Sunday, August 14, 2011

Reims Cathedral-800 Year Anniversary

This year marks the 800 anniversary of Reims cathedral. On a recent visit this July, I revisited the Gothic masterpiece, classified by UNESCO, World Heritage site. Its building started in 1211 to replace an earlier church where Clovis was baptized in 496. Reims Cathedral has been the site of choice for the coronations of 29 kings of France since the 11th century. Of note, in 1429 Joan of Arc escorted Charles VII to his coronation in Reims. The architecture features beautiful and intricately sculpted limestone facade with smiling angels, soaring interior heights and a long narrow nave. Unfortunately, most of the cathedral's original stained glass windows have disappeared, victim of the ravage of time , weather, vandalism during the French Revolution and wars. We can still admire restored versions and new windows by modern artists like Marc Chagall and this past June to commemorate the 800 anniversary of the cathedral six new panes designed by German artist Imy Knoebel were installed. The highlight of my visit to Reims, was viewing the artful sound and light show projected on the cathedral's facade that retraced its long history. It can be viewed every night till the end of October and it is well worth a visit.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Paris Through the Ages Tour November 13-19, 2011

This is an enriching tour for first time visitors and those who desire to know the City of Light more intimately. We will retrace Paris’s history starting when Paris was known as Lutece. It will cover also art, gastronomy and savoir vivre.

Sunday November 13—The group participants will arrive in Paris and settle in their hotel on the left bank. Time to unwind and explore the neighborhood on your own. We will meet in the evening for a welcome dinner. D

Monday November 14- Gallo-Roman and Medieval Paris.

Today we will begin with an exploration of Paris’s Gallo Roman’s past. Conquered by Rome in 52 BC, Lutece as it was first called, developed as a thriving trading post along the Seine River. What remains today of Paris Roman past is Lutetia Arena or Ampitheatre, which is Paris oldest monument. In its heyday, it held 15, 000 seats for spectators eager to view Roman gladiator combat and games. Nearby is rue Mouffetard, a lively market street, which was a Roman road linking Lutecia to Rome. After lunch we will continue with a tour of Medieval Paris.

This will take us to the heart of the Latin Quarter, home to the Sorbonne. This colorful neighborhood of Paris has been the center of higher education ever since 1253 when Robert de Sorbon, Confessor of St. Louis founded a theological school. We will visit medieval alleys around St. Julien le Pauvre and St. Severin churches. You will discover streets with evocative names like rue de la Huchette, rue de laHarpe, rue de la Parcheminerie. We will end the tour on Ile de la Cite, the location of the magnificent Notre Dame cathedral. Evening and dinner at leisure. B/L

Tuesday November 15-Paris in the 17th century.

We will meet our expert tour guide today for a tour of Paris in the 17th century. Le Marais, an ancient area of marshes was turned into an aristocratic neighborhood in early 17th century. In 1605 the elegant Royal Square, known today as Place des Vosges was built. Many French noble families settle here and built impressive urban mansions like the Hotel de Sens, Hotel de Sully, Hotel de Soubise to name a few. Madame de Sevigne, the famous letter writer, lived in the Hotel Carnavalet from 1677 till her death in 1696. We will also evoke here the Jewish past of this neighborhood, which had been for centuries home to a vibrant community. Today le Marais, has been revitalized into the trendiest neighborhood of Paris and home to the Gay community.

After lunch in the Marais, we will continue our tour of 17th century Paris by heading south to the Ile Saint Louis, a small

island in the Middle of th

e Seine River. Along the Quais de Bethune and Orleans, you will discover an elegant 17th century architecture ensemble. We will make sure to stop at Berthillon, for a taste of Paris “best” ice-cream. Evening and dinner at leisure.


Wednesday November 16- Opera House and 19th century Paris

Your morning will be free to explore on your own, do some shopping or just linger at a cafĂ© terrace and just enjoy a lively Parisian scene. In the afternoon, we will meet our guide for a visit of 19th century Opera Garnier. Designed as part of the grand reconstruction of Paris called for by Emperor Napoleon III and executed by Paris Prefet Baron Haussman. Part of the renovation of Paris was to create wide avenues, too wide for rebellious Parisians to build barricades across them. The Opera House was designed by architect Charles Garnier in 1875 in the Beaux Arts style and features a grandiose staircase and a Chagall painted ceiling. The Opera Garnier was the inspiration of the book and subsequent play “Phantom of the Opera”. Did you know there is an underground lake? Evening and dinner at leisure.. B

Thursday November 17- Litterary and artistic St. Germain des Pes

The rest of the day will be free for you to explore on your own. B

Our morning visit today will explore St. Germains des Pres, a neighborhood with an artistic and intellectual reputation. Some past famous residents included Delacroix, Thomas Paine, Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, James Baldwin, Gertrude Stein, Serge Gainsbourg to name a few. After WWII, Black American musicians played in the miniscule jazz clubs that populated saint Germain des Pres in front of eager and appreciative audiences.

Friday November 18- Gourmet Montmartre and La Nouvelle Athens

Today will head to the colorful bohemian neighborhood of Montmartre for a gourmet tour. Along the picturesque rue Lepic, rue des Martyrs and rue des Abbesses, we will visit a local bakery, cheese shop, charcuterie, fish seller. We will end in front of Clos Montmartre Winery.

In the afternoon, we will head to the quartier known as ‘La Nouvelle Athenes”. Little known even by Parisiens, this district of Paris was the home of Romanticism in the 1820’s and 30’s. Frederic Chopin, George Sand, Alexandre Dumas and many others lived and thrived as artists here. You will be enchanted by the pretty alleys and handsome neo-classical private mansions. In the evening we will meet again for a farewell dinner. B/D

Saturday November 19- Tour ends after breakfast. Au revoir!!

B= Breakfast; L=Lunch; D= Dinner

Price : $2328 in double occupancy—Single

supplement: $700 (S3028)


6 nights at Hotel: Le Littre – a 4 star hotel in St. Germain des Pres/Montparnasse area


2 dinners and two lunches

Guided tours as described above

Three day metro pass

Tour leader a

t your disposal throughout the trip

Space is limited. To reserve please call toll free 866-313-2856 or email

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gateway to the Pyrenees

Today's stage 13 of the Tour de France took place in the heart of the Pyrenees. It started in the beautiful town of Pau (Po), birthplace of King Henry IV and of Jean Baptiste Bernadotte, Marshall of France in the Army of Napoleon and later King of Sweden and Norway. Pau is majestically situated in a plateau overlooking the Gave de Pau and benefits from a mild climate in which plants grow abundantly, in fact in the 19th century English well to-do travelers made Pau a resort destination and built here the first golf course on the continent. Pau has been on the Tour de France circuit 63 times making it one of its most popular stages.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Bon 14 Juillet!

Bastille Day is the French equivalent of Independence Day. It is traditionally celebrated with a large military parade down the Champs Elysees; evening streets dancing often organized by the firehouses in towns and villages all around France and splashy fireworks. There is no special food traditions on this special day unlike America where hot dogs, corn on the cobb and apple pie figure in many Independence Day celebrations. Here is a list of essential French words to help you in the celebration:

  • 14 Juillet ( Bastille Day)

  • Fete Nationale (National Holiday)

  • Feux D'artifice (Fireworks)

  • Firemen ball (Bal des Pompiers)

  • Hymne National (National Anthem)

  • Bleu, blanc, rouge (blue, white, red)

  • Defile (parade)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Storming of the Bastille

This year is the 222 year anniversary celebration of France's national Holiday- Bastille Day. In 1789 a mob of Parisians stormed a medieval fortress-jail in the middle of the city in search of gunpowder and that was the beginning of the French Revolution. This prison was however more a symbol of the absolute power of the Royalty than the awful prison it was made out to be. At the time of the storming it was nearly empty housing only seven old men, four forgers, two mentally ill residents and a gambling aristocrat. The fortress was destroyed bit by bit on July 15 and its stones carted away and sold as souvenirs and for building material. In fact, Paris Pont de la Concorde was built with stones from the Bastille. Le Marquis de Lafayette sent one of the keys of the Bastille to General Washington and today it is now on exhibit at the museum in Mont Vernon. Today you can view a bit of remains of the Bastille in the Metro Station Bastille (line 5).