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Publisher of Busy Bee Trader, Destination Guide to Antiques, Uniques & Southern Lifestyles based out of Tennessee

Paris Day 1 ~ Sept 2018

This was our first time to visit Paris, and after being there a few days, I realized just how big the city it is! When I was trying to decide where to stay, research kept pointing me to Le Marais, so I chose an apartment there. Le Marais was a nice neighborhood with lots of restaurants, bakeries, etc., however, it was quite a ways from many of the sites we wanted to see. I learned my lesson that from now on I will map and measure off distance from our apartment to sites! So from our apartment in Le Marais the first morning, we set off with the Notre Dame as our first destination to beat the crowds. I loved this cool door in our neighborhood!IMG_5416 It took us about 15 minutes of fast walking to reach the Hotel de Ville and Notre Dame.

IMG_5409Hotel de Ville (City Hall) is a beautiful building just before you reach the River Seine and Notre Dame. Our stylish Denise waiting to cross… Doesn’t she look Parisian? IMG_0457The sound of a violin drew us to the bridge first – what a lovely addition!

Time to see the Notre Dame! The crowds weren’t bad and the line moved quickly.

They were preparing for mass, and Monica and Denise stayed for the service, while Wally and I went outside to see more of the exterior.

As I was preparing this blog, seven months after our trip (it’s taken a while!), we were horrified to hear the Notre Dame Cathedral was on fire. We watched the news, sickened, as the spire toppled, and the firemen fought to save the cathedral. We were relieved they saved most of artifacts and the majority of the cathedral, and it will be interesting to see what arises from the ashes of this most famous landmark. I’m so glad we were able to see it and appreciate it in all its glory! Here were two photos that were circulating on Facebook the day of the fire that were so moving. I’m sorry I don’t know who the photographers are, but they captured the horror of the day.

Notre Dame burning from backNotre Dame burning, eiffel bkgSo back to our September day… While the girls were still inside, I spied this couple on the bridge next to the cathedral.

Re-grouped, we wandered along the river until we came to the royal chapel, The Saint-Chappelle, famous for its stained glass. We decided against going inside as we were starving at this point, so will have to save that for another visit. http://www.sainte-chapelle.fr/en/

Just across the way, a busy restaurant drew our attention. Brasserie Les Deux Palais was the perfect lunch find! Hmmm… what to drink… and eat… https://www.brasserielesdeuxpalais.fr/en/

Heaven in Paris! My mouth is watering now just remembering…Time to find the Eiffel Tower! We decided to check out the public metro system and it was easy.

Without a clear destination in mind, we wandered through the park and out the back of the park. I had read about the fabulous Art Deco buildings of Paris, and here was an amazing one! Gorgeous!

Feet hurting and tired, we decided to Uber back to the apartment to rest a while. Then it was back out to see the Eiffel Tower and Paris at night…We had a great Uber driver that stopped in traffic to get our picture at the Arc de Triomphe and a view from the bridge.

Much more to come!

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Metz, France to Paris ~ Sept 2018

Leaving Colmar, Paris was our last stop on our journey, however, we had a slight detour along the way. I had done research on Denise’s family, and had found one of her family branches of ancestors were from Metz, France. So we decided to stop off and see their famous Metz St. Stephen’s Cathedral as our lunch stop. After driving around the town a bit lost, we finally figured out where the parking garage was, along with the restrooms! There was an indoor food market “Marche Couvert” just across from the church, so we made a quick run through to see their offerings.

 

 

I loved the exterior elements of the cathedral – so many little details! Then we entered the cathedral, and the stained glass windows were boggling! So many colors and designs and elements to take in! Wow! According to their tourism website: http://www.tourisme-metz.com/en/sites-and-monuments/st-stephen-s-cathedral_s.html#.XKeYLKYkrMI

“Built between 1220 and 1552, it is the product of the unification of two distinct churches. With its 42 metre high vaults, it is one of the highest Gothic edifices in Europe. With its 6,500 m² of stained glass windows, the nickname “God’s lantern” is well merited. There are windows from the 13th to the 20th centuries by Hermann de Münster, Thiebault de Lixheim, Valentin Bousch, Jacques Villon and Marc Chagall. These masterpieces of the art of fire and light form a veritable encyclopaedia of the art of stained glass”

 This is the official website of the cathedral: http://cathedrale-metz.fr/#accueil. After our cathedral tour, we discovered a food court area just a few blocks away that had outdoor seating with restaurants and food kiosks around it. We went for the greasy sandwiches and French fries.

 

Back to the car and onward to PARIS!! Note the packed full back of the car… It was pretty countryside along the way, with farming all the way to the outskirts of Paris.

 

We made it into Paris and found our key pickup spot and finally, our apartment in Le Marais relatively easily. Wally and Monica went to return the rental car, while Denise and I started ferried our bags up the tiny elevator and stairs to our apartment. Our apartment was just a short walk from Place de la Republique, which is lively night and day!

 

 I found our apartment through Homeaway: https://www.homeaway.com/vacation-rental/p229862vb?utm_campaign=HAUS_TRV_RES_HASC_reservationaccept_PPS&utm_content=propthumb_image_o_lprop&utm_term=20180212&utm_source=SYS&utm_medium=email&haExternalSourceId=d5dd50d8-1c3b-4ad8-897c-f7c7afdc2b01+f866c334-fa2d-4f11-bca6-062fe87d9aaf-hasc

 

Our apartment was definitely secure with an outer locked door, inner barred gate, another interior door to get to the stairwell and then our apartment door! Wally and Monica texted they were trapped downstairs, and to please let them up. They had walked quite a ways from the rental car drop and were worn out and looked pitiful (they’re going to kill me for posting these, but they’re hilarious)! Brother-sister pain!

 

Time to get a drink and unpack! Luckily we’d brought lots of wine and liquor with us! After getting settled in and a few cocktails, we walked out to Place de la Republique and discovered swing dancing going on! How fun!

 

Big day tomorrow as we explore Paris!

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Colmar, France & Alsace Region ~ Sept 2018

Colmar is billed as one of the prettiest towns in France, and it lived up to its fame! What a charming, lovely town! I adored all of the flowers and the quaint “half timbered” architecture of the buildings, and the canals running through town. I found a great apartment “Grimm” right in the middle of the town, with parking just below. We couldn’t have asked for a better location, and the apartment was huge! It could have fit a very large large family, and was very cheap compared to many other locations we had booked on the trip. This was our building.  https://www.cotoon.com/en/rentals/apartment-colmar-grimm-196118.html?head=1

 

 

It was yet another beautiful fall day, and we wandered around town, browsing in and out of shops and churches. I love this town!!

 

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Wally discovered this divine bakery just down the street from the apartment and brought us goodies, Boulangerie Kraetz Claude. Look at the artistry of those shutters and that food!! My mouth is watering – I want a bakery do over! I didn’t get to taste enough!

 

This was so sweet, these gentlemen slowly strolling down the street, the younger assisting the elder. IMG_5209Day 2: Alsace Villages & Wine Tasting

 On our way out of Colmar to begin our wine villages drive, we were astonished to see a perfect replica our our Statue of Liberty!! We googled it and found the sculptor was from Colmar! How cool is that?

It was just a short drive north, and our first stop of the famous Alsace wine villages was Ribeauville. Just as you drive into town is the Cave de Ribeauville, their village wine cooperative. We did a round of wine tasting and we all agreed – delicious!! We bought several different wine varieties and Wally got a “eau de vie” distilled liquor. https://www.vins-ribeauville.com/

https://www.tourisme-alsace.com/en/229002794-Cooperative-Wine-Cellar-Cave-de-Ribeauville.html

 

 

 

After our tasting, we went back outside and farmers were pulling in with tractors and their trailers brimming with fresh picked grapes.

 

I saw a big white bird flapping around in a tree across the street, and realized it was a STORK!! They are famous in the area, and this was the first time I had ever seen one. So exciting!! Wally was happy to sit and wait on the girls and sip on his eau de vie.

 

We drove on through Ribeauville, steering towards the next village destination of Riquewihr. Vineyards are everywhere throughout the valley, with castles perched up on the hilltops.

 

Riquewihr is known as one of the prettiest villages in France and you can see why! We wandered through town, dodging into shops and wine cellars, and admiring the creativity and artistry of the village. Of course we had to sample the fresh pretzels, and the smell of macaroons cooking drew us like bees to honey. https://www.ribeauville-riquewihr.com/en/discover/riquewihr.htm

 

 

Back on the wine road, Kayersburg was our last stop for the day as evening was coming. We made a quick run through the village, and the church is a main feature to be sure and see inside.

 

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What a perfect day in Alsace! If you’re a wine lover, you could linger here for many days or weeks, sampling your way through their wineries and charming villages. I would highly recommend this area be on your itinerary when you visit France! For dinner, we tried a nice restaurant in Colmar, L’Amandine, that had lots of patio seating right next to this church. We tried the escargot for the first time and agreed that these were very good! IMG_5331

 

Time to pack up for our morning journey to Metz and on to Paris, our last stop on our journey!

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A drive through the Alps with lunch at Gruyeres, Switzerland ~ Sept ’18

It was checkout day from Chamonix, France, and I had mapped our route through the Alps to Colmar with Gruyeres, Switzerland, as our lunch destination. The drive through the narrow winding, STEEP roads through the Alps was quite scary at times, with the girls biting their nails in the back seat. On some sections, parts of the shoulder and road had fallen away, leaving one lane only!

We found a good pull out point and stopped for a quick picture and a stress break. Wally was having fun with scaring us even more than necessary with his driving. Alps group pictureAs we wound down the mountains, vineyards clung to the sides of the hills everywhere and then we made it to the Rhone Valley floor. It was a pretty drive onward through Switzerland, with farms and cattle dotting the landscape. Gruyeres is perched up on a hill, and you get a good view of the surrounding area.

We found a good parking spot and walked into town, which was pretty and very touristy! After wandering around a bit and looking at menu boards, we chose a restaurant that had a nice view from the back of the village. Of course there was lots of Gruyeres cheese on the menu and we ordered several different items to sample. YUM! After lunch we explored a bit more, walking up to the castle and admired all the cool sculptures and art of HR Giger. His art gallery and museum are located just before the castle. https://www.hrgigermuseum.com/index2.php?option=visit

Time to move onward – north to Colmar! We ended up taking the two lane highway instead of the motorway, and there were so many charming little farm villages we passed through. I was sitting in the back seat, so didn’t get to snap good pictures, which I hate I missed! If you love farm country, I would highly recommend taking the scenic highway!

IMG_5153IMG_5154Next up, Colmar and the Alsace wine region!

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Into the Alps: Annecy to Chamonix ~ Sept 2018

We departed Aix, headed north to the Alps, with Annecy our lunch destination along the way. We drove along Lake Annecy until we found a place to park, which luckily was right in front of the public pier. And WOW! What scenery! Crystal clear water and the gorgeous mountains with sailboats and boats bobbing along. Just so serene and peaceful, but this was in the fall, so I imagine it’s buzzing during the summer.

We drove into town and following the parking signs, looking for a space. There was something going on in the park, and the first few lots were full, but we finally got lucky in a pay lot. We checked out several of the menu boards, and settled on La Brasserie L’Abbaye for lunch. Mmmm, so good! Some pizza, some French dishes, and some local beer and wine. Perfect! https://www.abbaye-annecy.com/

We didn’t have long to check out the town, so the girls and Wally chose to go hang out by the lake for a little while, and I raced through town taking photos along the way. It’s such a pretty town, and we all agreed worth spending more time on a future trip if in the area.

They have a wonderful park by the lake where people can enjoy the lakeside beauty.  IMG_4733Time to hit the road again to our evening destination, Chamonix. The views became breathtaking as we went along.

We stopped just outside town to get a picture of the clouds on the mountains.

We arrived as the sun was retreating, leaving the mountains and Mont Blanc topped in gold. After getting checked into our Hotel Morgane we grabbed a drink and walked to the main part of town to check it out.  https://www.morgane-hotel-chamonix.com/en/

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Such an charming, colorful town with a boggling backdrop! I loved all the flowers everywhere and the painted buildings. We caught the end of their market day, and I bought a few little souvenirs.

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The water is a pale aqua and I imagine frigid! The flowers were just gorgeous!

We wandered, had some more drinks at the local wine shop that had an outdoor patio, listened to the band play for a while and headed in for the night.

Our morning excursion was taking the lift up the mountain, and it was just down the street from us. The lift to the top was closed when we were there, so we only got to go to the midway station. From there we hiked around a bit, had some hot cocoa in the gift shop, got our photos and back down. https://www.chamonix.com/lifts,88,en.html

What views! And we were glad we had our jackets!

We had breakfast at a little cafe and while there, this fellow brought in a big bag of porcini mushrooms he had found in the mountains. So pretty and yummy to eat! The most handsome dog was lying just outside the cafe.

Many of the stores were having big fall sales, so we did an hour or so of quick shopping, getting some great winter clothing bargains.

Bye Bye Chamonix! We loved you and will be back. One night wasn’t nearly enough! Onward to Colmar to the north…

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Lourmarin Market Day, Roussillon & Gordes, France ~ Sept 2018.

I had read Lourmarin’s Market Day was great, so it was on our “must do” for the day. We found a great parking spot, and started down the trail into the village. We are amazed to see snails all over the fence along the way! https://www.provenceweb.fr/e/vaucluse/lourmari/lourmari.htm

The town was hopping with locals and some tourists, all enjoying the fabulous warm sunny day in Provence. The band playing set the perfect mood to wander through the market and shop.

There were so many things I wanted to buy and bring home!!! There was artisan goods, food, and cool stuff in every vendor’s booth, and we all bought lots of treasures. We bought black truffle cheese (about $70 worth unknowingly – “slice us about that much” we said!), a stylish shirt for Wally, a cashmere shawl for me, some Italian linen dresses (so cheap!!), lavender essential oil, and several other odds and ends.

Le Comptor was THE place to lunch, and after putting our name on the list, we got a table a while later (shopping in the mean time of course). The rose wine was divine, and all of our dishes were perfect. Wally ordered the steak tartare (rare pile of meat, bleck), but he seemed to enjoy it.

Lourmarin is a very small village, so we browsed all the shops on our way out. Wally struck up a conversation with an Asian American golfer, and we saw the Lourmarin castle from the village.

Time to go… next village awaits.

Onward to Roussillion, village famous for their red ochre cliffs and buildings. http://roussillon-en-provence.fr/english.html.

Here’ s a bit of the drive along the windy, hill road.. don’t watch it if you get car sick!

We made a brief stop at the top to take a panorama picture…

There was a recently harvested lavender field – wish we could have seen it in bloom!

We found the parking lot and made our way to the side of the cliffs, where they have information about the red ochre cliffs and the town. What a gorgeous setting!

It didn’t take us long to walk around the village, and I bought several little painted dishes from the ceramic artist at Atelier Marchand de Couleurs. https://www.marchand-couleurs.fr/qui-sommes-nous.php The town is just so picturesque! We had some cocktails and snacks before getting back in the car to go on to Gordes.

It was getting late in the afternoon when we got to Gordes, so we decided on a “drive-through” of the village. The stacked stone walls everywhere are pretty amazing!

We drove back to our apartment in Aix to relax and recover from our whirlwind day! And it’s time to pack up – we leave Aix and drive north to Chamonix and Mont Blanc tomorrow.

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L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue & Aix, France ~ September 2018

L’Isle-Sur-La-Sorgue was on my radar to visit as I had read they had antique shops, and a big monthly antique market. We weren’t going to be there during the big antique market weekend, but I wanted to visit anyway. The weather was looking nasty, but we decided to head out instead of sitting in the apartment for the day. We caught their regular weekly market as it was closing up, and wandered around town in the rain. It’s also known for their streams and many water wheels around town, and it added to the charm of this small town.