Archive for June, 2010

Awaken To Historic Avignon

Posted in French Affair, French Music, French Travel, South Central France, South of France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 17, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

When in the south of France, staying in or around beautiful Avignon is a must. You’ll be very impressed by this city, which is only two hours and forty minutes by high speed TGV from Paris (to the new ultramodern Avignon Gare TGV) or thirty minutes from Arles.

There’s so much to see and do here. Include in your itinerary, the World Heritage Site, Palais des Papes ( The Palace of The Popes). This fourteenth century massive stone structure, Gothic in style, has assured the safety of seven Popes who have resided there over time…

On entry, a very friendly Swiss Guard may insist upon having his photo taken …

And once you’re inside, you can peruse the maze of solid archways leading to inner courtyards and beautifully adorned frecso walls…

If you’re lucky enough to be in Avignon this July, take part in the Avignon Festival in and around the Palais des Popes-but book you’re seats early because this fabulous non profit making event attracts  up to 150,000 revellers of theatre, dance and music to the city to watch wonderful street performances and productions of sheer joy.

The artistic programme and full information for the Avignon 2010 Festival can be found at:

http://www.festival-avignon.com/en/Prog

If you miss the event there’s always next time. Meanwhile, buskers enliven the ancient streets of the walled city and will leave you wandering for more.

My french awakening was amused to come across unexpected pleasures like detailed trompe l’oeil paintings on buildings…

And intricate architectural embellishments of a fascinating history..

Avignon is enriched with abundant Museums, shops, a fabulous Les Halles marketplace and galleries and plenty of space to get about by car, bike or even tourist ‘train’- the latter can take you to popular sites to walk the remains of the famous Pont d’Avignon Bridge over the Rhone river for instance…

and be reminded of the little French children’s song, “Sur le Pont d’Avignon’…

On the bridge, step inside the tiny chapel of Saint Benezet…

where legend has it that Benezet (or Benedict) a young shepherd, was instructed by an angel to build the bridge and was given the power to lift enormous stones. The people of Avignon were so impressed that they helped construction and although Benezet died before it was completed, but not without founding The Friars of The Bridge Order of monks.

Great things happen in Avignon. Trust me.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell

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Awaken To Lyon, France

Posted in Decoration & Design, Food and Recipes, French fabrics, French Quilts, French Travel, South East France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 16, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

How are things with you? I hope you’re feeling adventurous because you’re going to be taken to Lyon today. It’s about 400km from Paris (Gare de Lyon) to Lyon, and it will take just under two hours on the very fast moving TGV. Let the train glide you through some gorgeous French countryside and before you know it, you’ve arrived in Lyon.

Head straight for the Old Quarter of Lyon and explore the courtyards and traboules (alleyways) which the silk manufacturers and escaping French Resistance fighters used many years ago.

And you’ll see wells tucked in a corner or two- remnants of the past…

In the Old Quarter, you can browse fabulous shops and artisan galleries and enter any one of the Lyonnais cafes or fine restaurants for some gastronomic delight of veal sausages, salads, coq au vin made with local wine, pike (fish) dumplings, potatoes and lentils …

My french awakening  found Lyon the culinary capital of France! There’s so much to see, taste and experience here, you could easily spend a year!

For one thing, you MUST try the tempting meringues (the size of footballs ) from any Lyonnais patisserie. Mouthwatering meringues which are surprisingly encrusted with ripened red strawberries or you may fancy merigue ones filled with delicious French chocolate. Tempted eh?

And you can take Lyon in, sitting at a fountain with the locals and soak up some Lyonnais sunshine…

before visiting a fabulous Museum such as the Musee Des Beaux Arts. Get completely lost in the seventy rooms of this magnificent building holding many inspiring works from Primitive Art to Modern including the French masters and fantastic sculptures from the Middle Ages to the Twentieth Century works. There’s something for everyone here.

For practical information such as opening times go to:

http://www.mba-lyon.fr/

For a dominating view of the city, head for the Basilica of Fourviere on the hilltop (take the funicular upwards) and you will be overlooking all of Lyon.

The cream and pale blue  is Fourviere’s homage to Mary, who is believed to protect the city of Lyon.

You can walk the very pretty terraced gardens at the base of Fourviere…

and stroll through the Garden of The Rosary…

and while you’re near the Basilica, why not visit the site of the Roman Ruins where Lyon was first founded? These days, concerts, opera and dance performances are held in the large amphitheatre which is still intact.

and the Museum of the Gallo Roman Ruins. It’s truly beautifully displayed.

Then walk across the bridge where Old meets New and wander around in bustling, modern Lyon for a whole lot more.

For anyone interested in fashion and costumes, quilting, silks and tapestries, find your way to the Museum of Fabric/Textiles (Tissus) and Decorative Arts (and don’t spare the horses!).

You’ll be able to not only view some drop dead gorgeous fabrics and textiles and authentic costumes with extreme detail and finery but you’ll be able to purchase some fabric samples  which are made into envelopes (these are very small, but heavenly) in the foyer shop…

This place is a quilter’s dream and a haven for fabric collectors.

 For more information go to:

http://www.musee-des-tissus.com/

Lyon will keep you happy for quite some time. You can discover the fantastic trompe l’oeil paintings on many unexpected spots on buildings and if you’re lucky enough to be in Lyon on the 5th to the 8th December 2010, you’ll witness the city coming alive with the Lyon Light Festival (Fete des Lumieres). Take a peep here…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MyphK_Jvtu8

Thousands of candle lamps are lit in the windows of Lyonnais homes as well as fabulous lighting illuminations along streets and shopping precincts in honour of the Virgin Mary.

Now that’s spirit for you!

I know you’ll have a wonderful time here in Lyon. See for yourself!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Copyright@2010 Therese Waddell

Awaken to Vezelay, France

Posted in Decoration & Design, French Affair, French Travel, South East France with tags , , , , , , , , on June 11, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

So glad you liked our last adventure! Our next stop is the hill top village and World Heritage Site of  Vezelay.You’re going to love this place, right in the heart of Burgandy.

My french awakening found consolation in the beautiful 12th century village of Vezelay, which is on the pilgrimage road to a church in Spain. Vezelay’s Cathedral reigns over the village, classed as one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France, perched high above the hills. Tourists maraud the main street which is uphill the entire way, but the view from the top is well worth it.

Behind the Romanesque Basilica of the imposing Cathedral of Saint Madeleine (known to the locals as Vezelay Abbey and said to contain the relics of Mary Magdalene), you can allow yourself to wander through the park especially after a music concert in the church.

Sometimes surrounded by many other tourists and locals, you will come to an abrupt wall of stone and there you’ll be completely mesmerised  by the drop dead gorgeous view on the other side.

You will be able to scan the lush green fields of unspoilt French countryside through the fog along the Cure River Valley and I defy you not to think of your childhood and want to roll through its grasses with not a care in the world.

The locals refer to the steep hill of Vezelay as “la colline eternelle”. You will feel on top of the world as we did and totally wonder whether you’ve reached heaven or nirvana especially when  the small community of nuns of the Franciscan Order dart to and fro throughout the village.

Vezelay is an artisan’s delight. You’ll be able to absorb the colours of textured woollen crafts and newly painted canvases, while aromas waft from the many quaint restaurants which line the main cobbled street of Rue St Pierre.

And why not stay here so you can really enjoy the fabulous wine from local vineyards and not drive home? There are bed and breakfasts within arms reach.

The scent of the many candle making shops is seductive. Rich fragrant  candles are shaped into divine decorative fruits of every imaginable size and shape and fill open woven baskets outside the shops for all to pick up and inhale. I can still smell the sweet scent of plump strawberries, mandarin and lemon which fill the air here.

Good quality crafts prevail in Vezelay. Browse the many galleries and dealers selling genuine products of exquisite artistry.

If painting and knitting and crotchet is definately not your thing, find supreme joy in a glace cone of rich ‘vanille’ at the bottom of the village.

Or be really daring and see it all from a seat in a hot air balloon trip over Burgandy.

http://www.france-balloons.com/balloon-ride,bourgogne.php

One way or other, Vezelay holds the answers to your prayers.

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Awaken to Villeneuve Sur Yonne in Burgandy, France

Posted in French Affair, French Travel, South East France with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on June 8, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

I hope you’re all having an inspiring week. I’d like to introduce you to Villeneuve sur Yonne- a town along the Yonne river about 112kms from Paris, between the villages of Sens and Joigny. This town is not so familiar to the many tourists visiting Burgandy and that is precisely why you should go.

You never know what “out of the way” may bring and sometimes it’s the least expected or the quiet divergence which brings us our greatest pleasure. My french awakening can attest to the fact that “out of the way” can also be great fun and my general rule of thumb is to keep an open mind when travelling through France (or life for that matter).

The little town of Villeneuve sur Yonne can be easily scanned through the windscreen of your car as you pass through its main street. It will take you not ten minutes to cruise from one end of the main entrance archway gate to the other.

From the Gate of Sens to the Gate of Joigny…

Villeneuve sur Yonne offers a single line of modern shops typical of a small town- a pharmacy, garden supplies, grocery store, post office, boulangerie and so on, in a vintage skeleton of 12th century stone.

But slide out of the car and there’s another story…Wander its outskirts (down and around) and you’ll touch the lapping water of the beautiful Yonne river and have the opportunity to go cruising with the current in a local barge or boat.

Or keep walking in any compass direction and discover history poking its head up here and there …

And if you’re lucky enough, (and it’s not difficult my friends) you’ll discover a little bed and breakfast with adjoining restaurant called ‘The Owl’s Nest’ or  locally known as ‘Auberge La Lucarne aux Chouettes’.

You won’t realise until much later that this unsuspecting little cottage which was once a boathouse, is owned by one of my favourite actresses, Leslie Caron. Take a closer look at her establishment here:

http://lesliecaron-auberge.com/US/auberge_us.html

(I love the use of blue toile fabric and the French quilts on the beds!)

You know this is the same lovely, elegant yet fiesty Leslie Caron who starred in my mother’s favourite film called ‘Gigi’ as a girl. Perhaps it was her favourite film because she fell in love as I recall, with Maurice Chevalier. His swooning French husky voice and cheeky sense of humour certainly won mum over and she has been secretly in rapture over him to this very day. (Sorry your secret is out mum!) Have a listen to Maurice and let me know what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSGM3ZTP2nw&feature=related

(Don’t you think that Maurice Chevalier must have had THE most romantic name in the world. It just rolls off the tongue, non?)

Leslie Caron has been lucky indeed for many reasons. This amazing woman is beautiful and independent with an extensive repertoire of films, still acting while well and truly in her seventies. Her more recent film, ‘Chocolat’ with Juliette Binoche, Judy Dench and my own heart throb Johnnie Depp, makes me think that she chooses wisely and that the apple does not fall far from the tree, mum!

So what’s a famous film legend living in a little place like this? Living luckily indeed.

There’s plenty of life in Villeneuve sur Yonne. And by the looks of what this local is carrying, I would say there’s plenty of romance yet.

Thank Heavens.

It’s always been up to you HOW much you see!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

copyright@2010 Therese Waddell

Awaken to beautiful Sens, France

Posted in French Affair, French Painters, French Travel, South East France with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 5, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

It’s time you visit the gorgeous town of Sens! It is located 120kms from Paris in the Burgandy region of France. The town of Sens has much to offer and you won’t be disappointed. It’s a place where you’ll see plenty of the unexpected.

Sens (pronounced Son) is relatively small and the old town has grown around the first great Gothic Cathedral in France, the Cathedral of St Etienne. Thomas Beckett lived in Sens during his exile and the story of his murder is told in the Twelfth Century stain glass windows of the Cathedral.

Sens boulevards are lined with trees and as you walk you can see that the many half timbered houses have been converted into expensive boutiques and cafes.

With mansard roof tops of a time long ago…

And you might be lucky (as we were) to walk up the beautiful staircase of the Hotel de Ville…

to the current exhibition of wonderful local artists and sculptors in the divine ‘ La Salle Des Fetes’. This room is spectacular in itself, with hand painted ceiling murals and walls of yellow and white and gilded French chandeliers hanging above our heads.

On top of all this, the exhibition, with its own colour and humour, makes a dramatic impact on my french awakening even on an overcast day in Sens.

Exhibitions these days, are in stark contrast to the torture and executions which took place on the site of the Hotel de Ville in the sixteenth century.

There are plenty of places to eat in Sens and a fantastic bucherie not far from the Hotel de Ville, just off the Place de la Republic, which may easily lure you in and you can purchase from an enormous array of gastronomic foods and wines. There is canard, beef and pork in red wine sauces, curries, celeriac and other vegetables as well as strings of spicy sausages dangling above the counter. So many sausages in fact, you may have to tilt your head to one side to converse to the friendly woman behind the counter. Things could be worse!

Madame behind the counter, dressed in a crimson embroidered apron, is more than generous with her time. The queue may grow and snake out the door onto the pavement behind you- but this bucherie is well worth it.

Madame also supplied us with knives and forks, cups and serviettes and even got our wine bottle open (sil vous plait) for a “bonne” picnic beside the Yonne River. Voila!

You can eat your sumptuous feast on the banks of the  river Yonne – oozing duck sauce and red wine accordingly or you can eat at many of the fabulous little restaurants and cafes dotted in and about the town.

Later on, you can walk lunch off through the ten acre plot of the Moulin-De-Tan Jardin on the outskirts of Sens. There is also the ‘Fitness Trail’ for those serious walkers.

Walk with me down here…

And we could be in the middle of a French painting…

Once the grounds of a tanning factory, the Moulin De Tan was originally built in 1887 and is now home to rose gardens, scented pathways, playing fields and phenomenal greenhouses with spectacular exotic plants -even the enormous waterlilies had to be held at bay!

It’s naturally, a photographers’ haven, with a rich blanket of narcissus flowers on the floor of a wild wood. The stillness is intermittently broken by the resident rooster and a gaggle of marauding Muscovy ducks playing havoc amongst bamboo stalks and nettle. Here you can also run amok amongst the flowers with few to disturb you….

There’s a winter garden and woodlands of delicious aromas. Take the walk along the path across the bridge,

And expect the unexpected …

You can feed the menagerie of resident animals or move off into another microcosm of paradise.

Hours pass here with no regard to time. And isn’t that what vacation is all about?

Sens is a fabulous place to see and experience. Visit it on your next trip through France. You’ll be very glad you did!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Copyright@2010 Therese Waddell