Category Archives: Travel in France & beyond

Venice in 4 days

The Grand Canal by the train station

There are many cities around the globe that either have the word “Venice” as part of their actual name or use it in an effort to attract tourists. In that second category we have several listed as the Venice of the North, including the Netherlands’ Amsterdam, Brugge, Belgium, and Manchester, England. To the west in Ireland are Shannon and Monasterevin and to our south is Aveiro, Portugal and Empuriabrava, Spain. Not to be left out, France has Nante, Sète, Annecy plus Colmar and to the east across the border is Bamberg, Germany. We’ve been lucky enough to travel to almost all of those places and when we lived in Los Angeles, a short bus ride took us to the beach at Venice and on the opposite coast we even had Venice, Florida on our list of possible retirement spots. There are apparently 11 cities with that name in the US but Italy has only one and it was time to see the “real” one. Read the rest of this entry

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Genoa in 4 days

The hills above Genoa

Given that our destination was on the Italian Riviera and is the second largest port on the Mediterranean Sea, it seemed only fitting that our journey would begin at the Sea’s largest port and hug the coastline of the French Riviera. In keeping with that theme, we started on a French train from Carcassonne and transferred to the Italian Thello once we arrived in Marseilles. Familiar sounding city names such as Cannes, Nice, and Monaco appeared outside the window on the passenger platforms where we stopped but then after emerging from a tunnel the station names took a definite change in spelling. First we saw Vintimille, then Sanremo, Diano, and Alassio meaning that we were definitely in Italy with dinner waiting for us that evening in Genoa. Read the rest of this entry

Saint-Émilion day trip

Monolithic church and bell tower

Although Saint-Émilion is too far from Carcassonne to see on a day trip, it’s only 30 minutes by train from Bordeaux so going there was an easy decision while we were visiting that regional wine capital with a big, bold name. In the US we knew that this region produced some famous and often pricey wines (Château Cheval Blanc,Grand Cru $1000, for example) but in our local supermarket we can find a Grand Cru produced 5 kilometers (3 miles) from that winery for about $10 and many more from the area, without that official superior grade classification, for half that small price and less. It was time for Bill and me to take a trip to see this well-known territory for ourselves and to find out why one British newspaper described it as “the French wine town that’s more beautiful than Bordeaux.” Read the rest of this entry

Bordeaux in 4 days

Inside La Cité du Vin

If I say the words “champagne, cognac, and burgundy” do you think of place names or drinks? That’s a trick question because in France they are both; capitalize the first letter and you have a region or town designation whereas if you pour these into a glass they are something to enjoy with a meal or just on their own. That also works for bordeaux: with a capital B it’s alternatively known as the “second Paris” or as the “capital of wine” while a small b gives you the familiar big, bold red wines that might include grape varieties we know such as cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and malbec. We had just a few days to discover both the place and the wine. Read the rest of this entry

Nancy in a week, part 2

Alpine section of the botanical gardens

Last Sunday I talked about our trip up to Nancy, France. This is the conclusion of that adventure.

An advantage of buying a city’s museum pass is that it generally saves you money over individual tickets but it also entices you to visit places you might not have otherwise gone. Atlanta, where we used to live, has the world’s largest aquarium and it is truly spectacular so going to the one in Nancy wasn’t high on our list but it was part of the package, so we went. What a nice surprise in a couple of ways. It was well laid out as far as what sea creatures you were seeing and in what environment they generally lived. The bonus was seeing small groups of school children being escorted by teachers and aquarium staff explaining to the youngsters what they were seeing and why it was important to protect the animals and the planet. Read the rest of this entry

Nancy in a week, part 1

Place Stanislas golden gate and fountains

When Bill said that he wanted to buy a museum pass for our trip to Nancy in northeastern France, I got pretty excited. We’d used these in other European cities where we saved money on individual tickets and time waiting in entrance lines. My enthusiasm plummeted when the name of the first museum that we could visit popped up on the tourism website promoting the pass: L’Ecole de Nancy or directly translated, “The School of Nancy”. While historic one-room school houses can be interesting (even Carcassonne has one) to view life as it once was, it’s not what I had envisioned as something you’d typically visit in a city where the word “elegant” often appeared in its description. Then I turned the name around to The Nancy School (think, Venetian, Florentine, or Ashcan School) and suddenly I knew that we were in for a treat. We’d spent hours at the Musée d’Orsay in Paris admiring entire rooms filled with furniture and decorative art pieces designed in the early 20th century with the long, sinuous lines characteristic of Art Nouveau. We were now in this school of art’s hometown for a week with a pass! Read the rest of this entry

Perpignan day trip

Overlooking Perpignan from the castle

Although we’re less than 80 kilometers (50 miles) from Spain, we can’t get there from here because our favorite mode of transportation, the train, doesn’t cope well with climbing to the 3400 meter summit of the Pyrenees where the border runs along the mountaintop. When we’re going that far south, the tracks first head east towards the Mediterranean before turning to Spain and passing through a city that has existed on both sides of the border: Perpignan. Not unlike Montpellier, where there is little evidence of the 2000-year-old Roman influence found in so many other locations in France, this southern capital wasn’t  established until the 10th century. Read the rest of this entry

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