We're taking a six-week trip to France, flying out of San Francisco on Thursday, September 17th to Charles DeGaulle Airport, arriving on September 18th at 6:55am. We'll be posting photos and commentary daily on this blog as usual, and we'll be back on October 28th. We'll be 10 hours ahead of you, so the info on the day should be up by the time you get up.
In general, we'll be trying to find what we always look for - things from culture and nature and the past which amaze us. We're hoping for good weather, as we've got some walking and hiking and moving around planned. We're also going to try to budget time to just sit and enjoy the French ambiance and joie de vivre. As usual, this trip involves searching for my own family history, and I plan on letting it change me for the better if it can.
A leased 2009 Peugeot Trendy will be waiting for us, and we'll load up and drive west to Mortagne au Perche. My great (10 times) grandfather, Zacharie Cloutier and grandmother, Xainte DuPont, were born in the area and married in the church there. That was just before he sailed with a group of contracted carpenters and mason (One Hundred Associates) to the New World to help France build a colony near Quebec. His children and grandchildren are the ancestors of many of Eastern Canada's current residents. We've booked two nights at the Hotel du Tribunal to scout out the area, and learn as much as I can about my French ancestors.
Then, we'll take 10 days to go north to Normandy, and then west to Brittany. We'll visit Honfleur, Caen, Granville, Isle of Jersey (more ancestors), Mont. St. Michel, St. Malo, Huelgoat, Monts d Arree, Domaine de Menez-Meur, Sty Thegonnec, Brest, Landevenec, Morgat, Camaret Sur Mer, and Douarnenez, Le Mans, Chartres, Rambouillet, Milly-la-Foret, Barbizon, and Fontainebleau.
I'm including a photograph taken last year by Redmond Johnston, a friend of some friends of ours. It's the kind of view we dream of seeing. Click on it to move in for a chance to immerse yourself in an idyllic French streamside.
Below, we've included modified texts from hiking and bicycle tours which represent where we think we'll go.
We'll drve to Honfleur, where we'll focus on the place de la Porte-Rouen. We'' stroll along the Vieux Bassin, the old harnour, taking in the fishng boats and narrow, slate-roofed houses. The Lieutenance, Eglise St. Catherine, Maisons Satie,Musees de Vieux Honfleu and Eugene-Boudin, and NaturoSpace will be visited.
We'll drve to Deauville, Trouville, and Caen on our way to Granville.
Isle of Jersey
We'll take the ferry at Granville to St Helier Harbor on the Isle of Jersey, from which my ancestor Nicholas Anthoine sailed on a ship owned by future wife's father Ebenezer Hawke. We'll spend the day and night on the island before returning to the mainland to travel to Mont St. Michel.
The Visit to Mont Saint Michel:
The Abbaye: once a humble little monastery, the island, and its fortifications have effectively grown up around this. During the French Revolution, the abbey was used a prison, and an extensive restoration was required to restore it. A few prison-era showpieces, like the human hamster wheel used to lift supplies in and out of the complex, have been kept. Porte de l'Avancée, the main gate at the end of the causeway, which leads straight to the Grande Rue. The ramparts, which offer great views of the mudflats. We'll visit the Museum of History, which features old collections (weapons, paintings, sculptures, watches), prisons and dungeons, the 19th century periscope which reveals the bay.
We'll watch the archeoscope, a show to discover the construction of this fabulous monument and its sacred history. We'll visit the Maritime museum, where we'll discover the tides, the bay and the massive building site to restore the maritime character of the Mont Saint-Michel.
Le Mont St Michel-Cancale
Today, we'll walk from the Mont Saint Michel to Cherrueix on the GR 34 trail. We'll walk through the polders, and along the Bay of the Mont St Michel.
As an alternatve to walkng the coast, we'll drive from Mont Saint Michel to the charming town of Dol de Bretagne, one of the oldest towns in Brittany. From its ecclesiastical supremacy, Dol-de-Bretagne has kept its cathedral. A masterpiece of Gothic Norman art in Brittany, it is one of the most important religious buildings in Brittany.
Cancale to La Guimorais
Our next destination is Cancale, a picturesque fishing village famous for its oysters. History has it that Louis XIV had his oysters brought to Versailles from Cancale. Centuries later, farming of oysters is still a major activity in this port, and there are oyster beds covering about 7.3 square kilometres easily seen from the pier at the harbour. We'll walk along the Emerald Coast up to La Pointe du Grouin, where we'll have a stunning viewpoint of the ocean. From there, we'll walk to La Guimorais.
From La Guimorais, we'll drve along the coast of northwestern France through St Malo, Fort Latte, Cao Frehel, and La Circuit des Falais. We'll visit Paimpol, Abbey du Beauport, Ploubazlanec, and La Castel Meur. We'll also see the Rochers de Granit, Chateau de Coastaeres, Plaz du Coz-Peres, Dunes de Landrellec, and Trebuerden.
We'll travelon to Sant Michel en Greve, Douran Estuary, Moulin de Probadec, St. Jean du Doigt, La Ponte de Primel, Great Rock Coast, and Terenez. The real objective on this stretch of coast, however, is the Cairn de Barnenez Dolman. One of the most exciting megaliths in France, we'll spend some tme here.
Next on our route around Brittany are the Cairn du Loch Ness, Portsall Megalth de il Cairn, Cairn a Plougastel, and the Cairn a la Pointe de l'Amorique. We'll then drve to Chateauxlin and Lorient, on the way to Dolman Crucono and Carnac.
After plenty of time n the Carnac Megalith, we'll drve south to a few more coastal views between Arzhon Rewis and Saint Nazaraire, we'll turn east for Rennes and Fougeres.
Then, we'll take another 5 days to go south and visit the Loire Valley. We'll visit Moret Sur-Loing, Grez Sur-Loing, Seine-et-Marne, Il-de-France, Pithiviers, Orleans, Chambord, Loire-et-Cher, Centre, Blois, Amboise, Vouvray, Chenonceaux, Valencay, Romorantin, Saint Viatre, and Gian. Farther south, we'll visit Gimel-les-Cascades, Monedieres, Royat, Puoy de Dome, Col de Guery, Treignac, Lac de Vassiviere, Aubusson, and Gueret.
Arrive in Blois, famous for its Royal Renaissance Chateau. Pedestrian streets, 18th century stone bridge, Saint Louis Cathedral, shopping, restaurants… Light & Sound show tonight (in English on Wednesdays!).
Chateau of Chambor
We'll hike from Chambord to Bracieux through the forest! Hotel in Bracieux. Chateau de Chambord. It is one of the most recognizable châteaux in the world because of its very distinct French Renaissance architecture that blends traditional medieval forms with classical Italian structures. One of the architectural highlights is the spectacular double-helix open staircase that is the centerpiece of the castle. The two helices ascend the three floors without ever meeting, illuminated from above by a sort of light house at the highest point of the castle. There are suggestions that Leonardo da Vinci may have designed the staircase, but this has not been confirmed.
We'll hike to Cheverny, another famous town because of its Chateau. The present Château de Cheverny is an original jewel among the more famous monuments that stretch along the Loire Valley. In fact, Renaissance style did not find its place in Cheverny, which is built in the purest Louis XIII classical style, distinguished by an extraordinarily symmetrical architecture. But Cheverny is primarily known for being an inspiration to Herge, cartoonist and author of Tintin, who drew the castle in his comics as the Chateau de Moulinsart, home to Captain Haddock! Stay in Cheverny.
Cheverny to Amboise
In the morning, we'll drive to Les Montils where we'll will walk to Chaumont-sur-Loire, a village rich in history, and a perfect place for walks along the riverbanks. Each year, the International Garden Festival is held in the castle grounds. But Chaumont sur Loire is also known for its feudal castle dominating the valley. After our visit of Chaumont, we'll hike to Amboise. Amboise has a lot to offer and plenty to visit: The Royal Castle, which introduced Italian-style architecture in the 15h and 16th centuries; and Clos Luce: last residence of Leonardo Da Vinci, where you can see some of his many projects in different fields.
Amboise to Chenonceau
We'll take a scenic walk to the Cher River, and the famous Chateau de Chenonceau, erected by Henry II in the 16th century on the Cher River, and then improved by Catherine de Medicis. The castle hides several pieces of historical interest, furniture and tapestries. It is known as the “Ladies’ Castle” because of the feud between Diane de Poitiers, Henri II mistress and Catherine de Medicis, his wife.
Chenonceau to Montlouis
Our walk will take us on a nice itinerary following the River all the way to Montlouis-sur-Loire, known for its white sparkling wine. We'll have the opportunity to stop in town or along the way in vineyards for tastings or information on wine-making!
We'll drive further south and take 5 days to visit Dordogne and Auvergne. We'll visit Perigueux, Les Eyzies-de-Tayac-Sirieul, Lascaux, Sarlat la Caneda, Souillac, Le Gouffre, Rocamadour, Dome, Les Milandes, and Bergerac. In Auvergne, we'll visit Le Mont-Dore, Auvergne, Besse en Chandesse, Segur le Chateau, Arnac Pompadour, and Uzerche, Tulle, Gimel les-Cascades, Gueret, Amboise, Aubusson, La Bourboule, Mondieres, and Royat.
Arrive in Bergerac - a large town with good rail access and services from Paris or Bordeaux. We'll take some time to explore the old town of Bergerac.
Hike to Tremolat. A quiet scenic walk along the canal to discover the beautiful landscapes of the Perigord and views over the Dordogne River. Walk on the GR6 to Tremolat.
Today, we'll follow the GR6 that will lead us to Limeuil, one of the most beautiful villages of France with its 12th century church. Our destination is Le Bugue.
After breakfast, we'll drive to the capital of prehistory: Les Eyzies! A quiet walk in the countryside along La Vezere river, where we'll have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery, before reaching Les Eyzies. Les Eyzies has many sites worth a lot of our time including the National Museum of Prehistory, the Grotto of Font de Gaume, and smaller pre-history sites.
After breakfast, we'll do a loop tour around Les Eyzies. We'll go to the Gorge d'Enfer, located north of Les Eyzies. On this hike, we'll discover the many prehistorical sites of the area, such as the Caves of Grand Roc, L'abri du Poisson and many more. This is a very scenic walk through the forest where we'll have several viewpoints over the Vezere river.
Vezere. Today's walk will also take us to the Roc de Cazelle caves, where prehistoric habitations have been reproduced. Next, we'll reach the Château de Commarque, a 12th century castle located on a rocky outcrop in the valley of the river Beune.
Sarlat, Roque Gageac, Beynac
After breakfast, we have a nice loop tour to Beynac. The route will first take us to the village of Vitrac. Then, after walking through the Cingle de Montfort, we'll reach La Roque Gageac, where we'll take some time to visit the troglodyte sites. We'll spend time at the medieval village of La Roque Gageac, named one of France's most beautiful villages; exotic gardens in La Roque Gageac, and the Château de Beynac.
Cahors. Pont Valentré
Carving near St-Cirq-la-Popie. Rocamadour black Madonna. Figeac's "Rosetta stone". Beynac. Sarlat, Place du marché aux Oies. Tasting Dordogne food! Gabarres at La Roque-Gageac. Josephine Baker Memorial. Château de Losse.
The Dordogne is dotted with prehistoric caves, many with paintings and carvings that inform us about the inhabitants of the area over 10,000 years ago. This morning we visit Pech-Merle, one of the most important and most fascinating caves. Later we will stop to visit the village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie. Perched atop a rocky escarpment high above the Lot River, the village is remarkable for its setting alone. After lunch, we can walk down to the Lot River. Return to Cahors for free time to explore the medieval heart of this town, once a flourishing university and commercial center.
Drive to Figeac for a visit of this bustling market center whose roots go back to the early Middle Ages, when it was a trading center and a way stop for pilgrims en route to Compestela. Rocamadour, one of the most extraordinary sites in France. Its castle, mass of buildings and towers cling precipitously to steep cliffs high above a deep canyon. In the Middle Ages it was, like Figeac, an important way station for pilgrims walking to Compostela. Drive to the village of Martel for a brief visit to see classic examples of 14th, 15th, and 16th century buildings. Called the "town of seven towers," Martel is also known as a market center for regional specialties, including walnuts and gourmet products.
We will begin our day with a guided tour of Sarlat to discover its wealth of vestiges from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. One of the rare sites in France to remain intact since the 17th century, Sarlat still feels like a true medieval town, but it is today a vibrant market for regional specialties and an active business center of the region. The town is fascinating to explore any time, but especially on Saturday morning, when it hosts one of the most colorful and complete markets in the Dordogne. We will explore other villages in the area: St-Geniès, with its Romanesque church and Gothic chapel; St-Amand-de-Coly, known for its abbey church, considered one of the most beautiful in the world; and the lovely farm château of La Grande Filolie.
This will be our opportunity to discover the most famous prehistoric cave paintings of the Dordogne, starting with an informational tour of Lascaux II, a nearly exact facsimile of the original Lascaux cave. Here we will find a wealth of fine quality, prehistoric paintings that offer keys to understanding the life of the region's inhabitants 10,00 - 20,000 years ago. After visiting the cave, we will stop briefly in the nearby village of Montignac. Possible picnic at Saint-Léon-sur-Vézère or La Roque Saint-Christophe. Drive to Les Eyzies-de-Tayac to visit Font-de-Gaume, a prehistoric cave with the most beautiful collection of polychrome cave paintings still open to the public. Les Eyzies' Musée National de la Préhistoire (National Museum of Prehistory) also houses one of the finest collection of prehistoric objects and works of art. Some will want to visit the prehistory museum . Even those who are not dedicated pre-history buffs may enjoy the superb view from the museum's terrace, overlooking the town and the surrounding valleys of Vézère and Beune. Others may choose to visit the Abri Pataud (Pataud Shelter), which contains vestiges of civilizations as far back as 3500 BCE.
Traveling back from 3500 BCE to the 12th century of the common era, this morning we will explore the castle and village of Beynac-et-Cazenac, overlooking the valley of the Dordogne far below. Originally the castle was built to defend the area when it marked the frontier between French and English territory. We may take a boat trip on the Dordogne River in a traditional "gabarre." at La Roque-Gageac. A short drive will take us to he beautiful hilltop village of Domme, with its exceptional views and fine architecture. We will have free time to stroll around the town and possibly take a short walk in the surrounding countryside. The American singer-dancer of the 1920s and 30s, Josephine Baker, bought the château of les Milandes ta serve as home for the children she adopted of different races, religions and nationalities to create her "world village." We will visit her château, where each room relates stories of the life of this singular woman, through objects, photographs, short films and recordings. We will end the day with a visit of the Gardens of Eyrignac, ranked among the most beautiful garden sites in France. First designed in Italian-French style in the 18th century, these gardens have been restored to their original elegance.
Saint-Emilion, a vineyard village in the hills above the Dordogne, is one of the most beautiful sites in France, and one of the most interesting. Known for its wine since the Romans first planted vineyards there in the 2nd century, Saint-Emilion later became a commercial wine production center thanks to the diligent work of medieval monks. You will delight in discovering the town's golden limestone buildings that cover a network of underground galleries.
Hiking to Collias via Pont du Gard (14 km ). Scenic walk to the Pont du Gard, a UNESCO World Heritage site. It is the most prestigeous element of the Roman aqueduct built around 50 BC to carry water from Uzes to Nimes. Around this area are vineyards and rolling landscapes. Finish the hike in Collias.
Hike to Uzes - typical Provencale town (14km - 3.5 hrs).
From Collias, We'll pick up the trail that goes along the Gard river to Sanilhac before arriving at Uzès at the north via a botanic trail. Two kilometers before the center of Uzès, we'll arrive at the Pont des Charrettes and the Museum of Haribo-sweets. Haribo is one of the most famous confectioners in France with a long history.
Hike around Uzes (13 km). A loop tour around Uzes to discover this beautiful region. The itinerary will take us to the Gorges de l'Alzon. Along the path, we'll see several capitelles. A Capitelle is a small shepherd shelter made of dry stone. In the Luberon area, Capitelles are called Bories. To visit in Uzes:
Duchy of Uzes: It's one of the most well-preserved feudal complexes located in the centre of a town. 18th century church Eglise Saint Etienne. Medieval Garden: Between the Tower of the King and that of the Bishopric Musee Haribo.
Visit the vineyards of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, with a short stop at the village that produces this famous full-bodied red wine. Roman bath in Arles. Roman aquaduc "Pont du Gard". Camargue. Market in Arles. Place of the Popes in Avignon.
Drive through the foothills of the Dentelles de Montmirail ("Montmirail Lace") to the the terraced village of Beaumes-de-Venise and taste the sweet apéritif wine named for the village. Visit the wine village of Gigondas; gentle walk in the beautiful hills of the Dentelles de Montmirail for panoramic views of the region. Visit Orange and its immense Roman theater, a huge amphitheater built to hold 10,000 spectators, still used today for special outdoor music performances.
Explore Vaison-la-Romaine, often called "the four-in-one city." It is a medieval town built on a prehistoric settlement; and a modern agricultural center built on a ancient Roman city, where excavations progressively reveal vestiges of the rich culture of the Gallo-Romans. Stop in the hamlet of Brantes at the foot of Mont Ventoux. Pass through fields of lavender and picturesque provençal villages and stop at Ferrassière to visit a small lavender production.
Discover some of the fascinating hilltop villages of Provence that Peter Mayle found so attractive. Visit of beautiful Roussillon, where every structure features a different shade of ocher, from yellow to brown to rust to bright red.. Walk the Ocher Trail, a fantasy walk through slopes of brilliant color. In late morning explore and walk in other fascinating villages in the Lubéron that Peter Mayle described so vividly: tiny Oppède-le-Vieux; Lacoste, site of the Marquis de Sade's château; Ménerbes and Bonnieux, both villages clinging to craggy hillsides.
Café de la Gare in Bonnieux. Visit Gordes. With its panoramic view of the countryside and its long history, Gordes is classified one of the "most beautiful villages of France," As we leave Gordes, we will visit the beautiful 12th-century Abbey of Sénanque, nestled among surrounding lavender fields. Dinner in one of the favorite sites described in "A Year in Provence."
En route to Arles, we will stop to discover Saint-Rémy-de-Provence, birthplace of physician-astrologer Nostradamus and of the poet Frédéric Mistral. Discover the hillside fortress of Les Baux-de-Provence, built into bare rock and perched on top of an outcrop of the Alpilles. It is one of the most impressive sites in France, and one whose history is the most violent. Richelieu had it destroyed in the 17th century, but it prospered again in the 19th with the discovery of bauxite, the mineral which gave the town its name. Nearby, we will stop by the Roman settlement of Glanum and visit St-Paul-de-Mausole, a tranquil and beautiful convalescent center that was home to Vincent Van Gogh during the last year of his life. Arrive in Arles in time for a guided visit of this colorful town, one of the oldest in Provence. Arles had already been settled by Celtic-Ligurians before it was colonized by ancient Greeks. In Roman times it was the metropolis of Roman Gaul. In the Middle Ages it functioned as a religious center. Today it is an important cultural, governmental and commercial center.
Visit the spectacular Pont-du-Gard, a Roman aqueduct dating from 19 BCE. This well-preserved structure, a key element in a 31-mile-long system to bring water to the city of Nîmes, bears witness to the engineering genius of the ancient Romans. Visit Nîmes, as thriving a town today as it was when the Emperor Augustus made it a showplace of the Roman Empire. Explore Arles. Musée de l'Arles Antique, the Musée Arlaten. Discover the Camargue in the delta of the Rhône River, a nature sanctuary where you can see the special wild white horses of the area, great flocks of pink flamingos and other birds, and the black bulls raised for fighting in the Camargue-style bullfights, where the object is simply to remove ribbons tied to the bull's horns.
The Saturday market in Arles is a spectacle not to be missed. Stalls featuring local wares wind along the Boulevard des Lices and up the hillside towards the Roman arena. We will delight in the assortment of Provençal specialties--spices, flowers, brightly colored fabrics in traditional patterns, fresh vegetables, olives of all kinds--and so much more. Leave for Avignon and a tour of the city, followed by a visit to the 14th-century Palace of the Popes, a magnificent setting for the 4 French popes who lived the 14th century.
Pegoulado" -- night parade with traditional costumes.
Arrival in Annecy. We'll go discover this charming town; Old Annecy, awarded “Town in Bloom”: walk around in the authentic streets, visit the old prisons, the museum at the castle of Annecy, go and see the lake area or take a guided cruise on one of the boats of the Compagnie des Bateaux.
The Semnoz: We'll drive to the top of the Semnoz (25 min), a vast mountain nature reserve rising from 500 to 1699 m. We'll walk to the Crêt de Chatillon (top of Semnoz) through the forest until Crêt du Maure. A great descent with beautiful viewpoints. Or perhaps we'll take a walk which offers a choice of numerous marked footpaths and distances who offer a magnificent view across the French Alps and the Mont Blanc. There also is a short mountain flora discovery walk. We'll have dinner at any of a number of restaurants featuring Savoyard specialties!
On the Rive Gauche (left lakeshore) to Duingt: We'll do a flat walk along the west shore of the lake starting at the Annecy Town Hall. Along the dock in the port of Annecy, the trail takes us through a park and along the nautical club where windsurf, sailing and rowing activities take place. Initially the trail is close to the main road, but at Beau Rivage (after about a mile) we'll follow a bike track close to the lake. Sévrier is the first village that we'll meet. We might visit the eco-museum, the fascinating pewter factory and the museum of bells. In the village of Saint Jorioz, when leaving la Vieille Eglise we'll see the beautiful 15th century Castle of Duingt, perched on a tiny peninsula. Along The Sentier des Roselières, we reach the village of Duingt.
The Taillefer walk. After a walk around in the alleys of the old village of Duingt, we start our climb on the Taillefer mountain. The climb starts at the stations of the cross and brings us initially to the cave of Our Lady of the Lake where we have a last superb view on the northern part of the lake. We come to a point where we can view the Col de la Forclaz and the Tournette mountain chain on the opposite side. We walk downhill to the rural valley village of Entrevernes, where on its southern end we pick up the GR for a climb for another superb view on the southern part of the lake, where hang gliders descend from Forclaz. We ascend and descend about 850 m in total over a distance of 10km. Level is easy with some short steep ups and downs, no significant difficulties.
From Doussard to Col de la Forclaz: We start in the picturesque settlement of Arnand with its always blossomed houses. We'll follow the path in the forest east of Doussard to cross the National road and join Verthier where some houses date from the 16th century. A climb of 650 m (1950 ft) over about 4 kms ( 2,5 miles) will bring us to the Col de la Forclaz. Our climb will be awarded splendid views on the Annecy lake and over La Tournette. This mountain pass is one of the most important in Europa to practice hang gliding. We'll enjoy this place and watch the hang gliders depart at about 10 minutes further on; a spectacle, not to be missed! We'll take a taxi down to charming Talloires lakeside town of peace and gastronomy where we'll appreciate a swim in the lake or a cool drink on a terrace overlooking the lake.
Dijon. This city has easy access by train from Paris. We'll explore the old city, the beautiful palace of the dukes of Burgundy in which is housed the Art museum. Ste Benigne’s cathedral.
We continue exploring Dijon in the morning and then transfer by taxi to start hiking to Gevrey Chambertin. We'll enter the vineyards of Cotes de Nuits and check out the wine, the village is the only one that produces rose wine ! Pass the oldest church of the region before arriving at Gevrey-Chambertin. In the village, there is an interesting 10th century castle with an old vaulted wine cellar.
Pick up the GR7 trail and hike to Nuits Saint George, genuine « Place Vendome » of Côte de Nuits with its picturesque streets around the belfry. We'll walk through the Forest of Mantua and the Combe Ambin. On your way, we'll see the remains from the Abbaye de Saint Vivant and the château de Vergy, which was believed to be impregnable.
A loop tour around Nuits Saint Georges on the « Route des Grands Crus » to discover several wine villages of the Cote de Nuits vineyards, such as Chambolle-Musigny, Vougeot or Vosne Romanee among others. Vosne Romanee, together with Chambolle-Musigny and Gevrey-Chambertin produces the region's best red wines. In Chambolle Musigny, we'll take some time to visit the church Ste Barbe from the 15th century and its solar clock.
Arcenant, from where we'll will catch the GR76 to Beaune, famous for its hospices. Today's itinerary will take us to the famous wine villages of Savigny les Beaune and Aloxe Corton.
Beaune and Dijon.Tasting at Ghislaine & Bernard.Saint-Philibert in Tounus.La Chapelle-sous-Brancion.Cormatin.La Rochepot.Burgundy Charollais.Vézelay.Saint-Aubin.
Drive through the vineyards of Burgundy's Côte-d'Or to your lodgings in a comfortable, family-run B&B near Beaune. Take a short country stroll in the village.
Hotel near Beaune. Guided tour of Beaune's fascinating and strikingly colorful Hôtel-Dieu. From the 15th century until recently, it served as a charitable hospital; now it is an impressive repository of art and mementos of customs and medical practices in medieval Burgundy.
Guided walking tour of Dijon, ancient capital of the Duchy of Burgundy, including Dijon's Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy and the old town. Optional visit to the Museum of Fine Arts, considered second only to the Louvre for the excellence of its collections. Moutarde Maille, the factory shop of the company that makes Grey Poupon and other mustards. En route back to our B&B near Beaune, visit the historic Clos de Vougeot, built by Cistercian monks in 12th century. It is surrounded by magnificent vineyards and houses prestigious cellars and collections of wine presses from the Middle Ages. Visit to a small blackcurrant liquor production.
Travel to southern Burgundy. Visit the medieval town of Tournus, history and special details of the 10th-century Saint-Philibert Abbey. Lunch followed by a walk in the old feudal market town of Brancion, perched on a spur overlooking deep ravines, and the tiny village of Chapaize. Château of Cormatin, a jewel dating from the beginning of the 17th century. Stroll in its gardens and walk through its romantic maze.
Start the day with a visit to the vineyards near Pommard, Volnay and Meursault and taste some of Burgundy's most prestigious wines. Later, visit the beautiful château and village of La Rochepot. Medieval village and château of Châteauneuf.
Tranquil Abbey of Fontenay, oldest surviving Cistercian foundation in France. Its beautiful Romanesque church reflects the spirit of order and simplicity. Lunch in Flavigny or Semur-en-Auxois.
Drive to Auxerre to tour the old town, famous for its picturesque houses, its cathedral dominating the skyline above the Yonne River, its waterfront and fascinating little shops. Visit the hilltop basilica of Sainte-Madeleine in Vézelay, a Romanesque masterpiece designated by UNESCO as an international treasure.
Strasbourg: Petite France: The popular corner of the Grand Île (the Main Island) is where theÎle river splits up into a number of canals, and cascades through a small area of half-timbered houses. Ponts Couverts: Towers and footbridges situated at the end of Petite France Cathedral, built from 1190 to 1439. Quartier Allemand (German District), the showcase of German neoclassical architecture in Strasbourg.
Orbernai Loop Tour: A loop tour in the countryside around Obernai including Ottrot and the Mont St Odile. To visit: Mont Saint Odile monastery: during the Merovingian periods, Saint Odile, daughter of the Duke Adalric, founded a monastery here, which flourished. In the Middle Ages, the monastery was destroyed, then rebuilt by Herrade of Landsberg.
Riquewihr, a medieval town right in the heart of the Alsatian vineyards, classified among the Most Beautiful Villages in France. For centuries this magnificent town has managed to combine the quality of its architecture with the quality of its world-famous wines, from where it gets its nickname The Gem of the Alsace Vineyards.
We'll walk through the vineyards and the Foret d'Andlau, through Reichsfeld, a charming small Alsacian village. We'll have the opportunity to see the remains of the château de Bernstein, among the oldest in Alsace! Legend has it that the castle was built on the rock where a bear family was living. This is where its name come from, as Bernstein (or Bärenstein) litterally means bear's rock.
Our destination today is Ribeauville. In the Middle Ages, the town was the seat of the Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre - the Lords of Ribeaupierre (hence the town’s name of Ribeauvillé). château du Haut-Koenigsbourg. The castle is nestled at a strategic location on a high hill overlooking the Alsatian plain.
Our destination today is Turckheim, a charmingly petite village known for its Gewürztraminer, traditional Alsatian cuisine, and stunning surrounding scenery. Turckheim is probably most well-known for its surrounding medieval wall. It is the only such surviving wall in Alsace. Another attractive feature of Turckheim is the Night Watchman. The traditionally dressed Turckheim native, cloaked in black and carrying a halberd and lamp makes the rounds at 22.00 (10pm) each night. As he strolls the protected city, he sings a number of Alsatian favorites.
Ride from Riquewihr to Colmar, a nice ride through flowered villages including at the end, Colmar. This is home town of sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi (best known for the Statue of Liberty). The well-preserved old city center houses several, sometimes large-scale buildings in German Gothic and early Renaissance style, as well as a number of old churches, among which the collegiale Saint-Martin (13th-16th century) is the largest and most noteworthy.
Drive into the countryside to Turkheim and part of the Alsace wine route. Turckheim is a former fortified town. We can still see the remparts, which are exceptionnally well preserved. The village also has several half-timbered houses, typical of the region.
Walk to Colmar, one of the more charming of all the Alsatian villages. Today the hike is a little shorter and leaves more time to explore this town and the many restaurants. Of interest are the various museums: (Unterlinden, Bartholdi, du Jouet), and the old town architecture (Old Customs House, Pfister House, Cathedral, etc.). Walking enthusiasts will enjoy Petite Venise, a typical quarter with very well-preserved old Alsace homes, the yacht harbour and the pedestrianized old town with its many shops.
This historic city reflects traditional France with its sidewalk cafés, celebrated restaurants, stylish shops, a canal running through town and champagne cellars underneath, medieval churches and its magnificent Gothic cathedral. Chagal windows in Reims. La Petite France in Strabourg. Clock in Strasbourg. Storks. Schwietzer museum. La Petite Venise in Colmar.
Visit of Reims
For 800 years most French kings came to be crowned in the Reims cathedral, including Charles VII in 1429, led by Joan of Arc, "the maid of Lorraine." During World War I 80 % of the town was destroyed, but was rebuilt by the mid -1930s. In World War II General Eisenhower established his headquarters in a local high school, and it is here that the surrender of the Third Reich was signed.
After lunch, we will follow the Champagne Road south to Epernay in the heart of the vineyard country, where some of the best-known Champagne producers maintain cellars.
We will spend the afternoon visiting this town and the surrounding area, with the high point a tour of some of the most prestigious champagne cellars. We may also stop briefly in picturesque Hautvillers to see the abbey church, burial place of Dom Pérignon, the 17th-century monk to whom we owe the discovery of the champagne process.
The hundred miles separating Reims and Nancy are marked indelibly with sites that recall the tragic battles of World War I, almost 100 years ago. The sober monuments from WWI remind us of the courage and suffering of people on both sides of the front. If there is interest, we will visit some of these sites as we drive east, among them the major battlefields of Verdun. Nancy. This beautiful city invites you first to enjoy the golden opulence of its newly restored Place Stanislas and gems of architectural elegance found throughout the city. Then we will want to discover the works of early 20th century artists and architects who joined glass worker Emile Gallé to found the Ecole de Nancy and launch the graceful Art Nouveau style.
Strasbourg. En route to Strasbourg we may stop briefly in Lunéville to visit its château, called the Versailles of Lorraine and in Baccarat to admire the displays in the Crystal Museum and in local shops. As we arrive in Strasbourg, capital city of Alsace, we will discover a culture unlike any other in France. Shunted repeatedly back and forth between France and Germany, Alsatians have proudly developed their own culture, part French, part German, entirely Alsatian.
To understand the rich history and the current importance of Strasbourg we will want to see it first with the help of an experienced local guide, starting with a visit of the Petite France neighborhood, where half-timbered houses look out onto a maze of canals. Then we will discover the magnificent cathedral with its sky-high spire and red sandstone façade of Gothic lace work. The cathedral is known for its fine sculpture and fascinating astronomical clock, where a parade of little figures announce the passing hours. Stroll in this great city, which feels homey in spite of its international importance as headquarters of the Council of Europe and meeting place of the European Parliament. Later, we will take a boat excursion on the canals of Strasbourg.
This will be our time to enjoy the Alsatian Wine Road, visiting flower-bedecked towns and villages which invite passers-by to taste local vintages. We will stop in picturesque Obernai and tiny Ottrot, where we can visit the atelier of an artist who creates fine landscapes using different inlaid woods. Drive up to the Mont Sainte-Odile for a beautiful panoramic view over the countryside below. Later, we will visit the imposing feudal fortress of Haut-Koenigsbourg, rebuilt by German Kaiser Wilhelm in the early 20th century, when Alsace was still German territory. Riquewihr is without a doubt one of the most picturesque villages of Alsace, set amidst rolling slopes of vineyards. We will visit the village and tour the Hugel Winery, one of the oldest producers of Alsatian wines.
We will stop to see Kayserberg, a charming village on the River Weiss, with its castle, fortified bridge and 16th and 17th century houses, some topped with nests where storks still raise their young. The town is also the birthplace of Albert Schweitzer, musicologist, physician and Nobel Peace Prize recipient. We can visit his house, now a beautiful little museum which chronicles his life and work at the hospital he founded in Lambaréné, Africa. A few kilometers south of Riquewihr, Colmar is a city of art and good living, whose past prosperity has bequeathed to it churches, fine mansions and works of art. We will spend the afternoon enjoying this typically old Alsatian city, with its tangle of winding streets, brightly painted, crooked half-timbered houses, and its neighborhood of waterways known as the Petite Venise ("Little Venice"). For art lovers, Colmar also has the fine Unterlinden Museum, world renowned for the dramatic Issenheim Altarpiece.
The last nine days, we're turning in the car, and heading to Paris. We've got the following tentative daily plan on Google Calendar:
11:00am Turn in Car; 11:30 – 2pm Take Train to Paris; 2:30pm – 4:30pm Short Marais Walk; 7pm – 8pm Dinner at Chez Janou; 9pm – 10pm Stay at 5 Rue des Beaumarchais.
7:30 – 8:30am Metro to Cite; 8:30am – 9:30am Paris Historic Walk - Ile de la cite; 9:30am – 10:30am Notre Dame; 10:30am – 11:30am Latin Quarter; 11:30am – 12:30pm Sainte Chappelle; 1:30pm – 2:30pm Pont Neuf; 6:30pm – 9pm Cruise the Seine; 9pm – 10pm Dinner at La Terrasse du 7ieme; 10pm – 11pm Stay at 5 Rue des Beaumarchais.
9:00-Noon Louvre Museum; 12:30pm – 1:30pm Lunch at Cafe le Nemours; 1:30pm – 2:30pm Jardin de Palais Royal; 2:30pm – 5:30pm Champs Elsees Walk; 6:30pm – 7:30pm Tuileries Garden; 8pm – 9pm Dinner at Le Tastevin; 9pm – 10pm Stay at 5 Rue des Beaumarchais.
9am – 11:30am Orsay Museum; 12:30pm – 2pm Rodin Museum; 2pm – 3pm Orangerie Museum; 3pm – 5pm Rue Cler Walk; 6pm – 7pm Sacre Couer Basilica; 7pm – 8pm Montmarte Walk; 8pm – 9pm Dinner at Cafe du Marche; 9pm – 10pm Stay at 5 Rue des Beaumarchais.
8:30am – 11am Train to Versaille - Palace Interior; 12:30pm – 1:30pm Lunch at Versaille Market Square; 1:30pm – 4:30pm Versaille Gardens; 7pm – 8pm Dinner at Place du Marche St Catherine; 9pm – 10pm Stay at 5 Rue des Beaumarchais.
Saturday 10/249am – 11:30am Marais Walk - Carnavalet Museum; 12pm – 1pm Lunch at Palace de Voges; 1pm – 2pm Picasso Museum; 3pm – 4pm Jewish Museum; 5:30pm – 7:30pm Twilight Ride up Eiffel Tower; 7:30pm – 8:30pm Dinner at Chez Marianne; 9pm – 10pm Stay at5 Rue des Beaumarchais.
8am-1pm Impressionist Escape to Giverny; 1pm – 2pm Left Bank Walk; 3:30pm – 4:30pm Luxembourg Garden; 6pm – 7pm Arc de Triomphe; 7pm – 8pm Night-time walk on Champs Elsees; 8pm – 9pm Stay at 5 Rue des Beaumarchais.
Monday 10/26 & Tuesday 10/27 are unplanned intentionally to give us time to see stuff we missed, and include others we learn about.
Wednesday 10/28 Flight to SF at 10:45am.
We'd appreciate comments from anyone who think we should include somewhere we haven't. Many of you know our interests from past travels, so if you know of an interesting spot that you think we'd hate to miss, send us a coent and let us know (now, or when we're traveling).