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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

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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

Tour de France overnight

The cyclists head out of Carcassonne

Back in elementary school, long before my first trip to France, I had heard about the Tour de France. Based on photos in magazines such as Life and National Geographic teams of cyclists went zooming down snow capped mountain sides and passed through tranquil country roads lined with vineyards, orchards, and fields of flowers. Since this was before 1960 when alcohol was banned for the participants, there was even a photo of 2 riders, bicycles beside them, enjoying a glass of wine at a sidewalk café. Even at that young age it was an appealing sport where you get to ride through beautiful countryside and then relax at the end of the day at a quintessentially French bistro. Little did I know that years later I’d be standing at one of the daily finishing lines and 2 days after that at the next starting line as 176 colorful jerseys went by in a flash. Read the rest of this entry

Where not to go

Gateway to France: Arc de Triomphe

A program I remember from American TV was called What Not to Wear and featured 2 fashion experts who helped sometimes unwilling contestants update their wardrobes. The show always began by throwing out practically everything from someone’s closet and then counseling them on how to make wise buying decisions at selected clothing stores accompanied by 5000 dollars to put their new skills into practice. In that same vein, there was a popular series of books based on the premise of What Not to Eat; eat this but not that. Another book could have been called What Not to Do because it gave advice to US travelers about questions to avoid asking or gestures not to make, for example, when conducting business overseas. It was no surprise, then, to read an article earlier this year that might have been entitled A Dozen Places Not to Visit This Year. Read the rest of this entry

Confirming the big decision

Safe harbors, literally and figuratively. This is Le Bono in Brittany.

During the 15 months after Bill initially asked “Why don’t we move to France?” we did a lot of online research to make certain that we were headed in the right direction. Before we boarded that Paris-bound Air France flight in Atlanta with our dog Heather and almost all of our possessions in 4 suitcases and 2 backpacks we had looked at dozens of websites, blogs, surveys, and government documents to be as informed as we could. Now that we live here, one online newspaper that we look at daily is The Local that gives news and tips in English on succeeding in another country. In one helpful article they assembled a list of reasons why this land well known for bread, cheese, and wine might just be the best place in the world to retire. Since we’ve now been here for a bit over 2 years I thought it would be interesting to see if we agreed with their list. Read the rest of this entry

I’m looking over

Looking across to the medieval walled Cité

When we were both in the travel industry we worked with a woman named Anne who specialized in trips to western Europe. To convince potential customers of the value of going with her company, she had cleverly calculated the cost of spending several days at a famous amusement park in Orlando, FL to see castles and landscapes created in a Hollywood studio to compare with a similar journey to England, Germany, or France, for example, to see the genuine massive fortresses that were in place centuries before a well-known mouse first piloted that steamboat. Anne succeeded well with that reasoning and we have long believed that history has much more meaning when you live it rather than just read about it. We needed that philosophy planted firmly in our minds last week to provide the push we needed to climb the 232 steps to the top of St. Vincent’s tower. Read the rest of this entry

Germany in France

Canal in Colmar, France

The story goes that in the summer of 1935 Walt Disney went on a grand European tour that took him through England, France, Germany, and Italy. He was apparently greatly inspired by what he saw, especially in the majestic castles that each of these countries had to offer, so much so that Cinderella’s Castle that opened 20 years later in California’s Disneyland is said to have been based on what he encountered on this trip. From what I’ve read, a Disney official did confirm that Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle was a great influence but we’ve seen other castles claiming that they too were etched into the memory of the creator of Mickey Mouse. I don’t know if that’s a bit of “Washington slept here” European style but his theme parks and films do sometimes show images we might associate with England…or is it Germany…or maybe France? Read the rest of this entry

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