Archive for April, 2015

Changing Patterns – May in France

April 30, 2015 @ 1:59 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
May holidays in France

Parks, the Seine – all wonderful in Paris in May

Tomorrow, France kicks off the lively, if out of sync, month of May with Fête du travail (Labor Day). Passionate demonstrations and parades, often organized by trade groups or agenda-driven folks, may thwart your movements with the closure of streets and interrupted transportation. Tourists might do well to plan ahead, as they discover the closure of many businesses, restaurants, markets and offices.   One cultural pleasantry, though, is the sale of little nosegays of lilies of the valley (muguets), a tradition that finds adults and children alike offering the flowers along the streets. The gift of muguets bestows your wish for happiness and good fortune with the arrival of spring.

Labor Day merely marks the beginning of a month full of holidays, celebrations and off-kilter rhythm for Paris and the rest of the country. Four official holidays in May tend to rock the normal ebb and flow of life, and residents often take to the parks and further afield to second homes for extended weekends. The next holiday is May 8 – an important day of remembrance – Fête de la Victoire (Victory in Europe Day). Marking the date of Germany’s unconditional surrender and the end of World War II in Europe, this day is equally solemn and celebratory … so, so many losses and such joy at rediscovered freedom.

Holiday in France

Fountains in the sun

The last two public holidays are associated with religious celebrations – May 17, Ascension Day – “le jeudi de l’Ascension” – and May 28, Pentecost. Despite the separation of church and state enacted in 1905, these traditional Catholic holidays remain. Marking the Ascension of Christ 40 days following His death, the day combines religious celebrations and a traditional feast of spring foods from young lamb, asparagus and avocados to mushroom soups, citrus and apricots. Sounds refreshing and delightful, doesn’t it? And speaking of food, one French saying for l ’Ascension is: “On mange groseilles et mouton.” (On the Ascension, we eat gooseberry and mutton.)

Finally, Whit Sunday and Whit Monday (Lundi de Pentecôte) round out the holiday festivities and formal respites (Monday also is a national holiday). All told, the May holidays foretell the special weather to come, the seasons of growth and harvest, the summer holidays and all good things that follow the winter.

Tourists might expect museum and bank closures and changes to the ‘normal schedule’, but you also may celebrate the delightful weather and sense of wellbeing the French are happy to welcome. Walk by the river, gather your muguets, enjoy the evenings and find your little place in one of the parks – tout merveilleux!

And by the way, one last day to celebrate is Mother’s Day, the last Sunday in May. That’s the time mothers are revered, pampered, gifted and adored with poems and flowers. Parfait!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
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We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Art Deco Capital – Reims

April 19, 2015 @ 9:10 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan

la villa douceReims – the foremost city of the Champagne-Ardenne region. The coronation city of the kings of France – from Louis VIII to Charles X, 25 kings were crowned in Reims. Of the large towns of France, the one that suffered the greatest amount of destruction in World War I – fully 80% of the historic city was destroyed in German bombings. Yet, that devastating blow defined a new Reims, as intense reconstruction transformed the city into a laboratory of French architecture and, ultimately, the Art Deco capital it is today.

During this period between the two ‘great’ wars, Art Deco followed on the heels of the heavily ornamental Art Nouveau style, replacing that enthusiastic decorative art period with more of a purist geometric style. No, folks, I am neither an art nor architecture historian, so I won’t attempt to define all of the characteristics Art Deco represents. A few elements, though, include semi-circular openings, elongated octagons – an abundance of angular, symmetrical geometric forms in window framing, roof lines, elegant facades and ironwork.

Reims delights us with several major buildings of the 1920’s, from the Carnegie library and Saint-Nicaise Church to Villa Douce – the hotel particulier that is now home to the President of the University of Reims and frequent site of musical concerts. This Villa, built in 1929 by André Douce, was manufactured from reinforced concrete and red brick and includes an immense and quite stunning staircase with steel hand railings.

France Champagne Country

Art Deco in Reims

Partially funded by Americans, the reconstruction of the entire city emphasized a geometric plan with broad boulevards that would accommodate the anticipated popularity of the automobile. Art Deco architecture spreads through the city showcasing stained-glass windows, exceptional wrought ironwork, canted angles, Ionic capitals and ceramics.

Beyond the Villa Douce, one of the most remarkable buildings is the Waïda bakery and tearoom adorned with bright mosaics, elegant burr wood paneling and inlaid pictures of meal times and dishes. Perhaps you might top off your afternoon with a glass of wine at the renowned Café du Palais, under the protection of a glass roof designed by Jacques Simon.

Now a mere 45 minutes from Paris by the TGV Est, art, history and champagne enthusiasts will enjoy all of Reims; and Art Deco aficionados will appreciate the architectural tour now offered by the Office of Tourism.

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Toasting Châlons-en-Champagne

@ 8:52 am
posted by Sandra Sheridan
France Champagne country

Châlons-en-Champagne – Notre Dame en Vaux Church

Champagne country.  I think of Shirley Valentine, one of my all-time favorite films and characters.  Shirley was talking to the wall, you see.  I think all of us can imagine a moment or two, when we felt the wall might listen better than people.

“Do you know what I’d like to do, Wall? I’d like to drink a glass of wine in the country where the grape was grown. Sitting by the sea, just sipping wine and watching the sun go down.” — Shirley Valentine

Now that’s a girl after my own heart … yet, I shall one-up Shirley.  I’d like to drink a glass of champagne by a river in France, and I know just the place to enjoy that moment.   During our planned trip to Champagne country, Châlons-en-Champagne definitely makes the itinerary.  Referred to as “Little Venice” and sometimes, perhaps more fittingly as “Sparkling Venice”, the lovely small city enjoys an interweaving of canals and rivers – the Marne, Nau and Mau.

As the capital of the Marne department and the Champagne-Ardenne region in northeast France, Châlons-en-Champagne embraces renowned architecture – including the remarkable The Notre-Dame-en-Vaux Church – half-timbered houses, lovely gardens and one of the oldest museums of France.  Combine the city’s religious and historic heritage with the natural riverfront benefits, and you have a city well worth toasting!

Jos. Perrier Champagne

Renowned champagne houses of the region

The Romanesque and Gothic Notre Dame church is a UNESCO World Heritage site and part of the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compestela.  As well the church enjoys pride of ownership of a 56-bell carillon, one of Europe’s largest.

Now, turning back to my original Shirley thought, the city also is home to the prestigious Joseph Perrier Champagne House.  “Perrier, Madame?  Mais oui!”  Overlooking the Marne River, the Perrier vineyards naturally include the three traditional champagne grapes – Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay – and, hopefully, a little spot along the river for a genuinely pleasurable taste of this classic champagne.

If not, no problem.  We’ll find a shady spot, where the river and bubbly can flow together.  Along the way, we might also take one of the barge excursions on the Mau and Nau Rivers that follow silent tunnels under the heart of Châlons.  We also will escape to the Jards, as the local gardens dating back to the 16th century are called.    The large, small and English Jards spread across raised walkways to keep the Marne at bay.  Interestingly, the horrid storm of December 1999 that decimated many of the oldest trees of France uprooted many of the city’s trees.  Over a five-year period, the city restored trees and shrubs to those garden areas.

In spite of Châlons-en-Champagne’s Capital status, the city really is small by comparison to Reims.  We plan to move along for a stay there or in Epernay, as we enjoy more champagne … and talk to more walls!  Le joie de vivre!

We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Annecy: Magnificent Alpine City

April 11, 2015 @ 12:25 pm
posted by Sandra Sheridan
Lake Annecy, France

View of Lake Annecy from the “Champs de Mars”

Annecy is simply breathtaking.  We snaked our way down a curving road to crystal-clear Lake Annecy set against a spectacular backdrop of Alpine peaks.

Once in the city, we looked over the lake from the shade of centuries-old trees in the “Champ de Mars” – a cool and inviting lakefront park and gathering place for residents and visitors.  The second largest lake in France … and the cleanest in Europe … Lake Annecy has been fed by small mountain rivers through the past 18,000 years.  With many restrictions and regulations, they are devoted to keeping it that way!

The turquoise lake spreads over 14 miles below the Tournette Mountain soaring in the background.  Boats dot the lake; tiny birds practice their diving skills, and lazy swans entertain visitors along the canals that lead to the lake.

The scene is one that begs you to simply sit for a while and watch the sailors and swimmers and folks lazing under the trees on a warm summer day.

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