Blog Archives

On your mark, get set…

Looking forward to walks along the Canal

Tomorrow is the big day when France begins a gradual emergence from nearly 8 weeks of lock down in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. According to government reports, it’s been a successful effort in saving over 60,000 lives and preventing 85% of the infections that would have occurred had there not been a stay-at-home order. Most businesses have been closed but shops that sell food, medications, wine, and/or cigarettes did not have to hang the “fermé” sign on their doors. Delivery services sprang up overnight so we were even able to keep the wine rack full without stepping out the door. When the rules were being written about which shops would be allowed to begin welcoming customers first, guess who made it to the top of the list: hair salons and barber shops. After two months without haircuts and coloring, we gotta look good! Read the rest of this entry

Florence, Italy in 5 days

Florence from across the Arno River

Our neighbor loves Italy and was delighted to know that we were going to be visiting one of her favorite destinations (in February, before the virus, thank you). She describes Milan, where we stopped over for 2 days in October 2018, as a city with some beautiful buildings and one especially well known artwork, da Vinci’s The Last Supper. On the other hand, she assured us that in Florence we would be treated to buildings that stand out as masterpieces themselves on every corner and sumptuous works of art on display inside each one of them. Wow, that was some recommendation and we did our best to plan out an itinerary that would prove her right. This seemed like a perfect winter vacation where we could spend hours inside art galleries and museums and hope that the chilly outdoor temperatures would encourage some of the 13 million tourists to come back at a warmer time of year. Read the rest of this entry

Attractive cities

The attractive village of Rochefort-en-terre in Brittany

Radio station Europe1 had on their website an article that was headlined, “The Three Most Attractive Cities in France.” Since Bill and I enjoy traveling, especially here in this country, I was anxious to read about some new destinations. The lead-in said that at the top of their list of 30 places were Besançon, Orléans and Saint-Étienne while Bordeaux was at position 20, Paris at 26, Nice at 28, and Nîmes at the very bottom. Interestingly, we have visited all of those cities that came in at the low end, some several times, and always found them inviting.  In contrast, we only knew one of the top cities, Orléans, because we stayed overnight at a pet-friendly hotel when we moved here with our dog, Heather, and were driving from Paris to Carcassonne, but that doesn’t really count. What that headline meant, we thought, was lots of new discoveries to make…until we read the rest of that first paragraph. Read the rest of this entry

The lights of Lyon

Lyon Cathedral 2019

“You know, it’s dangerous for us to watch TV,” is what Bill said to me last month when he asked me what I wanted to do one evening. That response was prompted by my suggesting that we view one of the two programs we sometimes record: Ëchappées Belles (Beautiful Escapes) and Les 100 Lieux Qu’il Faut Voir (The 100 Places You Must See). They typically feature destinations in France and we even keep a rail map near the television just to see if can activate our motto, “if there’s a train station, we can go there”. Such was the case when the familiar sight of Lyon appeared on the screen. We’d been there in the spring of 2017 but the sparkling lights, decorated yule trees, and the small wooden chalets of the Christmas Market made it look different and inviting, as did the Grand Illuminations. Read the rest of this entry

Ghent in a day

Belfry and cloth maker’s guild house

When you’re already in an architectural gem of a city in Belgium and the guidebook says, “Ghent is just like Bruges…except without the crowds,” then you have no choice but to go and see if that’s true. With a train departing several times each hour to make the 25-minute journey, it was an easy decision to make. If you read last Sunday’s post you’ll know that we spent a delightful week in Bruges so with the opportunity to see another destination included in articles entitled “11 Reasons to visit Ghent over Bruges” and “Ghent or Bruges: Which city is for you?” we wanted to make the comparison. Read the rest of this entry

Bruges in a week

Bonifacius bridge

It was 15 years ago when Bill and I went to Bruges, Belgium and that was for less than 24 hours. At the time we were staying in Paris which is only 2 ½ hours away by train and in those days we tried to pack in as much as possible to our annual two-week vacations. On that same trip we had already spent the week in a Loire Valley castle making driving excursions into the surrounding areas to see at least one other chateau every day, so why not visit another country too? All I can remember from back then is the chocolate, the beer, and the lace. On our recent return to the city we had the luxury of being there an entire week but we also had to sneak in a day trip to Ghent, only 30 minutes down the train tracks. Old habits die hard. Read the rest of this entry

Be prepared

Taking the direct route from Marseille to Carcassonne

It’s been a long time since either Bill or I were actively involved with anything to do with the Boy Scouts but their motto has stuck with both of us and it follows us, especially on our travels. On our most recent train trip coming home from Marseille, an online mapping program showed our route as going on/over/through the Mediterranean Sea rather than on the tracks that hug the shoreline going through Nimes, Montpellier, and other cities you can see on the screen shot here. Luckily we kept our heads above water by consulting the paper itinerary we had printed out earlier to confirm the stops and the times we would be at each one. I like to do the same for city maps that come to the rescue when the mapping app on the phone displays, “Can’t find a way there.” Read the rest of this entry