perhaps there will be delicious nut cheeses for sale there in the future.

Stroll along the Canal de la Robine

Still looking for what to do in Narbonne? I recommend taking a stroll along the Canal de la Robine. If it’s a warmer day, you can wander paths lined with trees right next to the canal. The bridges are lined with baskets of flowers and the view is quite beautiful. You won’t encounter any crowds in Narbonne as it’s off the main tourist path. Enjoy a serene walk by the water and soak up the spectacular scenery all over town.

Bonus: More Things to Do in Narbonne

Seeking even more things to do in Narbonne France, if you’re planning to stay longer than a day? I only had a half day in Narbonne, so I imagine that you can fit some other activities into your day that I didn’t get the chance to see. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Donjon Gilles Aycelin: Climb to the top of the bell tower for magnificent views over Narbonne
  • Fontfroide Abbey: It’s about 15km away from Narbonne city center, and it’s a little difficult to access if you don’t have a car. Check out this peaceful former Cistercian monastery if you’re able to visit.
  • Narbonne Plage: It’s a stunning resort on the Mediterranean Coast of the South of France. It features a sparkling clean blue flag beach. Build your own Narbonne Plage vacation package for a relaxing holiday abroad.
Getting There

It’s easy to reach Narbonne France, even if you’re not sailing aboard a canal cruise. There are direct trains from Paris and Barcelona to Narbonne, making the journey relaxing and easy. Book your high speed train trip to Narbonne quickly and easily online.

Want to see more photos?

Check out all of our Narbonne photos at our travel photography site. You can see all of our photos in one place, plus have the option of buying items made from our pictures.

If you’re looking for a charming city to visit in the South of France, definitely add Narbonne France to your travel wish list. You can easily spend a whole day there wandering the streets and slowly taking in all of the sights. Prepare to be completely enchanted by this adorable small town!

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Where have you traveled in the South of France?

The post 5 Magical Reasons to Visit Narbonne France: Picture Perfect Beauty in the South of France appeared first on Justin Plus Lauren.

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This Paris catacombs tour will be one of the freakiest and fascinating excursions you’ll take.

When I found out that I’d have a couple of days in Paris before and after my canal cruise in the South of France, I was overwhelmed with the amount of things to do. Naturally, there are the super famous sites in Paris, like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. And then there are the other gems around the city, such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Panthéon. However, if you’re looking for something offbeat, intriguing, and something you’ll talk about long after your visit, you simply must visit the Paris Catacombs.

History of the Catacombs of Paris

The Paris Catacombs stretch below the streets of the city, containing the remains of over six million people. But, why were the catacombs of Paris built? Why are so many bones on display underground rather than proper burials in cemeteries? I’ll give you a very brief history of the catacombs, though it’s most fascinating to hear more information directly from your tour guide.

Why Were the Catacombs of Paris Built?

The catacombs of Paris weren’t always meant to be an ossuary. Paris sat on top of 200 miles of limestone tunnels, dating back to when the city was built. Workers dug up stones from beneath the city to construct it. However, the weight of the city started to collapse into the tunnels, causing massive sinkholes.

In 1777, the King’s architect, Charles-Axel Guillaumot, was tasked with stabilizing the tunnels to save the city from collapse. As you visit Paris catacombs, you’ll see carvings into the walls with dates and numbers. These numbers show the amount of attempts it took to stabilize that particular space. While some numbers will read 1 or 2, I saw attempts in the 60s and 70s. This was not an easy job by any means.

At the same time, Paris was growing and prospering, becoming one of the most heavily populated cities. Its rapid growth caused cemeteries to overflow. There simply wasn’t enough space to bury the dead. Paris started to smell quite badly of decomposing bodies, and it posed a huge health hazard. By 1785, the tunnels were stable and the remains of the dead were transferred into them. This transfer of bones lasted until 1859. Here is a picture of a tunnel where they dropped the bodies and bones into the quarry.

Interestingly enough, it was actually Napoleon who decided that the catacombs of Paris should be a tourist attraction. As the great empire of Rome had its own catacombs attraction, Napoleon decided that Paris should have something similar. Quarry workers began sifting through the piles of bones to create decorative works. They lined the walls with femurs and tibias, and tastefully arranged the skulls. You’ll see signs with commemorative plaques, and bones arranged into various shapes.

Cataphiles of Paris

While the tour is restricted to around 2km of tunnels, there are 200 miles of tunnels. There are some people who are a little more obsessed with the catacombs and illegally venture into forbidden areas beneath the city. These people are known as the “cataphiles of Paris”. It is potentially possible to enter the tunnels through manholes and metro stations.

Sometimes the cataphiles visit as part of an artistic movement, and other times they’re exploring and adding to their own maps. Back in 2004, authorities discovered a secret underground movie theater in the catacombs. However, no one was ever caught or fined. If you are caught unofficially exploring the tunnels beneath Paris, you will be heavily fined.

Paris Catacombs Skip the Line Tour

Trust me, you’re going to want to book a skip the line tour for the Catacombs of Paris. As you can imagine, the lines here get frustratingly long. Do you really want to spend half of your day in a lengthy line (especially if it’s really hot outside)? Or would you rather skip the line and waltz right indoors, heading directly to the attraction? I can’t imagine not booking a ticket in advance for this Paris Catacombs tour. A Paris catacombs skip the line tour is the best way to visit.

How to Buy Tickets to Visit Paris Catacombs

If you’re looking for how to visit the catacombs in Paris, take my advice. Head on over to the Take Walks website and select the date and time you’d like to visit. There are usually multiple times for each day. I recommend buying your tickets farther in advance to avoid disappointment. Numbers are limited for each tour, and it definitely has the potential to sell out.

You’ll meet your guide at a separate meeting point. Ours was right across the street from the Catacombs of Paris entrance. Our small group had less than 20 people in it (the maximum number for the tour, including the guide, is 20 people). We walked together across the street and right into the building, past the huge lineup of people there. It was a good feeling!

Our guide had all of our tickets purchased ahead of time and knew all of the employees that worked there. Within moments, we were descending into the catacombs themselves. With that said, skipping the line with a guided tour is only one of the perks.

Of course, you’ll gain a much better understanding with a Paris Catacombs Tour. I learned about so many stories and interesting facts that made this attraction so special. If you walk around without a guide, you’ll see lots and lots of skulls and bones. It’s really cool to see, but it’s even better when you have an understanding of it all. And then there are the areas you can only visit with a guide…

Special Access Areas for Tours Only

There were two areas behind locked gates that regular tourists could not visit. With our historian guide, we were allowed to venture into these rooms. Our small group had these rooms all to ourselves when we visited. We had the opportunity to view two wall sculptures within the ossuary.

The Sculptures de Décure were secretly carved into the limestone by a quarry worker named Francois Décure between 1777 and 1782. One showcases the facade of a building in the Quartier de Cazerne. Another depicts Port Mahon where he was imprisoned, and another carving illustrates a spot called Port Philipe. These sculptures detail his memories or imagined visions of these places.

They’re incredibly detailed and created in such a challenging environment. Decure had to work by torch light, far underground in such a dark and damp place. Sadly, he was killed underground in a cave-in while constructing a stairway to his artwork. A trip to view the Sculptures de Decure are certainly worth a visit. You might find the skulls and bones to be a little too ominous, but these are purely fascinating without the creepy factor.

What to Know Before You Visit

There are a couple of details that you need to plan before your trip. Here are some specific tips for your Paris catacombs tour. There aren’t any bathrooms in the catacombs of Paris, so use the restroom in advance. Please do not touch any of the bones. Your bag will likely be searched when you exit as they want to ensure that people aren’t stealing bones. No flash photography is permitted inside the ossuary, although you are allowed to take pictures. You can bring a bottle of water with you.

Is it Cold in the Paris Catacombs?

It is very damp and cold in the tunnels. It’s naturally air conditioned, so it’s a great place to head in the heat of the summer! So, is it cold in the Paris Catacombs? Yes, it is! This means that you might want to plan what to wear in advance.

What do you Wear to the Paris Catacombs?

What do you wear to the Paris Catacombs? I didn’t really think about this ahead of time and I wish that I did. Bring a sweater on your Paris Catacombs tour. Wear shoes that are sturdier as you’ll be climbing up and down stairs at the beginning and end of your trip (like sneakers/running shoes/closed toed shoes).

Are the Catacombs of Paris Haunted?

So, you might be wondering…are the catacombs of Paris haunted? Well, it all depends on what you believe. I’m not sure that I believe in ghosts myself. However, our guide told us a story about a contest from a few years ago. Airbnb rented out the catacombs of Paris for one night, offering the chance for two people to spend the night there. They set up a bed in the ossuary, naturally surrounded by the bones and skulls. In the evening, it was lights out.

Of course, the mind can play tricks on you in complete darkness. The winners of the contest didn’t end up spending the entire night there. They were too scared. But, it’s hard to say whether or not the tunnels are truly haunted. I’m sure if there was a place in the world that was haunted, it would likely be the catacombs of Paris. I mean, there are 6 million people buried down there!

More Information and Location of the Catacombs

Your tour will meet near the entrance of the Paris Catacombs, which is near the Denfert Rochereau Metro station. The exit of the tour is a couple of blocks away. This tour is approximately two hours in length. Only 200 people are permitted inside the catacombs at any time. I really like that it is restricted, so it never feels crowded down there.

Want to see more photos from Paris?

Check out the rest of our pictures from Paris. There’s also an online shop at our photography site. Click the ‘buy’ button by any picture: you can purchase prints, housewares, and all sorts of fun things featuring our photos!

The Verdict: Paris Catacombs Tour

I highly recommend that you visit Paris catacombs on your trip to the city. It might seem a little weird or even creepy to see the world’s largest grave. However, it’s truly fascinating. It’s a little overwhelming to think that every skull represents life. But, it’s a very intriguing part of Paris’ history that you can easily see with your own eyes. You’ll learn so many interesting facts about the history of the city through your guide. I absolutely loved this tour and I’m sure you will, too!

PIN one of the images above to Pinterest for future reference. Click the top left corner.

Thank you so much to Take Walks for hosting my tour. This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Have you ever visited a catacomb or crypt? Would you?

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Looking for weekend getaways from Toronto for couples? Hockley Valley Resort is the perfect romantic destination this summer.

For those living in southern Ontario and the Toronto area, you may have heard about Hockley Valley Resort as a popular ski destination in the winter. Well, it’s not just a memorable holiday for snow bunnies. Hockley Valley Resort is a luxurious getaway spot all year long. I find that I’m always looking for local places in the summer months when the weather is beautiful outside in Ontario. If you’re seeking weekend getaways from Toronto for couples, I’m going to show you why you need to head directly to Hockley Valley Resort.

Hockley Valley Resort has all of the makings for an exciting and dreamy trip with your sweetheart. While you might partake in skiing and staying warm by the fireplace in the winter, there are just as many things to do at Hockley Valley in the summer. How do scenic views, wine tastings, farm-to-table culinary experiences, a round of golf, and a day at the spa sound to you? An overnight stay at Hockley Valley Resort is one of the best short trips from Toronto you can make this summer.

Hockley Valley Resort: The Hotel

Justin and I stayed at one of the Studio rooms on the first floor of the resort. Upon entering our hotel room, we were totally amazed. The suite is so spacious! It features a plush king bed, a large seating area with couches and an expansive desk. There’s also a flat screen TV with tons of channels, complimentary Wi-Fi, and a large bathroom. Every room also has a Keurig coffee maker. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, I’m sure you’ve noticed how much I love coffee. It’s always a huge plus when you can make a great cup of coffee in your hotel room.

My favorite place to sit back and relax was the private balcony attached to our room. Studio room suites mostly all feature a balcony that overlooks the pond and the valley. Our balcony directly faced the pond. I loved sitting outside and watching the ducks and geese paddle around the water. It’s a great place to kick back with a bottle of wine. Sip and savor both the wine and the scenic view. I loved sitting out there in the afternoon after our arrival, in the evening as the sun went down, and in the morning with a freshly brewed cup of coffee.

Our main reason for visiting Hockley Valley Resort was to celebrate my birthday. While we didn’t treat ourselves to any spa experiences this time around, that’s always a wonderful option for a special occasion. Justin and I found that we had just enough time to have a delicious dinner at Adamo Estate Winery, spend time together at the hotel, and wake up the next morning for a round of golf. If you’re seeking romantic weekend getaways from Toronto with your partner, whether it’s a special occasion or not, I highly recommend visiting Hockley Valley Resort.

Adamo Estate Winery

This Hockey Valley Winery, Adamo Estate Winery, is only 1km down the road. You can see the winery from Hockley Valley’s golf course. There is a complimentary shuttle bus that transports guests back and forth from the hotel to the winery. Just hop on board and you’ll be at the winery within moments.

As Justin and I both follow a vegan diet, we’re always a little cautious around wine because it’s hard to know sometimes whether or not it’s vegan. Here’s an article about what makes wine vegan or not vegan. Thankfully, Adamo Estate Winery isn’t only aware about what makes wine vegan or non-vegan, but they’ve written a whole article about it, too! You can be certain that all wines at Adamo Estate Winery are vegan. So, go ahead and indulge!

Wine and Unwind Fridays

As Justin and I were staying over on a Friday evening, we were able to partake in their “Wine and Unwind Fridays” event. The Paddock Cafe at the winery is their farm-to-table restaurant, serving up delicious meals from local and fresh ingredients. There’s also a small coffee shop indoors, too (highly recommend ordering an after dinner coffee there).

Head outdoors to their patio that overlooks the vineyards. Wine and Unwind Fridays features live music, beautiful scenery, and tantalizing food and wine. There was a duo playing delightful tunes that provided the ideal backdrop to our evening.

While there aren’t any clearly marked vegan items on the menu, some of the dishes are naturally vegan and others are vegetarian (and you’ll need to request that the cheese is removed). Justin and I ordered several items off the menu:

  • Avocado Salad – heirloom tomato and lettuce with avocado
  • Edamame Beans – organic soy, garlic
  • Risotto – with zucchini and peas
  • Antipasto Mista – marinated artichoke hearts, olives, funghi, vegetable medley, estate sourced pickles, crostini

As for the wine, I highly recommend trying their 2017 Vidal Frank’s Corner if you’re into the sweeter white wines. It has notes of citrus fruits and tree fruits including lemon, white peach, nectarine, and apricot. I really enjoyed this one!

If you’re planning any weekend getaways from Toronto for couples, be sure to visit Hockley Valley Resort on a Friday night to Saturday. Take advantage of the Wine and Unwind Fridays for a fabulous dinner atmosphere. Nothing beats sitting beneath a patio umbrella on a warm, summer evening. Sip tasty wine overlooking the vineyard. Listen to the joyful sounds of live music. And treat yourself to a thoughtfully prepared meal using only the best ingredients.

Hockley Valley Resort: Golfing

The following morning, we woke up at the resort and ate a hearty breakfast before venturing to the golf course. Thankfully, there are lots of vegan options at Hockley Valley Resort’s breakfast buffet.

Let me start by writing that I am not a golfer by any means. Justin enjoys golfing and owns a set of golf clubs. Before golfing at Hockley Valley Resort, I’d only golfed once before in my life about a decade ago. I really have no experience golfing, but thought it would be fun to give it a shot. I’m always up for trying new activities!

When we arrived at the Hockley Valley golf course, Justin and I discovered that the course is rated as “difficult”. However, don’t let that deter you if you’re a beginner golfer like myself. There’s a great combination of shorter and longer holes. I found some to be easier and some to be more challenging. I feel like everyone can enjoy the Hockley Valley golf course, from those just learning the sport to the seasoned pros.

One of my favorite aspects of golfing here wasn’t even golfing itself. I loved taking in the serene and breathtaking landscapes all around. The course itself is located on such a vast space that you’ll absolutely need a golf cart to get around the property. I loved riding through small wooded areas and up rolling hills to witness the beautiful panoramic vistas.

At the end of the day, I actually surprised myself. While I wasn’t by any stretch of the imagination any good at golfing, I did manage to play a round of golf without losing too many golf balls. While I did accidentally hack away at some of the grass at times (sorry!), I often hit the ball farther and more accurately than I thought I could. I wasn’t too bad at putting, either. Must be all of those years of mini golf!

Want to see more photos?

Check out the rest of our pictures from Hockley Valley Resort. There’s also an online shop at our photography site. Click the ‘buy’ button by any picture: you can purchase prints, housewares, and all sorts of fun things featuring our photos!

Hockley Valley Resort: The Verdict

Justin and I had such a fabulous time at Hockley Valley Resort. I know that I’m always looking for getaways near Toronto, and I’m surprised that we hadn’t been to Hockley Valley Resort sooner. It’s not just for the winter. The resort is so much fun during the spring, summer, and fall months, too! Whether it’s wine, dining, golfing, or spa experiences, Hockley Valley Resort has something for..

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Navigating the locks on the Canal du Midi made the trip even more exciting.

On my Canal du Midi cruise aboard the Athos barge, we sailed through several locks along the way. For those who aren’t familiar with the Canal du Midi, it’s a fascinating body of water in the South of France. It’s a 360 km network of waterways linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 structures, including locks, bridges, and tunnels. The Canal du Midi is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Fonserannes Locks Video

Before I tell you a little about about the Fonserannes Locks and my own journey, watch this video that I put together. You’ll see the Athos hotel barge travel through each of the staircase locks. It’s best to be able to visualize the Fonserannes Locks (also known as the éculses de Fonserannes). You’ll view the experience perfectly in this short video.

Canal du Midi Cruise

It’s a whole different kind of cruise experience. Canal du Midi barge holidays are an entirely unique way to see the South of France. We spent six days and nights drifting peacefully along the Canal du Midi, stopping each evening at a new point in the countryside or near a village.

While Canal du Midi barge trips may start and stop at various destinations, ours began in the port town of Marseillan (one entry point of the Canal du Midi) and ended in Argeliers. Each morning, we visited a new small town, whether it was right alongside our boat or a short drive away. These included: Pézenas, Narbonne, Minerve, Capestang, and Carcassonne.

Every afternoon, we sailed along the Canal du Midi. On our first day of sailing, Athos navigated through several singular locks. While many people rent houseboats or own smaller sailboats on the canal, commercial vehicles get the right of way. That meant that our barge was able to bypass other smaller boats that wanted to travel through the locks. It was rather nice not having to wait for other boats to go through the locks!

Staircase Locks on the Canal du Midi

Athos was scheduled to travel through the Fonserannes Locks around 4:30pm that day. Right on time, we sailed up to the locks, ready to begin our journey.

The Fonserannes Locks are a set of staircase locks near the town of Béziers, France. Originally, there were nine gates and eight oval-shaped chambers, so Fonserannes Locks is also known as the “nine locks” or nine staircase locks. However, the flight nowadays is made up of six locks in total. Boats now enter chamber seven instead of eight, and the eighth chamber/ninth lock are disused today.

These staircase locks allow boats to rise 71 feet (21.5 meters) over a distance of 980 feet (300 meters). It’s such an incredible feat of engineering. I must admit that I didn’t fully appreciate the construction that goes into designing these locks before I saw them with my own eyes.

Our Journey at the Fonserannes Locks

As we approached the first lock, the gates opened before us. I could see and hear the rushing water at the end of the next gate, quickly filling the oval chamber. Athos forged ahead until the barge completely filled the chamber. The gates closed behind us.

It was amazing to see a barge of this size travel through the locks. I felt like we were merely inches from crashing into the side walls, and our hotel barge just barely fit length-wise into the locks. Athos’ captain is certainly skilled at maneuvering the boat!

After gliding through the first lock, I had the opportunity to walk off the boat and view the journey from the sidelines. I watched Athos enter each lock. Water flowed into the container, quickly allowing the boat to rise to the top of the next gate. Then, our barge could drift ahead into the next chamber. The water is so powerful and intense as it rapidly fills each chamber.

How You Can Visit the Fonserannes Locks

You don’t need to travel on Canal du Midi barge holidays in order to see the locks in action. As the éculses de Fonserannes are just on the outskirts of Béziers, you can easily walk from town to the locks. Many people gathered to watch Athos travel through the locks on the Canal du Midi.

It was wonderful to see such a crowd watching our cruise boat. If you happen to be visiting Beziers, check out the staircase locks as part of your travel itinerary. Here’s a great listing of places to stay in Beziers, too!

Want to see more photos?

You can see all of my photos from the Canal du Midi at our travel photo site. You can buy prints and housewares made from any of our pictures – click the ‘Buy’ button on any photo!

After watching Athos travel through each of the six locks, the barge reached the top of the staircase. Athos continued down the Canal du Midi. As I wasn’t on the ship any longer, I walked down the path for about 15 minutes until I met up with the barge. This was where we docked for the evening, peacefully beneath the shade of gigantic trees.

Whether you’re on a Canal du Midi cruise or simply planning a day trip or overnight journey to Beziers, I highly recommend that you check out the incredibly engineering behind the Fonserannes Locks.

Thank you so much to France Cruises and European Waterways for hosting my cruise aboard the Athos du Midi. This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Have you ever cruised through locks and where?

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Prepare to be charmed by Pézenas, France.

After our first day of cruising the Canal du Midi aboard the luxurious Athos barge, we visited our first medieval town in the South of France, Pézenas. I had my first taste of southern France at the port of Marseillan, and I was ready for more. Out of all the towns we visited on our cruise, Pezenas France was quite possibly my favorite of them all.

Could Pezenas France quite possibly be the most beautiful town in the Languedoc-Roussillon region? It has an intriguing history, a preserved town, and lovely little shops with locally made wares. Here are a few wonderful things to do in Pezenas.

Looking for where to stay?

If you’re looking for a hotel in Pezenas, here’s a fantastic list at great prices.

Preserved Old Town

If you’re looking for a perfectly preserved old town, you’ll find it in Pezenas France. It’s likely one of the most historic towns in the South of France. In fact, it was one of the first town centers in France to be declared a protected monument. Not only that, but I’d be willing to bet that it’s one of the most beautiful towns in the South of France, too. Go for a wander around every narrow alleyway and cobblestone street.

Hotels Particuliers

Our first stop was one of the “hotel particuliers” in town, which are not hotels. They are brilliant mansions where their extremely wealthy owners lived back in the day. We visited the Hôtel de Lacoste to learn a little bit about these mansions. I adored the stone archways and staircases in the courtyard where you could look straight up to the sky. I tried to imagine what it was like back in the 17th century when the rich and famous visited this home (even Louis XIV!).

Jewish Ghetto

Pezenas France had a large Jewish population back in the 13th century, as did many towns in the South of France. The two main streets of the Jewish Ghetto are Rue Juiverie and Rue des Litanies. Although the Jews were ordered to be expelled from France by King Charles VI in 1394, Pezenas was one of the last towns to take action on the king’s orders.

While walking around the Jewish Ghetto, our guide pointed out a Star of David on the exterior wall of a home. He noted that the person who recently put up the Star of David by their home was not Jewish themselves. The home owner wanted to pay tribute to those who were discriminated against and forced to leave their homes, as well as demonstrate the importance of remembering the history of this neighborhood.

Details on the Streets of Pezenas France

If you walk around and look at all of the buildings, you’ll notice so many intricate details. It really is like walking through a living museum. This is certainly one of the best things to do in Pezenas France. Admire every little detail by looking up and around as you go.

Saint Roch Statue

On one corner, there’s the statue of Saint Roch carved into the upper corner of a building. St. Roch usually has a dog by his side, and he typically points to a lesion on his thigh. It’s a sore from contracting the plague. After becoming ill with the plague, he was forced to move outside of town where his faithful dog brought him bread every day and he recovered. Saint Roch is the patron saint of dogs, and he gained a reputation for helping to heal other people with the plague.

Interesting Balcony Railings

As I was gazing up at various balconies and decorative railings, this one definitely stood out. Take a close look at this railing. See an interesting…design? This could signify that this building was once a brothel back in the day!

Beware: A Lunatic Cat

I was admiring this gorgeous little garden and patio of a home when I saw a tiny cat door. By the cat door, there was a sign: “Attention Chat Lunatique”! Uh oh. Was some sort of insane cat going to leap out and attack me?

Apparently, there is a very sweet cat that lives at this house. It’s possible that the owner was growing tired of tourists hanging out in front of their house, petting their cat. Or maybe it’s a bit of a joke? Regardless, I did find the cat. He was curled up inside a planter in front of the house. And he was not crazy; he was super sweet.

Connections to Moliere

Pezenas France is a town that idolzies Moliere. They love Moliere so much that you’ll find restaurants and establishments named after Moliere wherever you turn. While I didn’t delve too much into the history of Moliere in the town, you can certainly learn more about his role in Pezenas through local museums.

Moliere did tour Pezenas quite often with his troupe over several years. Though he didn’t live there permanently, he did stay in Pezenas quite often. If you’re interested in the history of Moliere in Pezenas, head to the tourist office to watch a short 3D film. There’s also a Moliere monument in town, as well as his armchair at the Musée de Vulliod Saint Germain.

Local Shopping

Shopping is one of the top things to do in Pezenas France. Our small group arrived early in the morning before many shops opened for business. If you love peace and quiet, come to Pezenas before 10:00am. As the businesses slowly began to open their doors, people started to flock to the town. It was actually quite lovely to watch the town come to life.

There are tons of boutique shops selling fancy hats, dresses, purses, and jewelry. A flowing yellow tunic caught my eye in a shop window and I couldn’t resist trying it on (and buying it). I also went into a shop selling handcrafted and painted cat figures that were super cute (and I couldn’t resist buying one of those either).

One of the local specialties of Pézenas are the Berlingots de Pézenas. These are small, hard candies in dozens of flavors. You can buy these at the Confiserie Boudet Shop right in town.

If you happen to visit on a Saturday, there’s a lively Saturday Market in town. Unfortunately, we weren’t there during the market, but I’d love to return in the future for this.

Restaurants and Cafes

While I didn’t dine in Pézenas, I did see some vegetarian (and quite possibly could be made vegan) options on restaurant signs around town. There are so many patios overlooking cobblestone streets and plazas. I ended up stopping for a quick coffee at O Ju ex Au cafe (8 rue Alfred Sabatier). It’s such a colorful building with so many fun decorations hanging everywhere, both inside and outside. You really can’t miss it! They have a cute little patio out front where I sat and enjoyed my cup of coffee.

Want to see more photos of Pézenas?

Check out my whole collection of pictures from Pezenas France. You can buy prints, canvas art, housewares, and more made from my photographs. Click the “buy” button by any pic!

While we only had a few hours in Pezenas, France, I could have easily spent more time here exploring its museums and streets. It’s possible to see Pezenas in a short amount of time and get a great feel for the town, especially if you’re visiting from a barge cruise from the Canal du Midi. However, if you’re interested in spending a day or two here, definitely go for it. Check out these hotel reviews by fellow travelers when choosing a place to stay.

If one thing is for certain, you must include it on your bucket list of South of France towns. I only skimmed the surface of what this spectacular town has to offer and I’d love to return in the future. It’s truly one of the best places in the South of France.

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The post Visit Pezenas France: Exploring this Beautiful Historic Town..

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Have you heard of Marseillan France?

I have to admit that I’d never heard of Marseillan France. I’ve heard about the gritty and grandiose port city of Marseille, also in the South of France. However, Marseillan is nothing like what I imagined. There’s no over the top glitz or glamour like you’d associate with the South of France. Marseillan has a laid back vibe. Quiet, peaceful, incredibly charming.

Nestled in the Languedoc-Roussillon coastal region of southern France, Marseillan probably isn’t on your radar. But, it should be. You can certainly escape the crowds here. East of Béziers and southwest of Montpellier, Marseillan France is not only on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea (well, technically it faces a large lagoon called the Étang de Thau), but it’s also at the southern entry point of the Canal du Midi.

I had the opportunity of starting my luxury barge cruise aboard the Athos in Marseillan. Once I boarded the barge and had a glass of wine with my fellow passengers, I decided to walk around and explore the village of Marseillan on my own. The next morning, we woke up in Marseillan and participated in a couple of activities.

You can easily visit Marseillan in a day. However, you can choose to extend your holiday by going to the beach at Marseillan Plage, about 3km outside of Marseillan Ville. Whether you decide to book a hotel in Marseillan or visit from a canal cruise, you’re certain to be charmed and enchanted by this beautiful little town. Here are 5 reasons to visit Marseillan France.

The Marseillan Port is Beautiful

Marseillan port was originally founded by the Romans (the ancient road, Via Domitia was nearby) as a rest and recreation area. There are lots of small sailboats docked along the edge of the water, right in town. Walk from one end of the boardwalk to the other. You’ll reach a small lighthouse. Stare out to the deep blue waters and faraway coastlines. Definitely go for a stroll around the port region.

There are numerous restaurants and cafes by the water with idyllic little patios. Sit by the port with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee with the sun shining over you and a gentle breeze flowing through your hair. Sounds amazing, right? The prices here are much cheaper than other ritzy areas of the South of France. There aren’t nearly the amount of tourists here – it’s a mix of local residents and visitors from houseboats on the Canal du Midi.

It’s easy to make little discoveries around the Marseillan port, a protected heritage area. There’s an interesting work of public art, vine-covered buildings, the cutest small boats, and palm trees everywhere. I enjoyed watching people take their little dogs for walks along the waterfront or engaging in pleasant conversations. Everyone seemed very relaxed and at peace.

The Village is So Charming

I think my favorite aspect of visiting the Marseillan village was wandering around town. I walked up and down each street and narrow alleyway, admiring the colorful rows of houses. There are so many small gardens, even if it’s just a few planters lining a railing or flower pots on a balcony.

The middle of the village lies within the old town walls. This was a fortified village until the 18th century. There haven’t been any new buildings constructed in the Marseillan village since the 17th century. Some of the homes here date back to the 12th century. It really has remained mostly unchanged as centuries have passed, making it like walking through a living museum.

I wandered all over the Marseillan village, many times not encountering another soul. I was so surprised that there really weren’t any other people around as I admired this charming place. I’m so used to crowds of people whenever I travel, but Marseillan barely had any tourists, let alone a crowd of them.

La Maison Noilly Prat

The main attraction in Marseillan is La Maison Noilly Prat, a vermouth company. Noilly Prat Marseillan makes their vermouth using traditional methods dating back over 200 years. I definitely recommend taking a historic guided tour, which are available daily in French, English, and German. It’s incredible that their methods haven’t changed much since 1813.

We took a tour through the giant barrel cellar, Chai des Mistelles. This indoor cellar was built in the 1850s, containing gigantic wooden vats. They age Mistelles wines for up to 12 months in these huge barrels.

Next, we were led outdoors to a place called L’Enclos. We discovered hundreds of barrels sitting out in the sunshine. It’s quite amazing that these dry white wines are left to the elements to age for 12 months. I’ve never seen anything quite like it!

Eventually, we went to another room indoors where the dry white wines, mistelles, and a combination of 20 dried herbs and spices are blended and macerated to create Noilly Prat. The recipes are closely guarded secrets. However, there was a display of some of the spices that go into each variety of Noilly Prat (there are four in total).

Eventually, we tasted each variety of Noilly Prat. I can’t say that I’m a huge fan of hard alcohol, but I can appreciate the interesting methods behind this one. After a small tasting, we went to the larger (and beautifully designed) tasting room for a Noilly Prat cocktail. There’s also an outdoor courtyard where you can enjoy your cocktail beneath an umbrella or out in the sunshine. It’s worth a trip to La Maison Noilly Prat, even if you aren’t in love with liquor. Its history is very intriguing and the property is stunning.

A Game of Pétanque

Have you heard of petanque? I didn’t know anything about this game before my Athos cruise. Thankfully, our tour guide, Mathieu, taught us how to play. Pétanque (boules) is similar to bocce, but played with metal balls on a gravel surface.

Essentially, you divide into two teams. One person throws the “piglet”, a smaller ball that becomes the target. Players try to throw their metal ball the closest to the piglet. Then, you can try to hit your opponents’ balls out of the way as a part of the strategy.

In the South of France and Marseillan, it’s common to gather your friends together to play a game of petanque. We played petanque while sipping glasses of rosé. It’s the perfect spring and summertime activity. While you might have to gather your own group together and bring your own set of boules, maybe you’ll make some friends in Marseillan who will challenge you to a game. Regardless, I hope you have the chance to play petanque. It’s a lot of fun!

Cruise the Canal du Midi

Marseillan France is at the southern entry point of the Canal du Midi. The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a fascinating history. This 360 km network of waterways links the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through locks, bridges, and tunnels. The Canal du Midi was constructed between 1667 and 1694.

If you have your own boat or you’re sailing on a barge cruise, you might stop at Marseillan for a day or two like I did. Once you set sail on the Canal du Midi, your relaxing vacation from Marseillan continues on the water. There’s nothing like drifting down the canal, admiring the gorgeous scenery. It’s a very slow and restorative way of life.

So, have I convinced you to travel to Marseillan in the South of France? Definitely add this one to your South of France travel itinerary and plans! It might be a little off the radar, but often those can be the best places to visit.

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Have you ever heard of Marseillan?

The post 5 Enchanting Reasons to Visit Marseillan France for an Incredible Day appeared first on Justin Plus Lauren.

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I usually don’t take a relaxed approach to travel. Whether I’m embarking on a cross-country road trip or hopping from one country to the next by train, I’m usually attempting to cram in as many sights and activities into the day as possible. This trip is completely opposite to my usual jaunts, and I’m now convinced that I need to slow down when I travel. Cruising the Canal du Midi aboard a luxury barge is a stress-free, worry free journey from start to finish. You quickly learn to embrace the leisurely pace that defines slow travel. It’s a chance to relax, rest, and reflect. And it’s exactly what I needed.

European Barge Cruises: Athos du Midi

What’s it like sailing on the Athos du Midi? Think of it as a luxurious, first class hotel that floats down the river. Each day, you’ll spend your mornings exploring a nearby medieval village. In the afternoon, you’ll slowly drift on the Canal du Midi, whether you’re enjoying lunch on the deck or simply taking in the pastoral views. Once you dock, you might choose to wander around another charming village or borrow a bicycle to ride along the canal. Top it all off with another delectable dinner, and it will be time to call it a day.

The best part? You can unpack your luggage and make yourself at home from the moment you arrive. It’s a very easy way to see many places in one trip without feeling rushed or stressed. Unwind and unplug from your daily life as you admire the scenery of the South of France. Cruising the Canal du Midi is all about slowly seeing the sights at your own leisure.

The Athos du Midi has five staterooms with the capacity of a maximum of 10 passengers at a time. There are four crew members on board, meaning that you’ll have lots of personal care. There’s a captain, a hostess, a tour guide, and a chef.

What’s Included

Barge holidays in France means all-inclusive luxury. From the moment I arrived in Béziers, everything was included! You don’t have to worry about anything on this six night barge cruise. Here’s what’s included:

  • Transfers to and from Beziers in an air conditioned van
  • All meals prepared on board by a master chef (breakfast, lunch, and dinner)
  • All wine throughout the cruise, served with each meal
  • An open bar of alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including liquor and beer
  • All excursions and admittance fees to the places noted on the itinerary
  • Barge facilities and use of the bicycles

There are only a few things not included in the price of your barge cruise: any travel insurance, air transportation to France, train transportation to Béziers and gratuities.

About the Athos du Midi

Athos was originally a commercial grain, sand, and wine barge, converted to a luxury hotel barge in 1982. You’d never be able to tell that this barge wasn’t always a first class floating hotel. Perhaps the only remaining connection to Athos’ origins is the association with wine. Rather than transporting barrels of wine, Athos drifts past the vineyards of the Languedoc-Roussillon region of France. The wine on board comes from dozens of local vineyards, perfectly paired with our food. While we tasted white, red, and dessert wines in the evening, lunch was made for enjoying fragrant, light pink rosés.

Athos is a traditional hotel barge with charming and elegant decor. There’s air conditioning throughout the hotel barge so you’ll always feel comfortable, even during the hot, summer months.

My favorite area of the Athos du Midi is the spacious sundeck. There’s a large canopy over the wooden dining table, so you can stay in the shade and read a good book. However, if it’s a sunny day (we only had sunny days without rain!), it’s best to pull your chair into the sunshine, lean back, and marvel at the view.

Boating holidays in France are meant to be leisurely. We meandered along at a slow speed of about 3mph. I admired the picturesque, rolling hills and vibrant fields of poppies and wildflowers from my temporary floating home. Cruising the Canal du Midi was even more beautiful than I imagined.

As it was a little breezy and chilly at night in late May, we mostly dined indoors. The saloon is also a fantastic place to curl up on the couch on lazy afternoons. The bar is always open, as is the fancy espresso machine. I always looked forward to my morning and afternoon cups of coffee. There’s always fresh flowers to brighten up the room, as well as a bowl of fresh fruit. A large bookshelf lines one wall if you’d like to learn more about the region (or if you forgot to bring a book from home).

My Cabin

There are five cabins in total on the Athos barge, each with their own en-suite bathroom. My stateroom was just large enough to fit a queen bed, a small table, and shelves that wrapped around the room. While you won’t have any large windows or balconies like on a larger ocean cruiser, you’ll have two little windows in the bedroom to take a peek at the scenery.

It’s easy to unpack and store all of your belongings in the cabin. There’s a pretty big closet with lots of hangers, as well as two giant drawers that pull out from the bed. There’s enough room to store your suitcase or backpack in the drawers that tuck beneath the bed.

The bathroom is bright and has everything you need to stay refreshed. There’s organic shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and soap. There’s also a hair dryer, so there’s no need to bring your own.

Looking for where to stay pre- or post- cruise?

The pick up and drop off spot for the Athos Canal du Midi cruise is in Béziers. Here are some hotels you can book in Béziers to extend your relaxing holiday.

Cruising the Canal du Midi

The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it has a truly fascinating history. It’s a 360 km network of waterways linking the Mediterranean and the Atlantic through 328 structures, including locks, bridges, and tunnels. Its creator, Pierre-Paul Riquet, designed the Canal du Midi and it was built between 1667 and 1694. It’s a technical marvel and a work of art.

There are paths on either side of the entire canal. Back in the day, the barges were pulled by horses on both sides of the water. Nowadays, canal holidays in France are popular, and one of the prime destinations is the Canal du Midi. While you can rent your own vessel for memorable boating holidays in France, I’d much rather leave the navigating up to the experts.

Cruising on the Canal du Midi is a relaxing and restorative holiday from start to finish. While our pick up and drop off point was in Béziers, our trip started in Marseillan and ended in Argeliers. The driving distance between Marseillan and Argeliers is 55 minutes. We spent six days and nights drifting from point A to point B. You can see why it’s a “slow travel” kind of voyage!

Fonserannes Locks

While cruising the Canal du Midi, we came across dozens of locks. Many of these were singular locks. The Athos barge motors into the lock, the lock fills with water, and we continue on our way. The most interesting set of locks on our journey were the Fonserannes Locks in Beziers. It’s a set of six staircase locks (there used to be nine locks in total) that’s a feat of modern engineering.

Many people gather by the side of the locks to watch the boats, and quite a crowd gathered when our barge traveled through the locks. We had the option of staying on board or hopping off to watch from the sidelines. I stayed on board for the first lock or two, and then watched this incredible sight from the shore. I really didn’t know much about locks before this barge cruise, but I have a whole new appreciation and fascination for them.

It was amazing to watch the sheer amount of rushing water fill each lock to raise Athos up to the proper level to allow her to enter the next lock. Sometimes it seemed as though our barge just barely fit inside each lock! I was in awe of the navigation skills of our captain as he entered and departed each lock with ease. There were merely inches on each side of the boat, yet he didn’t manage to bump into the concrete edges at any time.

Sailing and Docking

After our afternoon sailings, we’d dock at various locations on the Canal du Midi. Sometimes we’d be right alongside a town, and sometimes we’d seemingly be in the middle of nowhere. While it was nice to hop off the barge and wander right into town, it was also lovely to explore “the middle of nowhere”. With paths by the canal, you can always go for a walk or a bike ride before or after dinner.

Bike Riding

One day, I hopped on one of the bicycles with a couple of the other guests and explored the area. First, we rode past a marshy region that was home to many birds, including flamingos! We glided past neighborhoods and seaside towns until we reached the Mediterranean Sea. I loved that we could ride from the barge right to the beach. While it was a little too cold to go for a swim in late May, I soaked up the stunning views of the deep blue waters. It also felt great to have the wind in my hair and the freedom of going cycling without a care in the world.

Daily Excursions

The Athos barge docked every evening, and we’d wake up every day in a new place. This meant a new excursion to a nearby attraction or village. The staff on board took care of every detail. There were always two vans by the ship where our guides transported us to our destination.

Our primary guide, Mathieu, toured us around each town and attraction. He is so knowledgeable, sharing numerous facts and tidbits about the history of each place. At the end of our tour, we were always allowed to have at least an hour of free time to explore on our own. It’s the best of both worlds because you can learn about each spot from a local guide and have time to wander at your own pace.

Marseillan

Our cruise started in the seaside village of Marseillan, the starting point of the Canal du Midi. After arriving in the afternoon, I had time to explore Marseillan on my own. The next morning, we woke up to check out the Noilly Prat vermouth distillery. After our visit to Noilly Prat, we played a few rounds of pétanque, a French game similar to bocce. This was a great way to break the ice and get to know our fellow passengers even better.

Pézenas

It’s hard to choose which town was my favorite of the whole trip, but it’s quite possible that it was Pézenas. Mathieu toured us around this historic town where we visited “hotel particuliers”, or mansions with very striking architecture. We also walked through the Jewish ghetto neighborhood and learned about the history of Pézanas on the way. I quickly fell in love with the narrow, cobblestone streets that were very quiet early in the morning. As the morning went on, a few tourists started to emerge as the tiny shops opened, but it never got crowded or busy. This is a great spot to shop for locally made and handcrafted souvenirs.

Narbonne

Narbonne is best known for its traditional French market, open almost every day of the year. While a trip to the market is mandatory, there are a few other intriguing areas of Narbonne. First, you can see remnant of the ancient Romans in Narbonne; there’s an excavated area of an ancient Roman road exposed below the modern day street. There’s also a shopping street lined with pink marble, and the spectacular (yet unfinished) St Just and St Pasteur Cathedral.

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Looking for vegan food in Bern, Switzerland? Here are the best vegan restaurants in Bern!

I have to admit that finding vegan food in Switzerland was a little bit of a challenge at times. In the bigger cities, it’s always easier. However, as the towns and villages get smaller, the vegan choices generally grow fewer and fewer. Of course, this doesn’t affect whether or not I decide to travel there. I’ll always find a way of making it work! While there aren’t many vegan restaurants in Bern, there are many establishments with vegan options.

While we only spent one day in Bern (and one day taking a day trip to the villages of Thun and Spiez, Switzerland), we had the opportunity to sample lots of vegan and vegetarian food throughout our stay. Looking for where to eat in Bern? We outline our top choices in our vegan Bern dining guide.

Tibits

The first place that Justin and I headed was Tibits, a buffet style restaurant where you pay by the weight of the food. If you’re a vegan in Switzerland, you’re in luck: Tibits has two locations in Bern, two in Basel, one in Lausanne, one in Lucerne, one in Winterthur, one in St. Gallen, and three in Zurich. There are also Tibits restaurants in London and Darmstadt, Germany.

Tibits is a vegetarian and vegan Bern restaurant. If you’re looking for vegan restaurants in Bern, this spot will have tons of options for you (although it’s not entirely vegan). Thankfully, the dishes at the buffet are clearly marked. You’ll be able to quickly tell what’s vegan and what’s vegetarian. They also have allergen information clearly posted in case you follow a gluten-free diet or have any food allergies.

Justin and I filled up our plates with so many delicious plant-based selections. I had pasta, pizza, cucumber salad, couscous, and other salads. There was even some vegan dessert choices, so I couldn’t resist trying one of their apple turnovers. Yum!

While saving money in Switzerland can be a challenge, we didn’t find Tibits to be very expensive. This definitely makes it one of the best restaurants in Bern. You can fill up your plate and won’t have to worry about breaking your budget.

Tibits Recipe Collection

While browsing Tibits’ website, I noticed they have a collection of vegan recipes that you can make at home yourself. They look really yummy!

Mishio

Mishio is an Asian restaurant in Bern, and they also have two locations in Zurich. You’ll find culinary influences from Vietnam, Thailand, and China. While Mishio has a huge indoor dining room, we loved eating our delicious plant-based meals out on the patio. Mishio is on the second floor, and their balcony overlooks the neighborhood plazas. Definitely grab a spot by the edge of the balcony if you can.

We loved the amount of vegan and vegetarian selections at Mishio. While it isn’t one of the entirely vegan restaurants in Bern, there are so many options that I’m sure you’ll love. The vegetarian options are marked with one leaf, and the vegan options are marked with two leaves. Here are some of the vegan choices, making it one of the best restaurants in Bern:

  • Samosa – Deep-fried pastry stuffed with vegetables and curry
  • Spring rolls – Deep fried vegetable spring rolls with sweet and sour dip
  • Vegetarian Tempura – Deep-fried tempura vegetables, served with soy sauce dip
  • Miso Udon Soup – Miso soup with udon noodles, tofu, shiitake mushrooms, and kombu seaweed
  • Yasai Yaki Udon – Stir-fried noodles with shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, peas, carrots and tofu
  • Chop Suey Hot Pot – Rice ribbon noodles with bok choy, Chinese cabbage, cabbage, peppers, carrots
  • Malaysian Rice Noodles – Stir-fried rice noodles with mushrooms, carrots, peppers, basil, bean sprouts
  • Tofu Teriyaki – Deep fried tofu with teriyaki sauce
  • Ma-Po – Tofu with peas, mushrooms, and peppers
  • Szechuan Seitan – Organic seitan (wheat protein) with Szechaun sauce
  • Sweet and Sour Seitan – Seitan in a sweet and sour sauce

As you can see, there are an absolute ton of vegan meals at Mishio. Justin and I decided to split a variety of dishes, including the tempura, the spring rolls, and the sweet and sour seitan. It was absolutely delicious! I could have eaten this meal again and again. I don’t think we saw seitan on a menu during the rest of our time in Switzerland, so I’m really glad we ordered this flavorful and substantial plate.

5 Stagioni

One night, we decided to stay in at our hotel after a long day of adventures. Thankfully, it was 5 Stagioni to the rescue! It’s a pizzeria with three vegan pizza choices and two vegan pastas. And yes, they deliver!

We ordered two vegan pizzas: the Pizza Verde (with Violife cheese, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, seitan, capers, and zucchini) and the Pizza Barbaro (with Violife cheese, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, seitan, onions, capers, and olives). Both arrived to our hotel within a reasonable amount of time and they were super tasty. Sometimes it’s nice to have a night where you stay in! Plus, our hotel balcony at the Hotel Allegro Bern was the perfect place to dine outdoors with a view as the sun went down.

Honorable Mentions

As we only had about a day and a half in Bern, there was only so many places we could try. Even though there were a lack of strictly vegan Bern restaurants, there were a ton more on our list that we’ll have to dine at next time. Here are a few that you might like to try, in addition to the ones we recommended above:

  • Grüner Gaumen Pop Up – This is a pop up restaurant inside a yurt. It’s one of the few vegan restaurants in Bern that’s 100% plant-based. Be sure to check their Facebook page for details on when they’re open.
  • Outlawz – This is a new Bern vegan restaurant that wasn’t open when we visited. I’m so happy to hear that Bern has a new vegan place. They used to be inside a food truck, but they’ve expanded to become a full restaurant.
  • WonderWaffel – A build your own waffle restaurant that has vegan waffles and ice cream.
  • La Chouette – We tried to go here on a day that they were supposed to be open, and it was sadly closed. They have a couple of vegan crepes on the menu, both sweet and savory.
Places We Don’t Recommend

I had read online that the restaurant called Marta had vegan food in Bern. We went there to see if they had any vegan dishes or snacks. When I asked about vegan options, the woman working there gave us a look like we were crazy for asking. She said that they have nothing available for vegans. So, don’t waste your time there unless you’re thinking of popping in for a beverage only.

Want to see more photos from Bern? Take a look at our travel photography album! You can purchase prints, household items, and more featuring our images!

While there wasn’t too much information online (in English, anyway!) about Bern vegan restaurants, I found lots of guidance and help at the Vegan in Bern und Umgebung Facebook group. Thanks so much to everyone there who offered suggestions. We hope that you enjoy this vegan Bern dining guide for when you visit this beautiful city in Switzerland.

PIN one of the above images to Pinterest for future reference. Click the top left corner.

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This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Have you ever traveled to Bern, Switzerland? Have any other vegan recommendations for us?

The post Vegan Restaurants in Bern: Where to Eat in Bern for the Yummiest Vegan Food appeared first on Justin Plus Lauren.

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Join me on StepBet this summer!

Are you looking to get motivated (and stay motivated) to be more active this summer? You’re not alone. Studies show that you’re more likely to lose motivation if you exercise alone. Well, I have an announcement to make: I’m going to be your fitness buddy this summer! We are going to motivate each other to get out there to walk more, hike more, and get those steps in on our fitness trackers. This is all possible with StepBet.

What is StepBet?

StepBet is a fitness game that inspires and motivates you to move more often. It’s essentially a bet on yourself. Daily steps that are personal to your level of fitness assigned to you. Someone who is more active may have to walk more than someone who isn’t as active. It’s only fair!

When you join my StepBet game, you’ll be a part of a fantastic community of people helping you to succeed. I’ll be there to cheer you on! There will also be the extra motivation of winning the cash prize. Yes, there’s money involved!

How do I win money?

This is such a motivating factor in the game! When money is on the line, you might be more interested in getting off the couch and going for a walk around the block, amiright? When you join my StepBet game, you’ll place a bet of $40. The more people that participate, the bigger the cash prize will grow. At the end of the challenge, everyone who succeeds in meeting their goals will split the cash prize. That means that you’ll get your money back AND most likely more if some people aren’t able to meet their step goals.

How do I play?

You’ll want to download the StepBet app (available for iPhone and Android devices). Next, get your personalized step goals. You’ll enter in your main activity tracker, which can be sourced from any of the following:

Basically, if you have a phone, you’re able to participate! Personally, I love how it syncs up with my Fitbit.

Next, you’ll want to join my game by entering in the game code: “Justinpluslauren“. You’ll see my game pop up called “Steps Around The World with Justin Plus Lauren”. Join my game, place your bet, and you’re in!

This is a 6 week game running throughout the summer, starting on July 7th until August 17th. There are 4 active days (regular amount of steps), 2 active days (a slightly higher amount of steps) and 1 rest day per week. So, don’t worry, we’ll give you a day off! If you meet your step goals by the end of each week, you’ll get your $40 back and split the rest of the pot.

My StepBet Game

When you join my StepBet game, you’ll receive regular insights and motivation from your host, me! I’ll be encouraging you every step of the way. And I’m sure you’ll be encouraging me, too! I’ll be playing the game right alongside you. Here’s the game description from the app:

Let’s get active together! Join me, Lauren, as I host my very first StepBet. No matter where you are in the world, let’s get those steps in! I’ll help motivate you to get steppin’ this summer, whether you’re chasing waterfalls, mountains or epic sunsets. All are welcome in this positive and supportive space!

I can’t wait for this exciting community event that’s happening all summer long! I am so excited to connect with you and chat all about where your steps take you. Going on an incredible hike, chasing some waterfalls, or even taking a stroll around the neighborhood? I want to hear all about it!

This is a partnership with StepBet. I will receive a small commission for everyone who joins my game. This post contains affiliate links. If you click one of them, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.

So, are you ready to get steppin’ with me? Let’s do this! Join my game now! Let me know if you have any questions in the comments section below!

The post Want to Be More Active This Summer? Let’s Take the StepBet Challenge Together! appeared first on Justin Plus Lauren.

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Staying at these luxury treehouses in Ohio is a must for nature lovers.

Did you know that there are luxury treehouses in Ohio where you can spend the night? The Mohicans allows you to get close to nature while feeling right at home up in the trees. Now, these aren’t your average treehouses. They aren’t the kind that you played in as a kid. These treehouse cabins are incredibly designed works of art.

This treehouse hotel in Ohio features one of a kind, authentic treehouses constructed by the famous treehouse designer, Pete Nelson of the Animal Planet show, Treehouse Masters. To see even more treehouses that Pete has built, you should check out his beautiful book, Be in a Treehouse.

You’ll be staying near Ohio’s Amish Country, essentially in the middle of the forest and the middle of nowhere. It’s the perfect opportunity to unplug, unwind, and have a romantic getaway with your partner. 

Treehouses in Ohio: El Castillo

Justin and I spent two nights at the El Castillo treehouse. When I first heard that we’d be staying at “El Castillo”, it made me think about the massive Mayan ruins that I’d visited with the same name. El Castillo literally translates to mean, “the castle”. Indeed, this luxury treehouse was our castle. 

At the time of booking, El Castillo remains a bit of a secret. It isn’t yet on the Mohicans treehouses website, nor is it on their map of treehouses. However, if you’re in the know, you can request to stay there. I know that it will be officially announced soon on their site for booking, along with other new treehouses. In fact, we saw one that was currently under construction while we were there. It’s wonderful to see this treehouse hotel in Ohio expanding to include more and more one of a kind homes up in the trees.

The Exterior

It’s a mini adventure getting to the front doorway of El Castillo! Walk up a small set of stairs and you’ll encounter a bridge. The bridge has a little bounce to it as you walk across. It almost feels like part of a playground from when you were a kid and definitely enhances the treehouse experience.

Packing Tips

It’s a great idea to bring a backpack instead of a suitcase. It will be a bit of a pain to lug your suitcases up the stairs and across the bridge. Bring backpacks or smaller bags instead!

El Castillo is a two story treehouse with two outdoor balconies to enjoy. You can hang out on one just outside of the main floor living space, and there’s another balcony on the second level from the bedroom. Can you imagine enjoying a freshly brewed cup of coffee in the morning from your own balcony in the forest? It’s pretty darn magical.

Another fun feature of the El Castillo treehouse is the swing at the base of the cabin. The design is so innovative and really makes the most of every space. This wooden swing is really where you can unleash your inner child. I know that we did!

The Interior

The interior of El Castillo exudes modern luxury with natural vibes. You’ll notice that the floors, walls, and many fixtures are made from wood. However, there are many modern amenities inside the Mohicans’ treehouses in Ohio to make your stay as comfortable as possible.

For instance, there’s a wooden table and stools that add to the natural landscape of El Castillo. A basket of pine cones sits atop the coffee table. However, there’s a comfortable sofa and a small flat screen TV with DVD player, so you can watch a movie at night. The kitchen has everything you’d need to prepare a delicious meal: pots and pans, two stove top burners, a microwave, a fridge, a coffee maker, a toaster, and more. I really love the copper owl mugs that further that forest theme.

The wooden staircase of El Castillo is pure artistry. There are long branches that wrap their way around the staircase to the second floor. I stared at this staircase for a long while, admiring the aesthetic and wondering where one can find so many long branches of that size.

Continuing to the upstairs of El Castillo, there’s a large bed where we enjoyed a restful night’s sleep. Even though it’s a treehouse, there were still plenty of places to charge our phones overnight. The curtains keep the room nice and dark when necessary, but you wake up to the sounds of birds chirping and beautiful forest views.

To top it all off, there’s indoor plumbing, so it’s better than many camping and glamping experiences for that reason. There’s an indoor toilet and shower, so you can always feel clean and refreshed. For those who prefer it, there’s also an outdoor shower attached to one of the balconies (though it was far too cold for that when we visited in May).

The Mohicans: The Property

Part of the fun of staying at The Mohicans is wandering all over the property. You can check out the other treehouses as each one has a completely different style. Be mindful of the privacy of others. If you see an “occupied” sign outside of any treehouse, be aware that someone is staying there, so you should keep your distance.

In addition to several luxury treehouses, there are also a variety of charming and rustic cabins for those who’d rather stay on the ground. Some of the cabins have two or four bedrooms, so these are great options if you’re traveling with a larger group. Many cabins have a porch or a fireplace to stay cozy in the winter.

The Mohicans: Wedding Venue

Did you know that the Mohicans is also a wedding venue? The Grand Barn Wedding Venue is fantastic for those seeking a rustic barn wedding venue in Ohio. This two story framed building is the perfect place to host your special day. There’s also a large deck and outdoor bar, ideal for a party with a dance floor at night. Soak up pristine views of the Mohican Valley.

For those who love nature, the outdoors, and want to incorporate it into your wedding, I recommend checking out the Grand Barn at the Mohicans. And you and your guests can stay in the treehouses and cabins during the wedding.

Vegan Food Tasting

While Justin and I brought our own groceries to cook throughout our stay, we had the privilege of attending a vegan food tasting in the Grand Barn one night. Chef Drew creates culinary magic in the kitchen of the Grand Barn. He creates beautiful dishes according to any dietary preference or restriction, including vegan food.

Justin and I tasted three absolutely delicious meals by Chef Drew, including:

  • Green Coconut Curry Stew: A green curry broth fortified with roasted peppers, as well as  zucchini, squash, bell peppers, celery, carrot, garlic, onion, chick pea and red rose potatoes
  • Coriander roasted redskin potatoes, served with mashed zucchini and quinoa, roasted Brussels sprouts, and balsamic reduction
  • Garlic and chili sauteed Shen Choy with glass potatoes, beet and green salad, and cardamon puree

You will be able to taste some of his dishes if you attend a wedding at The Mohicans. However, the Mohicans is also preparing to host catered meals and meal plans for guests of the treehouses and cabins, too. Be sure to inquire during your booking if you’re interested. At the time of this blog post, this feature hasn’t yet been launched, but perhaps this will be an option to add to your stay.

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