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Archive for france

An Oasis in Paris

By Linda Tancs

Like New York City’s Central Park, Square du Temple in Paris’s Marais district is a lush oasis in the midst of a bustling city. It was designed in the English garden style in the 1800s, a site boasting over 82,000 square feet including an ornamental pool and waterfall, several walking paths, 191 varieties of plants and more than 70 trees. But what you can’t see is perhaps just as interesting as what you can see because the park is located above the remnants of the European stronghold of the Knights Templar. Free and open daily, the nearest Metro station is Temple.

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The Wall of Love

By Linda Tancs

Where else but in the “city of love” would you expect to find a “I Love You Wall”? A must-see for romance seekers in Paris (especially with Valentine’s Day right around the corner), Le mur des je t’aime is a mural built on a surface of 430 square feet comprising 612 squares of enameled lava, on which “I love you” is rendered 311 times in 250 languages. Located on the square at Place des Abbesses in Montmartre, admission is free.

The Burghers of Calais

By Linda Tancs

France and England may seem like kissing cousins in modern times thanks to the Chunnel (the predominately underwater rail tunnel linking the two countries), but history reminds us that it wasn’t always the case. Consider the Hundred Years’ War, when Calais was under siege by the English for about 11 months. Facing starvation, the French decided to surrender, led by six noblemen who were willing to be executed for the cause, only to be spared by the English king’s wife. The episode is marked by Rodin’s sculpture, La Statue des Six Bourgeois de Calais, the most photographed monument in the city. It stands in front of the Town Hall, considered one of the most beautiful in Europe, adorned with a massive belfry.

The Nectar of Gascony

By Linda Tancs

Armagnac, France’s first brandy, is over 700 years old. It hails from the Armagnac region in historical Gascony, where the art of making “ardent water” has prevailed since Roman times. Sometimes relegated to the status of second cousin to its rival cognac, the production of armagnac predates it by about 150 years. The grape harvest lasts from October to January, giving way to a months-long festival known as the Flame of Armagnac, a localized event where each weekend a flame is lit in a different still. Enjoy musical performances, tastings and walks through the vineyards.

The Lace of Queens

By Linda Tancs

The lace of queens or the queen of laces. Anyway you label it, the Normandy commune of Alençon has long been celebrated for its lace-making traditions. Thanks to the French court in the 17th century, a large number of women entered the lace-making trade to supply nobility with elaborate designs. The craftsmanship of this local lace is recognized by UNESCO on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. It takes seven to 10 years of training to master the Alençon form of needle lace-making.

The Light of Things in Bourges

By Linda Tancs

A popular medieval city in central France, Bourges is known for its half-timbered buildings. It’s also home to Saint Etienne Cathedral (a UNESCO World Heritage Monument) and Jacques Coeur Palace, a national monument in the flamboyant Gothic style commissioned by an influential French nobleman. As if the view by day isn’t fine enough, the city outdoes itself in summer with Illuminated Nights, bathing the top attractions in a light and sound show beginning at dusk. Lasting almost two hours, the show starts at Le Jardin de l’Archeveche beside the cathedral.

The Island of Mimosas

By Linda Tancs

Noirmoutier is an island off the west coast of France in the Vendée Départment of the Loire Atlantique province. It’s nicknamed the “island of mimosas” (no, not for the drink) because its temperate climate allows for the flowering of Acacia dealbata (mimosa) year-round. Its captivating name is translated “black monks,” a reference to the black cowls worn by the order of St. Philbert, the island’s founder. A popular seaside resort, make haste before the madding crowd arrives. Treat yourself to a two-hour cruise around the island on a Portuguese tall ship, O’Abandonado. You can even help hoist the sails.

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