An afternoon away from the hustle and bustle of Paris is refreshing, not only for the change of pace, but also for the reminder that not all of France is Paris :)

The forest and chateau of Fontainebleau is only about 35 miles away and adjacent to the forest is the small village of Barbizon. It’s a side trip worth making, especially if you have a car, but if you take public transportation, the easiest way to get here is to go to Fontainebleau and then take the short taxi ride to Barbizon (about 10-15 minutes) on the other side of the forest. Barbizon School was named after this town and this is still an artist colony with mosaics that line the main street.

The entrance to the Barbizon School.

There are charming places to eat and sleep if you want to stay in town, ranging from inexpensive to very expensive.

There are numerous ateliers where artists work and showcase their craft.

 Some homes are private sanctuaries

 while others are sometimes open for tours (but not on Mondays or Tuesdays).

 Sometimes it’s a pleasure to go to school :)

The Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye was Louis XIV’s home before he moved to Versailles, and they held their Fête Nationale Française (Bastille Day celebration) the evening before, complete with awarding a Medal of Honor to a very distinguished military man, a parade of firetrucks, the presence of politicians (the Mayor arrived 30 minutes late holding up the entire show), and a marching band.

 I tried to snap the military man’s medals (that dark spot on his upper left pocket is a plethora of medals) but they never completely faced the crowd.

 The fire trucks ranged from big to small, one with its own water tank, and one SUV.

 During the parade, the grand daddy of the fire trucks took the lead :)

 The marching band was much easier to photograph.

As evening fell, the lights started coming on to announce music and fireworks.

A huge globe lit up the concert and fireworks area as people sought a place on the grass. I felt like I was at a very clean organized version of Woodstock (I know that is an oxymoron) since the theme was “Rock & Fire” meaning rock music and fireworks.

The show started as soon as the live band was done playing with a breathtaking display,

and even had some Pink Floyd,

before ending with this:)

I’ll be watching the festivities at the Champs-Elysées and the Eiffel Tower today from the comfort of my living room, but I was so glad to have been at a smaller celebration last night!

The Normandy countryside is as charming as the seaside; I stayed at the Bed and Breakfast, Le Pré aux Daims, which is only 15 minutes from Deauville, but a world away in style. It may be nice to use GPS, but some places in the countryside are not mapped out, so asking locals along the way if you are on the correct road is a very good idea. Thankfully a young man sitting at a bus stop knew the roads well enough to give directions that GPS did not know.

The one lane road to the Pré aux Daims has views like this,

 and the driveway looks like this,

 before you arrive:)

The inn is every bit as welcoming and well maintained as it looks, with chairs and tables for the included breakfast, or if you want to picnic. Since there are no restaurants are nearby, you might want to stop for a meal before you arrive or bring some provisions with you.  The innkeepers, Martine and Gilbert, speak excellent English and German, as well as their native tongue, so ask them for recommendations.

There are very happy deer on one side of the property,

 and a goat or two on the other side,

separated by fences adorned with flowers.

It was far too chilly for me to lounge in the sun, but for those who think 70F is warm, there were chairs available.

 The view from my room outside,

 and the view of the room inside, which was as spotless and comfortable as it looks.

Breakfast can be eaten inside or out. It was sunny enough to breakfast with the deer, and though some people wore only short sleeves, I needed my sweater:) A German family with a small child and a couple of French regulars were the only other guests in the 5 rooms and 1 apartment available. The rooms start at 65 Euros ($70 US), or you can rent the 60m2 apartment for 450 Euros ($500 US) for the week, all rentals come with a continental breakfast. Make sure you have enough cash to pay when you arrive because they do not accept credit cards.

Coffee or tea, or hot chocolate,  with refills (unusual in France), orange juice,

 and the selection of bread and pastries was fresh and copious.

 I opted for the bread so I could try some of their jams, which included flavors like kiwi and rhubarb:)

The deer ate plenty of freshly mowed lawn for breakfast, and like wonderful hosts, they got up to say goodbye :)

The Grand Hotel and Casino in Cabourg welcomes visitors, but

right next to the Grand Hotel are some grand homes for part time residents,

most of which stood empty and shuttered awaiting their residents in July and August.

Some of the shuttered homes face the beach

which is as empty as the homes in June.

 The center of town had a nice marché with clothes and trinkets for sale at very discounted prices, like 5 Euros ($6) for leather coin purses.

 If you didn’t want to shop, there were other amusements.

A little further south is Omaha Beach, with a memorial, a souvenir shop, and a theatre showing  a commemorative film. Even if you just want to stop to take a look, you will have to pay for parking which will cost 6 Euros for the day or any portion thereof, even 5 minutes!

 There was a convention of old Triumphs and motorcycles from the UK in the parking lot.

The memorial stands overlooking all the beaches with bunkers still visible in the ocean.

 Inland from the beach is the town of Bayeux.

The famous Cathedral can be seen from afar like a beacon enticing everyone to come closer. Driving into town there are wonderful buildings which have stood in place for centuries.

 The town square in front of the Cathedral is a gathering place, with cafés, shops, and a wedding!

Entering through the back of the Cathedral near the City Hall or Mairie gives visitors a glimpse of the majestic building from a rare angle. This Cathedral is as or more spectacular than Notre Dame in Paris, I stood in awe at the craftsmanship and beauty of it!

 Every angle is magnificent.

The tree in the courtyard is a reminder that no matter how people may build monuments, nature will always persevere.

Au revoir Bayeux :)

Honfleur has been painted by many artists over the years and once you arrive at the harbor, you immediately understand why. Today there are more British expats than artists in residence, but the charming village feel of this port remains.

 There are numerous streets stretching out from the harbor.

All the streets in the heart of the city are cobblestones, so make sure you wear the proper shoes!

 If you have a tiny car, you can drive in, but it’s a labyrinth.

The biggest wooden church in France is Sainte Catherine’s

and yes you can enter and/or attend a service.

Some buildings have the year they were built literally engraved in stone.

 City Hall is a much more modern building.

Driving along the coast, Villerville looked like a movie set, and it was!

The fictional town of “Tigreville” in the Jean Gabin and Jean Paul Belmondo film, “A Monkey in Winter“, was shot here and numerous posters, pictures, and plaques note that fact.

 Even the town church was picturesque.

 There are access points down to the coast

 and you can stroll above the surf.

This is the view of where the Seine joins the Atlantic.

 My favorite view was the path leading south :)

The Atlantic coast of France is best experienced in the Summer, so I went to Normandy for the first time in the middle of June; for someone who has lived in Southern California, it was still chilly :) The most well known city is Deauville, where the film festival is held and rich city dwellers have Summer homes. The casino is a beautiful building on the edge of the coast.

The beach is laid out into sections with various services available along each section

including private cabanas named after famous actors and actresses, a bit like the stars on Hollywood Boulevard.

 There is a long boardwalk along the beach

 and various shelters from wind and sun on the beach itself,

 which was empty in mid June,

 as were the beachside cafes

 and Summer homes.

 Downtown Deauville was a bit more inhabited,

 and even had a small train going from the center of town to the beach.

 The center of town also had activities like shopping at high end stores,

 sleeping in the grand hotel,

 and strolling the city center park in front of Printemps department store.

Trouville is a much smaller city just north of Deauville and IMHO much more charming:)

There is a casino here but it was being renovated.

The main reason people came here was for the “Sea Cure” or as I would call it, “Fresh Air”.

If you don’t want to swim in the cold ocean, there is a heated pool.

The City Hall is as picturesque as the city itself.

Shops and restaurants line the harbor

offering seafood from Brittany and local catches like bulots (sea snails).

The beach amenities are built alongside the old bunkers from the war,

and as a symbol of how things have changed on the Normandy beaches, flowers now adorn the bunkers.

The beaches were almost empty,

as were the harbors,

but I saw Elvis hanging out:)

The Museum of Architecture has so many models of old and new that I couldn’t fit all the photos I took in one post, so here is part 2; this is the other half of the ground floor of the old as well as the upper floor of the modern. Enjoy!

A close up.

The other half of the ground floor (the photos in yesterday’s post) can be seen and entered through several openings.

This archway

had incredible details underneath, like this in the center,

and this on the sides underneath the arch.

The intricate work standing from a few feet away,

is even more amazing up close.

There is an elevator or stairs to the upper level of modern architecture.

The Radio France Building and

the Citroen Building, both exist in present day Paris.

Resorts built into the natural landscape, skyscrapers, and temporary structures built for exhibition from all over the world, fill the upper level. There are also many video presentations about how certain structures were designed and built; I saw many students with notebooks, taking notes.

The upper floor also has a smaller exhibition of frescoes and wall paintings.

The most impressive sight was seeing three of Paris’ great buildings through the windows of the Museum of Architecture. If the weather is nice, there is a ground floor cafe with a terrace overlooking the Eiffel Tower where you can enjoy a bite or a drink outside; a priceless way to spend some time in Paris :)

Trocadéro is a well known stop for pictures of the Eiffel Tower, and as many times as I’ve been, I had never gone inside the Museum of Architecture, known as the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, until yesterday. With so many wonderful museums here, it’s a challenge to see them all; like chateaux, each one is unique and depending on your interests and tastes, some will appeal more than others. For those who don’t have the time or desire to visit all the historical sights in France, this museum offers models of most of the most famous.

 A close up of archway.

 Even though the replicas are not life size, they are impressive.

 Scenes were sculpted into the architecture.

 A bit of the detail in close up.

 Imagine having to decide which designs you want!

 Clever look outs :)

 A close up of the same piece.

 Models done in different formats with different materials.

 Look familiar? Notre Dame in Paris:)

 I’ve never been to Chartres, and had no desire to go until I saw the replica of the Cathedral.

 He looks like he’s holding his nose :)

 Murals are also recreated showing what was inside some of the buildings.

 A staircase can be very elaborate.

More in my next post, including the upper floor modern section with views of the Eiffel Tower:)

This week-end was a celebration of parks in Paris, so I decided to go to Le Jardin des Plantes. I’ve been here once before when I rented a studio nearby, but it was in Winter, before I moved here. The balmy 70 F weather on Saturday, after a week of rain, made all the trees and plants come alive, as if to say “Finally some sun!” There are several areas for different kinds of plants from alpine to water based, and everything in between, including those that produce essential oils and food. Enjoy the photos as you stroll the garden with me :)

There were more people outside the greenhouse than inside!

There are several train (RER & SNCF Gare d’Austerlitz & Lyon), metro (Censier Daubenton, Austerlitz, Jussieu), and bus stops (24, 57, 61, 63, 67, 89 et 91) surrounding the garden, as well as a Vélib station.

You may of course arrive via private boat,

if you don’t live on one of the nearby barges:)

Rich Parisians have always had week-end “country” getaway homes. Josephine Bonaparte’s Chateau de Malmaison only about 30 minutes by RER and bus from Paris and well worth the trip and the modest 8.50 Euros ($10 USD) entry with free audio guide. The use of the house as the French government headquarters from 1800-1802, and Josephine’s love of flowers and her feminine touches are evident in both the gardens and the interior.

The front gate entry.

The front garden is full of flowers and roses.

A walking path from the front of the house to the front gate.

One side of the front garden includes a small vegetable patch.

The back yard is more natural with intentionally unmowed grass for animals.

The back entrance is as stately as the front

with Egyptian style decor.

Inside the foyer.

Even the doors are decorated

 as well as the ceilings.

Her husband Napoleon had a few mementos on display like his grooming set,

a few swords,

and of course his hat.

The billard room showed she enjoyed games,

 entertaining guests,

 playing music,

 and dining.

 The library,

 Josephine’s salon,

 and receiving rooms,

 showed details like swan chairs.

 Josephine’s bedchamber was like a sumptuous tent,

with incredible details like a sky painted ceiling

 and flower painting on every panel of the wall.

This was her jewelry box which held all the diamonds, emeralds, and rubies she owned:)

A small country home only about 12 miles from Paris :)

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