Posted on Friday, August 17, 2012
Key Cities & Attractions:
Paris: City of Light is one of the most beautiful cities in the world with graceful boulevards, green parks, Gothic bridges arching over the Seine River. Some key sites include the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe.
Popular 1 day excursions from Paris include Versailles (palace of Luis XIV, with enormous grounds and spectacular Renaissance architecture) Chartres and Fountainbleau. It's a long day, but you can also make it to Disneyland Paris.
Worth a visit...
Bordeaux: Center of the famous wine region of France, it is a lovely city with parks, museums and a casino.
The French Riviera: Epitome of Mediterranean resort ambiance; major cities here are Nice, Cannes and Monaco.
Beaches of Normandy: Especially important for Americans because Omaha Beach is one of the areas where the allies landed at the "beginning of the end" of World War II.
French Alps: Features the famous and trendy ski resorts of Chamonix and Val d'Isere.
Mont St. Michel: An unusual and romantic attraction, which si an 11th century fortified abbey totally surrounded by water at high tide.
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2012
Welcome to France, one of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. The largest country in Western Europe and home to 65.8 million people.
Journey from the Pont du Gard to the Eiffel Tower, Scale the heights of the French Alps or visit some of the greatest beaches in Europe.
Choose from grand opera, spectacular cabarets complete with can-can, fashionable nightclubs, and any kind of music from the classics to the latest world music from Mali or Morocco. France never ceases to amaze.
No trip is complete without sampling its world-famous cuisine there is a cornucopia of regional dishes to choose from. For starters try a rosette sausage from Lyon or rillettes, a soft paté from Dijon. French wine is world famous, but try the regional spirits as well; Cognac, Armagnac or Calvados, an apple brandy from Lower Normandy.
Try sole or turbot with sauce hollandaise, the bean and meat Castelnaudary Cassoulet, while in the south of France don’t miss the bouillabaisse, the legendary fish stew.
Paris is every shopaholic’s dream. Discover the vast choice of small boutiques on cobble stoned streets or simply browse through huge department stores and popular markets. During festive seasons the Christmas markets stretch from the Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde.
Delve into Northern France when on a clear day you can see the White Cliffs of Dover, discover prehistoric cave art in the Dordogne or simply get lost in the Garden of France as you walk along the banks of the river spanning the Loire Valley.
Posted on Wednesday, December 28, 2011
The sparkling French Riviera is known as a playground for the wealthy where famous pleasure seekers enjoy the good life. Many own a home in the tax haven of Monaco while it is estimated 50 percent of the world's super yachts visit the coast each year. The stylish jet set are attracted to the Cannes Film Festival, Monaco Grand Prix and the region's many world class yacht harbours, resorts and nightlife.
However, you don't need to be one of the world's rich and famous to enjoy the Riviera. It has been a popular tourist destination since the British arrived for climate therapy in the late 18th century. The region's 300 days of sunshine each year were a major attraction.
Today visitors continue to enjoy the pleasing climate, magnificent scenery, array of beaches and excellent cuisine.
There's plenty for visitors to see and do along this spectacular coast. When you aren't relaxing on a beach beside the Mediterranean, you might want to take in some of these sights.
From some of the most lavish, luxury hotels in the world to bed and breakfasts, there's a wide range of accommodation on the French Riviera. How about a private villa with sweeping sea views or a peaceful apartment with its own swimming pool? There's plenty to choose from but book ahead for the high season as summertime is busy - best to secure your place early. Note the Cannes Film Festival and Monaco Grand Prix both take place each May.
Historic, landmark hotels are worth a walk through, or stop by for a meal if you aren't staying there. The Negresco in Nice, the Carlton in Cannes and the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo are three of the best examples of Riviera refinement and grandeur.
The Riviera shares its cuisine with neighbouring Provence so you'll find the same vegetable and fish dishes along the coast. Olive oil and garlic are widely used with fewer sauces than in Paris. Of course there's always a fine selection of French wine to enjoy with any meal.
This is a leading centre for culinary vacations. Cooking classes start with a visit to the local market to collect the fresh, local ingredients which are an essential part of the process.
The French Riviera is one of the world's most magical places with all the elements needed to create an exceptional vacation.
Posted on Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Lourdes is a small town located in the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France. It is well known for the Marian apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes, which occurred in 1858. A Marian apparition is when the Blessed Virgin Mary supposedly appears supernaturally to one or more people. The apparition is usually named for the town in which the appearances take place.
On February 11th, 1858, a local 14-year-old girl by the name of Bernadette Soubirous was collecting firewood with her sister and friend, and was trying to cross a stream in front of a grotto without getting wet. She was leaning down to take off her shoes when she heard the sound of rushing wind, but everything was still. When she stood, she saw a bright light, and then a white figure. She described it as a small young lady. This was the first reported of 18 visions she had.
During the time between the first and 18th vision, locals thought her to be insane, but later her claims were proven to be true. A spring formed only days after Bernadette dug in a muddy spot in the ground near the grotto. As requested by Our Lady Of Lourdes, a church was later built on site. Later, after Bernadette’s death, she was canonized and declared a saint. Her incorrupt body can be viewed in the Church of St. Gildard in Nevers, France.
The spring that formed in 1858 during the Marian apparition occurrences is said to have miraculous healing properties, and is what draws tourists on pilgrimage to Lourdes in present day. In the 150 years since Bernadette dug up the spring, over 67 inexplicable cured illnesses have been reported. Since the late 1850’s, people have flocked from all over the world to drink and bathe in the spring water, the majority of them being pilgrims. Until 1880, there were only two bathing pools that were filled by manual pumps. Before the priests that ran the Church and bathing house fully knew of the amount of water the sping could put out, the water of the pools was changed only twice daily. The bath houses that stand currently were built in 1955, and were upgraded in 1972 and 1980. It holds 17 separate bathing cubicles, with 11 for women and 6 for men. An estimation of 350,000 people use the tubs each year. Traditionally, visitors of the spring would draw jugs of water to take home to their loved ones who were unable to travel to Lourdes themselves, but in the summer of 2007, this was banned as part of a new anti-terrorism regulation.
I myself would love to visit Lourdes to learn more about the Marian apparitions, St. Bernadette, and perhaps even visit the Church of St. Gildard to view her body. I imagine that it would be quite humbling to be in such a place that something so miraculous took place at.
Posted on Tuesday, November 01, 2011
Try a walking tour of the Montmartre district, where artists such as Picasso, Monet, and Van Gogh worked. Your Local Host can suggest other intriguing walking tours of areas such as the Latin Quarter, the fashion district, or where to find the graves of Jim Morrison and Chopin in the Père Lachaise Cemetery.
While in Montmartre, visit the Sacré-Coeur (Sacred Heart). This pristine, white-stone church was proposed as a memorial to the soldiers killed in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, but it was not completed until the end of World War I. The church features one of the world's largest mosaics, which depicts Christ with outstretched arms, and a massive 19-ton church bell. Enjoy wonderful views of Paris from the Sacré-Coeur steps.
Stroll through centuries of artwork at the Musée d’Orsay, which houses an extensive collection of impressionist masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Cezanne. You can also admire Rodin’s statues, and do not miss the spectacular reception room.
Fifteen intricately designed panels of stained glass—commissioned by Louis IX— depict 1,100 story-telling scenes.
Families may like to take a stroll in one of the famous parks and take a whirl on their charming carousels. You can also see the “pétanque” players, or sit on one of the “so typical” Parisian green chairs.
Find your favorite bridge. There are 37, and they are all different—from plain to gilded and from new to over 400 years old. The special atmosphere they create across the Seine River helps to make Paris one of the most romantic cities.
In the Roaring 20s, this quirky bookstore on the Bohemian Left Bank was the meeting place for some of literature's greats—like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Joyce to name a few. It continues to serve as a cultural magnet for struggling writers and visitors alike.
Ask your Local Host how to get to the flea market for affordable objects d’art, or visit one of the food markets. The French know how to turn food display into an art form. See rainbows of fresh fruit and vegetables, soft palettes of bread, and colossal wheels of cheese—France has over 400 varieties of cheese. And when you're ready for dessert, specialty stores abound—from tarts and pastries to crêpes and pains au chocolat. Other specialties to try include onion soup with a fresh baguette, coq au vin (a classic chicken dish), croquet monsieur, quiche Lorraine, escargot, steak-frites, and famous French wines and champagne.
Shop at haute couture boutiques by the Champs-Elysées. Perfumes and scarves are classic gifts, as well as French berets, lace, collection dolls, and pottery. Use your included specially arranged discounts at the famous Galeries Lafayette, or check out the Printemps department store.
When you’re ready for a break, join the locals at one of the cafés, sip a glass of wine or a café au lait (hot milk coffee), and watch the world go by in true Parisian style.