Category Archives: Les Destinations

Trending in Paris: French Girl in Seattle reports

Trending in Paris: French Girl in Seattle reports

I am back, after twelve fast-paced, fun-filled, memorable days in Paris. A few nights ago, I lay wide awake in my own bed, five hours before I had to return to the office. I decided to fight jet lag like a champ, by browsing through several hundred photos from the trip saved on my laptop. This nocturnal Paris trip inspired this story, and the realization that when Paris is concerned, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (the more it changes, the more it’s the same thing.) What’s trending in Paris in April 2018? Overall, what was trending in Paris in April 2017, and more than likely , what was trending earlier too. Illustration.

(Still) trending in Paris: les terrasses de café (café terraces)

Like Parisians, they come in all shapes and sizes. Even if they are empty early in the morning, they fill in quickly, especially on sunny days. It does not matter if it is cold or raining outside. Many are covered or equipped with gas heaters, and comfortable year round. trending in Paris trending in Paris

trending in Paris

Why are they so popular, when sitting there often means inhaling second-hand smoke from the table next door, and paying more for drinks? Les cafés are the best place to socialize, to people-watch, and a natural extension to Parisians’ diminutive living quarters. It does not not matter that coffee quality is hit and miss, or that soda does not come with free refills and could bankrupt you. In Paris (and other parts of France,) it is a well-known fact life is best lived en terrasse.

(Still) trending in Paris: Les bords de Seine (the Seine riverbanks)

Ah, la Seine! The French capital’s lifeline remains one of her most iconic landmarks. She continues to inspire, and most Parisian strolls lead back to her.

trending in Paris

trending in Paris

(Still) trending in Paris: l’apéro (apéritif)

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere,” they say in other parts of the world. Parisians reply: “On prend l’apéro?L’apéritif remains a beloved ritual. It can be simple, your beverage of choice accompanied by a few slices of saucisson or cheese, a handful of peanuts or small crackers. It can be more elaborate. Lately, cafés have been offering dishes “a la plancha,” tapas-style, just like in Spain or the Mediterranean region. Charcuterie and cheese remain popular options.

trending in Paris
Happy Hours (les Heures Heureuses)

trending in Paris

(Still) trending in Paris: the Coffee Revolution

Forget old-fashioned cafés where le petit noir (a cup of bitter espresso) is best enjoyed au zinc (at the counter) with other regulars.

trending in Paris

In the much-touted “New Paris,” small, specialty coffee-shops, mostly run by Americans or Australians (or former French expats) have popped up all over the city, especially in the trendy parts of the Right Bank (10th and 11th arrondissements.) They pride themselves on serving top-quality, fair-trade, freshly-roasted coffee and talk about their selection du jour like a vigneron bordelais discusses his favorite wine vintage. One visits for the coffee experience, the Wifi, but not for the size of the room or the {non-existent} terrace. Tip for foreign visitors: These are the coffee shops you should visit if you are homesick and want to meet other English speakers.

trending in Paris
Café Oberkampf

trending in Paris

{Still} trending in Paris: the Americanization of France

Franglais (French: [fʁɑ̃ɡlɛ]; also Frenglish /ˈfrɛŋɡlɪʃ/) is a French portmanteau word referring initially to the pretentious overuse of English words by Francophones, and subsequently to the macaronic mixture of the French (français) and English (anglais) languages. (Wikipedia.)

Franglais has been an integral part of French life for many years, in ads, in magazines, and in the street. Le Fooding (paper or online version,) is one of the most trusted restaurant guides in France. It has become so big the famed Michelin guide has recently acquired shares in the company! Many French entrepreneurs meet daily in co-working spaces found in major French cities, to create and collaborate with like-minded people. In French restaurants, especially in Paris, the rumor has it le hamburger has been such un best-seller it has now replaced the traditional jambon-beurre sandwich in French hearts. One thing is true at least: Le am-ba-ga can be spotted on most menus, from gastronomic restaurants to more humble eateries.

trending in paris
Spotted in le Métro: an ad for lafourchette.com, the online restaurant reservation system

Let’s not forget France’s fascination with MacDo! Don’t les Français realize MacDo is singlehandedly responsible for Manny the woolly mammoth’s extinction? I was able to catch a very rare sighting of an exhausted Manny seeking refuge at le Jardin des Plantes, only to spot MacDo over his right shoulder, seductively calling his name! Run, Manny, run!

Trending in Paris

In recent years, a former French expat has come home to introduce Parisians to texas-style barbecue. As long as diners are allowed to use forks and knives, he should do just fine.

Are bagels going to replace the traditional baguette? Has le hamburger dethroned French fast food? Not so fast, Ronald McDonald: On a recent stroll at la place des Vosges on a glorious spring afternoon, among the many picnic afficionados sprawled out on welcoming grassy areas, I spotted a majority of jambon-beurre sandwiches and its famous cousin, le poulet-crudités, There were a few galettes complètes (savory crepes) too. Yet, not a hamburger in sight.

trending in Paris

 

{still} trending in Paris: walking

Parisians walk everywhere. Many foreign visitors are shocked to see they lose weight while vacationing in the French capital even if they enjoy generous meals, plentiful wine, and their daily guilty pleasure: une pâtisserie. In recent years, much ado has been made about the art of la flânerie, an alleged Parisian specialty many people (who can’t survive without their car at home and will go out of their way to park right outside the buildings they are visiting) are happy to adopt as soon as they arrive in the French capital. It is Paris’s blessing and curse: The most mundane event happening in her streets is instantly embellished by the enduring “Paris mystique.” Meanwhile, Parisians seem oblivious to visitors’ and photographers’ fascinated stares. They are in a hurry and walk fast, to work, or to an appointment they are late for; later in the day, or during the weekend, they slow down and stroll, taking in the scenery.

{Still} trending in Paris: le trench, le parapluie, les tennis

In order to brave Paris’s fickle weather, especially in April, modern-day Parisians stick to what they know and trust: a good trench coat, an umbrella, and comfortable shoes made for walking.

trending in Paris
Les basiques (basics) are still in

When you walk as much as Parisians do, you need the right footwear. Don’t trust everything lifestyle bloggers tell you: Not all Parisian women spend their days on stiletto heels or ballet flats. Christian Louboutin shoes look best in a window display… or on a pretty woman sitting at a café terrace. They prove disappointing performers on the French capital’s iconic pavés (cobblestones.) For many years now, both men and women in Paris have adopted les tennis, or les baskets. American sneaker brands score big, especially among the younger crowd. More mature customers (including seniors) will stick to basic colors (black, navy, beige.) When they indulge in a whimsical pair (a light pink, silver, or sparkles,) sneakers must match the rest of the outfit, or at the very least the coat or jacket. We are in Paris, after all, not at the local gym! You will find French-style sneakers everywhere. Elegant brands like Inès de la Fressange or JB Martin Paris feature at least a few pairs in each of their seasonal collections.

trending in Paris
La Parisienne’s essentials

There is another reason les Parisiennes choose comfort over high heels: Like many women around the world, they walk the streets while staring at their smart phone screens and can’t take the risk of spraining an ankle. This continues when they ride the Metro. Fewer and fewer Parisians read books (or work) there. Everyone is too busy texting and reading French Girl in Seattle‘s latest blogpost on their telephone screen. Et oui, hélas, smart phones, too, are still trending in Paris…

A bientôt. 

trending in Paris
A French Girl, her umbrella, her trenchcoat, and her “tennis.” (Photo C. Redor)

Text and photos by French Girl in Seattle. Please do not use without permission.

18 Responses to Trending in Paris: French Girl in Seattle reports

  1. Loved the blog! I am so glad, despite some changes, that Paris remains much the same. When I get to travel there, I want to see all the things I have read and about. Great photos! Thank for sharing.🗼

  2. Eh oui, tout est correct. Absolument! Spot on!
    I listened to your interview on the Earful Tower the other week. Loved it!
    …..and in reference to this show,
    bises from one Brigitte to one Véronique 😉

    • Bises back at you, ma chère Brigitte. Glad you enjoyed the Earful Tower podcast and agreed with my comments. As I mentioned that day, compliments coming from fellow French natives are particularly sweet to my ears. A bientôt.

  3. Great report, Veronique! It was lovely to see your chat with French Frye in Paris and to hear your discussion with Earful Tower. You are as charming to see and listen to as your posts are to read.

    Thank you!!!

  4. Very nice post, really gives you a taste of what feels like to stroll about Paris.

    I’m ambivalent about the franglais… makes me sad to hear so much English in France, and makes it hard for anglophones to learn the language if francophones are too quick to use English with them. That said, I have si peu d’occasions de parler français aux États-Unis and feel it comes across as snobbish when I try… whereas I feel mournful that my country is so monolingual and ethnocentric, it’s dangerous and sadly limiting….

    • Thank you for sharing your photos of Paris. Enjoyed reading about their lifestyle. Hopefully someday in the future, want to fly out to Paris and sit at more than one of those beautiful cafes!!

    • Merci Susan. This is a complicated issue indeed. The French go a bit overboard with le franglais in my humble opinion. I recently read an issue of the French Elle magazine that had me in stitches because the editor obviously went out of her way to use franglais to sound “cool.” Never a perfect world, n’est-ce-pas?

  5. Merci. Je ne suis pas allée à Paris l’année dernière et l’année d’avant je suis juste passée en coup de vent. Je vois que je n’ai pas vu venir la tendance “hamburger”.

    Cette année j’ai prévu de passer une dizaine de jours à Paris.
    Je vais essayer de ne pas être trop timide et de faire des “live” pour partager un peu Paris avec mes étudiants (je suis un French tutor/coach).

    Je ne maîtrise pas assez l’anglais pour écrire de bons blogs comme les vôtres alors je m’abstiendrai.
    Et je continuerai à lire les vôtres.

    Merci beaucoup pour vos blogs et votre page FB.

    • Merci beaucoup de votre visite et de vos commentaires Catherine. Je n’ai pas été assez courageuse (et ai manqué de temps) pour me lancer dans les “Live Videos” pendant cette visite. Je vous admire de l’envisager! Si vous voulez voir un maitre en la matière, je vous conseille les visites guidées informelles organisées tous les samedis matin sur Facebook par mon ami Corey Frye, sur A French Frye in Paris. Si vous n’avez pas encore regardé le “café chat” pendant lequel Corey et moi avons répondu en direct à des questions sur Paris, je vous le recommande. Vous trouverez le lien Youtube sur la page FB de French Girl in Seattle. A bientôt.

  6. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même choses.
    It is good that some things in Paris are immutable. It’s also good that other things evolve, that the place isn’t some kind of giant museum. The balance of ancient and cutting-edge, of tradition and trendiness, are what make Paris so tantalizing.

  7. Bravo 👏 I absolutely loved reading this blog! One of my favorites!! It was an update to Paris for me. You have it down pat on what’s trending in Paris for sure. I was there with you…such a fun and enlightening blog. I’m a vegetarian but when I did eat meat..the jambon beure was much better than hamburger. It’s all about the bread 🥖 for me. Peace french girl. xo

    • Sorry, I’m so franglais. I have nobody to practice french with. My mom goes right to English because we don’t have time to blab long on FaceTime. C’est dommage pour moi. Ciao!

      • Merci Sandy. You need to return to Paris yourself and see if you can uncover trends I may have missed there! I know you are more familiar with southern France, and “la province” often rolls differently from the French capital (but not always!)

        As for the use of franglais, that’s ok with moi. “When in Paris, do as Parisians do…” and all that… A bientôt!

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La Bastide, Bordeaux: the old and the new

La Bastide, Bordeaux: the old and the new

La Bastide, Bordeaux’s Right Bank Challenging decisions await travelers exploring a city for the first time: To visit landmarks, or not to visit landmarks, that is the question. Embracing crowds near said-landmarks, or exploring the roads less traveled to make one’s own path, is another question. To really capture a city’s essence, one must do…

17 Responses to La Bastide, Bordeaux: the old and the new

  1. It’s wonderful when cities revive unloved industrial districts. So much better than tearing them down…or letting them rot.
    I also appreciate the hipster penchant for using vintage (or just old) furnishings. It’s green.

    • I meant to add that I’ve been astounded/amused by how many times I’ve seen people leave personal items out in public places in France, especially where I live (small town Carcassonne). It makes me feel safe and also very proud of everybody’s good behavior.

    • Thank you for stopping by! I, too, enjoy this trend of making the old new again, and in a creative way to boot. I also like when the new incorporates “the bones” of the old structures as a starting point, and preserves some of the atmosphere, (and the past, in a way.) DARWIN is a great example of a successful transition in that regard. What my story does not highlight is what a thriving, creative space this area has turned into, many companies already working on site, young entrepreneurs finding inspiration and help, in co-working spaces, cultural events scheduled for the public each week… There is a lot more there to discover and I plan to return one day.

  2. I visited Bordeaux twice last year staying near Cite du Vin the first time and Chartrons the second – I didn’t venture across the river. However we are returning in August so your article is timely – thank you Veronique

  3. More I read your posts, more I want to visit these places. But it’ll be hard to do for old man like me. Merci beaucoup.

  4. It does look cool of course. But I’m amazed by the globalization of cultures. Except for the writing on the signs, it looks a lot like many places in the US with the « magnolia » influence. Love it though

    • Very good point, and I agree with you. It’s a good thing, in that sense, DARWIN is located on Bordeaux’s Right Bank, and visitors can still experience this great French city on the other side of the river.

  5. Mon dieu Magasin Général looks the ticket! Thanks for the trip. Geeze, que la France est belle! 2020 might be my year to move there. Time will tell french girl. 😉 xx
    Sandy

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Finding France at Pike Place Market

Finding France at Pike Place Market

Finding France is what I do; finding France is what I enjoy, wherever I happen to be. In France, even in touristy areas like Paris or Nice, I look for my France, and I find her if I am lucky: I remember feelings or experiences I once knew before relocating to the United States so…

18 Responses to Finding France at Pike Place Market

  1. Thank you so much for the shops I have not seen yet in Seattle. I’m new here and still exploring Pike Market. Excited to explore the shops you recommend.

  2. You are quite correct There has been a revival of markets throughout the Anglosphere in the past 20 years or so, but they are different. They are one manifestation of gentrification and indeed usually spring up in inner-city areas that have been gentrified. As a consequence, the produce is often at eye-watering prices and one is not always convinced the quality is so much different than the usual supermarkets (which these days in Australia & UK are pretty good in that department; well Waitrose/John Lewis in UK).

    I suppose Paris is constantly gentrifying too but I think both tradition and its mix of covered (permanent) markets and biweekly street markets (or some permanent street markets like Mouffetard, Le Cler, Aligre etc) means they can avoid the worst of the trend. I like Pike Place Market because it is permanent and indoors (more or less obligatory due to the weather).

    Here, we also have a proliferation of “genuine French bakers” but they are never as good; even with French boulangers I think the problem is their market, ie. we Anglos (though Australia is a saved somewhaat by its big European immigrant population, not many French but plenty of Italians, Greeks, Dutch and others, to counter the awful influence of the Brits): you simply don’t get real French bread outside France. It has to do with the flour, and the lack of other additions (illegal in France of course) that prolong “shelf life” that we Anglos demand!

    Ditto, for croissants which I assume are just too labor-intensive, use “expensive” ingredients (like real butter) and in the end the public simply don’t appreciate the real thing (while paying at least double Parisian prices for an inferior fake!). Not far from me is a “real French bakery” called Chouquette which does have a French baker and whose goods are quite … good. But still not really French.

    In fact there is a place in Melbourne, called Lune, which apparently has been proclaimed by the NYTimes to make the best croissants in the world:
    https://wishmagazine.theaustralian.com.au/959145/lune-in-fitzroy/
    The owner/chef, Kate Reid learned her trade from Christophe Vasseur the owner/boulanger of Du Pain et des Idées, in the 10th arr.; so maybe it might pass my test (though of course the NYT author really meant best in world “outside France”. But from experience I reserve my judgement until I try their stuff.

    I love the look of Cafe Campagne, and your top photo is very evocative for me. One reason is that the dinner service is almost identical to mine! It has the fine red line around the perimeter (and on the cups) but without the printing. IMO trés elegant, simply without overt fussiness. I bought a setting-for-two from BHV (now BHV-Marais) when I lived on Ile St Louis (it being my neighbourhood store!) but sadly removalists managed to crush (or drop) the box containing them in one of my house/country moves and one of every pair was broken or chipped. So now it is a setting-for-one; but whenever I get it out, it still brings back my days in Paris. It’s just as well I don’t live in Seattle or I would probably attempt to steal some of their fine China!

    • Bonjour. Another informative comment from you, faithful visitor. Merci. Great observations about French bakeries (and pastry shops) abroad. They often charge high prices and fall short of delivering quality products to their (often) unsuspecting clientele. I guess after 20 years as an expat in the US, I have learned to be less discriminating and enjoy my “French moments” when I can, even if I have to pay a small fortune to do so (wine price tags, in particular, are very hard for me to stomach in the Seattle area.) As for Café Campagne and its lovely plates, it is indeed a wonderful place, one that never disappoints. Like Pike Place Market, it continues to do what it does best, without pretentiousness, ignoring the sound and the fury resulting from Seattle’s lightning speed expansion. That is why I like it there. It stays real, in spite of tourist crowds. That is more than the Emerald City can say, in many places, right now, sadly.

  3. Merci pour ça ! I have not been to Seattle in years. Inexcusable, when you consider I only live just on the other side of the Straits. This has definitely given me a new incentive to visit, especially Pike Place. A bientôt.

    • Well, then, Dave, what are you waiting for? Do cross the Straits and head over to Pike Place Market! I bet your camera will be all the happier for it! Let me know when you are in the area. Who knows? I may be around to share a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

      • Absolutment! I need to get off my … anyway, you know about me and my camera? Believe it or not, Seattle is high on this year’s travel. (Lille and then Nice are already booked, so they are a little higher). I will definitely let you know when I am in the area. Ce serait un plaisir de prendre un café ou un verre de vin avec vous.

  4. Bonjour V. This was a great post! Did I ever tell you, I lived in Seattle for 9 months in my 20’s? I worked at the 4 Season Hotel as Valet. I saw Bill Gates a few times and I parked Melinda Gates Porsche. I also parked Ed Norton and Selma Hayek’s ride. I remember Ed and Selma had Starbucks coffee cups in their vehicle. I was there during the 1999 Seattle wto protests. I remember walking home (capital hill) and getting pepper sprayed by military. It was quite a time. I also remember, I was happy to find crepes easily in Seattle. 👌🏻💕🙋🏼🤔😊 Looks like there is a lot to choose from.

    • Bonjour Sandy. You knew Seattle at the right time, before the craziness (resulting from unbridled expansion) started. I bet working as a Valet at that chichi hotel was quite entertaining at times. Ed Norton and Salma Hayek: Talk about a blast from the past! She’s gone up in the {jet set} world since, hasn’t she? It was still cool back then to drink Starbucks coffee, as illustrated in movies like “You’ve Got Mail.” Funny how most people don’t remember that and love to hate the brand that started it all. They forgot the only coffee available in the US before Starbucks was “jus de chaussette” at McDo and other fine retailers. Times change… Hope all is well in New Mexico, friend.

      • You got that right V! I also worked at Starbucks in my 20’s. I still like Starbucks. Is that bad? I had great benefits and I had stocks in Starbucks. After leaving Starbucks, I sold my sticks for a trip to France. The irony. I’d probably have some money about now! I was young and wanted to have adventures. Tant pis 😉 🙋🏼

  5. hello ,mafille!!!!oh,stupefaction!!!!j’ai pu lire tout ton article en Franç!ais sans avoir rien touché!!!un miracle!!!et bravo bises

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Bordeaux is always a good idea

Bordeaux is always a good idea

Bordeaux is always a good idea. Audrey Hepburn would have certainly said so in that famous movie, had she visited the current version of what was once an elegant but austere French city in need of an overhaul. Paris got her remodel in the second half of the 19th century thanks to Napoleon III and…

30 Responses to Bordeaux is always a good idea

  1. After my first visit in the 1980s, I might quibble about its “much needed facelift”–perhaps I was young and impressionable but I found it to be pretty fine that half-a-lifetime ago–however I won’t quibble that the facelift is excellent. I can’t quite remember from my earlier visit how much of the old town was infested with traffic (“lots” I suspect) but today’s large pedestrian zone, the rejuvenated riverside (including the to-die-for Chartrons old wine warehouse district) and the sleek new trams, are a model of how to improve a city. (The only cars in your photos are in front of the reflecting pool.)

    It has more heritage buildings than any French city other than Paris. And Wiki tells us:
    ” Victor Hugo found the town so beautiful he once said: “Take Versailles, add Antwerp, and you have Bordeaux”. Baron Haussmann, a long-time prefect of Bordeaux, used Bordeaux’s 18th-century large-scale rebuilding as a model when he was asked by Emperor Napoleon III to transform a then still quasi-medieval Paris into a “modern” capital that would make France proud.”

    For urbanists of the trainspotter variety: My last visit was in 2007 and the city was the in the final stages of installing new parts of the tramway–with some of the roads on the edge of the UNESCO area being work-sites. It is worth mentioning because Bordeaux was the first site for the new wire-free tramway system, designed so as to avoid ugly overhead wires desecrating this zone that was planned to achieve UNESCO listing (and succeeding in 2007 IIRC). The system is “Alimentation par le Sol (APS)”, ie. electric power is from a clever system concealed in the ground, (ie. essentially a third-rail but only live while the tram is above it). It has now spread to many other French cities (eg. the “new” system in Nice, Angers, Reims etc) and around the world (Sydney, Barcelona, Rio de Janeiro, Beijing, Dubai etc.)

    One wouldn’t necessarily believe a modern tram would be compatible with ancient heritage areas but it is so sleek and silent, gliding thru the ancient Places seemingly on its own magic carpet, it works brilliantly, and seems to compliment the beauty of the old buildings. Also it means you can get off the sleek new TGV l’Ocean (2h from Paris) at Gare St Jean and board a sleek new tram and ride into the heart of the old town. The French really know how to do some things sans pareil!

    • Merci Dear “Aussie-on-IleStLouis” for yet another informative comment. I learned quite a bit about Bordeaux’ state of the art Tram system thanks to you and can only agree: It blends in perfectly with the old, stately buildings and beautiful streets and avenues. As such, it allows the Present and the Past to meet seamlessly. Interesting info as well about Haussmann’s finding his inspiration in Bordeaux before he remodeled Paris! Thank you for following, FGIS, as always. I took good note of your remarks about the new website’s future tagline in my other post this week. A bientôt.

  2. Another well done essay and excellent pictures! We stayed in Bordeaux just for one night (on our way to Arcachon) last September – lots of great walking around the old streets and market (which included sampling a few different flavors of cannales). Merci!

  3. Bonjour FGIS, another great post. Last fall I visited Lyon, but was torn between Lyon and Bordeaux. I loved Lyon, but now really feel I have to make it to Bordeaux this year. Thanks for sharing your adventures and great photos!

  4. I wish I could take French classes from you but I live in Port Townsend.
    It seems like you are now working downtown. Are you teaching there. It would be a BIT closer…

    • Bonjour Sheila. My teaching days are behind me, for now at least. I run an ESL (English as a Second Language) school downtown, and another one in Seattle’s suburbs, actually. Had a bit of a career change three years ago… I don’t suppose you need English classes? {Insert smile}

  5. Bonjour Madame Veronique,

    Happy Valentines Day!
    i just wanted to tell you that towards the end of the year, I made it back to France again. I wanted to spend the holidays there with my only sister. It was like a dream!

    From Paris, we took the TGV to Saint-Raphaël, and once there in a taxi to Les Issambres, where my sister has a summer home. Next day, when she asked me where I wanted to go sightseeing I said: Nice, of course! And once there I could totally understand your rhapsodizing about the place. It was a very cold but very beautiful day! And the strong light of the sun gave the city the most dazzling aspect possible…

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post!

    Maria

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46 Responses to A French family reunion in the Perigord

  1. Merci!! C’etait merveilleux! J’aime beaucoup les photos. Ma famille me manque, et j’ai besoin d’alle les rejoinder en Provence. Je vous remercie. Celia m’a render heureuse at Trieste!! ????

    • Je comprends Michelle. Il est très difficile parfois, d’être éloigné de sa famille, surtout pendant des périodes prolongées. J’ai eu la chance de pouvoir rentrer en France chaque année depuis mon installation aux Etats-Unis il y a plus de 20 ans. Mes parents sont aussi venus me rendre visite pendant longtemps. A vous souhaitant de retourner bientôt en Provence, mes amitiés.

  2. Your photos are gorgeous. They really capture not only this region but also the essence of France’s quaint everyday beauty.

  3. Just lovely. How wonderful that your extended family not only keeps in touch but also gets together.
    Based on your earlier post about Sarlat, which was the final coup de pouce on top of everything else I had read, we were going to stop in Sarlat on our way home from the holidays. But Carmen interfered. We could barely see the road, and wandering around a village was out of the question in the déluge. I can’t wait to get back, and I definitely want to see Lascaux, too!

  4. LOVED the pictures. One side of our family lives in France In Charente-Maritime and we treasure our times together there.

    And you live in beautiful Seattle – best of both worlds I would say. I lived near Tacoma for several years – ahhhh when that Mountain shows her face – breathtaking.

    Again loved the pictures.

    Suz

  5. This post brought tears to my eyes – what a lovely family and what a lovely reunion! The tears came because I ache for at least a part-time life in the French countryside. Good food, great friends, beautiful architecture – the freedom to walk and talk through quiet streets and to explore the countryside and learn more about my beloved France – ah! Someday for me, I hope.

  6. Merci, merci, c’est un beau cadeau-partage, cet article, French Girl , pour moi qui aime tant Sarlat, la Vezere, et le Perigord en general. Chanceuse de pouvoir renouer le contact une fois par an. Merci, et bravo ♥

    • Avec plaisir, Lise. Je me rends en France tous les ans, mais je ne peux pas assister à ces réunions de famille la plupart du temps. C’est pour ça que celle-ci était très spéciale, et il était hors de question de la manquer, puisque nous avons célébré les 80 ans de mon papa.

  7. While we all know how wonderful Paris is, I have a very special place in my heart for the Southwest of France. I spent several sommers in Bordeaux and have memories that will last a lifetime. I have visited the caves and they are amazing . Oh and the quote by Michel Sardou who ismy favorite french singer . I really enjoyed your family reunion and look forward to more of your adventures ..

  8. Loved this. I’ve traveled a bit in France (Provence, Bordeaux) on several trips — and have been to Paris a few times (renting an apartment there twice). Don’t know when I’ll be back but at my age (80), think it would be wise to plan something this year.

  9. Beautiful photos, beautiful family! You are blessed. Thank you for sharing this wonderful occasion. I enjoyed every minute! Andi

  10. You keep writing. I keep reading! I may have to stay more than the two months in France to see it all. I want to see everything and go everywhere. I am so looking forward to April when my husband and I travel to France (mostly). The people, the places and the adventures we will enjoy for sure.

  11. Bonjour Veronique! Geeze I had no idea you had gone to this part of France! Finally getting back to your roots girl! 😉 It was super nice to see this. It touched my heart. I felt that family reunion. It’s been too long for me. You represented a typical french gathering perfectly. Love that and I miss those times. After my french grandmother died – it broke up the family. The inheritance etc…So I play diplomat and go to cousins to cousins to say hi. But that gets expensive. Especially now with the government shut down! How will I travel? =( xox Sandy

    • Bonsoir Sandy. Great to see you here again! I know you have enjoyed some of these French gatherings too over the years. I am a big proponent of staying connected with one’s roots, in spite of time, distance, family feuds… or government shut downs. Keep visiting la Belle France!

  12. comme c’est sympathique and heart warming to watch the beautiful pictures of your family reunion!!! you made me want to go back to my roots in Metz, but its just not the same since my parents passed away. I will see my baby brother this summer and he will come visit us in Arizona in the fall with his wife. We do what we can. I moved in the US 38 years ago and i feel french and american at the same time, a leg in each country and my heart in the middle….not always easy,, but doing my best, on day at a time, and one voyage at a time too! Your blog is full of such helpful infos like babacar, that I did not know. Thank you for sharing the knowledge et les petits trucs.
    Amicalement, Nicole

    • Thank you so much for your message Nicole. It means a lot. I appreciate all of my readers’ comments, but those coming from expats who live away from France, like myself, are even more special. One day at a time… Bonne année !

  13. je viens de e lire en essayant de traduire et suis ravie de voir combien de personnes aiment tes articles qui dé peignent si bien la France c’est un régal!!tu ferais une super journaliste!!!! bravo ,ma fille bises mom

  14. I think it’s magnificent that you have started your blog and we can also follow you through social media. Showing us such beautiful places and talking about all things French, really rewards us who cannot otherwise know this insider information on beautiful France and Paris. And of course seeing about a real French family. Merci for this opportunity! I hope one day to be able to go visit all those great places.

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Le Canal Saint Martin and beyond

Le Canal Saint Martin and beyond

In the heart of Paris’s trendy 10th arrondissement lies the peaceful and atmospheric Canal Saint Martin. Unlike some of the eateries, cafés and boutiques in the neighborhood, the canal has been there for a very long time. In the early 19th century, Napoleon I, who was as much a skilled administrator as he was a military…

27 Responses to Le Canal Saint Martin and beyond

  1. Once again an excellent stroll thru a less-visited part of Paris. In fact it was my second home, after I reluctantly moved from Ile St Louis. You say:
    “Over the next 20 years, the neighborhood would morph into one of the trendiest, most popular strolling grounds in Paris, favored by locals and out-of-town visitors alike.”

    It became trendy for exactly the same reason I moved there: it was the cheapest property in Paris and as a poor scientist it was where I could afford to buy something with proper rooms, ie. other than a very small studio (though it was also right next to my place of work at Hopital St Louis). For the same reasons young people could more easily buy or rent there. Not BoBo territory (though it may be morphing into that today?) but more youthful and studenty and ethnic.

    I suppose it was less desirable because the 10th contains Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est plus, like you say, was historically filled with light industry around the canal and train lines. Though most had gone by the early 90s when I moved there and most of the ZACs (rehabilitation zones) had been completed in the 70s and 80s. Almost all of Quai de Jemmapes, from Republique to Stalingrad, consists of modern apartment blocks, except for those patches of ancient ones such as Hotel du Nord (which in reality is pretty decrepit–probably its filmic heritage saved it from demolition). The transformation of the Place de la Republique from a car-infested traffic island into a pedestrian-friendly plaza has helped.

    • Merci de votre visite. I imagine a former resident must be even more interested in the many transformations this neighborhood has gone through over the last few decades. You are correct about l’Hôtel du Nord. It was run down, set to get torn down (and likely replaced by a new building like the modern apartment block you mentioned,) when Parisians (many cinephiles,) decided to organize and fight to save the old hotel in the 1980s. From street demonstrations, (in typical French fashion,) to fund raising efforts, to media campaigns, they were active and eventually won: Even after the hotel had been renovated and turned into a restaurant, the iconic façade was preserved and became a “Historic Monument of France.” It has been protected since. Here is an interesting article I meant to share but did not include at the end of the story. http://www.hoteldunord.org/fr/historique/hist-canal

  2. That scene of Amelie on one of the iconic green passerelles over the canal (and close by to Hotel du Nord) is perhaps the best known today, but I believe it may have been Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s partial homage to another famous film scene, from the Marcel Carné epic movie Les enfants du paradis (1945); if I remember correctly the scene is night time (or dusk, same as in Amelie) with Arletty and Jean-Louis Barrault on the bridge. Of course Marcel Carné also made Hotel du Nord which also starred Arletty.

    A more recent movie that features extensively features the canal is One Day (2011) starring Anne Hathaway & Jim Sturgess; they cross over the canal on one of the passerelles too but a bit further downstream, in fact at Avenue Richerand (my street). Much of the Paris segment of the movie is set around here (where the Hathaway character lives) and there is also a brief glimpse of one of the cafes involved in the 2015 terrorist shooting–at rue Alibert.

    But continuing the filmic links I want to mention something I discovered just last week. If you follow the canal right to the edge of Paris, ie. take the left (NW) turn into Canal St Denis, just beyond where it passes under the trains tracks from Gare de l’Est at the limit of the 19th arrondissement, there are three newish Metro stations. They serve the Tram 3b extension (and one also serves RER-E). Apparently their names were conferred, and insisted upon, by then-mayor socialist Bertrand Delanöe, even though they broke the rule about using geographic names (he perhaps got around this by also renaming streets around them). Anyway they are female icons: Rosa Parks, Ella Fitzgerald and Delphine Seyrig. I notice that opposite Rosa Parks there is a Passage Susan Sontag!

    When I went to Wiki to refresh my memory of Seyrig, I found this:
    “Seyrig was a major feminist figure in France. Throughout her career, she used her celebrity status to promote women’s rights. The most important of the three films she directed was the 1977 Sois belle et tais-toi (Be Pretty and Shut Up), which included actresses Shirley MacLaine, Maria Schneider, and Jane Fonda, speaking frankly about the level of sexism they had to deal with in the film industry.”

    Exactly 40 years before #MeToo!

    • Thank you for another informative comment. If you and I ever met for a drink by le Canal St Martin, we would discuss movies and popular French culture, I imagine… I will make sure to check out the area you mention, and already traveled via the new Rosa Parks station on my way to my parents’ place in the suburbs, another illustration Paris keeps changing and reinventing herself a lot more than many give her credit for. I can’t resist sharing the most iconic movie scene ever filmed by le Canal St Martin (at least for French cinephiles,) a long time before Mademoiselle Amélie stopped by to practice her “ricochets” in the canal: The “Atmosphère, atmosphère… Est-ce que j’ai une gueule d’atmosphère?” line, delivered by actress Arletty in the iconic “Hôtel du Nord” movie. The scene provides a unique peek into what the old Canal St Martin neighborhood used to look like in its working class days. It’s also a great illustration, via Arletty’s unique voice and delivery, of the famous “Parisian gouaille.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6DKI0EP-RMA

  3. Wow, the canal has changed so much in the last 10 years since I have been there! I loved it then and am looking forward to exploring it when I go back. Thanks for a great post!

    • Merci beaucoup. I am glad you enjoyed your stroll with me today. I live for the details and am much more comfortable spotting (and capturing) them than I am with landscape photography. I leave that part to professional photographers!

  4. Love it!
    I used to live in Paris (for 20 years!) but I don’t know it very well.
    Now next time I am in the city I’ll go there for sure!
    You made me want to.
    What is the orange wall pic just before the Hôtel du Nord?

    • Bonjour Catherine. The orange wall has changed over time. It is located by le Canal St Martin, on quai de Valmy. The wall is popular with street artists who regularly paint different scenes and messages on it. It made the news after the 2015 terror attacks when a giant “Fluctuat Nec Mergitur” fresco was painted there as a tribute to Paris’s resilience (“Tossed by the Waves but Never Sunk.) It is the city’s official motto. You can look it up on Google. I have a few photos of it, but chose to share this version, captured last June, instead. Life goes on…

  5. Excellent reportage sur ce magnifique coin de Paris que je connais et adore. Merci Véronique. Les photos sont très belles.

  6. You’ve got me feeling nostalgique. I lived in the 11th and until 2012 my office was in the 10th near the canal. Your photos captured much of what I saw walking to and from work. We would eat lunch by the canal in the summer and play boules after work nearby. And Antoine et Lili got plenty of my euros. Thank you for highlighting this lovely corner of Paris!

  7. Thanks for this great article on the Canal St Martin area. This is my neighbourhood where I own a small flat 20 steps from the Canal. All my visitors love staying here as it gives a different look to Paris. A more relaxed, local feel. The number of great restaurants has increased in the last few years as well as a younger local crowd.

    Trish
    rentaparisflat.com

  8. Another great post! Thank you for sharing your way around Paris. I have noted the places in this post so to be sure to visit them when there in May. We will have a month to visit Paris (May 9th – June 9th), 2 weeks in Nice (April 5-20th), Bordeaux (5/1-5/4 & 2 weeks in Caen (late June) area. Almost forgot the Toulouse area (5/4-9th). I will scour your past blogs for more interesting places to see. I much prefer ‘off the beaten path’ type places.
    If you are at all planning on being in France somewhere during that time would love to meet up & share stories.
    Cheers!
    DiAnn

  9. What would be the easiest way to get there? It is on my list when I make my first trek to Paris in September. We are staying in the 5th. The friend I am travelling with has been to Paris once in 2012 but she did not visit that area. We want to keep 2 days for just exploring and this is an area I would like to see.

    Thanks much for any advice

    p.s. loved watching your Cafe chat with Corey!

    • Bonjour Tami. If you are staying on the Left Bank, you will have to cross over to the Right Bank. An easy way to visit le Canal St Martin is to pick “Republique” as your Metro stop. The Canal neighborhood is within walking distance of la Place de la République. Hope you enjoy it! If you are looking for a lunch place when you get there, I reviewed a new Italian restaurant by the Canal on the FGIS Facebook page this week. Bonne visite.

    • FGIS is correct. However it is one of the great walks of Paris and absolutely that is what you should do. Beginning in the Leftbank go to Notre Dame and walk across the (pedestrian) Pont St Louis at the rear of the cathedral, onto Ile St Louis. Walk the length of the island on its central (almost its only) street, rue St Louis-en-Ile, right to its end at Pont Sully.

      Walk north on Pont Sully across to the Rightbank and take the riverside walk here, heading upstream about 500m until you come to the Bassin de l’Arsenal. This is the pleasure port with a few hundred peniches (barges) and assorted river boats are moored. Go up the westside (Bvd Bourdon) of the port about halfway then cross high over the water on the passerelle (ped bridge, continuation of rue Mornay) to the eastside where you can descend to Jardin de l’Arsenal (with its ornamental gardens; note this area is locked early evening).

      Walk northwards in the gardens until you exit back to the street level almost at Place de la Bastille. Navigate anti-clockwise across the Bastille–passing in front of the Opera Bastille–and turn into the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. It is a long linear park that on weekends (maybe only Sundays?) hosts the now very popular Marché Biologique (ie. organic farmers market). You are now walking on top of the Canal St Martin which was buried in the 19th century under the road (and Bastille)–you can see the air & light “chimneys” along the park.

      So you just follow the park all the way until it finishes at Place de la Republique (well, 2 blocks east at rue du Faubourg du Temple; if you have time you could deviate to the Place which is the historic and modern centre of popular protest with its statue of Marianne). Cross over the F. du Temple and voila, Canal St Martin emerges from its subterranean passage courtesy of a few locks (visible at Sqe F. Lemaitre). Wait here long enough and you’ll see the Bateaux Mouche (tour boats) use the locks to go under and all the way to Bastille and the Seine.

      Now you can walk along the paths on either side of the canal. This is now the 10th arrondissement and will take you all the way to the Bassin de la Villette which is a good place for a canal-side lunch or dinner. This is the 19th arrondissement. Depending on how much energy you have you can continue waterside along the Canal de l’Ourq. In fact it is only about another one km to the edge of Paris. At this end (ie. junction Bassin Villette/Ourq) is the famous original elevating Pont Crimée (there is a passerelle next to it that is good for photos; these days I suppose a selfie with Pont Crimée in background; this bridge will elevate for the Bateaux Mouche).

      About 500m takes you to the junction of the two canals, l’Ourq and St Denis and on the other side you will now be in the Parc de la Villette with its Science & Industrie museum (you’ll see the Geode). Right at the far end just before the canal passes under the peripherique motorway, is the famous Zenith concert hall; about 200m south in the same parkland is the new (2014) Philharmonie de Paris concert hall. At this end you can catch Metro 5 at station Porte de Pantin (next to Cité de la Musique which is directly south of the Philharmonie).

      You will have done 100% of the canal route (well excepting St Denis which heads north-west and is less interesting). I’d bet you would have bragging rights over any of your friends who claim to have “done Canal St Martin”. It’s a longish walk but easily done in a day and of course no end of places to stop for lunch, a coffee or dinner etc. Incidentally plenty take the Bateau Mouche tour–and that is the only way to see the subterranean sections–but that’s the lazy way. Walking is far superior.

      But a warning: your biggest risk will be getting diverted! I mean you could easily get stuck on Ile St Louis for the rest of the day. You must discipline yourself to keep pushing onward 🙂

      • Of course it being Paris there are no end of side excursions you could do, though be wary of losing too much of the day.

        This route up Bvd Richard Lenoir will cross Boulevard Voltaire (cutting at an angle SE/NW) and you’ll see the Bataclan music venue (on the west side) where the terrible terrorist event happened in 2015. They have installed a memorial to the 90+ victims. In fact you could divert up Bvd Voltaire to Place de la Republique, then rejoin the canal at rue du Faubourg du Temple as per above.

        There aren’t so many of the hyper-famous monuments on this route (which doesn’t diminish it at all) except perhaps those you will pass anyway: Bastille & its opera; Republique and Marianne. Another very old bit of little seen Paris is just off Canal St Martin: walk about 120m up Avenue Richerand and at its end is an entrance to the oldest part of Hopital St Louis. It is this junction that is featured in the movie One Day (see my earlier post) and there is a photo of it in the Wiki entry. In fact I just learned that

        “The south-west entrance to the hospital, located at the intersection of rue Bichat and avenue Richerand, is popularly known as the entrance to the police station in the hit French detective television series, Navarro.”
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/H%C3%B4pital_Saint-Louis#/media/File:P1040720_Paris_X_h%C3%B4pital_Saint-Louis_rwk.jpg

        Anyway make sure to walk further into the hospital (open to public during daytime) another 25m or so until you pass into the oldest part, the cloisters surrounding the beautiful and calm garden courtyard, built 1611. This was my daily walk to work (within the northern side of the hospital).

        If you do take this diversion be sure to retrace your route (ie. av Richerand) back to the canal, ie. don’t be tempted by any north-western shortcut, because this (Richerand to Recolletes) is perhaps the most famous part of the canal, much featured in movies (including Amelie, Infants des Paradis, Hotel du Nord, more recently One Day) and of course has the actual (heritage-protected facade anyway) Hotel du Nord (east bank). Note that there are five of the green passerelles (ped. bridges) here and the two road bridges are “pont tournant”, ie. they swivel on carousels to allow passage of boats.

        Note at the junction of Canal St Martin and the Bassin de la Villette is the elaborate Rotonde de la Villette, which hides the original waterworks to supply water to Paris from the canals (the reason Napoleon commissioned these canals though, like so much he ordered, he didn’t live to see it completed). I believe today it still serves as the supply point for all that water you see washing the gutters of Paris (and watering the parks & gardens), an eminently sensible arrangement rather than use precious potable water.

  10. Well, my dear “Aussie-on-Ile-St-Louis,” I guess you are the next best thing to my trusted “Plan de Paris par arrondissement.” These are very handy (and detailed) directions you provided. Any person able to take a good, long, urban walk should definitely follow them. Maybe you should be a travel writer? (I am somehow expecting you to reply: “Well, as a matter of fact, I have already published a book about the best Paris walks…”) – Merci beaucoup, as always, for enriching one of my blogposts with your comments. Bien à vous, FGIS.

  11. Excuse me. I can’t help myself. I did go OTT this time. You can tell I am OCD about two things (at least!), 1. Paris and 2. Walking in Paris. It is without doubt the best walking city in the world and I don’t believe anyone can really appreciate the city without hours and hours traipsing around it. No accident that it gave the world both the activity and the word that describes it: flanerie & flaneur.

    It’s why your blog is so good (yes, your are encouraging my OCD:-). Who needs to read about another view of the Eiffel Tower or the other Top Ten (or top 100) in the Paris everyone already knows about?

    As it happens Canal St Martin is my old “home” area, and in this case I was able to begin the flanerie/tour on my other home zone, Ile St Louis. Double heaven. As it happens I have also just finished reading David Jefferson’s “Paris by Boat. A Boatowners’ Guide to the Seine and Paris Canals”. (It is long out of print but I bought a secondhand copy via your current hometown’s little company, you know the one that has a z in its name …). It has been overfeeding my OCD and generating wild ideas of how to afford living in Paris again …

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Small Town France: Argenton-sur-Creuse

Small Town France: Argenton-sur-Creuse

Argenton-sur-Creuse, nicknamed “la Venise du Berry,” (the Venice of the Berry,) is a small town located in the center of France. For many travelers, zooming up and down the busy Autoroute (freeway) A20, linking Paris to southwestern France, Argenton-sur-Creuse may remain a pretty name on the map. Châteauroux, the second largest town in the Berry, is located only…

37 Responses to Small Town France: Argenton-sur-Creuse

  1. Mon père était un adolescent quand la 2eme guerre a éclaté et comme notre famille est juive ils ont été se réfugier dans la Creuse pendant presque toutes les années de la guerre, dans un petit village qui s’appelle Dun-le Palestel, ou nous sommes alles plusieurs fois dans mon enfance retrouver la famille du pharmacien du village qui avait si activement aidé mon père et son frère et leurs parents et qui sont reste lies au destin de ma famille au dela des generations.
    Un de mes souvenirs est d’être allée à la pêche à Dun dans un petit coin ravissant, et tout comme vous ma France est celle de la Province ou j’ai grandi (A METZ, en Lorraine) Paris oui, mais la campagne francaise c’est le top, et quand j’amene des amis americains en France on commence par Paris mais on finit toujours sur les petites routes de campagne, et ils tombent sous le charme a chaque fois.
    Merci pour tout ce que vous faites pour les expats comme moi, qui ne peuvent pas rentrer tous les ans au pays mais qui continue à se languir du pays natal.

  2. What a tranquil little town on a beautiful river. Even here in the U.S. we find ourselves bragging about the number of miles we have driven in one day, not realizing the beauty and joy we might discover it we would take the time to exit the freeway.

    • Many modern-day travelers only have efficiency in mind, not just in the US. To be fair, not all adventures off the freeway are as rewarding as a visit to Argenton. Still, worth a try, and with minimal research, staying off the beaten path usually pays off. Happy New Year Janey!

  3. I love your blog and would like to subscribe. Spent my junior year abroad in Besancon in the early 70’s and fell in love with France. I teach high school French and have taken students to France several times in recent years. Keep up the good work!

    • Merci beaucoup Pam. Signing up for the blog’s Mailing List (scroll down on the Homepage to find it,) is the best way to hear about new stories. I am stepping away from Facebook for a while and will be focusing on this website for the next few months. Happy New Year to you!

  4. What a beautiful little town! In late 1960’s I spent two month in Vichy (about 200 km) learning French in Centre Audio-Visuel de Langues Modernes. I love you blog – thanks.

  5. This looks like a “must see”. I try not to drive when I’m travelling so I wonder if there is a train or bus that connects. J’aime le chien de la maison. 🙂

    • Bonjour Dave. You can catch a train at Paris-Austerlitz that will take you to Argenton in as little as 2.5 hours. Spending a day there is just about perfect, but like I mentioned in my introduction, there are many more delightful discoveries to be made around Argenton if you can get out of town. I am certain buses are available locally.

  6. Another one on my list now, thanks to you. We will have an extra 2weeks in France and it will be a great and relaxing visit there.

  7. What a beautiful French town!! I am hoping on my next trip to Paris, I will spread my wings and explore more of France. Little gems like this would be a perfect stop!

    • Bonne Année Chérie! Thank you for continuing to follow my adventures. You must have been one of the first to sign up for email updates, so many years ago. Excellente année 2018! My little finger told me you may be returning to Paris with a good friend of yours this year…

  8. I’m going to have to give la Creuse a second chance. The only time I was in the departement (besides passing through on the autoroute) was for an offsite for the unit in which I worked at the boss’ place in the country. It was a big, beautiful but very drafty old manor house, 2 colleagues brought their babies with them, weird office rivalries exposed themselves as we worked in teams to prepare the meals, the boss led a forced march in the rain, I got blisters from the borrowed too big wellies — yep, I have PTSD from the experience. I was stuck driving the mom-mobile with the 2 screaming babies because the colleague who was supposed to drive that vehicle couldn’t even get it out of the rental company garage because it was an automatic… But you make a compelling case, so I will try to work through my demons. 😉

    • Great story Karen. I don’t think I would have had a lot of fun during that weekend either, in la Creuse, in Paris, or anywhere else. The trip in the mom-mobile seems positively awful. Funny how some people can’t drive an automatic car (I am guessing the culprit was a French native,) while others balk at driving a stick shift (many of my American friends do…) You should definitely give la Creuse (and la province) another chance. I guarantee it will provide the peace and quiet you were deprived of last time you visited. Happy New Year!

  9. Salut Véro, je suis ravi de découvrir ce superbe reportage sur argenton sur creuse… Nous connaissons le café de la place et l’hôtel depuis les années 1962/1963…Nous nous y arrêtons, tu le sais chaque fois que nous le pouvons, lors de nos escapades vers le gers.nous revoyons argenton avec un plaisir sans cese renouvelé!!! Tes photos sont splendides, ta documentation exhaustive et ton style brillant.. Bonne continuation??? Un jour, il faudra “attaquer” l’isle-jourdain et le fers! Continue…

    • Coucou! Je suis ravie que ce reportage t’ait plu. Tu vois ainsi l’aboutissement de notre bien agréable promenade il y a quelques mois. Merci de m’avoir fait découvrir Argenton! Quant au Gers et à l’Isle Jourdain, ce sera avec grand plaisir, dès que j’aurai l’occasion d’y retourner. Vive la Gascogne!

  10. Thank you, Seattle Girl. When I was 14 (I’m 78 now) my middle school French teacher in Brooklyn, NY, arranged for each student in her class to get a French pen pal of the same age. Mine was a girl from Argenton sur Creuse, Annie Jouhanneau, who lived on Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau (maybe it was #14? I forget the precise house number but it was low double digits and definitely on Rue Jean Jacques Rousseau.)

    We had a brief correspondence going. I wrote to her in terrible French. She replied to me in somewhat better English, on that faintly ruled graph paper that French school kids use. I abruptly terminated the correspondence when she sent me a letter of such adult sophistication that I was too terrified to reply. I remember to this day the shocking sentence that left me with trembling with fear: “After school, I go down to the edge if the river and I smoke with the boys.”

    Yikes! That was so grown up I couldn’t handle it and I never wrote to her again. All the same, I’ve wondered all these years what became of her? Did she get hooked on nicotine, as I did some years later as a high school student? Did she ever quit smoking, as I finally did at the age of 51? Or is she still down there on the bank of the Creuse River, blowing smoke rings at the water after all these years?

    • Dear Peter, thank you so much for sharing your memories with us. What a wonderful story! You have gotten me to wonder as well what happened to Annie Jouhanneau. I like this story so much I am going to share it tonight with the French Girl in Seattle community on Facebook. Who knows? Maybe Annie (or someone she knows,) will spot it. I will let you know if this happens. Encore merci et à bientôt.

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Sarlat la Magnifique

Sarlat la Magnifique

There are special places one always returns to with anticipation and sheer delight. As a longtime expat, I welcome the chance to travel around France and escape Paris, where I tend to spend a lot of time because my parents live in the French capital. Yet Paris, like all French natives know (except Parisians?) is not…

34 Responses to Sarlat la Magnifique

  1. Thank you so much for this, Veronique. This speaks so much to what I love about France. It’s not that we ever avoid Paris; we just rarely go there, but we found so much more in the regions and particularly, the small villes. France is, and always will be, the people, the food, the wine and l’amour de la vie. Merci!!

  2. Excellent piece as always. Very evocative of my only visit many decades ago. The food is some of my favourite in France. Though some might find it “heavy” I don’t think that is really true and canard (duck) and other fowl are rich but healthy.
    What’s not to love. Because it is at the far western end of the Dordogne even in summer it didn’t seem overwhelmed with visitors. Do the tour buses have it on their itinerary these days? (Hope not. Another nice feature of the town is that it is pedestrianised, with car parks on the edge of town.)
    Because you visited in spring but published in winter perhaps it is worth mentioning that this part of the world gets fairly wintry, and presumably a lot of restos etc are not open?

    One other thing that comes to mind–and for armchair travellers–is that most of Ridley Scott’s very first movie, The Duellists, was shot here and around. It wasn’t a huge hit but is a kind of cult classic with some claiming it is his best movie despite his later big hits. He said he was “trying to emulate the lush cinematography of Kubrick’s film (Barry Lyndon)” in this Joseph Conrad Napoleonic-era story. And look at the cast: Harvey Keitel, Keith Carradine, Albert Finney, Edward Fox and Pete Postlethwaite. I’m going to watch the DVD tonight!

    • Welcome back Michael! Sarlat, just to be clear, is “overwhelmed” with visitors, French and foreign, especially during summer months and even more so on Market days. The whole area, in fact, is so popular there are “canoe traffic jams” on the Dordogne river in the summer! Popular sites like Lascaux, les Eyzies, or le Gouffre de Padirac are very busy too, not to mention, Castelnaud, the most popular of all the châteaux. Still, Sarlat seems to adapt just fine and remains authentic. If you look it up as a “movie location,” you will be amazed (as I was) at how many movies have been shot there since the 1930s. She shows as well on the silver screen as she does in person. A bientôt!

  3. Exactement! Paris is not la belle France, it is just a cosmopolitan city similar to London. I, like you, tend to avoid it whenever possible. I spend my time visiting family and friends in département Lot, especially St Céré, and in particular the village of Glanes where the some of friends live. I have visited Sarlat several times and recognise one or two of the places in your photos. Please note, I don’t update my blog anymore.

    • Bonjour Keith. I do not avoid Paris and always enjoy staying there, as many posts on the blog attest. Still, as a girl from “la province,” I am also acutely aware Paris is not France, and there are many more places to discover and enjoy outside the French capital. Le Lot et Garonne is a wonderful area, and not as touristy as many other French regions (including le Périgord.) A bientôt!

  4. We rented a stone house on the edge of Sarlat for a week and tried to see everything the area had to offer. IT was one of my favorite trips to France.. Great post.

  5. It’s lovely. Some friends went this summer and raved about it. On the one hand, it’s too bad more people don’t look at these smaller towns out in the countryside, which are so deeply, richly, typically French and just stick to Paris and maybe Provence. On the other hand, those who do venture out aren’t overwhelmed by crowds. Yes, any place that’s interesting and pretty will draw crowds in summer, but they regain their character off season.

    • Bienvenue, fellow blogger. Yes, Paris, Provence and Normandy are the top three most popular areas in France, it often seems. Well deserved, but exploring off the beaten path pays off too. Sarlat, you are correct, is one of these places that become quieter off season, like most towns in “la province.” I hope you get to visit one day. Carcassonne is really not that far away.

  6. We have been to France many times (in fact, I lived there for 2 years as a young Army captain stationed at a small post in the Charente Maritime – Fontenet – in the early 1960s) and like many others avoid Paris and head straight to the provinces. This past September was no different. After a flight from Detroit to CDG we picked up our rental car a headed west. Destination: my cousin’s summer home on the coast of western Brittany, near Vannes/Arradon. After 4 days, our next stop was St. Jean d’Angely where I spent a week reliving those Army days of so many years ago… visiting nearby Saintes, Rochefort, and La Rochelle, with a Sunday mass in Cognac. We left the last part of our return to la belle France to two areas we have neglected in past visits and have always been high on our list of must-see. First was the Dordogne. For that we selected what turned out to be a delightful B&B near Saint Cyprien. From that base we ventured out daily to see everything the area had to offer. Of course, a highlight was a day spent in Sarlat. We were able to find parking not far from the city center and, for whatever reason, it was free that day! I don’t know if September is still tourist season in Sarlat but in light of the crowds it didn’t matter…for it was Market Day! We wandered the streets and stopped at many of the stalls, mostly for pictures. I recognize several of your pictures, especially the church from the rear (I have a similar photo). Alas, we had no meals in Sarlat. After a marvelous breakfast at the B&B we decided to skip lunch and had dinner at a restaurant in a small village near Saint Cyprien. Our final stop was in the Luberon region of Provence, just north of Marseille. I had booked another B&B sight unseen in Lacoste and it turned out to be another gem. From there we were able to easily visit the hill towns I had only read about…Menerbes, Bonnieux, Russillon, Gorde, Obbide, and Isles sure la Sorgue. All in all, memories of a wonderful month in France.

    • Let’s not go to extremes. The astounding thing about France is how so much of it is fabulous. Paris is truly exceptional, and not just the heavily-visited areas but much that isn’t, as Veronique’s posts attest to. I am biased–from having “gone native” from my years of living there–but it is one of the few world cities that lives up to its hype, much more so than London or New York which these days are an ordeal for visitors and average residents alike. The “secret”, again as Veronique’s posts reveal, is that after one has ticked off all those things on the must-do lists, there remains enough of interest to occupy the rest of your life, just within the Peripherique!
      Then there is the delight of the provences outside Paris. One shouldn’t feel obliged to have a “must-do” list that includes places like Sarlat because in reality, while it may have been the first (to be subject to Malraux’s lavish attention), there are hundreds of delightful towns and villages in France. You don’t really need any particular planning or list, though I suppose the Le Plus Beaux Villages de France and its 157 villages (well a small slice of them at any one time) could be a start.
      Then there are the provincial cities which should be a part of any tour around a particular region of France (personally I do not recommend a wide-ranging tour such as you have done; better to restrict yourself to a smaller geographic area such as the Dordogne or Languedoc-Roussillon etc). It’s almost impossible to choose a favourite amongst these as they all have their own charms: Lyon, Dijon, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Montpellier, Biarritz, even Nice (though not in peak summer). Then there are the intermediate sized towns like Arles, Aix-en-Provence, Narbonne, Pau, etc and so it goes.
      You hardly need a guide as you can leisurely wander around–rather than rush around–and you cannot fail to enjoy France.

      • To Aussie-on-Ile-St-Louis: Thank you for the appreciative comments about my blogposts. I am glad you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy researching and writing them. This being said, I feel I have to step in here because as a French native (who, like you, once had the luxury to explore France at her own pace while living there,) but also as an expat in a country where time off is limited (or non existent for some,) I know it is not always easy to plan a trip abroad. We want to see as much of a destination as possible, and hit several places on our “bucket list.” As a result, many foreign visitors might sacrifice quality over quantity because they are pressed for time. I think that with the time at hand (one month,) Edwin did a pretty good job at visiting areas off the beaten (touristy) path, actually. As for those who “avoid Paris” and head to la province instead, it is their choice, and we should respect it. The way I see it, they make up for those who will only visit Paris – and claim they know “France.” What do you think?

        • I was just trying to balance what Edwin Rennel wrote. There are many ways to travel and I myself have often whizzed around countries trying to see as much in as short a time as possible (though almost always by train). However, later I try to spend more time in a given locality to get a proper appreciation. Given that he and many other readers/comments are American, I especially wanted to suggest an alternative to the “must-do list” approach to seeing France (or anywhere). It is exactly what produces the summer crush you mentioned for Sarlat or those few hilltowns in Provence (none of which are “off the beaten path”; these are the beaten path!). There is an awful lot more than this tiny selection of small towns made famous by Malraux and Peter Mayle.

          I suppose I am being a hypocrite here because I too visited Sarlat (though about 30+ years ago; last time I went thru the Dordogne I didn’t go there). But actually I am proposing here what I might have wished I had learned earlier. As visitors we are ruining the very things we value. It is exactly this approach that is producing the backlash by residents in Venice, Amsterdam and who knows, maybe Paris (already BnB is creating troubles). But, re your last sentence about Paris versus Edwin’s approach: Paris can absorb the crush (paradoxically even more so in summer since so many Parisians, and especially their cars, are en vacance elsewhere) and two weeks spent in Paris would, in my opinion, be better than rushing around in a car covering thousands of kilometers.

          Especially since if you are based in Paris you are within easy day trips–crucially, by train–of plenty of “provincial” things too, ie. in Ile de France and nearby (Champagne, Chartres, Chantilly etc). Not that I necessarily recommend it but by TGV you can do relaxed day trips to Lyon, Dijon, Strasbourg, Brussels, even Bordeaux or … London!

          My advice to Anglophones (especially Australians and Americans) is, after “doing” Paris, rent a gite on the edge (ie. walking distance) of a nice village in … well, take your pick–almost anywhere–I would say Dordogne, the Gard, Tarn, Gers etc rather than the rather over-run Provence. This is what a lot of French and other Europeans, including Brits, do in their long summer break. It has the added benefit of being the cheapest stay possible.

          A car is of course a very convenient thing for getting around from your base but it can also be a big distraction if used in the “wrong” way, ie. for rushing too far away to tick something off some list. Instead I say stay local. (A big benefit of Paris, and Ile de France, is that you don’t need a car; indeed you’d be nuts to try to use a car. Yes, I know, I’m nuts for trying to tell Americans they don’t need a car!) For this reason, while not being dogmatic about car hire, I recommend against some very isolated gite deep in countryside where you have to drive everywhere–it is wonderful to walk, or maybe cycle, into the local village for your morning croissant and baguette etc or an evening meal in a restaurant (which means a village that is not too small). And in France you can get almost anywhere by train, sometimes fast via TGV but even the slower journeys have their rewards (eg. it is about 2.5 hours by train from Sarlat to Bordeaux. TGV it ain’t, but it goes thru beautiful territory and along the Dordogne river). So, again this suggests finding a village close to a train station. If your gite was in the Dordogne–but perhaps more central, say around Bergerac, than Sarlat which is on the far eastern edge–then you would have more things on your doorstep than you could possibly exhaust in a month or three months!

          Your point about Americans not having much vacation time is alas true (“living to work” rather than “working to live”) but even more reason to take my approach rather than Edwin’s. I know which will be more relaxing and more profound in appreciating the true France. I think your recent blog about your stay in Batignolles (Paris) was precisely proving that point.
          ……………………..
          Vale Johnny Hallyday. Died 6 December 2017 (aged 74), Marnes-la-Coquette, France.

      • What a great post. Having never been to Europe, but going this coming year. I look forward to not only seeing Paris, but many of the outlying towns north to south, east to west. Several home base cities (Paris, Nice, Bordeaux & Toulouse) will afford the opportunity of many day trips. 2 months to explore & enjoy.

    • To Edwin: I can see why this would have been a very special trip for you! Hats off for covering so much ground across France! You made the most of these 4 weeks, certainly. I can tell you planned your itinerary carefully too, which pays off when time is limited. Hope you can return soon!

  7. Thank you for your writings. I am hoping to get to Sarlat when in France next year. Being my first time in Europe, I am especially excited to see the smaller towns & villages. I love to explore out of the way places, wandering often where I shouldn’t (perhaps) be. But, I love to find the unexpected this or that as I go about my day. Not speaking the language will likely be a challenge, but I will not let that be deterrent to my inquisitive nature.

    • Bienvenue DiAnn. You do not need to speak French fluently to enjoy your upcoming trip to France, but I would recommend learning a few basic expressions (like greetings.) This will make a big difference. France being the #1 tourist destination in the world, you will find many people to help you in English. It’s always best to approach locals in their language first, however, wherever you go around the world 🙂 I know you will enjoy your travels!

      • I will dig deep into my high school memory bank for some of those French phrases I learned while in French class. Your messages are such an inspiration.

  8. Couldn’t see where to sign up for your blog postings. I would certainly like to be included. I have loved your Facebook entries. So sorry they are charging you now.

    Thanks for all the wonderful information.

    Nancy Pilon
    Plymouth, MI

    • Bonjour Nancy. You have come to the right place. Look to the right of the homepage on the blog for “La Mailing List.” Enter your email address, and voilà: You will be receiving a message whenever I share a new story here on the blog. Thank you for all the support. Facebook is still a free service but community managers are “encouraged” to spend advertising dollars if they want to reach more people. If they don’t pay, their readership decreases. I don’t approve of these practices and can’t afford to pay, so I took my business back where it belongs: On the French Girl in Seattle website and blog, where it all started 7 years ago. Happy Holidays!

  9. Very enjoyable have a great Christmas just found a lovely French bookstore in New Orleans for children called The French Lubrary on magazine street . I bought books for my grandchildren .

  10. How do I sign up to receive notifications of your blog? (since you will not be on facebook)? I am not sure how this works. Thank you!

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8 Responses to 20th arrondissement: Where Paris keeps it real

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14 Responses to A French neighborhood: Les Chartrons, Bordeaux

  1. Once again your writing takes me right back there.

    I think my first visit to Bordeaux was in the mid-80s and I thought it was pretty impressive. But since then I kept reading how the “dingy and decrepit” old town was being revitalised. Well yes, I visited a few years ago and it was seriously smartened up, from an already impressive starting point. Indeed the whole inner old-town got UNESCO listed. Back then half the streets dug up for the new tramway–including the “wireless” sections–(Alimentation par le Sol)–such as in front of the Place de la Comedie/Grand Teatre; I believe Bordeaux may have been the first to use this system which is now spreading around the world. This aspect of Bordeaux was featured in Michael Portillo’s tv series Grand Continental Rail Journeys.

    I looked at the online property market around Chartrons because it was one of the few places in France where you can get genuine warehouse space for private apartments and for very good value per sqm. But I haven’t looked for several years and with all the publicity it gets one can’t imagine that has persisted. OTOH, while toying with the idea for a while, ultimately my stupid obsession with Paris won out! And speaking of which, the TGV Océanic opened in July so now one can do Paris-Bordeaux in 2 hours. (Takes longer to get to most airports!)

    • Bonjour Michael. Quel plaisir de vous retrouver ici! Your observations about Bordeaux confirmed what everyone I have met has said: We are looking at a “much improved” version today. I am certain locals loved their city way back when just as it was, but am not sure they will be able to stop what started years ago. Bordeaux is on her way to greatness, or at least to great fame. Les Chartrons is the perfect illustration. We will wait and see what the future holds for that beautiful, elegant, but oh so dynamic city! A bientôt.

  2. I love Bordeaux. I love all these smaller cities around France. Lively, but without the stress of Paris.
    The point about Vatel school speaks volumes about France: in the U.S., waiting tables is something you do until you can do something else. In France, it’s a decent career and one that should be done correctly–which requires training.

    • Merci de votre visite. I have been following your blog for a while, as you know, and share your excellent observations on French life often with the French Girl in Seattle Facebook community. Your observations about the Vatel school and the restaurant industry are spot on. That young waitress was truly proud of studying at the school when I asked. I saw the future of the French hospitality industry, and it looks like they have bright days ahead.

  3. Oh man! I so want to go!! Thank you for the ride. I enjoyed it very much. I was surprised how much British blood I had in my DNA test. I think my mother will be surprised too. This area of the world has been mixed for centuries. Love the ‘Do you speak Francais’ boutique.=) Check out my blog to Iceland. xo

    • Merci de la visite, Sandy. I am not surprised you enjoyed Bordeaux. Here’s another corner of southern France you must explore when you get a chance. I have followed your Icelandic adventures on IG but will head over to your blog tonight. A bientôt!

  4. Je vais tâcher d’apprendre à traduire…!!! A partir de mercredi en huit, je commence à prendre des cours d’informatique…
    Les photos sont absolument magnifiques, tu es très jolie et très en forme tout au début…

  5. Sra. Veronique:

    ¡Muy lindo e interesante su nuevo articulo! Comme d’habitude, su dicción y sus fotos son impecables.
    Muchisimas gracias por pasearnos por su bella ciudad.

    Maria

  6. What a wonderful virtual trip to Bordeaux! Thanks Véronique for the journey, it’s confirmed I need to go back for a visit. I myself also have wonderful memories of dining on fresh oysters and crisp white wine at nearby Cap Ferret…

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