A Travellerspoint blog

There's eventually no place like home

Traveling back to Buffalo from Paris

semi-overcast 72 °F
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Clear skies, but would there be clearing sailing to the airport? We woke up outrageously early - 5:00am, took our showers, dressed and checked out by 6:30am. We waited down in the lobby for our driver, who didn't arrive until 8:00am. He had made a run to the airport already this morning and said it would be busy but we would get through. The problem would be more for him to get back to Paris.

Our new best buddy - Moustafa told us not to worry. The car service would get us there and he was right. Taking the train would have been a very nerve-wracking experience, so cheers to Moustafa.

Paris - Hotel Manager Moustafa

Paris - Hotel Manager Moustafa

Traffic was heavy, but we didn't run into any "grieve" or strike problems until we were near the airport. We saw a line of taxis blocking the lanes with the police there to move them along. The strike is over the competition coming from private car companies who can be summoned using internet apps. Instead of embracing technology, the drivers would rather fight changes and competition.

When we saw the extent of the traffic heading back to the city we felt bad for our driver. I think he may have thought we were crazy as we were cheering him on and thanking him for getting us to the airport. It was a tip-worthy ride that made the difference in us getting home. We were very early for our flight, but sitting around there was much better than being stuck in traffic or not getting there for our flight.

The flight left on time and was a smooth ride home. It was eight hours from Paris to Detroit but it went pretty fast. We decided to try flying through Detroit on the way home after our last joyful foray at JFK. This time it was a very different experience. After exiting the plane, it only took us a total of thirty minutes to get through passport control, get our bags, clear customs, re-check our bags and then clear security. I kept waiting for lines or a delay but there were none. Kudos to Detroit for a great re-entry experience.

Our flight from Detroit to Buffalo was on-time and was a good flight. We arrived back in Buffalo around 9:00pm and the cab dropped us off at home about 10:30pm. It was a long day, but we were home.

Overall, this was an awesome vacation. A month gave us plenty of time to see and do what we wanted without feeling rushed. There were many highlights along the way, especially getting to share part of the experience with good friends. It was a great way to start my new life as a retiree.

Posted by Herk58 22:12 Archived in France Tagged paris france travel Comments (0)

Our last day in Paris

Rainy start with a sunny ending

rain
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More rain, actually a nasty rain storm overnight with lots of lightning again. Dreary, rainy day until late afternoon, then the skies cleared and it was a pleasant end to the day. Great lunch and beautiful concert to finish off the trip.

Trying to get to sleep with the sky lighting up frequently was a challenge. Add in some big booming thunder and sleeping came at a premium. Upon waking up in the morning, the rain was still pouring down and the skies were a dark grey. Today was not going to be a good day to walk around.

We went down for breakfast and watched people trying to keep dry with their umbrellas, but they were not winning the battle. We ended up sitting in the hotel lounge for a while just relaxing and reading and deciding where our last lunch would be. There were two criteria - good food and nearby.

We chose a small place along the Luxembourg Gardens called "Le Petite Medicis". We were able to make a reservation using La Fourchatte for 1:00pm and would probably only get a little wet getting there. When we arrived, we were a little early and the only ones there. Right after we arrived, the skies opened up once again. People were arriving soaked to the skin, except for the lady in the Michelin Man outfit with the clear plastic poncho. Everyone got a little chuckle as she peeled off her plastic wrapper - but she was dry.

The food was excellent, especially considering the size of the place. We both started with a fresh mozzarella salad that was one of the best we've ever had. The cheese was so fresh we were listening for the thunder of hoofs - it was buffalo milk mozzarella. The rest of our meal was equally good, but the cheese stood out. The prices were very reasonable and the service was outstanding. Our waitress willfully put up with our French despite being able to speak fluent English. Instead, she helped us through a couple items we weren't sure of and was very complimentary.

When lunch was finished, we made the dash back to the hotel in the rain. Ended up in the room - one of us napping and one of us playing games until it was time to get ready to go out. For our last evening, we have tickets to a concert at Sainte-Chapelle. The performance is 300 year old music in an 800 year old chapel. Vivaldi's Four Seasons was the main piece, with Pachelbel's Canon and Albinini rounding out the performance.

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Interior

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Interior

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Interior

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Interior

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Interior

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Interior

The concert was excellent. The performers were very good and really put their souls into the music. Afterwards, they explained the way the instruments are used to convey the various aspects of the music. Very interesting to hear as it makes the piece even more special to listen to.

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Concert Musicians

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Concert Musicians

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Concert Musicians

Paris - Sainte-Chapelle Concert Musicians

The weather had turned much more pleasant by the time we were ready to leave, so we took a nice walk home. The air felt fresh and clean, I guess all that rain scrubbed the clouds. Had one last chance to pass by some nice sights on our way back.

Paris - Palace of Justice Gilded Gates

Paris - Palace of Justice Gilded Gates

Paris - Palace of Justice

Paris - Palace of Justice

Paris - Notre Dame

Paris - Notre Dame

Paris - Place Saint-Michel

Paris - Place Saint-Michel

Paris - Sorbonne University

Paris - Sorbonne University

Paris - Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg

Paris - Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg

Now all that was left was to pack up and cross our fingers. Tomorrow will be interesting as there is both a Taxi and Train strike going on. We have a private car reserved to take us to the airport, but if the taxis block the road, that won't be of much help.

Posted by Herk58 22:08 Archived in France Tagged restaurant paris france concert Comments (0)

Storm clouds brewing over Paris

Cultured walk through Paris on a hot, muggy day

overcast 85 °F
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Thunderstorms kept us up, humidity was through the roof, memory card error in camera and storms around France heading our way. How's that for a synopsis?

Well, this trip is looking like it will end in a bang - literally, as in thunder! Went to bed last night watching a lightning show through our window. It lasted until about 2:30am or that's when we stopped noticing it. We think it might have knocked the power out for a bit, but it's not like we had to get up for work or anything. A little tired this morning as we made our way down to breakfast. It's some kind of holiday here, but we can't figure out which one or why.

While it was humid, it was still mostly sunny so we decided to head out for some sightseeing. Grabbed a carnet of tickets and caught the Metro over to the Tuileries gardens. Mr Johnny on the spot helped a woman carry a stroller up the stairs at the metro stop and it wasn't just because she was clogging up the stairs - really!

Made our way in to the park. Lots of people are out today, actually hordes of people are out today. We have usually been gone around this point in June, so we're not so used to dealing with all the people. Umbrellas, flags and other assorted items wave in the air to keep the tour groups together. People speaking many different languages stopping in their tracks to get that perfect picture and, my favorite, walking right between you while you're taking a picture. Pardon, Scusi, oopsi....

And then it happened. Went to take a picture and nothing happened. The screen on my camera said "Memory Card Error". Oh no!! Luckily I have been uploading my pictures to my iPad daily or I would have lost a whole trips worth of pictures. No panic, but disappointment for sure.

We walked towards the Place de Concorde and just sat down for a few minutes. It was nice to watch over the hustle and bustle, while relaxing under the shade of a tree. The skies were getting a little darker, so the plan was to walk back to the area around the hotel and have a nice lunch. We're going out tonight, so a good lunch would carry us over.

We walked along Blvd St Germain most of the way, zig zagging as needed. Passed by all the fancy shops along the way - Prada and Yves St Laurent, Christian Laboutin doesn't make men's shoes - Oh, well. :-) Skies were getting darker, so we hustled a bit until we were closer to our hotel.

Since our timing was off, we decided to just eat in the Brasserie attached to our own hotel. What could be easier then that? Restaurants, Bistros, Cafes and Brasseries are everywhere, but timing is important. We've found that the restaurants and bistro are usually open from 12:00 - 2:30pm for lunch, then close until 7:00 or 7:30pm. Brasseries and cafes are usually open all day.

After eating, it was time to rest. Tonight we are going to the Opera Garnier to see "L'Incoronazione Di Poppea" or the Coronation of Poppaea. It was written in 1643 by Claudio Monteverdi and was his last masterpiece.

Since the weather was not looking so good, we took a taxi to the Opera Garnier. The ride over was a short one. We figured we'd run into more traffic, but keep forgetting it is some kind of holiday. The Opera Garnier is a great looking building. Makes you excited to go inside and see what it has to offer. The gates were not yet open, so we mingled with the people who were sitting on the steps listening to a guy playing guitar and singing. He wasn't the best, but it was entertaining.

Paris - Opera Garnier - Street Performer

Paris - Opera Garnier - Street Performer

When the gates did open, it was a civil crowd who entered. Some obvious opera devotees and some tourists. How could I tell? I figured the ones in dresses and suits or tuxedos were the opera devotees. The ones in shorts, sandals, sneakers, etc. - the tourists. I must say though, we tourists did behave ourselves. Inside, the building is even more spectacular then on the outside. The grand staircase, the chandelier and the polished marble was beautiful. Our seats were in a box, which sported red velvet wall coverings and seating for twelve, plus a grand salon chair in the far back.

Paris - Opera Garnier Grand Stairway

Paris - Opera Garnier Grand Stairway

Paris - Opera Garnier - Box 30

Paris - Opera Garnier - Box 30

Paris - Opera Garnier - Lobby

Paris - Opera Garnier - Lobby

Paris - Opera Garnier Box

Paris - Opera Garnier Box

When you peered out from your seat, you look at the huge stage curtain surrounded by boxes circling the seats on the floor below. The ceiling is a masterpiece in of itself, having been painted by Marc Chagall. It was all so impressive and the show hadn't even begun. The opera itself was sung in Italian and the storyline was easy enough to follow. There was a screen with sub-titles, but they were in French so they didn't help much. At intermission, we stepped out and had a g;ass of champagne over looking the main lobby.

Paris - Opera Garnier - Stage curtain

Paris - Opera Garnier - Stage curtain

Paris - Opera Garnier - Interior Boxes

Paris - Opera Garnier - Interior Boxes

Paris - Opera Garnier - Front View

Paris - Opera Garnier - Front View

Paris - Opera Garnier - Chagall Ceiling

Paris - Opera Garnier - Chagall Ceiling

Paris - Opera Garnier - Intermission Champagne

Paris - Opera Garnier - Intermission Champagne

Paris - Opera Garnier - Gallery

Paris - Opera Garnier - Gallery

It really was a wonderful evening. Just the experience of seeing an opera in France at the famed Opera Garnier was incredible. I can see why the Phantom hung out there!

We took the Metro back to the hotel. It really is an easy system in paris and only took us about a half hour to get home. There was cold Orangina waiting for us, so we hung out a little before heading off to bed. The thunder and lightning show was ramping up as we were getting ready for bed and what a show it would be.

Posted by Herk58 12:29 Archived in France Tagged paris france touring Comments (0)

A tale of one city - Paris

Strolling through Paris, cruising the Seine and visiting the Pantheon

semi-overcast 79 °F
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Woke to a beautiful day, perfect for taking in the sites of the city. Nice dinner planned this evening and even a little wine.

By our standards, we were up and ready early, had breakfast and were ready to take to the streets by 9:30. It was a quiet Sunday morning and the streets were so peaceful. We took a stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens alone except for the morning joggers. Stopped by the World War exhibit. It truly is amazing to see what was happening here in Europe. Besides the fact that I wasn't born yet, I can't imagine what it must have been like to fear for your life every day. Such a strange people we are.

Continued walking around the palace. It is such a beautiful building and to think it is being used as a government building. People were slowly starting to filter into the gardens, sitting in the the gardens reading their newspapers. Saw the Medici Fountain, beautiful but buggy in the morning shade.

Paris - Luxembourg Palace and fountain

Paris - Luxembourg Palace and fountain

Paris - Luxembourg Gardens

Paris - Luxembourg Gardens

Paris - Luxembourg Palace

Paris - Luxembourg Palace

Paris - Luxembourg Gardens Medici Fountain

Paris - Luxembourg Gardens Medici Fountain

Strolled the streets down towards the river. Many art galleries and clothing shops. When we arrived at the river, the Batobus was just arriving. It's like a hop on - hop off sightseeing boat. Pay one price and it takes you to eight different stops. The people who worked at the ticket office deserve a special shout out. There was a family with a young man in a wheel chair. Before they sold them the tickets, they made sure he'd be able to get on and off.

Paris - BatoBus

Paris - BatoBus

We bought our tickets and used it as our private tour boat, staying on for a loop and taking in the sites. It was a beautiful sunny day and Paris was looking great. Funny to see how some people aren't in tune with the sites. One man was dozing, a couple of kids were attached to their cell phones and not even looking around. Then again, others were pointing and taking pictures and I think on a warm day just glad they aren't walking all over.

Paris - Notre Dame from the Seine

Paris - Notre Dame from the Seine

Paris - Notre Dame

Paris - Notre Dame

Paris - Batobus - More Scenery

Paris - Batobus - More Scenery

Paris - Batobus - Scenes

Paris - Batobus - Scenes

Paris - Batobus - Back through the bridges

Paris - Batobus - Back through the bridges

Paris - Batobus - Pont Alexander III

Paris - Batobus - Pont Alexander III

Paris - Batobus - Not everyone was interested

Paris - Batobus - Not everyone was interested

Paris - Batobus waiting

Paris - Batobus waiting

Hopped off the boat at Notre Dame on the way back, the lines to climb the bell tower were long - not that we were looking to climb the tower. Very crowded around the church, pickpocket heaven! It is another of those Paris landmarks that I never tire of seeing.

Paris - Notre Dame

Paris - Notre Dame

Paris - Notre Dame Rear View

Paris - Notre Dame Rear View

Paris - Notre Dame from locks of love bridge

Paris - Notre Dame from locks of love bridge

Paris - Notre Dame Charlemagne

Paris - Notre Dame Charlemagne

The church looks beautiful from every angle - front, back and sides. There was actually mass going on, so we couldn't go in to see the new lighting that was installed. We did hear the new bells ringing and they sounded just as good as the old ones.

Realizing that most of the gargoyles around the building are downspouts has made them a lot less mysterious, though the classic ones up on the top of the tower still hold their mystique.

Paris - Notre Dame Gargoyles

Paris - Notre Dame Gargoyles

Took a picture of Point Zero in front of the church. For you trivia buffs, it is the spot where all distances are measured from in Paris. Just a small bronze point on the ground, but important nonetheless.

Paris - Point Zero

Paris - Point Zero

Grabbed a nice lunch at a small place called Cafe Juliette before going to the Pantheon. We've seen it, but have never been there before and really weren't sure what it was. Turns out it started out as a cathedral in honor of St Genevieve and now it is considered a monument and mausoleum in tribute to the greatness of France. In the crypt below, the tombs of Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas and Pierre and Marie Curie among others.

Patheon - Facade

Patheon - Facade

Pantheon - Sculpture

Pantheon - Sculpture

Pantheon - Interior

Pantheon - Interior

Pantheon - Sculpture

Pantheon - Sculpture

Pantheon - Painting of Charlemagne's Crowning

Pantheon - Painting of Charlemagne's Crowning

Pantheon - Joan of Arc

Pantheon - Joan of Arc

Pantheon - Painting - Joan of Arc

Pantheon - Painting - Joan of Arc

Pantheon - Front entranceway cover

Pantheon - Front entranceway cover

09E5DAE22219AC6817CE37ABF6CD2AE8.jpg

They are doing some restoration work on the dome and pendulum clock, so they have added an exhibit featuring the many faces of Paris. A huge group of selfies that have been placed on the floor and ceiling.

Pantheon - Selfie Collage

Pantheon - Selfie Collage

Enough culture; time to head back to the hotel to rest and clean up before dinner. Dinner is at Les 110 des Taillevent, it's a spin off of the famous Taillevent Restaurant and has an interesting concept. 110 wines are available by the glass, hence the name. When you look at the menu, you see four wines listed next to each item. Each column is a different price range, but the wines are all decent and pair well with the food. It wasn't cheap, but it was delicious. Highly recommend it.

Back to home before the coming rain hits.

Posted by Herk58 01:24 Archived in France Tagged paris france sites Comments (0)

From the Loire to Paris

A mostly travel day

overcast 73 °F
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Early morning wake up for our commute to Paris. Drive 100km to Orleans, then train ride back to Tours on the way to Paris. A little rest then a little wine.

Alarms went off at 5:50am as we had to shower and pack to be out by around 9:30. Ran into Mr Picard while loading the luggage into the car. Thanked him and he thanked us for being good guests. Prepped the car and off we went in the rain on our journey to Orleans.

We need to drop the car off in Orleans, otherwise we could have caught the train from town. How ironic is it that our train in Orleans comes back through Amboise before we head to Paris. Despite the off and on rain, the trip to Orleans wasn't bad at all. We made it there pretty smoothly and dropped off the car at the Sixt Agency. The guy at the agency then drove us over to the train station. The second irony was that the guy mentioned that on Monday they opened a new rental office in Tours, but since we had pre-booked and prepaid, we couldn't change. Oh, well.

I have to say, this is the second time we rented in Europe through Sixt and I would highly recommend them. Nice cars, we had a Mercedes B-180, good prices and good service.

Unfortunately, we arrived way early for our train and couldn't switch to the earlier train so we had a three hour wait in Gare Orleans. Let me tell you about it. It is a nice clean station, only eight tracks for trains. There are a couple decent places to eat and there are enough strange people to fill an arena. Not sure if they all just came out because they heard we were in town, but they did come.

Sue surmised that the history records are incorrect. Joan of Arc begged to be burned at the stake rather than return to Orleans. It wasn't as heroic as first thought.

Our train was right on time. We had first class tickets so there were only five other people in our car, which made for a quiet trip. Arriving in St Pierre des Corps, we only had twenty-five minutes before our next train arrived. This train was a TGV to Paris instead of the TER train to Tours. The ride only took about an hour before we were pulling in to Gare Montparnesse.

Paris - TGV Montparnesse

Paris - TGV Montparnesse

When we saw how busy the station was, we decided to protect what was left of our sanity and take a taxi to our hotel. It took less than 10 minutes to get to the hotel and based on reports from our Paris correspondents, we would have been hauling bags up and down stairs to take the RER.

OUr hotel is the Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg and is located about a block away from the Luxembourg Gardens on Blvd St. Michel. Very nice and clean hotel, pleasant staff, attached brasserie and great location. Not a complaint, but the room seems so small after having two whole houses worth of room in Turenne and Amboise.

Paris - Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg

Paris - Hotel Observatoire Luxembourg

Paris - Bedroom

Paris - Bedroom

Paris - Bedroom

Paris - Bedroom

We relaxed for awhile before going down to dinner. The hotel threw in a complimentary dinner for us, so we took advantage of it. We did order wine and an extra dessert, but dinner in Paris for €30 is a bargain. Ok, so how was the food? Delicious! Honestly, we both had low expectations and were completely surprised by how good the meal was.

Went upstairs and hit the sack early. We were both tired from getting up early and traveling most of the day.

Posted by Herk58 13:52 Archived in France Tagged paris france loire Comments (1)

Hot day in the Loire

Chateau Cheverny and Chateau Fougieres

sunny 86 °F
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Woke up to clear, blue skies. Predictions are for mid 80's and lots of sunshine. Hopefully the day will be nice everywhere as they are commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the D-Day invasion in Normandy.

Going to take a bit of a ride today to Chateau Cheverny and then see what strikes our mood on the way back home. Cheverny is to the southeast of Amboise and a little more than an hour's drive. Among it's many claims to fame, it was used as a model for the Tin Tin comics. If you were to block out the two end towers, you'll see what I mean. More on that later.

The drive started out pleasant enough, until we realized that we left our rental papers and international driving permits home. We circled back to grab them and then headed off once again. The ride takes you through two forests, a bunch of small towns and some beautiful fields and vineyards. We passed by an airplane tour of the valley location. The pilot seemed to be readying the plane and waved us in as we stopped to take a quick picture. It sounded like a cool thing to do, but Sue would never fly in such a small plane and who knows what the cost would have been.

Cheverny - Tour plane

Cheverny - Tour plane

It wasn't too much longer before we arrived at the town of Cheverny. It was a cute little town with a few places to eat, a couple of Gites and of course, the chateau. There was plenty of free parking available near to the chateau. There were cars and buses in the lots, but it still seemed pretty quiet.

We paid our admission - €9.50 each plus €4.50 for the special exposition. The special exposition is a building set up with everything Tin Tin. The chateau is large and very ornate, but in a simple manner. It isn't over the top like some of the others. The front entrance is plain. There is a huge lawn with trees here and there, and then a large stony area. The pictures are better then my explanation.

Cheverny - Chateau front view

Cheverny - Chateau front view

Cheverny - Chateau view from left side

Cheverny - Chateau view from left side

Inside the chateau, the furnishings are all very tasteful and family oriented, albeit a rich family.

Cheverny - Dining room

Cheverny - Dining room

Cheverny - Chateau bedroom

Cheverny - Chateau bedroom

Cheverny - Kids room Napolean era rocking horse

Cheverny - Kids room Napolean era rocking horse

Cheverny - Chateau Owners wife wedding dress

Cheverny - Chateau Owners wife wedding dress

Cheverny - Arms room

Cheverny - Arms room

Cheverny - Chateau chapel

Cheverny - Chateau chapel

The back of the chateau is home to some very lovely gardens, but once again, they are very tastefully done. It is a pleasant stroll through the gardens back to the Orangerie. It is rumored that the Mona Lisa, among other artworks, was hidden here during WWII. It was just a note as today was the 70th anniversary of the Normandy invasion.

Cheverny - Rear view

Cheverny - Rear view

Cheverny - Chateau view from garden

Cheverny - Chateau view from garden

Cheverny - Chateau from fountain

Cheverny - Chateau from fountain

Cheverny - Chateau from garden canopy

Cheverny - Chateau from garden canopy

After strolling through the grounds we headed over to the kennel. Chateau Cheverny is also famous for it's hounds. Hounds as in fox hunt hounds. Quite frankly, the kennel area was sort of stinky, literally. We plugged our noses and headed in the other direction.

Our last stop would be the Tin Tin exposition. It was a building set up so that as you walked through, you saw rooms set up like in the comic strip. It was neat to see the original comic strips and some of the other wacky things portrayed as real life objects. The tie in is that the chateau in the comic strip was modeled after Cheverny. Quite enjoyable.

TinTin - Exhibition Entrance

TinTin - Exhibition Entrance

TinTin - Sue startled with the guys

TinTin - Sue startled with the guys

TinTin - Sue with Shark sub

TinTin - Sue with Shark sub

TinTin - Chateau inspired by Cheverny

TinTin - Chateau inspired by Cheverny

TinTin - The chateau model

TinTin - The chateau model

Cheverny - Chateau view from left side

Cheverny - Chateau view from left side

After our visit, we were hungry and decided to check out someplace in town. Right across from the exit was Le Terrasse du Pinocchio, how could we resist. Pizza's, wine and orangina topped off our tummies before we got back on the road.

Since it was only a little past 3:00, we decided to stop at Chateau Fougiere on the way home. It is a smallish feudal castle, definitely a man castle as Sue would say. Price here was only €5.50 each and the walk- through took us about an hour.

Fougeres - Castle

Fougeres - Castle

Fougeres - Lord of the Castle or jester?

Fougeres - Lord of the Castle or jester?

Fougeres - passway

Fougeres - passway

Fougeres - Towers

Fougeres - Towers

Fougeres - Courtyard

Fougeres - Courtyard

Fougeres - Courtyard view

Fougeres - Courtyard view

Fougeres - Comfy bed chamber

Fougeres - Comfy bed chamber

Fougeres - Castle courtyard

Fougeres - Castle courtyard

We were officially castled out and headed home. It was such a great day, we just drove with the windows down and enjoyed the fresh air. When we arrived at the last roundabout before town, we stopped to fill up the gas tank and then got crazy and washed the car at a self-wash place. Things were going ok until the kindly attendant came over to help me with the dirty wheels. He spoke no English and we all know about my French - hilarity ensued. When done, the car was clean and I was humbled, but I think I made a new friend.

Now it was home to rest before dinner. The hot sun had tired us both out, so it felt good to prop up our weary legs and rest. Dinner at La Patio for our final meal before heading back to Paris. This has been a wonderful trip to the Loire. We've had great meals and wines, seen some beautiful sites and have enjoyed staying in our rental here in Amboise.

Time to sleep, as we have an early morning ahead.

Posted by Herk58 13:02 Archived in France Tagged france chateau loire Comments (1)

Hanging around Amboise

Over the top lunch and wandering around

sunny 70 °F
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Well today certainly is starting out much better than yesterday. The skies are bluer and the clouds are fewer. Good day for a walk.

Since we couldn't get dinner reservations at La Breche, we are going there for lunch today. Everyone says it is great, so I hope we can continue the hype. As it is a lovely day, we're going to walk as it is between here and the train station across the river.

We ran into the owner of the house on our way out. He is very friendly and was surprised that we were taking out garbage and even more surprised when he learned we had taken out the trash bin while he was away. I wonder what some of the previous guests did? Anyways, we had a nice chat about our stay so far and the region. Told him we'd be leaving around 9:30 on Saturday for Orleans. Bid him au revoir and off to lunch.

The walk over was very nice. We gave ourselves plenty of time so we wouldn't have to rush. The Chateau looks beautiful from the bridge; I'll have to be sure to take some pictures on the way back when the sun isn't right in our eyes.

As we arrived early, we walked over to the train station to see if we could print out our tickets for Saturday. Amboise is just a small station so it really wasn't a surprise when we found that they didn't have a ticket machine to print our tickets. No worries, we'll have plenty of time in Orleans to get them.

Amboise - Train Station Signs

Amboise - Train Station Signs

Amboise - Train Station

Amboise - Train Station

We made our way back to the restaurant and walked in. The woman at the desk was so charming. I started in French, she responded in English. We said we would prefer French if she didn't mind so she spoke slowly and helped us through. Just a couple of bumps when I didn't know the right words, but she was terrific.

We were the only ones there for about a half hour, so we received lots of attention. It really enhanced the experience. Lunch was a four course meal that was incredible from start to finish. Wait, did I say four course meal? I should have said an eight course meal. Yikes! With a little treat from the chef, an amuse bouche, a pre-dessert and then truffles and merangue cookies with our tea, we were very sated and very full.

Amboise - La Breche exterior

Amboise - La Breche exterior

Amboise - La Breche dining room

Amboise - La Breche dining room

Amboise - La Breche dining room

Amboise - La Breche dining room

Amboise - La Breche

Amboise - La Breche

I now know why everyone raves about La Breche and I will too. Reviews on Trip Advisor coming soon.

After exchanging pleasantries and talking about our planned visitations, we waddled our way back to town.

Amboise - bridge over the Loire

Amboise - bridge over the Loire

Amboise - Church

Amboise - Church

Amboise - Royal Chateau

Amboise - Royal Chateau

Amboise - Loire River

Amboise - Loire River

The weather was very pleasant. Yesterday's rain left the air smelling fresh and cleaned up some of the dust, especially off of our car. We decided to just hang around instead of driving all over. Tomorrow would be our chase day, so today we just enjoy the surroundings.

Posted by Herk58 00:27 Archived in France Tagged france loire amboise Comments (1)

Rainy day in the Loire

Resting and chilling at home

rain 60 °F
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We had our first complete rain out today. It was chilly and rainy and just not a day that we wanted to deal with - so we didn't.

Woke up to ominous looking skies and soon enough it started to rain. Then it rained harder and the winds picked up. We made a joint executive decision - stay in and rest. We had gone through a stretch of days where we walked and climbed stairs and we were both pooped.

We had bought fresh cheese, bread, ham and some snacks the day before, so we would take care of eating. Luckily, we had our ever present bottles of wine, so an indoor picnic was available.

It really did feel good to just sit around and watch the rain. It went from light sprinkles to heavy downpours as the day went along.

Tomorrow will be a sunny day, so we can go out to play once again.

Posted by Herk58 01:35 Archived in France Tagged france amboise Comments (0)

Beautiful chateaux in the Loire

Chateau Chenonceau and Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire

overcast 65 °F
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The skies were overcast but the forecasters said the rain would hold off, so we decided to go visiting. A couple nearby chateaux were on tap, not that I didn't trust the weatherman.

We started out around 10:30 am for Chateau Chenonceau. It is another of my favorites in the Loire. It definitely has a more refined look to it and that would be proper given its history. It is referred to as the Chateau of the Five Women.

A little history lesson. In 1547, Henry II gave the chateau to his mistress Diane de Poitiers. She created most of the lovely gardens and built the famous bridge that spans the River Cher. When he died, his wife, Catherine de'Medici, forced Diane to leave the chateau and move to Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire. Catherine de'Medici had the great gallery added to the bridge spanning the river so she could hold large parties. In addition to the two loves of Henry II, three other woman played a role in shaping Chenonceau. Louise of Lorraine, Louise Dupin and Marguerite Pelouze. You can check the internet if you want to know about them.

Back to the chateau. Let's take a look at some pictures. We spent a couple hours here just strolling the paths and gardens, before taking a look inside.

Chateau Chenonceau - Approach

Chateau Chenonceau - Approach

Chateau Chenonceau - Garden view

Chateau Chenonceau - Garden view

Chateau Chenonceau - Sue in garden

Chateau Chenonceau - Sue in garden

Chateau Chenonceau - From the garden

Chateau Chenonceau - From the garden

Chateau Chenonceau - Downstream

Chateau Chenonceau - Downstream

Chateau Chenonceau - Grape Vines

Chateau Chenonceau - Grape Vines

Chateau Chenonceau - Great Hall

Chateau Chenonceau - Great Hall

We grabbed sandwiches and beverages and had ourselves a little picnic lunch. So far the weather is cooperating. The clouds are just teasing us. I'm sure it is raining somewhere nearby.

Since the weather is cooperating, we are going to take a ride over to Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire. This is the Chateau that Diane de Poitiers was exiled to by Catherine de'Medici. Life must have been quite difficult for her in such a ranshackle place.

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Chateau

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Chateau

Diane did not live here long, but she remains a part of its legacy.

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Full courtyard

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Full courtyard

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Courtyard

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Courtyard

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Chapel

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Chapel

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Bedroom

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Bedroom

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Chapel Glass

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Chapel Glass

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Dining room

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Dining room

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Mosaic floor tiles

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Mosaic floor tiles

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Billiards Room

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Billiards Room

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Original stained glass

Chateau Chaumont-sur-Loire - Original stained glass

The chateau has been maintained and restored and today is famous for its many art exhibits and gardens. Experts and artists worldwide come to Chaumont to present their works and gardens. It is a great place to walk and relax among the flowers with the Loire River flowing below.

All that said, it wasn't one of my favorites as I'm not a big art lover. I love classic paintings, but contemporary art is not for me. If you want to visit to see just the grounds and the chateau, make sure you get the proper ticket. They have an all-inclusive and a separate chateau and grounds ticket at different prices.

Ok, so now a few raindrops could be felt so we headed back home. We are just 16km from Amboise and there is not much traffic. Once settled, we head to the grocery store for a few items than back to the house to relax for a while. All these stone stairs and inclines have my legs sore and tired.

A nice refreshing rest was just what the doctor ordered. We went into town to a restaurant called Chez Bruno and had a great dinner. The food was awesome, the service was superb and the prices were reasonable. We were there at the same time as a group of Brits, we think they were on a golfing holiday, who were getting totally hammered before dinner. Luckily, they went inside and though still a bit noisy, we were able to enjoy our meal with just a few other pleasant people outside.

As I like to say, another perfect day. Looks like tomorrow is going to be chilly and rainy, so it might be a good day to relax and rest at home.

Posted by Herk58 05:25 Archived in France Tagged france loire chaumont-sur-loire Comments (0)

Exploring the Loire

The Abbey of Fontevraud, Chateau du Rivau and Chateau d'Usse

sunny 74 °F
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Another bright, sunny day with blue skies beckoned us to explore and how could we say - Non?

We decided to to head west today to visit three very different locations. We started out for our farthest destination - The Abbey of Fontevraud. It would take a little over an hour to reach, but the scenery along they way was breath-taking. Forests, farmland and vineyards led us across the country-side until we arrived. The town of Fontevraud is small. The entrance to the parking lot is also small, very small. In fact, I wasn't sure we would get through the gate.

While the town seemed nice, we had come to see the Abbey and we were glad that we did. The abbey was founded in 1101, and was built between 1105 and 1165. It became a royal tomb in 1189, when it became the final resting place for Richard the Lion Heart. It would subsequently become the resting place of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine. The Abbey was in place through 1790, when the monks dispersed and the Abbess and Nuns were expelled. This beautiful Abbey would be transformed into a prison with the last detainees leaving in 1985. Since that time, the restoration process has continued and the Abbey was named to the UNESCO World Heritage List.

For us, the highlights were the Abbey and the Cloister Gardens. The Abbey is simply built, yet extremely reverent. It is not overly ornate except for the four effigies. In case there is a quiz, the four effigies are Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henry II, Richard the Lion Heart and Isabelle of Angouleme - she the wife of Eleanor and Henry's youngest son.

The Cloister is simple, but elegant. The stone walls reflecting the sunlight and surrounding the beautiful garden area. Below are pictures of the Abbey to enjoy.

Fontevraud - Abbey from front

Fontevraud - Abbey from front

Fontevraud - Abbey Arches

Fontevraud - Abbey Arches

Fontevraud - Abbey from rear

Fontevraud - Abbey from rear

Fontevraud - Abbey

Fontevraud - Abbey

Fontevraud - Floor-mounted tablet

Fontevraud - Floor-mounted tablet

Fontevraud - Abbaye - Richard the Lion-Hearted

Fontevraud - Abbaye - Richard the Lion-Hearted

Fontevraud - Cloister Corner View

Fontevraud - Cloister Corner View

Fontevraud - Cloister View

Fontevraud - Cloister View

Fontevraud - Cloister Gardens

Fontevraud - Cloister Gardens

After leaving the tranquility of the Abbey, we changed our plans a bit to stop at the Chateau Montsoreau. What we learned is that sometimes brochures and websites aren't true representations of reality. We drove by, turned around and then headed for our next off the original plan site - Chateau du Rivau.

Chateau du Rivau looks like a fairy tale castle, complete with beautiful, whimsical gardens.

Chateau Rivau - Castle from treehouse

Chateau Rivau - Castle from treehouse

Chateau Rivau - Garden Maze

Chateau Rivau - Garden Maze

Chateau Rivau - Garden

Chateau Rivau - Garden

Chateau Rivau - Flowers

Chateau Rivau - Flowers

Chateau Rivau - Big Sprinkling Can

Chateau Rivau - Big Sprinkling Can

Chateau Rivau - Tom Big Boots

Chateau Rivau - Tom Big Boots

Chateau Rivau - Flower Pot

Chateau Rivau - Flower Pot

Chateau Rivau - Big Shoe

Chateau Rivau - Big Shoe

The castle was built in the 15th century by Pierre de Beauvau and was visited by Joan of Arc. The castle is furnished with classical pieces and also contains some contemporary art pieces. My favorite was the cool gargoyle, but that's just my style.

Be sure to walk through the various gardens and do get the audio guide to hear the stories about them. We thought this would be a quick stop for us, but we both really enjoyed walking through the castle and gardens.

Our next stop would be Chinon, except we changed our mind and decided to stop at Chateau d'Usse instead. It was just a little off our path but is famous for being Sleeping Beauty's Castle ( Belle au bois dormant ) - as Disney is said to have modeled their attraction after it.

The Castle of Usse dates back to 1004, when it was a wooden fortress owned by a Viking - Gelduin. Then in the 15th century the first part of the castle was erected on the original foundation. It was completely as it stands today in the 17th century Legend has it that Charles Perrault was inspired by his stay at the castle and wrote Sleeping Beauty.

Be sure to check out the beautiful chapel, the stables with the various horse drawn carriages and, of course, the castle. The climb to the top of Sleeping Beauty's Tower was a little daunting, but even if you don't want to see sleeping beauty, the views are terrific. You can then walk through the various rooms of the castle. There are mannequins in many of the rooms dressed in period costumes through the ages. You move from the 15th century section of the castle to the 17th century section as you go along. It really was an interesting visit. Almost forgot, be sure to check out the gardens and the view over the river.

Chateau Usse - Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Chateau Usse - Sleeping Beauty's Castle

Chateau Usse - Gardens

Chateau Usse - Gardens

Chateau Usse - Chapel

Chateau Usse - Chapel

Chateau Usse - Chapel Inside

Chateau Usse - Chapel Inside

Chateau Usse - Chapel Windows

Chateau Usse - Chapel Windows

Chateau Usse - Carriages

Chateau Usse - Carriages

Chateau Usse - Courtyard Flowers

Chateau Usse - Courtyard Flowers

Chateau Usse - Outside View

Chateau Usse - Outside View

Chateau Usse - Garden Fountain

Chateau Usse - Garden Fountain

Chateau Usse - King's Ante-room

Chateau Usse - King's Ante-room

Chateau Usse - King's Bedroom

Chateau Usse - King's Bedroom

Chateau Usse - Dining Room

Chateau Usse - Dining Room

Before heading back on the road, we grabbed a sandwich from the Cafe across from the Chateau. Delicious ham and cheese sandwich on a fresh baguette. Enjoyed our little mini picnic and then started back for home.

Got a little lost on the way home, but we're used to that on this trip. Ended up having to use the much hated GPS only to find that we were very close to where we needed to be. We agreed that we didn't get lost (we got lost), we just took the scenic route.

We were both tired from a day of walking and climbing steps, so we just relaxed with a bottle of wine and some music.

Chateau Rivau - Chillin' Gargoyle

Chateau Rivau - Chillin' Gargoyle

Posted by Herk58 07:54 Archived in France Tagged france garden castle abbey loire chateaux Comments (0)

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