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A Passion for Travel … and France!

Why travel is important

Paris laid back in September

My son surprised me with his declaration that one of the reasons he loves me  is  “… because you have such a passion for France. I wish I felt that passion for a place.”  I think many of us have felt a certain envy of those who are immersed and enriched by their love of a place, an art form, a hobby … any of those interests that brighten our lives.

I realize that travel … and France specifically … has uplifted and transformed me and allowed me to leave behind some difficult days of youth, significant losses, career responsibilities and the never-ending challenge of raising children!   With travel I could embrace a new world, entirely apart from all of that, a chance to escape the cage and fly.  I believe that captures one of the most important reasons to travel – to immerse yourself in another place that draws you into its charming circle and allows you to emerge with new appreciation for the unique world around you.

Montmartre Paris France

Dinner with a view!

I had enjoyed three trips to France, when I met my future husband in the States. After many years as a widow, I was blessed beyond imagination to find this phenomenal man who shared my love of travel. We honeymooned in Paris. We traveled for an entire summer in France. I wrote the following at the end of that lovely summer:

The calm after the tourist storm (on the road in August) is welcome. We stay again in our chosen Montmartre apartment, where Sacré-Cœur attracts legions of tourists; but the population has rapidly decreased with the end of vacations. Fewer families on the street, fewer shops closed, more locals about makes for the ‘normal’ rhythm of the city we enjoy.

I dashed ‘one more time’ to the fabric stores. How do you choose from all the incredible fabrics? I touch them. I look at their sheen in the light. The Louvre? Fantastic, but the fabrics and chocolates and people in phone booths are as interesting, though less historic.

Last night we climbed ‘the mountain’ (Montmartre) to have a simple dinner at a sidewalk café just at the base of Sacre Coeur. We enjoyed a delightful waitress with an appealingly mixed French-Italian accent.  When we walked to the steps of the cathedral, as always there was a crowd gathered, a mix of tourists living out their last night of Paris vacation and locals taking advantage of enjoying this last warmth and freedom,  before serious work and cold weather arrived.

Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

Homeward bound 

Our timing was perfect to see the Eiffel Tower perform its light show, as it does for ten minutes at the top of every hour through midnight. We will ALWAYS relish this trip, this experience. Who would ever have dreamed it possible?

So there you have but one vignette that underscores the value and enrichment of travel. Within some realistic boundaries,  set aside travel fears and budget constraints and allow yourself this freedom to discover.  Whether you choose France or Colorado or any point in between, you will be refreshed and anxious to plan your next trip.

 

Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!
Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Paris to Chartres – Easy Day Trip!

UNESCO World Heritage Cathedral of Chartres

Cathédrale Notre Dame de Chartres

No need for a tour booking or guide – just purchase your train ticket for an easy trip of just over an hour from Paris Montparnasse station.  You will relish the scenic journey through glowing yellow rapeseed fields, little villes and rolling farmlands on your way to “The Capital of Light and Perfume”.  Of course, the magnificent Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Chartres is the major gem and attraction of the city – a UNESCO World Heritage site – but many appealing sights and experiences await you.

Beyond the storied cathedral and stunning stained glass throughout Chartres; the charming architecture, riverside setting and ancient cobbled lanes will fill your memory bank for years to come.  Choose from a delightful array of crêperies, sidewalk cafés (perhaps in the shadow of the soaring cathedral) and gourmet restaurants for lunch and dinner.

My favorite is no longer – a gorgeous restaurant tucked along the scenic narrow banks of the Eure River.  Still, you must wander along the river, over a little humped bridge and among half-timbered houses with flowers guiding the way.  Beautiful!

Chartres Day Trip from Paris

Flower bedecked banks of the Eure River

Mainly, I want to underscore how easy and non-threatening such a day trip is … with multiple train schedules to and from (at about $40 round trip), with the centrally-located Chartres train station within easy reach of the Cathedral and the rest of the old village center.  So treat yourself and venture out!  You might even choose one of the last trains back to Paris after the enthralling lightshow in the center of the village.

 

Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!
Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Thoughts on French Travel Planning

Lower Loire Valley

Château des Briottieres

Always on the lookout for interesting, charming, historic, unique or scenic places to visit in France; I discover locales ranging from affordable havens to wallet-busting dreams for the Bucket List.  Perhaps in the latter category, I came across an appealing château in the lower Loire Valley that seems to offer an authentic country manor type of weekend getaway.  Travel is about discovery and balance.  Weighing your preferences, timeline and budget against the many choices available is key to your very personal travel enjoyment.

Château des Briottieres  manages to blend a private family residence with a luxurious 4-star hotel, the kind of ambient marriage that yields comfort, opulence and personal hospitality.  The 18th-century château exudes life on a French country estate and has been in the family of Count François de Valray for the last two hundred years.

Loire Valley France

Breakfast in opulent dining salon!

Apart from your magnificent room or suite, you may enjoy rather plush relaxation among pearl grey panels, parquet floors and rich silk curtains in the Château’s different salons.  As well, you may join your host for cocktails at sunset to gain a glimpse of family life through the years.

Certainly, you can click through to discover more about this step back into aristocratic times, but I re-discovered some of my own advice in researching this area and property.  In my book, Fired Up for France:  The Promise of Paris,  I recommend that you consider some important questions in planning the trip of your dreams – preferences for locations, type of accommodation, privacy, things to do, minimal requirements.  I advise: “Figure out your deal breakers, so you are not disappointed.  Self-examination is a critical first step, as you map travel plans …. There is no right or wrong answer, rather the questions prompt you to … understand yourself and what you want and feel comfortable with in planning your travel.”

Anjou region of France

Spacious Chateau grounds and amenities

Circling back to the Château des Briottieres, I realize that the quiet retreat is the real experience with on-site gardens, pool and tennis; but the region is not teeming with historic sites and shopping destinations.  Some guests seemed put off with having no choice in dinner menus, while others embraced the feeling of dining as guests rather than as customers.

As you make your plans, whether for a remote retreat from the buzz of the world or for a livelier escape with more sights and choices; it’s always helpful to browse through the reviews of former guests.  Even at that, I recognize that some negatives arise precisely because the guest did NOT research or examine the type of experience desired.

For my part, I would welcome the experience offered by Château des Briottieres as an adventure taking me back to days and treasures few of us can imagine.

Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!
Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Gerberoy – Tranquil Country Escape

Picardy France

Gerberoy – Plus Beaux Village

We love the metropolitan vibrancy and attractions of Paris, Lyon, Aix-en-Provence and many other cities of France; but now and then, we just want to wander, discover and ‘see things in new ways’.  Many of us are enticed by some of the enchanting villages tuced here and there throughout France, and an excellent resource to tap is “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France”.  What an enchanting array of choices!  Let’s visit one.

Just an hour north of Paris, the plus beaux village of Gerberoy offers a quaint and colorful step not only into the past but into a traditional country setting.  Among draping wisteria and plentiful roses, you find yourself winding along cobbled streets amidst a beautiful mix of brick-faced homes and pastel timbered buildings.  Not surprisingly, this appealing blend attracted post-impressionist Henri le Sidaner for summer visits, where he crafted his mystical trademark motif – a single window lit at dusk.

Gerberoy, Plus Beaux Village, France

Enchanting brick and timbered homes, Gerberoy

Dating back to the heart of the Middle Ages, Gerberoy presents an abbreviated charm compared to the sometimes daunting list of museums and monuments found in large cities.  The unique local architecture runs from Norman to Picard and shines across a variety of small townhomes, manors, farms and canonical estates.  Despite the relatively small size of the village, the large, 15th-century Collegiate Church Saint-Pierre – adorned with stunning Aubusson tapestries – underscores the former prominence of the small town.

Well, we are ‘sold’ and will plan to stay a night or two in a welcoming Gîte de France – Le Logis de Gerberoy, where their first floor “La Chambre Terrasse” overlooks tranquil gardens.  Hospitality, an appealing petit dejeuner and local products (cheeses, jams and local gateaux) on site sound like the perfect place to enjoy garden sights and quiet walks in the village and country – parfait!

North of Paris village

Cobblestone streets and beautiful gardens of Gerberoy, France

Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!
Copyright © 2005-2017, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

The Promise of Paris – New E-book

I know, I know.  I said I would launch on Monday in honor of Labor Day in France … but I’m kind of like that kid who can’t wait to give you your present 3 days before your birthday!  And then there’s the tendency of everyone to check out Facebook on the weekend.  In any case …. here ’tis!  I welcome your feedback!

By popular request, Fired Up for France:  The Promise of Paris E-book (pdf)

is now available!

3 Things You’ll Love about This E-book:

Easy-access, helpful planning guides and resource links 

Specific accommodation, dining, sightseeing and shopping information – computer and mobile device access, printable pdf – hyperlinks to dynamic Paris resources – Paris Tourist Office, Currency conversion, museums++

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris

Author Sandra Sheridan

Concrete tips & authentic information – delivered with warmth & humor!

Neighborhoods, cafes, flea markets, markets and fun excursions with captivating anecdotes
and real-life experiences – even wedding ideas – fabulous photos to whet your appetite for Paris

Inspires you to set aside your fears and take action!

The author eases the angst of travel planning and ignites your hunger for Paris. Every word is designed to move you from dreaming of a Paris trip to making it a reality to cherish for a lifetime.

$6.95 Easy-access e-book – File will be e-mailed to you




Top Customer Reviews
The Promise of Paris

A super informative book!  For some years now I have been making the trip to Paris & staying at “My Little Home in Paris” in the Latin Quarter.  I came across your amazing book, while staying at the apartment …and just wanted to tell you what a super informative book it is.   Having been to so many of these places, I feel you have captured them to perfection.  Thank you again for the wonderful book on Paris.
Paris comes off the page and into the heart in this gem of a travel book
 
 After reading The Promise of Paris, I was ready to abandon tasks at hand and board a plane for France. This charming volume provides the first-time visitor, as well as the most experienced traveler to Paris, insight into off-the-tourist-beat places to eat, shop, sight-see and museum-visit. For the arm chair traveler, the intriguing photos of people, buildings and items on display in shops make owning a copy of the book worthwhile.
Erase any fears or hesitation ….Manages to erase any fears or hesitations you may have about visiting Paris – language barriers, negotiating the metro, where to eat, where to stay, etc. – and provides you with just the right amount of information needed – down-to-earth and easy to digest and embrace.  She helps you feel ‘at home’ in Paris, before your trip has begun! Most of all, she invites you to have your own experience, to discover the Paris of your dreams….Inspires you to take the plunge, make the trip, and discover for yourself the magic of Paris that keeps calling her back.
Easy to read – this book will prepare you for Paris  This book will prepare you for Paris, so that you can blend in like a long-term resident instead of a tourist. It is like a good Parisian friend meeting you for coffee at a sidewalk cafe – effortless and amusing way to brush up on the City of Lights.
Fresh and original! Just what the world needs: another Paris guidebook!  Sandra Sheridan’s book is NOT a guide book, nor does it pretend to be.  It’s fresh and original and motivates and inspires those who have always dreamed of seeing Paris but keep putting it off, or who have been meaning to return ‘one day’ … to do it!  I was struck by the honesty of the book – or should I say of its author.
Accompany the author on her frolics through Paris Through her exuberance for everything French, the author invites you to accompany her on her frolics through Paris.  Her book weaves and wanders with great delight through the narrow cobblestone streets and the grand avenues of the 20 districts that make up Paris, taking a ‘wrong’ turn and finding yourself happily lost in paradise.  Discover quiet, hidden neighborhoods close to the bustle of the city, art, architecture, artisanal crafts, monuments, museums, history, culture, cuisine, practical info and tons of ambiance, spiced with captivating anecdotes straight from the heart.

 




Paperback still available and on sale in connection with the E-book launch.
Paris France travel
Special Sale:$14.95 (+tax & $3 shipping)  Signed copy

Paperback print on demand – 128 pages – allow 10 days for shipping.

Don’t hesitate to contact S. Sheridan with questions or specific requests!

Easter in Paris? – American Churches

Paris France

American Church in Paris on quai d’Orsay

Throughout the Christian faith, Good Friday marks a somber beginning to a weekend that ends in hope and lily-filled celebrations on Easter Sunday. Traditionally, church bells throughout France fall silent from Maundy Thursday until Easter Sunday. With much of the French populace Roman Catholic, all of the cities, towns and villages have a church – many with a bell.   As Easter approaches, the somber reflection on Christ’s crucifixion and death is reflected in the quiet, and French parents tell their children – in fun – that the chimes have flown to Rome to see the Pope.

Easter Sunday – voila!  The celebrations of the Resurrection begin with the joyous pealing of the bells throughout the country. Lilies adorn the church, and Christians gather to rejoice that Christ ‘is risen indeed’.

One of many things we plan for our next trip to Paris is attending the American Church in Paris. The church offers a phenomenal gathering place for people of many denominations and interests. They offer traditional and contemporary liturgical services and host a number of specific interest groups. One, Bloom Where You are Planted, helps English-speaking newcomers settle in to their new life in Paris. Part of the church’s stated mission is “…to provide a place of English language worship in the American Protestant tradition, and to engage in ministries and services that enrich the lives of residents and visitors in Paris.

The first American church established outside of the United States, the ACP dates to 1814; though its official charter and sanctuary were established in 1857. Since 1931, the church has welcomed worshippers to the quai d’Orsay location along the Seine.

Not too far away on Avenue George V, the American Cathedral in Paris is a center of worship for English-speakers abroad. Permanent parishioners total about 400 and their numbers swell considerably with students, tourists and business persons in Paris on shorter-term assignments.

Appropriately, the Cathedral was consecrated on Thanksgiving Day in 1886, but its roots go back further to the days when American Episcopalians gathered for worship in the 1830s. The Cathedral serves as the “mother church” for the Convocation of Episcopal Churches in Europe, under the jurisdiction of the Episcopal Church in the United States.

Wherever you and your family will celebrate this season of renewal and joy, we wish you Peace and Hope for the days that lie ahead.

href=”mailto:swsheridan@luxeeuro.com”>We’d love to hear from you!

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

Sunday Brunch at La Mère Poulard

Airy omelets in the making

Just finished brunch on this lovely, if warm, Sunday.  In looking back through France Daily Photo archives, I come across this petite jewel – a reminiscence of a rainy but enchanting brunch in the North of France. Hope you enjoy the ‘memory trip’, as you relax this Sunday.

Once again, it is perhaps time for a Sunday adventure.  Shall we go for an elaborate lunch on Mont Saint-Michel?  Yes, time to climb the stairs to the rather elegant dining room at La Mère Poulard, but don’t forget to stop by the entry to see those fluffy omelets being prepared.

When Mont Saint-Michel opened its cloistered doors to the world in 1872, Annette Poulard was just twenty.  She and her husband opened their inn and restaurant in 1888, and their hospitality has been non-stop since, offering rest and fabulous meals to travelers.

After lunch, we’ll stroll through the village streets and look over the magnificent sea.  That’s exactly what we did, but I hasten to add that rain had swept in from the sea limiting vistas and the endurance that might otherwise have allowed thorough discovery.  C’est la vie!  Still an indelible experience!

We’d love to hear from you!

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

 

Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, Haute Provence

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

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

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

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

French Photo Holiday Gifts

A chance photo while wandering the streets of Paris France

An elegant sight, while wandering the streets of Paris

If you’re staring at catalogues or wandering through stores to find that “perfect” gift for friends or family, STOP! Think about going personal with a gift from your own memorable travels in France.

I have done just that many times in the past, and it gives me great pleasure to see my photo of a quaint, festooned wedding car in Bordeaux hanging right there in my son’s entryway… or the elegant Hotel de Ville photo from Blois in our own home. Whether you want to make one of your own memories indelible or share stunning sights with others, a framed photo from your own collection makes an excellent, personalized gift.

The good news is that American Frame makes the process so easy. Choose a few of the photos you might want to print and frame. Go to the frame company site and begin the process of choosing frames, mats – even double mats! I have never seen such a user-friendly site. You will upload your photos, choose mats and frames and be able to see them with light or dark mats, metal or wood frames, ornate or simple frame designs. You can even change the color of the wall on which the framed photo will hang!

Overlooking the River Cher from Chenonceau Castle in France

Musing by the Cher at Chenonceau

Sometimes, simple thoughtful gifts provide far more pleasure than those break-the-wallet lavish ones. We hope you are stress-free in your preparations for the holidays!

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Marseille – Chaos and Charisma!

Cafe Jeannot overlooking Vieux Port

Along 35 miles of Mediterranean coast, Marseille is transforming itself into quite the jewel of Provence – a mix of old world charm and contemporary growth.  On the one hand, you discover quaint little fishing ports and sherbet-colored buildings; on the other the brand new tramway and futuristic buildings.  To the south are the dramatic “calanques”, wild rocky cliffs and inlets, where the mountains meet the sea.

Panier, Marseille’s Old Town, was where Greeks settled in 600 BC, founding the city of Massalia.  The imprint of immigration shows through the over 100 villages that make up the city; where Italians and Corsicans, North Africans and South Americans now share the French city in an eclectic mix of culture, cuisine and custom.  Add the ambitious transformation project called   Euroméditerranée – the largest urban renovation project in Europe – and you have a city embracing its past, while headed firmly toward the future.

For a stunning view and instant understanding of the complex maze of Marseille, make your way to Basilique Notre-Dame de la Garde.  Beautifully restored and topped with a graceful, gilded statue of “Our Lady”, the cathedral is perched high on a hill overlooking the whole city.  In addition to colorful, Byzantine mosaic domes, the interior includes an interesting collection of ex votos (votive offerings), primarily model boats left by sailors grateful for surviving treacherous seas and dangerous pirates.

Fishing and pleasure boats fill the old port

Every day the old port hums with its traditional fish market, where the fresh catch of the day will become tonight’s bouillabaisse – hearty fish stew.  The Vieux Port is the perfect place for a leisurely lunch and more discovery.  Try the upstairs terrace of Chez Jeannot for good regional cuisine and a wonderful view of the old fishing port and colorful boats.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

Planning a trip to Paris? I hope you will take a moment to browse through … and order … my book filled with practical information, stunning color photographs and appealing vignettes!

Autographed copies with notecard gift

Rouen – Where the Seine is “Main Street”

Cafés in Rouen’s historic town centre – ATOUT FRANCE/CRT Normandie/J-C Demais

Rouen lures visitors with a mix of joy and sorrow, architectural heritage, art, museums and compelling cuisine. Just 70 miles northwest of Paris, Rouen gives off a contemporary hum in the midst of spectacular Gothic designs and enchanting timbered houses.

Wander through the popular port city on the Seine, and you’ll discover decades-old evidence of the pounding Rouen suffered during World War II. Though we preferred to stay a few days, Rouen makes an easy day trip from Paris – just an hour by the A13 highway or from the Paris-Saint Lazare train station.

Forgive my always diving into food, but it IS France! This capitol of Normandy boasts many Michelin-starred restaurants, distinct regional fare (with a bow to Canard a la Rouennaise on most menus), creamy fish stews, lovely local cheeses and the popular Calvados apple cider. We particularly relished our meal at Les Maraîchers – one of the oldest on the Place du Vieux Marche, where the market gardeners sold their vegetables. It is a delightfully warm, old-style bistro, a mix of old posters and family photos, decorated pitchers and aged mirrors.

The Rouen Cathedral was a natural starting point for us. Claude Monet’s renowned paintings featured the cathedral façade that is particularly famous for the highest spire in France. Over time, the Allied bombings and fierce storms caused significant damage, but the Gothic cathedral is still among the most beautiful in France. Some 13th-century windows are still decorated with the special cobalt blue known as “the blue from Chartres”.  Our next stop was Saint-Ouen, the Gothic Benedictine abbey where Joan of Arc was sentenced to death in 1431, and even larger than the Rouen cathedral.

Rouen’s hand-made pottery from 18th century to today – © ATOUT FRANCE/Hervé Le Gac

Time for art with a wonderful visit to Musée des Beaux-Arts, featuring exceptional 15th to 20th century works of art from Rubens, Caravaggio, Poussin, Corot and an entire area devoted to the works of Géricault. Several of Monet’s Impressionist masterpieces of the Rouen Cathedral were on display.

Local color and personality always appeal to us, so we wandered along “Little Venice” – Rue Eau de Robec – so named by Flaubert for the small stream that runs through the archways and street. A tiny side street, it was the perfect spot for a quiet glass of wine and a little exploration of the antique shops. In fact, I was able to satisfy my love of pottery, as so many wonderful old plates were available.

It was simply wonderful to absorb the many flavors of Rouen – the riverside and orange-tinted dusk, the ancient churches and transparent skies. In fact, as much as any feature of Rouen, it is the mystical, changing light of the city that has attracted painters, writers and visitors… like us!

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Weekend in the heart of Côte de Beaune

The pastoral grounds of Hostellerie de Levernois

Paris always tangles us in her magnetic appeal, but now and then it’s time to run for the country for a quiet weekend break.  Come with us today (or plan for your next visit); as we wander to the heart of Burgundy, where the wine is rare and the people warm!  For your convenience, you can make the trip in less than two hours by train.

Allow me to recommend an extraordinary indulgence – a memorable stay at the 5-star Hostellerie de Levernois in the heart of the Côte de Beaune.  A longstanding member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux, this gorgeous bourgeois house is situated on the edge of a golf course in an 11-acre park setting.

The quiet, intimate estate includes several room and suite selections as well as exceptional dining – an ideal base for exploring the intriguing wine country of Burgundy.  Imagine lunch at the charming Bistrot du Bord de l’Eau on the river, before exploring area vineyards and tasting rooms.  Let’s take advantage of the bicycles available to guests to explore the area; and at the end of the day, we’ll enjoy a glass of wine on our private terrace.

A few geographic and historic details explain the relatively small size of Burgundy’s internationally-acclaimed wine appellations.   Twenty-five million years ago – yes, a little difficult to fathom – this land shifted, re-arranging layers of limestone and soil. That’s why grapes along the 40-mile stretch in Burgundy yield several different wines.  The many individual soils in the area produce unique flavors for the treasured wines produced.

Delightful bistrot on the river

Prior to the French Revolution, the viniculture of Burgundy had been concentrated among large monastic estates.  First, the revolution divided them, and they were further reduced in size under the Napoleonic law that required equal distribution of property to heirs.

Don’t hesitate to ask your host for recommended sites to explore along the Côte de Beaune, where some of the finest dry white wines in the world are produced-  such as  Corton Charlemagne and le Montrachet.  You will discover lovely villages, historic castles and fantastic Burgundian cuisine to complement the  area wines.

The Pommard, Meursault and Chassagne Montrachet castles are handsome examples of the “Clos” wall-enclosed estates.  Visit the Château de Chorey-les-Beaune for a mix of 13th to 17th century architectural styles, where you discover the Germain family’s distinguished wines served in fine restaurants throughout the world.

If you enjoy wandering and wine tasting, this option offers a perfect getaway in the beautiful countryside of Burgundy!

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Benjamin Franklin – Mission in France

 Paris Print shows Benjamin Franklin standing with a man and a woman outside building.

The Reception of Benjamin Franklin in France – by Charles Brothers, ©1847

As we celebrate Independence Day, how appropriate to remember how dependent we were on the help of others to gain our own freedom.  Through the years France has given America far more than the Statue of Liberty.  In fact, the Revolutionary War would have been a lost cause, without the financial and military aid that Benjamin Franklin almost singlehandedly secured from the French.

A perspective of that time demonstrates the brilliance of Franklin’s diplomatic success.  America was made up of a fledgling group of colonies sick of “taxation without representation”.  England and France were the superpowers of Europe, each a monarchy but separated in general beliefs and forms of government.

England’s parliamentary form of government allowed some representation by commoners.  France’s monarchy left absolute power to the king; who presided over a world of idle luxury, while the average French person lived in abject poverty.  That’s a little too reminiscent of some of the world today!

Benjamin Franklin – Enter Stage Left

In December, 1776, Franklin arrived in Paris to a city of narrow streets, open sewers and homeless, starving people. In Tuileries Garden mansions, the upper classes gathered for soirées in opulent fashions and elaborate wigs.  The scenario could hardly have been comfortable for Franklin, who cherished the democratic beliefs of the Americans and might easily have championed the cause of poor French peasants.

But Benjamin Franklin understood his mission.  He could not insult the French court from who he sought aid. Instead, he dressed in humble style and exhibited his extraordinary intellect.  He learned French and spent all of his time with intellectuals and members of the upper class.

Can you imagine how enthralled they were with this scientific and literary man from New England, this printer, inventor and politician?  The aristocracy embraced Benjamin Franklin as the embodiment of New World Enlightenment.  His remarkable political and persuasive talents led one scholar to proclaim Franklin “the most essential and successful American diplomat of all time.”

And it was due to his success that French financial support for the war would aid America in the American Revolution.  Through Franklin’s skilled negotiation, the French signed a Treaty of Alliance with the Colonies in 1778.  America received continuing military, financial and political aid French that helped the colonies win the War for Independence.

One man understood and accomplished his mission, and our Nation was born.  One can only hope that American politicians one day will again set aside personal and party agendas, in order to provide the genuine leadership and accomplish the vital missions before us.

Happy 4th of July!

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Flea Market – Marché aux Puces, Paris

Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Copper and brass, baskets and buckets – Marché aux Puces

Often the brocante or flea market rivals the most famous of Paris museums for fascinating and historic objets d’art, and this flea market offers the most abundant selections in the city.  Paris’s most famous flea market groups hundreds of open stalls and shops in the 18th arrondissement selling every imaginable object, from grand vintage antiques and elaborate costume jewelry to simple home décor accessories and toy collectibles.   Once  is never enough, when it comes to visiting this renowned Marché!

Unfortunately, first you have to endure somewhat of a running of the gauntlet along avenue de la Porte de Clignancourt, as you thread your way through stalls of touristy, cheap clothing, shoes and trinkets.  Voila! – arrive at rue des Rosiers, turn left, and you will begin your real discovery tour.

Monday is one of the best days to visit, as the crowds are less and the bargains better.  Set aside worries about getting ‘stung’ by bad deals.

You will discover so many appealing stalls and fascinating treasures.  One offers only unusual vintage costumes and clothing.  You’ll see, perhaps, a charming felt hat of soft turquoise and imagine the glowing face that wore this lovely chapeau.  Or a whole stall of antique brass and copper, another of under-sized oil paintings.

Flea-market decorated Paris apartment, Marché aux Puces St-Ouen de Clignancourt

Flea-market decorated Paris apartment

For a top experience, dress comfortably, speak French, linger over goods that interest you and show your respect for items; and you’ll begin to have success negotiating with dealers.  Take time for lunch at one of the little cafes in the market.  You will enjoy watching fellow flea market visitors, as they work their way through a ‘yellow brick road’ of treasures.

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A Grateful Commune Remembers

Foxgloves in the beautiful Alsatian landscape – © ATOUT FRANCE/Michel

On Memorial Day, we return to a special U.S. soldier to honor his memory and that of all of our men and women, who have served and sacrificed for our country.

Imagine, if you will, a little drive through the countryside south of Colmar. The Haut Rhine département of Alsace dresses for summer with fields of flowers, vineyards and cool forests along rolling hills and sprawling meadows. Just 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) from Colmar, pull over near the soccer field in Holzwihr to enjoy a quiet walk – easily a popular pastime in this region.

You are about to discover a quiet, historic site. Tucked among trees along the side of the narrow country lane is a remarkable memorial, dedicated by Holzwihr citizens in January, 2000. The Audie L. Murphy Memorial pays tribute to the Congressional Medal of Honor recipient, whose one-man stand successfully fought back a German regiment that had counter attacked Murphy’s own Company. The people who designed the monument highlighted Audie Murphy, as one who best represented the courage, valor and sacrifice all of the soldiers made.

The inscription translates: “In memory. This memorial is dedicated to the soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Division and the Fourth Combat Command under the command of the 1st French Army who liberated Holtzwihr on 27 January 1945 after bloody combat under most trying conditions. It represents the heroic act that Lieutenant Audie L. Murphy of the 15th U.S. Infantry Regiment achieved at this site on 26 January 1945, in order to push back an enemy counterattack. For this action he was decorated with the highest American and French honors. Visitor, respect this memorial and forget not that these soldiers have died so that you live. Holtzwihr, 29 January 2000.”

Audie L. Murphy Memorial, Holtzwihr

The Memorial is located precisely where the heroic stand by Audie Murphy helped to liberate this modest commune.  Beyond all of the medals awarded to then 2nd Lieutenant Murphy by his own country, France awarded him five medals, including their highest honor, the French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier.

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France River Cruise for Your List?

Cruise France

Viking River Cruise stateroom with your own veranda

Not that our Bucket List isn’t crammed full, but really – a river cruise anywhere in France seems a “must”.  During a recent visit with our French friends, they described several river journeys that sounded pretty heavenly.  We do know ourselves well enough to realize the smaller boats would be more appealing.

If you don’t know, the “Bucket List” term was inspired by the movie of the same name.  The main stars fashioned a list of things they wanted to do, before they ‘kicked the bucket’…like skydiving, driving a Shelby Mustang and dining at the Chevre d’Or overlooking the Mediterranean.

All things considered, we think a Viking River Cruise through France might be a nice addition. In the so-called “long and short of it”, there is a short cruise from Paris through Normandy and a rather indulgent 15-day excursion that extends that particular cruise to take you to Avignon, Arles and beyond.  Naturally that’s not the extent of cruise offerings.  You can go from Paris to Lyon or Zurich or go west to cruise around the Bordeaux wine region on the Dordogne, Garonne and Gironde Rivers.

The accolades for the Viking cruises are noteworthy.  National Geographic, for one, features Viking in their “The 10 Best of Everything” awards.  In 2012, Viking launched six new longships earning significant praise from Cruise Critic Editors.  Viking exceeds expectations with state-of-the-art engineering, balcony cabins, suites and expansive, atrium-style common areas.  Add more than 175 years of cruise experience and carefully-planned itineraries, and you understand the allure.

So back to our Bucket List addition, we might as well go all out with the combo cruise that runs, in essence, the length of France. Viking combines a Normandy adventure with cruises through the southern regions of Burgundy and Provence and visits to Avignon, Arles and Lyon.  Can you imagine a more delightful itinerary? Touches of Monet and Van Gogh. Cuisines of Lyon and Avignon. Cobblestone streets and soaring Gothic architecture. And the magnificent sights of Paris need no description.

Tournon France

Scenic Tournon

I can allow my imagination to take hold, picturing a spacious stateroom, outside – of course – with our own balcony. They have thought of everything – spacious observation lounges and bars with panoramic windows. Wireless internet service, boutique and library.

Talented chefs present a cuisine of fresh, seasonal local vegetables, regional specialties and menus adapted to your tastes. From pleasant and complete breakfast choices to a five-course dinner, we shall be well prepared for active days and pleasant evenings.

Though we tend to strike out on our own and avoid set tours, we believe the Viking experience might be quite worthy of the “Bucket List”.

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Artisans in Saint-Emilion

Bordeaux area of France

Saint-Emilion textile creations

They’re just like you and me, you know. Nurture our dreams. Develop our talents. Talk it up with friends … and go for it!

We wandered into just such a dream shop in Saint-Emilion. The bright colors and shimmering fabrics drew our attention – soft drapes and enchanting table linens that flaunted their originality. A few moments with the friendly ladies in the shop disclosed their adventure.

Three homemakers with energy, talent and drive opened this shop, tapping their own love for beautiful textiles. They work from home. They sell their enchanting goods just down the steep, cobbled lane from the macaron shop.

A delightful moment and memory for us, a cherished dream come true for them! And you must know that every time we think of that lovely town, we remember our momentary friends and hope they are flourishing.

Bordeaux shops

Color, texture and joie!

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Guérande’s Renowned Fleur de Sel

Medieval city of Guérande

The fortified city of Guérande, Brittany

I’m sure we’re not the only travelers who look back on a trip wishing we had stayed longer in one place.  No, we don’t wring our hands over decisions made nor directions taken, but we do often wish we had researched a bit more thoroughly, planned a little more.

And so it was, when we drove from the Loire Valley to the western coast along the Atlantic.  “Rooms at the Inn” were in short supply due to the August tourist rush, so we were only able to stop for a brief visit in Guérande, before continuing north – definitely a do-over moment!  We’d like to return again to enjoy the medieval fortified town and explore the paradise of salt marshes.

Guérande’s salt marshes represent 1,000 years of salt production between the Loire and Vilaine rivers.  Perhaps the Romans discovered the technique that allows sea water to evaporate from open pans. Worked by paludiers, the salt flats formed a colorful mosaic that made the Bretagne peninsula quite rich during the early Middle Ages. Though there were slumps in production, the more efficient salt marshes today have enjoyed a real renaissance in popularity.

Now paludiers hand harvest sea salt in much the same manner that has been used over the past millennium. Sea water flows through the dyke at high tide and continues through a network of pools. Workers draw off water toward ditches, and the wind and sun hasten the drying action and evaporation. Gradually, the salt brine becomes concentrated, until it arrives in the last salt pan or “oeillet”.  Salt crystals start to form with coarse grey salt at the bottom and delicate “fleur de sel” at the surface.

salt marshes of guerande

Salt marshes of Guerande

Paludiers collect the flavorful grey salt daily.  The unrefined form is used in traditional cooking, while the finer “fleur de sel” is skimmed from the surface to provide subtle flavors to any good dish.  The reputation of Guérande’s sea salt is a renowned favorite of many of the world’s great chefs.

 

 

Sea Salt from Guerande

 

If you won’t be making a journey to Guérande any time soon, you still can enjoy this delicate favorite. Just visit French Food Market for fleur de sel and many other fine French oils, vinegars, mustards and more.
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A Ray of Sun in Tarascon

.Castle of le Roi René [constructed in 1400 – one of the finest mediaeval castles in France.- © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

No wonder artists gravitate to the South of France. Beyond abundant history and natural landscapes, the storied country offers unparalleled beauty and color.

“In the morning, when you open the window, you see the green of the gardens and the rising sun, and the road into the town….It will not be commonplace.” Vincent Van Gogh

Imagine the vivid splashes of color that flowed from the mind and brush of Van Gogh, and you will grasp some idea of the landscape surrounding Tarascon.  In the heart of one of the most beautiful regions of Provence, the limestone hills of the Alpilles set the backdrop for endless rows of enormous sunflowers, ironically with their backs to the sun.  It’s the perfect photo op for a shot of you, standing next to a flower whose face is larger than yours!

Experience the Tarascon region, and you will never wonder at its ability to unlock the brilliance of artists and writers … and the awe of visitors who have enjoyed the sights, scents and sounds.  You take in purple fields of lavender that stretch across the land and perfume the air. Cypress and golden wheat, apricot and olive trees, lazy river banks and every imaginable variety of flora and fauna present one surprise after another.

Tarascon hugs the Rhone River that feeds southward through the Camargue Regional Nature Park to the Mediterranean.  In between Avignon and Arles, Saint-Remy-de-Provence and Nimes; Tarascon offers a perfect center for discovery.

For a unique experience, visit the “Maison de Tartarin” – a museum entirely dedicated to bringing to life the novel written by Alphonse Daudet in 1872, in which the adventurous hero Tartarin hunts lions in Africa before returning to Tarascon.  The house is filled with neatly-labeled exotic weaponry – Corsican knives and lassos from Mexico, steel guns – lions and costumes.

Souleiado Museum, Tarascon

Wander Tarascon’s narrow streets to 39 Rue Proudhon to discover the “Souleiado – Charles-Demery.”  The colorful printed cotton fabrics replicate the vibrant colors – mustard yellow, raspberry pink and the terra-cotta red – seen throughout southern France.

Today’s Souleiado fabrics symbolize Provençal heritage and are as popular in America as in France and Europe.  The very definition of Souleiado is “a ray of sun shining through the clouds after a rain.” The museum includes pottery displays, a print shop replica, period carved wood design blocks, 18th century costumes and a large variety of creative classes.

The Château du Roy René, another Tarascon attraction, features a vast sprawling fortress that dates to the early 15th century.  Rising some six stories above the Rhone, it is both imposing and interesting to explore.

The entire region offers a feast of interesting villages and outdoor activities, from the antique markets near St. Remy de Provence to the Roman arena in Nimes.  Perhaps, one evening you will visit Van Gogh’s famous cafe in Arles to imagine long ago starry nights and artistry touched with a bit of madness.

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Two Unique Paths – Cézanne & Verne

musee-jules-verne-jules-verne-museum-Nantes France

The Jules Verne in Nantes

A little musing today about famous French men who followed their own dreams.  I suppose parents run the gamut in guiding their children in career directions.  The child’s interest.  Financial rewards.  Respected professions.  Family traditions.  Two renowned French men (among many others, I’m sure) disregarded their fathers’ guidance to seek entirely different career paths than those desired by well-intentioned Dad.

Paul Cézanne, for example, initially followed his doctor father’s wishes by attending the University of Aix law school from 1859 to 1861, but he also continued with drawing lessons. Ultimately, with the encouragement of his friend Emile Zola, Cézanne left Aix-en-Provence in 1861 to pursue painting in Paris. His prolific body of work casts an affirmative final vote in favor of the son’s interests and wishes.

Who else chose to turn his back on father’s plan for his life? Like Napoleon, his name appears everywhere in France, on streets and museums, on statues and restaurants. And that man is Jules Verne, the renowned French writer, who pioneered the science fiction genre.  Many of Verne’s traveler tales included inventions considered far ahead of his time. Through his life of writing, he completed 54 major novels about life in the future.

Verne’s fascination with the sea began early in the sea port of Nantes, where he was born. Though he later was caught and returned, he even ran away at one point to be a cabin boy on a merchant ship. Bowing to his father’s vision, Jules Verne studied law in Paris, where he also discovered theatre. After finding that his son had published a play and left his legal studies, his father cut him off and forced Verne to earn his way by selling his written works.

After intense study in geology, engineering and astronomy; Verne expanded on the inventions he had seen and imagined future inventions. In his novels, he created a world that really would not come to fruition until the twentieth century.

La Maison_de_jules_verne, Amiens France

Jules Verne’s home in Amiens, 1882-1900

He introduced the idea of long voyages by air in his first novel (1863), “Five Weeks in a Balloon”.  Well before anyone could imagine space travel and moon landings, Verne wrote “From the Earth to the Moon” in 1866. His predictive writings really were uncanny, such locating the l splashdown point in his novel just a few miles from the actual site of Apollo 8’s splashdown.  The launch point of the moon capsule also was close to Cape Canaveral. And he learned … or imagined that from visiting Parisian libraries to study science and engineering?

How about the fact that his capsule included three astronauts – two Americans and one Frenchman? Verne seemed to mix powerful doses of knowledge and imagination to produce an astounding number of on-target, futuristic novels. And we haven’t even touched “20,000 Leagues under the Sea”, “Robur the Conqueror” or the acclaimed “Around the World in 80 days”.

Who is to say how he might have fared as a lawyer, had he listened to his father? We do know that Jules Verne died in 1905, a very popular and rich man and one who has mesmerized readers throughout their ‘journeys’ with him.  There’s certainly no mystery to the presence of his name throughout France.

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Paris Views – From the Musée d’Orsay

Paris France museums

Rooftop View from Musee D’Orsay

As one who loves sculpture, I find the Musée D’Orsay the perfect place to satisfy that passion.  Privileged visitors enter a virtual garden of sculptures that flow through the historic museum.

Once the Orsay railway station, the building itself is a work of art dating to 1900.  Beneath soaring ceilings and the lovely gold station clock, quiet visitors wander from a graceful, reclining nymph to Benjamin Spence’s “The Angel’s Whisper” to Rodin’s “Winter” and “The Bronze Age” – the collection is seemingly endless.

So many moments to be still, to absorb the history and culture, to appreciate one of so many treasures of Paris.

We finish our visit with a rooftop view across the Seine to the Tuilleries Gardens.  Paris – there is no city like her!

Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Breathtaking sights!

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Pont-Aven – “14 Watermills, 15 Houses”

The River Aven rushes past the old watermill

A charming “tag” for a very appealing place.  That’s how the petite village of Pont-Aven was described in the 19th century – definitely a lovely hamlet known for watermills and a thriving port.  Today the river Aven surges down the Black Mountains and crosses through the village before flowing past  fertile farms to the Atlantic Ocean.

The watermills helped Pont-Aven become a prosperous port, where grain was milled and conveyed along the waterways to the Breton coastline for eventual trade with England. Today, the four remaining watermills lend considerable charm to Pont-Aven, where visitors enjoy the sensory pleasure of wandering along willow-draped river banks and quaint bridges.  Our destination is the Grand Poulguin watermill, where we look forward to savory crêpes on the terrace overlooking the river and footbridge.

Another significant facet underscores the success of Pont-Aven.  In the mid 1800’s, a group of American painters happened upon the lively village and instantly were drawn to the light, colors, warm hospitality and traditional Breton costumes.  Thus an artists’ settlement was born, a settlement that would attract none other than Paul Gaugin.  The invention of paint in tubes allowed Gaugin and other artists to escape their studios and set up their easels in the midst of nature – a la “plein-air” painting.  Brittany became famous for the colorful canvas paintings of Breton landscapes.

Moulin du Grand Poulguin

From his room at Madame Gloanec’s boardinghouse, Gauguin and several like-minded artists founded the Pont-Aven School, where they created a painting style that varied from the dominant Impressionism of the day.  Strong symbolism, simplicity and broad strokes of pure color characterized their new style.

Unfortunately today’s cost of Gaugin paintings makes it impossible for the village to showcase his work, but the Musée des Beaux Arts de Pont-Aven includes an interesting profile of his turbulent life – Hommage à Gauguin and works by lesser-known Pont-Aven artists – Maurice Denis, Émile Bernard, Émile Jordan, and Emmanuel Sérusier.

The whole Pont-Aven atmosphere urges me to take my own easel (and a bottle of wine) for an easy afternoon along the river.

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Paris Awakening – Spring

Decorating the lawns of Le Tour Eiffel

Decorating the lawns of Le Tour Eiffel

Unlike in Paris, Spring arrives in Florida with a bit of modesty. If you look carefully, azaleas bloom in a variety of colors – though, frankly, they’re quite confused these days with so few cool-to-cold days. Oaks take on a brilliant green. In our little porch garden, bold red geraniums join yellow pansies and deep purple petunias. Jasmine shoots up our little iron trellis – topped with a lovely fleur-de-lis – gaining so many inches each day. I appreciate all of these little signs of Spring, BUT……

 

Memories of Spring in Paris abound. Bold tulips along the paths surrounding the Eiffel Tower. Clusters of brightly-colored little bouquets around the Trocadero. Flower stalls filled to the brim, and the delight of children sailing their boats in the fountains of the Tuileries.

Paris sailboats

Sailing into Spring at the Tuileries – Paris

It’s the season of renewal, and … here in Florida or there in Paris … I appreciate and embrace the world’s ‘new coat of paint’. I wish for the same renewal in the hearts of the people, who have suffered at the hands of those who don’t understand the beauty of a flower or the blessing of peace.
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Pagnol’s Canal du Midi

Languedoc Chateau, France

The Château Ventenac overlooks the Canal du Midi

The first filmmaker to be elected to the Académie Française, Marcel Pagnol wrote a series of four autobiographical books. The second, Le Château de ma mère (My Mother’s Castle) was made into an entrancing movie. If you haven’t seen it, by all means take the opportunity to search out this cinematic treat, as well as the other three!

I most remember scenes of Pagnol’s family threading their way along the Canal du Midi with the assistance of groundskeepers and caretakers, who unlocked their property’s gates. Throughout the world there are more and more “green spaces”, trails and bicycle paths that entice the nature lover and exercise devotee. I would choose to linger along the Canal du Midi, to trace Pagnol’s path and see the chateaus poised above the canal.

As fortune would have it, there is an elegant castle, where groups and families can steal away for a retreat. The Château Ventenac borders the Canal and is right next door to the 13th-century church of Ventenac-en-Minervois in the Languedoc region of southern France.

Drive along the narrow D26 past miles and miles of carefully-tended vineyards, and suddenly you round a corner and – voila! The canal, the village, the Château and the little ancient bridge come into view. The six-bedroom gîte is beautifully appointed, with gardens and terraces overlooking the canal, an ideal setting for a self-catered getaway for you and your friends or family.

The little village has the necessities of life … like croissants from the boulangerie and wine from the Château de Ventenac Wine Cave, now a co-opérative that makes and sells wines using grapes from the same vineyards you pass on your way into the village. A couple of times a week, mobile market vans visit the village to sell fresh local produce. There’s even a chicken van, and the Mairie announces the van arrivals over a loudspeaker system –village culture at its best!

Chateau, CAnal du Midi, France

Breakfast on the terrace?

But, here is my favorite part. On the Château grounds, there is a lower gateway that provides access to the Canal du Midi. The gate is locked with a padlock – a la the Pagnol story – but the code is kept in the kitchen. You can slip through the gate and meander for miles along the tree-lined Canal.   Merveilleux!

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Guimard’s Historic Art Nouveau – Paris

Guimard's Entrance to Le Castel Béranger

Stunning Guimard doorway

I love the museums of Paris … and the rest of France, but I don’t need them.  Down this path and around that corner, I find one visual feast after another – a charming door, a flower-covered trellis, a stunning window, the ever-enticing Seine.

And real works of art adorn so many buildings!  After an enjoyable Sunday brunch at a friend’s apartment in the 16th arrondisement, we wandered around the corner for an incredible visual treat – Le Castel Béranger, an apartment building designed by Hector Guimard. While the architect’s fanciful wrought iron designs accent many of the building’s features, this front entrance demonstrates his distinct, swirling designs.

Largely considered the father of the French Art Nouveau architectural movement, Guimard designed the pioneering ornate entrances to Paris Metro stations. Only 86 of the original 180 wrought iron signs remain and are being restored with care.

After rampant modernization in the 1960’s and early 70’s eliminated many of the nouveau signs, all of Guimard’s entrances were declared historic monuments in 1978. We can now look forward to seeing the renewed Metro signs throughout Paris and feel a sense of gratitude for the wisdom of those who recognized and redeemed these historic structures.

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Touches of Shangri-La in Paris

Five star hotel, Paris

Shangri-La dining in Paris

Oh, let us dream a little.  We love Paris.  We plan to take a trip … soon.  Shall we plan to visit the home of a Bonaparte relative?  Don’t be too hasty or negative with your reply!

The fictional Shangri-La emerged in Lost Horizon, the 1933 novel by James Hilton; but there is a real Shangri-La in Paris – one every bit as appealing as Hilton’s harmonious valley.  Said to be “a royal reception in the legendary city of lights”, the Shangri-La Hotel once was home to Napoleon Bonaparte’s grandnephew, Prince Roland Bonaparte, proving absolutely that rank indeed has its privilege.

In our favorite city, with a multitude of fine hotel offerings, the Shangri-La Hotel represents a beacon of refined style with an attentive staff that mirrors their good taste in serving guests.  Reflecting European Empire taste with subdued ecru, blue and white décor; the hotel is beautifully appointed with a stunning mix of textures and custom furnishings.

Paris France

Deluxe rooms with view of the Eiffel Tower

And I didn’t even mention the spectacular views of the Seine and Le Tour Eiffel.  Paris obviously enjoys quite a number of five-star hotels, and the Shangri-La well deserves its ranking among the best.  When the weekend approaches, isn’t it delightful to imagine remarkably beautiful places?

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“>A little boutique of French gifts………

Paris Lune de Miel

Paris lune de miel

Paris Wedding Postcard

December 2003, Paris. Allow me, s’il vous plait, to share some magic with you. We married on December 20 in a beautiful ceremony at The Vinoy overlooking the water in St. Petersburg, Florida. Our dear friends from Paris participated in our wedding, reading the lessons in French and English. Sprigs of lavender welcomed each luncheon guest, and our trés authentique croque-em-bouche wedding cake crowned the festivities. And what awaited us was Paris.

The next day, we were off to the City of Light for our lune de miel, where we would enjoy a residential stay in our friends’ apartment – imagine, our first time in Paris together and our own little nest from which to explore. Memory seems like a fickle traveler. Just when you want to go directly to a place, the rascal takes you on a detour; and the further away from the original adventure, the more interesting highlights emerge.

Bien sur, we made a few mistakes along the way. I remember those. We arrived at Charles de Gaulle and whisked right through Customs and out into the terminal. Wait. Our luggage. Whoops! In our excitement, we simply had walked right by the baggage area … but a little saint awaited us. An airport worker simply let us back through a door to the baggage area and helped us to avoid a bureaucratic nightmare in trying to retrieve our luggage.

And en route to our apartment destination in the Latin Quarter, I told the taxi driver the boulevard name and the number – “dix-sept”. So proud was I to be negotiating the language! Only the number really was “seize” – 16 – on the opposite side of 6, heavily-traveled lanes. No problem. The driver simply owned the street in his deft U-turn maneuver. Voila! We arrived at our flat in Paris!

Prior to this magnificent honeymoon adventure, I had visited Paris 3 times with my last visit 3 years earlier; while Leo only had dipped his toes in the capital for a brief afternoon on a whirlwind tour with his sister. So here we were –newly married, gloriously happy, bundled up in the re-a-a-l-l-y cold, December air with me as the primary guide with minimal language skills. I promise you, ne c’est pas une problem! Our delightful hosts would not return to their apartment until New Years’ Day, so we really were on our own.

This is where that fickle memory skips across time, like a lightly-loaded paintbrush that touches down for a little swipe here and there, leaving a hazy impression; but that’s okay. I don’t want to write a novel, nor do you want to read one!

On our first outing I wanted us to dine at Aux Bon Coin, a charming little café a few blocks from the apartment. “I’m sure it’s just over here – down this street – well……….there! Voila!” Closed. Just a little air went out of my balloon. I was proud to have found it but disappointed not to be able to enjoy the warm hospitality and authentic French cuisine I had enjoyed in the past. Plan B – that funny little restaurant on the boulevard, where the floor is literally a sand-filled beach. C’est trés unique and touted as a place to enjoy cuisine from the Seychelles!

Paris Christmas

Children’s play area, Bastille, Paris

Skipping along to other specific memories – Christmas Eve. We stood by a window ledge along the street, so I could transfer items from my old, broken-handled purse to my newly-purchased bag. A young man rounded the corner and greeted us with “Joyeux Noel”. So sweet and firmly attached to my memory bank.

We bundled up for daily walks through the Marais, to the Place des Vosges, along the canal to Bastille, taking in the colorful Christmas decorations and happy residents. A big, garish chicken for the children’s holiday attraction? Mais oui! Le French – Le Coq!

Christmas Day we ventured out to Centre Pompidou and wound our way through the modern exhibits. As we sat on a bench before a massive, detailed painting, it dawned on my husband – all of those little drawings that were part of the large painting were, shall we say, erotic entanglements. Guess you really DO have to study art!

New Year’s Eve was the ultimate crown in our honeymoon – one of the few planned events of our trip. Friends had gifted us with tickets to the Opéra Garnier for a ballet performance, and the occasion was one of the most elegant and memorable of our lives. Tucked away in our resplendent opera box beneath the magnificent Marc Chagall ceiling, we were immersed in a dream. There are no words to fit the experience. The charming couple next to us from northern France, champagne at intermission, wandering the streets with thousands and thousands along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées awaiting the Eiffel Tower’s ‘announcement’ of 2004.

Paris Opera

Opera Garnier, New Year’s Eve

As we near our 12th Anniversary and the beginning of a bright New Year, we cherish every one of those memories. And hopefully, the coming year will find us along the streets of Paris again … meeting our friends for dinner, stopping at a bench along the Seine, joining the sing-a-long at the bottom of rue Mouffetard on Sunday morning. Thank you Paris. Merci beaucoup!

And we wish Happy Holidays and beautiful memories to all of our fellow Francophiles!

 

 

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France – Le Bonheur Ultime!

I’m waxing poetic today; so if you’re immersed in left-brain sensibilities, you might want to read the Wall Street Journal. You see, I’m taking a trip this morning with Isak Dinesen, a trip to France via her Africa, a trip through her embrace of the land, the people and life itself. A captivating author, I never tire of her writing. But my journey is to France, a mental wandering with no need for luggage or passports or airport delays.

Loire Valley, France

Magnificent breakfast view of Chateau Chambord

Ms. Dinesen wrote: “If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”

And my soliloquy translates to France: If I know a song of France, of the markets and the cityscapes of Paris and Lyon, of the Provençal hills and winding roads along the sea, of the artisans yielding the skill of generations, does France know a song of me? Will the water along the Seine reflect a color I have worn, or the children name a sailboat in the Tuileries for me, or a sliver of the moon shine with the joy I have felt in Normandy, or will the glistening cloak of night over the Loire valley tell my story?

Alas, I am not Isak, though she always will be one of my favorite authors. She immersed herself in Africa; we chose France. She carried her civilized Limoges and white gloves to live among the Masai. We chose a simple tablecloth and basket to picnic along the coast.

She also wrote: “Up in this air you breathed easily, drawing in a vital assurance and lightness of heart. In the highlands you woke up in the morning and thought: Here I am, where I ought to be.”

Paris France

Raclettes and fondue in a cozy cafe

We have felt ‘where we ought to be’ … on a terrace overlooking Château de Chambord in the morning light … in the lush garden of a huge but gentle man outside of Amboise …  among the rainbow of fruits and vegetables in the marketplace along rue Mouffetard.

Yet, topping all of the glorious sights and scents of France, the quiet murmur of shared friendship trumps everything else. Dinner on a cold night in a warm bistro. Melting raclettes and savory fondue, pichets of wine and the familiar sound of an accordionist meandering among the guests. Sharing this with our Parisian friends – le bonheur ultime!

Paris raclettes

Warm food & friendship in Paris

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One Butterfly Landing … in Paris

Paris moments

A quiet moment in Les Tuileries

In his often-amusing book: Secrets of Successful Fiction, author Robert Newton Peck addresses the business of ‘zeroing in’ by suggesting the budding novelist look through an empty toilet paper roll in a chapter entitled “Look Through a Toot-ta-Do”.  Really, he offers brilliant advice that invites writers to skip the lush, sprawling beauty of the meadow in favor of “… one butterfly landing on one bluet.”

That sage counsel underscores the brilliance of famed French photographer Robert Doisneau, the undisputed master of capturing the mood, the people and the life of Paris. In endless ways, he demonstrated the fatigue of a worker at the bar at day’s end or the capricious joy of children cycling before the Eiffel Tower.

By no means do I compare our photos to Monsieur Doisneau; but when I look back over the many moments we captured on film in Paris, I see one of the world’s most magnificent and appealing cities come to life in small, singular moments.

Meandering through Les Tuileries, we relish the sight of children sailing their boats in the fountain, of a lone woman enjoying silent moments with her book in hand, the quixotic fashion model sipping her coffee ever so carefully in order to preserve her elaborate make-up. And those are just the human touches to the sprawling gardens, statues and backdrops of stunning architecture.

Paris by the Seine

Lone butterfly by the Seine

An afternoon along the Champ de Mars? More of the same without anything being duplicated.  The pigeons pick their way among students enjoying a picnic; a charming young lady seemingly awaits her ‘chariot’ or, rather, awaits a donkey to pull her little cart.  Under every tree, down every path visitors and residents add everyday color to the majesty of the Eiffel Tower that rises above them.

On a somber note, the utter defeat of an old, homeless man stands in shocking contrast to the joyous carousel behind him. Yet, we are uplifted again by the sight of a father and son by the Seine.

Beyond the spectacular sights we discover around every corner of the City of Light, Paris offers abundant moments of humanity. We stop.  We watch.  We pull pieces from our fresh-from-the-bakery baguette, and we find ourselves immersed in this mystique-filled mix of life.  Sitting on a bench by the Seine at dusk, a lone musician pulls out his trumpet beneath the bridge and begins his tune.  He is but one among many unique butterflies landing in Paris.

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Return to Seaside Sète, France

Sete Fr

Magnificent views from Mont Saint-Clair

Sète fits well into our ‘now we’d like to return’ category, another of those places we briefly visited, before bustling on along the beautiful Mediterranean coast. During our adventurous summer of 2005, we drove southeast from Toulouse and crested a hill to the most magnificent sight – the bejeweled Mediterranean in the distance. We dipped down to Agde – yes, another city where we should have lingered – and before we knew it, we were driving along a pure, spectacular beachfront on our way to Sète.

We were in the beginning of our “Discover France” summer, so we had few plans and sometimes too little information; so our time in Sète was limited to floundering around the charming port with its intricate canal network, colorful boats and stunning views. Today I can’t imagine how, but we ended up driving all the way up the singular hill around which the city circles – Mont Saint-Clair. A great accident, in that the views were panoramic!

Languedoc coast

Panoramic views of Sete

Now we understand that this modest city of 40-plus thousand does not represent the glitz and glamour of the Côte d’Azur but stands as a proud working port with abundant fishing and an inimitable, non-touristy charm. Two bodies of water wrap themselves around Sète, like a set of parentheses with the sprawling multi-blue Mediterranean to the front and the brackish Étang de Thau lagoon to the rear. Handily and with an enticing appeal, a network of canals connect the two – quite a rainbow scene with fishing boats painted every color of the spectrum.

Along the magnificent stretch of beach that separates the sea from the lagoon, we stopped to sink our toes in the soft sand and take in the endless expanse of azure waters. Magnificent! Only one couple with their two young children were even close to us – close enough, I might add, for us to notice their European ways with wildly colorful, animal-shaped floats and the entirely unself-conscious act of stripping down to don their suits. Pas de problème!

In fulfilling our “do-over”, I believe we could happily stay at Le Grand Hotel handsomely situated on the main canal and offering the three-star, 19th-century architecture that has long attracted the city’s maritime elite. And if we really wanted an exotic adventure, right out of Sète we could book a ferry to Morocco!

Between Agde and Sete France

The incomparable Mediterranean

Somehow, though, I think we would be quite satisfied to explore the port and canals, not to mention re-visit the magnificent beaches. Perhaps one of the most interesting dollops of history in this town and port established in 1666 is the mandate from Louis XIV that the port be built as an outlet for the Canal du Midi.

Though I’m not among the fish-loving populace, those of you who fit that category will be in heaven! Mussels and oysters and octopus and every conceivable gilled creature comes straight from the port ships and adjacent lagoon to the markets and restaurants along the canal-side quays. I am altogether certain, though, that we will be able to find one of those savory daube beef stews for which the Camargue region is famous.

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The Spectacular Art of Paris

Pont des Arts, Paris

Paris Passerelle des Arts by Mbzt – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Today I thought about the many fabulous Paris museums – grand and petite – that we have had the privilege and pleasure to visit. From the monumental Louvre to the petite Musée Rodin, any visitor may relish some of the world’s finest art treasures in the City of Light.

As always though, my thoughts wandered directly to the art of the entire city – in the gardens, supporting building columns, gracing bridges and soaring upward in grand old department stores. One tiny memory surfaced, when my dear friend led me like a gently-tethered pet to catch glimpses of grandeur in her adopted city.

Paris 5-star hotel

Stunning L’Hotel Staircase

During an evening walk, we crossed Pont des Arts headed directly toward the magnificent gilded cupola of the Institut de France. Stunning enough, I would say, but no. My friend said, “We need to duck around here to the hotel where Oscar Wilde lived.”

I needed no prompting, as we worked our way behind the Institut to rue des Beaux Arts and stepped into one of the most charming venues of Paris. Before extolling the hotel’s virtues, I have to share the moment of beauty that seared itself indelibly in my memory – the six-story staircase that winds like an elegant serpent upward to the twenty rooms above in such a quietly spectacular manner.

L'Hotel, Paris

Oscar Wilde’s apartment view

How hard can it be to take in such a visual feast and imagine the moments enjoyed here by the likes of Oscar Wilde, Elizabeth Taylor, Princess Grace and Salvador Dali? Yes, I would very much welcome my husband and I adding our names to that esteemed guest register!

Fortunately, genuine connoisseurs understand the subtle blend of opulent and understated. L’Hotel is one such place, a timeless jewel – the smallest, 5-star hotel in Paris. The name itself speaks volumes – a simple, refined statement for a far-from-ordinary hotel.

Left Bank Paris hotels

Chambre, L’Hotel, Paris

In this case, pictures are well worth thousands of words, so step through the hotel with me to take in the venue that has presented privileged Paris visitors with stellar hospitality for over two centuries. And, by the way, regardless of room rates, I love the fact that L’Hotel doesn’t quibble over details, offering a complimentary continental breakfast.

Is it any wonder that Oscar Wilde, claiming to ‘live above his means’, chose to live out his days at L’Hotel at the end of the 19th century?
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French Train Travel – 1914

Paris rail travel

On of many tourist posters for Chemin de Fer du Nord

This morning I ‘time’ traveled to France in the year 1914. Yes, that is the marvel of a vivid imagination and the ability to travel in your mind – no steamer trunks or wardrobe decisions, no prolonged airport waits or security checks. I browsed through a little, long-ago Christmas gift from our daughter and off I went.

The gift? An ancient Chemin de Fer du Nord train schedule from “Ete 1914” offering “6 Services Rapides entre Paris et Londres”. What a lovely little jewel, complete with train schedules and ticket prices, maps and advertising for everything from banks and crêperies to hotels and sea-bathing resorts.

Just imagine this era, later coined “La Belle Epoque”, when France reveled in cultural and scientific vitality, when soldiers in handsome red trousers stepped through clean, tree-lined streets, and the magnificent Galeries Lafayette opened its flagship department store on Boulevard Haussmann.

Mediterranean France rail

Posters touting sea-bathing destinations

Cars were in abundance in motoring Paris, from the dominant Peugeot and Renault to the elitist Delaunay-Belleville (provider of limousines for Tsar Nicholas of Russia). France also excelled in aviation, with Bleriot and Roland Garros who crossed the English Channel and the Mediterranean.

Indeed, the machine was transforming the world, and art and culture were mirroring this modern world from the likes of cubist Pablo Picasso and the commercial poster artist and typeface designer Adolphe Mouron Cassandre, decidedly influenced by Surrealism and Cubism.

Which, of course, brings us back to the railroad and The Compagnie de Chemin de fer du Nord, originally an industrialist transportation venture under the leadership of Baron James de Rothschild. In addition to the charming and informative little schedule/guide I have in hand, the Compangnie promoted itself with now renowned tourist posters touting the travel ease and destinations of the Chemin de Fer du Nord. Some of these magnificent images now grace the halls of MOMA and The J. Paul Getty Museum.

Chemin du Nord, France

Pre World War I railroad map

Despite all of the good times, grandeur and dynamic progress of the time; a huge shadow was looming and one that was not lost on those who enjoyed these days. The very summer for which my booklet was produced saw the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria and the onset of the first Great War.

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The Liberation of Paris Celebrated

Paris WWII

Paris liberated – August 25, 1944

Interesting that just one day prior to the day Paris was liberated (August 25), I finished reading The Cost of Courage, the recently-published book about the prolonged involvement of a bourgeois Catholic family in the French Resistance during World War II. In the book, history abounds, and the author tells the true story that weaves one family’s ordeal with the day-to-day trials of a populace forced to live under Nazi rule for over four years. As much as anything else, I appreciate closing the cover with even a small understanding of the challenges, decisions and complexities of this time in France, in Europe and in the rest of the world.

And so tomorrow, the French, and Parisians in particular, remember the blessings of liberation by the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division. As an incessantly impatient person (and that quality, they say, is one that can’t be remedied), I absolutely cannot imagine the lengthy occupation, the fear, deprivation, loss and self-doubt. In America, through all of our wars, sacrifices and horrible losses; “we the people” have not had to face the occupation of our land by foreign powers.

paris france

Along the quais of the Seine

Tomorrow, I plan imaginary walks through my favorite places in Paris – through the Latin Quarter and along the quais of the Seine. Up to the lawns of Sacre Cœur that overlook this gorgeous city. To the Champ de Mars and the Tuileries, where I can see the everyday life of children and boule players and elder couples walking arm in arm.

I am grateful for the armies that liberated Paris and for the wisdom of German General Dietrich von Choltitz, who did not want to be known as the man who had destroyed the “City of Light”. A sweeping tip of the hat to all of our French friends, as they celebrate the joy of freedom and  remember the losses of the Second Great War.
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Discovering Haut-de-Cagnes

Cote d'Azur, France

Renoir’s retreat in Haut-de-Cagnes

During a nomadic summer in France, we stopped for the night in Cagnes-sur-Mer along the tantalizing Côte d’Azur. We enjoyed a perfectly fine evening in a 3-star hotel with a sprawling balcony that overlooked the sea and discovered a cozy trattoria for a lovely evening meal. And the next morning, off we went to follow the coastline and roam up and down the hills of southern France.

Fine, but now we need to return. We now know. Informed through time and research, we know about the old Haut-de-Cagnes village that rises above the vibrant beach bustle of the town below. We know about the ‘psst-follow-me ‘ narrow lanes and cobbled passageways, the little ateliers and café terraces teeming with floral vines.

We know about Renoir’s lovely museum and olive-grove setting and the quiet splendor of this entire hillside setting. Devil-may-care travel delivers a multitude of discoveries … like that wonderful little picnic in a rocky beach cove shared by only a handful of other visitors. Like that little inn in the village, where all the locals seemed to gather for their lovely noon meal.

Chateau Le Cagnard

Pastoral hillside views of Haut-de-Cagnes

But, a little advance research would have convinced us to stay a while, to find a place in the medieval village at the top of the castle hill, to enjoy quiet star-filled nights and intimate little cafés. And a visit to Renoir’s creative domain surely would have been a highlight of our stay.

Now we know, and it certainly isn’t too late to add this idyllic stopover to our bucket list of future travels. Perhaps, we will splurge and reserve our aerie at the 4-star “Sun of Provence” – the Château Le Cagnard. The 13th-century dwelling offers an intimate setting with only 28 beautifully-decorated suites and rooms and a renowned restaurant with spectacular cuisine and an unparalleled, retractable ceiling. With this central location, we will be able to wander to our heart’s content.

Chateau La Cagnard

Spectacular restaurant retracting roof

Sometimes I wonder what quirk of fate or happenstance of birth failed to set me in Cagnes-sur-Mer, where the likes of Renoir and the brilliant creator of Jules Maigret – George Simenon – tapped their inner genius. A river of creativity surges through me….non-stop….and it’s not even a choice but a ceaseless urge that finds me painting with watercolors or working on a novel, re-arranging furniture or setting an appealing table.

Bien sur! Poised above the Mediterranean within groves of olive and citrus, Renoir and Simenon wielded the paintbrush and pen. Imagine how prolific I would be in such a setting!

 

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Choice French Museums & Historic Sites

Cafe Caumont Aix en Provence

Café Caumont terrace dining

Seasoned travelers to France are well aware of cultural icons like the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay of Paris, but a new Aix-en-Provence museum brings to mind an entire family of museums and historic sites that should move to the top of your French ‘bucket list’. After hundreds of years and countless uses, the Hôtel de Caumont Arts Centre opened in Aix in May of this year under the abiding care of Culturespaces.

This highly-successful and valued organization lends a professional approach to the production and management of prestigious monuments, museums and historic sites. With the Aix museum, the celebrated list continues to provide exceptional venues devoted to the general public and with particular emphasis on youth. Entrusted to Culturespaces by public entities and local authorities, the organization now manages the following locations:

 

  • Paris – Jacquemart-André Museum (since 1996)
  • Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild (since 1992)
  • Beaulieu sur Mer – Greek Villa Kérylos (since 2001)
  • Orange – Roman Theatre, Art and History Museum (since 2002)
  • Les Baux de Provence – Château des Baux de Provence, Carrières de Lumières (since 1993)
  • Nîmes – Arena, the Square House, the Magne Tower (since 2006)
  • Mulhouse – Cité de l’Automobile, (since 1999)
  • Mulhouse – Cité du Train (since 2005)

Honestly, this range of offerings should inspire an enterprising tour guide to take in the whole lot – from the colorful caves of Les Baux de Provence to the regal Rothschild estate overlooking the Mediterranean! Yes, the organization sets out with a site steeped in cultural and historic value; but they add so much value with exacting restoration, professional management, informational websites, on-site tea rooms and cafes and a wealth of programs intended to reach youth and underserved populations. One of my own favorite touches is the inclusion of what we would think of as a gift shop but understatedly named, The Book and Culture Shop.

New Art Center in Aix-en-Provence

The Book and Culture Shop

Originally the mansion of aristocratic families in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Hôtel de Caumont Arts Centre kicks off its’ reopening with a stunning exhibition of the work of Gionvanni Antonio Canal, one of the foremost painters of Venice. The venue offers an ideal fit, having been built during Canaletto’s time; and visitors can even enjoy a prolonged stay with dinner at the Lounge Caumont (open until 11 p.m., Tuesday to Saturday, with no reservations taken). Imagine dining as an aristocrat in this magnificent setting!

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Elegant Lodging – Saint Emilion

France luxury lodging Saint Emilion

Enchanting Logis de la Cadène in the heart of Saint Emilion

When we first happened upon Saint Emilion, we were at the beginning of a summer-long trek through France – oui, the dream of a lifetime!  Since we were new at this business of being footloose in France, complete with car and assorted maps; we wanted to secure a base from which to roam for our first couple of nights.  Turns out that our charming B&B was over 30 miles north of Bordeaux in a serene setting but fairly far removed from towns and villages. Somehow when you are wandering the countryside of a foreign country in an unfamiliar car with maps of all scales, everything seems further than it is in reality.  C’est la vie!

Nonetheless, we took off in our trusted Peugeot and roamed westerly to Blaye (but missed the ferry over the Gironde to the Medoc area).  In our wandering spirit, we then discovered a lovely wine cave to the East – Château Vieux Mougnac.   After a purely delightful visit and tasting with the personable owner, we ventured less than ten miles south to discover Saint Emilion. Voilà– Shangri-La awaited, and we now are determined to return for a few days.

Some places lend themselves well to multiple day trips for a sampling of adjacent villages; but, as we soon discovered, Saint Emilion offers a commanding variety of sights, shops, scents and dining.  While charming choices in vineyard settings are within a short distance, we want to wander at will in the heart of this UNESCO World Heritage medieval city.

Medieval Saint Emilion France

Relaxed elegance – Saint Emilion

Though a lavish option beyond some of the very habitable 2- and 3-star options, one lodging choice erases budget thoughts with overwhelming charm.  As you carefully work your way down a steep, cobblestone lane, the Logis de la Cadène whispers an enchanted welcome.  The wisteria-covered arbor of the outdoor dining terrace suggests the relaxed elegance that welcomes guests.

Originally founded (in 1848) as a restaurant, Logis de la Cadène was purchased in 2013 by the Boüard de Laforest family of the nearby Château Angélus Domaine.  Located on a tiny square in the center of medieval Saint Emilion, the exceptional family-run restaurant and boutique hotel offer private, residential comfort with memorable gourmet offerings and attractively appointed rooms.  Within the year, the Maison du Logis de la Cadène annex will add five new rooms.

Saint Emilion France shopping

Exceptional artisan textiles of Saint Emilion

I can’t imagine a more inviting center from which to indulge every curiosity about shopping, dining and historic sights.  I think we will start with the beautiful little artisan shops nearby and work our way … and our appetite  … to a cozy crêperie for lunch and a lovely glass of Saint-Emilion wine – bien sur!

 

 

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La Charité-sur-Loire

La Charitie France

La Charité-sur-Loire

A few days ago, I set out to highlight this Burgundy region retreat; but I wandered down my Lady of Water, Lady of Windows trail. Well, I’m back to tell you that any waterside town appeals to me overlooking the enticing River Loire. That setting endears the petite La Charité-sur-Loire, where less than 10,000 residents enjoy an idyllic location and a devotion to books, not to mention a rich historic legacy. Add the self-proclaimed “south of the rain and north of the heat” descriptive, and you may look forward to a moderate climate in which to enjoy all of the advantages of this charming village.

Visitors relish the charm of the medieval town on the banks of the Loire, where traditional boulangeries, cafés, wine shops and dynamic weekly market provide an appealing environment for this Villes des Livres (City of Books). Imagine wandering about to explore the antiquarian bookstores with ancient documents, books, maps and more. Poised in the heart of La Charité-sur-Loire, between the river banks and the priory, the Book Town enjoys an intriguing history.

Book fair in La Charite sur Loire

Marche aux Livres

About 20 years ago, a Parisian book dealer came to settle in the village and created the Old Books and Papers Fair, which not only enjoyed immediate success but prompted other booksellers to locate in the historic village center. The revitalized area now has transformed into a center of interest known and revered across France. Beyond book fairs and markets, Book Town regularly hosts professionals from binders and calligraphers to typographers and graphic artists with talent-building workshops offered through the year.

Stepping back much farther in time, the village dates to the 7th century and is located along the renowned Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route that guided Europeans to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. The generous welcome of pilgrims by local Cluny monks prompted a change in name from the original Seyr to La Charité-sur- Loire. The village is centered on the UNESCO World Heritage 12th century Cluniac priory church of Notre Dame and the adjacent Benedictine Park features remnants of the old cloister walls and ruins of an 11th-century Romanesque church. The park regularly hosts music festivals throughout the year.

Doesn’t it sound like an ideal weekend getaway to wander in the parks, through book stores and boutiques, to stop by the river for a picnic and to slip into an authentic French restaurant at days end? Merveilleux!
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The Indelible Ink of Paris

Seine, Paris France

Taking in Notre Dame with my little friend in Paris

A touch of nostalgia today – only natural I suppose, as I’ve recently published Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris.  After weeks and weeks of pouring over memories and memoirs, photos and keepsakes; Paris simply is ever present.  But for those of us who have had the pleasure of visiting and coming to know The City of Light, that presence is always so, isn’t it?

I first stepped on a plane – destination Charles de Gaulle, Paris – nearly twenty years ago.  Really?  Or was it yesterday?  My life has had enough significant hurdles not to dampen optimism but also not to quite believe, until what is hoped for is right in front of me.   Soon though I landed in Paris, and my long-held dream turned to magnificent reality.

My friend had arranged for a taxi to take me directly to her apartment, so there I was whisking along the boulevards of Paris on a crisp, Valentine’s Day morning with no less than Bowie and “Put on your red shoes and dance” on the radio.  Perfection!

Paris gardens

Jardin des Plantes, Paris

For the next four weeks (aside from three weekend getaways I’ll share later), Paris drenched me in beauty – usually figuratively.  Sometimes, though grey, wet skies wrapped us in the questionable aroma of wet wool, as we wandered  day or night, sun or rain.

We  shopped in quaint markets and purchased just- the-right cheese from the fromagerie.   We added freshly-made pasta and bright, crisp vegetables to entertain friends for a light dinner.  Oh, and did I forget to mention the artisan bread and Sancerre wine?  And all of that was just a moment or so ‘at home’ with good music, great conversation and the constant presence of fresh flowers from rue Mouffetard.

We joined friends for a gourmet meal in an ancient restaurant.  We lunched at little crêperies and sipped enormously expensive drinks at Hemingway haunts.  And of course we bowed to Parisian museums and monuments, as taken with picnics on the lawn beneath the Eiffel Tower as with photos from the higher levels of The Iron Lady.

Those were the days before my wonderful, point-and-shoot-to-your-heart’s-content digital camera.  While that photo collection can’t compare to  my contemporary warehouse of French photographs, the memories are every bit as strong.

Elysee Palace, Paris

Midnight at the Palace, Paris

At any given moment, I can close my eyes and see that oddly-shaped old building, the little cobbled courtyard, the flowers suspended from a shop’s raftered ceiling.  I can see the little girl with her pink cheeks and purple beret skipping about Jardin des Plantes and the laughing eyes of the policeman behind the Élysée Palace.  (Well, of course, we stopped to say hello.  He told us he was guarding the President, and I countered with, “Oh, is Bill here?”  Nothing quite like a hearty laugh with the gendarmes at midnight in Paris!)

And that is the lasting influence of this magnificent city.  Paris is the indelible ink that marks the visitor for all time, offering so many sweet moments to walk with you through the rest of your life.

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

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Selfie Interview: The Promise of Paris

Seine, Paris

I just love my little fisherman in Paris!

Often when I see interviews on television, I wish I were  the interviewer.  I’d love to ask the questions that get beneath a person’s veneer, personality, accomplishments … or wrongdoings.

Well, I haven’t done anything wrong, but I would love to bare more about the process of writing Fired Up for France:  The Promise of Paris.  And since Barbara Walters hasn’t phoned yet,  I introduce the next craze to sweep the world – the Selfie Interview.

Imagine it!  Replacing the many inane outdo-your-buddy selfie photos, the Selfie Interview will include real ‘meat and bones’ information and personal insights – all of those things you wish people would ask that you want to share.

Now allow me to introduce you to my faux interviewer, Mireille, a French woman with exceptional style, a sense of humor and a particular fondness for Clicquot.  I have allowed her five questions; in that I am busy autographing books, and you haven’t all day to indulge in this new craze.  Voila!

Mireille:  Many people love Paris and, it seems, a virtual army of Francophiles have written about our City of Light.  Why did you add your name to this long list; why did you write your Promise of Paris book?

Sandra:  The most compelling reason is to transform a dreamer into a doer.  I used to be one of those who always longed for Paris; and when I finally took the leap and made my first visit, the experience changed my life, added a dimension that nothing else in life could take from me.

Without fail, I hear those wistful statements, “Oh, I hope one day to go.  Maybe some day I can see Paris.”  And usually those longings are held by women and men approaching their 40’s and older – people who work hard, who love their families, who fulfill commitments and somehow don’t think they can be smart enough, or selfish enough or devil-may-care enough to set aside their doubts, change their goals and make Paris a reality.

Paris museums

View from the top of Musee D’Orsay

Mireille:  Well that is lofty and charming, but do you really think you are qualified either in the human motivation arena or Paris tourism front to lead the charge for these timid dreamers?  And what about those who have already visited Paris.  Why should they read your book?

Sandra:  Good questions Mireille, however barbed they might be.  I am neither a “Life Coach”, as they’re titled today, nor a psychoanalyst.  I DO, however, have experience in procrastinating.  I know exactly what it’s like to be afraid of such an investment in money, time and hope.  By a long shot, I am not a tour expert, and my book is not an “A to Z” definitive treatise on Paris.   What I do bring to the table is my own voice, my own fresh experiences, my own passion for simple and sophisticated moments in Paris.  With a blend of memoirs, recommendations, humor and practical advice; I believe I scratch the surface enough to excite the first-time or tenth-time visitor.  And, by the way, that counts as two questions, so on to question four please.

Mireille:  What were the most difficult challenges in completing your book?

Sandra:     Oh, I can reel off several immediately.  Narrowing the focus.  Choosing what to cover and what to omit.  Asking myself is this fun,  funny or inane?  Organizing and fact-checking … again and again.  I can be quite shy and private, so absolutely the most difficult challenge was overcoming self-doubt and criticism and letting the book unfold.

Mireille:  Last question then.  What to you makes Paris so special?

Sandra:  Well that’s a zinger that could take a week to answer, but let me give it a try.  Several things come together in Paris that simply fill my heart.  The appealing architecture.  The gorgeous passages and parks.  Coffee in the sun at a sidewalk café by the river.  The entertainer on this corner or on that bridge.  The window displays and amazing creativity.  The celebration of heritage and innate neighborliness. The flowers.  The quiet smiles and “bonjours”.  No one day is ever the same, and I absolutely love the ever-changing nature of the city.  Finally, there’s always the Seine that draws me back time after time, day or night.  My best friend lives in Paris … and I am very jealous of her dog, who sees with a different heart but lives his life out in Paris each and every day.

I welcome your comments and special requests.  Please click on your order preference below … and merci beaucoup!

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Novel Set in WWII France

Normandy france

Approaching the Northern coast of France

Though not planned, on this Memorial Day I have just finished Anthony Doerr’s Pulitzer-Prize winning All the Light We Cannot See. Set in occupied France leading up to, during and after World War II; the author immerses you in the lives of a blind French girl and an orphaned German boy whose lives ultimately come together with a gentleness that belies the inhumanity of the times. I’m not a book critic, but several elements in the novel attract me.

In particular the initial and end setting takes place by the Jardin des Plantes in the Latin Quarter of Paris. Because one of the main characters is blind, the author painstakingly provides details about the neighborhood, details that are critical navigation points that help a blind girl find her way from her apartment to the place of her father’s work at the Museum of Natural History. They walk along the graveled garden paths, where I have spent quiet moments watching nannies and grannies looking after their young charges. They climb to the gazebo on the hill that stands against the sky. They walk to the Gare d’Austerlitz, as we have done so many times. Don’t we always embrace the familiar?

But I get away from the centerpiece. The timeline begins with the dropping of leaflets on Saint Malo – Allied leaflets warning of bombs to come, warning residents to go to the country. The novel wraps itself before and after those dates in a wrenching but beautiful story of the people and places and divisive horror of World War II.

WWII France, Normandy

American cemetery in Normandy

So much of the novel is rich with detail, with the intricacies of each person’s talent or chosen path or imposed route in life. While I always have had an interest in World War II, due in part to the active participation of two favorite uncles, I find new stories and viewpoints continue to emerge from the mountains of books, documentaries and movies that try to make some sense or at least some historic preservation of this insane blight on the world.

I do come away from All the Light We Cannot See with a new perspective of those in Europe, whose lives were entangled with World War I, with the aftermath of poverty and anger and building rage that would lead to World War II and that aftermath. So many lives knew little but the approach to war, the constant deprivation, the devastation and the horrible lasting consequences. Like a constant pool of eddies, those circumstances whirled their lives pulling them this way and that with little leeway for choosing a plan for life.

Remembering those who served and those who suffered.

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New Friends in Gréoux-les-Bains

Provence France

Sidewalk cafes of Greoux-les-Bains

Along the way during a summer of exploring France, we picked up a charming book that profiled seven “Routes of Discovery” in Provence.  From Romanesque art and pretty villages to the Giono and Ancient Provence routes, the author and photographer attempt what is seemingly impossible – to pull aside the veils and shine the light on this enchanting area.  I applaud their undertaking; but just as you try to define one area or quality of the Provençal landscape, another rises … and another.  We would gladly offer up a good portion of our lives toward the delight of discovering every corner of Provence, yet we have been fortunate to explore a good portion of this tantalizing region in our travels.

While staying a few days in Aix-en-Provence, we decided to wander north to the little village of Gréoux-les-Bains.  Even the name sounded enticing, and the Provençal sky and landscape were captivating in early August.   Along the Route de Vauvenargues, the muse of Cézanne – Montagne Sainte-Victoire – accompanied us, as we wound through pines and olive groves, lavender fields and a landscape that invited us to travel further, further.

ong known for the thermal baths used since the Gallo-Roman era, Gréoux-les-Bain combines a rich history with  appealing architecture, fountains and a hospitable populace of under 3,000 people.  We easily found our way to the charming pedestrian rue Grande, where visitors and residents wandered among quaint boutiques and one after another sidewalk café.  Colorful musicians stationed themselves close to our chosen restaurant, and waiters dashed between outdoor tables, strolling crowds and their indoor kitchen.

Provence villages, France

Greoux musicians add to the evening

We were enjoying a fresh rosé and awaiting our pork tenderloin order, when a huge pan of mussels arrived at the table of our neighboring diners – not the most enticing aroma for those who avoid shellfish.  Not a problem.  The evening was lovely; and we tended to ourselves, as we enjoyed our respective dinners.

Truth be told, though, I was dying to converse, to at least say hello and try to connect with my basic French.  With the arrival of dessert, I finally summoned the courage to say hello.  Like me, the husband seemed shy about trying to converse in broken English-French, but his wife was delightful and managed to understand my walk-around-it-if-you-don’t-know-the-word French.  Turns out, they were staying in a nearby campground and had left their children with friends to enjoy this evening out.

Then, our surprise of the evening occurred.  Our new friends treated us to a nightcap – their traditional drink of Provence, they explained.  What a nice gesture from them!  Definitely not for ‘lightweights’, I barely touched my tongue to the aperitif before passing it along to my husband.  A little research later, I discovered that Marc is one of the so-called eaux de vie – waters of life that are fruit brandies flavored by each region with its own artisanal variations.  Our particular Marc, it seems, began with distilled grape pulp… and continued with whatever the unique Provençal recipe required.  Certainly not Absinthe but strong enough to seal a new friendship!

All things considered, our foray into the evening offered color, friendship … and to some degree, an understanding of the potential influence of local drink on some of the colorful artists of the day.

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Loire Valley Gifts and Gardens

Amboise France

The Loire – lazy in August

A few years back, we traveled throughout France during an entire summer. Heaven! After a lengthy stay in Paris; we took the TGV, collected our ‘home’ for the next two months and headed off in our trusty Peugeot. Adventure was ours for the finding … and taking.

Now and then, our rhythm slipped a bit. We either didn’t stay long enough in one place, or we overstayed (or so we thought) in other areas. Due to a mix-up in vacation rentals, we ended up staying an entire two weeks in the Loire Valley. What are we missing, we wondered? And we came to discover, we missed nothing. Rather, we enjoyed the gift of settling in with plenty of time to wander and wonder at all of the beauty and charm of this “garden of France”.

Loire Valley France

Amboise market

The enormous Amboise market became a must for us. Tucked along the Loire River, the market teems with people and goods every Friday and Sunday. Huge pans of paella scent the air. Vivid flowers line colorful Provençal trays covered with acrylic to encase and preserve their beauty. Vendors offer gorgeous chunks of cheese of every taste and texture, while just next to them a large rotisserie roasts chickens to perfection and braises the potatoes that capture their succulent juices at the bottom.

Flowers. Fresh white asparagus. Berries galore. Artisan breads.  And the quiet hum of Amboise and neighboring residents. We gathered indelible memories along with all of those offerings.

French markets

Amboise flowers

One day we wandered over to Vouvray, where we bought namesake wine and savored lunch overlooking the river. And one enchanted evening Bléré became our destination; where chapels date to the 13th century, and outdoor cafes line the church square. Ironically, we ran into a young man we had met a few days before in another small village – Pontlevoy – underscoring that perpetual truism – it’s a small world after all.

Beyond excursions to villages and chateaux, we seemed to discover new spaces and places each day. Down a lane behind our little house; gardens lined the road, and donkeys milled about a field. Overhead, age-old trees bent beneath the river breeze offering a whispered sound that wrought images of naps in hammocks strung between the chestnut trunks.

Amboise Loire RiverOne exceptional August night, we took to the riverbank for a picnic supper of market-fresh delights . The water in this low season was quiet, slipping by and turning golden in the setting sun. Perhaps that evening cemented our knowledge that so called wrong turns happen for a reason, when you set aside expectations and embrace the moment. One could fare much worse than enjoying a two-week stay in the middle of some of the most beautiful landscapes and chateaux of France.

Amboise France

Loire pique-nique!

 

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Jazz It Up! – Caveau in Paris

Jazz in Paris France

Caveau de la Huchette, Paris

Jazz + Paris = beyond description.  Of course, you needn’t stretch one bit to imagine jazz in Paris, host to some of the world’s quintessential performers.  The City of Light has embraced Louis Armstrong, Lionel Hampton, Nina Simone, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis and Josephine Baker … just to scratch the proverbial surface.

And one long-running jazz club remains to this day along the ancient rue de la Huchette just a block from the Seine.   We met friends at Caveau de la Huchette one evening for one of our most memorable nights in Paris.  This Latin Quarter jazz club is one of the oldest with over a half century of entertainment tucked into the inner sanctum.

Through the front doors, a small bar and a few tables greet you, but the best is yet to come.  Carefully stepping down twisting, stone steps, we arrive in the musical cellar – indeed a cave that dates back well before 1551, when it was said to be the meeting place of the” Rosicrucians ” and the ” Templers ” – now that’s an exotic heritage and one that seems to seep around you, as you step into this ‘temple of Jazz’.

Paris Jazz

Enjoy jazz in an ancient cave of Paris

The bohemian atmosphere cannot help but transport you to earlier eras – when the first jazz in Paris arrived at the caveau, where G.I.’s introduced swing and be-bop, and the music to this day engenders lively dancing and nights of fun.  During our inspired evening, one song sticks in the mind – Youssou N’Dour’s passionate “Seven Seconds”.  Obviously this is a venue that finds exceptional performers dropping in during the wee small hours.  As the band performed the song, a young man joined the singer on stage to mesmerize everyone in the audience.  On and on they harmonized, absorbing every nuance of passion in the song, bouncing off one another as musicians are inclined to do – simply incredible!

When we left, we expected the city to be in quiet mode, but Place Saint-Michel was alive with diners and revelers well beyond two a.m.  We did manage that evening to roll up the sidewalks of the City of Light, no doubt inspired by the magic we had enjoyed.  This was one occasion that awareness of taxis … or the lack thereof … might have been handy.  Can’t complain, though, because we walked through the streets of Paris for over an hour enjoying the pools of light on old cobblestone lanes and the more hushed atmosphere of neighborhoods tucked well away from Saint-Michel.

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
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Art Deco Capital – Reims

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

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Toasting Châlons-en-Champagne

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.

Fascinating Secrets of Lyon

Lyon France traboules

Vieux Lyon riverfront – Atout France/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

A silk scarf and a bottle of wine. What could they have in common?

We look to the traboules of Lyon for their shared history, where these ‘hidden’ passageways are noble tributes to the resilience of mankind. Through the centuries, in fact, the traboules have served many purposes from passageways for water transport, silk workers, World War II resistance members and tourists. Though the historic traboules might warrant a full-length book, today we’ll focus on the silk workers.

Dating as far back as the 4th century, the traboules of Lyon originally helped move water from the banks of the river Saône to the residents of Veille Lyon. Chosen by UNESCO as a World Heritage site, this Renaissance district of Old Lyon developed primarily through the 15th and 16th centuries and included a maze of narrow alleys and remarkable courtyards. Over time the traboules continue to symbolize a virtual labyrinth of history and protection from the elements. Even today in-the-know residents may easily avoid crowds and inclement weather by winding through the passageways of Vieux Lyon and the Croix-Rousse districts.

historic passageways of old Lyon

The mystique of Vieux Lyon’s traboules

Let’s slip to the 18th century, when textiles – particularly silk – had begun to define Lyon’s industrial profile. Known as canuts, the nearly 30,000 silk weavers lived in the working-class areas of Croix-Rousse; where the huge Jacquard looms were located. The traboules, then, became fast, protected passageways for delivering bolts of silk to the city markets on Presqu’île peninsula between the Rhône and Saône rivers.

The hard economic times of late 1831 and the swing of silk prices from merchant to merchant prompted one of Europe’s first uprisings of the Industrial revolution. The outcry of oppressed silk workers resulted in the canut revolts in Lyon, when workers wanted fixed piecework tariffs. When negotiations failed and many of the large manufacturers refused the fixed rates, the workers amassed in the traboules and worked their way to the city center. Initially they gained a bloody victory, but King Louis-Philippe soon dispatched his 20,000-strong army to retake Lyon.

The seeds had been sown, and three years later salary cuts provoked a second insurrection – also defeated. In 1848 a third uprising arose over despicable working conditions. Authorities, though, crossed the ultimate line with their determination and actions to cut alcohol consumption among workers. They dictated that a carafe of wine would contain less wine at the same price. Imagine! This definitely was not in keeping with the ideals of the French Revolution!

In one of Lyon’s most famous and complex traboule courtyards – the Cour des Voraces – the incensed workers gathered to rightfully claim the full-size of their wine carafes. Now we return to your glass of wine and silk scarf … had you any idea! Imagine further how well the secret passageways served the Resistance fighters of World War II. For another day, that story easily rivals the plight of the silk workers.

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

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

Fountains of France

A rinse of the hands by the little one

California’s water issues have been foremost in the news lately, as the state faces a critical water shortage with no end in sight.  Water has long represented the source of life and perhaps more so, the source of strife.    Who doesn’t recall the mystery and mayhem surrounding the blocked spring in the 1986 film Jean de Florette?

You see every imaginable type of fountain in France, from the simple ancient wall fountains in villages to the extravagant Medici fountain in Paris.  Aix-en-Provence is but one city with abundant fountains and the dual tags – “Town of Water, Town of Art”.  Until the invention of pumps, fountains relied on gravity to keep the flow of water running.

In petite villages around France, you discover lavoirs that captured the overflow of spring-fed fountains, basins where women gathered to wash their laundry and share local gossip.  On a hot summer day in Annecy, we watched children cup their hands to drink from the cool Alpine fountain waters.  In fact, soon we’ll explore many of the lakes of France – they are spectacular!

Hoping you discover  your fountain today and have a wonderful week ahead!

 

 

 

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

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

“Bucket List” Lodging – Champagne Region

Les Crayeres

The stunning former Pommery mansion

Instead of “R&D”, I engage in considerable “Research & Planning“, when developing our travel plans – feeds my curiosity and whets my appetite for discovering the area under study.  Previously, I noted transportation options in mapping out a weekend getaway from Paris with our friends.  Destination:  Champagne country.  This magnificent land of gentle hills and soft Champagne bubbles delivers a delightful balance of history, stunning architecture, lively tasting rooms and sprawling landscapes.

Where to stay uncovers myriad choices accompanied by tough decisions.  I tend toward moderate pricing – neither too basic nor too grand – that allows for lots of pleasant dining and de rigeur shopping.  The lodging selections in the Champagne region range from lifetime-memory-bucket-list estates and Relais & Chateaux luxury properties to mid-range hotels and vacation rental or B&B options.  One of my mantras – you can’t , make good decisions without all the information needed, so let’s take a quick look at the high-end possibilities and follow in a later posting with the moderate selections.

Epernay champagne region

La Briqueterie’s tranquil setting outside Epernay

With several villages and cities from which to choose, I think the most appealing and appropriate accommodations may be the deciding factor in determining our ‘home base’ for the weekend.  Two stellar properties, naturally with Michelin-starred fine dining, lead the bucket-list options: Les Crayères,  the former Pommery family mansion turned boutique hotel in Reims, and La Briqueterie, also a 5-star luxury property in the countryside on the outskirts of Epernay.

Champagne Ardennes region of France

Fine dining at Les Crayeres

The former sits directly across the street from the Pommery champagne house and offers a stunning selection of 20 rooms in a tranquil garden setting.  One package for two people offered by Les Crayères includes accommodation for 1 night, continental breakfast and dinner for 2 in their gourmet Le Parc or Brasserie Le Jarden restaurants for 400 to 500 Euros.

La Briqueterie, located just outside the smaller Epernay town, presents 40, individually-decorated rooms ranging from 25 to 60 m², with rates from 210 to 480 Euros.  Both properties exude elegance and would live up to any discerning guest’s expectations.

If this is indeed your dream weekend, simply imagine strolling in the vast Pommery gardens or in the peaceful La Briqueterie setting in the heart of the Champagne vineyards.  Could life be better, one must wonder!

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

 

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Planning Your Champagne Tour

Champagne region of France

Verzenay mill in the Champagne vineyards – Atout France/CRT Champagne-Ardenne/Oxley

One side trip scheme for our next adventure in France involves a long weekend jaunt from Paris to Champagne country with our good friends.  Working on that one escapade entails a rather sizeable amount of research and, possibly, makes me realize why some still choose travel agents in planning their trips.  Certainly an experienced agent offers a real value for those who haven’t the time or inclination to dot every ‘i’ and cross every ‘t’.

I fall into a different category, though, because the anticipation, research and even some of the angst become part of my overall experience.   So many choices, so much delight!

Taking the train eastward is a given, and Rail Europe – the perfect partner.  Assuming the plan remains simple; I find the 1 hour-fifteen-minute trip runs $56 – $84 round trip.  For such a short journey, I would choose the less expensive economy rate.  I can live without first-class comfort for a little over an hour!

Right away this process leads me to think about other possible train trips during our 3-week stay.  A week in Provence, perhaps?  That could mean a TGV ticket to Avignon.  A day trip to Chartres?   A weekend in Bruges?  Oh the many choices one has, when planning a trip!  The real point here is comprehensive research and planning, because multi-day and even multi-country passes purchased in advance of your trip offer considerable savings.

Troyes, Epernay, Reims France

The St Jean district in Troyes – shaped like a champagne cork, when seen from the air – Atout France/CRT Champagne-Ardenne/Oxley

Back to our original plan, we might well want to rent a car to explore the Champagne region with our friends, taking in not only Epernay but Reims and Troyes, as well.  The area offers spectacular scenery, interesting Champagne tours and lots of riverside views for a picnic stop.  Euro Railways offers a combo program – France Rail’n Drive – but it really pays to compare.   For example, they offer a 2-day car rental and 2-day first class train tickets at $333 per person for a compact car.  Included are:   2 days of limitless train trips, unlimited mileage and basic liability, four categories of car and pick-up, drop-off in different cities inside the country where you rent the car.  You also have 30 days to complete your trip.

Let’s look at our original train ticket – $56 per person round trip between Paris and Epernay.  Add two days of car rental – a 4-door Peugeot, for example – would run $99 with liability coverage…  and that’s not per person.   Overall, then, the same 2-day rail and 2-day car trip would cost $56/person for rail and $25/person (sharing the cost) for the car rental.  No, please don’t hold me either to the rates nor the math (!), but clearly the trip for four to travel to Epernay, explore the region for two days via rental car and return by train to Paris would cost no more than $110/person for first class.

Two main points to take away from this mini-planning ‘epistle’:  look at your whole trip to see if multiple train treks might be part of your itinerary and research train and car options to get the best price with the greatest latitude.  While you’re at it, enjoy the whole trip preparation process!

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

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.   All rights reserved.

Magnificent Château de Chenonceau

Chenonceau in the Loire Valley

So many images come to mind, when I recall our visits to the astonishingly beautiful Château de Chenonceau.  Sheep graze in a quiet field along the  lengthy approach to the castle, a lane under a canopy of ancient trees.  A tiny railroad depot delivers daily visitors, while nearby a crepe maker carefully spreads batter over his hot griddles.  Finally we step into the open with the castle glistening in the sun beside the Cher River.

Exploring the popular castle itself can be a bit busy in the summer, but don’t hesitate.  The treasures are many – the elegant private chapel, the ornate bedrooms of the royalty, the huge old copper collection in the vast kitchens, the impressive art and tapestry collections and then to spill out onto the broad black-and-white tiled gallery that spans the river.  The gallery served as a hospital during the first Great War; during the Second, it literally was an escape path between the Nazi- occupied and Free Vichy zones.

Loire Valley France

Chapel of Chenonceau

Wherever you choose to pause a moment, either in the castle or in one of the sprawling gardens; beauty surrounds you.  Even the kitchen absolutely glowed with the sheen of old copper.

We wandered through the pastoral gardens and along the river to the gazebo.   We lunched on the patio by the orangerie, while barely absorbing the unimaginable centuries of history this masterpiece represents.

 

We’d love to hear from you.  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
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Cruising to Le Havre

Menus from the S.S. Leviathan

Today, let’s indulge in a bit of nostalgia, harkening back to days that required taking a ship when traveling to France.  It’s a bit of a personal story, and the photos don’t reflect the beauty of France … but highlighting this bygone era stimulates the imagination.

The lovely, etched menus to the left are from the S.S. Leviathan, more precisely from a crossing of the Atlantic from New York to France in May of 1932.  The privileged passenger was my father (though he was not yet my father then), who was en route to join his parents in France.

At that time (and for a total of seven years), my grandfather led the charge to open European markets for  Hobart Manufacturing products (a la commercial kitchen machines and Kitchen Aid).  Presumably my father was to study at the Sorbonne; but from the stories I’ve heard, he more likely set out to emulate the lifestyles of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway.

The menus themselves are interesting, shedding light on days of luxurious cruising during a time, when that was the only choice for travel between America and Europe.  Each is printed on nice stock with sophisticated etchings of Brussels, Berlin and beyond imprinted on the covers.

On the inside left of the menu, a “Vegetable Dinner” is offered to those with special dietary needs;  and to the right is the more expansive Dinner menu.  I find the extravagant and extensive offerings quite interesting.

Hors D’Œuvres ranged from Celery en Branche to Beluga Caviar Glace.  Soups – Consomme Belle-Fermière, Crème Clementine and cold consommé Madrilene in Cup (Cold).  Choices for fish, entrees and roasts ranged from Filet of Turbot, Souchette and Crêpinettes de Foie-Gras Princesse to Braised Long Island Duckling Normande and Baked Wiltshire Ham with Champagne Sauce.

On and on the menu goes to list offerings from the grill, vegetables and salads (Lyonnnaise and Steamed Patna Rice anyone?) and the crowning dessert jewels.  Of the many delicacies on that list, I might have chosen Savarin aux Fraises … or Parfait St. Marlin and Biscuit Glacé.

Arriving at Le Havre, France, 16 June 1934, taken by a “New York Times” Paris Bureau photographer.

Finally, on the back of the menu, the Musical Program noted works of Brosch, Ganne’s Violin and Cello Duo, a Strauss waltz and Heber’s “Bachinage”.  Quite the sailing adventure, I would imagine.  I remember seeing my father’s yellow leather steamer trunk and so wish I had understood then how nice it would have been to preserve that treasure.  Such is hindsight!

The Leviathan’s history is equally interesting, a German ship – originally S.S. Vaterland – that became the world’s largest ship, when completed in 1914.  But alas, after only a few trips, the ship arrived at New York just as World War I broke out.  Unable to safely return through British-dominated seas, the ship stayed immobile in a New Jersey terminal; until the U.S. entered the war, seized and refitted the ship for the U.S. Navy.

Several years later, in April of 1922, the S.S. Leviathan became the “queen” of our merchant fleet, refitted to serve American tastes and set into trans-Atlantic service.  Unfortunate, isn’t it, that we live in such a hurried world today that neither time nor financial constraints make this mode of travel the viable option of yesteryear.

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Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Limoges – City of Porcelain

Hôtel de Ville, Limoges

When we arrived in Limoges in the Limousin region of France, we certainly were familiar with the renowned name in china but had no concept of the character of the city.  I am the proud owner of my grandmother’s Haviland Limoges, that I imagine her using to entertain friends and business associates in the apartment she shared with my grandfather in Paris.  After finding a hotel and checking with the Office of Tourism, we wandered without any real purpose or destination … always a great way to discover!

We turned to the right, then left and down a path and found ourselves by the Vienne River and the grassy remains of the town ramparts.  Ultimately, we discovered the exceptionally beautiful Hôtel de Ville, a 19th-century Neo-Renaissance building, designed by Leclerc, also the architect of Trianon and the Palace of Versailles.

In the center of the stately façade is a clock with the image of Limoges and two figures that represent the goldsmith and enamellist.  The sight was breathtaking with a  blend of complex design and excellent craftsmanship.

Place de la Motte, Limoges

We soon discovered our favorite spot at the whimsical though historic Place de la Motte.  By the expansive Les Halles central market, we lunched beneath a canopy of canvas umbrellas.  The remarkable “trompe l’oeil” paintings across from us transformed buildings with flat, expressionless lines.  Under the artist’s brush, the buildings came to life, wholly transformed with windows and shutters and alcoves that simply did not exist – as intriguing as it was entertaining.  Naturally, we had to return that evening for dessert and coffee!

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

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

The Mystique of Vieux Lyon

Wandering through passageways in Vieux Lyon

As newcomers to this fabulous city, we were fortunate to make an acquaintance with a native, who knew every twist and turn in Vieux Lyon.  Our new friend guided us through his turf, introducing us to exceptional bistros, boutiques and secret little passageways in the old city.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon is steeped in history with centuries-old ties to Rome. The Old Town area of Saint-Jean and the Croix-Rousse area offer stunning examples of Renaissance and Roman architecture.

Throughout Vieux Lyon, fascinating traboules – secret passages – thread their way between houses and tiny streets, passages that were once a salvation for silk merchants en route to work and, more famously, a protective route for resistance members to elude German soldiers. Lyon was so important to the resistance movement, that General Charles DeGaulle in 1944 declared Lyon the “Capital of the Resistance.”

We walk along and suddenly, our friend pushes through an ordinary door.  With our guide, we find our way from “here to there” along passages we would never have known existed. They open on to large courtyards and dimly-lit halls, around corners and across cobblestones.  They are quiet, holding perhaps only the silent whispers of those who walked their corridors in the past.  And that was just one fascinating discovery in one of France’s most enchanting cities.

 

historic passageways of old Lyon

The mystique of Vieux Lyon’s traboules

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The Restored Musée Rodin – Paris

Musée Rodin Paris

The exquisite gardens of the Musée Rodin

If you owned a Cézanne or Van Gogh painting, you would want to display your treasure in the best possible light. The same would hold true of an appealing, historic work of sculpture.

Thus, when we last visited the Musée Rodin in Paris, we were concerned to see patched parquet floors and woodwork falling into disrepair. Mind you those blemishes did not detract from the magnificent works and serene gardens!

Fortunately the foresight and funding came together to restore the enchanting 18th-century Hôtel Biron that is home to the Musée Rodin in Paris. For the past three years, work on Rodin’s museography and his elegant home has restored and improved the magnificent museum. Unlike the Louvre and the Musée D’Orsay, this home to the astounding Rodin collection provides an intimate setting and charming gardens right in the center of Paris. Astounding, isn’t it that such a tranquil homestead and greenspace could be a stone’s throw from Les Invalides in the bustling 7th arrondissement?

Rodin Museum in Paris

18th-century Hôtel Biron

As the museum ‘wears a new coat’ and conforms to contemporary security and accessibility norms, displays still include The Kiss, The Age of Bronze, the bronze monuments in the garden – The Gates of Hell; the renowned Thinker and the Monument to Balzac. That roster merely scratches the surface of one of the finest museums of Paris.

The exhibition Rodin: the Laboratory of Creation will allow visitors into the mystique of the sculptor’s studio. Never exhibited works will be included among some 150 plaster and terracotta pieces taken from the storeroom for this special exhibit. The creative presentation will draw visitors into the before, will be taken from the storeroom for this special event. These pieces illustrate the advance of the sculptor’s extraordinary career. Visitors will be drawn into the core of the creative process, offering the viewpoint of Rodin’s formal thinking and the creative paths he followed.

The Thinker, Eve, Gates of Hell

A bite to eat in the shadow of “The Thinker”?

Through the process, facial expressions emerge, clothes drape perfectly-formed nudes, positions adapted – the artist continues to apply his imagination to produce the final masterpiece. The exhibit will include photographs taken in Rodin’s studios to highlight the evolutionary process of sculpting.

We can’t wait to re-visit the museum, though memories of past visits are exceptional. The spirit of Rodin seems to descend on you, as you view his works in the intimate rooms and step into a garden of magnificent bronzes. As one would expect, The Thinker looms as large in memory as it did in reality; but one of my favorite garden sculptures was Eve, head dipped in shame and stunningly beautiful.

Over lunch in the garden café, we felt that hushed respect for the combination of history and art the museum presents. We highly recommend placing the Musée Rodin at the top of your Parisian itinerary!

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

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

The Vieille Bourse of Lille

Lille France Historic Sights

The Old Stock Exchange of Lille

I love the irony of memories that stick like fresh, white bread that bonds itself to the roof of your mouth.  Perhaps, that’s not quite the romantic image one would attach to prized memories, but it seems to be the nature of those little moments that somehow edge out the more grandiose, well-planned adventures.

And so it was, when we arrived in Lille at the end of France meanderings to turn in our car and escape for three days of train travel to Bruges, Amsterdam and Luxembourg.  Somehow we managed to find a parking space close to the bustling city center of Place du Général de Gaulle.  For a moment we thought we should take an umbrella, as we set out in search of the Tourism Office.

“No.  No need.”  You know how that goes.

Fifty feet into our trek, the rain started; so we ducked into a place my husband already knew quite well – the Vieille Bourse, the old stock exchange.  I was instantly enthralled with this courtyard protected by buildings dating to the mid-17th century.

In 1653, Julien Destrée accepted the challenge to build a stock exchange that not only would contend with that of any great city but would offer protection to the ever-ill Lillois bankers and merchants. Prior to the new stock exchange, trading took place – rain or shine – in open air at the Fontaine-au-Change.

Lille Fr history

Chess players beneath the arches of the inner courtyard in Lille – © Atout France/Pierre Torset

Finally fed up with constant illness, they sought the sympathy of the Magistrate.  Thanks to his efforts and the go-ahead from Philip IV, King of Spain, this gorgeous quadrangle of 24 ornately decorated, identical houses was built around an interior courtyard.

So the precise spot, where we entered the courtyard through one of four arches, was where trading took place.While I always appreciate the historic background of interesting places, I was immediately taken with the hushed life that now absorbs the courtyard and surrounding loges.  Residents and visitors mill about a small number of second-hand book stalls and florists, quietly picking their way through the offerings.

But the real attraction is the chess players.  We’ve seen them by the Seine and Eiffel Tower.  We even have been stopped by a pair of German men looking for a chess game in Paris.  Here, they say, any passer-by or tourist is welcome to play, but beware.  The current champion is one of the booksellers and no doubt has plenty of practice.

Lille France History

Lille’s Vieille Bourse

Unfortunately the rain and preparations for our whirlwind train trip prevented our seeing a great deal of Lille, so I am delighted this one spot stands clearly in my memory.  We’ll simply have to return again, so my husband can offer me the grand tour.

 

 

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

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

The “Place” Called Provence

Provence seaside

Red Rocks Along the Mediterranean

This is such a fun piece about one of our favorite regions … just want to share it again!

Aix-en-Provence.  Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.  Peyrolles-en-Provence.  A Year in Provence.

Interesting list – is there a point here?   Well, yes there is.  I’m not fond of hair-splitting nonsense, and I just read a piece that in essence said, “Sure, I’ll tell you how to get to Provence, but it doesn’t exist.”  R-e-a-l-l-y?

I then receive a lesson on the official designation of the southeastern French region as “Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur”.  And there’s a long geography lesson about the Alpes and the French Riviera, Vaucluse and Bouches-du-Rhône.  I do understand the fastidious mind of a hair-splitter, but I am given to the spirit of places and people; and I assure you Provence very much exists.

Provence lavender

Sweet aroma of lavender

It was the birthplace of the essential patriarch of Provence, Frédéric Mistral (1830-1914) – a man who took his law degree but so devoted himself to the writing of poetry in “Provençal”, that he would one day found a literary society and publish a dictionary of the regional tongue.  In truth, Provence was the hero of all of his poems, and in 1904 Mistral was awarded The Nobel Prize in Literature.

All of that is to undergird the intellectual affirmation of Provence, but there is the Provence of my heart and the hearts of so many.  There is the Provence I enjoyed with my good friend and with my daughter – the winding roads to Gordes and Roussillon, the delightful dinners under plane trees in Aix-en-Provence and the glass(es) of wine along the Mediterranean.

Provence France

Ceramic Cicadas

There is the Provence I shared with my husband, who remembers low hills and riotous fields of sunflowers, quiet villages and boules battles, warm sunlight and bright days.  Stopping by the side of the road for an armful of lavender.  Wandering tiny lanes up to Greoux-les-Bains.  Medieval ruins and savory cuisine, the blues skies in the universe.  Cicadas and ceramics.

I will defer to the gentleman who argues about the lack of a ‘line’ here or there that designates “Provence”.  I will as strongly argue for the ability to close my eyes and see a Parasol pine, to smell the sea along the craggy, red landscape that dips down to the Mediterranean.  To feel the rampant joie-de-vivre in Avignon, as well as the quiet air of reverence, while overlooking the Rhône from the ramparts of the Papal Palace.

Provence

Roussillon ochre buildings

Just as there is a God, there is a Provence; and we love her!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

 

 

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Thomas Jefferson’s Love of France

The lively market in Aix-en-Provence

 

Though I will never reside in the White House, I do have something in common with the historic American President Thomas Jefferson – a deep appreciation for France.  When Jefferson was Minister to France, he left Paris for an extensive trip to the South.

Over three months in 1787, he travelled in his own horse-drawn carriage and carefully examined the Canal of Languedoc that stretches from Toulouse to Agde on the Mediterranean Sea.  He travelled 25 to 30 miles per day, either walking along the shaded banks or sitting in his carriage aboard the boat that was towed along the canal.

Canal du Languedoc

In Bordeaux, he compared wines and noted the planting and pruning of the vines.  Later, he commented on his own contributions to America,  mentioning the olive plants he had sent from Marseilles to South Carolina and Georgia.   An accomplished farmer, Jefferson felt “…the greatest service which can be rendered any country is to add a useful plant to its culture…”

He chose to model the Virginia state capitol after the Roman temple, Maison Carrée in Nîmes and visited the ancient Pont du Gard aqueduct that dates to 19 B.C.  For the whole Jefferson story, with pleasure we recommend Thomas Jefferson’s Journey to the South of France by Roy & Alma Moore.  An excellent profile of another dominant American with strong ties to France.

 

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

 

Benjamin Franklin – Diplomat in Paris

Frankllin’s home in Passy, where he conducted lightning experiments

How I wish it had been in my lifetime that my grandparents resided in Paris!  For over seven years, while my grandfather developed new markets for Hobart Manufacturing throughout Europe; they lived in a lovely apartment just a block removed from the Eiffel Tower.  But it was another American who spent the same amount of time in Paris, who produced quite different results.

In 1776 Benjamin Franklin set out to win the support of the French Court.  Nearly 70 years old at the time, Franklin had just signed the Declaration of Independence and sought the favor of France on behalf of American patriots; who were desperate for money, supplies and military support in their fight to win independence from Great Britain.

Mr. Franklin arrived at l’Hôtel de Valentinois, the beautiful estate of Jacques-Donatien Le Ray de Chaumont’s at Passy along the Seine.  Just down the street from Balzac’s home on rue Raynouard; he resided at the home of the wealthy merchant, where terraced gardens linked to the Seine and offered a view of Paris in the distance.

From 1776 to 1783, Franklin applied his diplomatic genius to obtain loans, purchase war materials and coordinate shipping of the supplies.  According to Ellen Cohn, editor of The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, “French support was due entirely to Franklin …. The French adored him.”

As Minister Plenipotentiary, Franklin engaged the French as a trusted professional diplomat.  His was a time-consuming venture, finding supplies and uniforms for the American army and locating convoys to ship them to America.  Congress lacked sufficient money and constantly prodded Franklin to find more funds.  With Britain, France, Spain and the Netherlands already at war; Franklin felt deepening frustration over requesting loans of nations and individuals, who would be wiser to invest in their own governments, rather than in a recently-established state “across the pond”.

According to Claude-Anne Lopez, another scholar who worked on Franklin’s papers, “Franklin was active in almost every aspect of French culture …. Among his inventions was the Foreign Service – he was the pioneer. He got along with everybody…. This was his approach: ‘Make them like you. Make them your ally. We need their ships, we need their troops.’”

Historic marker at rue Raynouard and rue Singer in Paris

As a result of Franklin’s dogged persistence and affable approach, America received many of the muskets and canons that contributed to the Americans’ victory over British forces in Saratoga in October, 1777.  Some four years later, the Continental Congress again had to rely on French funding and military strength to back General Washington and his troops in Yorktown.

Ultimately the British surrendered and Monsieur Franklin threaded through complex British politics to negotiate the Treaty of Paris early in 1783.  Sadly, within a few years, France endured bankruptcy, in part caused by their support of America.  Despite the onset of the French Revolution in 1789, Franklin’s death in 1790 cast a pall over France, inspiring the National Assembly to go into a three-day mourning period for this “simple citizen from another land.”

A simple citizen?  Hardly.  Few of us could look back on our lives with the accomplishments and ceaseless interest in all things in life that inventor, diplomat and publisher Benjamin Franklin represented. And, as important, he personally initiated a friendship between France and America that will not easily be set aside amidst contemporary global disagreements.  Merci, Monsieur Franklin.

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

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

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

je suis désolé

Le Grand Colbert, Paris

Belle Epoque decor and armloads of flowers!

I open with a sincere apology, in that I am pressed to repeat myself with a mention of hot chocolate. Oui – chocolat chaud. It’s cold nearly everywhere in the Northern hemisphere right now, and that includes Florida; so naturally my mind wanders back to an especially cold day in Paris. We were wandering around the Vivienne passage, when our friend suggested we duck into Le Grand Colbert.

Now we know. Then we didn’t. One doesn’t merely ‘duck in’ to this surreally beautiful brasserie. One inches through the door into an inner sanctum that is warm and elegant and breathtaking. Oui, the banquette to our right is perfect. We simply hoped to warm ourselves a bit over coffee, before venturing once again along the chilled streets of our favorite city. Our experience exceeded our expectations … by far.

After reviewing the menu, we chose chocolat chaud – a nice change from café au lait, we thought. And then we had time to gaze over the Grand (indeed) Colbert.

Le Grand Colbert Paris

Globes and ornate ceilings

A flurry of Belle Epoque impressions descended. Of golden globe lamps and ornate ceilings. Of hushed warmth and shared birthday celebrations. Of etched glass screens and rich velvet curtains, that seemed to embrace and seal the brasserie from the brisk cold. Of a handsomely elegant business ‘couple’ engaged in quiet, serious conversation. Of soaring floral arrangements and the quiet glide of our ‘garcon’, as he delivered – hot chocolate? THIS is hot chocolate?

Yes, the photo tells the story best. A story of luscious, velvety chocolate and warmed milk, slender sugar packets and whipped cream and an entirely welcoming aroma. I have searched out recipes for European-style hot chocolate and found that an essential is chocolate with no less than 70 percent cocoa solids. I will try my hand at this marvelous creation, yet I know at the outset that I could never reproduce that moment, that taste, that scene.

Paris brasserie Vivienne Passage

Chocolat Chaud a Le Grand Colbert

So we look to add a repeat visit to Le Grand Colbert. We’ve heard their roasted chicken is unparalleled – golden, tender, juicy, browned and crispy with few herbs, save the earthy addition of thyme. Sounds almost as heavenly as the chocolat!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
Amazon direct order

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

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

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WHY PARIS NOËL? SHOPPING AND LIGHTS!

Galeries Lafayette celebrates 100 years Swarovski style!  Paris

Galeries Lafayette celebrates 100 years Swarovski style!

During the holidays, it seems the entire city of Paris pays an elegant tribute to the spirit of the season.  Beloved avenues, squares and boulevards sparkle with themed decorations.  Department stores vie to out-spectacularize one another (How’s that for a new word?!)  Artistic villages suspend magical stars, and – as always – Disney marches forth with enticing family Christmas scenes.

True to tradition and form, Galeries Layfayette entertains and entices with a monster Christmas for 2014.   In a theatrical stage set, a band of mischievous monsters shake up Christmas traditions in the windows, with actor-monsters roaming in the store area… those rascals even put the Christmas tree upside down!  The Monster Christmas at Galeries Lafayette surprises and celebrates for the holiday period.

Whether BHV (the Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville), Printemps or Le Bon Marche, the grand department stores present a magnificent backdrop for yuletide shopping.

Mistletoe moments in paris

Mistletoe moments along Avenue Montaigne

And let us not forget that shopping paradise along Avenue Montaigne!  As one might suspect, this prestigious venue has a romantic feature in store.  Balls of champagne-colored mistletoe beckon shoppers to share kisses and gift-giving,  in deference to the traditional ‘kiss beneath a branch of mistletoe”.

Our experience was a bit different on the famed avenue.  A rather elegant Asian couple approached us, asking that we enter one of the haut designer shops to purchase handbags for them.  It seems they had reached their shopping ‘quota’ customs-wise, and we were invited to conspire with them to complete their desired purchases in our name.  We passed, but the event made the evening memorable!

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Paris Christmas – Top 4 Things to Do

Opera Garnier's Grand Staircase

Palais Garnier – one of Paris’ most elegant sites

Each of us approaches trip planning in a different way.  Some need the security of detailed plans; others prefer a more devil-may-care approach, allowing moments to unfold.  While the latter ‘plan’ carries a certain degree of risk, the loosely-knit itinerary allows for plenty of entertainment and a few surprises.  Regular readers know, of course, that I fall into the latter group!

This Top 4 Things to Do in Paris for the Christmas season allows for some magnificent experiences, while keeping your agenda open for that spontaneous glass of wine in the Marais or ducking into that little Librarie in search of old etchings or books.  Not in any particular order, I recommend a mix of culture, couture and fantastic flea market shopping.

First, I would hasten to purchase tickets on line for a performance at the Opéra Garnier.  During the holidays a ballet production is presented in one of the most elegant venues in all of Paris.  You can easily purchase tickets on line.  You will enjoy the luxury and luminosity of innovative ballet in the refined setting of Opéra Garnier.  This particular production blends the electronic music of Thom Willems with the dynamic choreography of William Forsythe and the modern dance of Trisha Brown.  The location is central to everything – near Galeries Lafayette – so you can find an ideal spot for a little aprés Opera drink.

Also on a sophisticated but so approachable note, plan to visit the Jacquemart-Andre Museum.  One of Paris’ ‘beauty marks’, the museum welcomes you home to the refined world of the former owners.  Canaletto – Guardi – “The two masters of Venice” is the current special exhibition devoted to the Venetian veduta paintings of the 18th Century.   If possible, try to go for the Saturday or Sunday brunch – quite an elegant affair held from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. in The Café Jacquemart-André.  You also have the option of late-night openings during the holidays, but be sure to check the museum website for specific nights and times.

Flea markets in Paris France

Antique finds at Les Puces!

Remember now that I am just offering you a few specific recommendations, but I fully expect you to wander the city.  Bundle up for walks along the Seine and duck into a fabulous Brasserie for an unparalleled chocolat chaud.

One of our favorite streets for reeling in the grandeur of Paris is the fashion world of Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.  Shall we drop a few names?  Hermès, Lanvin, Givenchy, Dior … only the world’s most exclusive designers set in sparkling shops amid five-star hotels.  We stopped for a carafe of wine on the street overlooking Estée Lauder – a perfect spot for watching distinctly upscale shoppers sating their appetites for finery.  You will be just around the corner from Place Concorde and the Palais de l’Élysée – official home to the French president – so you won’t lack for sightseeing opportunities.  Our most notable experience was stopping at a sidewalk cafe and looking up to see the handsome, fully-outfitted French Republican Guard marching down the street – quite a sight!

Now, we’ll dive down into the most famous of all flea markets in Paris – Les Puces (The Fleas), more formally known as Les Puces de Saint-Ouen.  Dress warmly and comfortably, as you will literally comb through acres of treasures in the world’s largest antique market.  Naturally, such adventurous shopping will stimulate your appetite; so stop in at one of the flea market cafes for a breather and an excellent tureen of soup (that happened to be our lucky find on a very chilly day!)  The market’s best hours are on Saturday and Sunday from 9 or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

And circling back to the December chill, don’t underestimate the weather.  While it could be unseasonably mild, we experienced piercing cold and a rather surprising dust of snow on New Year’s Day.  Be prepared, plan a bit but not too much, and look forward to perhaps the most memorable holiday season of your life!

As a side note, today is our anniversary – 11 years now, begun with the best of all lune de miels … in Paris, bien sur!  A wonderful beginning and so many lovely moments in Paris and beyond!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

Royal Guests at Château de Chambord

Breakfast with a rather pleasant view!

South of Blois in the Loire Valley, the 18th-century Château de Chambord rises at the heart of over 5,000 hectares (12,000+ acres) of ancient forest.  Chambord was the personal chateau and hunting sanctuary of King Francois I, and today is the largest enclosed forest park in Europe.

Our first encounter with Chambord destined our return.  We attended the light show —  “les clairs de lune de Chambord” — a fantasy light show production created to recall the hunting of deer and boar, fox and pheasant by guests of King Francois.  We arrived shortly before sunset to stroll through the grounds surrounding the Château.  Couples shared ice cream or light snacks under an outdoor arbor.  Others dined on the patio of a hotel restaurant.
Wait – hotel?  There is actually a quaint hotel – The Hotel Grand du Saint-Michel– overlooking this magnificent chateau?  With little hope that it would be affordable or available for the one night we would have between gite rentals, we had to check.  When we were able to book a room at a reasonable $75 rate, we felt as if the king himself had invited us to his retreat!

A little ‘voyage’ before the show

Prior to the show, we watched families gather on the lawn with children, couples take to rowboats to enjoy an end-of-day outing.  France bestows these blessings on a public entranced by history and tradition.  Chambord’s information pamphlet reinforces this gift:
“It is to the passion of Francois I for hunting, that we owe the existence of Chambord, designed both as a meeting place and a belvedere for observing the hunt.”

Alas, when we returned a few days later,  Francois was not on hand to greet us.  Still, we wandered the grounds and imagined the privileged guests and game hunting of 300 years past.  Visitors biked and hiked through the many lanes that lace through the forest.  Others gathered for the equestrian and falcon shows.

Our view over the petite Chambord village

This night, we would see the light show from our dining table on the terrace.  Indeed, with our exceptional bottle of local Vouvray and delicious French fare, we felt like guests of the king!  When the park closed, only the hotel guests and Château staff shared this enormous sanctuary.  Chambord remains a national hunting reserve and home to an abundance of wild creatures that roam free.  No, we didn’t encounter a graceful stag or menacing boar, but the crisp night sky offered us millions of stars to illuminate our stay.

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Villa Grecque Kérylos – C’est Magnifique!

Overlooking Cap Ferrat on the Cote d’Azur

Villa Grecque Kérylos is located in a seductive setting on the Mediterranean between Nice and Monaco.  Add lush gardens of olive and pine trees, oleanders and iris; and take to the tower for a panoramic view over the sea, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat and the countryside.

The villa is the culminating dream and passion of two men with a love of ancient Greek history, archeology and architecture.  Théodore Reinach was a member of the  “Académie des Inscriptions et Belles Lettres” who indulged his love of all things Greek with the building of the Villa, quite near to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild.

In the late 19th century, he entrusted the building of his splendid Greek villa to Nice-born architect Emmanuel Pontremoli, a fellow philhellenist who studied at the Villa Medici and the School of Archaeology in Athens.  We are able to enjoy inexpensive access to this historic mansion, due to the generosity and foresight of Msr. Reinach.  After relishing his exceptional Greek Villa, Theodore bequeathed Villa Kérylos to the Institut de France, a step that insured the preservation of this esteemed French treasure.

The main rooms of the Villa are situated to capture the scenic landscape overlooking Cap Ferrat, but one outstanding feature is the corner tower with panoramic views of the sea.  The tower pillars feature Greek fret patterns, and the floor includes a mosaic of a compass rose.  Every detail evokes Greek art and architecture to lend an air of quiet harmony.

For us, the peristyle is the pièce de résistance, a lovely central courtyard inviting light and wind to flow through the state rooms and porticos that surround the space.  As one could imagine, it was here that the Reinachs enjoyed elaborate receptions for privileged international visitors.

Marble columns of the Peristyle

Equally striking, the Villa Library and gallery spreads over one and a half floors and is dedicated to the goddess Athena.  Facing the morning light, oak furnishings surround a mosaic of Prometheus and Hera, and Msr. Reinach’s art and archaeology books line the shelves.  Ancient Greek objets d’arts include vases, Roman glass and Greek figurines.

The Villa’s master inscribed one of his mottos on the library wall, which translates, “This is where I, in the company of speakers, scholars and Greek poets, enjoy a peaceful retreat in immortal beauty.”
We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
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Nice – A Jewel on the Sea

Nice France

Breathtaking views of the harbor from a belvedere on Castle Hill- © ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

“When I realized I would see that light every morning, I could not believe my happiness … I decided never to leave Nice and remained here for my almost my entire existence”.  Henri Matisse

Let’s visit the fifth largest city of France – Nice – set along the French Riviera and oozing charm!  The city for which the famous Salade Niçoise draws its’ name seems to have everything, including the good taste to allow progress and heritage to thrive side by side.  Nice combines her glorious climate and fortunate seaside setting with traditions of art, culture, history and ambient lifestyles.  At the same time, the city has evolved into an advanced technology and industrial research hub.

Of course, you must begin along the world renowned Promenade des Anglais, gracefully threading along flower-and palm-lined walkways overlooking the Baie des Anges.  The vista is a blend of stately Belle Epoque hotels, gentle beaches, and a constant flow of humanity; though as an architectural purist, I wished for fewer modern apartment buildings.  C’est la vie – there’s still plenty of beauty to go around and benches for you to watch tourists and locals taking in a seaside walk.

Beyond visiting some of Nice’s exceptional art museums, two distinct destinations for exploring are Vieux Nice (Old Nice) and Colline du Chateau (Castle Hill).  The old city winds through ochre streets with colorful morning markets, boutique shops and wonderful cafes that offer a mix of French, Italian and North African tastes and exude the distinct aroma of olives.  Church spires, handsome doors, lacey balconies and the daily rhythm of Niçoise life make this a very special place to discover just the right spot for a fresh, olive-garnished lunch.

Enjoying Vieux Nice from your sidewalk café -© ATOUT FRANCE/Jean François Tripelon-Jarry

For an entirely different experience, don your comfortable walking shows and make the climb of some 100 steps to the Chateau on the hill (Don’t worry – plenty of little benches for a rest along the way).  At the top, Nice and the Mediterranean spread like a postcard-perfect panoramic view.  Take a drink and snack at the little café and watch the little ones enjoying the playground park.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Millau – An Audacious Work of Art

Millau viaduct – the highest in the world and taller than the Eiffel Tower – © ATOUT FRANCE/R-Cast

 

In case you believe that Gustave Eiffel’s influence ended with his renowned Eiffel Tower, you are quite mistaken.  As former President Jacques Chirac declared, “’The Millau Viaduct is a magnificent example, in the long and great French tradition, of audacious works of art, a tradition begun at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries by the great Gustave Eiffel.'”

The award-winning and record-setting  “le Viaduc de Millau” opened to traffic on December 16, 2004, to unending praise and interest and, indeed, has swiftly moved into the highest ranks of engineering “wonders of the world.”

Poor Millau.  The little village in the south of France was branded, scowled at for the traffic bottlenecks she presented. For thirty years the A75 auto route, planned as an efficient modern highway, had remained unfinished.  Before the Millau Viaduct, travelers had to cross the River Tarn by a bridge in the town of Millau at the valley bottom.  The town became the “great black spot” of traveling, with miles of congestion and hours of delay during the summer surge of traffic.

Finding the solution was technically demanding, given the area’s violent winds and the challenging geology of the deep Tarn Valley.  After ten years of research, the dual talents of structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster provided the design solution.  Foster described his project as a “sculpture in the landscape…a dialogue between nature and the man-made.”

Millau Viaduct – © ATOUT FRANCE/Patrice Thébault/Eiffage – Foster and partners

The $523 million project broke three world records:  highest pylons in the world at 725 and 803 feet; highest mast in the world at 1,130 feet; highest road bridge deck in the world – 890 feet.  The project simply defies the imagination of most worldly creatures.

The end result required a delicate marriage of knowledge, courage, talent, teamwork and tenacity – and a measure of good fortune!  The extraordinary construction embraced the latest public works techniques, bringing together multiple technologies – laser technology, GPS, hydraulic rams, climbing formwork, special asphalt and high performance concrete.  At the peak of the project, nearly 600 employees worked toward the successful conclusion of the viaduct.

At last, the viaduct completes the essential final link in the A75-A71 auto route axis from Paris to Spain.  The bridge considerably increases convenience and reduces the cost of travelling to the south.

This area was rural France, ignored by the rest of the country and left alone to its craggy terrain, ancient traditions and Roquefort cheese.  Clearly, the viaduct opened this flower in southwest France to a new era of expanded tourism and economic growth.
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Trace the History of Art in Provence

Entrance – Carrières de Lumières – © culturespaces

Planning your next trip to France?  You may want to take in an extraordinary ‘new’ attraction in Provence.

A little history

In 2011, the town of Les Baux de Provence asked Culturespaces – the same progressive organization that manages many historic sites and museums in France and Belgium – to take over management of the Carrières du Val d’Enfer quarry.  Culturespaces has managed the Château des Baux de Provence for nearly 20 years and reopened the quarry site in 2012 with a new name – “Carrières de Lumières” – so named to focus on the ever-present role of light in Provence.

Just a stone’s throw from Les Baux de Provence in the heart of the Alpilles, the ‘Val d’Enfer’ enjoys an impressive artistic history. The valley’s dazzling solid mineral deposits has long inspired artists.  It was the setting for Dante’s “Divine Comedy” and the creation of Gounod’s opera “Mireille”. In later years, Cocteau filmed “The Testament of Orpheus” in these same quarries.

The Carrières du Val d’Enfer quarry was created over time with the extraction of bauxite and white limestone used to construct the Chateau and the town. Discovered in Baux in 1821, the dark red bauxite as named after the village.

Where history and art meet high technology

With all of the innovation and vigor they have applied to their other successful projects (among them La Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild and Le Théâtre Antique & Musée d’Orange), Culturespaces will present cultural events emphasizing the History of Art in the Carrières rooms.  The all-encompassing galleries, audio visual shows, live shows, concerts and lectures aim to transform the ‘Carrières de Lumières’ into  a cultural hub for multiple events.  One big new show each year will profile the greatest names in the History of Art.  Twice the number of video projectors used in past productions will project images onto all surfaces of the rock, entirely immersing visitors in a vast artistic journey.

If you doubt for a moment that this will be an exceptional experience, look to the clear, expressed purpose that drives Culturespace.

“Our aim is to help public institutions to present their heritage and develop their reputation in cultural circles and among tourists. We also aim to make access to culture more democratic and help our children discover our history and our civilisation in remarkable cultural sites.”   Bruno Monnier, CEO.

Sneak preview of show – production © G. Iannuzzi M. Siccardi.

Created by Gianfranco Iannuzzi with Renato Gatto and Massimiliano Siccardi, the masterful show traces and interweaves the lives and works of “Gauguin and Van Gogh, the colour painters”.

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

Copyright © 2005-2015, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

The Whimsy and Wonder of Montmartre

Montmartre is the highest point in Paris, home to the iconic La Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, but also the guardian of whimsical art, spectacular cityscape views and delightful scenes around each corner.

We enjoyed  a month-long stay in a vacation rental at the foot of the Basilique.  We seemed to wander every lane, every endless set up steps that wind their way up to the appealing summit.  We never tired of finding our ideal, shaded spot on the Basilica’s sprawling lawn, where we could watch the visiting throngs of tourists and residents along the magnificent steps that spill down the hill.  Musicians play Mozart’s “Air”.  Living statues appear frozen in place, dressed as a jester, a sphinx or the Statue of Liberty.  Though some exacting visitors would find the scene hectic, we enjoyed the lively mix of magnificent views and lively people.

The Place du Tertre is the bustling center at the top – yes, overrun often with  tourists, but nonetheless another traditional “must see”, where artists gather to demonstrate their skill and sell their creations.  We simply don’t accept the notion that the popularity (or notoriety, as the case might be) of a place makes it off limits, too mundane to bother with.  In 20-degree weather, we have visited the square to enjoy a steaming bowl of onion soup, while watching over the chilled artists.

Chilled artists on Place du Tertre


With our extended stay on Montmartre, we came to recognize the everyday humanity that is part of the fabric of any renowned attraction, the people who populated our ‘village’.  The baker who greets each morning with the delightful aroma of fresh baked breads and a welcoming line of customers at the door.  The many fabric storekeepers, who ready their displays in hopes of a prosperous day of business – even the sad old man, who sits on the bench with his half-empty bottle of wine.  It is just another side of Paris that we relish.

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La Cabro d’Or & Spa – Provence

Provence Retreat

Tranquil gardens of la Cabro d’Or

On the first day of the hottest month of the year – throughout America and particularly in Florida – let’s just get away.  Let’s imagine an escape to a lovely Provençal farmhouse, surrounded by natural beauty and infused with unnaturally warm hospitality.

For our extended weekend, we shall arrive at our Relais et Chateaux hotel and restaurant – La Cabro d’Or & Spa – in a magnificent garden setting in the valley of Lex Baux de Provence.  The Alpilles mountains stretch across the landscape; where olives and wine share the fertile land, and the jagged white rocks of the Val d’Enfer provide a delightful contrast.

Our hosts, Geneviève and Jean-André Charial, perfect the mood of peace and quiet with graceful rooms, elegant living areas and a dining room and terrace that celebrate the incomparable cuisine of the land – herbs and olives, fresh-from-the garden confit tomatoes and asparagus – magnifique!  Following the seasons, the cuisine and wines mirror the rich land that surrounds La Cabro d’Or.  We shall end at least one meal with a magnificent creation – bourbon vanilla, grand cru chocolate mousse and Camargue salt.

Provence luxury

Exceptional cuisine … and atmosphere!

We will slide through the cool water of the huge pool, stop here and there in the garden, explore the historic villages of the area and, perhaps, discover a special antique in Saint Rémy de Provence or visit the famous Windmill of Daudet.  And at day’s end, we will yield to tranquil farmhouse evenings.

One guest perfectly described his La Cabro experience: “…There is one thing that stands out above all others: the freedom to do just as you please.”

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Hôtel de Crillon – Paris Luxury

Paris Luxury

Set on Place Concord, Hôtel de Crillon

With so much destruction and mayhem in the world, what better way to cast off gloom than reminiscing about Paris? You know the renowned Hôtel de Crillon, right next door to the American Embassy in Paris, is about to complete a two-year renovation. Slated to reopen next year, one of the most luxurious hotels in the world will present a bright new face in order “to meet its clients’ highest standards. Really?

Far be it from me to question the tastes and/or decisions of those who cater to those who likely spend as much on a stay at this magnificent hotel as many would spend on six months’ worth of mortgage payments! That disclaimer aside, you can be certain that the Crillon had not fallen into musty disrepair! Rather, like a bored homemaker shoving furniture about or painting a wall to freshen the home; the new management wanted to make a dual statement of refined continuity and techno-luxury progress.

I stand among many who appreciate the Hôtel de Crillon and, in fact, have some very fond memories of brushing up against her opulent presence. Many years ago during my first visit to Paris, my good friend once again demonstrated ‘the world is my oyster’ style. Dressed for a casual walk and a bit sodden with the Paris mist, she insisted we duck into the hotel for a visit to the restroom and gift shop. So discreetly imposing was the grand edifice, I balked at the thought quickly theorizing that such a visit would equal attending an upscale event in shorts and flip flops!

Crillon luxury

Distinguished uniformed hosts

No, no, my friend assured me, and we entered … with her darling dog in the lead. A uniformed gentleman nodded with an appropriate smile, and we traversed the marble foyer and descended elegant stairs to the toilette. Certainly quite serviceable and inviting, the rest room nonetheless did not equal that of The Ritz; though I don’t intend to cast aspersions.

Then, we enjoyed moments of hushed French-style conversation with the gracious attendant in the gift shop, as we looked among porcelain keepsakes, sumptuous leather goods and light-as-air silk scarves. Despite my initial misgivings, it was a delightful experience … and certainly memorable.

I had no idea that the genteel tenacity of my friend offered such benefits!  Well indoctrinated now to the Crillon’s egalitarian hospitality, on another occasion I waited to meet my friend in the hotel lobby….that famous, gleaming lobby with quietly efficient hosts and elegant guests.  I marveled at the thin, fine leather boots of a statuesque young woman attached to the arm of a quite dignified gentleman.

Imagine, then, my sorrow on reading about a tourist who had the same thought to take a peek inside, perhaps a good ten years after our adventure.  As this lady approached the door, a guard at the front explained that only hotel guests could enter in order to protect the privacy of their guests.

Now, I only wish we had stopped in for a glass of wine, as my daughter and I did one evening at The Ritz; but that is another story, and I am well satisfied with my Crillon memories at the moment.  In fact, even ambling along the sidewalk in front of the hotel is quite an experience.  Elegantly uniformed livery men oversee a stable of sleek, black vehicles, every ready to spring into action for in-or outbound guests.  A stately tall black man leaves the hotel in what appears to be the attire of African royalty.  There is an indescribable hum of service and wealth and privilege that is interesting to see, a window on a world most of us do not encounter … on a regular basis.

Enjoy the big and little moments of your life.  And, as they say, “act as if” and perhaps you will be welcomed into otherwise hallowed ground!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Aquitaine – History, Heritage – Pleasure!

Aquitaine, France

Path to the great beaches of Arcachon Bay – Atout France/Francois-Exavier Prevot

Aquitaine is one of 22 regions in Metropolitan France – 5 more regions are overseas.  This particular region is vast and diverse, spreading across 155 miles of ocean coastline and sharing a border with Spain through the Atlantic Pyrenees.  Bordeaux is not only the largest Aquitaine city; it is the self-proclaimed world capital of wine.

Speaking of wine, one of our favorite areas was Saint Emilion, where surrounding vineyards provide some of the finest wines of France.  Wandering south down a little country road, we happened on to a delightful treasure – Château Vieux Mougnac;  where hospitality mixed with delicieux wine tasting and produced an everlasting friendship!

Beyond the vast topographical changes, Aquitaine engages all interests in offering more than 2,800 historic monuments and a wealth of archeological treasures – not at all surprising, when you consider 40,000 years of wildly-varying inhabitants!  Fortified villages and grand Chateaus shed considerable light on the wealth and heritage of Aquitaine; and Dordogne’s  prehistoric Valley of Vézère includes stunning remains from the Paleolithic Age – from the mystical caves of Lascaux to nearly 150 sites and other decorated caves.

Similar to California glitz and sports, Biarritz is the European capital of surfing and one of the most popular beachfronts aside from the famed Côte d’Azur.  Beyond challenging the ocean Atlantic waves, pelota is a primary local sport akin to American handball; and one of the favorite local pasttimes is wandering along the seaside, once a favored playground of Empress Eugenie.  All in all, it’s quite an elegant resort area.

Chateau Vieux Mougnac

Near Saint-Emilion

While you are sampling the wide variety of excellent Aquitaine wines, keep in mind that the gastronomy of the area is rich and flavorful.  Whether foie gras or deliciously simmered duck, Bayonne ham or Gâteau Basque, the cuisine will represent some of your fondest experiences and memories.

Aquitaine France

Gironde fishing cabane

We arrived in Bordeaux at the heighth of the season, when summer ‘soldes’ – sales – made for rather crowded streets.  Fortunately, though, the city is located on the banks of the Garonne River, a particularly enticing option for us to explore the countryside.

We wandered past cyclists enjoying the Bordeaux vineyard sights and stopped for a while along the Gironde estuary, where a lone fisherman perched above the water at his “cabane de pêche au carrelet” – his fishing cabin on stilts.  Against a threatening sky, he nonetheless seemed quite content with his world.

 

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

The French Merci Train

French Merci Train

One of the many French shields

Throughout the week leading up to the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day landing in France, we see one special interview after another.   France Daily Photo recently profiled the Friendship Train sent by America to France, Italy and other European countries and today – the remarkable response from the French people.

The idea of responding to America in kind was initiated by a French rail worker and war veteran,  Andre Picard, who led efforts to create the Merci Train in gratitude to the American people.  The project quickly grew from one box car to a train with 49 box cars – one for each state and the remaining car to be shared by the District of Columbia and the Territory of Hawaii.

In February of 1949, the train arrived in New York Harbor aboard the French merchant ship Magellan.   Each car was filled with gifts to the people of the United States from the people of France.

All box cars featured a French flag and a unique symbol evoking memories of the American “Doughboys” of WWI, many of whom are buried in Flanders Field.  Interestingly, for more than 60 years veteran volunteers have kept the antique box cars restored and displayed as memorials to all who gave their lives for the freedom of others.  North Dakota has the most expansive display, in that many of the gifts they received have been preserved – from French shields from various departments to dolls, ceramics and family keepsakes.  Forty-two other French Merci Train box cars also remain and are displayed in various museums throughout America.

Sometimes politics ‘of the day’ cast shadows on the historical friendship that France and the United States have shared.  That is precisely when it is important to remember the bond between our countries.

 

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

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

Friendship Train Bound for France

France friendship

Friendship Train bound for France and Italy

Today, we see ‘tweets’ that circle the globe in rapid fashion; and we see causes garner attention and galvanize action through YouTube and Facebook posts that shine the spotlight on people or places in need. Well before those popular social media outlets existed, there was a columnist and broadcaster that soon became aware of the power of the media to ‘make things happen’.

In October of 1947, Drew Pearson conceived the idea of a “Friendship Train” that would take food donated by Americans to Europeans struggling in their existence following World War II. Pearson was in Europe, when he noticed the appreciation offered Communists for the few carloads of grain contributed to the people. He was then determined to rally the American people to the cause of feeding the hungry in Europe.

Mr. Pearson was astounded at the response to his plea. Across America towns, cities and states rallied with plans to collect food for the “Friendship Train”. Five weeks after his original announcement, the train moved from Los Angeles through eleven states to New York City. Along the way, every state had connected to deliver their own contributions to the Friendship Train.

friendship train WWII

From California to New York

No money was spent on food, labor or transportation; and at the end three trains delivered 270 boxcars of donated food to be loaded on a ship bound for Europe – food from Iowans’ gardens, baby food from Gerber, carloads of sugar from Hawaii and incalculable carloads of donations gathered at fire departments and City Halls throughout the nation.

And true to his desire to demonstrate the good will of America, the Friendship Trains that found their way through France and Italy were well posted with signs and banners ‘from the children of the USA to the children of France and Italy”. The Mayor of Paris at the time was General de Gaulle’s brother, Pierre, who greeted Mr. Pearson and his committee at City Hall.

French Friendship Trains made their way from Paris and Lyon to Bordeaux, Brest, Lorient and Toulouse with welcoming celebrations at each stop.

Every package of food had this label:

All races and creeds make up the vast melting pot of America, and in a democratic and Christian spirit of good will toward men, we, the American people, have worked together to bring this food to your doorsteps, hoping that it will tide you over until your own fields are again rich and abundant with crops.”

And soon, we will post the French response with the “Merci Train”.

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

 

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Sculpture of Rodin’s “Master”

Exhibition of sculpture, Paris

The sculpture of Rodin’s Master

Just imagine.  If we were in Paris today, we would have the distinct privilege of taking in a special exhibition at the magnificent Château de Compiègne Museum just north of the capital.  Until the end of October, the works of one of the most renowned French sculptors will be on display, that of Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse (1824-1887).  One of the premiere sculptors of the Second Empire, Carrier-Belleuse is considered Rodin’s Master, as Auguste Rodin was a student in the sculptor’s workshop.

Seemingly no artistic genre attracts me more than sculpture, where the materials under masterful hands deliver beauty and energy, brute force and quiet repose.  Carrier-Belleuse seemed tireless in his sculpting, turning out busts and statues, bronzes and figurines.  No material seemed indifferent  under his piercing talent.

While he began his training as the apprentice of a goldsmith and later studied at École des Beaux-Arts and Petite École, the sculptor spent over five years designing ceramics and metalwork models for  companies like Wedgwood in England.  When he began to exhibit large sculptures at the Salon in Paris, he attracted important patrons and significant commissions.

Emperor Napoléon III tapped his considerable talents in numerous public projects during the rebuilding of Paris between 1851 and 1870 – from the torchères for the Paris Opéra to the marble Bacchante purchased by the emperor for the Jardins des Tuileries.  Later the State awarded a Medal of Honor and the cross of the Légion d’Honneur for his marble Messiah that was allotted to Saint-Vincent-de-Paul in Paris.

Fine arts sculpture Paris

“Printemps” by Carrier Belleuse

Though continuously producing abundant pieces for international patrons, Carrier-Belleuse was highly visible and commercially successful in the applied arts.  Appointed director of works at the state Manufacture de Sèvres, he significantly elevated the stature of applied arts and impacted the careers of younger sculptors – like Auguste Rodin – who apprenticed with him.

Might I be among the first to recommend you take a little time from your enjoyment of Paris to take in this remarkable exhibition?  For less than the cost of a movie in the United States, you will enjoy the energy, humor and unrivalled imagination of Albert Ernest Carrier-Belleuse.

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

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Remembering……..

France WWII

American Cemetery in Normandy

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

– Winston Churchill, about R.A.F fighter pilots

 

Not so very long ago, the Ukrainian people lived in what appeared to be relative peace.  The streets were calm.  Homes felt safe.  Day-to-day chores were accomplished, and children played with one another in the parks.

And in the blink of an eye, shouting and fires and armed troops and killing replaced the security they had known.  I know it isn’t that simple.  Nothing is.  But I would wager that the “average” person in Ukraine would rather resolve their differences without destruction and death.

After a somber visit to the American Cemetery in Normandy, we drove down to the beach.  Where the infamous conflicts portrayed in “Saving Private Ryan” and so many other war films played out, the beach this day was filled with holiday visitors … children playing along the shore, kites and wind sails across the sky … peace and happiness won at such a great price.

erquy france

And just down the road, elderly women return from fishing

Today, as we remember all the sad losses that have occurred because of hatred and conflict, greed and arrogance and all of those interminable reasons ‘mankind’ loses its’ way; I hope one day the abiding desire for peace will overcome the destructive actions of war.

 

Île Saint-Louis “Second Homes”

Paris mansions

Private mansion at the tip of Ile Saint-Louis

Last time we were in Paris, we stayed for a week in a charming vacation rental on Île Saint-Louis.  Other than the sometimes grueling climb up four flights of stairs, we were absolutely enchanted to enjoy our residence on one of our favorite places on earth!

BUT that is also when we first heard from our best friend in Paris that, “The island has changed.  So many foreigners have bought property here, and it no longer feels authentic.”  Well, I’m sure I’ve paraphrased somewhat, but the key thought remains the same – the long famous and revered Île Saint-Louis doesn’t feel so French anymore.  I hasten to add that we do not share that sentiment, perhaps because we are blinded by the island’s charms!

Mind you, if we had the ‘spare change’ to buy property on l’île, we would jump at the chance; but we also would spend lots of time there.  Recent studies show that many foreigners, including Americans, have gradually driven out less well-off Parisian residents; and the second-home nature of their ownership and brevity of visits has had a negative impact on neighborhood shops and local schools.  Authors of the study indicate that this district is the only one in Paris that is losing inhabitants.  Given the French love of heritage, home and history; you can imagine how this ownership transfer has been received.

Those tensions resulted in quite a clash between historic and new residents, between architectural designers and cultural protectors.  A Qatari prince purchased one of the island’s most beautiful, historic and revered buildings – Hotel Lambert.  Once home to Chopin and Voltaire not to mention the Rothschild family, the 17th century mansion contains many artistic treasures, including priceless frescoes by artist Eustache Le Sueur created around 1652.

Paris vacation rentals

Our vacation home on Ile Saint-Louis

As if the drastic structural changes anticipated by the prince were not enough, a significant fire broke out in 2013 and caused the rooftop to collapse and destroy the Le Sueur designs.  Part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the building was empty and undergoing the controversial renovations. Nonetheless legal actions still are underway to assure that changes to the famous building are in line with historical dictates.  One heritage architect specialist went so far as to describe the proposed changes as “a monstrosity with the aesthetics of a James Bond villa”.  Parfait!

The hotel was originally designed and built for the personal secretary – Lambert de Thorigny – of King Louis XIII.  Voltaire was said to have courted his mistress, the marquise du Châtelet, at the Hôtel Lambert; and prior to being sold in 1975 to the Rothschild banking family, noteworthy visitors included Chopin and Balzac.

Perhaps on a more positive note, it seems that many of those owners of second homes in Paris want to blend in, opting for traditions like visiting the local boulanger for bread and La Presse for the daily newspaper.  It is, in fact, that village feeling that so many of us seek, when we arrange our vacation rentals in the City of Light.

If you have always opted for hotel stays in Paris, we highly recommend the more authentic and cost-effective vacation rental.  You still may eat out as often as you wish, but that morning cup of coffee in your own apartment is quite nice!

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swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Hôtel de Caumont – Aix-en-Provence

Museum in Provence

Hôtel de Caumont in Aix-en-Provence

As if Aix-en-Provence lacked charming attractions to lure visitors, a very special addition will open in July 2014.  The charming mansion – Hôtel de Caumont – represents a blend of Parisian and Aixois architecture, in itself a remarkable site; but residents and visitors alike will enjoy the Hôtel as a center of art and culture.

Among the growing legion of exceptional culturespaces attractions, the organization has applied its deft skills in orchestrating the painstaking renovation. And the same management connections and expertise that has brought such pleasure in Le Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris and La Villa Kérylos on the French Riviera will be applied to Hôtel de Caumont.

Aix-en-Provence France

Colorful interiors of Hotel de Caumont

 

In addition to concerts and performances, the museum will host two exhibitions each year: a summer exhibition focused on major artists of the history of art, and a winter exhibition devoted to large collections. Inaugurating the museum opening will be the “Canaletto” Exhibition, featuring the cornerstone of the vedute artistic genre – Giovanni Antonio Canal, also known as Canaletto (1697-1768). His works are among the most revered Venetian creations from 18th-century Europe.

The mansion in the aristocratic Mazarin neighborhood of Aix-en-Provence evokes a Parisian influence from the 16th century, a château built between court and garden. The style includes a gate, courtyard, main building and garden, gradually moving you from public to private spaces.

Aix en Provence France

Center of culture and art

The ornate interior includes a mix of Regency and Louis XV styles with stunning plaster work ornaments and Provençal colors.  Beyond expansive renovations that deliver a remarkable historic site, the Hôtel de Caumont intends to be open to all the arts and will include a cinema, conference room and a gallery for the performing arts. If you haven’t done so already, change your itinerary to include this magnificent cultural attraction in Aix.

 

 

 

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

4 ½ Reasons to Visit Lyon

Vieux Lyon France

Hilltop views from Old Lyon

Yes. It’s silly isn’t it, this attention-grabbing title game. Actually, Lyon presents hundreds of reasons to visit, from the dual rivers that intersect the city to the magnificent Vieux Lyon. Let’s just ‘wander’ a bit to discover a few secrets of this second largest city in France.

I’ll just jump right into a premier reason to visit – dining! Somewhere I read that if Paris is the heart of France, Lyon is the stomach. Vraiement! Your food and wine selections in Lyon are seemingly endless.

Discover charming little bistros and Michelin-starred restaurants in Vieux Lyon, where you can dine along a cobblestone street or the river or overlooking the entire city.  And between the Saône and Rhône Rivers, Presqu’ile is a virtual peninsula of exceptional dining and shopping choices.

lyon dining

Lunch on the terrace with locals

We stop for lunch on an umbrella-canopied terrace, before wandering along one of the most incredible pedestrian streets we have ever seen – rue Mercière? I shouldn’t have mentioned this Utopian dining mecca. I’ll never get past dining!!

The history of this street is as eclectic, as are the plethora of shops and restaurants. Dating to bustling 16th-century merchants and printers; rue Mercière has seen seedier days as recent as the 1980’s, when women of the evening plied their trades. Fortunately for residents and visitors alike, plans to raze much of the street in favor of ‘modernizing’ it failed; for today it is as gorgeous on a summer day, as it is festive during cold holiday evenings. Let’s bid adieu to dining with this reminder that any Lyonnais specialty is available here – from praline tarts to chitterling sausage!

Lyon france dining

Bustling rue Merciere

Lyon is an ideal walking city with many pleasant riverside quais and lovely waterfront and hilltop views. We meander through the old traboules – passageways first used by silk workers and later by members of the Resistance in World War II.

We climb to Villa Florentine with our Lyon friend, who always has offered less the encyclopedic vision of Lyon and more the charming inner sanctum. There by the pool, we enjoy a drink, while overlooking Vieux Lyon – an indelible view and experience that soothes the soul on a sleepless night.

Enough for today. We’ll save some of Lyon’s charm for another day. I hasten to add that you not only should include Lyon on your French travel itinerary; you should plan to stay a few days to enjoy

lyon france sights

Lyon’s riverfront

every single open and hidden secret!

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

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Why Visit Montmartre in Paris?

Paris France

The iconic Sacre Coeur on Montmartre

Glass half full, half empty. That little test of one’s outlook runs through my mind, as I think about Montmartre in Paris. Throngs of people everywhere. International visitors. Locals looking to make a centime here or there. Busloads of tourists.

Tati and Darty anchoring the boulevard – the equivalent, perhaps, of Ross and Office Max. And in between, sidewalks with loads of tee-shirts and fabrics and whatever else one might grab as a bargain.

We understand it’s not the refined 7th Arrondissement, but it’s our home…for nearly six weeks. We are tucked away in a surprisingly elegant apartment just two blocks from the base of the steps leading up to Sacre Cœur. We see the tourists of every shape and size and age. And we don’t care. It is our home.

We take our daily walk past the charcuterie and the “village” theatre, past the wall-enclosed schoolyard, where we hear the children at play. We visit Théo for wine selections and step into line at our favorite boulangerie for fresh bread and the occasional pain au chocolat. We sit for a while near the entrance to the Abbesses Metro, where a sad old man is parked on the bench with his half-empty wine bottle; while children rejoice on the carousel behind him.

Paris France

Tidying the streets

Montmartre simply runs to a different rhythm, and you need only look a little, live a little to absorb its charm.  Around one bend is the old windmill – the Moulin de la Galette – made famous in Van Gogh paintings. He lived in an apartment nearby with his brother, Theo. We climb several flights of stairs, well worn by residents and visitors past and present.

We walk past colorful graffiti celebrating Star Trek and watch the green men clean the streets. And one day we even don our voyeuristic hats and take a café seat right across from the base of Sacre Cœur to watch the colorful throngs of tourists, as they look with wonder at the stunning Cathedral … and are accosted by the same enterprising ‘bracelet weavers’ that sought our business in the past.

Montmartre Paris

The last windmill

We have taken an unexceptional lunch overlooking the Place du Tertre, where visitors weave among the many artists and sit for a portrait memoir they can take back to Iowa or Alabama or even Sydney. And we have dined on the sidewalk of a trattoria, with the white Cathedral dome in the background and a cheerful accordionist offering his songs at our table.

Montmartre. It’s just one more of those enchanting villages within one of the world’s greatest cities. You take the “good” with the “bad” and, if you are fortunate – as we were – you tuck away those golden memories to enjoy on many a day in the future.

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

Paris France

Our Montmartre entertainment

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Temptations of Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc

Poised on the tip of Cap d’Antibes

Probably two of the most popular topics in any era are the cost of living and fashion.  So today I resurrect a post that looks at one of the French Riviera’s luxury hotel jewels now….and way back when the prices and fashions du jour were quite different!

Let’s take a look at one of the most luxurious and lavish resorts delightfully positioned on the tip of Cap d’Antibes.  And that resort would be Hotel Du Cap-Eden-Roc, where celebrities through the ages have steadily and royally enjoyed the most elegant of holiday experiences; while no doubt, leaving a trail of interesting tales in their wake.

Words simply fail when describing the legendary Hotel.  In fact many might say, if heaven is like Eden Roc, I can’t wait to die!  From 1870, the “Villa Soleil” welcomed writers looking for inspiration, but in 1885 a Piedmontese hotelier readily envisioned the Hôtel du Cap and transformed the Napoleon III style villa into a fabulous refuge by the sea.  One of the most interesting hotel embellishments is the seawater swimming pool dug in the rock, though the seaside “cabins” (33 cabanas, in all) and Eden-Roc Pavilion are equally alluring.

Recently reopened after a €45million refurbishment, the hotel has returned to its stunning, authentic quality, while adding every modern convenience and several new amenities.  Nothing compares with the elegant, spacious rooms and luxury appointments, the sumptuous Bellini Bar, gourmet restaurant and assorted intimate bars and grills. Open only from mid-April to mid-October, the hotel rates are equally ‘handsome’ for accommodations ranging from standard, classique and Supérieure rooms to a private villa complete with your own butler.  Rates run from 350 € for the standard to 12,500€ for the villa in the highest season.

The seawater pool in 1932 – Click photos to enlarge

But I have a humorous twist to this story.  The postcard shown here was sent to my father in Paris from a lady friend staying at the hotel in 1932.  In part, her message reads, “Here I am at this wonderful place – $6.00 a day for room, bath and meals (in between seasons) … You ought to see the scanty one-piece bathing suits.  Oh, I don’t know where I’ll end – the temptations are lovely and many.”

The prices surely have changed, but I rather imagine the temptations to still be … lovely and many.

We’d love to hear from you!  swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

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Porcelain and Trompe l’œil” in Limoges

Limousin France


Hôtel de Ville, Limoges

We arrived in Limoges, after a meandering kind of day in the French countryside.  What better place to stop for the night than the veritable throne of porcelain!

As the proud owner of my grandmother’s elegant Haviland Limoges china, I certainly was familiar with the name; yet we had no idea about the character of the city.  We followed our ‘norm’ and visited the Office of Tourism, checked into a hotel and set off to discover the city.

We wound our way down to the Vienne River and along the grassy remains of the town ramparts.  We found our way to the exceptionally beautiful Hôtel de Ville, a 19th-century Neo-Renaissance building, designed by Leclerc, who also was the architect of Trianon and the Palace of Versailles.  A clock with the image of Limoges is in the center of the stately façade, and two figures represent the goldsmith and enamellist.  It is simply one of those breathtaking sights that make you marvel at the combination of intricate design and excellent craftsmanship.

So often the case as we explored a new city or region, we happened upon a delightful square – the historic Place de la Motte, home to the sprawling Les Halles central market.  And what a remarkable view, as we enjoyed lunch beneath a canopy of canvas umbrellas.  Across from our location,  “trompe l’œil” paintings transformed buildings with flat, expressionless lines.  They came to life under the artist’s brush, creating windows and shutters and alcoves that did not exist.  In fact, we enjoyed and felt familiar with this Place; and after more exploring along pedestrian lanes and porcelain shops, we returned for dinner and dessert.

Limoges France

Remarkable “trompe l’œil” in the Place

After spending so few waking hours in the city, we really weren’t able to define Limoges in our minds, as we can with cities we have come to know – like Aix, Lyon, Avignon and – mais oui – Paris!   We will simply have to return for a longer stay, to walk more along the banks of the river, to discover little gardens among the half-timbered homes, to let Limoges reveal her personality.

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

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Discover Paris in Photos

Paris France

The Seine – always a ribbon of life in Paris

I am tired of my own hiatus from France Daily Photo, of my lack of discipline and self-indulgence.  At the same time, I am my own worst critic, as they say.  Regular readers know I had knee replacement surgery in November, and the road to recovery has been riddled with potholes.

YET, this is not my reason for nailing myself today in front of the computer.  I really do miss diving into French culture, history and joie de vivre … and sharing it with you.  I just discovered a show that sounds interesting, one hosted by the Maison Européenne de le Photographie (MEP) on rue de Fourcy in Paris.  In essence, the organization has tasked some the world’s greatest photographers with the unique assignment of capturing Paris in images.  Other photographers have taken up the challenge in years past, but this year the British photographer Martin Parr wandered the streets of Paris to provide his own view.

Paris canal

Canal Saint-Martin

I find it interesting to ponder what people “choose” to see and do in Paris.  Parr’s show includes a plethora of tourist photos  – massing on Notre Dame’s revered steps or taking their own snapshots of Mona Lisa in the Louvre.

My husband and I have a deep and abiding love for Paris; and our own photos and experiences flash before me, as I consider this ‘capture Paris’ assignment… of stunning window displays and the sad sight of homeless men on the cold sidewalks of Paris.  Of the buzz of models and photographers during a shoot in the Galerie Vivienne.  Of the tired old man on a bench in front of the carousel laden with happy children.  Of those little tête-à-tête moments you see in every café, on every corner of Paris.

Seine of Paris

The fishermen

I include a few of our photos and encourage you to re-live your own memories of Paris, as you plan your next trip!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
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We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@luxeeuro.com

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Paris France

Sailing in the fountain

Please Your Palate at Meert in Lille

Royal waffles in Lille

Extravagant, historic Meert in Lille

Today we seem to live at the speed of  light, hooked to little electronic gadgets that nag us – with our permission, thank you – throughout every waking moment.  That’s all the more reason  to appreciate Meert. 

Nothing happens in France overnight, least of all a blossoming friendship or a thriving patisserie.  No, the maturation of either requires patience, tender care, growing trust and a touch of vision.  And so it is with Meert.  Over 250 years ago – in 1761, to be precise – a sweets and chocolate shop was born at 27 rue Esquermoise in Lille. Some ten years later, the addition of Meert’s famous ice cream inspired the reverence of the Count of Lille and transformed the establishment into one of Lille’s most fashionable sites, proving once again that the touch of royalty ‘gilds the lilly’.

Flash forward to 1839, when the decision was made to renovate the establishment.  The creative team included the architect César Benvignat – the official architect of Old Lille, painter Stalars and sculptor Huidiez; who combined their brilliance to create the impressive, ornate oriental style you find at Meert today.  Ten years later, Meert became the official supplier of King Leopold I and concocted one of the stellar products of the store – the famous vanilla-filled waffle.

Lille France

Dining under glass at Meert

Along the way, the house added a first-in-class restaurant poised along a sun-bathed interior courtyard with a 19th century glass roof.  Now, the distinguished clientèle enjoys the multi-faceted historic boutique, traditional tearoom and gastronomic restaurant all presented in the extravagant and tasteful surroundings of Maison Meert. A second restaurant at Lille Printemps has been added, as well as two Paris locations in the Marais and Saint-Germain, in Bruxelles and Roubaix.

Now, about that infamous waffle….

Ten years ago, the EphéMeert waffle appeared beside the traditional vanilla waffle that is particularly known for its’ flavorful Vanille de Madagascar.  Flavors range from praline and puffed rice, pistachio and morello cherry to blackcurrant and violet flavors.  You can be certain that the enticing combinations are tucked away quite carefully in the little tattered notebook that guards the Meert’s cherished secrets!

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

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie ‘Escape’

Midi Pyrenees

Magnificent views of the Lot Valley

When we were in the flea markets of Paris, we would come upon stalls of ancient furniture – tables of thick, dark slabs of wood that immediately inspired visions of wayside travelers, tankards in hand. No doubt, Quentin Tarentino could have produced a lively, tavernesque scene among those furnishings.

Such imaginative scenes come to mind in exploring many medieval villages of France. Ancient ramparts and fortifications, thick stone walls, turrets and towering riverside views inspire thoughts of the inhabitants who braved winters, celebrated summers and thwarted attacks.

One idyllic region for discovery is the Lot Valley area.  Our good friends in Paris recently wrote of an Australian couple, who found their dream village in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. With all of the zeal and energy of youth, they purchased a medieval property in this historic village in the mid-Pyrenées; and they shall set about the task of completely restoring the manor – what many of us imagine but few have the time, energy and funds to accomplish!

Yet, in the end, they will inhabit one of the most beautiful and historic villages of France … described as a medieval jewel poised above the River Lot. A Gothic church, a cliff side museum and several castles mix with lovely old houses of stone and wood with steep tile roofs, that date as far back as the thirteenth century.

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie

Châteaux de Cénevières

Today passageways of shops preserve the very artisan craftsmanship that contributed to the wealth of the village – skinners and coppersmiths, wood turners and ceramists. At the foot of the village, mills and dams, locks and towpath remind us of that entrancing age of river commerce that characterized the region.

Visitors explore the fort ruins for panoramic views of the valley and discover the same stunning views from the terraces of the Renaissance castle at Cénevières. The Châteaux de Cénevières is one of the area’s most historic monuments and is now open to the public. From the small village of Bouziès, just 4 kilometers from Saint-Cirq, tour boats and rental houseboats provide enchanting access to this magnificent river that meanders all the way to the River Garonne at Aiguillon.

Whatever your country of origin, you might find yourself much like those Australians, with an eye toward settling in the area. Another who did so was a famous surrealist.

“It was in June 1950 … that I first saw Saint-Cirq, blazing with Bengal Fire, like an impossible rose in the night. It was love at first sight and the next morning, I returned to the temptation, to the heart of this flower – it had ceased to flame, but remained intact. Above any other place in the world, in America or Europe, Saint-Cirq is my one place of enchantment: the one fixed forever. I stopped wanting to be elsewhere.” – André Breton, leader of the surrealist movement, September 3, 1951. The painter lived out all the remaining summers of his life in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, until his death in 1966.

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

Copyright © 2014, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Best Time to Visit Paris

Paris autumn

Autumn at the Jardin du Luxembourg

For those who know me, you know that’s a ‘trick’ title; because I think ANY time is the best time to visit Paris!  Mind you, I’m really not crazy about summer crowds and the lack of air conditioning in August, but nothing stops my enthusiasm for Paris.

That little disclaimer out of the way, I would encourage an autumn trip for an opportunity to dip your feet in the crisp and crunchy leaves of Jardin du Luxembourg (or Jardin de Plantes or any other plaza or garden in Paris).  Walk along the Seine to enjoy the warm autumn light that gilds the tops of the buildings lining the river.  When a chill or dreary mist settles over the city, take to your favorite museum.  New exhibits spring up constantly, and of course, the permanent exhibits at Musée D’Orsay or the Louvre or Marmottan never, never grow old.

This month an interesting exhibition opened at the Musée de L’Orangerie –  Frida Kahlo / Diego Rivera Art in Fusion.     A collaboration with the Dolores Olmedo Museum in Mexico City, the Musée de l’Orangerie  devotes this exhibit to the lives and artistic expression of the legendary Mexican couple – Frida Kahlo (1907-1954) and Diego Rivera (1886-1957).

Musee, Paris

Self-portrait of Frida

The canvases of the artists revolve around their devotion to Mexico and their love for one another, but their expression is entirely different.  Frida’s art is highly personal, often evoking the pain in her life as the result of her severe injuries in a bus crash.  Rivera’s works are more objective and reflect the political and historic life of Mexico.  Presenting the works together casts a net over the two, allowing us to see the cycles of life and death, workers, religion and peasants that are part of their expression in art.

This is not the first time Parisians have been able to view Frida’s work, as she lived in Paris for a time in 1939; when she became friends with Marcel Duchamp and Pablo Picasso.  The Art in Fusion exhibit will continue until January 13.  And, yes, I would even recommend a Paris sojourn in January, when the bitter cold will force you to duck into the Le Grand Colbert for hot chocolate.  There is always a warm side to a cold day.

“My painting carries with it the message of pain.”   – Frida Kahlo

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
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We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Paris Remembers Edith Piaf

Edith Piaf, Belleville

Edith Piaf remembered along the streets of Paris

Our daughter has such a nifty sense of humor.  She once said she wanted to be one of those people about whom they say, “She would be ‘this old’ today.”  That IS aiming high, and one little bird that reached that lofty nest of fame was Edith Piaf.

Last Thursday marked the fiftieth year after her death, and the renowned Parisian songstress  was  remembered in the working-class Paris neighborhood from which she came.  A memorial mass was celebrated at St. Jean-Baptiste, the parish church in the Belleville district where Piaf was born.  Hers was a tragic life, one that ran the painful gamut from abandonment by her mother to abandonment by the church on her premature death at the age of 47.

How often is it that years after a talent has fallen silent, masses rise up to celebrate that stilled life?  This week giant screens and amplifiers allowed those outside the church to follow a mass that began a four-day festival of remembrance.  Preceding the mass, a silent march took place, leading from her final resting place in Pere Lachaise to the church.  We especially appreciated our dear friend in Paris sending the remarkable graffiti rendering of Piaf on the streets of The City of Light.

Paris France

Piaf’s final resting place in Paris

Edith Piaf enjoyed a post-war resurgence of her career and became a household name in many  corners of the globe thanks to the success of “La Vie en Rose” and “Je ne regrette rien.”  On 1963, she was the biggest international star France had ever seen and the first to conquer America with her melancholy music a seeming backdrop for the post-war generation.

…. Coming soon – fun recommendations for your holiday gifts … from France, of course!

Fired Up for France: The Promise of Paris – now available!
Autographed copies with notecard gift (through PayPal)
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We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Georges Braque at The Grand Palais

Grand Palais, Paris

Braque’s magnificent bird collection – © Adago, Paris 2013

Visitors to Paris between now and January 6 have a unique treat in store.  The Grand Palais – ever the gorgeous backdrop of exceptional events – has just opened The Georges Braque exhibition with an astounding 240 of the artist’s paintings that encompass his entire career.  France 24 calls the event a “40-year first”, as it is the first retrospective dedicated to the artist in France.

Tracing the work of the artist who ‘co-authored’ Cubism with Pablo Picasso, the exhibition highlights Braque’s many sources of inspiration, from music and poetry to the intellectual arena of his time, 1882 – 1963.  Credited with inventing collage, the artist initially was tempted by Fauvism, before inventing the paper cut-out technique and helping to found Cubism in collaboration with Picasso –  a move that shook the art world in the post-war mid 1900’s .

Georges Braque

Musical Instruments – 1908

The exhibition moves from his initial Fauvist works to his final magnificent art studio, bird and landscape series.  Enjoy a delightful video ‘teaser’ about the exhibition; and if your Paris trip is not entirely scheduled, be sure to take in this Grand Palais event.

I long ago moved away from my naïve “I know what I like” to embrace many kinds of art.  I love the imagination of artists, who see … and share their different vision of scenes, places and people in the world.

And even I have had my ‘dancing with Picasso’ moments, though I didn’t then realize that I owed as much to Braque for the Cubism movement.

French artists

Sheridan Picasso – mais oui!

 

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

Bon Dimanche – Beaumont du Périgord!

scenic Dordogne

Montignac on the Vezere in Dordogne

Visit our LuxeEuro site today for a combination of amusement and revelation – our recommendation for lodging in the lovely old bastide town of Beaumont du Périgord in southern Dordogne.

We hadn’t heard of the ville, until our Parisian friend sent us Julia Stuart’s first novel, the Matchmaker of Périgord.  Stuart’s novel is the fictional side of Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence, in which she captures so many of the endearing (and not so) idiosyncrasies of provincial French in the story of the barber turned matchmaker.

Do take a look at a remarkable old mill country retreat –Moulin de la Ville Beaumont du Périgord– and have a delightful Sunday remembering past adventures and planning future trips!

 

Monte Cristo – The Beauty of France

count of monte cristo

Chateau de Villette – fit for the Count

 

We all have our little moments of truth along the twisting paths of life.  Just one of mine took place, when I was eleven years old.

Decidedly miserable with stomach cramps and a nasty little flu, I made a monumental decision.  I no longer wanted to be a movie star, a dream I had nestled like a favorite doll in my soul for ‘all of my life’.  Suddenly I realized that if I were a movie star, the entire world would know that I was pale and miserable and sick with the flu.  Apparently my sense of decorum at that delicate age would not allow such highly personal life details to be made public.

And this has what … exactly … to do with France?  I thought you would never ask!

We have launched ourselves inside of a new adventure – namely, watching Le Comte de Monte Cristo – the 1998, four-part series made for television and starring Gérard Depardieu.  Yes, I am annoyed with Monsieur Depardieu and his abandonment of France for Russia, apparently unable to live within his considerable means and most unhappy with the government for wanting a greater share.

Depardieu's Monte Cristo

Le Comte de Monte Cristo

Back on track, though, I hasten to add that this film resurrects the intricate, swashbuckling tale of the esteemed Alexandre Dumas.  In only the first two segments of the eight-hour saga, we have been to the notorious Chateau d’If on Marseille’s horizon, to Marseille itself and to Italy, Paris, and Auteil.

We have relished the Mediterranean expanses and traveled the countryside of France.  We have stepped delicately through marble passageways and reveled in garden carriage rides in and around Paris.

Now, you see, don’t you?  The ability to immerse myself in such entrancing stories and delightful locations would be great reward for the tiny embarrassment of having the world know I was seized with influenza.  I am now willing to make that sacrifice and only await an invitation to read for the next movie to be filmed in France.

And however many of the numerous productions of Le Comte you may have seen, we recommend this particular series.  The film reveals Dumas’ exceptional talent, French history and culture, a cast of considerable expertise and an entire menu of beautiful sights in France and Italy.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

The Lure of Loire Valley Memories

France wheat fields

Golden fields in the Loire Valley

I suppose everyone has a different approach to travel, some probing the history and points of interest of a given area and others taking a more laissez-faire, let-it-unfold approach.  Whichever method appeals to you, what is quite interesting is to go back and research about an area you have experienced first hand.

I recently came across a nicely written and very thorough article that profiled the city of Bourges in the Loire Valley.  While reading of historic churches and age-old customs, my mind whisked backward to a remarkably hospitable weekend in the area.

A friend and former Parisian invited our friends and us to visit with him in a tiny hamlet about 30 minutes from Bourges.  We managed to pack a ton of discoveries into that one weekend.

Loire Valley

Cows seeking shelter from the July sun

In deference to the article I mentioned, yes we walked the streets of Bourges.  In fact we did so at night during the Lumiere extravaganza, when mystical lights cast their glow upon church courtyards and centuries-old, timbered houses.  On the steps of the renowned St. Stephan’s Cathedral, I picked up a couple of tiny red and pink tissue hearts, the sweet mementos of a wedding held earlier in the day.  We have the deepest respect for the city and its’ storied past.

But now I move on past the sophisticated travel to our deepest memories –

…. Of golden wheat fields stretching, stretching for miles up soft hills capped here and there with a couple of trees, standing as sentries, it seemed, overlooking this ‘bread basket’ of France.

…. Of steaming bowls of coffee enjoyed in the morning in the front yard, as we heard the plans for the day

…. Of an enormous, rhinestone blanket of stars setting the blackest of black nights ablaze with light

…. Of a whimsical house with all sorts of glass art – now, I see, named La Cathédrale de Jean Linard

…. Of narrow country lanes winding through the country, and shuttered homes built inches from the road – they always, always cloak their windows in delicate French lace

…. Of our little trek to La Borne, where 88 village artists give birth to imaginative ceramic  works of art

artists of the Loire

La Cathedrale in the Loire countryside

And so we traveled in the footsteps of the Gaulouis and years from now will still enjoy this warm quilt of Loire countryside memories.

 

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

September 11 – In Remembrance

September 11, 2001

World headlines of 9/11

Twelve years.  Time plays such tricks, but few of us have been left untouched by the psyche-searing visions and ugly remnants of September 11, 2001.

We remember where we were.  We remember the need to reach out to loved ones, if only to express our horror and confusion.  We remember the need to sequester ourselves for a time, a need to hold the world at bay; while we tried to find our footing on shaken grounds of belief.

Americans were not alone on that day.  Powerful world leaders and common men and women on streets in England and India, South Africa and Japan, France and Poland felt the anguish; as if it had happened in their own country, in their own back yard.

Twelve years later, we still have world turmoil.  We have the prolonged economic uncertainties of the past six years.  And we have the sometimes exhausting hassle and expense of extraordinary security measures in travel and even in commonplace sporting events.  And as trying as any of those circumstances might be, they pale before the events of September 11, 2011.

France on 9/11/2001

Le Figaro headlines on 9/11

On that day darkness threatened the light of the world; and if there is any grace in the unyielding terror of September 11, it is in the shared tears of global humanity.  America could never be the same.  Neither could any part of the world we live in.  In the face of generations of discord, unity is a treasure.

In quiet remembrance of all of the victims, heroes and families left behind.

Normandy’s Plus Beaux Beuvron-en-Auge

Basse Normandy France

Beuvron’s half-timbered houses

Oui – yet another Les Plus Beaux Villages de France   (The most beautiful villages of France).   Up in the Basse-Normandie region of northwestern France, Beuvron-en-Auge is just a couple of hours … but a world apart … from Paris.  Comfortably situated between the sea and countryside, this charmingly beautiful village seems like a stage setting with half-timbered 17th century houses, a lovely old inn from the 1700’s, the authentically Normand Church San Marino and a very beautiful Manor House.

Flower boxes dress the sparkling windows and open spaces, and quaint, colorful signs show the way to the local patisserie or epicerie or brocante.  They celebrate all kinds of things in Beuvron – geraniums and cider and an exotic dessert rice pudding called tergoule; and they have a central location, where many farm products are offered.

Normandy France

Tasteful signs of many colors

Doesn’t it make you wonder how this small community of less than 500 people should gain the esteemed “Most Beautiful Village” designation?  Well, let’s see exactly how that comes to be.

Of the more than 32,000 villages that have shaped the French countryside over time, there are currently 157 villages that share membership in the association.  These are the special places with a passion to reveal the quality of their distinct heritage – their history, land, culture and people.

Three requirements must be met, before the four-stage process of selecting

Michelin-star restaurant

Pave d’Auge Normandy cuisine

villages.  The village population must not exceed 2,000.  The village must include at least two protected areas of legendary, picturesque, scientific, artistic or historic interest.  Finally, the decision to apply for admission must be taken by the town council.  Once those requirements are fulfilled, four stages form the selection process:

1.            Evaluation of a village’s application

2.            On-site evaluation

3.            Quality Committee

4.            Quality Charter

A former stronghold of the Harcourt family, Beuvron easily fits the picturesque requirements, with brick and half-timbered buildings and country homes scattered about the landscape.

The village is on the Cider Route and on the Cheese Route; and the Place de la Halle (Market Square) is now home to the inviting Pave d’Auge Normandy restaurant, where Michelin-star menus and regional gastronomy augment the exposed beams and timberwork of the old covered market.

Hmmm….shall we order the Saint-Jacques dans un bouillon de cidre or a savory soufflé?  Naturally a glass of vin de pays du Calvados will accompany our meal.

By the way, the Pave d’Auge is a bed and breakfast; so if you are inclined to absorb the lovely Normandy countryside, stay a while with Sophie and her husband.

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.   All rights reserved.

 

 

Famous Omelettes of Mont-Saint-Michel

La Mere Poulard restaurant

Mont Saint-Michel, northern France

My apologies to our faithful readers about the intermittent blanks in publishing France Daily Photo.  It’s certainly not from a lack of passion or interest.  One of several projects at the forefront include a book with a dual focus:  challenging readers to indulge their passion for travel and providing personal glimpses of the many faces of France.  I hope you will share with us the things you most enjoy reading and learning about France.  Many have told us how much they appreciate the wide range of topics and ‘territories’ covered.  Others particularly like those personal moments and suggestions that offer a deeper look at a village, an inn or a person.  I appreciate your longstanding loyalty and will keep you posted on our progress.

 

In the meantime, welcome to a different slant today on our France.

I cherish the lessons I learn along the way about what is important and lasting.  One of those lessons centered on an endearing Chapel Dean, who made his own omelette at La Mère Poulard in the medieval village of Mont-Saint-Michel.  It is a wonderful story.

As an alumnus of Rollins College, I wrote an article for our collegiate magazine.  The piece profiled our Dean of the Chapel, who had recently completed a one-year sabbatical the University of Edinburgh.

Mont Saint-Michel France

Omelettes over the open fire

I knew him to say a warm hello and have an occasional conversation.  Rollins was and still is an exceptional, small Liberal Arts college with less than 2,000 full-time graduates.  All of us on campus were like an extended family with all of the ups, downs and merry-go-rounds family can entail; so it would have been impossible to miss this charismatic professor and Dean.

We saw him as a man with a twinkle in his eye, an abiding love of God … and a penchant for chomping on cigars!  In preparing for our interview, I brushed up on his ‘official’ background.  Boston-born, from a Scottish family that emigrated to Prince Edward Island; he and his family later moved on to Massachusetts.  By the time he was fifteen, he had made up his mind to enter the ministry.

After completing his Bachelors of Science and Bachelors in Sacred Theology at Harvard, he was invited to join the Rollins College faculty.  By that time, he and his wife had produced four children and had ministered in two Connecticut churches.  He was the fourth dean of the Knowles Memorial Chapel and would ultimately earn the title of full professor. He was bemused by the latter.  He related that his professorship was a real accomplishment, in that his only previous teaching experience was instructing Sunday School.

La Mere Poulard

Quite famous and fluffy!

So I had the privilege … finally … of sitting down for what seemed like a fireside tête-à-tête with this remarkable man – as extraordinary for his ‘in the moment’ ways as for any of his accomplishments.  We simply chatted.  He recalled rainy days and interesting moments in and around Edinburgh; and he cherished his well-deserved exploratory retreat, after a lifetime of significant responsibilities.

With his bifocals perched on the bridge of his nose, he peered over at me like a school child ready to share something that happened on the playground.  That is when he recalled his trip to Mont Saint-Michel, to this historic pre-Romanesque settlement on a rock in the midst of a huge bay.  When the tides come in, the Mont is isolated.  It becomes a village tucked away from the world for a while; perhaps with ancient whispers from the Benedictines, who settled the rock.

With all of that beauty, that religious history, that magnificent sight in the North of France; his story centered on the invitation to, “Come and make your own omelet.”   The tale was appealing; he would have made a great village storyteller.

But it was only when we finally made our own way to La Mère Poulard that the ‘bud’ he presented to me that day came into  full bloom.

As we ducked away from the grey drizzle into the warm entry of the restaurant, the picture he had painted transformed from black and white to color.  A young girl in a long burgundy apron stood before the open fire, long-handled omelette pans at the ready.  Since the L’Hôtel de Madame Poulard opened in 1888, the ultra-light omelette has become quite famous, drawing countless celebrities since the 19th century.

I imagined his hands whisking those eggs in an old copper bowl and holding that long handle.  I believe his heart was as warm as the hearth where he stood.  You needn’t guess what we ordered on our visit, and it came with his long-ago message about the importance of little moments in life.

After the sabbatical, he received his honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities from Rollins College.  These words were read to him:

“…The scourge of the administration, an implacable foe of red tape, the custodian of a thousand and one faculty and student confidences, and always a jealous advocate of freedom of the pulpit, and worship.”

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.   All rights reserved.

How to Add Van Gogh to Your Paris Trip

day trip Paris france

The tiny ville that inspired Van Gogh – © ATOUT FRANCE/Martine Prunevieille

If you are lucky enough to be in Paris … or planning to visit soon … just 17 miles northwest of Paris, Auvers-sur-Oise is a charming little commune on the banks of the Oise River.  It is the quaint ville that attracted Vincent van Gogh and several other famous Impressionist artists.

A pleasant day trip from Paris, you will find your journey centered more on mood and imagination than on history.  Catch the 10 a.m. direct train from Paris’ Gare du Nord, and in just 30 minutes you’ll discover a window into the world of Van Gogh, to see the sights he painted in a whirl of artistic expression in the last two months of his life.

The tortured and talented artist moved to Auvers to be treated by Dr. Paul Gachet, though he felt the good doctor in a worse condition than his own.  Nonetheless, they were friends and, in an ironic twist of fate, Van Gogh’s “Portrait of Dr. Gachet” brought nearly the highest auction price of all of his paintings.

The artist was prolific in Auvers, where he produced many of his best-known works – The Church at Auvers, Thatched Cottages by a Hill, Wheat Field with Crows and more.A couple of standard stops include the handsome Chateau d’Auvers that pays homage to Impressionist painters and the Absinthe Museum that evokes the mystique of the potent green liquid that was Van Gogh’s favorite.  To this day, rumors swirl about the so-called mind-altering spirit nicknamed “The Green Fairy.”

Even your visit to Van Gogh’s tiny attic is an understated experience, more in keeping with the bare solitude of an artist than an orchestrated emphasis on historic significance.

Day trip Paris France

Hotel de Ville by Van Gogh

The genuine Auvers experience is less about museum visits and more about immersing yourself in a time and place that inspired the genius of many painters.  Stroll along the river and through the village to see and feel the scenes that inspired the Impressionist paintings.  Wander past the church to the famed wheat field and hillside cemetery where Theo and Vincent Van Gogh are buried.

Before your return to Paris, enjoy a lazy, memorable lunch at Van Gogh’s Auberge Ravoux, where the chef partners with local farmers and muses of yesteryear to create the traditional French cuisine of Van Gogh’s era.  In the middle of a wayside tavern atmosphere, you will cement your experience with one more facet of the life and spirit of the Impressionist colony.

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2016, LuxeEuro, LLC. Photo and text, all rights reserved

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Autographed copies with notecard gift

Along the Atlantic Coast of France

Atlantic coast, France

Ancient fortified city, Guérande

July might well be a good time to visit the west coast of France and, in particular, to enjoy exploring from Saint-Nazaire up towards Guérande and Vannes.  The landscape is a stunning mix of inland tributaries and coastal plains.  August, as it turned out for us, was the busiest vacation time of the year in France; so planning well ahead is critical for your holiday enjoyment.

One distinctive feature of the coastal areas is the relative modernity.  We discovered a somber reason for that was the extensive bombing of the region by Allied planes.  This was the locale for the headquarters of the German submarines that were wreaking havoc on Allied supply ships in the Atlantic.  Entire cities were incinerated, to be rebuilt in the late 1940’s and beyond.

A little further up the coast, you will enjoy the lovely medieval city of Guérande.  The city center is entirely encircled by heavily fortified walls with 6 towers and 4 gates, as if to assure the preservation of this place in time.  After the siege in 1343 by Charles de Bois troops, Jean de Montfort ordered further fortifications.

France sea saltWe hope to visit here again, to allow time for slow discovery of this fascinating and beguiling ville – the collegiate church of Saint-Aubin, the surrounding salt flats, the megaliths and Gallo-Roman remains in the area and the gorgeous Bay of La Baule.  Perhaps in September, when life is a bit calmer?

We’d love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

Quéven Brittany ‘Unites’ with Orlando

Bretagne France

Brittany – a wealth of history and diverse landscapes

We are excited to welcome a new, though temporary, family member this evening.  Joining us for two weeks from Quéven in the south of Brittany, Hugo is 18 years old and a recent graduate.  He comes to us from his home in the country, with the blessing and support of his mom, dad, sister …. And cats! 

We will enjoy Hugo’s visit thanks to ECI (Echanges Culturels Internationaux), a non-profit cultural exchange program based in southern France.  With active programs in Central Florida and in Pennsylvania, the organization lays the groundwork and program features that allow French teenagers to enjoy an exciting opportunity to experience everyday American life.

Just as the word signifies, though, the exchange is mutual; for we already have learned about an area of Brittany with which we were not very familiar.   Quéven is part of the rich landscape of estuaries around the Gulf of Morbihan – described as one of the most beautiful bays in the world.  Ancient megaliths, and just to the Southeast the historic walled town of Vannes, enrich life in the region.

In researching the area, we discovered the notable impact of World War II.  Nearly the entire town of Quéven was destroyed by Allied bombs from 1943-1944.  As the U-Boat Headquarters for the Germans, Lorient was a primary target of the Allies.  And just yesterday, we made a very timely and interesting discovery.

As it turns out, my husband’s uncle was part of the armored division that ultimately liberated Brittany.  In an amazing coincidence, we came across his letters describing the ‘march’ from Rennes to Vannes and beyond in the fall of 1944.  On May 10, 1945, the German garrison surrendered, and four years later the city of Lorient was awarded the Legion of Honour and the Croix de guerre.

We are so pleased to be a part of this cultural exchange, understanding quite well the wealth of experience any person enjoys, when engaging with other cultures.  That is, in fact, one of the primary reasons we developed France Daily Photo.  Each day we learn more of our French ‘neighbors’, and it is our pleasure to share our love of French culture, history and style with our readers.

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

Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Le Tour de France – 2013

Tour de France 2013

Racing to Mont Saint Michel

Finally, our beloved Tour de France is almost here again!  This year marks the 100th Tour de France and will take place entirely in France.  Fans throughout the world will enjoy magnificent sights and phenomenal racing feats.  Beginning in Porto Vecchio, Corsica (Saturday, June 29)  and finishing in Paris (Sunday, July 21), the Tour will visit no less than 10 UNESCO World Heritage sites.  NBC in the U.S. will offer expansive coverage of what is always an exceptionally-well broadcasted series of sporting events. 

A few sights to watch for range from Albi’s Gothic cathedral and Saint-Malo’s military fortress to the breathtakingly beautiful Mont-Saint-Michel and the impressive new MuCEM in one of Europe’s Capital’s of Culture – Marseille.  Corsicans are especially pleased to make their debut on the Tour stage, where the peloton will pass the Bonifacio cliffs and the peaks of Bavella in a land of re(markably rugged coastal beauty.

Naturally the Alps and the Pyrenees are ‘polishing their ragged peaks’ to intimidate mountain racers in stages that always promise mind-boggling speed and endurance.  We would love to BE in France for the stages that drift (so it would seem…to non-racers!) through the Loire Valley and to Vieux Lyon.  And there is nothing quite like that last ritual race through the capital of France. 

Well wishes to all teams and to the French people who host them so well.

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

 

Copyright © 2005-2014, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Saint-Emilion – A Fascinating UNESCO Site

Charming lanes and the sweet smell of macaroons

Everything about the village of Saint-Emilion is appealing.  Steep winding cobblestone streets lead us to colorful boutiques, while the sweet scent of freshly baked macaroons drifts through the open door of the patisserie.  In the heart of the lush Bordeaux wine-growing region, Saint-Emilion radiates a distinct aura of medieval charm.  The 8th century city is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so distinguished as an outstanding example of an ongoing historic vineyard landscape that has operated intact from Roman to present-day times. 

The village seems to take the best of every available resource to contribute to the welcoming atmosphere.  The limestone soil provides exceptional conditions for winegrowing.  The rocky land gave way, over a ten-century period, to extraordinary architecture, the largest monolithic church in Europe and some 200 kilometers of underground galleries.  Local artists and craftsmen draw inspiration from the region to create lovely linens, glassware, pottery and paintings. 

And always the famous Bordeaux vineyards fill local cellars with superb wines.

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

D-Day Memorials in Normandy

France WWII

Canadian Cemetery in Normandy

Colleville-sur-Mer. Grainville-Langannerie. Bayeux. Ver-sur-Mer.

Today marks the 69th anniversary of D-Day – the invasion of France, and the beginning of the end for the Third Reich.  Throughout the beach areas of Normandy are somber ‘villages’ of the dead heroes, who fought in those infamous invasions in 1944.  “In total, the Allied armies comprised nearly 3 million soldiers spread over 39 divisions: 20 American, 14 British, 3 Canadian, 1 Polish and 1 French.”

Some of the Polish soldiers were buried in British cemeteries; but the majority is buried in the Polish cemetery at Grainville-Langannerie.  There 696 graves are marked with crosses or with a tablet engraved with the Cross of David. 

Almost every unit of the Canadian 2nd Corps is represented in the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery.  Most died later in the Normandy battles, while participating in the capture of Caen and the thrust to the South.  The cemetery contains 2,958 graves with 87 of those remaining unidentified.

Near the southern ring road of Bayeux is the largest British War Cemetery of World War II.  Close to Arromanches and the landing beaches; nearly 4,000 British have their final resting places, and they are joined in this somber place by 17 Australians, 8 New Zealanders, 1 South African, 25 Poles, 3 French, 2 Czechs, 2 Italians, 7 Russians, 466 Germans and one unknown unidentified body. A memorial names 2,808 more missing soldiers. 

Normandy beaches France

D-Day Commemorations in Normandy

And in the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer are the graves of 9,387 of our military dead.  In a garden on the Walls of the Missing, 1,557 names are inscribed. 

As part of the 40th anniversary memorials held in Normandy, President Reagan spoke.  In part he said, “You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One’s country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it’s the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.”

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Tributes to Heroes

Sancerre France

Memorial to WWI and WWII soldiers from Sancerre

Nearly two years ago, I wrote about war heroes and the constant reminders of war throughout France.  The message bears repeating on Memorial Day in the United States, and as D-Day approaches.  To honor all veterans who have fought for freedom and democracy –

The French have suffered so many invasions, so many losses over their long history.  The two Great Wars cost them generations of young men and women, who bravely fought to regain their Republic, to return their streets and farms and homes into French hands.  

Everywhere you travel in France, you see how deeply the French value their freedom and remember the price paid for their liberation.  And that price was paid with the blood of young men of many nationalities from the United States and Canada to France, Poland and Australia. 

In a small hamlet, just beside the road toward Riom, we see a monument to two young men who were casualties of World War II.  In Sancerre, a poignant memorial includes long lists of soldiers lost in the World War I.  In fact, look closely and you will be reminded of the movie, “Saving Private Ryan.”  On the list are four young men from the Lesimple and Boulay families, three from the Bernau household.   We notice they have added tributes to  those lost in the 2nd Great War, but the number of names is understandably fewer.  How many of your young neighbors can you lose to war?

Paris France memorial

“France Remembers You” Pere LaChaise, Paris

 

The tributes are not limited to towns and villages.  On Ile Saint-Louis in Paris, a plaque commemorates an entire building of people lost in the night to German soldiers.  Along a quiet rue, fresh flowers and even a note are tucked behind a plaque offering tribute to the young man who lived in this home. 

One of the most touching of all memorials is in the Pere Lachaise cemetery.  Carved of marble, a child’s hand reaches up, as if to write…and beneath the writing implement are the words,

“France souviens toi.” 

France remembers you.

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.   Photo and text, all rights reserved.

LuxeEuro – Pure Luxury, Pure France

French Luxury - LuxeEuro

Discover Somerset Maugham’s villa..

Today we introduce another of our sites – “LuxeEuro” – where the emphasis is on “Pure Luxury, Pure France”.  No, we haven’t lost our down-to-earth love of simple pleasures, but France and luxury are synonymous.

We enjoy placing the proverbial spotlight on finely hand-crafted products, extraordinary hotels and chateaux and the crowning jewel of all French luxury – superb cuisine.  And of course, we will include other places, products and points of interest that will appeal to Francophiles.

Along the way, we cover ‘Grande Dames’ of fashion like Hermès and Façonnable, while also introducing contemporary artisans like Le Prince du Sud and CERRI’Art of Paris.

We travel from the exceptional boutique luxury hotel – Villa Mauresque – on the French Riviera to Alpine retreats and fabulous river cruises through France. 

Bordeaux and Saint Emilion

Beau Sejour  near Bordeaux

And we explore some of the most inviting and appealing restaurants and brasseries in France, introducing exotic and traditional cuisines, regional favorites and the kaleidoscope of wines and Champagnes for which France is famous. 

We hope you will come along for the ride and tell your friends to join us too.   And, as always we encourage you to offer your comments and recommendations.  Merci et bienvenue a LuxeEuro!

 

Avignon France

The elegant Hotel d’Europe – Avignon

 

Night of Museums throughout France

 

Hersent Louis, Paris

National Museum Magnin – Dijon

Shakespeare’s “The world is my oyster” has evolved through time to mean that I can enjoy all the world offers.  That’s precisely what you and I and anyone else in France (and indeed in all of Europe) can enjoy on Saturday the 18th of May. 

On that evening the 9th edition of the European Night of Museums offers free admission to millions of ‘night-owls’ to enjoy 3,000 museums across the continent … from Moscow to Marseilles to Madrid.  Beyond the museum admissions, more than 5,000 ancillary events have been organized to join in the artistic celebration.

At the Grand Palais in Paris, for example, the Dynamo exhibition will be open until midnight with a festive evening planning in the Loggia – the Dynamo Live Party. 

First initiated by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication in 2005, the “Night of Museums” takes place every year in May with official hours running from sunset to 1:00 a.m. to take full advantage of the magic of the evening.  The public is invited to discover the wealth of museums in France, as well as those of thirty European countries.

In the Champagne-Ardenne region, twenty local museums throw open their doors with original showcases, collections and entertainment.  The night full of surprises will include film screenings, buffets, demonstration of skills and more.  I would particularly enjoy visiting the National Museum Magnin in Dijon, where the magnificent oil canvas of Parisian Hersent Louis (1848-1884) – The Song of the Nightingale is on display. 

Limoges France

Museum of the Resistance – Limoges

 

The city of Bourges focuses on fairground arts with juggling and acrobatics invading the museums.  At Chartres, the spotlight is on strange musical experiences that mirror the museum collections. 

Of particular interest is the Resistance Museum in Limoges.  The Italian aircraft Reggiane RE 2002 Ariete returns us to the past.  Recovered by the Germans in 1943, the aircraft was assigned missions in Haute-Vienne.

Spectacular art, lively events, music, circus and history – the European Night of Museums promises an exciting cascade of events to a very fortunate public.

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

The Republican Guard in Paris

Paris France

The Republican Guard – rue Cambon

A couple of days before we were to leave Paris, my husband and I shopped for gifts at Maxim’s and found a little café around the corner to enjoy a glass of wine.  Not only is the latter an excellent pastime in France, but sidewalk café-ing also offers you a fabulous window on the world.  In this particular place – Brasserie Flottes – we clearly had made a good choice, situated directly across the street from Jean Louis David and down the street from the Cour des Comptes – the official Court of Auditors.

Well-dressed gentlemen in perfectly-fitted cashmere topcoats pass with a stride that seems one of slow purpose.  Naturally the group of Asians appears as the “Camera Club”, and the well-coiffed lady just might be headed for a discreet ‘le cinq à sept’.  But of course I will translate – literally five to seven o’clock but figuratively ‘happy hour’ in Quebec and ‘afternoon tryst’ in France.  Vive la difference!  Everything from death to taxes sounds better in French, so I’m not surprised the translation of “tryst” is ‘un rendez-vous gallant.

Obviously I moved off subject, but I’m sure you didn’t mind.  So there we were, tiny carafe on the table and lovely glasses of wine in hand; when I spotted a surreal sight – my first time to see the Republican Guard stepping in precise and regal formation down the small street. 

“Leo, look!”  He turned to this magnificently orchestrated sight, and both of us tried to watch their passage without such wide-eyed tourist wonder.  As we later discovered, the Garde Républicaine had official duties with the presence of high-level meetings at the Court of Auditors.

Garde Republicaine Paris

Costly ‘pomp’ of the Guard

Ironically it is that same spending watchdog that has recommended reduced spending at the Garde Républicaine, indicating that it provides more pomp and circumstance than the kind of protection needed today.  The outsized budge costs the state over 280 million Euros a year for protecting the Senate, National Assembly and the presidential palace. 

In a world with the very real threats of terrorist attacks, the Garde would be ineffective in resisting an organized attack.  At the same time, the refined Guard is emblematic of the French Republic and seemingly treasured by the French people.  Even the Mayor of Paris Bertrand Delanoë has said that “the Republican Guard is an institution; deeply tied to the history of Paris”.

Pride and Pomp or practical savings?  We shall see. 

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Victory Day in France

Victory Day France

Huge celebrations marked the end of war in Europe

Quite noteworthy sights almost anyplace you travel in France are memorials in honor of World War II.  Statues and monuments bear the names of long lost sons and daughters.  Boulevards and even narrow lanes carry the names of heroes or the dates of freedom.

The 8th of May is a public holiday in France that marks an important anniversary – Victory Day in France, the official end of World War II.  La Fête de la Victoire or Le Jour de La Libération) – 1945 – celebrates the end of the war and the anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s announcement of the war’s end.   

De Gaulle, leader of the Free French Forces, made his joyous announcement on May 8, 1945 to the ringing of church bells and the jubilation marking the end of a six-year war and Nazi occupation.  After many changes in the dates and levels of importance of Victory Day celebrations, in October of 1981 WWII Victory Day became an official national holiday.  Ironically the same day marks the anniversary on the island of Martinique of the eruption of Mount Pelée in 1902.

Chatel Guyon, France

WWII memorial near Chatel Guyon

Leading up to the holiday, schools, colleges and universities focus on the history of the Nazi oppression and World War II and, more recently, on the role of some French people in collaborating with their oppressors.  Lessons aim to ensure that all generations know about the war and understand the importance of preserving the rights of everyone.

Many people attend parades and church services, sing patriotic songs, attend parades and brandish the French flag on homes and public buildings.   Undoubtedly, the events include a mix of joyous celebration and sad remembrances for the magnitude of losses during the war.    

For those who haven’t had the privilege of reading a remarkable novel, I recommend Suite Francaise by Irène Némirovsky – Suite Francaise.   Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940, the novel tells the stories of men and women caught in circumstances beyond their control.  Ms. Nemirovsky already was a very successful writer living in Paris, when she began her novel.  “But she was also a Jew, and in 1942 she was arrested and deported to Auschwitz, where she died.  For sixty-four years, this novel remained hidden and unknown.”  – From the back cover of Suite Francaise.

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

La Martinique – Mount Pelée’s Legacy

French overseas department

La Martinique today

Today, La Martinique really lives up to its’ slogan – La Fleur de Caraïbes, seemingly bestowed with every natural gift an island could desire.   Tucked between the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the French overseas department is fully 4,350 miles away from the shores of France in a landscape that has been enjoyed by artists and authors, residents and visitors. 

The cultural mix of Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians has imprinted a rich history of crafts and gastronomy and dynamic traditions.  The official language is French, but Creole reigns.  This story, though, is less about the island jewel we know today and more about the catastrophic eruption of Mount Pelée well over 100 years ago in May of 1902.

Standing more than 4,500 feet high, Mount Pelée devastated the whole port city of Saint-Pierre in a flood of ash, gas and fiery lava killing nearly 30,000 people.  Though warnings and light earth shocks offered slight hints of what might come, no one imagined the destruction that would rush down the River Blanche to destroy the city.

The Shoemaker, the Felon and the Little Girl

1902 eruption of Mount Pelee

The infamous Mount Pelee

As is so often the case, it is the story of only a few that sheds light on the entire chapter of history.  Just two men of Saint-Pierre survived and one young girl, “…who looked straight into the mouth of a volcanic vent just before Mount Pelée began to erupt.”

The young shoemaker was Léon Compere-Léandre sat on the doorstep of his house at the edge of the volcanic flow.  “I felt a terrible wind blowing, the earth began to tremble, and the sky suddenly became dark.”  He made his way into the house but was badly burned.  Everyone around him had been killed.

Louis-Auguste Cyparis was the convicted felon, serving in solitary confinement in the prison dungeon.  When the volcano erupted, he was in his cell with only a small grate cut into the wall.  Darkness fell over him accompanied by gusts of hot air and ash.  Though severely burned, somehow he survived for four days, before being rescued… and later pardoned.  He later toured with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, billed as the “Lone Survivor of St. Pierre.”

Quite early in the morning, a young girl – Havivra Da Ifrile – set out for her aunt’s pastry shop near a local attraction known as the Corkscrew, a tourist trail on the flank of the volcano.  She saw smoke rising and looked into the crater.  “There I saw the bottom of the pit all red, like boiling, with little blue flames coming from it.”

She managed to flee toward the city, while the lava boiled from the Corkscrew and ran down the road and river, cutting off escape for people running from their homes.  Havivra fled in her brother’s small boat, but saw the whole side of the mountain boil over the town.  She was later found, burned and injured, drifting two miles out to sea in her charred boat.

Fortunately today the island is characterized by gorgeous seascapes and appealing multi-cultural cuisine.  And there is little mention at the local Office of Tourism of the infamous Mount Pelée.

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Beaux-Arts Musée d’Orsay

Musee d'Orsay

Victor Laloux’s magnificent clock

I have a passion for sculpture, drawn to the fluid lines, the grace and the seemingly impossible mission of creating something so alluring out of raw materials.  One of our favorite destinations for immersing ourselves in this fine art form is the Musée d’Orsay on the banks of the Seine in Paris. 

At the outset, the ‘sculpture’ of the museum itself is so appealing.  We can thank historic preservationists for the transformation of the d’Orsay from the Orsay railway station to the stunning museum we enjoy today. 

As the Universal Exposition neared in 1900, the French government saw the need for a more centrally-located station than that of the Gare d’Austerlitz.  Three architects contributed to the Beaux-Arts design – Lucien Magne, Emile Bénard and Victor Laloux (the latter designed the magnificent station clock that looks over the grand hall of the museum), who were challenged to integrate the new station into its elegant environs. 

“The station is superb and looks like a Palais des beaux-arts…” – painter Edouard Detaille, 1900

Clearly they accomplished their goal, but plans for an expansive modern hotel complex threatened its destruction.  Fortunately revived interest in 19th-century architecture generated a declaration of the d’Orsay as a Historical Monument in 1978, when a commission was established to create the museum. 

The sculptures of the Musée d’Orsay

Musee d'Orsay, Paris

Sapho – James Pradier

The debut of the museum in December 1986 included some 1,200 sculptures, mostly from the former collections of the Musée du Luxembourg, the Louvre and state loans.   The 19th century marked a prolific period for sculpture; when the ‘mood’ of the people sought to proclaim triumphant social progress, and the politicos wanted to carve their beliefs in bronze and stone. 

Fortunately, we are able to enjoy the many magnificent works of art under the changing daylight that streams through the museum’s glass roof.   Among the diverse sculptures are Rodin’s The Age of Bronze, Bourdelle’s head of Beethoven, works by Belgian sculptor Constantin Neunier and Edgar Degas’ enchanting Small Dancer.   

Over three-and-a-half million visitors enjoyed the Musée d’Orsay in 2012, a number that continuously increases over time.  If you haven’t had the opportunity to join those fortunate folks, we suggest you rectify that oversight on your next visit to Paris with indelible moments in the grand old station.

Sculpture in Paris

Along the Seine in Paris

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Waterfront Pleasures in Auxerre

Burgundy France near Paris

Auxerre on the Yonne River

 

We love cool and soothing waterfront views, whether they are overlooking lakes, rivers or that fabulous Mediterranean Sea. That’s why Auxerre is so appealing, a town of about 40,000 situated on the River Yonne in the Burgundy region, just an hour-and-a-half from Paris.

Originally Auxerre prospered as an active port on the wine route, but today holiday boaters and hotel barges provide easy enjoyment of the Yonne and the Nivernais Canal.  Much of the activity in Auxerre centers on the water with joggers, cyclists and boaters ever present.   A relaxing boat tour is a favorite, but we tend toward lazy times under shaded café terraces along the quay.

Ironically, we live in Orlando, where so many lakes dot the landscape, but you have to work very hard to find a waterfront café.  Very few such restaurants are in the area, and some even choose to build their parking lot overlooking the water rather than the restaurant!  Absolutely senseless!

Auxerre France

The Cathedral of Saint-Etienne

Tucked behind the quay, we wind up cobbled streets past half-timbered houses to the lovely, restored Cathedral Saint-Etienne.  The magnificent cathedral transformed over time from its’ initial 11th-century structure to the 18th century.  Just around the corner from the cathedral, we were fortunate to know about Le Petite Monde d’Edith, a wonderful little home-like restaurant; where potluck reigns and hospitality is natural!

Beyond tranquil waterways, the area is famous for vineyards and sprawling orchards of apple and cherry trees.  Yes, as you can imagine, the wine and the regional cuisine are inspired!   

Auxerre is an excellent base from which to explore this vast and beautiful region of France.

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

More Resources About France

 

South France

Wild horses – Camargue – © Atout France/Pascal Gréboval

If you haven’t checked out France Today, I encourage you to do so.  What?  Go to another site?  No vainglorious attempt here on France Daily Photo to keep you all for ourselves!   France Today and French Entrée recently have ‘eloped’ and offer an ever-widening truckload of information about French travel, culture, property for sale, cuisine … well, all of those interesting things we love to explore.

Regional articles cover a broad range of geographic sites.  We see inside the mystique of the Camargue in the South of France, where fleur de sel vies for attention with fine rice, and exotic black cattle and white horses ‘own’ the land.  It’s an unspoiled natural preserve, endangered only by the fervent tourists who visit. 

Eastern France

Le Doubs near the birthplace of Gustave Courbet – ©Atout France/CRT Franche-Comté/J. Lhommée

Swoop to the Jura Mountains in the East, and you immerse yourself in yet another natural, forested French landscape.  Just east of Switzerland and north of one our favorite areas around Lake Annecy, the Le Doubs department is home to enchanting villages, winding waterways and appealing historic sites.  France Today beautifully profiles everything from the UNESCO World Heritage site in Arc-et-Senans to the ancient houses of Ornans on the Loue River, birthplace of Gustave Courbet and fortunate repository of many of his artistic landscapes.  And in France, is it any wonder that an artist would be drawn to landscapes?

Not to dwell, I encourage you to visit France Today for a wealth of information and a very pleasant journey through the landscape, cuisine and culture of France.

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

Avignon -Time to Splurge

Avignon France

The elegant Hotel d’Europe – Avignon

The thing about daydreams is you get to splurge. That’s what I have in mind for our long weekend in Avignon, one of our favorite ancient, walled cities. We happened to be there during the peak of the summer festival, so a calmer weekend in May will be ideal for really enjoying this historic site.

The long list of positive referrals would point us to Hôtel d’Europe for our lodging. Built as his residence by the Marquis de Graveson in 1580, this lovely five-star hotel enjoys a spectacular setting on one of Avignon’s most beautiful squares. In 1799 the Pierron’s founded the hotel, and in a testament to its fine lineage, Hotel Europe is the only Avignon hotel that appeared in Michelin’s first Guide in 1900.

We’re very much inclined toward mid-sized accommodations, as large hotels seem overwhelming and small gites a little too cozy. With 39 rooms and 5 suites, Hôtel d’Europe applies that deft French touch in low key elegance throughout the common (and not so ‘common’!) areas and spacious, beautifully-appointed guest rooms.

Provence

Explore Avignon and the Luberon region

Seasoned travelers in France and elsewhere know well, though, that décor and amenities can quickly be sullied with poor, haughty service. Not so at this hotel, where welcoming staff help you plan your days of exploring the historic city or the renowned Luberon countryside and welcome your return with a glass of wine at the handsome bar.

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

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Mistral-Driven Architecture

Architecture in Provence

Mas of Provence

As I was preparing a post about the interlacing of architecture and weather, we happened to catch a phenomenal story about “The Dust Bowl” on our Public Broadcasting Station.  The painstaking story traces the lives of families caught in the horrific environmental disaster that plagued the Great Plains of America from 1931 to 1939.

Naturally, homes had not been designed to withstand the tons and tons of dust that seeped through every crack and crevice.  So severe were the effects that ‘dust pneumonia’ developed, killing children and others vulnerable to the ever-present dust.

Evidence of the French Mistral winds date back to about 400,000 B.C., when the inhabitants of Terra Amata near Nice built low rock walls to the northwest to protect their fire from the powerful Mistral winds.  And so it is that architectural elements mirrored knowledge of the fierce winds.

Far to the South in the Camargue, French gardians (essentially cowboys) built small, white cabanes specifically designed with the violent Mistral winds in mind.  The rounded part faces north for protection, and often bull horns formed a cross on top for another kind of protection.  The opposite vertical side allowed space under the reeded roof to protect against the scorching summer heat.    Everything in the design takes advantage of the natural marsh materials and the harsh and often unforgiving weather.

Provence France

Typical Camarguais Cabane

The Mistral (meaning “masterly”) winds mostly wreak their havoc in spring and winter, when wind speeds up to 90 miles per hour have been recorded.   Beginning as a cold front, the Alpine air spills over the mountains and rushes down into the Rhône valley towards the French Riviera and the Gulfe de Lion. Marseilles and St.Tropez often take the full brunt of this cold, strong wind as it finally reaches the sea. The Provençal trees offer evidence of the wind, as they are forever bent from the fierce winds.

The ‘mas’ is another architectural response to the winds, a traditional farmhouse in Provence.  Always facing south to protect against the north mistral winds, the mas has no windows facing north.  Again in a nod to the ever-powerful climate, all of the other windows on the other sides are narrow, protecting against summer heat and winter cold.

The Mas of the Camargue brings to mind the Spanish hacienda with white walls, expansive interior courts and buildings in a U shape that includes the residence and stables or barns.  Usually the mas expanded, as the family grew.  The various materials reflected those of local origin – limestone near Gordes, red stones and clay near Roussillon and river stones along the River Durance.

France

Mas-style Provence structures

Today, the mas often are transformed into vacation homes or quiet retreats for tourists.  Such is the Mas Versadou on the banks of the Petit Rhone. Dating to the 18th Century, the sprawling Mas welcomes visitors for luxurious stays with Roman baths and two swimming pools in the middle of genuine Camargue.  I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that winter is their low season.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

#3 Reason to Travel – History

Paris monuments France

Gold-domed Invalides, Paris

We can begin in Paris – bien sur – where ‘history’ speaks to us at every bend.  Plaques adorn so many otherwise unremarkable buildings, plaques that pay homage to those lost to war; plaques that regularly receive small bouquets from elders who remember.  Invalides holds the remains of Napoleon.  Roman baths and arenas mix with the grand Arch de Triomphe, and the homes of Balzac and Rodin are simply there. 

Over at the extraordinary Père Lachaise Cemetery, eternal residents range from Chopin to Jim Morrison, from Oscar Wilde to “Aux Morts de La Commune – 21-28 Mai 1871”.  We came upon this small triangular corner, where an infamous chapter of French history is remembered.  Working-class Parisians, who were not in accord with the French capitulation to Prussia in 1870, formed the revolutionary and socialist Paris Commune in opposition even to the French government.  They held out for two months and suffered their final defeat in an Alamo-like last stand on May 28 in a battle at Père Lachaise Cemetery. 

Paris France Paris Commune

Pere Lachaise monument

Well, that is just Paris – so easy to get carried away, when you are surrounded by history!  Travel anywhere in France, and you find yourself in disbelief that you are standing in the American Cemetery dedicated to all of those young soldiers who died in World War II or visiting the hallowed grounds of Chambord in the Loire Valley.  From the stock exchange in Lille to the Roman Arena in Nimes, from the Canal du Midi footpaths trod by Thomas Jefferson to the grand hotels of the Cote d’Azur.  From simple village squares with ancient fountains to Cezanne’s studio, the wonderful tapestries of history demonstrate what a small part of our life on earth is included in the Big Book of all time. 

And perhaps that’s the whole point behind this reason for travel – that history gives us a profound sense of perspective.

Nimes France

Roman Arena, Nimes

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

#2 Reason to Travel – Culture

culture, Paris France

GrandPalais © Mirco Magliocca

Many know that I could keep this up for months, as I can offer 100 reasons to travel!  Culture would be a top reason – the opportunity to explore works of art – visual and performing,  to experience the everyday customs of people with entirely different ways of looking at the world around them. 

The Grand Palais of Paris continues to provide a broad menu of cultural experiences.   Like the world in which we live, and those of us who inhabit that world; the Grand Palais of Paris has ‘worn different hats’ and evoked different moods through the years.  Marking the new century and the 1900 Universal Exhibition, the design of the Grand  was an attempt to outdo Le Tour Eiffel that had created such a stir and sensation in 1889.  Who would have thought that the grand building would be converted to a military hospital in World War I and would house Nazi exhibits in World War II?  Such are the vagaries of our times, and the ironies of our conflicts.

Fast forward to 2013, and we see the Grand Palais hosting quite an unusual exhibit – Dynamo – A century of light and motion in art, 1913-2013.  Scheduled to run from 10 April to 22 July, the exhibition marks the first time the Galeries Nationales has been devoted entirely to one exhibition.  Visitors can expect a whirlwind of perceptions from monumental works and installations focused on vision, light and movement.

Paris' Grand Palais

Dynamo – Light and Motion in Art, Paris

Retracing a century of optical and kinetic art, the installations draw the visitor in with blinking, undulating visions that in all likelihood distort one’s sense of space, like the strobe lights of a dark cavernous space.  Pioneering artists at the center of this entertaining sojourn include Alexander Calder, Julio Le Parc, Marcel Duchamp, Felice Varini and François Morellet. 

The “perceptual art”, combining vibration and vision, provides quite an innovative experience, one that ‘awakens all senses’.   Visitors will enjoy the unique pleasure of contributing to the image wall at the end of the exhibition, thus participating in … and prolonging the collective experience of the works. 

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

#1 Reason To Travel – Discovery

Bordeaux region, France

Cabane cabane de pêche au carrelet – Gironde

In the Bordeaux region, we first discovered the “cabane de pêche au carrelet” – fishing cabins on stilts raised above the Gironde River.  For us that was an unusual sight, because the only remotely similar buildings were fish camps firmly situated on the shores of rivers in the States.  With a little homework, the “discovery” was complete.  We learned that peasant fishermen in days of yore used these types of cabins for fishing. 

Today, they are popular for local and visiting fishermen, who suspend large, square nets from a winch into the water and scoop the catch with nets on a long pole.  The Gironde offers a feast of sturgeon, white shrimp, shad and lamprey.

Troglodyte caves were next.  We stayed for two weeks in the Loire Valley, where these cave-like homes are abundant.  In fact, walking up Victor Hugo toward the last home of Leonardo da Vinci in Amboise, we passed by cave dwellings tucked into ancient cliffs.  The cheerfully-inhabited troglodyte homes were adorned with flower boxes, brightly-colored shutters and stone alcoves that held their satellite dishes. 

Loire Valley France

On the way to da Vinci’s Amboise home

Some homes are actually built of the tuffeau stone, cut in blocks from the ancient cliffs above the Loire River. Quarrying of the tuffeau dates to the 11th century, when great cavities were created in the hills, when construction of the renowned chateaux took place throughout the valley.  People moved in to those spaces, finding them to be a low-cost refuge.  Now ‘owners’ dress them up to their own pleasure and convert them into their own vacation retreats and artist galleries.  Hard to imagine ‘owning’ a piece of ancient history!

And now we discover Alpine pile-dwelling settlements.  On the UNESCO World Heritage list, the settlements date to 5000 to 500 B.C., when ‘villages’ formed along the edges of lakes or wetlands.  Many of the sites are located in Switzerland; but in the Haute-Savoie Department of Rhône-Alpes, several prehistoric sites hug the shores of Lake Annecy. 

Near Lake Annecy, France

Original piles and reconstructed dwelling in Lac de Chalain, rive -© P. Pétrequin, Centre de la Recherches Archeologique de la Vallée de l’Ain

Important Archaeological evidence points to early agrarian societies in the region, where pile-dwellings have been discovered under water, on lake shores and along rivers.  Flint, shells, gold, and pottery reveal the existence of trade routes, and old textiles date to 3,000 B.C.   Along the western shores of Lake Annecy, the communes of Sévrier and Saint-Jorioz  are home to Neolithic finds.  In 1989 over 700 piles were counted. 

Our memories of Bordeaux and the Loire Valley and Lake Annecy are filled with stunning images – riverbank wedding ceremonies, Amboise markets and the crystal Alpine waters of Lake Annecy.  Then, we add the discoveries of ancient settlements and medieval chateaux – it’s simply a fascinating journey that combines spectacular natural beauty and ancient history with the welcoming hospitality that travelers can enjoy.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

France Today Magazine – Special!

Expanded an elegant - special offer for new readers

Expanded an elegant – special offer for new readers

I am not a hoarder. I don’t have stacks of things in corners and closets. This shedding of ‘stuff’ began, when my husband and I decided to sell our home and spend the summer in France. We wanted that fabulous immersion, before settling in again. So we pared and pared, placed our essentials in a ten-by-ten storage unit, and off we went.

On our return to Orlando, we bought a condo, retrieved our belongings and began to add back some of the ‘non-essentials’.  We still took a minimalist approach without all of the gizmos and gadgets many seem to need, but naturally added some charming keepsakes from France. 

And that’s my extended explanation of the fact that you will find several French magazines in our home – primarily interior décor, art and travel-fo cused publications, some dating to 2005!  They are my ‘friends’ on a rainy day; my source of pleasure under golden lamplight, when Florida’s infamous weather blocks the sun with an enormous grey blanket.  The magazines’ rich home and travel photos sometimes even serve as ‘models’ for watercolor paintings in progress.

With all of that said, an exciting publishing marriage recently occurred and is being introduced with a special offer.   First published in 1985, France Today recently acted upon a very positive poll of readers.   

Under new ownership by France Media,  the magazine has been relaunched as an upmarket international publication.  Adding three times more editorial content, France Today will feature French travel, culture, gastronomy, art, design, shopping and real estate; and the frequency will change from 11 to 6 issues per year. France Media is also the parent of the popular frenchentree.com and French Entrée Magazine that offers valuable information about French culture, property and lifestyle.    

France Today Magazine

Captivating photos, excellent features and columns

“France Today is already a well-respected magazine with thousands of loyal subscribers,” says Guy Hibbert, Managing Director of France Media Group, “but we’re making further investments in design, editorial and circulation so that it serves up the best that France has to offer.”

The new edition contains over 100 pages of beautifully-designed content with news, special features and regular columns.  Some of the upcoming features include: 

  • Chagall: we review the hot ticket in Paris this summer
  • On the Champagne trail: make the most of your visit to this iconic region
  • Special streets of Paris: where to really enjoy the art de vivre in the City of Light
  • Aix-en-Provence: the colours of  Cézanne
  • Great brands: the heritage behind famous maletiers Louis Vuitton and Goyard
  • Victor Hugo’s Paris
  • Sète: the Venice of the Languedoc

 For the price of a latte –

Those not already subscribers can take advantage of a limited-time offer. New readers in the U.S. and Canada can sample one copy of the new France Today – $3.50 (there’s that latte) and £2.50 to UK and beyond, including postage.

I’ve already signed up – can’t wait to add a sparkling new addition to my stack of French magazines!

 We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

“The Triumph of Caesar” – Nîmes

 

Nimes France Gallo-Roman

The fabulous Nimes Arena

“The Triumph of Caesar” is the special theme of The Great Roman Games to be held in Nîmes on the 4th and 5th of May.  This will be the 4th edition of the games, when visitors from all over Europe will see the entire city transformed to its Roman origins.  And for those planning a May trip to France, presales of tickets on the Internet are now open, with a 20% discount until 15 April (contact Director of the Arena, Michael at couzigou@arenes-nimes.com).

The historic re-enactment devoted to the Triumph of Caesar will take place in the spectacular Nîmes arena, where the Battle of Alesia will focus on the decisive clash between Caesar’s Roman legions and the Gauls led by Vercingetorix.  Prior to watching Caesar’s victory, spectators will enjoy the Pompa de l’Empereur (pomp of the Emperor), an elaborate procession in which the troops greet their audience. All sorts of conflicts take place during the games, from man fighting against wild animals to gladiators fighting one another on horseback. 

Roman games of Nimes

Processions through the streets of Nimes

Naturally history buffs are drawn to Nîmes to explore the Arena, the Maison Carrée temple and Magne Tower; but we enjoyed wandering the streets to visit galleries, sidewalk cafes, the colorful carousel and gourmet shops – a very warm and hospitable city!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Mona Bismarck Cultural Center, Paris

Avenue de New York, Paris

Cultural center staircase in Paris

I’ve said it before, but please bear with my repetition.  I find it fascinating how one gets from ‘here to there’ in the thinking process.  We took our grandson for a delicious dessert at a French bakery near our home in Florida, and I told him they speak French at the bakery.  As we arrived at the door, he said, “You go first, so you can do the French thing.”

I loved that.  Obviously, he was intimidated that they might speak French to him.  Today, I was thinking how many Americans might feel that way about visiting France and might choose to skip the privilege rather than cope with another language.  So from there, I thought I would see how many American organizations are in Paris, beyond the very expansive United States Embassy right across the street from the renowned Hotel Crillon.

There you have it, an intriguing maze through which I traveled to come to this point; and now I choose to share about only one organization.  I’ll save the rest for another day, because The Mona Bismarck Foundation and the story of the Countess entirely captivate me!

Obviously I don’t move in ‘those’ circles, as I didn’t know who Monica Bismarck was.  When I saw photos of her elaborate, multi-storied townhouse right across the river from the Eiffel Tower, I wanted to know who had such good taste … and fortune.   

Paris France art galleries

Dining gallery for special events – © Metropolitan Design Paris. All Rights Reserved.

An article in The Guardian proved very informative; though the odd piece highlighted the sale of a Dali painting in which Madame Bismarck was depicted in grim black rags.  How strange that the woman, whose husband once was thought to be the richest in America, would be shown in such a way.  A Sotheby’s art expert theorized that Dali was having a bit of fun at the woman; who had townhouses in New York and Paris, a Long Island estate, a beach house in Palm Beach and a villa built on the runs of Emperor Tiberius’ palace in Capri. 

Indeed, Madame Bismarck was undoubtedly one of the most elegantly dressed women in the world and was often featured on the pages of Vogue.  The widow of multimillionaire Harrison Williams later married the grandson of German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.  The painting she left behind was sold to raise money for the Mona Bismarck American Centre in Paris, an organization she founded to help strengthen Franco-American relations through art, culture and educational activities.

Through the philanthropy of the late Countess Bismarck, the Foundation’s Cultural Center has presented over 60 major exhibitions since 1986, primarily in the ground floor exhibition salons.  Her hôtel particulier (Parisian townhouse) dates to the end of the 19th century and was reconfigured in the late 1950’s.  Stunning features include magnificent woodwork from a dismantled château, ornate and colorful Chines wallpaper and opulent chandeliers.   The beautiful exhibition salons enjoy spectacular views of the Seine and Eiffel Tower, and the MONA Café overlooks an expansive terrace and private garden – just the sort of quiet retreat that is rare but welcome in lively Paris. 

The Center is a place we definitely want to add to ‘sights to see’ during our next trip to Paris.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

© Metropolitan Design Paris. All Rights Reserved.

April in Paris and Provence!

Provence France

Crillon le Brave overlooks Mount Ventoux

Just a little dream – April in Paris … and then a pleasant train ride with our friends to Avignon.  After wandering about and having a late lunch, we would be off for a couple of nights at Crillon Le Brave.  April, you see, is their time to offer special €150 rates.  I know, I know – that’s not exactly tightening the belt or wallet, but it is a definite bargain compared to their usual €280 to €520 rates!

Crillon Le Brave is a very special retreat, one that spreads over seven renovated village houses mystically connected by petite alleyways and courtyards.  Just 40 kilometers (25 miles) northeast of Avignon, the spectacular views from the village sweep from valley vineyards to the crests of 6,000-foot high Mount Ventoux. 

Crillon le Brave France

Charming rooms, gorgeous views

Our friends are wonderful conversationalists, so we undoubtedly would have plenty to talk about; but they also are as keen for adventure as we are.   With picnic basket and chilled wine in hand, we would head out in the countryside to find a perfect spot along the Rhône River near Avignon.   Hunting for antiques and Provençal treasures would follow, perhaps across the river in Villeneuve-lès-Avignon.

Beyond enjoying exceptional local cuisine and wines, the history and culture throughout the area reflects the Roman imprint and 14th-century Papacy in Avignon.   Roman ruins, cycling through vineyards, dining along the river, relaxing in the village – that sounds like an ideal April sojourn to me!  And basing ourselves in Crillon le Brave would afford the perfect window to all that is refreshing and spectacular in the Côtes du Rhône and Provence.

Rhone River France

Dinner by the river

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2013, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

A Weekend in Bormes-les-Mimosas

 

South France

Bormes-les-Mimosas overlooking the Mediterranean

Yesterday – a focus on upscale camping in France.  Today, we go to the same area but “the opposite direction”.  The weekend is here; our getaway wings need to be stretched.  We are longing for a comfortable, idyllic kind of place – charming, warm and quiet but within reach of interesting places to visit.

The old village of Bormes-les-Mimosas is the perfect place for such a retreat, a charming village just above the coast.  Years ago, my daughter and I wandered along the coast from Saint-Raphael, and it was in Le Lavandou that we stopped to stay, to explore.  March is just before the ‘shoulder season’, when you find far fewer tourists but fewer places, also, to stay shop or dine.  No problem.  Make your way along walled streets, along stony seaside paths or up narrow lanes overlooking the Mediterranean.  Everywhere you turn the sights are welcoming.

Cote d'Azur France

Mimosa-lined lanes

The Hostellerie du Cigalou will be our chosen auberge, just 20 rooms in a lovely village setting.  We would want the garden views from our private terrace and could easily wander through the floral lanes to discover a little café or crêperie for lunch. 

At the top of the hill above the village, we can visit the Romanesque Chapelle Notre Dame de Constance, set among oaks and overlooking the bold, blue sea and the Hyères Islands.  Can you imagine a more relaxing and enticing weekend? 

Bon Weekend to you!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Francophonie Cultural Festival 2013

French celebrations

Francophonie Festival in Washington, D.C.

What a great time to consider a trip to our nation’s capitol!  The D.C. Francophonie Festival is in full swing from March 1st to April 13th with an eclectic mix of events designed to celebrate the diversity and richness of the French language and French communities around the world. Since 2001, the spirit of the Francophonie – from France to Africa to the Americas to the Middle East – has been celebrated by more than 40 countries, all collaborating to express the vibrant “colors” of the French-speaking world.

Cultural events in Washington range from film and music to dance and literature – and, of course, culinary events! The Francophonie Cultural Festival is presented in collaboration with The Smithsonian Associates, Alliance Française, La Maison Française, and the French-American Cultural Foundation.

Always a highlight of the annual Festival, La Grande Fête is hosted by the Maison Française on Friday, March 22, when 35+ embassies and organizations present a spectacular feast of culinary specialties and traditions of the Francophone world. Naturally, music will be a part of the celebration, featuring in concert Switzerland’s popular singer-songwriter Bastian Baker.

French films

Directed by Jean-Christophe Dessaint, Day of the Crows French film – March 16th

A few years back – unfortunately as the world was racing toward economic disaster – we formed a committee in Orlando to host “Paris on Park” – a cultural celebration much like the Francophonie Festival. Designed to mirror the very successful “Paris on the Potomac”, our events intended to shed light on the rich history, tradition and culture France and the United States share.

Alas, economic downturns and re-structured priorities did not allow us to bring that vision to fruition, but in the course of the planning we met with so many enthusiastic supporters. The Alliance Francaise of Greater Orlando was a staunch participant and supporter, and the then-Consul General of France in the Miami Consulate agreed to serve on the board. Realtors and event planners, professors and everyday French ex-pats demonstrated the kind of passion we hoped to exhibit and inspire in Paris on Park. What a pleasure the whole experience was for us!

And now, you can go to your favorite airline and hotel providers and plan to take part in the celebrations now happening in Washington! Enjoy the festivities, spread the cultural delights!

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Montmorillon – Carnival and More

 

Montmorillon on the Gartempe River, France

Eglise Notre Dame, Montmorillon

Tucked away in the Poitou-Charentes region, the riverside town of Montmorillon is one of those pleasant getaway places, where history, charm and natural beauty complement one another. They call it La Cité de l’Ecrit made obvious by the twenty-odd shops focused on writing – booksellers, calligraphers and others devoted to the art of writing.

The medieval history of Montmorillon also comes to light in noted buildings like the Octogone, the Maison Dieu and Saint-Laurent chapel, Notre-Dame church and the Vieux Palais. Add scenic vistas along the Gartempe River, and you have a very pleasant village to explore.

Now is a popular time to visit, as the Carnival of Montmorillon takes place on Saturday, March 16. Children will gather for face painting, young and old will fill the streets and don their fanciful costumes in accordance with the ‘two-color’ theme of the festivities.

Poitou Charentes France

The wilder side of the Gartempe River

Music, parades, dancing and animations will keep the lively pace going. We have been fortunate enough to enjoy such celebrations in Paris, Aix-en-Provence and Avignon and easily can attest to the ability of the French to throw exceptional parties!

And when you’ve exhausted your carnival spirit, you have a number of historic and archeological finds to explore. As recently as 1966, extensive excavations revealed a host of archaeological remains – tools made of bone, wildlife remains, thousands of flints and more. Scientists believe a small community of hunters gathered here to spend a few weeks a year at the foot of the cliff. Perhaps you should end your day with a cool drink of wine by the river.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.
Pimsleur French

Department Store Shopping in Paris

Bon Marche, Paris France

Our classic little shopper stepping up at Bon Marche!

Shopping in Paris is nothing short of spectacular … well, yes that and at the same time, quietly mesmerizing.  The first adjective applies best to the fabulous department stores in Paris.  Perhaps in Manhattan, you readily think to shop Bergdorf Goodman or Bloomingdale’s.  In Paris, department store choices are equally – if not more – enticing.

Bon Marché      

Definitely a classic on the left bank, Bon Marché features a treasure chest of products from top fashion designer collections to gourmet selections at La Grande Epicerie.  Dating to 1852 and designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel, Bon Marché represented a new type of store in Paris – a single store offering a vast range of products, home delivery and even item exchanges.  Apparently it was very well received, as the store is still welcoming customers many decades later!  A part of the LVMH group since 1984, the store is now one of the most exclusive in Paris.  They manage to mix beguiling tradition with avant-garde contemporary in a delightful shopping venue.   

Galeries Lafayette    

galeries lafayette

Galeries gourmet sets

Who is to say which store is ‘best’?  Certainly the Galeries Lafayette wins beaucoup points for style, housed in one of Paris’ most beautiful Art Nouveau buildings.  The Galeries has been a fashion institution since 1893 and fits in quite well with the nearby stately Opera Garnier.  What a challenge it is to shop here.  Around every corner there is a colorful display, a stunning mannequin; and everything is set beneath that gorgeous, glassed dome.  Beyond all of those wonderful fashion, jewelry and home furnishing areas, the Lafayette Gourmet is a very enticing food market.

Au Printemps                   

A neighbor to Galeries Lafayette on the same block along Haussmann/Grand Magasins, Au Printemps also dates to the mid-19th century.  What a dynamic era in the history of Paris commerce!  With the French name for spring, Au Printemps opened in 1865, equipped with electricity – mind you – and ready to provide shoppers with an incredible experience in a lavish Art Nouveau setting.  Despite damage by fires and painstaking renovation, the store’s façade was honored as an Historic Monument in 1975.  The ninth floor is the real jewel of Au Printemps, where the sights of Paris explode into view from the panoramic terrace.  Imagine the all-inclusive view of the city from the Opéra to the Madeleine and from the Eiffel Tower to Sacré Cœur.

Bazaar de L’Hotel de Ville (BHV)  

Finally, we shine the light on one my husband’s favorites.  Located right across the street from the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall), Bazaar de L’Hôtel de Ville (BHV) is the less touristy heart of Parisian shopping, the place for real everyday needs like a missing sink part or a trendy accessory … or real deals on up-to-the-minute electronics and the latest parquetry and carpeting on the market.  The range of products here is really dizzying, so you may need to sit down for lunch in La Cantine du Bazar.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

Auberge Place d’Armes – Quebec City

Quebec City

Old exposed brick and modern comforts

You can’t love “all things French” and fail to acknowledge lovely New France in Quebec.  I’ve spent many wonderful days in Quebec and still have dear friends there.  Quebec is where I learned to snow ski in the Laurentians northwest of Montreal (from Florida, I have to differentiate from water skiing!!).  Along the streets of that beloved capital, I roamed through the old city and along the walkways of McGill University, where my grandfather studied engineering.

Today, though, we go eastward to Quebec City and a jewel of an inn, every bit the equal of charming Auberges in France.  Located in 17th- and 18th-century buildings, Auberge Place d’Armes combines age–old historic atmosphere with the charming embrace of a family-run inn.  Against the backdrop of old exposed brick, modern comforts (like pillow-top mattresses!) offer a wonderful blend of old and new for a comfortable and picturesque experience.

I happen to love charming architecture, so the auberge in Old Quebec is particularly endearing to me.  I once had the good fortune to stay in the magnificent Chateau Frontenac, which is a really grand experience that combines the best of Olde World design with the warmth of excellent service and hospitality.

Auberge place l'armes

The charm of Old Quebec City

With just 21 unique rooms, Auberge Place d’Armes, though, offers a more intimate experience; as if you have stepped into an entirely authentic inn from the 17th century, where the innkeeper’s sole mission is to offer you a comfortable stay.  In recently renovating the inn, the family was careful to retain the old fireplaces and windows, stone and brick walls.  For the inside, they had local Quebec cabinetmakers recreate Versailles-like furnishings to mix with fine Parisian bronze; and here and there the interior designer chose the clean, modern lines of Philip Starck chairs to contrast with the historic architecture. 

Quebec City is such a wonderful place to explore with intimate shops and an abundance of excellent cafes and restaurants, with historic plains and magnificent buildings.  What better place from which to explore the city than this ‘wayside inn’?

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.
Pimsleur French

Eugène Boudin, “King of the Skies” – Paris

Paris boudin Exhibit

Jacquemart-Andre Museum, Paris – © Charles Duprat

If you’re planning a trip to Paris between the 22nd of March and July, you will want to make note of a very special event. For the first time in Paris since the end of the 19th century, the Jacquemart-André Museum will present a Parisian retrospective devoted to the painter Eugène Boudin.

In cooperation with major international museums, the Paris museum is gathering at least sixty paintings, watercolors and drawers that will cover various periods of Boudin’s prolific work.

The Exhibit – Eugène Boudin, “King of the Skies”

Known for his seascapes and beach scenes, Eugène Boudin (1824-1898) was one of the first French “plein air” artists.  He took his easel from the studio to paint landscapes with particular emphasis on interpreting the elements and atmospheric effects. In that vein, he initiated a renewed view of nature, that preceded the Impressionists’ approach. Of him his friend Claude Monet wrote late in his life, “I owe everything to Boudin.”

Paris Jaquemart Andre Exhibit

Beach in the vicinity of Trouville – Boudin

Over time Boudin’s palette grew brighter and his touch lighter, resulting in astounding reflections from the sky and water. He painted subtle land- and seascapes from Honfleur (his birthplace in Normandy) to Venice, from Brittany beaches to the Mediterranean. Aptly named “King of the Skies”, he perfected the art of capturing such changing elements as light, clouds, and waves.

The unprecedented exhibition with Boudin’s art on loan has quickly attracted the interest of American art lovers, who hold a bounty of his works. Thanks to loans provided by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, some of Boudin’s works will be shown in France for the first time.

Other museums contributing to this exhibition include the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Québec National Fine Arts Museum, and the André Malraux Modern Art Museum in Le Havre and, naturally, the Eugène Boudin Museum in Honfleur.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.
Pimsleur French

Places to Stay in Monpazier

Photos of Hotel-Restaurant Edward 1er, Monpazier
This photo of Hotel-Restaurant Edward 1er is courtesy of TripAdvisor

For a relatively tiny community of less than 1,000 people, Monpazier in the Dordogne area of southwest France offers some excellent lodging options.  Fittingly named Hotel Edward 1st , the hotel combines friendly hospitality with 12 varied accommodations in a lovely turreted, 19th century building at the edge and within easy walking distance of the entire charming village.  Two hotel restaurants easily serve the needs of guests, and the village itself offers a number of bistros and café choices, all within the “embrace” of the walled Bastide town.

Dordogne Bastide

Villa Sainte-Therese, Monpazier

The gorgeous rolling countryside surrounds the village, and therein we discover another exceptional lodging choice, perhaps for that family retreat.  Set on 4 acres, this Dordogne “farmhouse” – Villa Sainte-Therese –  sleeps 8 to 10 and offers all of the comforts one would expect of a nice vacation rental – spacious rooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, gorgeous views and lovely terraces for enjoying the morning sun or evening sunset.

We stayed in a nice little hotel in the village of Saint-Gervais-d’Auvergne to the northeast of Monpazier, but the Bastide is definitely on our must-do list for our next travel adventure in France!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.
Pimsleur French

Bastide Monpazier – Plus Beaux!

dordogne france

The old walled Bastide – Monpazier

Sometimes, there simply are not sufficient words and photos to capture the spirit and beauty of a place. And so it is with Bastide Monpazier in the Dordogne area of France. Listed and labeled not only a “Grand Site National”, it is quite appropriately a “Plus Beaux Villages de France”.

Founded by Edward I of England in the late 13th century, Monpazier is an incredibly preserved fortified village; in fact, it is considered one of the most exceptional examples of a bastide in all of southwest France. Edward was assisted in the founding by the Lord of Biron (thus the presence of Château de Biron), and it wasn’t until King Charles V of France reigned that the bastide became French.

Monpazier france

Graceful arches

Certainly not untouched by skirmishes and wars through the years, the Bastide still is remarkable – a perfectly quadrilateral town with four cross streets that divide Monpazier into rectangular areas. Wander beneath the arches and through the alleys, and you discover lovely old stone walls, where the sun plays over colorful vines. Medieval houses share streets with those from the 17th century, and little galleries and cafes bid visitors welcome.

The Place des Cornières is the central square with the old market hall covered by a 16th-century timber roof and is surrounded by houses that form a charming arcade. Other architectural wonders include Saint-Dominique’s Church and the 3-story Chapter House behind the church. Dating to the 13th century, the house served as the tithe barn for harvest produce requisitioned as taxes. The Chateau de Biron embraces six centuries of architecture through the apartments and renaissance Chapel.  At the foot of the Castle, the village has many elements of l’époque médiévale.

Dordogne Lot and Garonne

Pleasant cafes in the Bastide

I return to the comment about words and photos. In a gorgeous natural area so popular with campers for the enjoyment of lovely rivers and lush forests, this beautiful village springs like a gift from the past. The area south of the Dordogne and near the Lot and the Garonne Rivers, the area is often described as “the Tuscany of France”.

Tomorrow – an ideal place from which to explore the Dordogne.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.
Pimsleur French

Jean-Luc in Hauterives

Hauterives France

Palais du Factor Cheval

Sometimes odd things come together, like stray thoughts that wander around until they find a common place to settle. And so it was today, when I was thinking about Jean-Luc Ponty. Mind you, his name, his music may come to mind two or three times a year, but today I wondered about his concert schedule. Several years ago he performed in St. Petersburg, Florida. Who knows? Maybe Florida is on his agenda again.

For those unfamiliar with him, Jean-Luc is an unparalleled master of the violin, particularly parlaying his talent in the jazz and rock arenas. Lively, innovative, Ponty’s music is full of energy and surprises – not the sedately sweet sounds you normally associate with the violin.

He comes by his talent quite naturally, born to classical musicians in Avranches, France in 1942. He was only 16, when he was admitted to the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Paris and graduated in two years with the conservatory’s highest award. Later, the influences of Miles Davis and John Coltrane fueled his interest in jazz.

Given his French roots, I wasn’t altogether surprised to see he would perform in France in June. Paris? Lyon? Saint-Tropez? No. He will perform in a most unusual setting in Hauterives – at the Palais du Factor Cheval. In the learn-something-new-every-day vein, I admit to having no idea about the location of the village or the plays.

Voila! You have to love the ease of access to information on the internet! Hauterives is a commune south of Lyon in the Drôme department. The palais was the life work of a rural postman – Ferdinand Cheval – who was appointed to serve the village of Hauterives in 1869. For 33 years, he spent evening after evening crafting a fantasy-like palace in his own back yard – in his vegetable garden, to be precise. Art historians liken his work to illustrations of naïve architecture, entirely original and surreal. The Ideal Palace was classified as a historical monument in the late 1960’s.

And so it is in this particular setting that two creative minds come together – the works of the rural postman and the eclectic violin music of Jean-Luc Ponty. We would love to be there for that unusual performance!

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

13 Reasons to Visit Paris

Le Tour Eiffel, Paris

Along the Champ de Mars in Paris

Why 13?  Why not?  It seems the de rigeur approach to articles these days, doesn’t it?  “Five Ways to Save Money at the Grocery Store”.  “Transform Your Kitchen in Three Easy Steps”.  You get the point; and I promise you, with only the effort needed to transport my thoughts from head to paper, I can give you 13 very good reasons to visit one of the most appealing and beautiful cities in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  1. To wander along the Seine and see the barges, where real people live … complete with bicycles and barbecue grills
  2. To have a too expensive coffee at a sidewalk café, where the price reflects the spectacular view rather than the coffee
  3. To get a little lost (you can always get ‘unlost’ in Paris!), only to discover a wonderful little courtyard with latticework and geraniums that you’d never seen before
  4. To wander into an intriguing bookstore, where books are stacked like jewels in an overflowing treasure chest
  5. To sit on the steps under the puffy white domes of Sacre Cœur, you and so many other representatives of the ‘world at large’ looking over the magnificent rooftops of Paris
  6. To take your place in line at your chosen patisserie, intending only to buy your daily bread yet lured by all of those gorgeously decadent desserts
  7. To loll away an afternoon in and around the Tuileries, where one lady reads her book in the sun while another naps, her head at rest on the shoulder of her mate
  8. To amble along the packed dirt pathways of the Champ de Mars toward the Eiffel Tower, with children riding little donkeys, friends sharing wine and cheese and old men partaking in a very serious game of petanque
  9. To take in the rue Mouffetard market in the Latin Quartier, particularly on a Sunday morning, when locals gather for sing-alongs and dancing
  10.  To capture the last croissant of the early morning at your favorite café – Non!  No croissants for late sleepers!
  11. To drift with pleasure through the Maxim’s boutique in search of coffees, teas, chocolates and other treasured gifts to bring back home
  12. To visit the fabric district at the bottom of Montmartre, where store after store and floor after floor displays some of the most creative and intricate textiles in existence
  13. To discover a favorite spot – by the river bank, on a bench in the park, at a little Salon de The, near the Hotel de Ville – a spot that seems your own that you return to again and again, as if it has become your little territory in Paris

In a city so filled with history and culture, fashion and cuisine, monuments and marvels; it’s all too easy to think about the grand destinations from the River Seine to the Arc de Triomphe.  You undoubtedly will see almost all of the noteworthy ‘must-do’s’, but it is the energy and teeming life around those very esteemed sites that add a very welcome flavor of humanity to your sojourns.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.
Pimsleur French

Discover Yourself in Travel

Why travel is important

Paris laid back in September

Recently my son said the most incredible thing to me. After he said, “I love you mom,” I prodded him for three reasons he loved me.

His second reason – “… because you have such a passion for France. I wish I felt that passion for a place.”

I was pleased but floored, as he has teased me for years. Every time I mention France, he puts on a fake French accent and tosses out a comment like, “Oui. Oui. Zee Eiffel Tower ees mon favorite!”….or some such nonsense.

I think about my passion for France, the where and when it began to blossom, the reason it continued to grow. Beyond familial ‘history’ and the experience with the French culture of Quebec (yes, yes, I know it’s different!), I think travel … and France specifically … allowed me to emerge from some dark days of youth, from some significant losses, from career responsibilities and the never-ending challenge of raising children!

Travel allowed me to embrace a new world, entirely apart from all of that, a chance to escape the cage and fly. And that is one important reason to travel, to immerse yourself in another place that draws you into its charming circle and allows you to emerge.

Montmartre Paris France

Dinner with a view!

I had enjoyed three trips to France, when I met my future husband in the States. After many years as a widow, I was blessed beyond imagination. We honeymooned in Paris. We travelled for an entire summer in France. We continue to return to a place that has been such a treasure in our lives. I wrote the following at the end of that lovely summer:

The calm after the tourist storm (on the road in August) is welcome. We stay again in our chosen Montmartre apartment, where Sacre Coeur attracts legions of tourists; but the population has rapidly decreased with the end of vacations. Fewer families on the street, fewer shops closed, more locals about makes for the ‘normal’ rhythm of the city we enjoy.

After weeks I dashed ‘one more time’ to the fabric stores. How do you choose from all the incredible fabrics? I touch them. I look at their sheen in the light. The Louvre? Fantastic, but the fabrics and chocolates and people in phone booths are as interesting, though less historic.

Last night we climbed ‘the mountain’ (Montmartre) to have a simple dinner at a sidewalk café just at the base of Sacre Coeur. We enjoyed a delightful waitress with an appealingly mixed French-Italian accent, and Leo studied exactly how that young woman over there in that very short skirt could manage to, uh, remain modest?

Paris Charles de Gaulle airport

Homeward bound from CDG

When we walked to the steps of the cathedral, as always there was a crowd gathered, some living out their last night of Paris vacation but with more locals than in the summer. Some young men from the Middle East gathered with guitars and drums to ‘jam’ and resurrect their country’s music. The scene was friendly, almost familial, as people seemed to take advantage of enjoying this last warmth, before serious work and cold weather set in.

Our timing was perfect to see the Eiffel Tower perform its light show, as it does for ten minutes at the top of every hour through midnight. We will ALWAYS relish this trip, this experience. Who would ever have dreamed it possible?

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Unspoiled Retreat in the Pyrenees

Ariege France in the Pyrenees

Gallo Roman sites of Saint-Lizier

After the buzz and bustle of the city – whether Paris or Lyon, Marseille or Nice – consider a visit to one of France’s most unspoiled regions.  Imagine the majestic Pyrenees dissected by rushing rivers and overlaid with valley upon valley.  Next to Andorra, the Department of Ariège hugs the central Pyrenees, where every imaginable outdoor recreation is available – kayaking, cycling and hiking along parts of the ancient pilgrimage route across the Pyrenees to Santiago de Compostela in Spain.

Now you can take in the extraordinary views enjoyed through the centuries by Gallo-Romans and bishops at the beautifully-renovated Domaine du Palais.  A virtual ‘sea of mountains’ is your backdrop for dining on the terrace, and the 3-star apartments combine comfort and hospitality with authentic preservation of the remarkable palais.

Ariege France

Terrace views over the Pyrenees

If you are drawn to magnificent Gallo-Roman sites, the citadel of Saint-Lizier is a fountainhead of monuments – the ramparts, the 11th-century cathedral with Romanesque paintings and the 14th-century gallery of the cloister.  One of the many treasures of the Bishops of Saint Lizier is the collection of gold and silverwork dating back to the Renaissance.  As one of the renowned stops along the pilgrimage route to Spain, Saint Lizier is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Prehistoric caves, Cathar chateaux and escape routes used during World War II bear out that Ariège has long been a place of refuge and resistance.  With the help of locals, over 33,000 French and 6,000 servicemen fled from the Germans along secret escape trails that brought them safely across the border.  Apparently Franco ‘turned his head’, as members of the French resistance and downed Allied airmen escaped to Spain.

Arieche France

Neighboring Saint-Girons

Beyond the spectacular natural setting and fascinating historic routes, the innate charm of the region is captivating – narrow lanes flanked by ancient stone walls, promenades along shaded river banks, picturesque streets and plenty of wide open green land.   Colorful local markets draw the mountain folk to area villages to sell their livestock and re-supply their pantries.

Is it any wonder that the Tour de France always makes annual treks through this astounding region?

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Provence Wrapped in Cultural Events

Marseille celebrates art and culture

Marseille – Provence Capital of European Culture 2013

Five years ago, a European jury of 13 people and organizations designated Marseille Provence and Kosice, Slovakia the 2013 European Capitals of Culture. At long last, the calendar has turned, and those five years of planning are playing out all across Provence. Officially kicked off last week, the year of cultural celebrations demonstrates the extraordinary collaboration between 8 Provençal cities and more than 2.2 million inhabitants.

In Marseille, the best places to find complete information are the Pavilion M in the Place Bargemon and Espace Culture at 42 Canebiere, where event and exhibition tickets are sold and information about transport provided. Artistic and cultural events of all disciplines will take place from Arles to Toulon – from gastronomy and scholarly conferences to art displays and performing arts.

Impressive new cultural facilities enhance Marseille’s urban landscape along the seafront – MuCEM (Museum of Civilizations from Europe) and the Mediterranean, the Regional Centre of the Mediterranean, the Silo and the FRAC. Based in the Fort Saint-Jean overlooking the port, the MuCEM will house collections from the “Europe” department of the Museum of Man in Paris.The largest private cultural facility added to Marseille’s esteemed ‘collection’ is the Museum Regards de Provence, constructed in the former Sanitary Station of Marseille.

Provence and Marseille France

Thousands celebrate the year of cultural events in Marseille and Provence

A unique concept of the Ateliers de l’Euro Méditerranée will host over 200 training and creativity workshops for artists, created as a major European project of intercultural dialogue. Also developed for the sharing of cultures and challenges will be six commissioned films on the role of women in the Mediterranean. Special tribute and exhibitions will focus on Albert Camus, whose centenary birthdate will be celebrated in 2013.

As the world increasingly reduces communication to rapid tweets and texts; the spirit of collaboration, communication and culture that permeates the Marseille celebrations is encouraging.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

“Alphabet Soup” – Villa Grecque Kérylos

Villa on Cote d'Azur, France

Villa Grecque Kérylos’ imposing library – © P. Louzon

With the Christmas season just a couple of weeks ago in my mind, I find it difficult to imagine that April is right around the corner. Yet, with weather in Florida hovering in the 80’s like a force threatening to wreak heat waves in the Spring and Summer, perhaps April isn’t so distant. Certainly, it’s not too early to plan a trip abroad, as “April in Paris” approaches.

I always think of Paris, at the least, as the bookends of any trip to France. Not only is the City of Light the natural entry point, but Paris is home to our good friends and our favorite city in France (my, oh my – aren’t we unique!)

If your itinerary includes a trip to the Côte d’Azur, you may want to include a sojourn to a special Exhibition at the Villa Grecque Kérylos on the Mediterranean. Entitled “The Birth of Writing on the Shores of the Mediterranean”, the exhibit carries you well beyond visions of Zola or Fitzgerald penning novels in the sun. No, the story of the birth of the alphabet reveals where the first writing systems were conceived.

That story unfolds by means of numerous educational panels and reproductions of inscribed items displayed in the library and the Gallery of Antiques. Among those reproductions is the Narmer Palette – the large ceremonial palette of King Narmer – now preserved in Cairo. Finally, a ten-minute slideshow takes you through the history of writing up to the birth of the Phoenician and Greek alphabets.

Villa Grecque Kerylos writing exposition

Narmer Palette

The Villa is one of the most spectacular sights along the Mediterranean between Nice and Monaco. You can wander among gardens of olive and pine trees, oleanders and iris; and enjoy panoramic views of Cap Ferrat on the Côte d’Azur.

The Library itself is one of the most imposing rooms in the Villa with a gallery that occupies one and half floors. Created with every comfort and convenience in mind, the library faces east for maximum morning light and is furnished with oak pieces positioned around a mosaic of Prometheus and Hera and filled with authentic objects from daily life in Ancient Greece.

Cap Ferrat, France

Magnificent Villa on the sea – © C. Recoura

Don’t forget to plan a little side trip to Èze, our favorite seaside village. There is nothing quite like a glass of wine overlooking the sun-washed sea!

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Mix History and Dining in Fontainebleau

Day trip from Paris France

The stately grounds of Fontainebleau

How about a touch of American history to blend with a spectacular lunch today? We shall dine in a stately mansion in Fontainebleau that dates back to the early 19th century and overlooks Picasso’s 1921 residence. But that’s not all.

Our chosen restaurant is The Patton, so named for the Patton Square in Foutainebleau, where a plaque commemorates General George Patton, Jr, Commander of the U.S. 3rd Army. General Patton was made an honorary citizen of the town of Fontainebleau in February, 1945.

Fontainebleau is but an hour (less than 50 miles) from Paris, so the historic town and lovely castle and forest make a pleasant day trip from the city. Before lunch, enjoy a glass of wine in the beautiful walled garden of The Patton. The food is an exceptional blend of traditional French cuisine and fresh local produce and meats.

After your satisfying meal, wander about the city and castle. The magnificent horseshoe steps in front of the chateau are breathtaking.

On those steps in 2007, the French held a very touching ceremony commemorating the 60th anniversary of the dedication of La Voie de la Liberté – Liberty Road.  The road is a living ‘monument’ to the Allied march through northern France, so you might want to read about it for yourself. Again, it centers around the indefatigable and – yes – controversial General Patton. But setting aside any political storms in which he was involved; you readily understand the gratitude of the French, when reviewing General Patton’s awards – and these listed below are only from France. Many more honors were bestowed from other countries.

Liberty Road celebration Fontainebleau  France

La Voie de la Liberté Ceremony

Croix de Guerre of 1939 with Palm
Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star
Medal of the Legion of Honor
Medal of Verdun (WWI)
Metz Medal of Liberation (1944)
Commemorative Medal, City of Nancy
Commerative Medallion, City of Metz (1944)
Commerative Medalion Cities of Fontainebleau and Barbizon
Gourmier Pin of Morocco (French)
Grand Officer of the Legion of Honor
Liberation of Tours “Patton” Medallion
Liberation Medallion, City of d’Epernay
Liberation Medallion, City of Metz (1918)
Medallion of the City of Rheims

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Brasseries to Enjoy in Lyon

Lyon France famous brasseries

Brasserie Georges – Lyon

Ernest HEMINGWAY Table 10
COLETTE Table 20
Auguste RODIN Table 15
Jules VERNE Table 17

… Just a few of the renowned diners at the ultra-popular Brasserie Georges in Lyon. I can almost see them in one of the handsome booths. I wonder what they ordered.

Brasserie Georges has been satisfying customers since 1836 with traditional cuisine served in a delightful art deco surrounding. And despite its’ majestic architecture and immense popularity, the brasserie brews beer on the premises and is moderately priced.

Brasserie Georges Lyon France

Refined Art Deco

I love the way they tell their story… “The Brasserie George has witnessed an Empire, three wars and four republics…. This establishment held by Alsatian brewers from generation to generation knew how to keep their traditions, despite the numerous revolutions which the French table has known since 170 years.”

In 1836 the young Alsatian brewer Georges Hoffherr discovered the exceptional water properties of Lyon and decided to establish a large brasserie on the old marsh of Perrache. No less than 26 brasseries were in Lyon at the time, drawn by the excellent water.

At the turn of the century the popularity of brasseries began to decline, in part because of life changes such as the birth of the cinema. That was the ideal time to refresh and redecorate!In 1924, the Brasserie was entirely transformed to pure “ART DECO” style by Bruno Guillermin, a painter from a Lyon art school, whose stucco creations celebrated the harvests of the grape and the hops.

Brasserie l'Est, Lyon France fine cuisine

Brasserie l’Est in Lyon

A couple of the “Entrees Chauds” most appealing to me are –

La Célèbre Gratinée au Madère – prepared at your table – Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée with an egg yolk and Madeira

Ravioles du Dauphiné– Specialty Ravioli from the Dauphiné region in chive cream with Parmesan

To our dismay, we did not discover Brasserie Georges, while in Lyon….but, we did enjoy lunch at l’Est, one of the wonderful Lyon brasseries associated with renowned chef Paul Bocuse. Located in the elegant former Brotteaux railroad station, the brasserie experience was entirely memorable!  While we enjoyed la rôtisserie du jour, genteel servers offered ready, but unobtrusive service; while quaint little trains ran about the brasserie on tracks near the ceiling.

And this is just one of the many reasons we enjoy sharing insights with you on France Daily Photo – that you might be able to plan your trip around some of the recommended sights, hotels and restaurants.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Discovering Paris’ Restaurants

Paris France restaurants

La Grande Cascade, Paris

The best gift of the season awaits you – a brand new year to live, love, travel….and dine. France Daily Photo has enjoyed ‘chatting’ with you, sharing personal anecdotes and offering tips for travel throughout the year.

Now is the perfect opportunity to introduce an excellent website for Paris visitors in search of dining options. There are so MANY excellent choices of every atmosphere, price and cuisine; and Paris Best Restaurants provides an exceptional guide. Easy to use. Comprehensive. Reservations and ‘coupons’ available.

The team at Paris Best Restaurants includes food addicts, who aim to provide visitors with up-to-date information about the best restaurants in Paris.  They are independent, with no commercial relationship with the restaurants they list; and as important, they are well organized with listings by categories of cuisine and arrondissements. Categories run the gamut from Michelin-starred and Brunch options to Terrace & Garden and Exceptional Views.

Beyond helpful menus and prices, they include reviews that simply add more credibility to help you make your choice. Let’s look at a couple of listings.

Paris France restaurants, Montmartre

Chez la Mere Catherine, Place du Tertre

In the 16th arrondissement, La Grande Cascade is a rather fascinating choice in an ancient hunting lodge dating back to Napoléon III. Discreetly poised in Bois de Boulogne, the restaurant is especially nice on sunny days on the pleasant terrace. The gastronomic cuisine from chef Frédéric Robert includes a la carte offerings like Roasted Filet de Saint-Pierre with almond, summer truffles in ravioli, butter à la parisienne and far more. Definitely haute cuisine Française! 

One of Paris’ most historic – and famous – restaurants overlooks the Place du Tertre on Montmartre. Founded by Catherine Lemoine in 1793, Chez la Mère Catherine is warm and inviting with traditional and rustic antiques. The ever-evolving typical French cuisine includes Honey Confit of Suckling Pig, Ginger Grilled Frog’s Legs and Sea bream with Mango Coulis. Cabaret singers entertain every evening, while you enjoy your dinner in the romantic atmosphere of the Montmartre village.

Bonne Année et Bonne Santé!

We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com
Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

5 Reasons to Visit Provençal Avignon

Avignon Palais des Papes, France

The Papal Palace overlooking the Rhône River

Remember back in 2005, when the Catholic Church broke its’ silence about The Da Vinci Code?  Though not officially a papal proclamation; cardinals and church elders condemned the book out of concern that readers of the best seller might believe the ‘fables’ on which the book is based.  All of that prelude is to say that Provençal Avignon owes its very history and attraction to the Papacy.

Thus, history becomes your first reason to visit this lovely old city.  The medieval politics of the early 14th century led Pope Clement V to move the papacy to Avignon, under the protection of Philip the Fair of France.  When his successors came along, Benedict XII and Clement VI felt the need to correct the lack of contemporary Kyriad or Ibis lodging one might find today.  It was only natural that the great Palais des Papes be built overlooking the Rhone River in the center of the medieval city.  The imposing palais is in magnificent, stark white contrast to the vivid blue skies of southern France and the sprawling square beneath the palace.

Musee de la lavande avignon France

Musee de la Lavande

For another papal-style outing, head across the river to Villeneuve-les-Avignon.  Close, but not too close, over twenty cardinals built their own palatial retreats,  where the castle and fortifications of Saint André still watch over the town.  Enjoy quiet walks here among the terraced Abbey gardens and cloisters and the views from the 14th-century Tour Philippe le Bel are exceptional.  The tower protected the famous exceptional views of the remainder of  Pont d’Avignon, that once connected the town to Avignon.

Regional cuisine, cuisine, cuisine  – your second reason to visit Avignon.  In the Les Halles marketplace; cafes serve hearty cassoulets and velvety red wine, and marché shoppers search out earthy truffles, herbs and the local specialty – Papalines d’Avignon – exceptional  candies made of fine chocolate, powdered sugar and a very particular herbal liqueur dating to 1835.  Dine at Avignon’s number one restaurant – La Mirande just across the cobblestone street of the Palais du Papes,  Enjoy a savory breakfast on the terrace – c’est magnifique!  – or refined dining, where the atmosphere complements your veal medallions and after dinner Cognac. With the excellent regional Côte du Rhône wines and a mix of olives, lavender, honey and other local produce; the cuisine lives up to your expectations.

Avignon France Navette et Macaron

Delectable shopping!

As much as I love to linger over French food, it’s time to move on to number three  – shopping!  Stunning fabrics await you at Les Olvidades and Souleiado (meaning “first ray of sunshine after a storm”).  Les Oliviers treats you to an astonishing range of olive oils, and  Pure Lavande presents high-quality, natural products from the lavender estate at Château du Bois in Haute Provence.  Throughout quaint city streets, you will find charming squares with brocantes and antiquaires, cookware for gourmands and impressive Provençal pottery at Terre è Provence.  Three-dimensional cicada creations are among our favorites.

Number four is a natural choice – the kind of cultural diversity you would expect of such a vibrant city.  Art and theatre houses seem to be around every corner.  Tours take you  in the footprints of the popes.  The annual theatre festival is absurdly entertaining, with mini-acts throughout the town luring you to their destinations.  You can steep yourself in the art of cooking with gourmet classes, or enjoy ballet and opera.  Concerts, plays, special little theatres, motor and antique shows, ballet – Avignon maintains a robust event schedule with something to entertain every interest.

Finally, the elegant charm and quaint cobblestones, the refined architecture and shaded squares make Avignon such a pleasure to visit.  Typical streets, like the rue des Teinturiers (the Dyers street) surprise you with paddle wheels on the Sorgue canal, cobblestone squares (created, by the way, from stones from the Rhône River),  the gorgeous facades of 18th and 19th-century mansions – and interspersed amongst all the sights, you will find that perfect little spot for a cafe au lait.

We’d love to hear from you!

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

énorme Error Near Bordeaux

18th Century Chateau near Yvracs in Bordeaux

Magnificent Château de Bellevue

Colossal … massive … énorme … gigantesque – all words that accurately describe the enormous error recently committed by Polish workers in the Bordeaux area of France. You see there is an elegant 18th-century château – Château de Bellevue – that lies between Bordeaux and Saint-Emilion, a splendid place with grand rooms for receptions and lovely Bordeaux vineyard to overlook.

That is, there was such a grand and glorious edifice. Quite a story here!

It seems that a Russian businessman searched far and wide, before finding and purchasing what he considered to be the ideal château. The owner of an import business in Poland, the gentleman planned to restore the 13,000-square-meter Château de Bellevue to its’ former, pristine glory.

He hired a Polish building firm to raze a small building on the property, but they demolished the entire Chateau “by mistake”. At least that’s how the story goes. Local officials – incensed by the destruction of a cherished Bordeaux landmark – have launched an investigation and lodged a complaint regarding the breach of Yvrac’s building code.

Domaine de Bellevue Vineyards - Bordeaux France

Overlooking the vineyards of Domaine de Bellevue

The former owner is outraged. The locals are outraged. The Russian owner is conciliatory, vowing to rebuild an identical replacement and already contracting a firm to re-build the fine edifice at a cost of €1.5-million. Cynics naturally question how such a mistake could ‘accidentally’ happen; particularly since the entire demolition, removal of debris and site preparation took place without anyone noticing such a massive project.

There are heritage activists who might call this travesty “Heritage Lightning”; a slight-of-hand kind of misstep, when an owner prefers shiny new over drafty old castle – heritage aside, of course. That’s when mysterious fires occur … or Polish workers smash a building to pieces, somehow mixing it up with a little accessory building. Quelle domage!

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Pure Luxury – Pure French Gift

Le Vieux Castillon in Provence France

Le Vieux Castillon in Provence

Naturally, it would have to be an elite organization like Relais & Châteaux that would assemble a French gift of pure luxury.  Drawing on their many superior lodgings and gourmet restaurants, they present two very enticing “Gift Box” offers.  The “Duo Bronze Midweek Lys” for two includes 2 nights in a double room, 1 dinner for 2 (sans drinks) and 2 breakfasts for 2 to be enjoyed from Sunday to Thursday at one of their 197 global properties.

The Gift Box Duo Silver Lys provides the same range of amenities without restriction on days and with the inclusion of drinks with dinner for 1 evening.  Pricing is trop cher at 549 and 745 Euros, respectively.  Take a moment to look over just two of the spectacular properties, and you will readily understand the pricing for pure French luxury.

Step off a little side street at the peak of the Provencal village of Castillon-du-Gard into a world handsome Renaissance architecture and panoramic views.  Le Vieux Castillon hotel and restaurant blends sun-drenched cuisine, refined decor and unparalleled hospitality for that oh-so-ideal sojourn in Provence.

Le Bernard Loiseau in Burgundy Franche Comte

Poolside relaxation at Le Bernard Loiseau

And in the Burgundy region, it is Le Relais Bernard Loiseau that provides a spectacular welcome.  Tucked away in the village of Saulieu, the cuisine is a top attraction as is the historical breakfast room and the sumptuous lounges and guest rooms.

In every sense, your Relais and Château selection guarantees an experience that imprints luxurious memories for all the days to come. Other gift selections are available and are beautifully boxed and presented with a copy of the Relais and Château Guide.

We’d love to hear from you!

 

swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

 

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Celebrate Christmas at Notre Dame

Celebrate with Christmas mass at Notre Dame Cathedral

Celebrate Christmas Mass at Notre Dame

Always a magnificent magnet for Paris visitors, Notre Dame Cathedral this year is surrounded by a Christmas Market with fine crafts and cuisine, roasted chestnuts and, perhaps, Père Nöel.

And imagine –  this year the Cathedral celebrates its’ 850th anniversary!  The public is invited to participate in liturgical celebrations – free of charge and without reservations.  (The Cathedral is, after all, a church!)  Simply arrive 15 to 20 minutes prior to services and take a seat in the nave.  If you have any questions, contact the Cathedral – info@cathedraleDeParis.com

Several masses are planned for Christmas Eve and Day.

Monday 24th December

4:30 pm  First Christmas Mass

6:00 pm  Family Mass with children’s choir of Notre-Dame de Paris

8:00 pm  International Mass with adult choir of Notre-Dame de Paris

11:00 pm  Vigil of Christmas with Christmas songs by choir and organ.

Midnight Mass  will be celebrated by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André VINGT-TROIS.

Tuesday 25th December

Fifteen minutes prior to each service – the Chimes of the Bourdon Emmanuel

8:30 am  Dawn Mass

9:30 am  Gregorian Mass with Cathedral choir

11:00 am  Solemn Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André VINGT-TROIS

12:30 pm  Mass

5:45 pm  Christmas Solemn Vespers

6:30 pm  Christmas Night Mass celebrated by Monsignor Renault de DINECHIN, Auxiliary Bishop of Paris

And should you desire a smaller venue, step just down the street and across the bridge to the lovely, 17th-Century Saint-Louis en l’Ile Church.  Behind wooden angel doors and under soaring ceilings, you can join others in quaint rush seats to celebrate mass.

Why Indulge in Paris Noël?

march_de_noel_champs_elysees paris

Unique market shopping along the Champs-Elysées

There are so many reasons to visit Paris during the Christmas and New Year’s festivities, that this will need to be a multi-part article. Let’s begin with those lovely little Christmas Markets.  For those of us who enjoy the search as much as the discovery of perfect gifts to match those on our gift list, Paris Christmas Markets simply add a Utopian level to our shopping journey. Set against the backdrop of fabulous Parisian landmarks, petite wooden châlets offer unique hand-crafted cadeaux for every age and interest.

For the past five years, the Champs-Elysées has been transformed from possibly the world’s most enticing avenue to an ever-expanding Christmas market. From the Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde, Paris’ largest “City of Noël” serves up a mix of gifts, festivities and delicacies to enhance your shopping experience. Cold? Sip an irrestible mulled wine. Hungry? How about a sweet Alsatian crêpe? And if you would enjoy a spectacular sight by all means treat yourself to a magic ride on the Ferris Wheel, for panoramic views of the Champs, the glowing Eiffel Tower and the glow of the City during the holiday season.

And speaking of the Eiffel Tower, the Iron Lady is a magnet for visitors in search of spirited holiday experiences. Across from Le Tour Eiffel, Trocadero combines well over 100 market stands with a skating rink and “Snow Village”. Ice skating is also de rigueur in front of the magnificent Hôtel de Ville. Just imagine twirling about on the ice in front of these historic venues!

Skating and Christmas shopping in front of the Trocadero

Skate, shop, enjoy the sights!

I’ve only scratched the surface of the markets spread throughout The City of Lights. For a complete listing of Christmas Markets, visit the info-packed official Paris visitor’s site.We’d love to hear from you!
swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Storied Château and Dumas’ Career

Alexandre Dumas statue near Paris France

Alexandre Dumas statue in Villers-Cotterets near Paris

Some historic buildings dramatically transform through the ages, as much as their colorful inhabitants. Such has been the ever-changing history of the Château Villers-Helon, just 80 kilometers northeast of Paris in Villers-Cotterets. First built by a knight of the First Crusade in the 12th century, the fort-like chateau became a Templar “Safe House”, prompting one to imagine scenes from The Da Vinci Code.

After seasons of seizure and even conversion to a factory, the edifice became the nurtured home of Alexandre Dumas. Once again, though, war brought occupation first by the Prussians in the Franco-Prussian War and later by the Germans in both World Wars. After so much turmoil, one can appreciate the relatively peaceful existence today of the Chateau and the village, where a grand statue of Dumas commemorates the beloved 19th century creator of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo.

Born in the French colony of Saint-Domingue (Haiti today), Alexandre’s great-grandfather was the mixed-race son of a French nobleman and an Afro-Caribbean slave. With that heritage and his own personal idiosyncrasies, Alexandre Dumas endured as many ups and downs through his life, as the Château that was an important part of his early life.

A renowned general in Napoleon’s army, Dumas’ father died when Alexandre was only four years old; and it wasn’t until his mothers’ fortunes were depleted, that he would make his way from his rather isolated village life to the City of Light.

In Paris he was able to play on his father’s favorable relations and earned a clerkship with the Duc D’Orleans. His fine penmanship cemented that position, but he reportedly commented to his father’s friend, General Foy, “General, I am going to live by my handwriting, but I promise you that I shall someday live by my pen.”

Honestly, his spirited up-and-down personal journey almost sounds like the history of many modern-day athletes, whose storied careers rise to pinnacles of wealth and abysses of personal disappointment and failure. Through periods of prolific writing and distractions with politics, Dumas enjoyed an explosive career. With his teasing and tantalizing “to be continued” phrase, Dumas’ daily published narratives captured the imagination of his adoring public.

Despite resounding success, his indulgent personal lifestyle constantly landed him in financial trouble. It would be his own writer son, who would amass the fortune that eluded Dumas and come to care for him in his final days in 1870.

Throughout his life, Dumas experienced discrimination in a French society then far less liberal in its view of mixed ancestry. In a famous response to a man who insulted his African ancestry, Dumas is said to have responded:
“My father was a mulatto, my grandfather was a Negro, and my great-grandfather a monkey. You see, Sir, my family starts where yours ends.” It would seem ill-advised to insult a person who has an exceptional way with words!

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Musée du quai Branly, Paris

musée du quai Branly2 Nigerian art collection

Musée du quai Branly – a geographic journey through art and culture

I often think I need several lifetimes – so many places to go, things to see, people to meet … so much to create and share. Alas, I am simply one mortal being, who must pick and choose her way through this limited life. And if I were to be in Paris between now and the 27th of January, I definitely would choose to visit the Musée du quai Branly, where the special exhibition – “Nigeria, Arts de la Vallée de la Bénoué” – is taking place.

In essence, the exhibition follows in the footsteps of the first explorers to follow the course of the most important tributary of the Niger River – the Benue River valley. More than 150 sculptures and masks in pottery, wood and metal come to the exhibit from private collections and public institutions from the United States and Europe.

The dynamic collection offers insight into the art created by many regional tribes in sub-Saharan Africa. The special exhibit was organized with the Musée du quai Branly, Paris by the Fowler Museum at UCLA, where the world premiere was held. We must feel a sense of gratitude at the devotion of collectors, historians and curators who make it their mission to bring together such a meaningful collection of works.

The museum itself offers a unique unpartitioned geographical itinerary that showcases well over 5,000 artifacts from all over the world. The permanent collections originate in Oceania, Asia, Africa and the Americas, offering visitors the privilege of fluidly crossing between civilizations and cultures.

musée du quai Branly Paris

Musée du quai Branly

So many came before us and left behind spectacular remnants of their cultures, no wonder my own limitations frustrate me. There simply isn’t time enough to absorb all of the centuries of art and history.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Victor Hugo’s Memorial Inscription

Victor Hugo inscription on Saint-Emilion war memorial

Victor Hugo inscription from “Les Chants du Crépuscle”

Tomorrow in France, as in the United States, solemn ceremonies will remember those who fought and “sont mort pours la patria” in World War I and in all the wars that followed.  The armistice treaty at the end of World War I on the Western Front officially ended the war at 11 minutes past the 11th hour of  November 11, 1918.

Saint-Emilion in the Bordeaux region has a particularly touching and beautiful memorial monument inscribed with the last verse of Victor Hugo’s “Songs of Twilight”.

Ceux qui pieusement sont mort pours la patria

Ont droit qu’a leur cercueil la foule vienne et prie.

Entre les plus beaux noms leur nom est le plus beau.

Tout Gloire pres d’eux passe et tombe epherme et comme ferait une mere.

 

How we all wish for a world in which care and understanding would replace battles and bloodshed!

Memorial in Saint-Emilion France

Memorial in Saint-Emilion France

Why Travel to France? Or Abroad?

Alain Vagh hospitable tour of ceramics factory and private dwelling

An hospitable tour of a Salernes’ artist home

Indeed, why travel to France or anywhere abroad?   While France is our overriding favorite destination;  we encourage travel outside of the United States, because Americans tend to be so insular, so uninvolved and unevolved in their view of the world.  The media is somewhat responsible in focusing primarily on our “own back yard”,  but that tendency perhaps reflects the very audience to whom they hope to appeal.

Through the years, I have met many young travelers from England, Australia, France and beyond.  I was wide-eyed at their independence and sense of adventure.  Generally, it was de rigueur for Europeans to have a passport in their back pocket and, often, an airline ticket in hand.Before the EU was formed, passports were a necessity; nonetheless, these folks had a far broader view of the world than those of us in America.  Back in 1989, only 7 million Americans – 3 percent – held passports.  Changes in travel requirements to Canada, Mexico and the Islands resulted in quite a surge in the number of Americans with passports.  As of January 2012, over one-third of Americans – 110 million – have passports.

But will those millions choose to travel outside of their own comfort zone?  Outside of their own culture, language and cuisine?  Just as one encourages a youngster to respect and pay heed to their elders, we encourage Americans to travel to France and elsewhere to notice and embrace our differences.  Rather than delve into intellectual pursuits of the history and culture of France, I’ll travel a more personal route in touting the advantages of travel.

Gallo Roman ruins throughout France

Old Roman fountain in Tourtour

How about a stream-of-consciousness list of attractions – the exciting throb of cities with modern transit systems, astounding museums,  sprawling parks that serve as the “back yards” to populations often living in multifamily buildings, centuries-old monuments and architecture, the very grounds on which liberty was defeated, defended and upheld.

Then there are the smaller towns, villages and hamlets, where kindly plot gardeners pause to offer greetings, and brocantes display ancestral belongings.  Where castles loom in the midst of forested reserves.  Where learning to negotiate roundabouts could become a month-long driving lesson. We have shared champagne in the streets of Paris on New Year’s Eve, and we have spent lazy afternoons on the lawn before the Eiffel Tower with wine and cheese and no policeman telling us we have broken the law. 

We have chatted in our far-less-than fluent French with neighboring diners in bistros, only to astound them as Americans who love France.  We have gazed with absolute wonder on Gallo-Roman ‘ruins’ – like Pont du Gard aqueduct near Nimes and ancient Roman fountains in Tourtour.  We have enjoyed a hospitable tour of a renowned Salernes artist’s home, and we have relished market shopping along rue Mouffetard in Paris.

Mouffetard marketplace Paris - French cheese, wine, flowers, vegetables

Lively rue Mouffetard in Paris

We are so delighted to have had the opportunity and exercised our choice to travel throughout France.  Looking at a photo of the Eiffel Tower simply doesn’t come close to the heart-pounding experience of seeing the Iron Lady in person.  And sharing sights, sounds, tastes and customs brings a genuine, reciprocal pleasure.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Great Expectations in Aulnay

 

Thousands of jobs threatened in Aulnay outside Paris

Peugeot plant closing threatens thousands of jobs in Aulnay

Charles Dickens called upon a fellow named Pip to explore the concepts of ambition and self-improvement.  Whatever Pip recognized as positive – whether wealth, goodness or social advancement – he aimed to make a part of his life, to fold into his plan for self improvement.  He had “Great Expectations about his future, though he ultimately came to understand that inner worth has more to do with loyalty and conscience than with education and social standing.

Today, I read about the potential closure of the historic PSA Peugeot Citroen plant at Aulnay-sous-Bois.  The region already is burdened with high unemployment, so imagine the fear struck in the hearts of the French auto giant’s 3,300 –strong workforce at the plant.

Workers and local officials echo one word, when contemplating the factory closure – “disaster”.    The prospect of thousands of workers joining the ever-lengthening lines at job centers in a region shattered by high unemployment (16.8% in Aulnay) has swept a cloak of fear and anger over the area.

Seven trade unions have vowed “any necessary action” to save the plant, yet PSA bosses examine a possible 8% to 12% decline in the French automobile market this year.  The unions respond that PSA beat their sales records just two years ago.  Memories of the two-week reign of violent protests in 2005 linger; and the potential factory closing, rising crime and poverty fuel the potential for more.

To be certain expected mass layoffs from a number of French companies send a quake or two through François Hollande’s new government, just as Detroit’s upheaval impacted newly-elected President Barack Obama.

And that brings us back to “Great Expectations”.  The people of France and America, Germany and Greece, Spain and Poland and beyond are fearful that their great expectations are turning to dust, that those promised rewards for hard work hang in the balance.   Clearly conservative economists have not been a critical part of the planning and actions, that have brought much of the world to this point.  Those promises have not been funded, and the years of excess are taking their toll.

We are facing America’s elections in one week, and I believe some of the great disenchantment in this country is the failure of our elected officials to collaborate in any decision-making process, from passing a workable budget to reinvigorating the economy.  Without the combination of intelligence and simple wisdom, many of us fear the disappearance of our own Great Expectations.

 

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Please Your Palate in Aix-en-Provence!

Aix-en-Provence France

Terrace dining on Place Forum des Cardeurs

 

Something tells me I’m long overdue for another discussion about food.  That subject seems to be a morning-noon-night event for us in France, so what better place to tell you about than Place Forum des Cardeurs in Aix-en-Provence.  We were able to spend three wonderful nights in this entirely enchanting city, and locating the Forum was a highlight that drew us back again and again.

Wander along the Place, and your experience will be reminiscent of the most delightful, varied, historic “food court” imaginable.  (Sorry – don’t know that it is even fair to toss in that ‘mall-ish’ American phrase!)   Lining the main street and those tiny alleys that find their way off the Place are cafes and bistros, pizzerias and brasseries – a plentiful collection of menus, outdoor canopied terraces and hospitable establishments.

Prima Pasta, for example, offers indoor and outdoor seating around the square with a menu of delicious pastas, meat, fish and fowl entrees.  Friendly service only adds to the overall experience of outdoor dining with an abundance of “people watching”.  La Poire in Aix is another choice, complete with three chefs serving up a variety of appetizers, fish entrees and irresistible desserts.  With so much fresh produce and ‘gifts from the land’, any chef can shine in Provence!

Juste en Face specializes in Mediterranean in a casual, inexpensive environment, and Chez Nino brings us back to good Italian food, just off the Place.   In a setting that is tasteful, charming and welcoming, you can enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner – crisply fresh salads, risotto, pasta, desserts and a nice selection of Italian (and some French) wines.   Those are just a few of the choices in one area of Aix, a city that seems to have an unending supply of dining options.

Outdoor dining choices in Aix-en-Provence

A sip of wine, a plate of pasta!

I must add a disclaimer here.  I’m often told that I’m “easy to please”, and I can assure you that is especially true anyplace in France!  I also tend to have a “non-exotic” palate.  Combine the two, and I might not be your best restaurant guide; but I challenge you to wander the Place Forum in Aix to find those terrace cafes and tucked-away bistros that appeal to your own sense of taste.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

Crillon le Brave for Christmas?

Spectacular views over Mont Ventoux, vineyards and olive groves hotel crillon le brave in France

Hotel views over Mont Ventoux, vineyards and olive groves

Tucked away in a small hilltop village near Avignon, Hotel Crillon le Brave is a very unusual resort; and for the first time in many years the Hotel will be open over Christmas and New Year’s.  From Friday December 21 through Wednesday January 2, guests can celebrate the holidays in the middle of gorgeous views and Provencal hospitality.

Two days before Christmas, the Eglise Saint-Romain, next door to the hotel, will host a large choir presenting Provencal carols.  Afterwards the entire village is invited to gather at the hotel for a traditional glass of vin de noix or vin d’orange.  In fact throughout the holidays traditional customs reign – local santon decorations from nearby Séguret, Treize desserts on Christmas Eve, and a “royal” lunch on Christmas day.  The traditional Christmas marché in Avignon also will encourage your holiday spirits.

hotel crillon le brave near Avignon

Avignon’s Christmas market

Whether or not that rare snow fall descends, I love imagining the chilled countryside views and the warm hearth of Hotel Crillon le Brave.  Quiet music and intimate dinners in the stone-vaulted restaurant would perfectly crown a relaxing stay and provide the ideal interlude between “last year” and the “coming year”.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

A Revolutionary Trip to Versailles

Versailles RER train from Paris France

RER C line from Paris to Versailles

I’m sure we all share the disturbing tendency to be walking or driving to a particular destination without being fully “in the moment”.  We suddenly realize we’ve passed our turn or are surprised to find ourselves arriving at our target, without remembering each step of the route.

Imagine, then, stepping on the RER in Paris only to find yourself in the palatial lap of luxury.  The train?  Elegance and art?  Yes, that’s exactly what you will discover on the RER C line to Versailles.  Your intention might have been a simple, pragmatic transit from “here to there”; but this train transports you in such style, you will be altogether removed from the bustle of the city to the serene grandeur of the Palace of Versailles   Wouldn’t you know that Paris could so completely transform an otherwise mundane trip?

During your 20-kilometre journey, you can enjoy beautifully-designed ceilings, a mock library and several memorable recreations of Marie-Antoinette’s royal chateau.  With precise attention to detail, the Palace of Versailles funded the makeover, in which interior train walls were layered with high-tech plastic film.

I’d say it’s an extremely clever marketing ploy that is sure to inspire more trips to the former home of King Louis XIV.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

Masterful Light Show in Provence

Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence France

Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence – © g. iannuzzi, m. siccardi

It certainly can’t hurt to remind those planning trips to France before January 6 to include a visit to The Carrières de Lumières in Baux-de-Provence.  Until that date, the attraction is presenting a spectacular show appropriate for children and adults.

“Appropriate”, though, is all too uninspired to describe a magical multimedia presentation of the works of Van Gogh and Gauguin.  Images of their paintings are projected onto expansive walls, as high as 14 meters

It is a completely other-worldly experience to stroll through the maze of stone rooms and majestic painting images against the backdrop of classical and popular music.  Even the ground beneath your feet becomes a flowing carpet of images.  Can you imagine Van Gogh’s cherry tree flowers with Rachmaninov in the background?

I love what the show creator, Gianfranco Iannuzzi, said about his masterpiece of work:  “When I see couples dancing and their children playing with the images on the floor, I know we made the right choice.”

Metamorphoses – © g. iannuzzi, g. siccardi

A second, shorter show invites visitors through a world of creation, of science, of natural elements and matter.  The stunning imagery of “Metamorphoses: from the infinitely tiny to the infinitely large” spans vibrating flower pistils, dazzling colors and the glowing lava of volcanoes.  It is nothing less than a living classroom for all ages!

 

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

Riom Treasures in the Auvergne

Riom architecture, france - Auvergne

Riom Renaissance architecture

One of our happenstance discoveries in France was Riom, tucked away between the Auvergne Volcanoes and the Livradois Regional Nature Parks.   As rain began to fall, we ducked into the magnificent courtyard of  the Hotel de Ville to discover “The Kiss of Gloria” bronze (at least that’s my recollection about this lovely statue) and World War I memorial.

As the capital of the Auvergne through the Middle Ages, Riom has striking architectural features with impressive examples of the Renaissance period.   Two museums are well worth visiting – the ‘Regional Museum of the Auvergne’, and the Francisque Mandet Museum of Fine Arts.

We are on a brief holiday to visit family and friends, so our postings might be a little less frequent for a few days.

Québec’s Capital – Captivating & Elegant

Chateau Frontenac, from Vieux Quebec City Canada

Chateau Frontenac, from Vieux Quebec City

Next week, we are heading north to visit friends in Vermont and Quebec.  Recently, I wrote just a bit about Montreal (when a lengthy book would better reveal the city’s highlights!), but I also have had the enviable pleasure of staying in Québec City, the capital of the province of Québec.

Fortunately, our business “headquarters” were at the lovely Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, a breathtaking resort overlooking the St. Lawrence River.  Though a city of nearly half a million people, Old Quebec City feels like an authentic – and quite elegant – French village.

From the hotel I could take the funiculaire down to the old village (shades of Montmartre in Paris!), to wander among artisan shops, European-style architecture and stone buildings accented with French blue shutters.  Spend any time here, and you will understand its’ designation as a United Nations World Heritage Site.  Horse-drawn carriages, artists and street entertainers add to the lively atmosphere.

And as the city tourism department points out, you need not visit China for great walls.  Quebec City is the only fortified city in North America with magnificent gates and seemingly endless walls for the defense of the city under French and English regimes.

Quebec City fortifications Canada

Quebec City fortifications

Considered the “Father of New France”, Samuel de Champlain settled on Place Royale in 1608.  He is honored today with an impressive bronze statue – “Le monument à Samuel de Champlain, fondateur de Québec, gouverneur de la Nouvelle-France et découvreur des Grands Lacs. ”

If airline tickets to France are a stretch at the moment, turn your attention northward for a captivating French experience with our North American neighbors!

 

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

Bronze Statue Resurrects Soccer Moment

Zinedine Zidane famous "headbutt" moment - Pompidou Centre Paris France

Zinedine Zidane’s famous “headbutt” moment

As much as I love sculpture, soccer and France, I never imagined these diverse pleasures would intersect in such a way as to be ‘headline news’.  Well, imagine again Madame, because one of the most controversial and astounding moments in the realm of soccer has come to life in front of the Pompidou Centre in Paris.

In a special retrospective exhibition in the Centre, the works of Algerian artist Adel Abdessemed will be showcased from today until January; but the buzz surrounding his work centers on his bronze statue titled “Headbutt”.  Contrary to noble statues honoring statesmen and heroes, the exhibition organizer, Alain Michaud, refers to the statue as an “ode to defeat”.

 For those of you unfamiliar with the infamous headbutt, we’ll ‘tiptoe’ through a brief background and personal recollection of the events.  We were watching the exhilarating 2005 World Cup final with our son. 

The legendary French captain Zinedine Zidane – affectionately known as “ZouZou” – was part of the French national team that wond the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.  The 2006 match between Italy and France was in a second overtime period in the 100th minute, when the unthinkable happened

Clearly the Italian defender Marco Materazzi kept saying something to Zidane, who finally turned on him and headbutted the Italian in the chest.  Immediately Zidane received a red card and was ejected from the game.  Down a player and headed into the final shootout, France ultimately lost the match 3 to 5 and, as one commented, “… a nation was left heartbroken.”   Zidane later explained his reaction was provoked by the Italian’s slurs against his sister and mother. 

That moment is now immortalized in bronze by the Abdessemed statue.  Certainly not on a level with Rodin’s “The Thinker”, the 16-foot statue nonetheless is quite the draw outside the Pompidou Centre, as visitors angle for a photo op.  

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

Paris – Balm for the Soul

Restaurant Georges in Centre Pompidou, Paris France

Christmas at Restaurant Georges, Paris

A Parisian blog I enjoy reading is Eye Prefer Paris.  The author, Monsieur Nahem, recently profiled an accomplished art book and catalogue designer by the name of Louise Brody.  I particularly enjoyed her response to, “What do you prefer about Paris?

“I would paraphrase Johnson – ‘When one is tired of Paris one is tired of Beauty’.   I know how lucky I am to live in the most elegant city in the world, with its endless vistas of harmonious architecture and leafy avenues….Being constantly surrounded by such beauty is an eternal source of creative inspiration and a balm to the soul.”

Madame Brody’s thoughts resonate with me – the elegance, the beauty, the captivating views and the ‘balm to the soul’.  So many memories of Paris usher me through the day and tuck me in at night.  On one chilly evening toward the end of my holiday, I had a terrible cold and was feeling under the weather and a bit cranky – imagine that in Paris!  We went to an outdoor exhibit of over-sized sculptures set in place across the Pont des Arts.  And therein lies the story.  I couldn’t possibly tell you where and when I have experienced similar bouts of flu – Paris even makes misery memorable!

Jean Cocteau Exhibit Paris

Jean Cocteau Exhibit Centre Pompidou

On another evening escapade, I had stepped outside of the restaurant for fresh air (and a cigarette –shame on me!), after a rather prolonged dinner.  I stood under the building eaves in a light, spring drizzle and happened to drop a cigarette in a puddle.  A man passing by quietly said, “C’est domage” and went on about his way – a stranger uttering his thoughts in Paris.

On our “lune de miel”, my husband and I visited the Centre Pompidou on Christmas Day.  After wandering through the spectacular galleries and a fascinating Jean Cocteau exhibition, we ascended to the Restaurant Georges on Level 6 for a drink.  On that crisp winter holiday, we enjoyed overlooking the city of Paris from the modern contoured aluminum inner sanctum of the Restaurant.

A Grand Mère in the park, a little girl on a carriage ride, elders tucked in woolen caps playing a game of pétanque in the shadow of the Louvre – little moments … grand inspiration!

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

“… Only One Moon in the Sky”

Meuse River in Verdun France

Today the peaceful Meuse River in Verdun

For all of the beauty, culture and charm of France; you cannot escape the dreadful impact of two World Wars. Monuments in villages are as dominant as the central chapel or church.

Farmers in eastern France still discover armaments and relics of the wars, as they prepare their land for planting. Serene-looking ponds owe their origins to the craters of war. Hundreds of military cemeteries, far larger than those villages, spread across the landscape of France from Normandy to Verdun and beyond.

I am neither maudlin nor morose, but we live in a world so fast paced; that we can easily forget the losses of the near and distant past. Though we have seen the virtual ‘seas’ of graves in Normandy, it is the photo of one soldier’s grave that reminds me of the very individual nature of loss. One son. One husband. One future doctor or farmer or architect. Not just one, but two generations so depleted.

There is a very poignant site devoted to “Zone Rouge” villages that were virtually destroyed – physically and environmentally – during World War I. The “Red Zone” in northeastern France was so contaminated with ordnances and corpses that much of post-war housing, farming and forestry were either temporarily or permanently forbidden by French Law.

Some towns were never allowed to rebuild, and “Les Villages Détruits” commemorates those 9 villages in the Verdun area of France. Villages of young men and women, playful children, elders who gathered them in for Sunday dinners. Villages of farmers and bakers, cobblers and priests. Villages that worked each day and hoped for bright futures for their generation and all of those that would follow.

Eduard Ivaldi's sole gravesite in Champagne France

A lone soldier’s grave

In Gifts from the Sea, Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote:“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can only collect a few. One moon shell is more impressive than three. There is only one moon in the sky.”

Today, je souhait … I wish … to remember one soldier, one representative of the millions of soldiers and civilians who perished in the “Great Wars”. Eduard Ivaldi died in World War I. His solitary grave is tucked away near Champagne.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

French Treasures, Rich Memories

Elegant designs of Moustiers Sainte-Marie, France

Elegant faïence from Moustiers Sainte-Marie


Throughout our home, we are warmly greeted by rich memories of our trips to France – a tablecloth, a piece of art, an old faïence platter. On a delightful visit to Moustiers Sainte-Marie, we wandered through ateliers and shops that showcased the gorgeous faïence pottery for which the village is known.

Though tucked away in the heart of Haute Provence, Moustiers remains an immensely popular destination. The town backs right up to limestone cliffs in such a dramatic way, it seems to be carved from the rocks. In the midst of that scenic landscape, the town is brimming with pottery artisans, who ply the centuries’ old trade practiced by the well-worn hands of prior generations.

Legend has it that an Italian monk named Faenza brought to Moustiers in the latter part of the 17th century, the well-guarded technique of producing white enamel. Over the hundreds of years that have followed, the village became one of the largest and finest faïence production centers.

After a period of decline in the 19th century, the Provençal movement brought about a revival of the industry early in the 1900’s. Today, you can enjoy the same fine craftsmanship practiced by artisans using the 400-year-old processes and elegant designs of their predecessors.

Moustiers Sainte-Marie, Provence, France

Table linen from Moustiers Sainte-Marie

Our friend still has the lovely Moustiers pitcher we purchased in the village; and though wearing a bit through ten years of enjoyment, our Moustiers tablecloth continues to remind us of the industrious artisans and the charming Provençal village we hope to visit once again.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Fernand Léger’s Brilliant Legacy

Fernand Leger Lithograph, Les Deux Tournesols 1954

Les Deux Tournesols (The Two Sunflowers), 1954

I recently discovered an elegant fine art site – Masterworks Fine Art – and more important, a French artist previously unknown to me. Fernand Léger (1881 – 1955) was born in rural France in the relatively sleepy little village of Argentan. The son of a cattle dealer, Léger was encouraged to take up a trade; but his artistic talent emerged, and he pursued the study of architecture and art at a variety of schools.

As a novice painter with no pedigree in art, I am always interested in where artistic ideas come from and what prompts the artist in his expressions of line and color. Léger’s background is particularly intriguing, in that his experiences during World War I heavily influenced his artistic direction. Primarily his interaction with men of different social classes opened his eyes to new realities and led him to create art that should be accessible to all ranks of society. His distinctive style through the years evolved from Impressionism and Cubism to Fauvism and beyond, but while other artists influenced him, he followed none.

From his prominent interest in the working classes, his designs, paintings and sculpture featured a delightful mix of bold black contours and pure colors and precise representations of mechanical objects. Léger traveled widely and lived in the United States during World War II, where he taught at Yale University and at Mills College in California.

Original terracotta low relief ceramic plaque; white clay and glazed enamel

Visage aux Deux Mains – low relief ceramic plaque

For the 1970 Tate Gallery “Purist Paris” exhibition, John Golding wrote of the artist: “No other major twentieth-century artist was to react to, and to reflect, such a wide range of artistic currents and movements . . . And yet he was to remain supremely independent as an artistic personality. Never at any moment in his career could he be described as a follower … But his originality lay basically in his ability to adapt the ideas and to a certain extent even the visual discoveries of others to his own ends.”

During our next trip to France, we will make it a point to include a visit to the in Biot. Though the artist bought a villa in Biot, he died soon afterwards at his home in Gif-sur-Yvette. His wife Nadia created a museum on the Biot property.

Officially opened in 1960, the museum dedication included Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and Georges Braque. With an exterior ablaze with colorful mosaics created by H. Melano of Biot, the museum holds the largest collection of Leger paintings in the world.
We’d love to hear from you! swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

A Magic Evening in Paris

Production of The Da Vinci Code underway at the Louvre - Ron Howard should have joined us for a drink

The Da Vinci Code in production at the Louvre

Everything ends this way in France – everything. Weddings, christenings, duels, burials, swindlings, diplomatic affairs -everything is a pretext for a good dinner. ~ Jean Anouilh

The thing is – you never know what’s around the corner in Paris. The city is the virtual heart of all things magical.   It is only natural that we would end a magnificent stay in Paris with a beguiling dinner with friends – mais oui!  Don’t all good things begin and end with dining?  We had found an intimate little restaurant near the Palais Royal; where we would host our friends, before departing for a whirlwind trip to Bordeaux and beyond.

We began with our first “mojitos”; a drink we later learned had grown quite popular.  Olivier talked and mashed mint, mixing his concoction for us in pewter tankards. We wined and dined and traded comical pleasantries with the owner and staff. Only a somber couple next to us cast any sort of pall – but of course, we didn’t allow such a thing to happen.

Our first mojito by Olivier in Paris France

Voila! Olivier’s mojito

And what does one do after dinner in Paris? Have a pleasant after-dinner drink! And what could hold more atmosphere than Café Marly overlooking the Pyramide.  As if the cool night and warm friends in Paris were not enough, we looked over a strange sight across the courtyard. The waiter explained, “They are filming The Da Vinci Code.” Just one more story in a city that has inspired millions of tales.

Then, the playful muses called to us, and we found ourselves whirling through the air on the enormous Ferris wheel that overlooks Place Concorde.  Lights pointed the way all along the Champs-Élysées to the Arch de Triomphe.  Young people gathered in front of McDonald’s on rue du Rivoli, a classic contrast of mundane and urbane.  Timeless statues watched over the spinning wheel, and the Eiffel Tower sparkled in the distance with its’ hourly show.

McDonald's golden arches more golden in Paris France

History and hamburgers!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, an evening in Paris is worth a decade of nights anywhere else in the world.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

Howard Hughes’ French Connection

Once part of the Marais, the royal resident Hotel Saint-Pol, Paris

The entrance of Isabeau de Bauviere a L’hotel Saint-Pol

Howard Hughes. His very name evokes bizarre images and tremendous wealth, but that is just one Howard Hughes – Junior, in fact. Howard Hughes, Sr. was the Missouri-born entrepreneur who patented the Sharp-Hughes Rock Bit that catapulted Hughes Tool Company to fame and fortune. And it was his son Howard, Jr. who used that wealth to feed two hungry passions – aviation … and women.

What is the Hughes connection to France, you might ask? Some are headline shakers. Others are simply interesting and serve to feed our own love for ‘all things French’. Howard Jr. was the sole son of his father and mother, Allene Stone Gano, one of many descendants of Catherine of Valois, Dowager Queen of England. Bear with me now – this is not a ‘fact sheet’ from Ancestry.com!

Catherine was of that era of the 15th century, when this royal was suitably engaged to that royal, but Catherine’s origins are clear. She was the daughter of King Charles VI of France and was born at the Hôtel Saint-Pol in Paris. Perhaps that refined lineage is what led Howard Sr. and his wife to spend their entire savings on an elaborate honeymoon in France, England and Germany. Good for them, I say. Well nigh penniless or not, they enjoyed a wonderful beginning in France and returned to Houston, Texas to build their real fortunes.

Moving from the ancestry and intellectual side of the story, we take on the saltier, inventive Howard and his renowned talents and interests. After making a mint on Texas’ Spindletop oil discovery, Howard spun all of his interest towards the oil business, ultimately resulting in the rock drill patent. That drill bit was able to penetrate hard rock in relatively record time. Later the Hughes Tool Company created a tri-cone rotary drill bit that captured nearly 100% of the industry’s market share. As the sole owner of the company, Hughes Jr. became the wealthiest man in the world.

Howard Hughes at Le Bourget in Paris 1938

Howard Hughes, Le Bourget in Paris 1938

A great part of that wealth went to Hughes’ love of aviation. In 1938, Hughes flew round the world, with the first leg of his trip from New York to Paris’ Le Bourget air field. Hughes Aircraft Company became a division of the tool company and was to become a dominant aerospace and defense company player.

In 1953, Hughes donated Hughes Aircraft to his newly formed Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The Pasteur Institute in Lille, France is but one of many medical institutes to have received research funding from HHMI.

If you are still waiting for the salty side, think Hollywood and RKO Studios and Jean Harlow. Perhaps his original French heritage prompted him to make The French Line in 1954, a musical with the voluptuous Jane Russell about American girls on their way to Paris by ship.

A personal footnote to this Hughes story – my mother’s father, Lee Paul Hintz was the Manager of the Shipping Department of Hughes Tool Company in Houston and was in charge of the first tools ever made. He was the first employee to receive the 35-year service pin. Thank you Howard, Jr. for the nice life your entrepreneurial spirit and my grandfather’s hard work allowed my grandparents to enjoy – a beautiful home on Sunset Boulevard and, more importantly, six wonderful children whose descendants continue to revere their memory.


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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Circuit des Remparts d’Angoulême

Lithograph of 2004 poster for circuits des ramparts in angouleme france

2004 Circuits des Ramparts Poster

In less than a week the Charente area of western France will be transformed, invaded as it were, by deeply passionate auto enthusiasts who will gather for the 2012 “Circuit des Remparts d’Angoulême”.  Carefully pampered, antique luxury cars will be buffed to perfection for display in the classic auto exhibitions, and the gala Concours D’Elegance on Friday evening will find drivers and passengers in flawless ‘costumes’ to evoke eras of the past.  And all of that takes place before Saturday’s premiere race – the Rallye International de Charente – from Chais Magelis to Champ de Mars, Esplanade in Angoulême.

If you were wise enough to plan well ahead, you might enjoy the weekend of events as a guest at La Ferme de l’Église, a lovely 17th-century Charentaise farmhouse in the heart of Vanzay.   I believe we would choose their traditional “La Petite Maison” overlooking grassy courtyards and private gardens and some leisurely moments by the pool, just within sight of the old village church.

A visit to the historic town of Cognac also is a must, where elegant Renaissance buildings and cobbled streets mix with the heavy scent of fabled spirits referred to as the “angel’s share”.  How about a tour and delectable tasting of cognac of Courvoisier or Rémy-Martin?

La Ferme de L'Eglise Charentes France

La Ferme de L’Eglise, Vanzay

Your affable hosts will help to guide your selection of rural cycling and picnic outings (by the lake at Saint-Macoux?), as well as historic forays and dining in Poitiers.  Without a doubt, they will encourage your indulgence in a little known local aperitif – Pineau des Charentes, and offer homemade preserves and local market specialties. 

Perhaps, you will rent one of John’s antique cars to join in the Circuit des Remparts festivities! 

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

 

The Liberation of the Franche-Comté Region

Epinal American Cemetery and Memorial in eastern France

Epinal American Cemetery in eastern France

East of Dijon, the Franche-Comté region of France combines low valley farmland with the Jura Mountains, as the area stretches toward Switzerland.  For the most part, narrow roads and small communes dot the landscape, and the Doubs River takes a picturesque course through the countryside, inviting river cruises and intense fisherman to enjoy her bounty.  This time of year, neat stacks of firewood by every home signal the coming winter.

September also is a time of somber celebration.  Nearly 70 years ago, Allied troops swooped from the south to free eastern France.  Among the many historic stories surrounding World War II, there is a small “footnote” for the commune of Sauvagney.  But that is the way of all epic tales, isn’t it?  Whether metropolis or a hamlet, liberation unshackles and offers new life to an entire populace.

On September 9, 1944, a company of American soldiers were on the road to Belfort, when the sound of German machine guns cut through the meadows from the woods.  After the fighting, two soldiers from the 141st Infantry Regiment had died.  They had sacrificed their lives for the liberation of this village of 150.  With the blessing of the Regiment’s Commanding Officer, the Sauvagney residents built coffins for Edwin J. Morgan and John Kreiner and held a Christian burial ceremony before interring the men in the church cemetery.

A reporter from the Baltimore Sun remembered Kreiner’s sacrifice in a poignant piece he wrote in 1998.

Lac des Brenets, Franche-Comté

Lac des Brenets, Jura Mountains

“SOMEWHERE today they’re remembering Private Kreiner. It’s a distant somewhere, a speck of a place in a valley in France. You could speak the name Kreiner there, and an old man named Henri Ducret would break into the long story of the Germans and the war, the years of occupation and the day of liberation, and he’ll describe the body of Private Kreiner being carried to the churchyard.”  It was Henri who dug the graves, his little sisters who placed flower on their coffins.

Throughout the area, villages and cities are remembering those sacrifices; as one after another was liberated by the Allies in early September.  Some will gather at the United States military cemetery at Epinal.  In Sauvagney, no doubt the citizens will stand before the monument they erected in 1994 to honor two fallen heroes.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

 

Discovering All Things French!

Elegant Carlton Hotel along La Croisette, Cannes

Dreamscape Carlton Hotel stays in Cannes

Some readers ask me how I choose subjects to cover – “How do you determine what to write?”   Honestly, it is somewhat of a mystery even to me!  I may be deeply into learning about a World War II vignette in France, only to discover one tidbit of information about a person or place and off I go.

There is a flip side to the joy of discovery, though – should I perhaps be on some kind of medication?   Topics currently swilling in my mind run the gamut from “Passports” and “Three Days in Paris” to “A week in ‘x’” and “Auffay” France.  Avid followers know I have wandered through memories, feelings, interests and personal curiosities.

I’ve enjoyed imagining my grandparents’ seven year residence in Paris – with great envy!  I have fed my sister-in-law’s attraction to Gallo-Roman ruins, and savored the Île de Ré experiences of our French friends.

favorite little bisque poupee dolls from Paris France

My favorite “Gertrude” Poupee doll from Paris

Readers have suggested favorite restaurants and resorts.  And I have tapped my profound love of artisans and their creations – from delightful Poupée dolls and sumptuous French fabrics to quaint clay Santons and trés chic bijoux!   Speaking of fabrics, I really feel as if my entire embrace of and experience with France has transformed me – or my personae – from perfectly nice linen to an astoundingly rich jacquard.   Merci to France and the French for our rich engagement!

And did I mention food and wine?  Mon Dieu!  To think of France without closing your eyes and imagining the aroma of a bubbling tartiflette or the crisp, cool taste of a Provençal Rose is unforgiveable as well as unimaginable.

Another favorite is journeying into what I might call “dreamscapes” – unique places we’ve never been but hope to experience – a lovely Auberge on the Mediterranean coast, a luxury vacation villa tucked in the hills, a little river village just large enough to satisfy our desire for farm-fresh meals and native wines.

Since France Daily Photo is about all of us, we invite you to share your favorites, to make suggestions and requests about accommodations or products, to tell us about your own unique moments.  Simply ‘like’ us (top left of post) and add your comments, ‘share’ with comments (below the post) or drop us a note at swsheridan@francedailyphoto.  We would love to hear from you!

A Dream House in Normandy

The Old Gallery estate in Normandy

The Old Gallery – Beauval en Caux, Normandy

Several years ago, my friend in Paris mused about our buying a big old home somewhere in a French village. We both were single at the time and imagined spending our ‘twilight days’ with other friends enjoying one another’s company and being on hand, when support was needed.

While we now are each happily married, I still think of her idea, imagining even today our doing the same thing as couples – sharing market shopping, tending to household chores, tipping the wine glasses at sunset.

And that brings me to the point, in a roundabout sort of manner. I came across a rather magnificent home for sale in Normandy – “The Old Gallery”. Seems that an English fellow – an artist – purchased the six-bedroom ‘manor’ about 10 years ago. Over the years local craftsmen and tradesmen helped transform the heating and insulation, the kitchen and baths. The Old Gallery has hosted many vacationing Brits and corporate groups, who have relished the location, comfort and quiet of the Normandy countryside.

While the property is only a 20-minute drive from Dieppe on the Channel, it is located in the heritage hamlet of Beauval en Caux and within 5 minutes of Bacqueville en Caux and Auffay. Five minutes? It takes us that long to start the car and leave our property, so it would be no imposition to enjoy the short ride to the patisserie and charcuterie!

Beauval en Caux Normandy house for sale

Hearthside dining at The Old Gallery

Petite communes share their own unique history and charm. In 1965 the Beaunay and Sainte-Genevieve-en-Caux hamlets merged into one commune with two village churches. The church near The Old Gallery dates to the 12th century and proudly boasts an onion-shaped dome and elaborate slate work.

Who knows? If my friend’s vision had come to pass, The Old Gallery might have been our chosen retreat. Or maybe it will be yours? It certainly seems to be the ideal blend of country living, village convenience and easy access to coastal resorts.



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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Labor Day Retreat in Provence

Jacques Chibois country manor grasse france

La Bastide Saint-Antoine in Provence

In the spirit of the political convention ‘season’ in the United States, allow me to ask you a few questions. I fully expect you to answer with the fervor of an impassioned delegate in search and support of Truth!!!!

When you settle in for a night of sweet dreams, do you take your wallet to bed with you? No-o-o-o!!

Should your holidays be limited to 2-star “Sleep Inns” without the hope of enjoying the refined quarters frequented by ‘world leaders’? No-o-o-o!!

Shouldn’t you have the same sense of entitlement as your representatives? Ye-s-s-s-s!!!

Alright. All that vibrant political rabble-rousing aside, it’s time to reward yourself to 5-star luxury in the South of France. Fluff your pillow, set your wallet aside and prepare for a dream holiday.

Wind your way from the heart of Grasse up Avenue Henri Dunant, lined with grey stone walls and canopies of parasol pines, to La Bastide Saint-Antoine. Set in the midst of lush Mediterranean vegetation, 18th-century La Bastide welcomes you to a comfortable retreat overlooking the Bay of Cannes. Naturally you can’t go wrong with a premiere Relais et Châteaux property, particularly with the ideal blend of the spirit of Provence with refined hospitality.

Settle in to a room with antique furnishings, plush linens and your own fireplace; but expect every contemporary amenity you may desire. “Bio Tea” in my room? I wouldn’t otherwise consider this choice!

In all seriousness, I can’t imagine a more satisfying combination of tranquility and stimulation – the quiet hills and ancient olive trees, Provençal villages and sun swept Mediterranean beaches of the Côte d’Azur. Take in Antibes and Saint-Jean-Cap Ferrat. Discover perfumeries in Grasse and glass-making in Biot. And see if you can’t arrange a round of golf at the historic Golf Country Club de Cannes-Mougins, founded in 1923 by the likes of Aga Khan, Prince Pierre of Monaco and Baron Edouard de Rothschild. Remember – it’s Labor Day weekend, and you are entitled!

Dining in Provence near Grasse France

Pleasant dining, gorgeous views

In between your delightful journeys through the area, return to your country manor for gourmet meals on the terrace looking out on 1,000-year-old olive trees and the perfumed air of Provence or cozy up to the lounge fireplace for an after-dinner drink. I believe we also would challenge fellow guests to a rousing game of petanque on the boules court near the kitchen garden.

Whether you celebrate the ‘labor’ of your life along the Atlantic Ocean or the French Riviera, discard your work woes and political concerns. This is your weekend to enjoy a well-deserved escape from daily occupational hassles and, perhaps, to remember the many achievements of everyday workers throughout the world.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

FIVE TIPS FOR FRANCE TRAVEL PLANNING

Chateau Eza - Eze France

An elegant Château by the Mediterranean?

We are by no means travel gurus, but we hope to take the “I Could Scream!” out of planning travel to France. Beyond personal insights and vignettes about cities and villages, cuisine and culture; we profile specific areas, inns and elegant hotels. We shine the light on insider treasures and outdoor escapes.If you are a birdwatcher or spelunker, a surfing enthusiast or an archeologist in search of relics; we assume you have very specific interests better discovered on sites catering to the niches you worship. We embrace broader experiences.

We discover beautiful villages and seaside retreats, lively festivals and serious artisans – a potpourri perhaps of general interests for those who want to be ‘touched’ by France. Now and then, we slip in a dream-like luxury escape, not necessarily for the aloof bejeweled patron, but for adventurous travelers in search of ‘one in a lifetime’ experiences.

If you have a unique interest, question or desired destination – or if you want to share suggestions and experiences,  contact us – swsheridan@francedailyphoto.com.  We would be delighted to help you avoid endless searches and annoying pop-ups or provide other readers with your insights!

Planning the trip of your dreams requires that you ask yourself some key questions –

1. Location – Rural, as in lovely under the stars and drive 30 km to reach anything, or rural as in grand manor with everything at your fingertips? Office of Tourism sites usually provide plenty of information to help you narrow your choice.

2. Type of accommodation – “I like quaint.” Is that quaint, as in comfy 2-star with bright blue shutters, or quaint as in elegant château with personable touches?

3. Privacy or social? – Small as in 2-room, almost a member of the family, or small as in 20 rooms with your own space but the freedom to mix with international visitors?

4. Things to do – Culture, as in a museum and rampart on every other corner, or culture as in a mix of museums, historic architecture, lively local markets and resident artisans?

5. Can’t live withouts – Bathtub? Wi-Fi? Multiple restaurant choices? On site dining? Figure out your ‘musts’, so you are not disappointed.

Montilieu la Gardes Frnce

An inviting gîte near Bordeaux?

Whether I research a favorite, decidedly upscale resource like Relais & Château , an ‘in-home’ gite selection or a vacation rental; I realize I have a ‘built-in’ sifter of sorts. That ultra clean and Wi-Fi connected hotel looks like a Comfort Inn in Louisiana. Are we ready to take on that little gîte or chambre d’hôte in Bonnieux with 3 guest rooms? Do we really want ultra-frills luxury in Saint-Tropez or would we enjoy overlooking the Mediterranean from our self-catered vacation rental? Understanding what you want and need from a holiday trip to France will make your journey more rewarding.

Finally, whether you are ‘on the mark’ – or off – with your choices – whether sun or rain greets you – whether your favorite Salon de Thé is closed – embrace the experience. You are in France, after all!

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.



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Sunday in Medieval Carcassonne

Sunday brunch at l'ecurie in carcassonne france

Sunday brunch in the courtyard of l’Ecurie, Carcassonne

We want a quiet, aimless day – a day without distinct purpose in Carcassonne. Naturally, we have wandered through the upper medieval city; but today we choose the lower Cité, where we join locals strolling through colorful squares. Castle towers and ancient ramparts keep a watchful eye over Sunday visitors and the swell of the distant Pyrenees.

We head west from the l’Aude River to a delightful restaurant just outside the Bastide de Saint-Louis, and choose a table in the courtyard garden. Converted 18th-century stables make up the handsome inside of l’Ecurie, but we are surrounded by pleasant weather and bright red geraniums.

After a lazy enjoyable Languedoc meal, we are honor bound to ‘exercise’ by the grassy banks of the river… but only until a comfortable, shady spot beckons us to sit … and soak up the atmosphere.

Quiet. Aimless. Parfait. We hope your Sunday is the same.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.



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One More American in Paris

Sylvia Beach and James Joyce at Shakespeare in Paris

Chatting with James Joyce in front of her beloved Shakespeare and Company in Paris

Hemingway called it “A Moveable Feast” that stays with you for life. And who could fail to love Sabrina’s take on Paris – “This is what you do on your very first day in Paris. You get yourself, not a drizzle, but some honest-to-goodness rain, and you find yourself someone really nice and drive her through the Bois de Boulogne in a taxi. The rain’s very important. That’s when Paris smells sweetest. It’s the damp chestnut trees.”

So many Americans have found … and lost themselves in Paris, but one was fortunate to make her home at a renowned American address in the City of Light. American-born Sylvia Beach travelled throughout Europe, before opening her Shakespeare and Company bookshop and lending library on rue de l’Odéon in 1919. Could she ever have imagined regularly greeting Left Bank expats like T.S. Eliot, Ernest Hemingway and Ezra Pound? Her shop became the go-to place for French and American literary elites.

Beach would become the link between Random House and James Joyce for the American publication of Ulysses, though the American edition would not be published until 1934. Keep in mind that the controversial novel was banned in America, so publishers were not leaping at the chance to introduce Ulysses in the U.S. And we wonder why artists of any ilk suffer poverty during their lifetimes!

First the Depression, then World War II diminished her clientele, and she finally closed shop in 1941 for the duration of the war. Her autobiography, Shakespeare and Company, was published 3 years before her death in Paris in 1962; but it was a biography by Noel Riley Fitch that masterfully fleshed out the vibrant world and times of Sylvia Beach.

Historical biography of Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation of Literary Paris

The probing historical biography of Beach

Published in 1985, Professor Fitch’s Sylvia Beach and the Lost Generation: A History of Literary Paris in the Twenties and Thirties mixes hard fact and painstaking research with fanciful anecdotes to immerse us in the literary salons and intellectual mindset of ‘20’s and ‘30’s Paris. The biography aptly reflects the rich detail that makes any book engrossing for the reader, painting scenes with words that go well beyond dry, historical fact.

Yes, she is the determined, self-sacrificing woman who championed James Joyce and fought for his publication in America. But she is also the woman who dove into the Seine to rescue a floundering pet parrot, the woman who seemed to serve as housemother to all of those expats in search of their literary voices.

I once had the opportunity to gather with other aspiring writers in the comfortable living room of Sloan Wilson, esteemed author of The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit. I enjoyed my brief moment, but I stand in awe of the lifetime of intimate, stimulating exchange enjoyed by Sylvia Beach.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.



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Once Again Free on Champs-Élysées

Thousands celebrate Bretagne heritage along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Avenue des Champs-Élysées – thousands celebrate Bretagne heritage

We have enjoyed spectacular parades and festivals along the Avenue des Champs-Élysées – ‘ringing in’ the New Year with half a million revelers, lining the world-renowned avenue to celebrate the Bretagne heritage. But there was another celebration we can barely imagine.

On August 25, 1944, the French 2nd Armored Division and the U.S. 4th Infantry Division inched their way through the thousands of ecstatic French people, who lined the Champs-Élysées. Over four years had passed, since the City of Light had fallen under the dark shroud of Nazi occupation.

Imagine Paris before the Germans arrived. Talented American expats flocked to Paris in the 1920’s and ‘30’s, setting up shop in a city guaranteed to feed their creative dragons. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, Cole Porter and Josephine Baker reveled in their Parisian exploits.

But that was just a part of the American contingent. The cornucopia of beauty and spirit lured French, Russian, Italian and other international celebrities. Any creative genius who longed for stimulating culture, magnificent sights, intellectual stimulation and avant-garde productions found their way to the French capital. And then they fled.

The cloak of German occupation fell over the city. Nazi banners and signs flooded the capital. Curfews restrained the population, and the jazz scene that had permeated the metropolis was banned.

Nearly 70 years later, we can admire the renowned world capital, walk the streets of Paris and revel in the Grand Palais, the Musée D’Orsay, the Louvre and the Hôtel de Ville. We owe those sights, in part, to German General Dietrich Von Choltitz, who refused Adolf Hitler’s orders to burn Paris to the ground.

Avenue des Champs-Élysées - August 25, 1944 Paris France

The Liberation of Paris August 25, 1944

In 1966, Is Paris Burning? flooded cinemas with an almost entirely black-and-white film depicting that personal struggle about the fate of Paris. With a screenplay by Gore Vidal and Francis Ford Coppola and a virtual scattering of big-name celebrities in large and small roles, the film garnered mixed reviews yet offered a gargantuan view of the eventual liberation of Paris. Ironically, General Choltitz died just before the film was released.

It was General Charles de Gaulle who persuaded General Eisenhower to enter Paris, and though the joyful entry was not a key to winning the war, Time magazine wrote on September 4, 1944: “It was one of the great days of all time. For Paris is the city of all free mankind, and its liberation last week was one of the great events of all time.”

Naturally Ernest Hemingway offered a more creative account. He claimed to have entered Paris, taken control of the Hotel Crillon and Ritz bars and allowed the champagne to flow. Thus was Paris liberated!

If you walk along the Champs-Élysées tomorrow, look for the time-worn faces of octogenarians, who see a different ‘film’ of that day in 1944. Undoubtedly, their memories are neither clouded by time nor the comical musings of an American author.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse – Shangri La!

fontaine-de vaucluse Provence France

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in Provence

We once stayed in a small inn by the side of the French Broad River in North Carolina.  The back wall of the entire inn ended in the river below, so our fondest memory was settling in to sleep to the sound of rushing water.  I think I’ve found the ideal counterpart in Provence.

I don’t know how we missed Fontaine-de-Vaucluse in the past.  We drove from Avignon to Isle sur la Sorgue, on to Gordes and Roussillon.  The villages are all close to one another, but I guess we simply did not wander far enough afield.  No problem.  We won’t make that mistake again, because we found our earthly “Shangri La” at the HÔTEL DU POÈTE.

Where to begin?  Perhaps we’ll start with the quaint village itself, a lovely site, where the thread of the Sorgue River weaves through town and flows beneath a petite bridge with an old watermill.  The source of the river is the largest spring in all of France situated at the foot of the Vaucluse Mountains.  Windowed restaurants and shop arcades hang by the river’s edge with large, welcoming windows overlooking the water.  Hollywood couldn’t imagine such a setting, much less create it.

Cross over the bridge and up the road a bit, and you will find yourself turning off onto a long, lush drive toward the hotel and river.  Honestly, the river splits right around the property to the tune of softly flowing streams of water.  Not only is the swimming pool set right by the river’s edge, but dining tables line the riverside terrace, allowing you the most serene environment for a light breakfast.

Hotel du Poete - hotel de charme in the Luberon

The comforts of HÔTEL DU POÈTE

The   owners of the three-star hotel chose to transform the old mill into a very   special retreat for guests.  Simple   hospitality is their trademark, where they offer 24 rooms and junior suites, each   tastefully and uniquely furnished with refined style and surrounded by garden   and river landscapes.  As you might   expect, each room is named for a muse – “Au fil de l’eau”, “Chant d’Automne”, le Clos du Poète.

We’ll plan our trip for a time well after the tourists have returned to the city for walks along the white water rapids and still waters, for visits to museums and markets, for purchases of santons and brightly-colored Provençal tissus. And for that ever-present touch of history, we’ll wander by the old Gallo-Roman canal built by Constantine in the 4th century.

If you visit Fontaine-de-Vaucluse before we do, please drop us a line.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC.  All rights reserved.

A White Aerie Above Lyon

le  Collège Hôtel Vieux Lyon

Arched window –  our “home” at Le Collège Hôtel Vieux Lyon

Regular readers of France Daily Photo know that I am enamored with stylish French décor, the mix of color and rich texture, old wood and contemporary design. When we travel, whether we ‘tighten the belt’ and opt for a perfectly acceptable two-star hotel or throw open the doors to a “let’s splurge” four- or five-star hotel; we enjoy the unique style of each accommodation.

You might imagine, then, my surprise at one of our stays in Lyon. A business associate recommended Hôtel Le Collège on Place Saint Paul in Vieux Lyon. It was ideally located, just a block from the curve of the Saône River at the north end of the old city.

My husband checked in and went ahead to the room, and I soon followed. First, he pointed out the old coke machine in the hall near our room. “Look, free soft drinks and water…and a place to store wine,” he said. Was he stalling, or was I imagining things? He opened the room and stepped back. I walked into an entirely white room – well, perhaps, 95% white. Crisp and clean. Fluffy white linens. White “lockers” for closets (in keeping with the ‘school’ theme – even our entry door number was written on a small school slate.

Airy white boudoir in College Hotel Lyon

Lovely arched window – College Hotel Lyon

Whatever his concern, I embraced the ‘difference’ and felt like we had booked a room just this side of heaven. A lovely arched window with French doors opened onto our narrow balcony overlooking winding cobbled street, and the Notre Dame Basilica on Fourviere Hill. And after traveling on overnight trains and staying in hotels with miniature bathrooms with showers, I opened the door to a bathroom fit for pristine angels – white tiled with a double window and large oval tub – c’est magnifique!

Beyond the unique and quite comfortable décor, our ideal location allowed us to step out the door to wander the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon, to take in a petite breakfast; while watching delivery trucks edge their way along seemingly impossible little passages. We explored old book shops and climbed Fourvier Hill, walked by the Saône and crossed to Presqu’île and Place Bellecours.

View of Fourvier Hill and Cathedral from Lyon Hotel

View of Fourvier Hill and Cathedral

Just a few of our holiday highlights, they don’t begin to capture the charm, history and hands-down fabulous cuisine of Lyon. As always, you are wise to consult with the Office of Tourism, http://www.en.lyon-france.com when planning your visit for tours, maps, suggested itineraries and special places to visit.

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

Copyright © 2005-2012, LuxeEuro, LLC. All rights reserved.

The “Science” of Villers-sur-Mer

Dinosaur topiary at Villers-sur-mer's Office of Tourism - home to Paleospace

Office of Tourism topiary dinosaurs in Villers-sur-mer

Seaside panoramas and Gallo-Roman history may draw you to Villers-sur-Mer, but you will be surprised at the rich scientific discoveries in this commune just a short distance from Deauville on the coast of Normandy. Perhaps, your first hint will be the grande topiary dinosaurs facing the sea at the Office of Tourism. They even add a baby dinosaur to the lot on occasion!

Why the affection for dinosaurs? A combination of geography and history is the simple answer. The Vaches Noire cliffs begin at Villers-sur-Mer, a site rich in the discovery of fossils and a universal magnet for fossil specialists. But before we delve into the fascinating exhibitions at Paléospace l’Odyssée, let’s digress for a moment to another noteworthy site in the small ville.

Imagine – you are visiting a charming town along the sea that happens to be precisely located at the intersection of the Meridian line of Greenwich. Some 250 years ago, scientists sought a method of measuring longitude. The Greenwich Meridian was established as a universal reference point for space and time.

Stand on the prominent marker overlooking the English Channel, and you will be at longitude 0. Step across, and you cross from the east of the planet to the west. And if you are there at noon in universal time, you will see the sun at its zenith. For all of us who may run our lives with the help of digital clocks and watches, this precision is fascinating!

Dinosaur Exhibit - Paléospace l'Odyssée - Normandy

Bonjour Jurassic! Dinosaur Exhibit – Paléospace l’Odyssée – Normandy

Enter the museum Paléospace l’Odyssée, and – sans Spielberg – you will travel back to the Jurassic age! Over 160 million years ago, Normandy lay beneath a warm sea; and with creative and interactive reconstructions, Paléospace returns you to the era of towering predators.

Many fossils were unearthed around the ‘Falaises des Vaches Noires’ (The Cliff of Black Cows): 30-feet-long pliosaurs, ichthyosaurs, salt-water crocodiles, ammonites… and the remains of dinosaurs! And, by the way, the site is particularly stimulating for children. Located by the marshes, beach and cliffs, Paléospace also sheds light on the coastal marshlands.

Now we will flip forward a few years to the 13th century, when men adapted to the coastal marsh and cultivated the land to rear cattle. That development led to the unique wetland marshes and ric