Monasteries are an integral part of France’s history and heritage and are emblematic of the country’s diverse culture. There are monastery locations to suit every taste. Choose a site in a sleepy village back-dropped by snow-capped mountains. Reserve a room in an ancient city still enclosed by 13th century walls or a tiny hamlet overlooked by a massive fortress. Stay in a monastery with ocean views.

With this guide, learn about France while deciding on where to stay. The Guide to Lodging in France’s Monasteries provides history-laced vignettes offering insight into the little known villages and attractions surrounding the monasteries. Information not readily found in other guidebooks. In addition, the customs and folklore of each region are covered. You’ll learn about places unspoiled by tourism, places that have remain unchanged for centuries.

 Monastic orders have traditionally offered hospitality to travelers beginning with the pilgrims. This often-overlooked yet unusual  way of exploring France has been a well-kept secret of Europeans for centuries. Uncover a remarkable travel resource and a custom  that allows you to immerse yourself in another time and place.

 Monastery travel represents a singular experience, a travel experience that Europeans have enjoyed for centuries.  Each institution is  open to all regardless of religious denomination and without any religious obligation. Spend a night or a week at a monastery and  come away filled with the essence of France, its history, art, architecture and local traditions. Admire centuries-old cathedrals and  palaces. Explore medieval villages and fairy tale castles. Visit the famous chateaux of the Loire Valley. Wander the incredible beaches  of Brittany or the Cote D’Azur. And do so without spending a fortune of money. Monastery accommodations average about 40 Euros  a night including breakfast.

 Consider the Maison Diocesaine in Perpignan in the region of Languedoc-Roussillon. The Maison is a splendid villa-castle built at  the end of the 19th century. It is immersed in its own park, two miles from Perpignan and ten miles from the sea and Spanish border.  The house has been restored but the original interiors and stuccos have been preserved.

 Perpignan was the capital of French Catalonia from the middle of the 10th century to the 17th. It occupies a privileged position: on  one side, the Mediterranean coast with its beaches and on the other, the Canigou, one of the highest mountains in the French  Pyrenees. The town has a definitive southern feel with palm trees fringing the river promenade. The houses and shops are painted in  vibrant colors, a reflection of its Catalan heritage. The ancient quarter still maintains its urban layout.

 Visit the literary cradle of Catalonia.

Perpignan became the literary cradle of famous troubadours like Pons D’Ortaffa, the stop of traveling philosophers like Ramon Rull and the headquarters of a great Jewish philosophy school. From its train station, baptized “the center of the world” by Salvador Dali, many painters of the 20th century including Picasso, Miro, Matisse, Derain and Chagall headed out to the little ports of the Cote Vermeille.

Don’t miss Collioure – favorite of French painters.

Perpignan is very close to the glittering jewel of Collioure. Fortified during the Carolingian period, this picture-perfect Mediterranean port features brightly painted houses sheltered by cypress trees, its harbor filled with colorful fishing boats. Originally a prehistoric oppidum (town) used by Phoenicians as far back as the 6th century BC, in 1207 the Order of Knights Templar established a fortress on the site. Once the residence of the Kings of Aragon and Majorca, renowned architect Vauban added the defensive walls in the 17th century. The chateau houses exhibitions of modern art.

Behind the harbor, the cobbled old quarter of Moure is an inviting pastiche of boutiques and restaurants. At the northern end of the harbor is the 17th Eglise-Notre Dame-des-Anges. The church shelters an altarpiece considered a gem of Catalan Baroque.

The Maison offers single, double and family rooms as well as some studios. All rooms have private baths. Meals can be provided with the lodging. Rates are determined when reservations are made and depend on time of year and number of guests.

Guest post written by Eileen Barish

Maison Diocesaine, Chateau du Parc Ducup, Allee des Chenes 66000 Perpignan - Tel: 0033 (0) 688 68 32 40

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