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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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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The Chateau of Saint Germain-en-laye was Louis XIV’s home before he moved to Versailles, and they held their F√™te Nationale Fran√ßaise (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 ūüôā

 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-Elys√©es 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 ūüôā

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 ūüôā

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