With its unique design - no transept, five aisles - Saint-Etienne of Bourges represents one of the finest examples of early gothic architecture. The massive structure of the west façade contrasts with a nave that, uninterrupted by a transept, seems to go on forever, and dizzingly high aisles. Saint-Etienne was built mainly between 1195-1250, consecrated in 1324. Work on the towers continued until the 16th century.
Burial place for the kings and queens of France, the abbey church (now cathedral) of Saint-Denis also became the cradle of the gothic style in the 12th century, soon to spread all over Europe. Since the desecration during the French Revolution, the 70 extant tombs no longer preserve the remains of the deceased but form an extraordinary museum of funeral monuments from the 12th-16th century.
The Black Hills are a beautiful mountain range straddling western South Dakota and eastern Wyoming. Scenic roads wind through the ponderosa-pine covered slopes, and there are canyons, lakes, caves, wild west towns and some of the nation's most famous monuments to explore.
Strongly linked to Native American culture, the Black Hills became a black page in American history in the 1870's. After the discovery of gold, the US government went back on its promise of eternal exemption of white settlement in the area and relocated the Lakota to unworthy flatlands.
The Badlands and the Black Hills present very contrasting landscapes in the western South Dakota area. The Badlands are memorable for the otherworldly rock formations, the result of millions of years of deposition and erosion, while the Black Hills are covered by lush grasslands and ponderosa pine. Both sites are strongly linked to Native American and pioneering history, offering some of the most iconic images of the American West.
Half of the Badlands Park's 244,000 acres are taken up by the rock formations, the other half is mixed-grass prairie.
Badlands NP official website
The Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado is one of the most visited National Parks in the USA. It is easy to see why: it offers a vast range of stunning landscapes - dreamy mountain lakes, exciting high altitude roads (over 12,000 ft) and alpine tundra included. For hiking, photography and wildlife enthusiasts it is a 265,761 acres goldmine.
The National Parks and their surrounding wilderness areas in Northeast Wyoming offer an extraordinary variety of wildlife and have become for many one of the main attractions of this blessed region. The delicate balance between living in the wild and an increasing human presence is exemplified in the most spectacular manner by Yellowstone Park.
The abbey of Silvacane (La Roque-d' Anthéron, Bouches-du-Rhône) is with Senanque and Le Thoronet known as "the three sisters of Provence". They are prime examples of 12th-13th century Cistercian architecture. While the first Cistercian monks arrived and began cultivating the area around 1144, the church was built between 1175 and 1230. The glory days of the abbey as an economical and spiritual centre were shortlived and decline began at the end of the 13th century.
A beautiful area situated in the South Downs National Park, the Seven Sisters Country Park comprises 280 hectares of chalk cliffs, meandering river valley and open chalk grassland.
It is named after the famous Seven Sisters that form part of the "white" chalk cliffs on the Sussex Heritage Coast, one of Britain's finest unspoilt coastlines.
The cathedral of Chartres forms one of the most spectacularly exciting ensembles of medieval architecture, sculpture and stained-glass windows.
Erected mostly between 1194 and 1260, the building remained relatively unharmed by the calamities of history, in particular the Religious Wars and the French Revolution.
The most prominent symbol of the cultural revival of the 12th century and a glorious rebuttal of the commonly heard notion of the "Dark Middle Ages", Notre-Dame of Chartres was designated World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1979.
Mantes-la-Jolie, collegiate church (1150-1210).
Mantes is a beautifully located town on the river Seine, some 50 km northwest of Paris. On the border between Ile-de-France and Normandy, the town played an important strategic role in the middle ages and was especially favoured by the French monarchy. The elegant collegiate church was a royal building. A remarkable example of early gothic architecture, its vaults are with 29,9 m almost as high as Notre-Dame in Paris.