As many of you know my husband and I holidayed in France late this spring. We had a great trip. We had a few panicky minutes when we got lost after having to take a detour away from our destination (Avis car rental) in Tours. There was a demonstration against the French government’s proposed change to the pension age but travel to France wouldn’t be the same without encountering at least one demonstration.
After the first three days spent in Paris we headed towards the Loire Valley and stayed at a chateau by the name of Chateau Jallenges. It is a 15th century chateau owned by a family who have been restoring it for the last 25 years! It is located just outside of the town of Vouvray- a wonderful tiny town with amazing architecture and natural setting. We stayed here for two nights and enjoyed every minute of it. I spent a couple of very pleasant hours in the great room with my camera, sketchbook and a glass of wine.
We booked Chateau Jallenges through Expedia and it cost us 150 Euros per night. It was a bargain considering our room included a separate entrance hall, a bedroom with a draped overhead canopy, a living room , a second bedroom, a bath room, and a toilet room. All had antique furniture and each room had a view of the vineyards, the Renaissance gardens and chapel.
Apart from the week we spent in Paris we spent a good part of our time in the Loire Valley and visited some amazing chateaus. We saw Chenonceau, Chambord, Azay le Rideau and Villandry – the latter being famous for its gardens. We went to wine tastings and bought lots of local wines for very little money. Lunch was often some pate, french baguette, cheese, fruit and a glass of the local wine or bottled water.
We drove all week on winding, well paved roads that were almost empty of traffic. In Rocamadour we went to a cheese festival where we feasted on goat (chevre cheese) and watched a carver sculpt a large tree with a chain saw. Rocamadour is a town that was built along the cliff of a mountain in the Perigord region of France. We visited underground caves not far from there too.
Wevisited Montmorillon which is a town that bases its tourist draw on books – of all kinds. On the way there we got lost and passed through Martel which is a wonderfully preserved Medieval town. It was Sunday morning so we went to the church services in their cathedral. Yes, in French and Latin. It brought back childhood memories.
In Paris we visited the museums we had not seen the last time we were there like the Pompidou. Of course we had to go back to the Louvre but the highlight of that part of the trip was going to the Musee des Arts Decoratifs. Oh my God – the furniture, the rooms, the accessories from the last 900 years boggled my mind.
I took many pictures with my digital camera with the idea of using them when I teach the History of Furniture this fall.
We visited the Sacre Coeur and climbed the steps to the top. The picture at left is looking down over Paris. We also went to the services at Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame churches and went to their services – for old times sake. We went to the Cluny Museum where the famous Lady and the Unicorn Tapestries are displayed. They are in amazing condition and the colours are brilliant.
We watched artists paint en plein air in Montmartre and saw the famous Moulin Rouge. We walked, and walked and walked some more. We visited the St Ouen flea market which is the largest antique market in the world – it is 15 acres in size! (read blog on the flea market)
I haven’t mentioned food. No one prepares food like the French. No one. And the food is so unbelievably reasonable in price. I am not talking about cheap MacDonald meals or fast food – I mean good food. The most expensive meal we had was 49 Euros. It consisted of 5 courses – including items like truffles, foie gras, and chevre cheese, and excellent cuts of meat. Where in Canada or the US can you get a beautifully displayed, high quality meal with 5 courses for approximately $65 per person?
My husband is a foodie. He spends time reading food blogs and read about Laduree Macaroons in Paris. We walked to their shop all the way from the Pompidou Museum (a very long walk – trust me). I couldn’t understand what the attraction was – why did people line up 15 to 20 deep just to get one product? That was, until I tasted them. We bought 10 of these delightfully coloured, melt-in-your-mouth macaroons in an “Alice Box”. I thought this was a plain box (although if you saw their packaging you would not call it plain). It tuned out to be a box decorated with an “Alice in Wonderland” type of character and when we opened it later I realized it was a music box. It’s my favorite souvenir of Paris – even without the contents!
Going to France was wonderful. I’d love to hear some of your own experiences – both good and bad too so drop me a line.