The first week started with a flight from Vancouver to London and London to Paris - and it was great to be in Paris again.

After a couple of years of flying directing to Paris, or to Nice in the South of France, a visit to Paris was long over due. So to be adventurous it was no to the cab ride from the airport and yes to the RER train. Taking the train from the airport to Paris is actually is easy and cheap. A free shuttle bus goes between the four Terminals to the rail station which is located a few minutes away. Tickets for the train ride are reasonable — about 7.25 E per person. Within thirty minutes we arrive at Châtlet. The train route goes along a series of major points with numerous shared Metro stations.

From Châtlet there is a short cab ride to our hotel. All very easy, however, after flying over 13 hours I have to ask if it is the right decision. The ride itself and getting to the train is very easy. But the lugging of your luggage up the endless stairs of the metro stations is not that easy with flight fatigue.

This year our hotel was in the area by the Eiffel Tower. This was quite different for us as previously we have always preferred to Marais District. Our hotel was a good value. The room comfortable, a reasonable size and at a good price for Paris. The Eiffel Park Hotel (Best Western) on rue Amélie was in a quite section of the town. None of the endless street noice of the Marais - but we missed the action and being closer to some of the areas that we prefer.

A very good bistro was close by, the "Le Bistrot Du 7" located at Boulevard de la Tour Maubourgh, 56 - (located down from rue de Grenelle). It is a great little restaurant and we recommend it as a good place to eat.

Of course, there is plenty to see in Paris. The Eiffel Tower, various monuments and, for me, no trip to Paris is complete without visiting my favorite gallery: Galleries LaFayette. This department store was built in 1906 as part of the Belle Epoque or "beautiful age" of Paris. Paris entered this age after the Franco-Pressian War and from 1890 into the early 1900's Paris was a city of prosperity and rebirth - the beautiful age.

This year because of flight arrangements we ended up being in Paris for the last part of the last week of August. The August shut down is a real event. There was a major difference in terms of traffic, people and businesses being open as soon as August concuded. No impact on the large sites like museums, but small, family run ventures were all closed. Yes for me, that meant some noted pen stores I searched out were closed.

Of course there are lots of other sites to see. Around Madeline there is a charming mall from the 1800s, and the art-deco metro signs a reminder of the rebirth of Paris. Off rue St. Germain we came across a most pleasant square. We recommend a few hours be put aside to walk along this street.

This was my first trip to the catacombs and I found them very interesting.

These exist as a result of a massive project that started in 1786 to clear out the millions of bones from the various cemeteries that had sprung up across the city. Each night the bones were collected and taken by cart to the old quarries near Montparnasse. At that time Montparnasse was outside of Paris.

You enter by walking down 130 steps and going along a network of tunnels. At the entrance to the main catacomb the inscription over the doorway reads: STOP THIS IS THE EMPIRE OF DEATH.

Sainte-Chapelle should not be missed. I was glad that I returned for another visit. Located near the Palais de Justice, this used to be the home to the French Kings before the revolt of 1358. Then the Kings move to the Louvre because it provided them with greater security. Sainte-Chapelle was originally built to house a collection of relics that Louis IX bought from the bankrupt empire of Byzantium. The Chapelle was finished in 1248. The height of the stained glass windows is stunning.

From Paris we traveled to Fontevaud l'Abbaye and then on to Vannes to visit friends.

We leave Paris and pick up our Renault TT car from the downtown location to start the drive towards Fontevraud l'Abbaye.

Once again, picking up the car is effortless, we highly recommend the Renault Eurodrive (TT) option if you are traveling in Europe for more than 21 days. The hardest part is getting from the Paris Renault dealership to the périphérique - the ring road around the centre core of Paris - all of two blocks, but two blocks you will never forget!

In the town of Fontevraud l'Abbaye we stayed at the Hotel La Croix Blanche. Although the hotel dates back to 1696, and is in a lovely setting and with charm, it was not a stay that we would recommend to others. Our room was okay, however, the hotel staff were somewhat abrupt, and eating at the restaurant left lots to be desired.

The Royal Abbaye Fontevraud dates from the 1200's and was run by a series of abbesses as opposed Abbots. Its history and link with royalty resulted in the desgination of "Royal Abbaye".

Fontevraud church cloistures

The Grand-Moûtin Cloisters are beautiful. More information in found in the Cloisters web site. The cloisters were the centre of abbaye life. These are in remarkable condition as they were restored in the 17th Century.

recumbent figuresThe counts of Anjoy bestowed to the Abbaye the recumbent figures, the stone and wood covers to the tombs of four high ranking English royalty and counts . These include Eleanor of Aquitaine, Henri II and Richard the Lion Heart. Richard the Lion Heart's heart is here. Yes, just the heart, the custom at the time was for different parts of a person of note's body to be sent to various abbayes and cathedrals across the country. That way everyone benefited from the pilgrimages that would come to visit the sites.

cook houseNapoleon once offered the recumbent figures back to England (as England at the time actually owned that part of France) but the offer was never acted upon -- much due to the protest of the people of France. But, offers are never forgotten and evidently in 2000 British Prime Minister Tony Blair raised the question of returning the incumbent figures to England - some 800 years later! The request has not gone over very well.

 

So all in all, the first week was very interesting. We next move on to Vannes to visit friends we made in France over ten years ago.

Vannes is on the Atlantic Coast north of the city of Bordeaux and is located at the head of the Golfe de Morbihan.

Staying with our friends in Vannes Cooking with Chantral
   

Seeing friends makes a trip all the most pleasing. We had a good visit with the Le Gouëfs and saw some of the sights of the area.

Stone houses in Le GorvelloLe Gorvello is a small town, well really a collection of old stone houses along the road, but once you arrive it quickly becomes the location for a major photo shoot. All the shutters are painted in blues, the stone houses that are in incredibly good condition, and there is not a tour bus in sight!

Le Gorvello

Rochefort-en-Terre is about a forty-five minute drive from Vanne and it is said that this town represents the real Bretagne as it existed in the past. A village, again with incredible stone houses and buildings, flowers everywhere, justt walk around and you will find yourselfe shooting off more than a few rolls of film. The 12th Century church is spotted with moss and the light through the stained glass windows can be just short of spirtual.

Rochefort-en-Terre

Rochefort-en-Terre

Rochefort-en-Terre

Rochefort-en-Terre

rochefort-en-Terre Church in Rochefort-en-Terre

We end our day by driving to the old town of Auray St Goustan. This town sits at the end of a long narrow inlet from the Bay of Morbihan. Lined with 15th and 16th century houses, this was once a major port along the coast. It is where Benjamin Franklin landed, and stayed, when he came to France to ask Louis XVI to help with the American War of Independence.

Auray St Goustan

Auray St Goustan

Auray St Goustan

Auray St Goustan

France

France

France The Eiffel Tower, moments and Galleries LaFayette in Paris. France France Square of rue St. Germain Paris shopping arcade from the 1800`s, the Metro^politan and a square on the left bank in Paris. catacombs of paris Catacombs in Paris.

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle should not be missed.

Fonteraud abbaye

Royal Abbaye Fontevraud