Monday, May 12, 2014

France 2014 - Part 3

April 10 – Thursday

Early breakfast again at the hotel, then back to the Metro to go to the Louvre. There, we had a dedicated museum guide, Eneka, who provided a two-hour-plus overview. We saw all the highlights, but didn’t begin to scratch the surface. 

Our friend, Bob Schwenck, would have been very frustrated because the dense crowds prevented really taking the time to contemplate the artwork. We got there at opening, but it was still jam-packed and grew worse as the morning went on.
The Winged Victory—one of the museum’s masterpieces—was not on display as they were renovating the staircase where it usually stands. We did see the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa as well as many other iconic works. (It was impossible to get anywhere near the Mona Lisa, and because she is now behind glass, her eyes no longer appear to follow you.)
We finished our guided tour at noon. Some people chose to stay in the museum for the afternoon, but we decided to walk through the Tuileries Gardens (Jardin des Tuileries) and eat outdoors there. Wonderful decision.
We’d been very hot inside the museum, and the fresh air and slight breeze outside felt refreshing. We stopped at a small café in the center of the garden. I had a traditional chicken sandwich on a baguette and Larry decided on the quiche Lorraine again. (He said it was good, but the ones we’d had the first two nights were better.)
We walked to the Place de la Concorde, where we saw the obelisk and looked down the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Back to the Metro, we took the train to our hotel.
After a short rest, we walked to Rue Cler where I had seen some scarves I liked. We bought some for Christmas gifts as well as small Eiffel Towers for ornaments. Then, after ice cream cones, we returned to the hotel for a short nap.
When we awoke, we stopped at the ATM for more cash, then went back to the same restaurant where we’d eaten the night before. This time, I had the Caesar salad (with chicken, eggs, and tomato in addition to the cheese and croutons). Larry ordered the special dessert with coffee ice cream, coffee syrup, and lots of whipped cream. Of course, he ate some of my salad as well as his dessert. I ordered a single scoop of coffee ice cream. When it arrived, however, it didn’t taste like coffee. It was more like salted caramel, but it was very good. Larry had to try some to be sure it wasn’t coffee-flavored.
Back to the hotel to pack in preparation for our departure the next morning.

April 11 – Friday

Up at 6:45 a.m. for breakfast and then packed and in the lobby for our 8:00 departure. Our bus arrived along with our driver, Renè.
We headed out of the city for the countryside. 
On the way, Virginie gave us quite a bit of history as well as telling us about life in France. She also taught us a word of the day in French so our vocabularies were growing. She added at least one new word each day of the tour. Of course, we had our French phrasebooks with us at all times. In Paris it was quite easy to manage with very few French words since most people in the stores and restaurants spoke some English. However, in the countryside, many fewer people spoke or understood English, so it was our obligation to attempt to use the local language.
Our first stop of the day was Cháteau de Guédelon, a medieval castle being constructed using only the tools and techniques which would have been employed during the 13th century. Construction on this fortress had begun about sixteen years earlier. A few regular workers were paid, but in the summer, many volunteers joined the force.

During the early years, many archaeologists, castleologists, and historians were consulted on the design and construction techniques. By the time of our visit, those same groups were consulting with the builders since they now knew more about how these structures were actually created. Some commonly held assumptions have been negated, and new discoveries have been made along the way.
We really enjoyed our visit and our guided tour of the various buildings. Our guide, Hein, showed us some of the actual techniques and tools used as well as some of the finished rooms and structures.
During our tour, one of the gals in our group, Linda, became quite ill and had to be transported to the small makeshift infirmary on the property. (She later joked she actually did it so she could be carried on a liter by the four handsome young workmen!)
Lunch consisted of sandwiches and dessert in the picnic area. While Larry went back onto the site to take more photos, I went to the gift shop and picked up a few more gifts. What a fun place! It is now a must-see location for school groups so they can learn about their history. I wanted to be one of those kids!
Back on the bus, Linda said she felt a little better after resting, but as we drove through the Loire valley, she worsened. We arrived in Bourges, a small medieval town in the Burgundy region with a large cathedral. While others in the group took her luggage, Linda was assisted to the hotel Best Western Hôtel Angleterre Bourges and settled into a room. The rest of us checked in and then joined our city guide, Hélène, for a walking tour.

This town still had many of the original medieval half-timbered houses. Over five hundred remained, the most of any town in France. These were well-preserved and still occupied. The town was originally surrounded by a fourth-century Roman wall, some of which was still visible.
The cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne de Bourges) was built by the brother of the cardinal who built Notre Dame de Paris. The two are very, very similar, except the one in Bourges is larger and has no transept. Beautiful stained glass windows and painted chapels made it spectacular.

At 7:00, after our tour, we went to dinner at Au Sénat restaurant for an amazing five-course meal.
We began with a toast of kir, followed by an amuse-bouche—a single bite to entice the palate. A tiny dish held pureed beets, topped with finely-chopped shallots, accompanied by a minute, thin piece of crisp toast. One lovely bite.
Next came the appetizers—something of a misnomer since any of them could have been an entrée. Larry had eggs poached in red wine. I had a terrific potato cake with sour cream and a green salad. I tried to pace myself, so I only took a couple of bites of each course.
Following that course, came the entrees. Larry chose the coq au vin with noodles, and I had roasted pork with lentils. Yummy!
Next came the cheese course, delicious warm, soft goat cheese on a thin piece of lightly-toasted bread.
Last, the desserts. Larry’s was a pear poached in red wine with vanilla ice cream. I had a pear tart with whipped cream.
I only tried a little of each course, but by the end of the meal, I was stuffed. Larry, of course, not only ate his but also most of mine.
We finished at about 9:30. The brisk walk back to the hotel helped to settle our dinner.
We went to bed at about ten o’clock, still full and ready for our next adventure.

To be continued...


  1. Loved this! What a great trip and the descriptions of the food made me hungry.

    1. The best food ever! I thought Italy was spectacular--and it was. But France is at lest a tie.