Monday, December 30, 2019

A Riverboat Adventure On The Seine...

May 13-26, 2019

A lovely and relaxing way to explore the countryside, not seen when one is only on land, is to take a riverboat cruise. It was a relatively last minute decision to go as I was in the throes of a cross-country move and building a home, but the change of scenery was a perfect way to fully unwind and enjoy all things French; food, wine, and shopping.

This trip was titled  “France Culinary Delights: Paris to Normandy” and, even though I had already been to most of the the stops along the way, some more than once, it was meaningful just the same. I have found that visiting a place even several times can only enhance one’s understanding and delight as there is always something new to see and learn about the history and people living there.

We began and ended in Paris, a city I once knew “by heart” and, I must admit, it was a bit of a jolt to see the changes. No longer is the Eiffel Tower a stand-alone wonder, but, not too far away, there are multi-story apartments and hotels overlooking the Seine; a bit of an eyesore in my opinion. I remember the days, yes, it was a long time ago, when I lived in Paris and could visit the Eiffel Tower whenever I had the urge. Now, the entire area is enclosed with a plexiglass wall, a way to secure the premises in our ever-increasing violent world.

My very first trip to France was when I was 16; a month in Paris and the southwest with friends of my parents. I will never forget standing in front of Notre Dame and realizing, perhaps for the first time, that our country was, indeed, still in its infancy. It was also at that moment that I fell in love with a city that was to be my home for my first two college years. Seeing Notre Dame after the fire was painful; its days of glory and its majesty forever tarnished.

The city was filled with tourists bustling about, but there is something about being in Paris, despite the crowds and the many changes, that still fills me with excitement. My French language skills got a good work-out during this trip; having lunch in the Marais and drinking a beer,  I chatted with the couple sitting at the next table. It was like that wherever I was and by the time I got home, I was feeling very “French!”

The boat docked in several lovely spots, each one another taste of adventure. Conflans was the site of antique wooden barges having been converted into charming houseboats. Auvers-sur-Oise had a “Footsteps of Van Gogh” tour and learning about a tormented artist whose paintings are a gift to all of us. The next day was Giverny and the home, studio, and gardens of Claude Monet; the gardens, alone, were well worth the trip.
                                                                  Vincent Van Gogh

Claude Monet

Caudebec en Caux and we toured the remarkable ruins of the Jumieges Abbey and the Abbey of St. Wandrille. The latter is still home to a small community of monks living the monastic traditions begun in 649. As we were in Upper Normandy, back on the boat there was Calvados, local cheese tasting, and the famous apple tart of the region.
                                                                   Jumieges Abbey

Abbey of St. Wandrille

Honfleur was the next stop, a most delightful town that I first visited in 2000 and remembered as being quaint and sleepy. Fast forward nineteen years and there is activity everywhere - boutiques and restaurants galore, but the charm of the place and the beauty of La Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grace haven’t changed.

La Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Grace

Typical Architecture of the Region

The American Cemetery and the Normandy invasion beaches were a poignant and emotional time for all of us. As our visit preceded the arrival of world leaders for the anniversary celebration of the
D-Day Landing, the cemetery was cordoned off so one could only walk around it. Even so, the solemnity of the place and the sadness at the loss of life were felt wherever one walked, wherever one looked.

German Bunkers

Bayeux and the remarkable Bayeux Tapestry, that marvelous 230 foot embroidered cloth depicting events that led up to the 1066 Norman conquest of England, Le Havre, and a tour of the Fecamp Benedictine monastery where I discovered that its famous liqueur made up of 27 secret herbs and spices was quite pleasing to my palate!

                                                      Fecamp Benedictine Monastery

In Rouen, we celebrated Joan of Arc as well as Julia Child. Lunching at La Couronne, the oldest inn in France and the restaurant that was the catalyst for Julia’s culinary career, was an indulgent treat. Needing to walk off the food and drink afterwards, my friend, Karen and I went on a shopping spree at Le Printemps. It was an expensive, but glorious day!

                                        Rouen is known as the "City of a Hundred Spires"              

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Rouen
Its cast iron spire is the highest in France. Erected in 1876, it rises 490 feet above the cathedral.

Local Architecture

La Couronne

St. Joan of Arc

The final stop before arriving back in Paris was at the picturesque village of Les Andelys. A hike to visit the ruins of an old chateau, half-timbered houses and ancient churches, and a sense of calm; it would be a lovely place to spend a few days.

This riverboat journey definitely lived up to its name; we were wined and dined each day and sampled many of the local delicacies of the region. There were daily excursions, but plenty of time to relax and simply “be.” I returned home refreshed plus a couple of pounds heavier!

Now, the “gypsy” in me is thinking that my suitcases need a dusting and another adventure. Stay tuned!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

A Vibrant City Is Dublin...

Dublin, Ireland 
October, 2018

Barely three days in Dublin and definitely not enough time to explore and enjoy the Republic of Ireland’s capital city. Located on the east coast at the mouth of the River Liffey, Dublin is, without a doubt, a city with a pulse. Whether it’s  tasting the past with a visit to 12th century St. Patrick’s Cathedral or 13th century Dublin Castle, strolling amongst the lush greenery of St. Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park, learning about Irish heritage and culture in the Museum of Ireland, indulging a love of reading by exploring quaint bookshops on side streets, buying Irish woolens in one or more of the many boutiques, just drinking beer in a colorful pub, or eating any type of food you desire from organic to a meat-filled stew, Dublin is a city for all time and breathes with Irish warmth, charm, and vitality.

General Post Office - During the Easter Rising of 1916, the GPO was the headquarters of the uprising's leaders. The Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read aloud from outside the building.

In the midst of the bustle of a busy city...

Trinity College

Celebrating the past...

The Spire of Dublin - Unveiled in 2002

The Garden Of Remembrance - Commemorating all the Irish uprisings and rebellions from 1798 to the 20th century Troubles

In Honor Of
"All those who gave their lives in the cause of Irish Freedom"