Category Archives: France

Normandy France- Juno Beach

During my most recent visit to France, I wanted to visit Normandy and decided to visit the Canadian memorial to D- Day on June 6, 1944. The Juno Beach Centre is dedicated as a museum to honor the sacrifice of some 45,000 young Canadian men and women who fought alongside Allied forces to liberate France during World War II.

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The Juno Beach Centre is Canada’s Second World War museum and cultural centre located in Normandy, France. The Centre pays homage to the 45,000 Canadians who lost their lives during the War, of which 5,500 were killed during the Battle of Normandy and 359 on D-Day. Opened in 2003 by veterans and volunteers with a vision to create a permanent memorial to all Canadians who served during the Second World War, the Centre’s mandate is to preserve this legacy for future generations through education and remembrance.” – from Juno Centre’s website

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A Plaque in the Centre

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First Aid Supplies

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Bunker from Outside

I wanted to tour this bunker, but tours were not offered during the time of our visit. Another excuse to visit the wonderful museum the next time we are happen to exploring this part of France.  I did happen to grab a a photo or two of the closed bunker, though.

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Inside the Bunker

The visit of the Juno Beach Centre will leave one with feelings of  mixed emotions and perhaps a heavy heart. I left teary eyed and needed to take a much needed walk along the shore. You must explore the beach just over the sand dunes, if weather permits.  I highly recommend this museum, if you are ever in Normandy.

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Paris’ Eiffel Tower

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The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower

A few facts that you may or may not know about this mammoth structure that stands out among the buildings in its own park are as follows:

  • Built in 1889 as part of the grand entrance to the Paris World Exposition.
  • The Tower is 986-feet tall and was the world’s tallest building until New York’s Chrysler Building opened in 1930.
  • Designed by Gustave Eiffel, The Eiffel Tower involved a 132 workers and 50 engineers.
  • Took under two years to complete and contains around 1,710 steps, but don’t worry you can use the lifts.
  •  An estimated 5.5 million visitors climbing this structure (well not literally) each year.
  • The Eiffel is painted three different shades of color.
  • It was meant to be a temporary structure, with just a 20 year lease that was to expire in 1909. The Tower proved to be a valuable part of communication and now,  is a permanent historical part of Paris as one of the most visited sites.
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Love these Signs Around The Park

 Tour Options

One of my favorite options is to purchase tickets in advance and avoid the long lines that can happen when visiting such high tour destinations as The Eiffel Tower. A good option is Viator tour and often a site that I use quite frequently. You often receive local agents when booking with Viator.  Check out some skip line options for visiting Eiffel Tower.

Skip the Line Option Tours

 

The Chambord Estate at 500

We visited this château during the 2018 Christmas season, but 2019 marks the 500 year anniversary of the Estate of Chambord.  Located in the Loire Valley, the estate contains the largest and most recognized châteaux, the Château de Chambord. It has a very distinctive French Renaissance architecture which blends traditional French medieval forms with classical Renaissance structures. The château, which was never completed, was constructed by King Francis I of France. The château was built to serve as a hunting lodge for Francis I, who maintained his royal residences at the Château de Blois and Amboise.

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Château de Chambord.

The main body of the castle is roughly square in shape, with a large tower at each corner. There are also two symmetrical wings to the castle, each ending with a substantial tower. The castle contains some 400 rooms with just about that many fireplaces and around 84 staircases.  There is one staircase that stands out.

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The central staircase is one of the architectural highlights of a visit: this stone staircase rises the height of Chambord castle, and is of a ‘double helix’ form – this means that two ‘independent’ staircases are wound around each other, such that people going up the stairs will not meet those coming down.

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Central Staircase of the Chateau

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Chambord’s Gardens and Park

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The Gardens

You can explore the formal gardens and take in the natural beauty of the estate and castle from the outside. Chateau Chambord has a very extensive park that is part of the estate worth taking the time to stroll, if weather permits.

Practical Stuff

There are several options for touring the chateau during your visit including:

  • Self-guided option: a self-guide walk through the many rooms and floors opened during your visit. Please be sure to pickup a leaflet that details each room and item of interest.
  • Phone or Tablet Apps: If you like technology, consider asking about the phone or tablet application option for touring during your visit.

Entry Fees and Hours:

  • The entry fee to the chateau and the rest of the estate is around 13 euros.  Parking is not free here and will cost you a few extra euros if you drove here. We took the SNCF and walked to easy walk to the castle.
  • **discount alert** Mention that you arrived by train and you will get a discount off the adult ticket price.
  • Opening Hours: All year except January 1 and December 25, 9:00 – 17:00 in the winter and 9:00 – 18:00 from April to October .

Visit Chambord Castle & Domain to learn more of its history and plan your visit

Visit Transportation Option to explore ways to get to Chambord Castle & Domain.

Other Attractions for Consideration

If you are planning to explore the Loire Valley further, consider taking in the Château de Chenonceau

Just outside Paris, you must see The Palace of Versailles and if times permits for some antique shopping, the Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See

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Château de Chenonceau

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Walking up to the Château– The Marques Tower to the Right

During our visit in Paris, we wanted to visit the Loire Valley and we made a stop via the SNCF train system to explore the Château de Chenonceau

This Ladies’ château or castle, is worthy of your time during your visit in the Loire valley.  There is a nicely chronological details of the history of this second castle over the Cher river  that describes how several women left their mark in its construction and history.

As I mentioned, this château in the picture is not the first one over the Cher river. The first château was destroyed by fire as to punish the original proprietors of this property- The Marques family. The only thing left on the property from the original château is known as the The Marques Tower. It is not often for tours and is a cathedral.

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Château de Chenonceau

Jumping ahead in history a little as we visited the connecting château later in our 4 days in the Loire.  Henri II dies, his widow Catherine de Medici forced his mistress Diane de Poitiers to exchange one château for another (The Château Chaumont for the Chenonceau).  Catherine enclosed the bridge and made into a gallery. During our visit it was setup for dinner (see below).  Of course, more rooms were added and many parties were had here.

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The Gallery Set for Christmas Dinner

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The Gardens

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The Gardens

By train, air, road

The Château is located in Touraine, on the Cher river, 214 km from Paris, and 34 km from Tours.
Journey time from Paris:

  • 2 hours by car via the autoroute A10 “Aquitaine” (Blois or Amboise exits)
  • 1 hour by T.G.V. Paris-Montparnasse / Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours)
  • 1 hour by T.G.V. Paris-Aéroport Roissy-CDG / Saint-Pierre-des-Corps (Tours)
  • 25 minutes by TER Tours-Chenonceaux
  • The SNCF station is located near the ticket office (400m)

Self-Guides Tours are available as well audio-guided tours

Your can also explore other option for tours below

Guides Walking Tour of Château de Chenonceau

 

 

Domaine de Chantilly-France

 

The Château de Chantilly

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As one of the jewels of France’s cultural heritage, we had to visit this site. The amazing part is that this site has survived through the generation and was once a home of the last King of France- Louis-Philippe son’s- the Duke of Aumale. The chateau houses most of the Dukes’ masterpieces and other collected work of arts and he eventually bequeathed the property to the Institute of France in 1886. A journey back in time and worth the short treat outside of Paris.

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Map of the Domaine de Chantilly

Map of Domaine Chantilly

Map of Domaine Chantilly – courtesy of the Foundation for the Preservation and Development of the Domaine de Chantilly

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Ceiling of the Reading Room

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Interesting Light Fixtures

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Art Galley

After the Louvre museum, you will find the second largest collection of antique paintings in France here. These art galleries were designed by The Duke of Aumale. The layout of the paintings haven’t changed since the 19th Century per the Duke’s wishes. Enjoy a leisurely walk through the galleries, but don’t expect to find any true order to the paintings. Surprises will await you at every turn, though.

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“The Madonna of the House of Orléans” by Raphael

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Joan of Arc

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Wall of Stain-glass

Learn more about the Domaine de Chantilly here

Tour Options from Paris to Explore Domaine de Chantilly 




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Palace of Versailles

Gates to the Palace

During your visit to Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a must-see as it is just a short and easy train trip at about 12 miles (20 kilometers) outside of Paris. I visited this fascinated and opulent place with its over-the-top decorations during the Christmas season. As you walk through the Palace, you can explore the grounds including: the Royal Apartments, The Royal Stables, the Gardens, the Estate Trianon, and of course, the Hall of Mirrors. In this room, history was made when the Treat of Versailles was signed. The table has now been moved off to a back area.

Hall of Mirrors

Hall of Mirrors

Table Where Treaty of Versailles was Signed

Table Where Treaty of Versailles was Signed

Approaching the Palace is amazing. It is incredibly ornate and it’s very interesting to see the apartments along each side of the Palace. We had booked a small group tour in advanced via Viator and met the agent near the tourist station just outside the main entrance to the Palace. This was a great option to avoid the growing line outside the Palace as it was rainy and chilly day.

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Gates to the Palace

Gates to the Palace

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Inside the Palace, we were guided through a 90 minutes tour and left with time to explore the grounds on own taking in the sites, sounds, and history of the place. As means to learn a little more about the history of Versailles with a little entertainment and drama added, consider the series Versailles . This original hunting lodge of King Louis XIV from 1878 continued to be expanded until his death in 1715. The wealth necessary to build and maintain it is one of many factors for the revolution in 1789.

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Sun King-- Louis XIV

Sun King– Louis XIV

Painted Celling

Painted Celling

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This time of year was considered low season for visitors, the Palace was very busy and often one had to wait a fe moment before continuing to explore each room. Nevertheless, this site is well worth your time while visiting the France and the romantic city of Paris.

Fellow bloggers have also enjoyed visits to the Palace. Please feel free to explore their posts below:

Living the Q Life 

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Christmas in Uneasy Paris

For this year’s Christmas season, we decided to spend time in Paris.  This holiday season the city has been marred by weekly citywide violence that unfortunately became a regular part f the gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protests. This did not stop us from continuing to enjoy Paris, but with more caution this time around.  One can see the effects the protests and proceeding violence have had on what is often a very busy shopping season.

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LOUIS VUITTON MAISON VENDÔME

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Entrance to the Musee Du Louvre

The image of the Louvre may be little deceptive as I took early prior to the opening of the museum. Of course, this is to say that early is relative to Paris as sunrise isn’t until after 8:00. Below are some more images during our stay in Paris during Christmas.

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Christmas Markets in Paris

Christmas markets began in Germany and spread across Europe, these markets are open from Mid-November through early January in Paris. You can find them at several locations throughout Paris including  Les Halles, Notre-Dame to Les Tuileries, as well as the impressive Christmas Village at La Défense.  You can soak up the holiday season and atmosphere on the streets of the French capital!

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Christmas Market near Saint Germain des Près

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Christmas Market

Planning Your Next Visit to Paris? Consider exploring Booking.com 

Explore more about Paris by reading my other blog posts Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See Opéra Garnier or Paris’ Opera House  and  Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Paris 

Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See

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During a most recent trip to Paris, I took the #85 bus to Les Puces de Clignancourt for a visit to  “Marché aux puces,” which literally translates to– you guessed it– “flea market”. The largest Paris flea market is located in St. Ouen and was established around 1870.  The name of this market is rumored to have earned its name because of the ostensibly flea-infested furniture and other wares sold at the market just outside of the city’s northern fortifications. Years later, Pablo Picasso used the markets for walks of inspiration. Woody Allen even used the ‘puces’ for some scenes in his “Midnight in Paris” film.

Les Puces de Clignancourt: The Largest and Most Popular Flea Market

Claiming to be the largest of its kind in the world, the St. Ouen Flea Market attracts more than 11 million visitors per year and boasts over 2,500 stalls ranging from antiques to fashion, minus the fleas. As you begin to explore the area, you may notice that the outskirts of the market is flagged by terrible knock-off and other items easily found out the local dollar store or super-center. Just walk through these aisles and you will come into the more traditional flea market one expects to find here.

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Maps of the markets can be find below.

(maps courteous of tourisme93.com)

In addition to this most famous of the “puces”, Paris counts several other fascinating markets to peruse and stroll. The possibilities for eccentric finds are nearly endless: you might happen upon old, charming ​knickknacks, records, clothes, books, eccentric quills or prized antique items. It’s one of the free Paris attractions that the budget-minded traveler should definitely add to their itinerary.

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Marché St Ouen/Porte de Clingancourt

Address: Get off at Metro Porte de Clingancourt (line 4) and follow the signs to the market. The market lies between Paris’ 18th arrondissement (district) and the northern suburb of St Ouen.
Hours: Open Saturday, 9am to 6pm; Sunday, 10am to 6pm; and Monday, 11am to 5pm. Entry is free.

Click here to visit the official website 

Some other choices for markets (non-food) to explore during your next visit to Paris. Please note that most of these markets are open ONLY on the weekends with some open on Mondays.

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Interesting Display…

Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves

Address: Avenue Georges Lafenestre and Avenue Marc Sangnier, 14th arrondissement
Metro: Porte de Vanves (Line 13)
Hours: Open: Every weekend all year long, 7am to 2pm. Entry is free.

Click here to visit the official website 

Marché du Livre Ancien et d’Occasion (Book Market)

Address: 104, rue Brancion, Parc Georges Brassens (under the pavilion Baltard), 15th arrondissement
Metro: Convention (line 12), Porte de Vanves (Line 13)
Hours: Open: Every weekend, 9am to 6pm. Entry is free.

Click here to visit the official website 

Marché aux Puces de Montreuil

Address: Avenue de la Porte de Montreuil
Metro: Porte de Montreuil
Hours: Open: Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, 7am to 7:30pm. Entry is free

If you are interested in a walking tour of the Flea Markets, look no further to DiscoverWalks, they offer a reasonable 90 minute walking tour about every Sat. & Sun. Learn more by visiting their website

 

Opéra Garnier or Paris’ Opera House

The Opéra Garnier

This 1979-seat opera house is perhaps one of the most famous buildings in Paris along with Notre Dame, the Louvre, and the Eiffel Tower. The Opéra Garnier or Opéra de Paris  was built from 1861 to 1875 is worthy of a visit during your time in Paris. This theatre is  a specular depiction of Charles Garnier” goal of opulence and style of the type, who was the architect of this historical masterpiece.  Considering checking out a ballet as we did as you can often find a reason seat and enjoy the beatify of the building while taking in a theatre show.

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The Grand Ballroom

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The Grand Staircases

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Inside the Theatre

A recent restoration of the theatre includes the ceiling with a new painting in a more modern style done by Marc Chagall and is noted in the image in the center of the grand chandelier. Due to our seats, this was the best image I could get, unfortunately.

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The Ballet Performers

I had been to Paris some eight + times and for some reason hadn’t been inside the Opera House. In planning this visit I decided that a stay in near the Opera House was needed. A last minute ticket purchase lead to seeing the ballet La Dame aux camélias, which was exceptional. I highly recommend seeking this performance for those who love ballets.  The music, the cast, and atmosphere made for a night never to forget.

To explore current performances for the Palais Garnier please visit The Opéra de Paris

Colmar-La Petite Venise

Colmar France revisited

Well, in memory (for now). Colmar France comes to mind again, as I remember the recently all to soon departed Anthony Bourdain. If you have ever watched his show “Parts Unknown” on CNN, he explores the local life and seeks out what locals eat. May he RIP.

Our Top Choice:

La Petite Venise or Wistub de la Petite Venise

Outside Wistub de la Petite Venise

La Petite Venise

This is a must try during your first or next visit to this lovely medieval town. I think Mr. Bourdain would agree.  It it  an a hole wall, but an amazing find!

Where is La Petite Venise or Wistub de la Petite Venise located?

The address is 4 rue de la Poissonnerie; but you may still find it difficult to find this little restaurant as it is tucked away in a small lane. You may just miss it if you are not paying attention. The location is quite near “little Venice” and is a must try as a Michelin listing.

Canal–Little Venice Colmar

Interested in a visit. Check out: Booking.com 

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