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Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Haute Provence

February 7, 2017 @ 10:55 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

Turquoise waters of the Verdon Gorge

Thread your way north from the Côte d’Azur to Moustiers-Sainte-Marie and enjoy winding through gorgeous natural landscapes to one of the most beautiful sights in France – the Gorges du Verdon at Lac Sainte-Croix.  Several years ago, my daughter and I planned ahead and stopped in a village square to pick up fruit, cheese and bread.  Soon we arrived at our spectacular destination, where turquoise waters spill from the Verdon Gorge into the sprawling, man-made lake.  We spread our picnic in the spring sunlight by the lake, seemingly the only people on the planet.  What an idyllic moment – mom and daughter sharing a trip in Haute Provence!

On to Moustiers Sainte-Marie, we found relative quiet and few visitors compared to the rush tourists in the summer.  Carved from the hills and divided by a rushing stream, we are not in the least surprised that Moustiers is  designated  one of the “Most Beautiful Villages of France”.

Alas – the main attractions here are the little pottery shops – Faïenceries – offering artisan plates and dishes created from centuries-old designs.

Village buildings seem to emerge from rock

We enjoyed a serene visit, wandering among the quaint boutiques, past village fountains and statues and by the 12th-century Notre-Dame church.  High above Moustiers, the Notre-Dame de Beauvoir chapel watches over the village. 

The “supply” of beauty and historic charm in France seems endless.  When we think we’ve “used up” that supply, we round another breathtaking corner. Our next ‘corner’ was to be Antibes along the Mediterranean, where the enchantment continued to prove our endless supply theory.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

 

Père-Lachaise – A Sense of Place and Time

February 4, 2017 @ 11:15 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

The ornate tombs of Père-Lachaise

Our approach differed, as we planned our outing to Père-Lachaise.  My husband read about the most famous cemetery in Paris and told me, “According to the author of this book about the cemetery, ‘The French cultivate death as stately, a final performance….’ ”  He rattled off the names of philosophers and musicians, poets and statesmen, bankers and revolutionaries.  “Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Moliere, Balzac, Chopin, Jim Morrison and Isadora Duncan.”

I was absorbed by the lives represented, the stories that lay beneath the sculptures that honor their lives or demonstrate the depth of the grief of those left behind.  I wondered, “If we could cultivate their collective talent, and discard their misdeeds and misfortunes….”  Who knows?

These were our perspectives, as we began to tread lightly through the avenues of loss and remembrance.  The famed and unknown lay in proximity, their lives entwined in death, as they may have been in life.

So many impressions wash over us.  The sun casts shadows over the graves of past heroes and ancient bards.  The intrusive sounds of current city life drift over the high walls that encircle Père-Lachaise, the automobiles and sirens and cell-phone encumbered walkers.

They begin to fade, replaced by the soothing sounds of birds from the trees above, as we wind our way to the interior.  Visitors point and whisper in quiet conversations. We overhear a tour guide noting the life and accomplishments of Frederic Chopin to her small group.

Each grave tells its own story, touching every joy and sorrow man has known.  The grave of an infant who lived for six days rests next to his father who lived sixty years.  Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein rest together with a shared tombstone.   Collections of grave sites and memorials to bravery reflect the grief and losses of all the wars and revolutions that have touched Paris and the world beyond.

I am drawn to the flowing sculptures, sad guardians of the dead.  One majestic statue depicts a woman defeated, her aged marble head in her hands.  Another reveals a serene matriarch, hands in lap, her simple shawl draped around her shoulders, as if calmly watching over those who have joined her and those who will follow through the years.

France remembers you

Finally, we are stilled by the stark simplicity of one war memorial.  We stood before a white monument with a small child posed, reaching upwards to write her sweet inscription on a broad expanse of marble.  “France souviens-toi.”  “France remembers you.”

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Charming Provençal Vacation Rental

January 15, 2017 @ 9:54 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Gard department France

Charming salon in Provence country home

We have enjoyed entirely unique experiences as temporary vacation rental ‘residents’ in Paris and in the Loire Valley.  Whether in the city or country, we appreciate the convenience of having our own kitchen, private bath and spacious living areas as our personal retreat … in between discovering local landscapes, attractions and neighborhoods.  Many rentals today offer comprehensive advantages with phones, Wi-Fi access, upscale electronics and insider tips for the area.  All of those benefits often come at a price that delivers huge value over similarly-priced hotel rooms.

One such rental discovery is “Maison-de-Cerises” in the small village of Saint-Marcel Careiret, located just northwest of Avignon in southern France.  The lovely stone house is very tastefully restored with authentic Provençal charm. Envision, if you will, old terra-cotta tiles, stone and lime-washed walls, appealing living areas and comfortable bedrooms.

The village includes traditional amenities – café, patisserie (almost next door) and alimentaire – and the location is close to major area sites you won’t want to miss – Avignon, La Roque sur Cèze, Uzès, Nîmes and Pont du Gard. Uzès, for example, overflows with exceptional architecture, Italiante Cathedral and towers and spacious Piazzas. Add the market treasures – truffles, garlic, honey and local earthenware – and you will understand the attraction.

Saint-Marcel de Careiret , France

Join us on the terrace for wine?

As to the delightful house, two full bedrooms and baths, a completely equipped kitchen, washing machine and a living area will inspire you to create the same charm in your own home! The large ground-floor bedroom opens onto a lovely garden with a very large cherry tree – thus “Maison des Cerises”! French doors from the living area also open onto that enchanting garden scene.

We look forward to a stay with lots of sojourns to outlying areas and serene garden-style dining with our friends. For about 100 to 120 Euros per night, you will understand our appreciation for the value of vacation rentals.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Travel Pleasures – Loire Valley

January 9, 2017 @ 1:50 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Loire Valley

The Pontlevoy Abbey

Believe it or not, the weather in Florida today has sent us to the closet for sweaters and jackets; but there’s nothing like warm memories to take the chill from a winter day.

A few years back, we were tucked away in a vacation rental near Amboise, when we decided to visit Pontlevoy.  itDuring a visit from Parisian friends, we had trekked up the hill in Amboise to visit Clos de Lucé. We visited the fabulous Chambord Château,  wandered the streets of Blois, relished the Amboise open-air market and picnicked by the Loire.

One day we piled into the Peugeot and headed for Pontlevoy.  A family member recommended we visit The Abbey, where Americans had founded a Study Abroad Program.

As it turns out, that prior relationship earned us a neighborly welcome with a friendly tour of the grounds and building, use of the school’s Wi-Fi (not easy to come by in those traveling days) and a generous invitation to feel at home and to return again.

The roots of the Abbey and the town of Pontlevoy spread through the centuries from its founding in 1034, through its destruction during the Hundred Years’ War, rebuilding and transformation to a seminary for the sons of wealthy bourgeoisie and later to a royal military academy.

Pontlevoy Abbey

Louis’ cedar tree

The huge cedar of Lebanon in the courtyard was planted in honor of Louis XVI’s accession to the throne in the late 18th century. While the history is fascinating, on this day and on another that followed; our idle visits felt like trips to the oasis for a respite from the glaring sun.

After our tour, we sat beneath Louis’ tree, simply taking in the peace of our surroundings. Our friend’s dog, Sam, was quite content, as we heard the sweet sounds of a student violinist drift through the courtyard.

Just across Rue Colonel Filloux, we sat beneath plane trees to enjoy lunch at Café Commerce, the name as straightforward as the menu, the service as hospitable as friend’s.  Next to us, a local gazed over the Abbey and enjoyed his Kronenbourg.

Loire Valley France

A Kronenburg in the shade

We still wrap all of those experiences around us like a favorite old coat in the heart of winter. The Abbey, the tree, the friendship and convivial meal and the sight of a gentleman enjoying his cold beer on a warm day were as grand as a royal procession at Versailles.
Joie

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved