France

  • Béarn is a one of those French names that has leapt into our view now and then without me ever having a clear idea of where it is or what it signifies. Sometimes it appears to be linked to Gascony and the Pyrénées but other times it’s described as its own distinct region. While the real D’Artagnon is the most famous Gascon of all, his fictionalized namesake in “The Three Musketeers” was from Béarn. It’s hard to nail down. Even doing a little research on the website for the Pyrénées-Atlantiques, the department where Béarn is located, left me confused. On…

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  • If you’re heading to the mountains this season but looking for something a bit more exciting than a hotel or bed & breakfast, you can now book a night or two in igloo accommodations scattered across the French Alps and Pyrénées. The igloos range from fairly basic snow structurs to ones that feature dinner, bars, and lively nightlife. All that under the relative isolation of a night on the mountain side. Here are 5 companies that offer 9 igloo accommodations. An Alpine Igloo Undiscovered Mountains has igloos in the Southern French Alps at the Orcières 1850 ski resort. Located at…

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  • Saint Paul Saint Louis du Marais in Paris is a church so nice, they named it twice. Originally Saint Paul’s church, dating to 1430, was the main cathedral in this neighborhood. But it was destroyed in the Revolution. So Napoleon eventually designated this one, then called Saint Louis and dating from 1627, to be the new center of worship for this corner of Paris. But as a compromise, the local bishop eventually convinced him to add Saint Paul to the name, in memory of the one old one. Pleasing the parish, even if the final name is a mouthful.

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  • A desire to visit a long-time friend living in the village of Sainte-Pierre-du-Val inspired our first real trip to the Normandy region. We had barely crossed the border into Normandy once before after camping in Brittany to make the obligatory visit to Mont-Saint-Michel. Having checked that legendary site off the list, we didn’t really have a big agenda when we arrived for a longer stay. So when our friend proposed a day trip to nearby Honfleur, we were game to venture into the unknown. Upon arriving, it was easy to see the allure. We parked near the old port, and…

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  • France’s craft beer boom has been building slowly for several years, but the impact of this hops revolution really struck me one summer evening while meeting a friend for a glass of wine. We had sat on the terrace of a bar across from the Marché de Carmes in Toulouse and ordered two glasses of red wine. As we waited for them to arrive, I noticed something odd as the waiter continued to take other orders. Young, old, middle age, they were all ordering beer. I craned my neck around and couldn’t see another glass or bottle of wine in…

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  • What I knew about Lille before last month was pretty much zero. Tucked into a far corner of France, close to the Belgium border, the city seemed about as far as one could get from our lives in southwest France. Having a few days to play while staying Paris, I decided to make a detour to Lille with my daughter. While I prefer the south, one thing that I do envy about Paris is the ease with which you can get pretty much anywhere in France by train. A trip to Lille is just one hour by TGV, which makes…

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  • 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…

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  • 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…

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  • 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…

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  • 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…

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