Tag Archives: France

Impressions of Normandy

Monet’s garden in Giverny is the quintessential stop on the Impressionist trail, but it’s certainly not the only one. Continue west further into Normandy, and you’ll come across some other places where he was inspired to paint.


Beginning in 1892, Monet spent a year camped out in front of Rouen’s cathedral, capturing the play of light on its façade at different times of the day and in various seasons. In all, he produced some thirty paintings of the Gothic church, none of which included the scaffolding and advertisements that besmirched the exterior while we were there.

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Night and Day on Mont Saint Michel

Mont Saint Michel at Night

Its familiar silhouette beckoned us in pictures and postcards for as long as we can remember. In some ways this walled city that appears to have sprouted from a rocky outcropping off the Normandy Coast is as much a symbol of France as is the Eiffel tower. And yet, somehow, we had never seen it with our own eyes before. On our latest trip back to France we were determined to change that.


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There Is No English Word for Bon Appetit

French Cheese

On my first trip to France fifteen years ago I learned something important about myself. After returning recently for a seven-week visit, I became more certain than ever. I was French in a former life.

Every time I come to France I’m struck by how completely at home I feel. And it’s not just the thousands of châteaux that dot France’s lush landscapes or its seemingly endless supply of picture-perfect towns that I adore. It’s the culture that calls to me. It’s the way people live their lives and the way they set their priorities that just seems right to me.

How so, you ask? Well, let’s set the table, as they say (because what could be more French than that) with a few pertinent facts.

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Like Shooting Chateaux in the Loire


Château de Chenonceau

With hundreds of châteaux dotting France’s sprawling Loire Valley, finding one is easier than shooting fish in a barrel. Choosing which of the magnificent dwellings to visit, and which to leave for another time, is a far harder task. Here’s how we managed to decide.

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Finding the “Real” France, Online

Country guesthouse in France

“How did you find this place? This is the real France.”

A fellow lodger at a guest house in the French countryside north of Cognac seemed surprised to find us at the breakfast table. His tone was curious, with a shade of condescension, as he asked how we had possibly found this charming family farmhouse in a tiny village that had no obvious tourist enticements.

He was there by happenstance. An Englishman on a solo walking trek to Spain, he had injured himself the day before and decided to find lodging in the area and recoup for the evening.

We were there by design. I wasn’t sure how to break it to him, but the out-of-the-way farmhouse in the real France is listed on Booking.com.

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