France

  • Each visit I make to Paris is usually marked by a series of terrible decisions that leaves me slightly tormented and wondering why I came in the first place. The latest visit was defined by a decision to rent an Airbnb near the Porte Saint-Denis. On this occassion, I was traveling with my daughter for a few days. I saw the listing with a “jacuzzi” inside and a reasonable price (for Paris) and thought it would be a nice treat. The name of the listing was “Cocoon”, and between that and the pictures, I figured it would be small. But…

  • The Musée des Arts Forains is far from Paris’ most well-known attraction. But it certainly may be one if its most unusual thanks to its whimsical and moderately creepy tribute to old-time fairgrounds and carnivals. Tucked in the southeast corner of Paris, just past the Parc de Bercy, the Pavillons de Bercy – Musée des Arts Forains includes four separate areas: The Musée des Arts Forains, The Théâtre du Merveilleux (marvels); The Salons Vénitiens; and The Théâtre de Verdure (greenery). Each celebrates some version of amusement by including old carnival games, merry-go-rounds, or artifacts preserved and carefully restored. The space…

  • Château de Chambord today is celebrating the 500th anniversary of the first stone being set in a massive construction effort that would eventually create one of France’s most majestic castles. We visited Chambord two years ago during a bike ride across the Loire Valley. This architectural wonder will likely be on any list of Top 10 Must See castles in France, and for good reason. It is a masterpiece of French Renaissance architecture, and the largest castle in a region that was a popular spot over the centuries for royals to build their dream lodgings. The castle itself sits in…

  • Château de Chambord officials know well that moving a priceless artifact by Leonard da Vinci is every bit as delicate and painstaking as you can imagine. But when the occasion is the massive 500th anniversary celebration for one of the Loire Valley’s most magnificent castles, then having the Italian’s artist’s work on hand seems worth the effort. To mark the milestone, Chambord is in the process of assembling one of the largest exhibitions ever held at the castle: “Chambord, 1519-2019: utopia at work.” The exhibit runs from May 26 to September 1. As part of that showing, a series of…

  • The 75th anniversary of D-Day hadn’t registered on our radar when we decided to visit the Normandy region in early May. Our decision to plan a trip there was driven by a combination of random circumstances. To wit: Another two-week school vacation was upon us; We would be spending the first week in Paris; A friend we had not seen in some time lives near Le Havre. So, hey, let’s visit Normandy! It seems strange to admit this, but Normandy had not been particularly high on my list of places to visit in France. In part, that’s because it’s considered…

  • Antoine de Saint Exupéry, the author best known for “The Little Prince,” has a special connection to our lives in Toulouse.  A pilot, he was based for a time in this city, which has long been one of France’s main aviation hubs. After France signed an armistice with Germany in 1940, he fled to North America where he stayed 27 months. In 1943, he joined a U.S. naval convoy that would take him to Algiers so he could join the Free French as a wartime pilot. It was on this ship that he penned an extraordinary letter to future Americans.…

  • The Toulouse Whisky Festival was held this past weekend and the event delivered some surprises about the French and their relationship to this spirit most popularly associated with Scotland. This was the second edition organized by the Hopscotch Pub & Brewery of Toulouse. And like the first one, this one sold out. It also attracted about 40 distilleries, primarily from places you’d expect — Scotland, Ireland, and the U.S. — but also from Japan, New Zealand, Denmark, and Sweden. Included in that last group is France itself. When I first heard about the festival, I was both mystified and excited…

  • Paris has selected London-based architectural landscape firm Gustafson Porter + Bowman to transform the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower into the city’s largest garden. The city had been running a design competition with the goal of reinventing an area famous for this icon, but which can often be clogged with cars and tourists. While the project will eventually cover 54 hectares, the city hopes to have Phase I completed before it hosts the Summer Olympics in 2024. Along with the winning selection, the city and the firm released renderings, including a video, of what the area will look like. We…

  • Presqu’Île de Crozon in the Brittany region turned out to be the perfect place to finally indulge our love of camping in France. Avid campers in California before moving to France four years ago, we had shipped enough camping equipment with us to stage an invasion of a small island nation. But since arriving, our jumble of family tents, sleeping bags, and campfire cooking equipment had sat unused and silently taunting us in a closet. In part, that was because we were having a hard time grasping the French camping scene. We were accustomed to either hiking into the wilds…

  • Italian inventor, designer, and painter Leonardo da Vinci spent the last years of his life living in the Château du Clos Lucé where he died on May 2, 1519. In honor of that anniversary, the presidents of France and Italy visited today to mark the occasion. Comme ambassadeur de @RCValdeLoire pour le 500e anniversaire de la #Renaissance et de la mort de Léonard de Vinci, je serai heureux d’accueillir ce 2 mai, aux côtés de @fbonneau, les présidents de la République française et italienne @ChateauAmboise @closluce @domainechambord pic.twitter.com/RCaaBAdj1k— Stéphane Bern (@bernstephane) May 2, 2019 Les cinq cents ans de la…

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