Friday, April 11, 2014


Add to Google Reader or HomepageFrance is often called “the hexagon” by the French. If you squint while looking at a map drawn by a lazy cartographer, you can see that the name fits. Two weeks ago, we started a triangular tour when we drove from Vaison-la-Romaine to Troyes on our way to Paris. We then went to Ornans and back to Vaison. Given the distances covered, we might have driven over about one/sixth of “the hexagon”…

Troyes was a pretty town. It is located in the champagne region of France on the Seine about 150 km from Paris. We found a B&B there that was in a loft apartment in an old factory. The skylights (a veritable ‘glass ceiling’) and the renovations made it a beautiful spot to stay.

The old town was just five minutes away by foot and has beautiful churches and buildings with a hint of the architectural style we saw in Besançon and Ornans. Many of the old buildings date to the 1500s.

These buildings lived apart for too many centuries...
The hosts at our B&B gave us several recommendations of restaurants and we chose Pizzeria Giusepino where one can get “…the best pizza in the city, in the department, in France! – or so we were told by a man who gave us directions when we got lost.

Troyes is worth a visit. The next time you are driving in France, try Troyes!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sibling visit

Add to Google Reader or HomepageWe met Sue and Bob as they arrived in Paris. They had come to visit us, to celebrate their anniversary and to do some genealogy research in the eastern part of France. (Bob DuVernois’ family is from Franche-Comte – at least that is where most of the villages named Vernois are located.)

Paris is always a wonderful city to visit. The city has so much to offer and is filled with so many interesting people. We ate well, walked a lot and enjoyed three days of warm, sunny weather. We went to see: “How to Become Parisian in One Hour” and now know: wear black, never smile, never make eye contact… - a fun-filled one-man show that mocks the French as well as every other nationality in the theater. We went to “A la Biche au Bois” restaurant – as we do on every visit to Paris and again were pleased to share this restaurant with my sister and her husband. We also did the ‘tourist thing’ and took the ‘Bateau Mouche’ (river tour boat) tour of the Seine. The day was clear and warm and we enjoyed seeing several of the major sites of Paris from the river.

We left Paris and drove southeast towards Besançon where we got to see an old friend. She invited us to stay with her and asked us to go to her classes and speak to her students (in English). After our “English classes”, we started visiting the Vernois villages. Google maps had identified four of them; the Garmin GPS had found a fifth… All of the villages were small – I would guess about 400-500 people. After we arrived in each one of the villages, we took pictures of the town sign and then went to visit the cemetery to see if there were any ‘Vernois’ buried there. Two days of visits (and about five hundred kilometers on the car) but no luck.

Franche-Comte is very different from Provence. The architecture is different. The houses use a lot more wood in the construction. The outside of houses look like what I call Tudor style with exposed beams and stucco. Add to that long, steep-sloping roofs and a different tile used for the roofs and you start to get an idea of the architecture of Franche-Comte. In Provence – at least our corner of Provence – there are a plethora of vineyards and wine tasting rooms. In Franche-Comte, the wine tasting rooms are few but the cheese tasting rooms are ubiquitous. (Franch-Comte cheeses are renowned: Comte, Morbier and Mont d’Or, to name a few. – though I have never seen Mont d’Or for sale in the States…)

We stayed in Ornans while we did our genealogy research. A lovely village. A lovely hotel (La Table de Gustave). Before leaving, we went through the museum dedicated to Gustave Courbet, an artist born in Ornans and a major influence (my perspective) on the development of the impressionist style.
 …And then to Vaison la Romaine!