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The stokebaileys practice their French from Sete to Paris, take a brisk leap into London, and dip their toes into Dublin. Sept. 06.

The stokebaileys practice their French from Sete to Paris, take a brisk leap into London, and dip their toes into Dublin. Sept. 06.

Oct 16th, 2006, 08:49 AM
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topping so more Fodorites can enjoy this!
cabovacation is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 07:13 PM
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cigalechanta, I'm glad we both got our Opinels in Aigues-Mortes. I wonder whether they were from the same cutlery shop, a block straight past the old city gate? Sharp, lightweight, handy; you can't beat them. I actually bought two things in Paris with you in mind, a Chanel lipstick for my big splurge, and Intralgis ibuprofen at the pharmacy.

GLUGES TO SARLAT AND LASCAUX II, AND TOURAINE BY DARK: We enjoyed strolling around the Tuilerie grounds and Gluges, and lingered half the morning spinning pipe dreams about which house we’d buy. Gluges turned out to be Bob’s favorite village in France, but my own ideal town would be big enough to have two boulangers/patissieres (to keep each other on their toes) and an outdoor market

As we finally left Gluges, I remembered the reason we’d wanted to make an early start: Lascaux II closes for lunch. We decide to have lunch in Sarlat, then head for Lascaux. We drove through more glorious countryside, past quarries of ochre building stone, and got to Sarlat around noon.

The DK guidebook describes Sarlat’s Place de la Republique as nondescript, but that’s only in comparison to the wonderful winding medieval streets to the north of it. Apparently Sarlat chose the right side in 100 Years War, and the ancient ochre walls were allowed to stand.

We picked up chocolate-enrobed walnuts on Rue des Consuls and some fruit at the covered market, and looked for a place outside to eat lunch. In the open place we saw two sidewalk restaurants side by side, one crowded and the other deserted. We chose the empty one because it had familiar poulet aux frites as plat du jour. It turned out there was a reason everyone avoided that one. Huh! Who’d have guessed? Frites in France aren’t worth the calories anyway.

Bob walked the long way back to the car, imagining what it would have been like in the old days, with tight social fabric and slops being thrown from windows. The girls and I spent our time looting an apple tree in a schoolyard along the pathway, and the stolen fruit tasted sweet.

We found Montignac and the little church where Lascaux II tickets are sold off season, got tickets for the English tour. Our guide was a young woman who seemed to have a poetic feeling for the cave paintings, and to care deeply about them; her commentary added to the magic of the cave. It occurred to me that she might well be a descendent of the original artists. The paintings are powerful, and the effect was not diminished by knowing they were reproductions.

We were there Sept. 10, two days shy of anniversary of its discovery by the 4 young men. One of them, now in his 80’s, was expected to come back as he usually does on Sept.12. The cave is on a tree-covered hillside, and would have been a fine place for boys to ramble on a fall day.

Back on the autoroute heading north, the terrain gets progressively less interesting through the Massif Central. We got off at Chateauroux and headed west, through the Brenne National Park, where the trees canopy the road, to our gite at Chaumussay.
stokebailey is offline  
Oct 18th, 2006, 05:18 AM
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Stokebailey, I was so pleased to find another segment! I think you had the same lovely, knowledgeable, young guide at Lascaux as we did. She really added to the experience. And what a great field trip for your away-from-home-schooled daughters! Travelling is such great education and we're never too old to learn.
moolyn is offline  
Oct 21st, 2006, 06:11 PM
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Now that the Cardinals are in the World Series I can relax a little.

WE LOVED OUR GITE: Guy and Colette Houdayer and their family have transformed a 15th/16th century outbuilding into a gite www.lavillate.new.fr that is a living work of art. M. Houdayer is a cabinetmaker, and put in the 18th c. boiserie downstairs. The bedroom walls upstairs are covered with fresh toile fabric, and the whole place was spotless and beautiful. All the appliances and furnishings are well-thought-out and of good quality, the mattresses noiseless and comfortable.
We used the pool a lot at the beginning of the week, and the fireplace by the end. We couldn’t have been happier with the place.

We chose this gite because of the attractive website, because we wanted to visit a few chateaux yet be off the beaten Loire path, and because they offered to loan us bicycles. My main concern had been that our hosts would be more comfortable speaking to us in English, but luckily theirs was quite rusty. Maybe they’re better with reading and writing the other language (and occasionally cheating with Google Language Tools), as I am.

M. was off the next morning for a week’s job in Deauville, and Mme. (as we continued to refer to her) was helpful and unobtrusive. She had left us a basket full of zucchini and unbelievably good tomatoes, the kind shaped like chile peppers, from her garden, along with a bottle each of local apple juice and sparkling wine. The first morning, we found a bag of croissants hanging on the doorknob.

The countryside around there is hilly, well-ordered farmland mostly, just the kind that appeals to my inner peasant. Farmers hustled to get their crops in before the end-of-week rains, and grapes hung heavy on the vines. Fruitful, mellow beauty everywhere.

It was a steep km down to Chaumussay on our bikes, and an even steeper one up. This small village was full of flowers, in window boxes and gardens. There’s a stone bridge over the Claise. Other towns within close --but hilly --bike distance are le Petit-Pressigny and Preuilly-sur-Claise.

The most stranger-friendly nearby town was la Roche-Posay, about 15 km away. The waters there are curative for skin diseases, and people come stay for a cure that lasts weeks. There are outside markets 3 days a week, hotels, bars, an SNCF station, at least two patissieres, and a donjon in the walled medieval city. One morning at the start of a Handel festival there, we stood outside in the rain by the open door of the donjon and listened as a young woman inside practiced Bach on a cello.

We encountered almost no one in the area who spoke English, beyond the occasional few words. One merchant asked where I was from, and when I said Etats-Unis he asked, “California?” I should have just said, yes, Hollywood, and made his day.

stokebailey is offline  
Oct 27th, 2006, 01:28 PM
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WE LOVED THE COUNTRYSIDE. People have lived there surrounded by natural beauty since long before Lascaux I. Roses grow everywhere: large, puffy, fragrant. The connection to the land and the love of beauty and good food make sense when you’re in the country.

While I’m making sweeping generalizations about the French, we found them generally charming to deal with, dignified, pleasant. When you speak to them, they look at you attentively. I got the impression that women are regarded with respect in France.

CHATEAUX: We wanted to see at least one Renaissance and one medieval chateau. One day we drove 30 minutes on back roads to Loches for the morning, and then another 30 minutes further to Chenenceau for the afternoon. Chenenceau was more beautiful, but I liked Loches better; maybe because Loches was far less crowded, or maybe in Chenenceau we had a touch of chateau fatigue. Both chateaux have interesting King’s mistress histories.

Agnes Sorel is entombed in the church at Loches, recumbent in stone with angels at her head and feet; dim and inaccessible. In the chateau there hang a couple of her one-bare-breast portraits, including an amazing one of her as Virgin with Child, surrounded by red and blue angels. You look at Charles VII’s portrait and feel that he was a bit of a dweeb.

Joan of Arc visited Charles there when he was Dauphin. When we entered the chateau, a tour guide was speaking in French to a small group, and asked if we cared to join. Bob told her we spoke English, and she sent us off to enjoy our visit. As I eavesdropped on her lecture, it suddenly came to me that England and France have had issues for quite awhile now, and I felt like one of THEM. I wished I could somehow convey I’M ON YOUR SIDE IN THE HUNDRED YEARS’ WAR.

The older Donjon that shares the hilltop was once part of the Plantagenets’ stomping grounds and was used as a prison until 1926. You can climb high into the keep, peer through arrow slits, see the fireplace where Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry II may have propped their feet. I stole a ripe blackberry from the Plantagenet Garden.

In Chenenceau we entered the mainstream of international tourism, and justly so: it is a grand and gorgeous sight. On a beautiful Wednesday afternoon in September, there were crowds of people moving around the rooms speaking many different languages. Diane de Poitiers was the interesting king’s mistress here, and another eager and beautiful sitter for portraits. You can imagine her pain at being evicted.

We loved looking out the windows of the gallery at the river below, and we especially loved the kitchens. By this time, Bob had bought his own camera (to be resold any day now on eBay) because there were too many beautiful sights he had to record. I’m glad he got shots of the gleaming copper pans, hanging herbs, baskets of fragrant peppers. My people would have been down there wringing the goose’s neck, not upstairs eating fois gras.

stokebailey is offline  
Oct 27th, 2006, 03:24 PM
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You might enjoy the book written about Diana de Poitiers and C Medici written by someone who was a descendant of both. Darn, can't remember the title right now--maybe "The moon and the serpent" ??

Did you eat the blackberry? I have a small pine cone from Gordes and one from Moustiers. Hope that's not stealing!
hopingtotravel is offline  
Oct 27th, 2006, 04:07 PM
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The blackberry tasted fine, and I didn't share. Technically it is stealing, so I glanced around first. I like the pine cone idea, too.

Thanks for book tip; will look for it!
stokebailey is offline  
Nov 2nd, 2006, 06:17 PM
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No, it wasn’t all roses and café au lait. There were a few rocky spots.

Traveling as we were with a family group, we had the occasional petty squabbles, the sullen silences and pouting. The girls, however, got along very well.

It took us awhile to adjust to the Monday and midday closings, though we approve of them in theory. Our first Monday, as we waited for the Super U to open at 2:30, we cooled our heels at an outdoor restaurant in Descartes overlooking Rene’s statue, listening to a local character yell continually as he circled the block on his motorcycle.
At the Super U, a man loudly berated his wife from the butcher case all the way through the store and out the front door. We spent most of that afternoon in search of provisions; the girls missed out on prime pool time, and Bob was feeling less enchanted with the local towns than those in the South.

Once back at the gite, we grilled our lamb brochettes, relaxed by the pool, listened to the owls in the pine grove, and felt a lot better about things.

Our hostess at the Gite is a restauranteur; I asked her opinion of local eateries, with the intention of having one good meal while in the country. The “bon, bon, bon restaurant” she recommended was Le Pavillon in Le Petit Pressigny. On a bicycle outing to that village, the girls and I read the menu posted out front of the closed restaurant. The most expensive option, tasting menu, was 70 euros, and nothing on the board appealed to them. The rest of the week they referred to it as the 70 euro place, and I realized my options were to give up le Pavillon or go alone. I gave it up.

Biking through Chaumussay, we saw two apple trees next to the road heavy with fruit. I stopped to smell and admire them, but I wouldn’t have picked someone private person’s apples; I do have my code. Just then an old man called out from his house across the road, apparently recognizing a hardened fruit thief when he saw one. I shook his hand, told him in French that I didn’t understand what he said, and he pointed out “les tombees” that I was welcome to. I filled my pockets while my family hung back in an innocent manner.

My favorite fruit tree was the pear at the driveway of our gite. Yellowjackets made a continual hum around the base. The ripe fallen fruit, sautéed in butter with a touch of sugar, were delicious.

stokebailey is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2006, 03:06 AM
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Belated congratulations on your Cardinals!

Your report brought back memories of a wonderful afternoon and evening my daughter and I spent at Chenenceau. Did you stay for the light show?

Midday closings can be a nuisance but, on the whole, we found that the traditional lunch time worked to our advantage as we could tour unimpeded while everyone was eating.

moolyn is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2006, 04:00 AM
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What a wonderful trip report! I am going to spend the day filled with images of stolen fruit.
Nikki is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2006, 06:34 AM
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bookmarking to read later.
samsmom1127 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2006, 07:02 PM
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Moolyn, the light show at Chenenceau was weekends only by mid-Sept. I'd love to see that someday.
And thanks about the Cardinals. It just cheers the whole city up so much to win the occasional World Series, especially when we assumed we'd get slammed for sure.

Thanks, all, who've skimmed this so far.

THE MEGANE: With M.Raynal from La Tuilerie’s help, we determined that the unlockable car hatch had all along been locking itself automatically when the key and fob were removed a certain distance from the car. All that time we had stood next to the car, perplexed, with the key in our hands that made it impossible to lock.

AZAY LE FERON: On our last rainy day in the country, we decided to visit the nearby chateau at Azay-le-Feron. www.chateau-azay-le-ferron.com We arrived just at the beginning of a tour for two German men, using common language English. Our guide was a charming, enthusiastic woman who pointed out the tapestries, furniture, paintings, and curiosities of the 18 open rooms. The chateau was in private hands from the 15th century until the 1950’s, when they apparently ran out of heirs who could afford to run the place. This was a lovely place, with a fine park and topiary garden.

DOLMEN: We had searched that morning for Roman ruins and megalithic near La Roche-Posay, but had left the Michelin atlas home and weren’t able to pinpoint the spot. Leaving Azay-le-Feron in search of another megalithic site, we drove northwest through more beautiful rolling countryside, counted roads corresponding with those on the map, turned up a steep hill, and dead-ended at what was now obviously someone’s driveway. Suspicious dog and then similar man came out of the house, and as architect of the scheme I was elected to hop out and discuss it with him. His expression became a shade less wary when he understood what we wanted, and he pointed us further down the road.

The dolmen is a few km east of le Petit-Pressigny, on top of a high hill in what is now the middle of nowhere, a few farmhouses nearby. A path leads from the small parking lot down the ridge to another age. One huge flat stone, with another at its end standing vertically, and a third propped to make a large stone right triangle. How, and why?

MISTAKEN FOR FRENCH: One other countryside thrill for the girls and me was when a British couple approached us on the street in La Roche-Posay and asked us in French where the tourist board was. I replied in French that we were American, to imply we were also clueless. The gentleman then said he meant it as a compliment, but we LOOKED French. Well, we try. All our careful wardrobe considering pays off.

AND OFF TO PARIS: All week the girls had been cautioning me not to trust our Paris apartment landlord, who had offered to meet us in Versailles and transport our luggage to Paris. It seemed too kind, somehow, and all we knew about him was his website: www.vrbo.com/30329 and some well-written emails. It seems an unlikely way to make a living, though, going to all the trouble of setting up with VRBO just to purloin peoples’ personal effects. So we took him up on it.

Farewell to our beautiful gite, and to the goat farms and orchards of southern Touraine. We buzzed north along the autoroute through the much more boring landscape of the Loire valley, and followed our noses to the Europecar office in Versailles. The office is quite small, and I was glad I hadn’t counted on asking them to stash our mound of bags. M. Didier Prod’homme met us with his van and his beautiful young wife and 2 small boys, on their way to a doctor’s appointment, we loaded him up, he gave us detailed instructions about what trains to take into the city and where to meet him, and he drove away.

VERSAILLES: I was prejudiced against Versailles, since massive ego trips in general get on my nerves; my sympathies lie somewhere between the overpampered royalty and the Revolutionary mob with pikes.

I would rather have stayed outside the palace and sketched, saved a few euros. By the time we got there, though, buying a ticket and going inside seemed to thing to do. The lines were huge, so after we got tickets we headed towards the archway on the left and Mesdames and Dauphin’s wing. 30 min later, the huge lines had almost vanished.

The main tour areas seemed stuffy, overheated, overblown. I really liked the chapel and the theater, though. They are working on the Hall of Mirrors, and there’s an impressive trompe l’oeil effect to disguise the construction: using, of all things, mirrors, they make it appear that you are looking down the entire length of the hall.

I did get some sketching of the garden done when we split up and headed to areas of interest. The girls couldn’t be tempted to take the tram to Petit Trianon, because it cost extra and they didn’t want to make us late for our train.

stokebailey is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 04:17 AM
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Stokebailey, I just reread your entire report. You write so well!

Too bad you were rushed at Versailles and couldn’t see the outbuildings which are far less crowded. Our son and daughter especially enjoyed Marie Antoinette’s Petite Hameau. Me too. Too cute!

Even though I’m a former kindergarten teacher I’m a fan of home schooling. My three nieces were able to spend September and October in Canada because they are home schooled. Of course, since their “teacher” accompanied them, they had to do some lessons while they were here. They were also able to see a professional performance of the Crucible, on the curriculum of the middle one, something they couldn’t have done at home in Costa Rica.
moolyn is offline  
Nov 12th, 2006, 07:03 AM
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I am really enjoying your report. "As architect of the scheme..." and "I AM ON YOUR SIDE..." and other fine turns of phrase made this a wonderful read. I'm anxious to read about your adventures in Paris. Merci!
Danna is offline  
Nov 21st, 2006, 05:39 PM
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Thanks, Moolyn and Danna, for your encouraging words. Our girls' Crucible performance in Oct. was a big success, though hard for me to watch my baby as Abigail, head witch accuser.

I'll fast forward a bit here, now we're on more well-trodden Parisian ground, and keep the rest for my memoirs.

LA VILLE LUMIERE: WE LOVE THE 15th. Our 3rd (or 4th) floor walkup apartment is on a quiet street directly south of Rue Lecourbe, and was just fine for us. It was inexpensive, quiet at night, located in a wholesome residential neighborhood, and there were plenty of good shops nearby.
Windows in the kitchen, living room, and bedroom overlook a quiet and leafy courtyard. The Eiffel Tower peeps over the building opposite; you can lie in bed and watch it twinkle for 10 minutes on the top of the hour. The bed was comfortable, and the sleeper couch had two mattresses to be taken apart, the upper placed on the living room floor; was comfortable enough. We never felt cramped. We had use of computer with internet, and telephone.

The kitchen was adequate for the little cooking we chose to do, decently stocked and with a microwave, hot pot, coffeemaker, oven. With the nearby Asian and Greek traiteurs for carryout, and wonderful bakeries, fromageries, and fruit stands, we could make a great meal with little effort. There’s a horse butcher around the corner, and a fish shop.

It’s a family neighborhood, with a park and petanque club across the street. Parents walk their children to school, holding hands and conversing.

Three metro lines run fairly nearby. Our landlord suggested for our first Saturday evening that we take the metro to Saint-Georges on Montmartre, walk to Sacre-Coeur to see the city lights, then home by Abbesses metro (just days before it was closed.) I agreed reluctantly to this plan, since everyone knows you should first head to the Seine when in Paris.

On the metro I ended up sitting in the middle of a cheerful and rowdy bunch of German workmen, bottles in hand. My favorite, who had the most comical expressions and seemed to be having the most fun, held a tall can of Desperados beer. I treasure my short ride with those guys.

I was so glad we didn’t stay in Montmartre. Maybe it was because I missed the quiet and lovely countryside, but the impression that evening was too raw. Some highly painted ladies of the evening spoke to Bob near Place Pigalle, then realized he already had plenty of females in tow. I grumbled a bit all the way up the stairs by the Funiculaire, then at the top was underwhelmed by the view. Bob suggested we try the church, and when we entered it all became worthwhile: we were surrounded by female voices, nuns singing in pure, heavenly tones.
stokebailey is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2006, 06:48 AM
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stokebailey, you were wise to stay in the 15th rather than Montmartre.

In case you're interested, I've finally finished my Dordogne report!
moolyn is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2006, 02:28 PM
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moolyn, I'd love to try to duplicate your adventures sometime, and have been reading them with a lot of pleasure. Love the woad shop.
stokebailey is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 03:45 PM
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--Sunday morning, guided by Fodorite tip, we took the Metro to St.-Medard church at the foot of Rue Mouffetard. Inside, dark lovely church, Bach Air on G String and wonderful choir. Outside, lively accordion sing-along and dancing. Quel dilemme. Do both, if you have the chance. Men and women, no longer young but exuding joie de vivre, dance together in the street. Song sheets get passed around. My girls edged away when they saw that I might be about to embarrass them with public rendition of Edith Piaf song. I have been known, in crowd settings, to sing national anthem with too much gusto for their taste. Well, je ne regrette rien.

On Rue du Pot de Fer, up the market street, the waiters stand outside using charm and flattery, angling for the crucial first customers who will attract others. We finally decided on the Provencal place just off Rue Mouffetard, and were very happy with our meal. We felt sorry for the Indian restaurant across the lane that never did attract anyone.

--Mostly we ate cheaply but well, picking up something like gyros or falafel at the Latin Quarter, eating on steps alongside the Seine. This was not my chance to be a foodie in Paris.

On the day the girls were off shopping, Bob and I had lunch outside at Le Petit St.-Benoit in the 6th. I had a very tasty brandade de morue, and the waitress persuaded Bob to order the other plat du jour, tete de veau; she told us, with enthusiasm, that it was Jacques Chirac’s favorite dish. Maybe it had sentimental associations, like Sunday dinner chez Grandma Chirac. Everything else was really good. It’s a pleasant walk from there from Musee d’Orsay.

We also had a nice meal at Galerie 88, in the Marais near the Seine, with Moroccan influenced food.

-- On Monday, we got our cartes oranges and used them a lot, got our money’s worth even though only used them for 5.5 days. It was good to be able to jump onto buses and flash the pass at the driver. We also got a 3-day museum pass, worth it in my opinion if just for the thrill of walking past long lines.

--We used the bus, mostly, in preference to the Metro, for the joy of looking out the windows. One morning I underestimated the time it would take by bus to Printemps for a fashion show. We were stuck in traffic and missed the first 15 min; would have been better off that time taking the Metro.
stokebailey is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 05:58 AM
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stokebailey, you bring back pleasant memories of the year my family exchanged homes with a family in Lyon then spent a few days afterwards in Paris. Sometimes my daughter and I went somewhere arty like the Picasso while my husband and son did something grisly like the sewers or catacombs; sometimes my husband and I went out together while the kids did something else. But we all went to the Musee d’Orsay together.
moolyn is offline  
Nov 29th, 2006, 06:30 PM
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Thanks, moolyn,
Isn't that a fine museum? I love the view from the terrace near the cafe. Sacre-Coeur gets dim as the clouds block the sunlight, then glows again when the clouds move on.
stokebailey is offline  
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