Tourist First

Travel notes and advice from around the world. Above, the daily flight from Managua at the San Carlos, Nicaragua, airstrip.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

France: A Grand Few Weeks

      If you've seen my earlier postings from France, you know that Jane and I spent a few weeks there in late May and June, 2014.   Our itinerary: Paris, Strasbourg, Eguisheim (a wine village in Alsace), Beaune (in Burgundy and convenient to wine centers such as Nuits Saint Georges), Lyon, Orange in the Rhone Valley, Marseilles (where daughter Katy joined our adventure), Albi (in the Midi-Pyrenees), Sarlat in the Dordogne, Bordeaux, the Loire Valley, and back to Paris.
       Paris, the Loire Valley and Bordeaux were dealt with in the earlier postings.  Here are snapshots from the rest of the trip.
Cafes and shops make for a lively street scene in Strasbourg.

E.U. government buildings along the Ill River in Strasbourg.
Sight-seeing boats on the River Ill in Strasbourg.
A section of Strasbourg's riverfront is lined with artfully pruned trees.

Above: A street in Eguisheim.
Below: Traditional green-stemmed Alsatian wine glasses.  The "Gendarmerie" sign is fake -- it
was one of several fake building signs used in a movie  or TV shoot that happened during our
stay in Eguisheim. It was taken down before we left.

Above: A a stork nests atop
a steeple in Eguisheim. 

Left: Painting houses in bright
colors is a post-World War II 
phenomenon in Eguisheim. 
Streets like this form 
concentric rings around the 
church and chateau in the 
middle of the village. The
outer ring was the 
village's ramparts. 
Old glass panes distort the view through this window in Eguisheim.

Left: A street in Beaune, a wine 
center in Burgundy.  

Below: The cave at Chateau 
de Premeaux just outside
Nuits Saint Georges. 
The barrels hold the 
chateau's 2013 pinot noir.

A Dali sculpture at Chateau de Pommard, one Burgundy's greatest wineries. 
 This is Dali's take on Saint George killing the dragon, a popular theme in Nuits Saint Georges.

We couldn't help but tour a few churches in France, including the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere,
which sits atop the highest point in Lyon.  It was built in the late 19th century when the Catholic Church
was trying, unsuccessfully, to reassert itself  in public life despite the anti-clerical Third Republic.
 It overlooks most of the city, including the magnificent 12th-century St. Jean Cathedral (not shown).

Below: The Lumiere Brothers museum in Lyon, which is housed in 
their father's mansion.  The brothers invented, among other 
things, projected moving pictures. One of their 
short films can be seen in Martin Scorsese's "Hugo."


Right:  A flea market on a 
square in Lyon's old town. 
  On the hill is the Basilica
 Notre Dame de Fourviere

Above: The Rhone River winds its way south of Lyon toward the Mediterranean.  
Below: A bas relief carving of a battle scene atop an ancient Roman-era arch in the town of Orange,
 which also has a 9,000-seat Roman amphitheater (not shown). 


Right: A rocky vineyard at
 Chateau Mont-Redon,
which produces, among
 other wines,a good

Left: A large fountain greets
motorists driving into the historic
center of Aix-en-Provence,
a town overrun by tourists.
We stopped here for lunch
on our way from Orange
to Marseilles.

Above and below: Our chambres d'hote (bed and breakfast) in Marseilles had a great view of the Mediterranean
 and a pretty nice continental breakfast. The owner asked that we not mention its name online
or on Yelp or Tripadvisor  (though that is how we found it) because she prefers
guests to find her by word of mouth. 

Below: Jane enjoys a view of the Marseilles harbor.  We walked here from the chambres d'hote.
Below: Drinks at an outdoor cafe in Marseilles.
Next round we followed Katy's lead and went with mojitos, 
which became the official cocktail of this vacation. 

 Above: The reflective ceiling of Norman Foster's stainless-steel pavilion at the harbor in Marsaille's old quarter. 
 Above: Another church. This time it's Notre Dame de la Garde,
 built in the 1850s on the highest point in Marseilles by Napoleon III.  
It's adorned with hanging planes, warships and other references
 to Marseilles' war-torn past. 
 Above: We walked from our chambres d'hote to this city beach.  We were surprised 
to find such a pleasant beach in such an urban area -- the water and the sand seemed quite clean.
 Above: A diver is in midair at one of the calanques -- small rocky coves -- east of Marseilles.
 These swimming spots are hard to reach by land, often requiring long and steep hikes. We saw them by boat. 

Right: Our last dinner in Marseilles
 was at a pizza restaurant in
 Vallon des Auffes, a small
 fishing port hidden on the
 city's waterfront that looks
 like a movie set.  Again, we
 walked here from our lodgings,
  but for the long, uphill trip
 back we took a cab.

Above: St. Cecile Cathedral in Albi, a small town in the Midi-Pyrenees. The cathedral was built in the
 13th century as a show of force by the Catholic Church after wiping out the Cathars, a sect that
 the church considered heretical. Its fortress-like exterior, made of red bricks, dominates the town. 
Above: The church's interior is a surprising change from the severe exterior. In the 16th century, 
Italian artists were brought in to cover almost every surface with religious scenes.
It's said to be the largest group of Italian Renaissance paintings in a French church. 
Below: A side chapel in the cathedral. 

Above: A garden at the Berbie Palace, the residence of archbishops in Albi and adjacent to the cathedral. 
Today the Berbie Palace houses a museum totally focused on Albi's most famous son, the artist
Henry de Toulouse-Lautrec.  In addition to his celebrated posters advertising night clubs in Paris,
 the museum has many of his early and more serious works.

 Above: Rocamadour, a village that clings to a cliff overlooking the Dordogne River.
It's the home of the goat's milk Rocamadour cheese.
Below: A view from the top.  The walkway on the left links the chateau at the
top with the church halfway down and the village at the bottom.

Left: Another view from the top of Rocamadour.

Above: Paella for sale in Sarlat-la-Caneda during its Saturday morning market.
 This was almost directly in front of our little hotel.
 Above: The Sarlat market -- lots of clothing was offered for sale.
Below: The Dordogne region is known for its fois gras, and there was plenty for sale at the Sarlat market.

Above: The main street in La Roque-Gageac borders the Dordogne River. 
 This picturesque village was a few minutes' drive from Sarlat.

So that (plus what's in the postings below on the Loire Valley, Bordeaux and Paris) 
was our trip to France this summer. Paris was very crowded; Lyon, Marseilles and 
Bordeaux were surprisingly pleasant; and we got to visit a lot of winery tasting rooms, 
even in Burgundy and Bordeaux.  We saw more of France in a few weeks than I saw
 in the early 1990s when I lived in Paris for a year and a half. Would I go back? 
 Probably not -- there are so many other places to visit that we've not seen.