Category: France

Travel Advice – Be Vigilance

Travel Safety

As a frequent traveler, I am careful with guarding my personal effects including my wallet, which is always placed in my front pocket during the warmer months. In the cooler months, I wear a coat that has inside pocket near the upper right or left chest. Throughout all my travels, I have only had one attempt at pickpocketing with someone taking the hotel key (what they probably thought was a credit card) that I placed in my back pocket.

Fanny Pack Wearer Be Warned

Fanny Pack

Photo by M. Garret

I have never been a fan of these fanny packs. They just mess with my style and are just too easy for would-be thefts to gain quick access to your valuable and move on to the next victim. Please avoid wearing such extra items that make you stand out as a tourist and potential victim of the next pickpocket.

Traveling by Train in Europe – My Advice

One of the benefits of traveling in Europe over the U.S. is the exceptionally connected train service. Please don’t let anyone tell you that train travel in Europe is unsafe. Indeed, it is intimidating with some language barriers to manage, but the agents are used to tourist and foreign travelers. When in doubt; just ask ONLY official agents at booth. This will make sense later.
Some of my advice to make your next European train trip make it even safer.
  • Advice #1 – Never Put Wallet in Back Pocket – I haven’t placed my wallet in my back pocket in over 20 years. Never do this while traveling. How will you know it is gone until you reach for it? Instead, move it upfront (front pocket). If you are wearing a jacket, inside the front zipper as most have these areas. While on the metro/train, keep your hands in your pants pockets or near it.
  • Advice #2 – Bring Only What You Need – Cash is often best, but don’t go overboard bring too much so that you stand out in the line when paying. You will also need a credit card. Bring more than just that favorite rewards credit card. I recommend at least two (one for main use-outings) and a back-up credit card (kept safe somewhere). Please look for a credit card that doesn’t charge a foreign transition fee. They are growing in number.
  • Advice 3: Keep to yourself – I know it might seem like strange advice, but the metro/train is where picket-pockets look for their next victim. It is often through casual, unexpected conversation in your native tongue. You get excited that someone speaks your language and next thing you know, something is missing. Avoid speaking to someone who STRONG wishes to talk to you.  Positively, state you are fine or a “no, thank you….”
  • Advice 4: Avoid High Traffic Hours – you don’t want grab that metro/train that is so crowd that you have to squeeze on like sardines. This is makes for prime grounds for pickpockets. Try and book/move to/catch the next train/metro. After all, you are on vacation and why rush?
  • Advice 5 – Why the Purse? – In packing for your European trip, the purse might seem like a wonderful idea. Think twice (if you can) and avoid bring such an easy target for pickpockets. If you must bring it, don’t bring your Hermès, bring something far less expensive. Pack only things that if snatched would not be end of the vacation. 
  • Advice 6 – The Line 9 of Paris – This Paris Métro Line 9 is known to have lots of pickpockets. If you must take it, keep this in mind.
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Not the Line 9, But Like the Photo!

Hope you find my list of travel tips helpful as you begin to plan your next trip. Enjoy!

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Cathedrals Of France

A visit through France offers one the opportunity to explore this great European country from its rich history, wine regions, and food. During your tour, consider taking in some of the many beautiful cathedrals dotted throughout the country. Some are within city centers while others stand out as beacons guiding one safely from the sea into the harbor.

Bordeaux France

Bordeaux France

Inside Our Lady’s Church

Our Lady’s Church

Our Lady’s Church or known locally Notre Dame  is in Bordeaux offers some outstanding baroque facade that contrast the simple interior of this cathedral. The chapel features  various trompe-l’œil ornaments, which are a series of 10 religious paintings by Brother André from the 17th century. In addition there are a series of beautiful 19th century stained glass windows, attributed to the famous Bordeaux glassmaker masters Hutrel and Villiet

Mont St. Michel

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Mont St. Michel

Mont St Michael

The Abbey

The Mont St. Michel is very busy welcoming nearly 2.5 million visitors including both pilgrims and tourists. The location of this UNESCO World heritage site in the middle of the bay offers wonderful views. In addition, the entrance to the medieval town below is where you will find the Tourist office. This definitely worth a visit. Learn more about visiting Mont St. Michel 

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The Priory of the Sacré-Cœur

As you glance down the side street, you might notice the above building and wonder what this might be? This the Priory of the Sacré-Cœur, which shelters a monastic community of sixteen Benedictine Sisters, who fulfill their vocation of the spiritual and material facilitation of Basilica of Sacré-Cœur.

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Basilica of Sacré-Cœur

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

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Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

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I end this post with a image of the Cathedral Notre-Dame of Paris prior to the devastating fire earlier this year.

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Normandy France – A Brief Look Back

D-Day Remembered

June 6, 1944 marked the invasion of Allied troops to Normandy and this year marks the 75th year of what is still the largest air, land, and sea invasion in history against the Hitler’s forces. History will be lost without remembering the past.

A drive through this region of France offers the opportunity to reflect back to honor the sacrifices of our U.S. and Allied troops. troops. We stopped at the Juno Beach Centre , which 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

Learn more about our visit to Juno Beach by visiting Normandy France- Juno Beach

Juno Beach

Once you have finished your visit to the Juno Beach Centre . You should consider explore the historic Juno Beach just over the sand dunes, if weather permits.  I highly recommend this museum and a walk on the beach, if you are ever in Normandy.

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The Bény-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery

We further visited the Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery, which contain some 2,048 WWII Canadian soldiers with around 19 unidentified soldiers. The cemetery is beautiful and peacefully quiet. This cemetery is located about 1 kilometer east of the village of  Reviers, France.

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Beny-sur-Mer Canadian War Cemetery

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The Montmartre of Paris

Exploring the 18th Arrondissement

A walk through the more hilly streets of Montmartre is like the village for New Yorker or at least, that is what I’ve been told. This part of Paris is where artists used to enjoy a more comfortable part of life and display their works, but the prices have increase. I am sure there are some truth to these thoughts, but this unique part of Pari is definitely well worth a visit just to find what you often won’t see on the usual tourist hot spot. Please let me share some of my photos during my visits to this part of the City of Paris.

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The Basilica of Sacre-Coeur

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Inside the Basilica

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Locks of Love-Montmartre

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Tips For Visiting

I recommend arriving at metro Blanche (Moulin Rouge) or metro Anvers and gradually enter the “village”.  This way you will feel like you are gradually approaching the place and can take in the atmosphere of artists and writers.  If you are handicapped, please don’t be deterred as you have an option for visiting the Basilica of Sacre-Coeur There is a small white train that drives up the hill winding through the narrow alleys giving you a sense of the neighborhood surrounding the Basilica.

Once you get off the metro, you just may wish to make a bullseye directly to the Basilica that sits atop the famous hill of Montmartre. You could also just treat yourself to an over-priced crepe at the Place de Tertre. Instead, consider taking your time to just explore the area walking through the maze of narrow cobblestone streets as you make your way to the Basilica. Don’t worry! You can’t miss it.

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Place de Tertre

Another option to visit via the metro is to take the Abbesses station and step out into the heart of Montmartre.  Because all the great poets have told us the journey is more important than the destination.

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Windmills in Montmartre

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The Radet Windmill in Montmartre (circa 1717)

There are a still a few windmills still standing and found in between homes. The above photo is of the Radet Windmill and it originally stood by the still functioning Bluten-Fin Windmill. The Radey Windmill now houses a restaurant and was moved to its present location at the corner of Rue Girardon and Rue Lepic in 1924.

Cool Finds While Strolling Montmartre

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Le Passe-Muraille (the Passer-Through-Walls)

If you are exploring the narrow cobblestone streets of the Montmartre, you may come across the great find of the Le Passe-Muraille (the Passer-Through Walls) statue. This is located in the place named after the writer of the story Marcel Aymé about Dutilleul who discovers that he can (you guessed it) walk through walks.

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La Maison Rose

Located just behind the iconic Basilica of Sacre-Coeur on the edge some steep cobblestone lanes, you will fine La Maison Rose. Another treasure in the Montmartre. This little restaurant sits on a corner of a Rue de l’Abreuvoir and Rue des Saules. It is said to have been once visited by the likes of Picasso. You can learn more about the history of this little Pink House by visiting SoloSophie

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Le Saint Jean – Cafe in Montmartre

There is more to explore in the 18th arrondissement of one of my favorite cities. These are just some of the more interesting finds during my many visits to this that keeps bringing me back for more to explore. Please do and explore for yourself and see what you can find. Please read my other posts on Paris for other ideas:

Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Paris

Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See

Opéra Garnier or Paris’ Opera House

Paris’ Eiffel Tower

Christmas in Uneasy Paris

Reminding Us Why Recording of Our History Is Important.

Free Walking Tour Options

Discoverwalks offers free and paid tours of some of the major cities around the world including Paris. I have used them during my visits to Paris and highly recommend them. Please explore Discoverwalks.com  for more details.




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Reminding Us Why Recording of Our History Is Important.

The idiom ‘here today, (and) gone tomorrow’ is a reminder of the tragedy that unfolded in Paris yesterday. This rings true even with such centuries old icon places, that can be damaged in such a short period of time either by natural disaster or man-made events. In fact, many of the places one wishes to visit today just may not be present in the future. This where the beauty of photography comes in. As a fellow traveler, I truly enjoy sharing with others these images just in case such wonderful treasure as the Notre Dame are lost forever.

Paris-La-Notre-Dame (2010)

Our Visit this Past December 2018

Pyramid in Egypt

Many events (hurricanes, earthquake, floods, tsunamis or other nature disaster) in ours lives will lead to changing the landscapes, places, and the world we visit today for future generations. Through the photos we share, we can re-live the past and potential learn from them. Enjoy the experience and please continue to travel.

Sphinx, Egypt

Why Did You First Decide to Travel?

The reason for why one first chooses to travel may be easy to answer and includes: taking the summer off from college, wishing to get out of that small town you grew up in, or having that adventurous spirit to see this beautiful planet.  Why did you first choose to travel? 

My Reasons for Traveling:

If I have to first pinpoint a reason for first wishing to travel, it would be wanting to understand the different culture and people beyond where I grew up in a small coal camp in WV. I knew there was this exciting planet to explore through reading books and I couldn’t wait to begin my exploration.  My first trip on a plane was during college to Salt Lake City.  I no longer have any pictures of this trip, but reminder the flight, the Lake, and a restaurant called; Salt Lake Pizza & Pasta. It may be time to plan for another trip here soon?

Great Salt Lake, Utah, United States (image courteous of: travelthruhistorytv.)

My first international trip was the following fall of that year to France, which I fell in love with this country for its culture and atmosphere. There is still more to see in France and other parts of Europe and beyond that I have yet to explore. So much travel and so little time to plan that trip or next adventure. Some of posts on France are below:

Best Neighborhoods to Stay in Paris

Normandy France- Juno Beach

Paris’ Flea Markets-A Must See

Christmas in Uneasy Paris

Eiffel Tower

 

Why did you first decide to explore this great planet of ours?  

Can you remember your first trip locally or internationally?

Are you planning a new adventure?

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