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Entries about france

A Month in Paris in Winter

Day 1: What was I Thinking?

The east coast of the US had a terrible winter in 2014. Freezing cold, lots of small snow storms. In other word, not fun. So this past summer, I decided to get away for the month of January. Most people go to Florida. Snow birds, we call them. I decided to fulfill a lifelong fantasy and go to Paris for a month, rent an apartment and just be. An English major and a romantic to the core, I had notions of writing amongst other writers and artists and living like a local in a corner of the world I had lusted after in my imagination.image.jpg

I researched scrupulously (or so I thought, but more about that another time). I've stayed in apartments before with good to excellent results. I found one in Montmartre that seemed to fulfill all my needs; one bedroom, sleep sofa in case I should have guests, a beautiful looking bathroom and a functional kitchen. And oh yes. A terrace with a view of the whole city. Even though I was going in January, a terrace for me was de riguer. A must.

What was I thinking? This is a refrain you will hear from me often if you follow this blog. Montmartre is hilly. Very hilly. With many stone, steep stairs that cannot be avoided. I had only been twice before, Both times were many years ago and I did not stay in Montmartre, just visited on day trips. My memory had failed to remind me of how difficult it is to navigate here. The day I arrived was challenging. My apartment was in the middle of stone steps and there is no way to drive up to the apartment. One must lug luggage up (or down) these steps, depending on which way you arrive. There is no good way. See the photo.

In addition, the key pick-up was far away and up four flights of stairs. The rental agent wanted to charge me 50 euros to deliver the keys to my door. I rented from Parker Villas in Italy and loved the entire process. They met me, delivered the keys, showed us how to use the apartment and left us notes for where to eat, shop, go, etc. This was the exact opposite of what I had come to expect from rentals. I will trash them further when I get my deposit back, but they were not pleasant nor easy to deal with.

Posted by teethetrav 07:24 Archived in France Tagged food paris france travel apartment montmartre monet hemingway picasso Comments (1)

Avignon, France

A Pope, A Palace, A Saint, & Les Halles

Avignon

Avignon is a good base for side trips to smaller towns in Provence. From here I took a day trip to St. Remy, Les Baux, Uzes, Villeneuve-Lez-Avignon. I had planned to visit Nimes but was blocked from seeing it because there were bullfights at the time I was there and was told the roads were impassable.
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The significant structure here is the Place du Palais, the Pope’s Palace. I’ve been to Siena, Italy a number of times and I knew the story of Saint Catherine, the patron saint of Siena, and how she convinced the Pope to return from France back to Italy. In the 13th century things had gotten dicey in Italy and Pope Clement V fled to Avignon. A few Popes later, the Palace was built and Avignon was the de facto capital of Christendom. Young Catherine had a vision and traveled from Siena to Avignon (no easy trip even now) and somehow convinced Pope Gregory XI to leave this lovely place and return to Italy, ensuring her fame and sainthood.
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Popes knew how to choose real estate. The Palace sits on the highest point of Avignon and is still a stunning spot. The views from the Popes Palace are miles long and are still unspoiled. From the Palace and the surrounding gardens you can see the Rhone River, the mountain, and the famous Avignon bridge. statue_in_the_garden.jpgIn_the_Pope_s_garden.jpggrotto_in_.._garden.jpgAvignon_bridge.jpg

I enjoyed strolling through the gardens. They are serene and beautifully kept. The view from there is spectacular. The square in front of the Palace is lively and full of street performers and places to have a snack or a drink.
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Speaking of food, my favorite place in Avignon is the famed indoor market Les Halles. I bought breakfast there early one Sunday morning. I took it outside and sat facing Les Halles in the little square. Me, a few old men chattering in French, a couple of pigeons, and my panecone. I was blissfully happy. I’d rather be sitting there than inside a dusty Palace, even if it was the one where Catherine persuaded a Pope to come back home.
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Posted by teethetrav 08:22 Archived in France Tagged food markets france travel avignon tourist_sites saint_catherine_of_siena_les_ha Comments (0)

Escape to Uzes

Provence France

Do you ever play the “could I live here” game when you travel? You know. Where you fantasize about retiring or merely running away and living in a place. I have found a few locations that meet my imaginary standards. My criteria admittedly is elusive. I require charm, places to walk to so I don’t need a car, non-touristy, good restaurants, some culture and maybe even an artists’ enclave. I guess I have lengthy list.

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I found one such fantastic place in the village of Uzes in Provence. First of all, it’s in the hills of Provence. It’s gorgeous and sunny and has lovely streets dotted with boutiques and shops. There are small bars and restaurants that made me want to sit and linger and watch the world go by. If I ever disappear…

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Posted by teethetrav 09:21 Archived in France Tagged food france travel provence uzes Comments (0)

Searching for Van Gogh in Arles

Wandering through the town of Arles, it’s easy to understand why Van Gogh got so depressed here and killed himself. Oh sure, he was fueled by absinthe and he was probably bipolar, but even with that, I can totally see how this town would depress someone after spending two years here.
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VG spent two years living and working here. He supposedly had no friends. Now maybe that was his fault, but the French are not the friendliest people in the world. I don’t find them rude, as some have said, but they seem to merely tolerate anyone non-French or from anywhere other than their home town. In Arles, they have to be polite. Their source of income is completely tourist-driven at this point. Back in Van Gogh’s day, they didn’t even have to be pleasant in order to make tourist dollars. There were no tourists. Gauguin came to visit VG in Arles and hated it. cafe__de_nuit_.jpg

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Arles locals are visible and they are clique-ish. If you are there off season as I was, the locals hang out from early in the evening when they meet to have a pastis or an espresso. Everyone appears to know everyone in this tiny town, and no one makes an effort to speak to you. If you spend a few days there, you feel like an outsider. I empathize with poor Van Gogh who spent two years in this isolation.
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Posted by teethetrav 07:52 Archived in France Tagged art france arles van-gogh Comments (0)

Arles Market Day

Markets in Provence

Arles Market Day
The first Wednesday in any month, the open air market in Arles stretches as far as the eye can see with all types of goods. Two main streets are a tangle of shoppers and vendors vying for your euros. You can separate the tourists from the serious marketers easily. The regulars all come prepared with their wheeled baskets to get their fill of produce, spices, meats, cheeses, fresh breads, olives, and fish.
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Stands are organized by their products. Fish vendors line up next to one another, as do the cheese vendors and the olive vendors and so forth. I was especially intrigued by the stands that specialized in garlics. Who knew there were so many kinds of garlic?
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The aromas fill the air; herbs de Provence, lavender, the pungent olives, and fish all tempt you. I purchased aged gouda, a boule, olives, and a small jar of tapenade and made a picnic lunch. The olives were the best I’ve ever tasted. The bread was crisp on the outside and airy on the inside, as only French bread can be. The warm cheese and the bread melted in my mouth.
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Further down the rows, there were dozens of tables filled with clothing and shoes. There were nice things, but no real bargains as far as I could see. I did buy a pretty scarf for two euros though. There were several bargain tables. Anything on the table was one euro. There were the predictable vendors selling table cloths and napkins made of Provençal fabrics. They were all pretty and inexpensive. The only problem was choosing which one to buy.

There was a family showing a goat and asking for donations to “save the animals.” Whether or not the money goes to this cause, I gave them a couple of euros. I figured the goat had earned it after standing around being gawked at. DSC03139.jpg

The locals warn you to beware of pickpockets here, since it can get fairly crowded. The general food market is every Wednesday and Saturday.
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Posted by teethetrav 07:07 Archived in France Tagged markets france spices goat provence arles gouda french_bread Comments (0)

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