Travel Memoir ~ Paris, France

Paris is a magnificent city, no matter the season. Imagine a beautiful city with incredible cuisine, wine, museums, parks, monuments, shopping, book stores and the most unique ambiance. Let me share some memories of when I traveled with friends or solo to this  favorite city and working for an international airline I was able to indulge my love of travel and visit Paris many times.

Before my first journey to Paris, I bought a terrific guidebook (Paris Access) which was a good idea as Paris has so much to see and experience. The book arranged Paris by neighborhood (Latin Quarter, St -Germain, Louvre & Chamos-Elysees, etc) making it easy to walk about and explore this fascinating city.

I usually started my day by visiting a local boulangerie and choosing a fabulous croissant or pain au chocolat or pain aux raisins (my favorite) or … your choice is quite extensive. Later in the day, take a break from exploring and enjoy a visit to one of the marvelous patisseries. The creations are memorable and mouth watering.

Several times I stayed in the 5th Arrondissment. It’s a terrific area for restaurants and an easy walk (or Metro ride) to the main sightseeing areas. The Mouffetard Market, on Rue Mouffetard, has a splendid selection of food to buy (cheese, bread and wine, as a start) and cute, local places to dine. I recall a marvelous French-Vietnamese bistro with the most incredible quiche and tartes. Voila!

I have spent numerous hours exploring the superb Louvre and enjoying their restaurants (one had the most delicious brownie). It does require several visits. Other favorite museums include the D’Orsay and The Centre Pompidou. For Monet, nothing beats the incredible Marmottan Museum which has the largest collection of his works; more than three hundred paintings. And should you decide to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, don’t do it immediately after lunch.

LOL, I can still recall doing that, carrying my winter coat, as it was getting warmer and warmer, as I walked up the narrow circular stairs. I heard people ahead of me groaning and laughing and shouted to them “are we almost there?” They laughingly replied, “no — still a ways to go.” And yes, the view is worth the memorable climb.

Close by short trips that I fondly recall and highly recommend include Versailles and yes, it is magnificent. On a smaller scale, take a forty minute train ride from Paris to the Fontainbleau Chateau. At both places, you will feel the France of a by-gone era. Marvel at the royal lavishness and breath-taking gardens.

There are English language bookstores including Shakespeare and Company. The department stores are well worth a visit. And Parisians do like it when travelers speak even a few words of French. Be prepared to have your pronunciation corrected, but that’s how we learn, isn’t it?

I usually traveled to Paris off-season which I prefer as there are fewer lines than in the peak summer months. And while the Luxembourg and Tuileries Gardens may not be in bloom, you will be able to walk about without the crowds.

Paris is a state of mind with memories that last a lifetime. C’est magnifique!

Travel well and often!

 

 

Travel Memoir ~ The French Alps

Travel Memoir ~ St Malo, France

Travel Memoir ~ The French Alps

A friend and I traveled to France off season (fall) and loved it. We spent time in Paris, took a train to Geneva where we had arranged a car rental and then we headed for the majestic Alps.

Our trip included Albertville (stopped there for lunch), then onto Chamonix for several days, followed by stays in Val d’Isere, Megeve and Annecy. Let me share my memories of two favorite spots, which were our journey’s highlights: Chamonix and Annecy.

Chamonix:

We stayed at the terrific Albert 1er  which was central to the town with gorgeous views of Mont Blanc. Upon our arrival, we shopped for a picnic: bread, local wine (a Gamay and an Apremont) and cheese (triple crème) and enjoyed our fabulous goodies on our balcony surrounded by incredible beauty.

Taking the cable car to Aiquille du Midi above the town is a must. The cable car ride is thrilling and the view is spectacular. You are among the mountains and clouds. It is an awesome experience that will stay with you long after your visit. There is a small cafe where you can enjoy coffee and a snack while enthralled by the view.

A favorite pastime in Chamonix was walking about, marveling at towering Mont Blanc, stopping to enjoy coffee and a pastry, sitting outside, taking in the view. A favorite restaurant was Atmosphere, on the Arve River. The meals were superb, capped by fabulous meringue desserts.

For a different view of Mont Blanc, take the tunnel under the mountain which connects France and Italy (the Aosta Valley). Great way to spend a day, explore the area (very narrow streets) and indulge in Italian cuisine.

Annecy:

Called “The Venice of the Alps,” you will enjoy walking about the many canals and exploring this beautiful city. Walk the cobble stoned streets, stop for a pastry and take in the beauty all about. Check the schedule and browse and shop at the local markets. The variety of foods is quite incredible. As you walk about, stop and take photos of the Palais de l’Isle, which is one of France’s most photographed attractions. It is a local museum, only open in warmer months.

As you walk about, you will discover many terrific restaurants. Two dishes to try are the local Savoyard Fondue and Raclette. Once after eating a fondue and looking at the dessert menu, a woman at an adjoining table advised us not to have ice cream for dessert, as it would not go with the cheese fondue we had just eaten. Who knew? While both dishes are traditionally Swiss, the French have made them their own. Bon Appetite!

All that was needed was a sense of adventure, a smattering of French and a small French phrase book. People were friendly and helpful, cuisine marvelous, weather was great and the fall colors spectacular and no crowds. Off season travel has its advantages.

Travel well and often.

Travel Memoir ~ Paris, France

Travel Memoir ~ St Malo, France

Travel Memoir ~ St Malo, France

I went to Brittany’s magical St Malo in an off season (late fall) and loved the area. My journey was before the Internet was widely used and prior to cell phones, hence, no Trip Advisor or other on-line travel guides. It was a marvelous experience exploring the city and its environs, using my very basic French plus a small French phrase book.

 

Each morning, I’d walk along the shore, smell the sea air and be immersed in the fog and dampness. You can walk to two little islands at low tide. Note:  always check the tides ~ or you will get stuck there!. Later, walk about and explore the ramparts which surround the old town.

 

Walking about the cobbled streets of the old town, I discovered several marvelous restaurants. One in particular was special. It has a blazing fireplace and an enticing menu. The Quiche as I recall was one of the best I’ve ever eaten. The red wine was terrific as was the dessert: a fabulous meringue pie with Calvados. The atmosphere was quiet and I marveled as I was able to understand other customers speaking French (unlike in Paris where everyone spoke very rapidly). An elderly lady entered and the staff immediately went to greet her and assist her to a table. That simple gesture is a favorite memory of St Malo and its’ wonderful people which has stayed with me for more than twenty five years.

 

Other restaurants were also very good as were the local wines and desserts and pastries. The Breton crepes are every bit as delicious as you imagine. The word sublime comes to mind.

 

I took a local bus to Mont- St- Michel and spent most of the day exploring this spectacular place. The medieval religious and military architecture is amazing. The view from the top of the Abbey is incredible and well worth the long walk. I had a late lunch (fabulous pate and local red wine) on site. Going off season the weather may not be great (it was foggy and damp) but it’s also not crowded. It is a must-see on your visit to France and yes, it is very crowded in the summer months.

 

Working for the airlines and flying stand-by, I took many vacations off-season which I grew to appreciate. I shudder when I see photos of long lines of people waiting to get into museums or top attractions. It is so much more enjoyable to travel off-season … true, the parks may not have flowers but … it’s a trade-off … and you, fellow traveler have to decide your priorities.

 

Travel well and often.

 

Travel Memoir ~ Paris, France

Travel Memoir ~ The French Alps