Thursday, July 14, 2016

Nantes and Paris

Add to Google Reader or Homepage 
We went to Nantes to visit a dear friend. (We also got to see a friend who we have not seen since she was in East Lansing in 1980!) Nantes is at the mouth of the Loire River on the western coast of France. It was not our first trip there but was the most memorable. We toured the city with our friend who was born and raised there so he is very knowledgeable guide. He lives in the center of the city so we walked most places. 

We took the “Navibus” to the other side of the Loire river and walked around the village of Trentemoult. We visited the island of the city and got to see the huge (three stories high) mechanical elephant that walks around the island.

We went through the castle of the dukes of Brittany (le Château des ducs de Bretagne) and ate at a lovely restaurant facing the castle (Le Fou du Roi - the Court Jester). Every meal during our visit was excellent and, since our friend is a very knowledgeable connoisseur of wine, we drank well.

Note: Nantes was thirty degrees Fahrenheit cooler than Vaison. Everyday, we went out with a jacket!

We left Nantes and took the fast train to Paris. We visited our friends who were staying in Paris for several weeks. Paris is always awesome.

We had planned to go to an American restaurant for dinner on the 4th of July. (American Independence Day is not a holiday in France.) Two of the Americans with whom we were going to eat did not like the restaurant so we decided instead to find a restaurant in the neighborhood that made hamburgers. We found the perfect café and had great hamburgers and fries - with Heinz catsup!

We went to Versailles to see the new exhibition of paintings depicting the role of France in the American Revolutionary War. (The French call it the War of Independence.) It was a very engaging and enlightening exhibit. Somewhere in my past, I remembered that La Fayette had helped Washington and that the French had also sent naval support but I always thought of the French help as a small footnote on the war. The French were very much involved in supporting our independence and fighting England.

There was an exhibit of three hundred years of women’s fashion at the Museum of Decorative Arts. I am probably showing my age but I much prefer the hoop skirts of the seventeenth century to some of the extravagant (outrageous?) fashions of the current time. (There was also a Barbie exhibit at the same building but we decided not to pay to see that exhibit.)

On our last day in Paris, we went to Montmartre - the highest part of Paris. We found a little café and had a wonderful lunch and then spent the afternoon climbing and descending the hills of Montmartre. Ellen wanted to see the little vineyard in Montmartre because she wanted to compare it to the little vineyard our friend had shown her in the center of Nantes. 

As we walked around Paris, I was asking myself if anyone there spoke French. I heard many languages most of which were not French. Maybe it was the multitude of tourists, maybe it was because July is one of the two vacation months for the French and the French-speaking Parisians had left the city. For whatever reason, it was amazing to hear so many languages. 

Bonne fête nationale de France! Happy Bastille Day!

Friday, July 8, 2016

June in Vaison la Romaine

Add to Google Reader or HomepageThis is the first time we have spent June in France. I am glad we did. The weather is warmer and though we had several severe rain storms at the beginning of the month, it has not rained since - and that is a good thing as no rain means low humidity which means the temperature drops after sunset and the sleeping is easy.

Activities in Vaison increase markedly in June. (It also helps when the European Football Championship is going on and the bars and cafés have their big screens tuned in.) On weekend nights when there is no football, there is music. No matter the reason, people seem to flock to the central square of the town and enjoy the long and cool evenings.

The Alliance Française - Michigan Capital Area Chapter has always dedicated the June soirée to La Fête de la Musique (the music festival). We listen to French music on CD's or sometimes played by talented members of the group, sometimes we sing French songs. I have enjoyed our little tribute to La Fête de la Musique but had no idea of how big the celebration was in France or more accurately in Vaison. 

On the evening of the Solstice, musical groups started playing at around 6:00 PM. There were at least six venues where musicians were playing simultaneously. The groups came and went but the music continued well into the night. All of the cafés and bars had added tables and chairs and they were all full. I have never seen so many people in town as were there for La Fête de la Musique. The central square was filled with people as were the other streets and gathering areas. It was harder to walk from one venue to another than it is to walk through the Tuesday market. Some of the music enticed people to dance - and they did! It was a fun-filled enjoyable evening and a wonderful way to celebrate the Solstice.