Thursday, July 24, 2014

Le Tour de France: Paris Day 1 & 2

Thursday, July 3
The TGV ride from Lyon went by quickly, and we arrived at Gare de Lyon in Paris! Since we had our luggage and a growing bag of souvenirs (chocolate), we took a taxi to Esmeralda. As we approached, I was dismayed by the tour buses and crowds of people all around us, quite a contrast from the quiet neighborhood we stayed in two years ago. I was feeling worried about my choice. Dan went up the (tiny) elevator with our luggage, and I walked up the five flights of stairs to the apartment. Then we saw Notre Dame! And the apartment was quiet, I felt much better.

View from the balcony

The phone and internet were not working though. I called the apartment manager Thierry, who said he would take care of everything in the morning. I think he heard the desperation in my voice, and Lucas came by about an hour later. He reset the router and showed us how to use the washing machine, and we started a load of laundry. We picked up yogurt, milk, and muesli at the Franprix around the corner, where I was impressed by the rosé selection. Then we walked to L'Enfance de Lard for dinner, where a giant jar of cornichon was served with the terrine entree. (Dan did not eat the entire jar.)

First dinner in Paris!

After dinner we wandered around Saint-Germain-des-Prés, there were so many people! We walked to the Pont des Arts to see the Eiffel Tower. The number of locks on the bridge is insane. We saw a few sections that seemed newly replaced, as they were not yet covered in locks. We looked at the dates and names on some locks while we waited for sparkle time. I do not understand the tradition. Also, do the locks really get thrown into the Seine? I think I read that somewhere. Dan thinks the metal should be melted down and re-used. Then the Eiffel Tower sparkled, and I was happy. Dan said the sparkle isn't exciting to him, but he is happy that it makes me happy. Haha.

Friday, July 4
We had breakfast at the apartment, then walked to Rue Mouffetard to check out the market street. Perhaps we didn't walk far enough, but it was not as bustling as I was expecting. We got a rotisserie chicken, cherries, melon, cucumber, endive, blue cheese, and some charcuterie. We picked up a seedy baguette from Eric Kayser and Bordier butter at a fromagerie on Place Maubert. (I should have gotten the bigger one with salt crystals.) On the walk back, we saw the Pantheon all covered up, must be having some work done. We went inside Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, where Dan saw some relics that the Pope had visited, or so he thought, since he doesn't read French. 

We had lunch at the apartment, the rotisserie chicken was very tasty. I went online and bought subscriptions for Vélib', the bike share program in Paris, it was 8€ for the week. I called the Palais Garnier to check on English tour times, and then we set off. On our way to pick up the bikes, we saw a beagle on our street! I tried to pet the beagle, but it crossed the street and ran away from me. We biked to Palais Garnier, it started to rain but luckily just a sprinkle.

Palais Garnier

We bought tickets for the English tour, and were going to walk around outside until it started. I saw the Fragonard perfume museum across the street, so we went in. The free museum is in a pretty mansion, and according to our guide, Maria Callas had lived there. The guide told us the history of perfume making and use, which was actually quite interesting. [No photography allowed.] There were some artifacts and tools on display, and the tour ended in the shop, not surprisingly. There were two Chinese guides learning the English version during our tour.

We returned to the Palais Garnier for the tour of the opera house, which is very beautiful. The tour was informative, although I thought the group size was too big, which made it difficult to hear at times. I loved sitting in the auditorium and seeing the Marc Chagall ceiling. The Grand Foyer looks like the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, but much less crowded.

Palais Garnier

Dan on the tour


Marc Chagall ceiling

Grand foyer


After the tour we looked around some more and checked out the view from box seats in the auditorium. We went out to the balcony, and there was a flamenco performance outside. The sun had come out, hooray!

Flamenco dancers

Palais Garner

Then we walked to the Madeleine, which is extremely large and not so unattractive (in my opinion). We walked around the interior, then crossed the street and sampled mustards at Maille. Dan loves mustard. He got a refillable crock of whole grain mustard, which means we will have to return when it's finished. We almost got a crock of truffle mustard, but it was rather spendy. Someone approached us with the ring scam, but I scared him away. I got chocolates at Patrick Roger, where there were giant chocolate sculptures in the window. One was a mountain lion, the other looked like giant whale bones. I wonder what happens to the chocolate after, does it get melted down for another sculpture? We also went inside Fauchon, and I saw a cute green bike in a shop window. I want that bike.

Patrick Roger

Cute green bike

We found a Vélib' station, where a very nice lady tried to help Dan get a bike out of the locking station, and also told us a route we could take back to the apartment. I loved riding along the Seine and seeing the landmarks. The Eiffel Tower! The Orsay! The Louvre! Also, I may have been mistaken for a Parisian, when another cyclist asked me something in French. Very exciting. The jig was up very quickly when I responded je ne comprends pas.

France was playing Germany in the World Cup, and we actually heard the game being broadcast on the ride back. It was playing outside the Hôtel de Ville, very close to the apartment, but since Dan was rooting for Germany it seemed safer to watch on television. I drank rosé and ate chocolates on the balcony while admiring the view of Notre Dame, as Dan watched the Germany victory.


We walked by Notre Dame and across the Seine, for dinner at Le Trumilou, where we had a lovely lunch on our last trip. Dinner was good too. There were even vegetables with my fish.

Dan & Notre Dame

Dusk in Paris



We walked around the Marais after dinner, and got yummy gelato at Pozzetto. Dan noticed it was being scooped from deep metal cones, just like in Italy. We walked to Île Saint-Louis and then back around Notre Dame. It was a great day in Paris!

Notre Dame at night

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Le Tour de France: Lyon

Tuesday, July 1
During the drive from Provence to Lyon, I realized it would have been smarter to drop off the rental car in Avignon, and take the TGV from there. I think it would have been faster and cost less. Lesson learned. Luckily, the traffic into the city was not bad, and we found Hotel Saint Pierre des Terreaux. Dan almost got a ticket while I was dropping off the luggage in the room! He was parked in a 30-minute loading zone, and apparently a special sticker is needed. At least that was his interpretation of what the meter maid said (Dan doesn't speak French). I'm glad I made him stay with the car! Anyway after leaving our luggage at the hotel, we returned the car at Lyon-Perrache train station, and I was so relieved to be rid of it. We walked back toward the hotel and checked out some plazas and shops. We got ice cream since it was so hot out.


Basilique de Fourvière 

After a little rest, we had dinner at Daniel & Denise in the old town. Dan's entree included beef nose, which was like crunchy cartilage. He liked it. We also tried the quenelle, a fishy blob with a creamy sauce that apparently is a specialty of the area. Dinner was delicious, but we were both super full! So we walked along the Saône River, lots of young people hanging out on the quai. We saw the Hôtel de Ville lit up at night, also checked out the opera house, where there was a jazz performance. Then we saw the Basilique de Fourvière and la Tour d'Argent lit up too.



Hanging out on the quai

Hôtel de Ville

Lyon at night

Wednesday, July 2
The first morning of our trip where breakfast wasn't included, we had become very spoiled! We walked across the Rhône River to Bernachon, one of the top reasons for our visit to Lyon. After selecting several pastries, we realized there was nowhere to sit outside because of the rain. So we went next door to the cafe where I got a café crème, then we ordered the same pastries again, haha! (It worked out though, because we ate the to-go ones the following morning for breakfast.) Then we bought a large quantity of chocolate to take home. Dan asked if I thought it was enough, and said maybe we should get more, but I thought he was joking. Sad, because we definitely did not buy enough. Waahh!


Chocolate for breakfast 

Then we walked to les Halles Paul Bocuse, a large enclosed food mall. On the way we saw a man from dinner the night before! Also stopped to look in a key shop, since Dan's niece collects keys. Unfortunately because we don't speak French, we could not communicate that we wanted to buy an old key. The locksmith seemed confused as to why we did not have the lock, or key specifications. Les Halles was a bit like the Ferry Plaza at home, but with lots more food. Mmm, everything looked so enticing. We looked at each and every stall, and eventually we were ready for lunch, so we ate at one of the more crowded spots, which was very tasty. The people next to us were speaking French, one of them was a very skinny woman. She cleaned her plate at lunch. How do French women stay so thin? Dan says maybe that was the only meal she ate all week. I wonder.

Lunch at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

The rain had stopped, and we walked back to the hotel and dropped off our chocolates and pastries. Then we did some shopping (it was sale season all over France -- les soldes), and walked up the hill to see Basilique de Fourvière, the basilica church dedicated to Mary. I found the exterior unattractive, but the interior is palatial. More like a palace than a church, also many beautiful mosaics. There were nice views too. We walked over to see the Roman amphitheater ruins, but it had just closed. So we walked down the hill through some gardens, then through the old town. 


Basilique de Fourvière

View of Cathédrale Saint-Jean

We went to Archange for dinner, which a couple we met in Beaune had recommended, and we saw them when we walked in! Funny. It was their last night in Lyon, and it was their favorite restaurant in the city. Dinner was delicious, I had duck à l'Orange, and my dessert was soooo yummy. Amazing chocolate ganache with hazelnut ice cream. Yum yum yum. Before they left, the couple gave us a lunch recommendation for the next day.


Chocolate dessert

Thursday, July 3
We packed up and left our luggage at the hotel, then walked to the square by the Hôtel de Ville and sat at an outdoor table. I ordered an espresso, Dan got an orange juice, and we ate our Bernachon pastries from the previous day. We saw another field trip, I think the students were doing a scavenger hunt. Just like at home. We walked to the Saône and took a boat ride down the river. It was only 2€ and took us to the shopping mall in a modern area. The apartment buildings reminded me of Copenhagen.

Boat ride on the Saône

On a boat

Reminiscent of Copenhagen

Then we took the funicular up to see the Theatres Romains de Fourviere, where we saw another field trip. It was so hot, but Dan enjoyed reading the signage about the ruins. I enjoyed that they are used for the original intent, with Nuits de Fourvière performances in both amphitheaters during the summer.

French field trip to Theatres Romains de Fourviere

Dan checking out Theatres Romains de Fourviere

Theatres Romains de Fourviere

Then we saw the treasury at Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon. The interior of the church is being restored. The treasury featured relics, chalices and fancy vestments (priest robes) from long, long ago. I enjoyed seeing the old photographs of Lyon.

 Cathédrale Saint-Jean

Then we walked to Jeremy Galvan, the restaurant that was recommended to us. It looked fancy, and we decided to go for it. So glad we did, it was one of the best meals of the trip. Also very reasonably priced, three courses -- entree, plat, dessert sampler with coffee, plus two amuse bouche for 24€, tax and service included. I don't think we could get that at home.



Lyon is known for its food, and we ate very well during our stay! After lunch, we walked back to the hotel to pick up our luggage. Took a taxi to Part-Dieu train station, and then we were on the TGV to Paris!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Le Tour de France: Provence

Saturday, June 28
It was a very long drive from Beaune to Provence. We hit (Saturday) traffic for the first time during the trip, as we approached Lyon and then for a bit after the city too. We had our leftovers and market purchases for lunch at a rest area. [Note: Lots of rest areas every few km on the autoroutes in France.] We saw several nuclear reactors on the way, with huge cooling towers. Dan said France doesn't have oil and uses nuclear power for energy. As we got further south, I even saw a few lavender and sunflower fields, yay! Finally, we made it to le Mas Jorel, and our hosts Marc and Véronique welcomed us with drinks and a tour of the property. There are hammocks and lounge chairs all over the garden, and an inviting swimming pool. The view from our upstairs room was nice too. Dan picked some loquats from a tree in the courtyard, which were big, juicy, and delicious.

View from the blue room


Posing with sheep

Our host Marc made dinner reservations for us at Restaurant David in the nearby village Roussillon, with a beautiful view of the Luberon. Roussillon is known for the ochre, which is even lit up after dark. After dinner we walked around to see the views, and walked through the cemetery, where we saw the grave of the founding chef of the restaurant where we just ate! When we returned to the B&B, Marc and his son were playing petanque on the driveway. There was a thunderstorm that woke me up in the middle of the night, rather exciting. Dan slept through of it.


Pre-dinner pose

Lit up ochre

Roussillon cemetery

Sunday, June 30
We had breakfast on the terrace and met the other guests, which was very nice, although we had to be careful of the wasps (they wanted breakfast too). Marc pointed out some spots on the map, then we drove to L'Isle sur la Sorgue to see the big Sunday market. We passed two lavender fields on the way, so of course I made Dan stop for photos.


Lavender field!


There were many, many people, and the market seemed never ending. First we looked at antiques...latte bowls, china, soda bottles, petanque balls, spools of colorful twine. Then there was food, flowers, clothing, souvenirs, and more. I sampled many cheeses, and Dan sampled a lot of saucisson sec. And I saw a beagle! But I didn't get a chance to pet it. Dan said it was because it was too crowded, or maybe the person walking the beagle was hungry and wanted to get something to eat. I bought an heirloom tomato, endive, and a bag of cherries for 1.90€. Dan got a rotisserie chicken, and there was a big tray of beautiful roasted tomatoes, but it was reserved. So the vendor gave me a big raw tomato, which I thought was so nice. We also got yummy cheese, and Provençal fabric for Dan's mother.


Latte bowls


Soda bottles and petanque balls


Saucisson sec

Big cheese


Artichoke flowers

After the market, we drove to Oppède-le-Vieux, a much less crowded hilltop village. We had a picnic lunch of our market purchases, then explored the town and went inside the church, which is being restored. I saw a pooch waiting for the shop to open, I think it was closed for siesta.

View from Oppède-le-Vieux




Then we drove to Ménerbes, where the weather is always nice. We walked around town and saw many real estate offices (I later learned this is where A Year in Provence takes place). We bought a few bottles of rosé at Maison de la Truffe and got ice cream.


Weather forecast

We also stopped in Goult to see the windmill and check out the views. The buildings seem to be built directly on rock outcroppings. We returned to le Mas Jorel, where Dan watched a World Cup and I lay by the pool. Then we made a dinner of our remaining market purchases.

Rock foundation


After dinner we drove up to Saignon to see the panoramic view of Luberon, which Marc had recommended. We saw another lavender field! From the village, we hiked up some old ruins to see the sunset from the top. It was still light out, so we walked around the village for awhile, then went back up. Dan thought the sunset would be good, since it had rained earlier, but unfortunately it was not spectacular. The view from there was pretty though. We both liked Saignon, it was our favorite village in the Luberon.

Another lavender field!

Posing with lavender

View from Saignon


View from Saignon


Green doors


Vintage car

Walking up to the view


Rickety lookout box

Dusk color

Monday, June 30
After another delicious breakfast, including melon from nearby Cavaillon, we drove up past Gordes to the Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque to see the lavender field. (My main goals in Provence were to see lavender and drink rosé.) I thought the fields at the abbey were not as impressive as the previous day's sightings.

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

Abbaye Notre-Dame de Sénanque

Then we continued to Sault, a town higher up in elevation, where there are more lavender fields. It was a very beautiful drive, but kind of scary because the narrow twisty turny road is along the mountainside. We saw several cyclists, and an impressive rock face. We picked up the lavender trail map at the tourism office in Sault, then walked around town. None of the restaurants appealed to me, so we drove to Aurel, the next village.

A rock face

View from Sault Shutters
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch in Aurel. My rosé matched the orange glass bottle of water. I had a big salad, and Dan had a terrine followed by perfectly-cooked salmon. We shared a plum tart for dessert, and I had an espresso. Ah, vacation! A British couple sat next to us, and the wife was taking a photo of the husband with his dessert. I asked if they wanted their photo together, but they didn't hear me. When Dan got back from the restroom I told him to ask them, since he was closer, and this time they heard, so he took one for them. I heard the husband say "I probably shouldn't have pudding, but I am going to anyway" which pleased me greatly.

Big salad


After lunch we drove back toward Sault to le chemin des lavandes, the lavender trail. The British couple from lunch were there too! Great minds think alike, heh heh. They were from Bristol, and go to Provence every year to see the Tour de France as well as the bicycle race preceding it. The husband bikes up Mont Ventoux on his birthday. After we chatted for awhile, he said the walk would be very slow because his wife takes a lot of photos, but he had to be patient, otherwise he can't have his bike rides! It was very cute.   

Le chemin des lavandes


Lavender field


We saw a couple of people painting the lavender fields. We also met a family from Texas, and the father told Dan that the kids were ready to go home. They were four teenagers who looked very bored. Dan and I said they don't know how lucky they are!

After the hike we returned to Sault and bought lavender products at Dromel to bring home. The shop smelled amazing. Then we sampled nougat and and got ice cream at André Boyer, and looked into a couple of antique shops.

la Loubatière

André Boyer

We took a different route back, which was also very scenic and twisty turny. We stopped for a beautiful view of Mont Ventoux. Back at the B&B, I laid out by the pool and relaxed, even put my feet in the water, but it was a bit too windy for a swim, while Dan watched a World Cup soccer match. Then we went to look for dinner. Unfortunately we hadn't planned ahead and lots of places are closed on Monday, so we ended up getting pizza. Pizza in France, haha. It was okay, although the crust wasn't very good. We saw the sunset on the way back after dinner, which was spectacular! Dan said we should have gone up to the hilltop village to see it instead of the previous evening, but you never know how the sunset will turn out.

Mont Ventoux



Tuesday, July 1
After our last breakfast in Provence, we drove to Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to see the source of the Sorgue river, which runs through the Luberon. The water was incredibly clear, and we hiked up a trail along the river to see the source, which looked like a giant pool of stagnant water deep in the rocks. Odd. The village also had Santons, the Provençal clay figurines, which we looked at for quite awhile so Dan could select something for the crèche (he chose a billy goat). We also walked through the paper mill and an unfortunate gift shop mall with many vacant spaces. Then on our way to the autoroute we passed through L'Isle sur la Sorgue (the village where we went to the market on Sunday) and saw two beagles! That's three beagles in the same village in Provence! Dan and I both think they were traveling tourist beagles.

Water wheel


Shades of green

Next stop, Lyon!