Archive for the Day Trips from Paris Category

Awakening To Mont St Michel

Posted in Day Trips from Paris, French Travel, North West France with tags , , , , , , , on March 10, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

Excuse my blog absence, for my son has just left for London for quite some time but his parting reminded me of my experience that the beautiful Mont St Michel will offer next time you’re in France.

Physically and mentally isolating, my french awakening gazed across the plains surrounding  Mont St Michel in wonder.

There are challenges to be met but once you’ve reached the dramatic peak after climbing the stairs…

reaching higher into the mist, where you become one with sea and sky…

you’ll be intrigued by the mystery and beauty of what lies ahead.

Some things are meant to be….

According to legend, in 708 the Archangel Michael appeared requesting the Bishop of Avranches to build a monastery here. So strong were his requests, that he eventually accompanied these with a touch of skull burning. Mont Tomb (Tomb on the Hill) as it was known, suddenly became Mont St Michel!

Look up and around and notice the gilded winged statue of  Saint Michael The Protector- brandishing his sword above his head hell bent for further action, on the tip of the church spire.

Mont St Michel, near St Malo, stands on a solitary islet separated from all that once was, by a causeway hidden rhythmically by the shifting tides. It captures the imagination as I feel sorry for the unwary travellers who had been caught by flooding tides and quick sand in the past.

These days, follow the signs and keep to the causeway (and there are plenty of officials to steer you in the right direction) to avoid sirens going off and your car sinking into the mud!

Although its surrounds change, Mont St Michel remains as united and solid as ever, built of impervious massive granite walls and still standing with the passing of time.

It has been a castle and fortress, a prison (initially for over 300 priests!) and Medieval town, subjected to WW2 canons, fires and of course, The Revolution.

Of all the places to experience in France, Mont St Michel is breathtakingly beautiful and an unforgettable sacred space.

It remains one of the most famous pilgrimage sites in the world and you can’t get closer to Heaven than this!

If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see one of the Abbeys monks rising high into the air above the chapel altar as he swings the rope of the enormous bell making it peal across the flood plains towards the Atlantic Coast.

Mont St Michel is about 3 1/2 hours North West of Paris. None of it will be disappointing! I was gladder for the experience and you will be too!

If you have time, have lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants there. You’ll have a view to die for!

For further information, le Mont Saint Michel official Website can be found at:

http://www.ot-montsaintmichel.com/accueil_gb.htm

Find your sanctuary and be inspired.

P.S Hayden, you will always be my rock. Stay protected. Carpe Diem. (Saisissez le jour!)

With love,

Au Revoir,

Therese Waddell

Awakening To Versailles

Posted in Day Trips from Paris, Decoration & Design, French Travel, Paris, Paris Shopping with tags , , , , , , on January 14, 2010 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

It’s the way we visit Versailles which counts. Most people either walk around themselves following the endless throng of tourists with or without audio attached to ears and some take a guided tour following experts in the field of French History and the movements of the Kings and Queens of France before and after The Revolution.And that’s all good.

Inside, you will see the State Rooms and the Hall of Mirrors where The Treaty of Versailles was signed after WWI, and don’t forget the over the top Baroque designed Grand Apartments of Louis XVI and especially the floral queen Marie Antoinette with her hidden door beside the bed (perhaps for lovers or escaping the revolutionary mob?).

Such a lavishly decorated room with gilding and frills,  my only regret was that I could not get my hands on a small sample of Maria Antoinette’s curtain fabric for my quilts!

As I was saying, walking around is fine for the inside of the palace but when you want to see as much of the wonderful green Palace surrounds as possible, going by foot has its limitations. So, this is what I’m suggesting….

A tiny fraction see Versaille Gardens in a unique way like I did- in an elegant horse drawn carriage, with the wind in your ears and the sound of clod hopping hooves (without the  crackling whip) underneath!

“A horse is a horse of course, of course” but this kind of drama would  befit a King or Queen ( I was reminded of Marie Antoinette’s sleigh rides in winter) and my french awakening ran riot as we paced the four corners of Versailles Gardens pulled by a majestic, heavy cream coloured horse.

Visit the Queen’s Hamlet and Temple of Love this way. The carriage ride adds to the romance of it all and being up that little bit higher, there are no tourist heads impinging your view- a photographer’s dream!

Take a look and picture yourself in one of these beauties. Isn’t it just magnificent?

The Royal Stables and Academy of Equestrian Arts can be visited as well this way. Book into the fantastic dressage session for a unique display of superb Lusitanian horses from Portugal.  Louis XIV favoured this breed of horses way back then and he was so proud of his six hundred or so horses.

Check out the official site of versailles at http://www.chateauversailles.fr/homepage

for all the information you need plus interactive map and where you can buy your entry ticket online to save the queues.

Remember though, that the Palace of Versailles is CLOSED on a Monday all year round but the Garden is open every day (except on a Monday in LOW season November to March).

Versailles is absolutely spectacular so I urge you to go. It’s  only a half hour train trip from Gare St Lazare, Paris.

You won’t be disappointed!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Awakening to Monet’s Garden

Posted in Day Trips from Paris, Food and Recipes, French Travel with tags , , , , on December 26, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour mes amis,

First of all let’s get two things straight.

Monet’s garden is a must see when in France. It’s a wonderfully peaceful haven from bustling Paris and a fantastic insight into French Art History and Impressionism.

Secondly, to save you any heart ache, Monet’s Garden at Giverny is closed between November through to March, so its open from the 1st of April to the Ist November ( except the 26th April) with the last gates closing at 5:30pm.

Admission is 6 euro per adult and you need to catch the train from Paris to Vernon, which is the closest town to the gardens. Take the train from Gare St Lazare in Paris and forty five minutes later,  a bus will meet the train at Vernon, to take you to Giverny.(Buses meet trains every fifteen minutes or so). Alternatively, you can take a taxi or follow the signs and even walk to Giverney.

Begin earlier rather than later and you  can save a little time queueing at the entrance to Monet’s Garden, by buying your tickets online via The Foundation Claude Monet website at

http://www.fondation-monet.fr

Move through the entrance way, and allow yourself at least two hours or more to meander through the ‘Les Clos Normand’ (the garden) and Le Jardin d’Eau (the water garden), inside Monet’s House and not forgetting to view Monet’s own collection of  ‘Estampes’ (Japanese prints).There’s also a lovely bookshop to buy for family and friends back home.

Even though you won’t find any of Monet’s original artwork here, Monet lived here for over forty years (being born in 1840) and the whole place is captivating.

Monet is known as one of the fathers of Impressionism who was fascinated with how light changed the colour of things, layering his paint with brushstrokes to achieve depth of colour and shadows. Monet painted here whilst studying light and its effect on his world at Giverney. His ‘plein air’ (open air) paintings remain influential  the world over.

In 1927, after Monet died, his ‘ WaterLily’ series which was his later works, was placed in the eighty foot rooms of the Musée de l’Orangerie in the Tuileries Gardens and these are regarded by the painter, Andre Masson, as “The Sistine Chapel of Impressionism”.

Walk over the bridge across the pond and look downstream as Monet did whilst painting the water lillies (he grew himself) which became so famous.

The fondation-monet website has a fabulous chicken and onion recipe I’d like to share with you,taken from the book,’les Carnets de Cuisine de Monet’ by Clare Joyes Toulgouart.For more recipes you can purchase  her book  which is available at the bookshop within the gardens.

You will need one large chicken, 16 to 20 onions, half pound of butter, some flour, parsley, sugar, salt and pepper.

1.Brown the chicken in warm butter. Cut the onions in four, and put them around. When the chicken is well browned on all faces, sprinkle it with a little flour.
2. Salt and pepper and add  parsley. Cover and cook.
3. Take care so that onions do not stick to the saucepan. At mid cooking, add a half glass of bouillon or, if not available, hot water.
4. In a saucepan, brown one dozen small onions in butter with a little sugar and salt and pepper.

5. Serve the chicken surrounded with onions. Bon appetit!

Enjoy Giverny. Whether you get out your sketch pad, it’s up to you!

Au Revoir,

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell

Awaken To The Illustrious Dead in Paris

Posted in Day Trips from Paris, French Affair, French Travel with tags , , , on December 11, 2009 by Therese Waddell

Bonjour my friends,

On more than a few occasions, I have meandered among the monumental gravestones of the famous dead in the cemeteries of Paris. Le Cimetiere de Montmartre, Montrouge, Passy, Pere- Lachaise and Montparnasse are the five most famous ones who house underground many  illustrious personalities and icons of France.

I have learnt that these cemeteries can offer an insight into the history of France and its peoples, be them French or Francophiles. Sculptured tombstones  capture the personality of those who lie below, sometimes with humour and more often reverence, emphasizing the  inspiring lives  of those who have passed.

On entry, you are given a map with the location of the “famous dead” and with map in hand, the treasure hunt begins. Pere-Lachaise is a huge maze of beautiful sculptured forms and it is not unlike a visit to an open air gallery in  monotones of grey.

We come across the tombstones of the famous one by one. Le Cimitiere du Pere-Lachaise in particular, pulls at my heart strings as I find the tombs of  the passionate singer Edith Piaf  (lovingly nicknamed “the little sparrow”),  Frederick Chopin, Moliere, Proust, Jimmy Morrison and  Oscar Wilde whose tomb incidentally is studded all over its fair granite with  lipstick kisses.

Traversing the maze of tombstones eventually lead us to the tomb of the twelfth century lovers, Heloise and Abelard, whose undying love story is still told today.

Pierre Abelard de Palais was a thirty something year old philosophy teacher in the twelfth century who fell in love with Heloise, the eighteen year old daughter of a cathedral canon. She soon falls pregnant, has to give up the child to become  a nun, and  Abelard is punished by castration. They never see each other until twenty years later, except exchanging love letters over the course of this time in spite being separated.

Their bones are intertwined in one tombstone  and according to locals, lovers leave their letters at the cemetery. Something can be said for a country which places such importance on unrequited love and passion.

Enjoy the photos. I couldn’t help but colour Chopin’s gravestone “passion pink” for such a vibrant musician!

Best Wishes, Therese Waddell