Category Archives: France

Cheese, Glorious Cheese!

I’m on a brief hiatus while I enjoy my out-of-town company, but I just couldn’t resist sharing this wonderful post about the Roquefort region in France.

Our House in Provence is one of my favorite finds among the French bloggers I follow; Michel lives in the United States with his family and also owns a home in Provence. I love the travelogues that are presented and every story makes me more and more eager to experience Provence for myself!

People either love or hate “moldy” cheese; does this photo of aging Roquefort make you hungry? Or do you hate it?

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Provence Week: Hot, Hot, Hot

Many painters have tried to capture the effect of Provence’s clear light.

While strolling through the many photos in the Cezanne in Provence book, I ran across these two paintings with similar subjects.  Since it’s forecast to be yet another triple digit day, I figured I might as well show some pictures of naked men swimming. 🙂

This one is obviously painted by Cezanne and is called Les baigneurs au repos (Bathers at Rest). Cezanne did many paintings of bathers, both men and women.

On this painting of bathers by Frederic Bazille called Scène d’été (The Bathers) you can clearly see the date — 1869. Both Bazille and Cezanne are considered Impressionists, but which painting was created first?

Make your guess first, and then look here for your answer as well as some other Cezanne bathers. Were you right or did you cheat?

And just in case you haven’t had enough of almost naked men for the day, click in here to see Matthew McConnaughey in his current starring role. The Impressionists may have painted naked men, but now we can see them on the big screen!

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Provence Week: Anthony Bourdain in Provence

Provence “looks like the inside of Martha Stewart’s head.”

Thus says Anthony Bourdain, host of the Travel Channel’s No Reservations. Although I had totally forgotten that I had seen this before, I got all excited about an episode of Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations that was filmed in Provence. My brother even texted me to tell me it was airing, I’m that obviously hooked on both Tony and Provence.

This episode actually makes Bourdain seem normal and almost humble.

As Tony learns to make aioli from an elderly Provencal woman, he is respectful of both her process and her experience.

It’s very gentle, the process…You gotta be careful.  You have to keep your voice down.  Show a little respect for the process…

It makes me want to learn how to make aioli.

There are lots of good scenes in this episode.

Tony and friends do a wine and charcuterie tasting.

He tours a winery.

His friends tell him that if you ask for Ricard instead of pastis, the locals know you know what they drink.

It’s really funny to see the usually brash Tony worrying about cooking for his Provencal friends.

Apparently I’m not the only person who’s dreaming of Provence; this remains my top post of all time because of the beautiful photo of Provence I used. I guess it’s time to use it again!

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Based on the Book: Cezanne in Provence

I love movies, even if they are documentaries.

While not precisely based on the book, Cezanne in Provence is a wonderful background documentary to start my study of Cezanne’s work. Stemming from the National Gallery of Art’s  2006 exhibition of Cezanne’s paintings, the documentary film gives a lot of background information about Cezanne’s life in Paris and Provence and about his painting style.

The catalog from the exhibit has also been published in a 350 page coffee table book and shows Cezanne’s paintings in more detail. I’ve been slogging through it during cooking down time — you know those times when you are stirring something or waiting for something to come out of the microwave. I have to admit that I kind of skimmed all the really good stories and text in the beginning to get to some of the art and I’m feeling a little guilty about it. It’s really a gorgeous book and I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with it this week!

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Book Club: A Table in the Tarn

France is probably going to be on my mind a lot during the next year; we’re planning another trip in 2013. That means it will probably be in my blog as well, since I mostly write about what I am thinking about. Not too much space between my thoughts and my fingers, actually. To paraphrase my favorite movie, Under the Tuscan Sun, “It’s my process.”

Given that we’re going to France and I love food, I put my name on the list at the library for what appeared to be a very cool book — A Table in the Tarn: Living, Eating, and Cooking in Rural France. I mean, really? How could this be bad? I read all of Peter Mayle’s books about his experiences living in southern France and reviewed a couple of them here and here. Oliver Murrin’s book looked like it was worth waiting for at the library.

I was right. It was a wonderful book, packed with personal stories of giving up the city life and starting up a bed and breakfast in southern France. It was also packed with recipes; about two-thirds of the book is mouth-watering ideas for fabulous eats. I was drawn to the Roquefort Tart pictured above — the recipe is here at what appears to be a blog on hiatus.

Imagine my surprise when I actually went to find the web site for Manoir de Raynaudes to see if we could stay there. It’s gone. Well, not actually gone, but sold to the highest bidder!

It appears that Oliver Murrin and his partner Peter Steggall went back to their British roots, bought a very old manor in southwestern England’s Somerset Levels, and operate it as a bed and breakfast. I’m pretty sure we’ll stay at Langford Fivehead when we do our southwestern England trip, which will of course include my pilgrimage to Daphne Du Maurier’s Cornwall.

But that’s another set of books and another year of traveling. 🙂

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Wordless Wednesday

I know I’m supposed to be embracing where I am today — that carpe diem stuff.

All I really want to do is go on vacation.

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I’m linked up Wordless Wednesday at And Then She Snapped and Live and Love Out Loud and Naptime Momtog. Please stop by and give these bloggers some comment love, too!

Travel Lust: Doing the Laundry While On the Road

It’s still kind of hard for me to wrap my arms around the fact that I’m actually giving European travel advice — just call me Rickie Steves! I waited for many years for my European shot and it has been everything I hoped it would be. Both of my kids went to Europe twice before I got my chance — and I don’t regret sending them — but I’ve been taking advantage of being an empty nester for the last few years. Viva England and France (to mix my languages)!

I just had to show you why one doesn’t want to throw one’s laundry on the floor when one is staying in a ritzy London flat. We managed to score this fabulous apartment at the Sloane Club (wait for it to load; it’s worth it) because the studio we actually booked was being renovated and we got the duplexed one bedroom (that’s an understatement) for the same price.

This was our closet, the home of our dirty laundry. And yes, that’s a trouser press in the right corner. Gosh darn it, I love England — all I need is Jeeves.

After having been to England three times and France once in the last three years, my advice is to pack some laundry equipment.

One of the things I hate when I’m going to stay more than one night in one place is throwing my dirty clothes on the closet floor (I’m pretty sure the person before me in that room still has cooties in the carpet) or crunching them into plastic bags. I now pack a pop-up laundry basket. Genius. It works for the dirty clothes and it works when we have to do some laundry outside the hotel room or in our rental apartment. It also works if we take a picnic blanket and stuff to the beach. The pop-up mechanism means that it folds flat in my suitcase and takes up practically no room or weight. Combined with two plastic pants hangers, two plastic shirt hangers (with the hooks for camisoles), and our trusty stretch clothesline and plastic clothespins, we are able to do laundry in our hotel rooms and also hang not-quite-dry laundry from the European washer/dryer combo.

Life was all good until I found THIS. I’m tempted to give my boring hamper to someone else, and buy this hamper for myself and every other girlie I know. Who doesn’t want a little black brocade in her closet, even while on vacation?

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P.S. I would have linked up Wikipedia for the Jeeves reference, but I support the blackout. Tell your Congresspeople that SOPA isn’t the way to suppress internet crime.

P.P.S. E-mail me if you want me to hook you up with my travel agent; she may be the only full-service agent left in the United States!

P.P.P.S.  It’s amazing what WordPress doesn’t know how to spell. I’m just sayin”…

31 Days in Europe: Paris!

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Image Credit: Got My Reservations

Image Credit: Got My Reservations

Image Credit: Got My Reservations

Image Credit: Got My Reservations

31 Days in Europe: Battle

I’m pretty much a pacifist. I am married to a pacifist. Although I don’t judge those who choose the military as a career or as a way to gain an education, I wish we didn’t have to make that choice at all. I wish that our global community could learn to get along by using our words.

That being said, visits to two very important battlefields in France and England have been meaningful and spiritual. This photo is the closest I can get to my father’s experience when he landed at Omaha Beach in Normandy in 1944. As a part of our river cruise on the Seine last year, we spent a day roaming around the Normandy beaches.

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The day that we were docked near Normandy, we had a choice of visiting the Normandy battlefields or going to Mont St. Michel or going to see the Bayeux Tapestry. The Bayeux Tapestry depicts the events of the Battle of Hastings, and was most likely created in about 1070. Since my dad landed at Normandy, it was really important for me to see that, but I didn’t really understand that seeing the Tapestry would set me up for understanding this year’s visit to the site of  the Battle of Hastings.

Image credit: Got My Reservations

When I look at these pastoral scenes, it’s hard to visualize the enormity of an army composed of mostly foot soldiers under the command of King Harold II being ambushed by a far superior Norman-French army of archers, cavalry, and infantry working cooperatively together and led by Duke William II of Normandy. The Battle of Hastings occurred on October 14, 1066, during the Norman conquest of England, and marked the last successful foreign invasion of the British Isles. Harold II was killed in the battle—legend has it that he was shot through the eye with an arrow. Harold II became the last English king to die in battle on English soil until Richard III was killed at the Battle of Bosworth Field.  Although there was further English resistance, this battle is seen as the point at which William gained control of England, becoming its first Norman ruler as King William I and is known as William the Conqueror. (Don’t judge me, but I got a lot of this from Wikipedia and I have to give credit.)

These two battlefields remind me of how I feel when I visit the Gettysburg Battlefield — horrified and sickened at the loss of life. Apparently,  so was Pope Alexander II, because he ordered the Normans to do penance for killing so many people during their conquest of England.  William the Conqueror vowed to build an abbey where the Battle of Hastings had taken place, with the high altar of its church on the supposed spot where King Harold fell in that battle. He did start building it but died before its completion; it was finished in about 1094 and consecrated during the reign of his son William Rufus. William the Conqueror had ruled that the Church of St. Martin of Battle was to be exempted from all episcopal jurisdiction, putting it on the level of Canterbury. It was remodelled in the late 13th century but virtually destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII. That’s the Battle Abbey we visited — another reminder of how powerful and ruthless Henry VIII was — and we were able to walk freely through the ruins.

Image credit: Got My Reservations

These buildings were used as dormitories and workrooms; the actual church only exists where there has been excavation of the crypt, and a plaque marks the site of the high altar that was placed where King Harold was killed. Some of the Abbey buildings are used as a school.

Image credit: Got My Reservations

As with most of the other places we have visited in Europe, really ancient and important relics and buildings are often side by side with evidence of normal people living normal lives. The same applies to Battle; the town square right outside of the gatehouse to the Abbey was decorated with garish figures advertising an upcoming theater presentation. That’s probably why I love history so much — it’s just a bunch of stories about people living their lives — and at Battle, the living coexist with the dead in perfect harmony.

Image credit: Got My Reservations

31 Days in Europe: A Revisit to France

In the summer of 2010 we went to France. Before we went, I blogged about all the books I read to prepare me for being in France. Check back in my archives — I was scared of being treated like an ugly American. I was wrong and I loved every minute of our trip. I think it’s worth a revisit to last year’s post for this series!

View from the top of Basilique de Sacre Coeur

This post  linked up with hundreds of other 31 Day-ers. Join the fun and visit other bloggers as they share a piece of themselves. Today I’m number 568, by the way.