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TR: A book lover, solo in PARIS and beyond...

TR: A book lover, solo in PARIS and beyond...

Old Jul 4th, 2012, 04:51 AM
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MSM sounds iffy for those with breathing issues? Continued nice TR, thanks!
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Old Jul 4th, 2012, 05:30 AM
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Thanks, ParisAmsterdam, for your tip about ST. Etienne church. Can't wait to go to Paris!!! Will be there in less than 4 weeks!
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Old Jul 4th, 2012, 07:10 AM
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Hi Kelsey,

Thanks for your continued interest – almost done. I do not read much fiction but there are many threads on Fodors with suggestions for historical novels set in Paris and environs.

I would suggest DANCING TO THE PRECIPICE: THE LIFE OF LUCIE DE LA TOUR, EYEWITNESS TO AN ERA by Caroline Morehead (a very accessible writer). Her mother was a lady-in-waiting to MARIE ANTOINETTE. Lucie witnessed the “before and after” of the Bourbon fall, the Reign of Terror, the Napoleonic era, the return of the Bourbons etc. At one point she even came to American. A survivor through thick and thin, most of this account comes from her own diary/notes.

Of course, there is always David McCullough’s THE GREATER JOURNEY: AMERICANS IN PARIS 1830-1900. In fact, I could make more sense out of French history from this narrative, particularly the Revolution of 1848, the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, and the disaster of the Commune which followed than from any history book.

Have fun planning your trip..
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Old Jul 4th, 2012, 12:46 PM
  #124  
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TDudette, you’re right it would be “iffy” to climb the 300 staris to Mont Saint Michele abbey for those with breathing issues.

However, you don’t have to climb up to the church (for which you need a ticket). You could stroll around the lower town at leisure. However, in high season it’s extremely crowded – remember the 3 million plus a year who visit.

Realistically speaking, MSM would be a challenge to those with mobility problems. Just getting across the causeway for one thing. Also, not all the stairs had proper railings either. But it is a great place to visit…
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Old Jul 4th, 2012, 04:11 PM
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Thank you so much - will be searching them out!
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Old Jul 4th, 2012, 07:36 PM
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Dear latedaytraveler,

What a pleasure to share your trip through France.

A Francophile myself, I am always interested in ideas for reading and this thread is full of them.

I just found out I'll spend my 25th anniversary in Paris and I am already thrilled and in anticipation.

One summer a few years back my history buff high school aged daughter and I visited Normandy and the beaches, the Peace Museum and MSM. What a wonderful and informative trip. Did you stop to see the tapestry? I confess I have not read every word here.

Thank you for a wonderful trip report - I will be re-reading and making notes for my summer reading list!!

gruezi
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Old Jul 4th, 2012, 07:39 PM
  #127  
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Kwoo, how long will you be in Paris? If you are interested in the HEMINGWAY PARIS WALKS, it is held on Friday at 10:30.

If you are unable to make that, you can check out many other scenes from MIDNIGHT IN PARIS on your own.

Have a great time…
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Old Jul 5th, 2012, 03:42 AM
  #128  
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WEDNESDAY, JUNE 13

THE LOIRE VALLEY to BLOIS

The next morning I hurried down the road to the causeway to get a last look at MONT SAINT MICHELE, shrouded in morning mist, yet majestic. Now we were leaving Normandy and entering Brittany. This was a traveling day – roughly 250 miles to reach Chateaux Country and our 2 night stopover at Blois.

Why so many chateaux? The Hundred Years War 1337-1453 (dates vary) was basically a bloody, protracted struggle between France and England and their surrogates stemming from their contradictory claims of sovereignty and inheritance dating back to the Battle of Hastings. We will not attempt to untangle the byzantine complexities of those noble families competing for power including the Capets, Anjous, Burgundians, and Valois. Result – the Kings of France retreated from the coast to the fertile Loire Valley during this time where they built their splendid chateaux.


The first structures were basically fortifications. But as the threat of invasion diminished over time, they became more elegant, akin to the “stately homes” of Britain. Of course, “when the French kings began constructing their huge châteaux here, the nobility, not wanting or even daring to be far from the seat of power, followed suit.” Voila- chateaux everywhere! Philippe said that many are now privately owned by old industrial families who can afford to maintain them.


Our first stop was CHATEAUBRIANT, small town dominated by an imposing fortress styled chateau now used as a professional building. Wednesday was their market day so we perused the many stalls with all manner of fresh produce, cheeses, meat, and fish. We even saw a few goats and sheep for sale. In one of the booths I bought one of those new crinkly scarves – “mille fleur” violets on light grey – very pretty. The French love scarves and wear them so well, including the men.


Lunch stop – ANGERS, a lovely town which I dubbed “mini Paris” because of its Haussman like architecture and street layout- albeit with 3-4 story buildings instead of 6-8 stories a la Paris. Naturally, there was also an enormous chateau, currently under renovation. The center has numerous up-scale shops and eateries. Philippe said that many townspeople commute to Paris daily on the TVG, about a 1 ½ hour ride. The weather that day was fine for strolling. Soon I found myself at the impressive Angers Cathedral, build in the 12th and 13th centuries, a blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles. I lit a candle and enjoyed the quiet solitude for a bit.


Back to reality and time to exchange some dollars for euros, I visited the ANGERS TOURISM OFFICE. Another couple from our group was ahead of me – they were really confused sorting out their dollars and euros. The young lady at the deck was most accommodating and, with her limited English, told them that she was sorry but her office could not accept $50s or $100s. Another member of the group was kind enough to give me five twenties for a hundred for my transaction.


I know that this is a hot button issue. Bottom line – you always lose when exchanging money, n’est-ce pas? What shocked me and the others was the French tax on these exchanges. But then, out into the sunshine, and on our way to Blois.


That Wednesday night we had an “optional” dinner at LE RELAIS DE LA TOUR, “Gite de Charme en Val de Loire” at La Chaussee St. Victor not far from Blois. Philippe told us that the owners, Annie and Andre Fortier, had bought the structure decades ago when it was a dilapidated farmhouse with an ancient stone tower on the property. Through hard work and dedication they had transformed the place into a charming restaurant and gite. Annie collects rustic antiques which are displayed throughout the restaurant and gardens. Andre has an assortment of vintage cars which were fun to check out after dinner.


The restaurant is no longer open every day for dinner, Philippe explained, but the Fortiers do cater to larger groups such as ours. The previous day we were give a menu from which to choose a “starter” (5), “main course” (3), and dessert (5). Everything is farm fresh and made order, including the ice cream.


I started with “terrine aux foies de volailles et confiture d”oignon,” in a word, “chicken liver pate with pistachios and onion jam” – rich but excellent. For a main course I chose (I will spare you the French) “duckling with three fruits in cream sauce with green pepper.” I found this a bit heavy (cream sauce does not like me) but the fruits, all home preserved including plums, were good. Finished off with “chocolate profiteroles” – something like a hot fudge sundae. What’s not to love?


And let’s not forget the red wine and a final stroll around this charming property before bidding each other “bon soir.”
The next day – on to the chateaux…
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Old Jul 5th, 2012, 04:36 AM
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Sigh...
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Old Jul 5th, 2012, 06:06 AM
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Where were you and the others changing USD for Euros? There is no tax on a transaction at an ATM which is almost always the lowest cost as well.
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Old Jul 5th, 2012, 08:25 AM
  #131  
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Hi TDudette, thank for hanging in. Surprised at how long this took.


Hi Paris/Amsterdam, we were in the TOURIST BUREAU in the city of Angers on our way to Blois.


I only changed $100 to be sure I had euros for tips etc. as we neared the end of the trip. Maybe it was a city tax, not sure.
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Old Jul 7th, 2012, 04:08 PM
  #132  
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THURSDAY, JUNE 14

LOIRE VALLEY EXCURSION TO CASTLE COUNTRY

The day was bright and beautiful as Philippe bid us adieu at the hotel (he had the expression of a teacher whose class was going on a field trip - with someone else) and put us in the hands of our capable guide for the day, Martine. I was already on the bus and, before I even saw Martine, I knew by the sound of her voice that she would be an exceptional guide and she was – knowledgeable, humorous, with such pride in the rich history of the Loire Valley.


First stop CHATEAU DU CLOS LUCE PARC LEONARDO DA VINCI (1452-1519), a charming summer residence of the kings of France where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life. King Francois I had become enamored of da Vinci’s work while on a trip to Italy. The painter, failing in health and fortune, accepted the King’s offer to reside in the Clos Luce, working at his leisure with a princely allowance of 700 gold pieces a year. The King only asked for the pleasure of the master’s company every day.


Da Vinci’s stay was productive, working on engineering and architectural projects, organizing celebrations for the Court, and planning to connect the Loire Valley with the Lyon region by means of canals. The chateau contains a display of 20 giant working mobile models, drawings and paintings, along with 40 translucent canvases. Leonardo’s virtuosity was astounding.


The property is extensive with lush gardens, a “moveable bridge,” a pigeon house, a delightful café, and (of course) a gift shop where I bought a few mechanical trinkets for my grandchildren. A lasting legacy of the painter’s sojourn with the French king – da Vinci had brought his beloved MONA LISA with him which remains forever in France.


Next THE CHATEAU DE CHENONCEAU – even if you have never been there, you may have a picture in your mind of this beautiful chateau, with a covered expanse of five arches bridging the main house over the River Cher. A visit to Chenonceau makes it obvious why it is second only to the Palace of Versailles in yearly attendance.


Known as the LADIES’ CHATEAU, the property has a romantic aura, having been built by in 1547 by King Henri II for his lover Diane de Poitiers (some 19 years his senior). Upon Henri’s death, his widow Catherine de Medici ousted Diane and continued enlarging the bridge and extending the formal gardens.


In the 18th century, an aristocrat Louise Dupin (1706-1799) gave renewed splendor to the chateau during the Age of Enlightenment entertaining Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau in her salon. Her relationship was such with the community that she and her family were spared execution during the French Revolution of 1789. But the property soon fell into disuse.


In 1888 Henri Menier, who made his fortune in chocolate, bought the Chenonceau and returned it to its former glory. During World War I his daughter Simone Menier (1881-1972) ran a military hospital which served some 2,000 wounded French soldiers in the elegant gallery above the bridge. Later Simone was active in the Resistance of World War II and led many to safety across the bridge to the River Cher which was the line of demarcation between occupied and unoccupied France.


Chenonceau is world famous for its 16th century farm with its flower and vegetable gardens which can be viewed from the upper balconies of the chateau. While visitors may peruse these wide-ranging fields and outbuildings at leisure, I chose to look from afar. The most arresting feature for most tourists is the superb flower arrangements which grace every room and passageway in the chateau – huge and varied, all flora comes from these adjacent plots and greenhouses. Martine said that the Christmas decorations there are magical.


The impressive gallery above the bridge is often used for contemporary art exhibits, but his summer the display honored the works of the philosopher JEAN-JACQUES ROUSSEAU (1712-1778) on the third centennial of his birth. Rousseau had lived at the Chenonceau for many years serving as secretary to Madame Dupin and tutor to her children. All legends were in French, about half of which I was able to translate. Rousseau was quite a guy – and this being in part a literary pilgrimage, I felt I should pay him homage.


Finally – CHAMBORD, in my view a monument to excess. Built as a hunting lodge by King Francis I in 1519, it contains “77 staircases, 282 fireplaces, and 426 rooms.” Turreted with various forms of French and Italian Renaissance architecture, the chateau is enclosed by a game preserve about the same size as “inner Paris” surrounded by a 20 mile stone fence containing six gates. Francis I spent only 72 days of his life here.

Of interest is the center staircase comprised of “two concentric spiral flights … that wind independently around a hollow central column but will never meet.” The ingeniousness of this staircase suggests that Leonardo da Vinci, living in nearby Clos Luce, may have designed it.

The grounds of Chambord are flat and uninteresting with no gardens, unlike the lush surroundings of Chenonceau. Before leaving, I sat in the shade, enjoyed an ice cream, and wondered how such an eyesore could have been built.


Our excursion that day covered about 140 miles, although it seemed less. Back on the bus, our guide Martine chirped, “We have only 297 chateaux to go.” Philippe was waiting for us as we drew up to the hotel. He had spent the day arranging departure connections.

One more day to go at Chartres…
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 07:46 AM
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sounds like a nice day, lateday.

we've been to the Loire numerous times but not yet made it to Chambord - not sure I'll bother now!
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 07:57 AM
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Hub and I also enjoyed Chenonceau and were intrigued by the notion of folks gaining their freedom by going out the other side!

The excesses of royalty were truly revolting--pun intended. Looking forward to Chartres.
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 12:29 PM
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late day, thanks for all the information about Chenounceau, Chambord and Clos Luce.

We visited Chenonceau on our recent trip to France and I posted a photo of my husband and I in front of it on Facebook. Probably all visitors have one of those; I took several for other couples as we strolled around the grounds. It was the chateau I remembered best from an earlier visit to the Loire with my daughter so, knowing that my husband would only be willing to visit just one more chateau - after several in the Dordogne - Chenounceau was the one we chose. So glad it wasn't Chambord!

My daughter and I visited several other chateaux that we enjoyed but I can't remember which ones they were, unfortunately. We stayed in Amboise so of course visited Chateau Amboise and Leonardo's home. I remember being very impressed by all of his inventions but didn't think of his home as a chateau. The Ontario Science Centre had a Leonardo exhibit this past year, displayed with much use of computers and hands on activities, lots of fun.
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 12:46 PM
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Hi Annhig,

“we've been to the Loire numerous times but not yet made it to Chambord - not sure I'll bother now!”

That was just my impression of Chambord – way over the top!
What are your favorite chateaux in the Loire? I have noticed that VILLANDRY and VALENCAY are popular also and look quite breathtaking.
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 12:57 PM
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hi lateday,

as I'm a garden fan i love Villandry, [the ultimate "potager" and they have now added an english garden], and Chenonceau too.

Chaumont is the home of the yearly garden show, the theme of which changes annually.when we went there was an exhibition of the most fabulous silk flowers I've ever seen, plus scent!

Though not a chateau as such, Fontavraud Abbey is lovely and fascinating, and again has a very interesting garden. [spotting the theme here?] and we also liked Saumur and Angers.

many of the chateaux have son et lumiere shows - one of the best we've seen is at Blois:

http://www.chateaudeblois.fr/?-Son-Lumiere-


hope that gives you a few more ideas!
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 02:03 PM
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Hi Annhig,

Thanks for the link. That light show at Blois looked fabulous. Although we stayed in Blois, we only saw the older part from a distance.

Saving for future reference - but don't know when. So much to see in the Loire.

I am not a gardener like yourself - but who doesn't love flowers?
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 04:45 PM
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“The excesses of royalty were truly revolting--pun intended.” LOL

Hi TDudette, agreed, so much of the magnificent French architecture, both royal and ecclesiastical, points to the inevitability of revolution.

At least the Brits gradually diminished the power of the throne and increased political participation which saved them from a similar fate.

Moolyn, thanks for your memory of Chenoceau. How did the Dordogne compare to the Loire region for architecture? I have not been to the area but hear that the Dordogne is more scenic, n’est–ce pas?

Granted, da Vinci was a genius and so youthful and forward thinking with his inventions and projects. Great for kids to study…
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Old Jul 8th, 2012, 07:11 PM
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Well, I just bookmarked a tour of the Loire Valley - Loire Valley Castles Day Trip: Chambord, Cheverny and Chenonceau. After reading your post I wonder if I could do a better tour. I thought a day out of Paris might be nice. I thought about Mont St Michel too...
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