I just returned from 16 glorious days in France. The journey included six days in Paris and ten days on the road, driving through the rolling countryside to pebble beaches, sun-kissed villages, and major cities. Today I’m posting some “postcards” from the first week of the trip.
1. Vélib’ at work (above).
The good news: Vélib’, the city’s bike-share program, seems to be a smashing success. Bike stations are everywhere in the city, with new pick-up (and drop-off) stations being added frequently. The bad news: I didn’t get to try it out. I will next time, I promise.
2. Hotel “Jeanne Dark”
We’ve recommended the Hotel Jeanne d’Arc in the Marais since the site launched in 2001. We’ve never had any complaints–it’s a cute guesthouse with a “country” touch and reasonable rates. When I stayed on July 25 with my parents, however, the hotel experienced a very unusual power outage. The rooms at the Jeanne D’Arc were without electricity all evening and night, meaning that teeth were brushed and faces washed by the lights from cell-phone screens, watches, and laptops. At 2:45 AM, POOF!, the juice came back on, and those of us with the switches flipped the wrong way experienced a bright, unscheduled wake-up call.
3. Bouillabaisse in Marseille’s Old Port
We took the TGV south to Nimes, and then rented a car and made day-trips around Provence. One of those trips was to Marseille, where we feasted on fresh fish at a restaurant along the (very active) port. Above, the waiter presents the fish before “preparing” them for the bouillabaisse.
4. The Roman Arena in Arles
Lovely Arles, in the heart of Provence, was colonized by the Romans in about 125 BC. Many important sites from those Roman days can be visited today and are a major tourist draw. The most popular of these is the town’s gorgeous Roman Arena, built in 1 BC, and still used today for bullfights.
5. Carcassonne’s “La Cite” is worth the hike
Heading west from Nimes, we drove through Montpellier and to the walled Medieval city of Carcassonne. We spent the night at the chic (and affordable) Maison Costes B&B in the town center, but dined in “la Cite,” the town’s famous walled fortress. From the city’s center, the hike isn’t very far, but it’s a steep one. And if you take advantage of the region’s delicious wines over dinner, the walk back—downhill—can be tricky!
Coming next week: Photos from week two!