April 29, 2017

Oh La La, La Seine!

It is no mistake that most of the world’s largest cities are located along major rivers. As our ancestors explored new areas they settled along rivers which offered them food, water, transportation, trade and more.

Among these grand European rivers are the Thames, the Danube, the Volga, the Rhine and madam La Seine!

Seine View Paris France

Seine View by polarjez, on Flickr

The 2nd largest river in France is 482 miles long and traverses through some of the most wonderful French landscapes before reaching the English Channel.  The Seine’s humble beginnings are about 19 miles northwest of Dijon deep in the Burgundian wine area. From here it meanders through or near Troyes, Fontainebleau, Paris, Giverny and Rouen before reaching the 6 mile wide estuary separating Le Havre and Honfleur.

Giverny France

giverny 2009 by ho visto nina volare, on Flickr

Outside of the large cities, a journey along the Seine passes Gothic cathedrals, battlefield remnants of past wars, tiny hamlets, forests that were the playground of Kings and rolling countryside with superb scenery.

The Seine is navigable by ocean vessels 75 miles inland to Rouen, by commercial river boats to Burgundy and can be enjoyed for recreational purposes along most of the length.

A series of locks keep the Seine at an even depth of 9 ½ meters and helps avoid catastrophic floods like the one in 1910.  However, even with these precautions, severe storms can cause the river to rise threatening villages, farmers and the billions of dollars of artwork located in Paris.

River Seine Paris France

vue Paris depuis Notre-Dame by Myrabella

At times the Seine has been described by historians as an “open sewer”.  Today the water quality has improved but the sewage system of Paris can experience failures during heavy rainfall allowing untreated sewage to seep into the river.  Despite this, in 2009 the Atlantic salmon returned to the Seine!

Even though the Seine passes many villages and cities, it seems to be synonymous with the capital of France, Paris! Just about everywhere you turn in Paris is a reminder of the importance the river has played in the city today and yesterday.  From the cathedral of Notre Dame to the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Musee d’Orsay and many other priceless wonders, history abounds near the river! So important is the Seine to Paris, that in 1991 both the Rive Gauche and Rive Droite were added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in Europe.

Pont-Alexandre-III-et-Invalides Paris France

Pont-Alexandre-III-et-Invalides by Benh

In Paris alone, there are 37 bridges that cross the river. The Pont Neuf, the oldest, dates back to 1607.  I’m sure every visitor to Paris walks across at least one of these beautifully romantic bridges!  Or even passes under them during a wonderful tour along the Seine.

The Seine has been the subject for many artists including Claude Monet.  From his home in Giverny, Monet drew upon the Seine for his inspiration. Many of these important artworks can be seen in the cathedral at Rouen.

Rouen is another important city along the Seine.  Not only famous for its display of artwork inspired by the Seine but for being the site of the execution of Joan of Arc whose ashes were said to be thrown into the Seine after her fiery death in 1431.

Pont de Normandie Le Havre Normandy France

Pont de Normandie by François Roche

Finally at rivers end is the Seine estuary which is flanked on either side by Le Havre and Honfleur.  Here is another of the many bridges spanning the Seine.  Pont de Normandie, one of the longest cable-stayed bridges in the world, stretches between the two cities.

Pont des Arts River Seine Paris France

Pont des Arts Wikimedia Commons by Benh

Although we tend to view the Seine as a tourist attraction, you can see that this river is still important to France today!

 

How have you enjoyed the Seine?

Picking a Favorite

Do you ever get asked what your favorite destination in Europe is?

I do.  People ask me regularly what my favorite place is and as I’m about to reply I start thinking what about location A or what about location B?  It’s kind of like asking me to pick my favorite child!

Berchtesgaden Bavaria Germany by Eric Sorenson

Berchtesgaden Germany by Eric Sorenson

I could easily say my favorite place in Europe is Bavaria. I find myself drawn to this part of Germany time and time again.  But by picking Bavaria, what does that say about all the other wonderful places I’ve been?  I mean who couldn’t love the French Basque region? Or Normandy? Or what about InnsbruckLast summer I visited Innsbruck and fell in love. So just because I haven’t spent as much time there means it’s not my favorite?  How do I know it wouldn’t become my favorite if I spent more time there?

 

View of Innsbruck Austria

View of Innsbruck Austria by Leo-setä, on Flickr

And by picking a favorite, where does that leave all the places I dream about visiting? Dordogne, Croatia, Costa Brava and Black Forest are just a few of the places I long to visit.  Will one of these replace my current favorite?

Dordogne river france

Dordogne by Jos Dielis, on Flickr

What makes you label a place as your favorite? Is it the people?  The food?  The scenery? Or is it a sense of peace you get just by being there?  Like love, no words need to be spoken you are just filled with an overwhelming sense of comfort.  Just like an old pair of shoes, this special place fits you like a glove.

Peaceful Lautersee Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

Peaceful Lautersee above Mittenwald Bavaria Germany

If I’m honest, that is exactly how I feel when I visit southern Bavaria. I love the people, the food, the scenery and the ambiance.   It just seems to fit me like a glove and makes me feel warm and comfortable.  This part of Bavaria is also a sentimental favorite since I spent most of my time here during my very first European trip.  So . . .

Grounds of Linderhof Castle Bavaria Germany

Grounds of Linderhof

If I asked you right now to name your favorite place in Europe, what would it be?

European Travelista’s 7 Super Shots!

I have been enjoying reading everyone’s entries to HostelBookers 7 Super Shots!  As I don’t consider myself a good photographer I was secretly glad that I hadn’t been asked to participate.

Then it happened. . .

Both Sabrina from Country Skipper and Courtney of Haunt Jaunts asked me to participate.  Feeling good to be included, I now had to find some photographs that were worthy of the project.

I started by thinking what photos represent.  Photos keep our memories fresh and alive. All it takes is a glimpse and we are whisked back to that very day experiencing that trip, event or the fun as if we were there now.  The photos we take are snapshots of our life.

After getting over my initial angst, I wandered through my memories and found some photographs that represent each of the categories.

Here is a photo . . .

. . . that takes my breath away

It is no secret that I love mountains, lakes and small villages.  While I find them all remarkable in their own way, Gruyeres Switzerland just took my breath away.Bucolic Gruyeres Switzerland

. . . that makes me laugh or smile

I actually had a little trouble with this one but then it dawned on me that the one that made me smile every time was this shot taken on my very first trip to Europe.  In fact, this one is a lot of “firsts”.  My first time to Europe, Germany, Bavaria, Munich.  I smile each time I see this much younger me sitting by a lake in the Englischer Garten and, yes, I’m enjoying my first beer in Munich.

Englischer Garten Munich Germany

Enjoying a beer in Englisher Garten's Munich

. . . that makes me dream

This shot of the French Basque countryside makes me dream about all of the less traveled, peaceful places I have been and will go to.

Basque vista Southwest France

Basque Hills

. . . that makes me think

Looking down on the way up the Jungfraujoch is a tremendous sight!  This lovely village nestled at the foot of the mountain makes me think about how amazing Mother Nature is. . . The beauty of Switzerland isn’t too shabby either 🙂On the way up Jungfraujoch Interlaken Switzerland

. . . that makes my mouth water

As I look at this picture my mouth is literally watering.  I can still feel the relief as I sat down at this table at Klosterbrau Brewery in Bamberg Germany.  I can also remember how ravenous I was and how wonderful this schnitzel, potato salad, green salad and beer tasted!Schnitzel at Klosterbrau Bamberg Germany

. . . that tells a story

Visiting the D-day beaches in Normandy is a must see. This photo, taken at the American cemetery, tells the story of all the Americans that died during WWII.  More than that, it tells the story of all the lives lost from all countries involved.American Cemetery Normandy France

. . . that I’m most proud of

Gothic Royaumont Abbey gets the distinction of being my National Geographic moment!  The lovely Abbey and its grounds are a serene respite to busy Paris.Gothic Royaumount Abbey near Paris France

 

Now its my turn to nominate 5 bloggers to participate:

Eurotravelogue

EasyHiker

To Europe with Kids

This is My Happiness

Downtown Traveler

 

Rules

  1. Choose a photo for each of the 7 categories above.
  2. Write a short description for each image.
  3. Write somewhere in your blog post: I am taking part in HostelBookers 7 Super Shots.
  4. Tell HostelBookers that you have participated and tweet the hashtag #7SuperShots

Nominate 5 other bloggers by including a link to their blog in your post.

Mont St Michel – Touristy but Necessary

There are certain cities and sights that are touristy but still necessary to visit.  One of these is Mont St. Michel.

Located along the English Channel in the Normandy region of France, this Romanesque masterpiece is a sight to see.  Driving towards it, you start getting a glimmer of something in the distance and wonder “Is that it?”.  With each mile you drive the abbey seems to grow right before your eyes until you are face to face with one of the most amazing sights.Mont St Michel France from a distance

Built into the rock the Mont started out as a fortification defending the coast from invaders before becoming a monastery in 708 AD.  This beauty has been around a very long time and has seen its fair share of history from the Norman Conquest, Hundred Years War, French Revolution and World War II.Magnificent Mont St Michel France

At one point, the monks had moved away so the government turned Mont St Michel into a prison for its political prisoners.  Around 1836 there were calls to restore the mount to its glory.  It was during 1874 that it was declared a historic monument and in 1979 Mont St Michel was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list.

Yes Mont St Michel can be very touristy but passing along the cobblestoned path, passing the shops as you wind your way up the more than 900 steps to the abbey is worth it! The architecture is stunning and dramatic while the views are amazing from all angles.

 

What other touristy spots are “must sees”?


These photo’s are shared as part of Travel Photo Thursday.
For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Maybe I’ll see you there.


Honoring D-Day

Earlier this week was the 67th anniversary of D-Day, so here are some pictures of  Normandy in honor of all the men and women  who so bravely fought for our freedom!

Today, the beautiful idyllic beaches belie the horror that was experienced here many years ago.Normandy Beach France

What amazed me was the amount of German Artillery and other military armaments that are still in the area.German Artillery found in Normandy France

Pont du Hoc was the sight of a awful battle which resulted in the land being pockmarked by all the bombs that were dropped.  The craters can still be seen today and many are more than 6’ deep!Pont du Hoc Normandy France

One of the most amazing and serene places to visit is the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer.  This somber place overlooks Omaha Beach and the English Channel.

There are 9,387 US service men and women buried here.American Cemetery Normandy France

At the center of the cemetery is the The Spirit of American Youth Rising from the Waves statue.Normandy Statue at American Cemetery France

Etched on the inner face of the arc surrounding the statue are the words:

THIS EMBATTLED SHORE,
PORTAL OF FREEDOM,
IS FOREVER HALLOWED BY THE IDEALS,
THE VALOR AND THE SACRIFICES
OF OUR FELLOW COUNTRYMEN

 

 

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!

Maybe I’ll see you there.

Mont St Michel

The Grand Rue is full of souvenir shops and tourists but I didn’t seem to mind.  I just loved being inside the walls of this magnificent structure and was in awe of its impressive beauty .

As you climb the steep steps to the Abbey you will discover the stunning architecture Mont St Michel is famous for.

 

This medieval town is a wonder to behold.

 

Mont St Michel France

Have you been to Mont St Michel??

 

For more great pictures, make sure to look into Budget Travelers Sandbox.

Every Thursday they post new photos from their travels and invite others to join in!  Maybe I’ll see you there.

A French Adventure in Aperitifs

For me, a part of traveling also includes enjoying local food and drink.

Since I am not the world’s most adventurous eater, the food part can be a bit tricky but I usually find a way to muddle through.

On the other hand, I would have to say that I am an adventurous drinker.  I may not really like a certain beverage but I am definitely up for trying it!  I mean when in Rome or Ireland or France you must do as the locals do!

Oh wait, you do realize I am referencing alcoholic beverages, right?  🙂

One of my favorite rituals I discovered while traveling in Europe is aperitifs.  There is something so refined, fun and very different by enjoying aperitifs prior to dinner.  My first foray into this new world of beverages was while on a trip in France.

Aperitif before diner in the garden

Aperitif before diner in the garden by DocteurCosmos

French aperitifs are regional cocktails enjoyed to start the dinner meal.  I really like the fact they are regional – something new no matter where I am!

Lillet and other aperitifs

Lillet and other aperitifs by Rob Ireton, on Flickr

One of my first aperitifs was Lillet.  This classic drink was invented in Bordeaux and is a blend of local wine and tropical and/or citrus fruits.  It can be either red or white.  On a trip to Bordeaux I was served a white Lillet which I enjoyed very much and would definitely have again.

Later down near Rocamadour, we were served a Champagne cocktail made with a regional walnut liqueur. Maybe this isn’t a true aperitif but it is really very good and a great way to enjoy regionally made liqueurs or bandies.  Armagnac, a brandy made in this same area, is another great additive to a Champagne cocktail!

Other French aperitifs include:

  • Byrrh a drink made of local red wine and tonic water from the Languedoc-Roussillon region.
  • Kir is a cocktail from the Burgundy region made from white wine and Crème de Cassis.  If you’re feeling like a special treat mix the Kir with Champagne for a Kir Royale.  Delectable
    French aperitifs - Pastis

    Pastis by cyclonebill, on Flickr

    and invigorating!

  • Calvados is an apple brandy from the Normandy region.
  • Chartreuse is a secret liqueur produced by the Chartreuse Monastery in the Alps.  This herbal drink comes in either a green or yellow version.
  • Pastis is an anise flavored liqueur from the Provence-Cote d’Azur region.  Pernod is a brand you may be familiar with.  Mix this liqueur with water and you’re ready to enjoy all the wonderful flavors of the liqueur.

After my adventure with aperitifs, I came home wondering why we don’t have aperitifs in the US.  Or is it just in California?  If I have a “cocktail” prior to dinner it is usually a glass of wine.  My parents still have a “cocktail” prior to dinner.  So when did this ritual go away?

Well I have to go now because I haven’t yet enjoyed all of these aperitifs and I have some work ahead of me!

 

Tell me about your experience with aperitifs.

Do you enjoy aperitifs before your dinner meal here in the US?

Gems of Normandy

Have you visited the D-Day landing beaches in Normandy?  If so, you’re not alone.  Normandy is a very popular French destination and a lot of this is due to the events that happened 60+ years ago.  You definitely should visit the D-Day beaches, the WWII museum in Caen and those small unique museums you’ll pass driving from beach to beach.  It is hard to imagine the emotions you’ll feel until you are standing there looking out and visualizing the ships and men climbing up the sand.  Until you are actually there it is hard to grasp the immenseness of this endeavor and to fully appreciate what those brave soldiers did for us all.  Yes, it is my opinion that everyone should visit Normandy for this reason but there is much more to this region that should not be overlooked.

Normandy is an area full of orchards, rolling green hills, wonderful seaside villages, history, architectural gifts, art, wonderful seafood and more!  So let’s spend a little time talking about the other gems of Normandy!

Giverny is about an hour outside Paris and home to one of the world’s most famous artists, Monet.  His home and gardens are impressive but you should take the time to visit even though they can become quite congested during the summer months. 

Monet's Garden Normandy France

Monet's Garden

Apple Farms are abundant in Normandy and the drive along the Cider Route is a great adventure.  This route travels through many small captivating Norman villages and enchanting landscapes.  While enjoying the villages and scenery, make sure to stop along the way to enjoy tastes of the local cider, Calvados (Apple Brandy) and Pommeau (a traditional aperitif).  You won’t be disappointed.  The orchards are in full bloom end of April through end of May and harvest is from September to December. 

The seaside resorts of Normandy are full of alluring qualities that will invite you in to take a closer look.  In fact, you can visit any type of town you like from fishing ports, sandy beaches to chic villages complete with casinos.   A short list of the small cozier villages would include France’s oldest seaside resort of Dieppe, Etretat where you can spend hours wandering and viewing the amazing cliffs and rock formations, Trouville a low key version of Deauville and great place to take in the local culture to Cabourg where you can enjoy beaches, avenues bordered by beautiful trees and relive the Belle Epoque.

Cabourg Normandy Fishing Village France

Cabourg

Normandy is also horse country and the place where future champions are raised.  If you love horses a visit to Haras du Pin will not disappoint!  During your visit you will be able to see the stables, training center, blacksmith’s forge, paddocks and saddler’s room.  If you time it right, you may even witness a stallion parade or a show featuring the horses.  Maybe you will want to attend a horse race in Deauville, Cabourg or Caen?

Normandy is home to many food options.  Besides apples, there are many other fruits but cheese and seafood are in the running for top draw.  If you love cheese, then you will be excited to visit Normandy – – home to Camembert, Pont l’Eveque and Livarot cheeses.  A visit to the President Cheese farm will not disappoint!  Keeping with the subject of food, all seafood lovers will be in heaven during any visit to Normandy!  Specialties include herring, scallops and mussels (moules).  In fact, my husband thought he had died and gone to moules heaven during our visit.  To say he ate moules every day would not be an exaggeration!

Honfleur Harbor Normandy France

Honfleur Harbor

Yes there are many things to do in Normandy.  Tell me about your favorite.

Picture of Monet’s Garden by Selena N. B. H.
Picture of Honfleur Harbor by Allan Lee