Tag Archives: france

Randonnes in the Dordogne!

My brother and his wife made it safely home from France – fortunately flying into Barcelona and out of Geneva during the strikes that crippled French airports and rail. He apparently did okay with getting gas since they did drive across the country. As expected, he loved the Dordogne region and recommends “randonnes” – walks in the french countryside that are well mapped out and marked. Other highlights – the duck  confit and “all the delicious stuff with walnuts in it.” Their last two days were in Annecy which they liked too but found a little seedy in parts (that I don’t remember.) They also did a quick tour of Talloires and got a pix of the hotel we stayed at in 1989.


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Bon voyage to my brother – off to Spain and France

Have a great trip M and H! Here’s a few parting words of advice – most fairly obvious but just in case….

In Barcelona, see any and all things Gaudi – the half-done church/temple (Sagrada Familia);  the really cool park (Park Guell, it’s out of the way but worth the trip). We also visited another house in the city that I can’t remember the name of – both Casa Batllo and Casa Mila look incredibly cool. (We got the Gaudi bug in Barcelona and everywhere else we visited in Spain, we searched out nearby Gaudi buildings.)

In the Dordogne, remember to check out the “art way” (“chemin des arts” billed as “a funny way” to experience Sarlat. I think they meant “a fun way”)  and one of our favorites, Sophie Noellet’s studio at 4-6 rue Alberic Cahuet.. And of course the outdoor market (I bought foie gras there for dad…) And here’s a long-shot request: We bought Lily her favorite all time necklace in Sarlat – which she  lost last summer in the Dominican Republic.  We found it  at a little unimpressive-looking  postcard-gift shop  just off the artist’s studio walk. It was a horseshoe nail  bent into the shape of a heart on a string of rawhide. Nothing fancy or expensive – but if by some remote chance you find something like it, please buy and I’ll reimburse you.

In Talloires, I’d love to know if the Hotel Beau Site is still there. And the Annecy market of course. And the Gorge du Fier.

Have a wonderful time! x0x,b

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dordogne pt. 3 – takemewithyou

As promised, I have returned to the Dordogne – blogging, not visiting alas. Here are some more towns/villages we visited (most – but not all – well worth the visit):

– Le Bugue (I wrote it as “La Bogue” in my journal. oops). This is sort of the start of   the Dordogne   (we were driving from the west and Bordeaux.) It’s more of a workaday town not touristy at all . Has a very good market where I had a memorable experience that D and I still recall when we need a laugh. I was trying out my very rusty french with a woman selling fish at one stall and soon after I spoke, she burst into laughter.  I surmised that rather than telling her – as intended – that “I really like fish” I’d said something more akin to “I am a fish.”

– Beynac – in the Dordogne proper right next to La Roque, where we stayed – has an astonishing castle where it was  refreshing to see that the curators had thrown the usual u.s.-style caution to the wind and lit the castle with real live flaming torches sprinkled here and there around the place.  Definitely made the place seem very real. Later when we returned to DM we  watched – or tried to watch – a movie that had recently been filmed there – The Messenger about Joan of Arc starring Milla Jovovich, Dustin Hoffman, John Malkovich –  – but it was so bloody we turned it off. The town of Beynac is lovely – very perfect; not too touristy.

– Monpazier – this was a lovely more workaday fortified Medieval village and a little off the beaten path, with a cool château nearby called Biron (looks like nice hotel there: http://www.leprieurebiron.com)  We felt like the only tourists in Monpazier, remarkably enough. There’s a beautiful and unusual town square that as I recall has a semi-enclosed arcade around most sides. We had our classic five-course Perigord meal at La Bastide Restaurant. Had read about it in a 2003 Travel and Leisure article.  Ridiculous amount of food and delicious – 1) fois grais 2) a salad prepared with the locally produced nut oil and goats cheese, 3) huge omelette with truffles that tasted remarkably creamy 4)crispy duck cooked in its own fat (confit?),  and 5) creme caramel.   I was amazed my stomach did not rebel afterwards. We ordered one of these meals – and then a more moderate meal. way too much food.  We also found a really pretty home and kitchen store nearby where I bought one – and I wish i’d bought more – very pretty soft-boiled egg ceramic cup (Provencal I think) and a french wrought iron hanging rack that is in our kitchen (w/tea cups hanging from it).

Domme was another dramatic walled village, worth a visit.

Skip Colognes-la-rogue – it’s a beautiful village made of redstone buildings – very different than the yellow stone of the other Dordogne villages but it was very touristy and full of tourists. Like La Roque it is one of France’s “Beaux Ville Villages” which is kind of like the kiss of death because they’re so lovely they’re overrun with tourists. A few other things:

1) prepare to get lost. This is where d. and I coined an oft-used phrase “Not on my map.” (I was the navigator, D was the driver). We got lost a lot but eventually found what we were looking for.

2) there are cool painted caves here. we didn’t go to them.

3) I wish we’d had time to canoe or hike – this is what the Brits do in the Dordogne and it results in a  quite different experience than ours (which we of course liked just fine – drive, wander, eat, wander, eat, drive, etc.)

4) fun fact:  Josephine Baker lived in Chateau des Milandes which is now a museum. We never visited but after seeing this video, wish we had. She was a remarkable person. (adopted 12 kids, Resistance member in france who also saved jews, civil rights leader etc.) /www.youtube.com/watch?v=NGi0CR3VvCM

5) Chateau de Castelnaud,  which i mentioned in an earlier post, is one of the most visited castle in sw france, according to one website I stumbed upon.

6) while all these places start to sound alike, they’re all quite distinct in their own way (i just can’t remember which is which that well any more.)

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Paris – takemewithyou

Everyone seems to be going to France. Now my friends Art and Nell are heading to Paris – so here’s some restaurant and hotel and neighborhood suggestions…. Be sure to book the restaurants well in advance. It certainly was necessary when we were last in Paris four years ago.

We stayed at the Hotel du Palais Bourbon, 49 rue de Bourgogne – small comfortable affordable hotel,  good location on the Left Bank near the Rodin Museum.

As for restaurants, here are two that my dear friend Johnny Apple suggested for us –  L’Epi Dupin, a small gourmet place (www.zagat.com/Verticals/PropertyDetails.aspx?VID=8&R=69318); and La Coupole, a famous old bustling art deco brassiere (great steak tartar, oysters and other seafood on ice. It’s a huge place and we had a great table right in the middle of the crowded dining room where the waiters prepare the steak tartar with great flourish). Looks like you can book online at  http://www.lacoupoleparis.com.

As far as what to see/do  it’s good to hit some of the tourist hotspots during your first trip to Paris. Visit the Musee d’Orsay – home of  my favorite painting by Manet i — “Olympia” ; Notre Dame; the Tuileries et. al.

My favorite thing is to to pick a neighborhood and walk – the Left Bank (where the hotel is); the Isle St. Louis (a small village on an island in the middle of Paris, with great ice cream at Berthillon), Montmartre and the Marais, a neighborhood we hadn’t explored much before our last trip. The Marais  has a fantastic free museum of Paris history (Carnavalet Museum)and a Jewish neighborhood complete with delis and synagogues. Sort of like a French version of NYC’s lower east side. Also well worth a visit are:   Victor Hugo’s house and the lovely Place des Vosges .

In the Bastille area, we  went to a great farmers market – the Bastille Market, an indoor and outdoor place loaded with cheese, tapenade, bread, pastries. Next time, I’ll use some of those bikes now available on Parisien  streets. see: http://www.parisdigest.com/museums/museecarnavalet.htm

On the posh right bank, do not miss La duree Royale, at 16 rue Royale, a 19th century tea salon, one of the prettiest places to each some of the world’s best macaroons. It always reminds me of my mom, who first took me there in,um, 1978 or so.

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Thinking about the Dordogne

It’s time to pull out my journal from four years ago – or was it five? – when D and I went to the Dordogne region of France during a trip to visit D’s daughter who was doing a junior year abroad in Bordeaux. My brother and his new wife (still getting used to that phrase) are hoping to go their on their honeymoon after a visit to Provence. The only name that jumps out at me right now is the lovely market town of Sarlat – but fortunately I was pretty good about writing done specifics in my journal, safely stowed in a packed-to-the-gills  fireproof filing cabinet.

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