FRANCE, June 7, 2014 – Now that the excitement of the D-Day anniversary is over, travelers to France can immerse themselves in more than 150 “undiscovered” villages throughout the country thanks to Plus Beaux Villages de France (The Most Beautiful Villages of France).
This site traces its roots to 1981 when Charles Ceyrac, the mayor of Collonges-la-Rouge, discovered a book published by “Reader’s Digest” which had the same title as the current name of his organization, “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.”
Ceyrac had long been an advocate of promoting tourism to exceptional villages throughout France that were largely unknown, yet possessed a prominent cultural heritage. With inexhaustible energy and a keen desire to protect the heritage of these communities, Ceyrac passionately undertook the task of forming an association with rigid standards to create greater awareness for visitors.
Several categories for inclusion were established ranging from history to art, handicrafts, culinary excellence, romantic environment, wellness and nature.
By March of 1982, an organization of 66 mayors had united with Ceyrac to establish a method of preserving the legacy of each town. Its purpose was “to avoid certain pitfalls such as villages turning into soulless museums or, on the contrary, “theme parks. Our well-reasoned and passionate ambition is to reconcile villages with the future and to restore life around the fountain or in the square shaded by hundred-year-old lime and plane trees.”
In an effort to regulate a high level of quality so that visitors would be guaranteed to enjoy the type of traveling experience they were seeking, Les Plus Beaux Villages de France follows a strict set of guidelines during its selection process.
Membership is granted only after a community has completed four phases of application.
Initially a village must meet three basic requirements: the population must not exceed 2,000 people, it must have at least two protected sites or monuments in the area, and it must show written proof that there is majority support from the town council.
Once approved, an on-site evaluation is conducted between a member of the association and the mayor of the village. Prior to the “tour” of the town, the mayor, and any associates he chooses, are interviewed and are requested to present required documents for evaluation along with any support materials.
The association then follows an appraisal chart consisting of 27 criteria that rate the village according to the various categories necessary to participate.
Phase three consists of a decision handed down by the Quality Committee which has complete authority in accepting or rejecting an application. The Quality Committee meets twice a year, and it has the option of making four rulings ranging from immediate recognition as a participating member to total rejection.
If approved, the final step is signing an official charter. Once granted, the village may then promote its new designation to inhabitants, local authorities and the media as being officially regarded as one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France.
Today there are more than 157 villages in 21 regions of the country.
“Discovering France” has never been easier or more enjoyable thanks to Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.
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About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe. He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com).
His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime.
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