These stunning panoramas capture parts of the French countryside that have remained almost unchanged for centuries, from ancient abbeys to spectacular mountains. They are taken from a new book France the Panormas by Hervé Sentucq
Abbaye de St-Martin du Canigou: Work first started on the abbey on the slopes of the Canigou massif, a symbol of Catalonia, in 1007. Perched on a precipitous outcrop that can be accessed only on foot via a series of steep slopes, the abbey is a remote mountain refuge far from other habitations, the preferred retreat of Benedictine monks.
Canal du Midi: The idea for a canal linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic has been around since Roman times but was only brought to fruition in the 17th century. The Canal du Midi is a masterpiece of architectural and landscape design. Its 360km (224 miles) of navigable waters pass under the vaulted branches of plane trees and countless licks, aqueducts and bridges.
Chateau de Joux, La Cluse et Mjoux: The Chateau looms up out of the mist on top of an outcrop overlooking a natural narrowing in the valley. It has kept watch over the ‘invasion corridor’, a route between Italy and Switzerland, since Roman times. The castle has been constantly rebuilt, providing examples of military architecture from the past nine centuries.
Chateau de Polignac and Mount Denise: Perched on its flat-topped hill, the ninth-century Chateau de Polignac and its neighbour, Mont Denise, are emblematic of the striking Puy-en-Velay basin, which is littered with steep-sided plugs of volcanic rock forming craggy walls and towers.
En Vau, Oule Belvedere, Calanques, Marseille: The Mediterranean coastline between Marseille and Cassis is interspersed with abrupt faults gouged out of the rugged shoreline known as calanques. These valleys cut by rivers were overrun by the sea when the glaciers melted. A gap in a limestone ridge near the Pointe de Castel Vieil reveals the splendid En Vau calanque.
Hunawihr, ‘Route des vins d’Alsace’: The 15th-century fortified church of Hunawihr appears to emerge out of a forest of vines. Its pointed steeple also served as a keep, where local winegrowers could seek refuge in times of attack. The village has preserved its original layout, with electricity cables buried to protect local storks, whose wingspans can reach up to two metres.
La Roque-Gageac, Vallee de la Dordogne: The narrow light-coloured stone buildings with their dark tiled roofs in the Dordogne village of La Roque-Gageac blend in with their rocky surroundings. Steep streets and alleyways lead to the houses that attempt to creep up the imposing cliffs behind, where men lived in rock-cut shelters and along vast exposed terraces from prehistoric times until the Middle Ages.
Mont Aiguille from the Chamailoux plain, Hauts Plateaux du Vercors: The enormous limestone ‘iceberg’ of Mont Aiguille was set adrift from the Vercors plateau by the action of erosion. This flat-topped monolith dominates the surrounding valleys: its altitude is relatively modest, but its magnificent isolation draws the eye.
Mont Blanc seen from the Lac des Cheserys: The Lac des Cheserys (2,200 metres) is a glacial lake lying at the foot of cliffs on the south side of the Aiguilles Rouges. The whole of the north side of the Mont Blanc chain is reflected in its still, transparent waters, which offer n enticing invitation to quiet contemplation.
Unspoilt French landscapes | Travel | guardian.co.uk