On a recent holiday to France, we had to visit the tourist hot-spots that are iconic about the country, but then we immersed ourselves in the true spirit of exploration. We meander across the countryside and into the Pyrenees mountains where we stumbled upon many amazing towns… but this little known place took our breath away: Villefranche De Conflent.
We hired a car in Paris and drove hundreds of miles South. We based ourselves in a central little town called Clara (close to the Spanish border) and drove somewhere new every day. Villefrance was amongst a long list of chance find that … and it has become one of our favourite places in the world, which we will be visiting for many more years to come.
Villefranche is a medieval town (complete with ramparts which is the epitome of medieval in my books) built in the eleventh century and sits in a secluded spot within the heart of the Pyrenees.
It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is simply stunning – quaint art galleries, charming stores showcasing local artisans and their handicrafts passed down through generations, antique shops (this is the place where I picked up my cherished vintage Traveller box cameras), boutiques, and restaurants serving up traditional local favourites.
It is only a small town with a population of around 250, but if you want to experience the old world charm of France, this is the place to be. It’s clear the locals are proud custodians of their unique home. Every store owner we spoke to was more than willing to talk us through what they love about the place. There’s was genuine air of appreciation in the air. Living there certainly doesn’t seem to have desensitised the local residents to how magical the location is.
If you do plan to visit, I would recommend that you go in the afternoon as the sun is setting and stay well into the night. The night adds even more drama to the townscape as the shadows from the ancient buildings are cast across the town, the fortress walls are lit in the foreground while the majestic mountains dominate the backdrop.
Anyhow, enough words… here are my favourite travel pics and hopefully they will give you a little glimpse into what I mean.
– The Cloud9 Project