Condé Nast Traveler: Where Are You? Contest
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The castle on the hill before you was founded by a nobleman known as the Hoaxer. Perhaps his spirit still lingers, since things in this nostalgic panorama are not what they seem. Sure, it's nice to dream of bygone days, of places that haven't changed for centuries. But observe the cityscape closely and the vehicles on the quay will reveal a locale that has modernized like any other.
You are standing on an island at the confluence of two rivers, in a midsize town where the buildings are made largely of delicate tuffeau stone. If you're an aficionado of ultra-high-end handbags, you may know the burg's name; or maybe you're a William Penn devotee and well versed in how his theological ideas evolved here. The town's greatest claim to fame is its celebrated equestrian history. Indeed, you can't miss the enormous welded-steel horse on the highway, nor should you skip the fine equine museum within the fortress. Military buffs still talk about a battle that took place here in which horses gave way to tanks (of course, there's a sizable museum devoted to the latter as well).
That octagonal-towered castle had been used as a barracks, a prison, and an ammo depot before it was opened to the public (watch your stepsome collapsed ramparts are undergoing restoration). After your tour, stroll to the spired church to see its fine tapestries and stop at a tavern to enjoy the area's sparkling wines and mushrooms (both products of the tuffeau terrain). You might also take a day-trip due north to a fine medieval city that evokes Steve McQueen.
Face it, even with all your fancy apertures, polarizing filters, and digital tweaking skills, you could never render the town as it looks in this scene right out of an antiquated postcard. Just appreciate the technique and the mystery that went into altering your perceptions. After all, that's exactly why you travel in the first place, isn't it?
Where are you, anyhow?
photo by Elger Esser
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