Ah, Paris. Je t’aime.
Each May museums in more than 40 countries around Europe open their doors to the pubic for a free night of events. This year it’s happening on the 19th May and many museums and galleries around the continent will be open until midnight or sometimes even later. You can visit the permanent collections of the museums as well as participate in special events created for the festival.
The Night of Museums was created in France 8 years ago and many of the events are held in and around Paris. The sound and light display at the Palace of Versailles is expected to be one of the most popular destinations as is the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay and the Rodin Museum. Search all the events by city or museum at the official website.
Thanks to I Heart Paris for reminding me the event is coming up.
Limousin is one of the most rural and least populous regions in France but there are many cute medieval towns worth exploring there, especially while driving from Paris to Toulouse. I stopped at a few little towns along the way but Uzerche was my favourite and not surprisingly is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Limousin.
Uzerche is most well known for its turreted houses and castles built by nobles in the middle ages which dominate the town’s skyline.
The weather in France this February was unseasonably cold which made it difficult to wander around the city but along with the turreted buildings the main attractions are the 11th century Romanesque church and the little shops and cafes found throughout the old town. If the weather was better we would have walked along the riverside and had a picnic near the old bridge.
One of the quirky aspects of the town is this turtle monument located up on the bridge. I think it has something to do with the war but I didn’t have time to figure out what it was about because it was –15C and I was afraid if I stopped for too long I’d freeze on the spot. The bitterly cold temperatures also explain my weird stance and expression.
The Librarie (bookshop) and Salon de Thé on Place Elmetti is a great place to warm up with a gourmet tea and cake in the afternoon. We visited on a Saturday afternoon in winter and this was pretty much the only cafe open in the entire town but the staff were very welcoming and there was a great selection of tea and coffee available.
Uzerche is in lower Limousin and is just off the main highway between Limoges and Toulouse. While in the region you might want to visit a couple of other medieval towns like Tulle and the very pretty Brive La Gaillarde.
Before moving to Montpellier in 2005, I hadn’t realised that the city isn’t actually situated on the beach. Montpellier is 15kms from the sea so if you want to hang out at the beach you need to head to one of the nearby beach towns; La Grande Motte, Carnon Plage or Palavas Les Flots.
La Grande Motte is the farthest of the three beaches but by far the nicest and my favourite. The not-quite-white sandy man-made beaches are quiet and calm for most of the year although you’d probably want to avoid it in August; peak holiday season in France.
What I love about the Grande Motte is the architecture. Built in the 60s, most of the buildings are in a similar pyramid-like style and even new builds must conform to this 60s look. So what you have is a beach town which is completely homogenous in style instead of the mix and match of architectural styles you see elsewhere. I think most people don’t like it but I find it really appealing and I love that the council is determined to maintain the look of the town.
Like much of this region, the beaches are man-made which gives it a kind of fake feel about it but at least it keeps the beach clean and tidy.
Carnon is quite close to Montpellier but is the least appealing of all the beaches. There are few cafes and shops by the beach and the houses are situated directly on the beach which I find a little odd. There are few distractions here so it’s the perfect beach if you just want to relax in the strong Mediterranean sun.
Palavas is a holiday town very popular with French tourists. It’s one of the cheaper beach locations on the Mediterranean so while the accommodation isn’t exactly 5 star, you can have an affordable holiday on a sandy beach with great fishing and hiking opportunities.
Palavas is much older than the Grande Motte and Carnon so there is a mixture of both old and new architecture including the neo-Romanesque church of Saint-Pierre and The Light House.
Palavas beach is where I had my first ever Nutella and chantilly cream crepe. It was amazing!
Between Montpellier and the beach you have a number of lagoons famous for its wildlife and in particular the stunning flamingos. The number of flamingos had dropped in the past but recent conservation efforts have seen a steady increase in their numbers. I didn’t see many on this trip but at certain times of the year you’ll see hundreds of them soaking up the sun as you drive around the area.
Montpellier is one of the sunniest cities in France which is why I’d recommend visiting in spring or early summer when it’s warm enough to swim but not overcrowded like in July and August. Don’t expect too much as far as beaches go though. It’s very sunny and the beaches are ok but they don’t compare to the beaches in my country.
Each of Montpellier’s beaches are easily reached from the city centre via public transport but I’d suggest hiring a car so you can spend time exploring the wetlands while you are there.
Medieval hilltop town Uzerche is a great place to stop if passing through the Limousin region in south-west France.
Carcassonne would have to be one of the most well preserved medieval cities in France. It’s a great place to step back in time and get a feel what it would have been like to live in the Middle Ages.
The fortress was restored in the 19th century and has remained in almost perfect condition since then.
It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage listed site and one of the most popular tourist destinations in France.
Carcassonne is well known for its Gothic cathedral but aside from that it’s just a great place to wander and do a little window shopping.
The walled city is easily visited as a day trip from Toulouse or Perpignan or you could see most of the sights in an afternoon if just passing through.
Having only been in France for three weeks and with virtually no military experience, it’s hard to imagine what was going through the minds of the thousands of Australian soldiers heading to the Western Front at Fromelles in northern France during World War I. They most likely didn’t realise they were about to be sacrificed by their British allies to provide a ‘diversion’ to the German military who were looking to move further south to join the Battle of the Somme.
Crossing the 400 metres of flat, open no man’s land was a disaster waiting to happen. The Germans on higher ground were easily able to mow down the approaching soldiers and no one made it across enemy lines. Further along, the no man’s land was only 90 metres wide and a tenacious group of mostly Australian soldiers made it across into enemy territory. It seems like this achievement was unexpected and while the British commanders were deciding what to do, night fell and not long after the small group of soldiers found themselves surrounded by the more powerful, professional German army.
Bloody hand to hand combat ensued with rifles, bayonets and grenades being the weapons of the day. Many of the Australians were killed and the few who survived were taken as prisoners of war.
In the small French village of Fromelles in 14 hours beginning on the 19th July 1916 more than 8,500 Australian, British and German troops were killed, wounded or taken prisoner with 5,533 of them being Australian. One of the deadliest battles in Australian history.
Soldiers killed behind allied lines were identified and buried in British cemeteries along the front line while those who died in no man’s land were left there for two years until the end of the war. Those who perished behind German lines were buried in mass graves in Fromelles, 50 soldiers per grave.
Even though the existence of the graves was well documented by the Germans, their existence was largely ignored by the French, British and Australian authorities for more than 90 years. It wasn’t until French and Australian amateur historians shared their extensive research that something was finally done about these forgotten soldiers. After years of bureaucracy and delays the bodies were eventually exhumed in 2009. DNA samples of 250 soldiers were taken and so far around 110 bodies have been identified.
In 2010, the soldiers recovered from the five mass graves were given individual funerals with military honours and are now buried in a new military cemetery in Fromelles. Fromelles Military Cemetery is not far from the battle location and the woods where the mass graves were located (known as Pheasant Wood).
There are a number of other military cemeteries located in the area which are worth seeing. You can also visit Australian Memorial Park which is a small piece of Australian territory in France which commemorates the contribution of Australian soldiers in Fromelles during the Great War.
During WWI, Adolf Hitler worked as a messenger transferring messages to and from Fromelles each day by bike and he is believed to have taken part in the Battle of Fromelles. During WWII when Fromelles was once again in German hands, the German soldiers created a plaque to commemorate the contribution their Fuhrer made to the city during WWI. At the end of the war, the plaque was immediately pulled down by the returning French and it can now be found at the Fromelles Museum.
The Fromelles Weppes Terre de Mémoire is currently located on the first floor at the Fromelles town hall. There you can find all kinds of memorabilia and information on the Battle of Fromelles including uniforms and ammunition found in the area. The growing museum will be moved to a dedicated building next to the cemetery in the near future. The museum is open on the 2nd Sunday of the month or by appointment.
Fromelles is located 20 minutes drive west of Lille and while you can visit the museum and cemetery on your own it will help to have a guide to show you around as points of interest are not sign posted. Our guide showed us the location of the German front line, no man’s land, the Allied front line and the precise location of the one on one final combat. Lille Tourism will be running tours to Fromelles starting this summer or ask them about arranging a guide.
I must admit I didn’t know anything about the Battle of Fromelles before arriving in the town. Looking around the museum and discussing the battle with the local historians was fascinating and their passion for the details was contagious. There is a small group of historians dedicated to preserving the memories of the battle and what happened afterwards and they are happy to share what they know.
It’s incredible to think that so many soldiers were sacrificed for nothing. Nothing was achieved. No ground was gained. The diversion failed. There was just a mass loss of life. If you are interested in Australian or military history then I’d definitely recommend a trip to Fromelles to find out more.
I’d like to thank Lille Tourism and Fromelles Tourism for making our trip to Fromelles possible and Jean Marie Doual for driving us to and from Lille and for helping to translate. Special thanks to Jean Marie Bailleul for kindly sharing his immense expertise with us and for showing us the battlefields.
I should add Lille to my list of great day trips from Paris as at one hour each way on the TGV it’s a feasible trip from the French capital or even from London for that matter. A day trip wouldn’t do the city justice though, there are so many cultural sights to see, parks to picnic in and amazing food to try. My three days in Lille was nowhere near enough and I’m already planning a return trip this summer.
I was in Lille in December as it was the first stop on my Christmas market tour. The market was quite small but very popular and while I had some great Christmas food the real foodie treats are found in Vieux Lille.
I could go on and on about where to eat in Lille. We ate at some amazing places. If you want to try local specialities, any of the Estaminet’s found around the city are worth a try. Estaminet’s are pub/bistro type places serving traditional meals and local brews. There are quite a few around Rue de Gand but we went to Au Vieux de la Vieille in Vieux Lille. This is the perfect place to try one of Lille’s most famous dishes, Carbonnades Flamandes which is beer braised beef.
Many of the dishes have beer in them or maroilles, the local cow’s milk cheese, so be prepared for rich, heavy food. Don’t fill up too much though because less than 100m down the road is one of the best desserts you’ll find anywhere in France, the Merveilleux. Layers of meringue coated with fresh cream and rolled in chocolate. Heaven!
Speaking of desserts, Meert is also located in Vieux Lille. They’ve been around a while, since 1761 to be exact, and are most well known for their sweet vanilla stuffed waffles (which are too sweet for me) but also for their salted butter caramels and very fruity pâtes de fruit. You can order takeaway from the shop or sit in the wonderful cafe next door.
Being only 15 kilometres from chocolate haven Belgium, it’s not surprising Lille is big on chocolate. Weiss and Benoit Chocolatier are great places to stock up on delicious hand made chocolates.
The Wazemmes Sunday food market is another great foodie location in Lille and is the ideal place to pick up picnic supplies or just wander around and snack at the international food stalls.
Having beer drinking Belgians as neighbours has also worked out well for the Lillois as they love their beer too. Belgian Kriek beer (with sour cherries) has a quite unusual flavour and I tried one with orange peel.
More to my liking was the cider which you can get just about everywhere and it comes in sweet, semi-sweet and dry versions. The hot cider from the Christmas markets was my preferred drink on this trip to Lille. It’s much sweeter than the hot wine and they don’t put spices in it which I normally find overpowering.
If you want something a little stronger go for the local genievre spirit, derived from juniper berries. It’ll keep you warm on the wet, wintery days they often have in the north of France. The region is also well known for speculoos and you can even get speculoos liquor.
That’s just the beginning of my foodie discoveries but there are plenty of other reasons to visit Lille. There’s the UNESCO World Heritage listed Belfry which you can climb for the best views of the city and over to Belgium.
Just next to the Belfry is the Porte de Paris which celebrates the victories of Louis XIV.
If you’re interested in architecture or the Art Nouveau period head over to 14 rue de Fleurus to see one of Hector Guimard’s finest works, Maison Coilliot. I’ve previously written about Hector Guimard’s work in Paris and it was great to see another of his creative designs in Lille.
Then of course there is Place Charles de Gaulle with its adorable Flemish style architecture.
Lille has some fantastic museums and in particular I’d recommend the LaM modern art museum. I haven’t always liked modern art but am definitely starting to appreciate it more. There were some great works by Picasso, Modigliani, Miro and I quite liked this piece by Daniel Buren.
If you plan on visiting a number of museums and monuments, I’d recommend getting the Lille City Pass which gives you access to the museums as well as a 1 hour city bus tour, a guided walking tour of the old town and all public transport.
If you happen to be in Lille on the second Sunday of the month, I’d suggest a day trip (or an afternoon trip) to the nearby village of Fromelles. Fromelles is the site of one of Australia’s deadliest battles with 5,533 Australian soldiers being killed or wounded in the World War I battle. You can visit the battlefields and the new military cemetery as well as the museum at the town hall. Ask at the tourist office on Place Rihour for information on how to get there. This was one of the most interesting museum visits I’d had in quite some time and you can read about the Battle of Fromelles and the mass graves here.
On this weekend trip to Lille I stayed at the modern Kanai Hotel located just down from the Grand Place, not far from Vieux Lille and the two main train stations. I love small, boutique hotels like this one and the free wifi was a bonus. Read my full review of Kanai Hotel here.
This was actually my 3rd trip to Lille but my first as a tourist. It really is one of the most beautiful cities in France and a personal favourite. There is plenty to see on a weekend trip but a longer trip would give more time to try some of the amazing restaurants and bakeries which is what I’ll be doing on my next visit.
Now that it’s Boxing Day and I’m back from my Christmas Market Tour, I thought I’d do a quick roundup of what the markets have to offer. The markets visited were the Champs-Elysees in Paris, Lille, Nuremberg, Munich and Dresden.
I will start by saying that even though I think Christmas is generally a commercial waste of time, the German Christmas markets I visited sell mostly locally produced, hand made products and fantastic local food and wine. While many people do their Christmas shopping at the markets, they are also used as a place to informally get together with friends and family and catch up over mulled wine and bratwurst. The markets are more of a social experience rather than just somewhere to shop which was a pleasant surprise.
The Champs-Elysees Christmas market is the most famous in Paris and while you can get a few traditional items like pain d’epices, there aren’t a lot of quality products around, not to mention everything is way overpriced. Paris is more about the experience. The lights along Champs-Elysees are gorgeous at night and from the top of the Grande Roue I witnessed one of the most incredible views of the city I have ever seen.
Lille’s Christmas market on Place Rihour is quite small and is probably not worth a dedicated trip but the city itself is absolutely beautiful. I now count Lille as one of my favourite cities in France and there is so much to do here, especially if you’re a foodie. The Swiss stall selling Raclette was the best food stall out of all I visited during my 10 day tour. All I can say is bravo, La Suisse. As far as sweet treats go, I loved the Croustillant Hollandais found at the markets and around the city. I’m not a huge fan of mulled wine but the speciality here is hot cidre which is a particularly tasty alternative.
Nuremberg’s main Christmas market is by far the most traditional out of all the Christmas markets I visited and probably the largest. They have strict regulations on what you can and can’t sell so you are guaranteed of getting local products and food. Nuremberg is most well known for the Nuremberg bratwurst which are small, thin sausages and the lebkuchen gingerbread. My recommendations are to try the pistachio candied nuts and the feuerzangenbowle which is hot wine with rum and sugar. Nuremberg is also the best option if you want to buy traditional ornaments and gifts. If you’re travelling with small kids, Nuremberg has a dedicated children’s Christmas market which should make them happy. Read more about Nuremberg’s Christmas market here.
There are so many different markets in Munich there is surely something for everyone. The main market in Marienplatz is by far the most crowded and I’d suggest heading to the little market in the courtyard off Odeonsplatz instead. It’s a much quieter market and is particularly good for kids. Just around the corner from there at Wittelsbacherplatz you’ll find a medieval style Christmas market and my favourite in Munich. The Nuremberg sausages I had there were cooked over open coals and were the best sausage of my trip. For something a little different, head to the Tollwood Winter Festival, located where they hold Oktoberfest each year. It’s promoted as an ‘alternative’ Christmas market but it seemed similar to what you find elsewhere. Arts and crafts were particularly popular and all kinds of organic food and wine are available. My favourite food here was the Hungarian Langos, a delicious vegetarian snack.
The Christmas markets in Dresden had a different atmosphere to elsewhere. The people seemed more relaxed and sociable and there was a huge variety of food, both traditional and from foreign cuisines. Dresden was by far my favourite destination and probably the only Christmas market I will return to. You can read about Dresden’s Christmas market food here but highlights for me were the vegetarian Fladenbrot sandwich, the Dresden Rahmklecks (melted cheese and ham stuffed bread) and the sweet baked apples. The Dresdner Striezelmarkt had lots of activities for kids and great local products. I felt right at home here and can’t wait to return.
That’s it for my 2011 Christmas Market Tour and even though each market was unique and I had a great time everywhere, I’m glad Christmas only comes around once a year.
Lille is one of the most beautiful cities in France with a great foodie scene but also some fantastic museums. On my recent weekend getaway to Lille I visited 3 of the many museums found around the city.
LaM is home to Lille’s modern art collection. I haven’t been a huge fan of modern art in the past but it’s something that is definitely growing on me. LaM turned out to be my favourite museum in Lille and I discovered plenty of pieces which I loved.
A modern art museum wouldn’t be complete with at least one Picasso.
Modigliani (buried at Pere Lachaise in Paris) has a number of paintings here. When Modigliani died in 1920 his 9 month pregnant girlfriend was so distraught she jumped out of a 5th floor window, killing herself and their unborn child.
I don’t know what this is about but I like it.
The Palais des Beaux-Arts is Lille’s most lauded museum and the second largest in France after the Louvre.
I love the expression on this woman’s face (they called her Jeanne the crazy one, lol) as she is waiting for her dead husband to be resurrected.
One of the most famous paintings at the Palais des Beaux-Arts is the Houses of Parliament, London by Claude Monet.
There are also a number of sculptures by Auguste Rodin, one of my favourite French artists.
Although I ran out of time to visit, I’ve heard great things about La Piscine, Lille’s other premier museum located in the suburb of Roubaix.
If you are interested in military or Australian history then you might want to add another museum to your itinerary in Lille. Fromelles is a village just outside of the city and is the location of one of Australia’s most devastating battles in history with more than 5,500 Australian soldiers killed, wounded or taken prisoner within 24 hours. The museum at the town hall is open on the 2nd Sunday of each month and you’ll need a car to get there but it’s well worth the trip. Along with the museum you can visit the newly established military cemetery and memorial as well as seeing the exact location of the battlefields and front line.
Entrance to LaM, the Palais des Beaux-Arts and La Piscine is included in Lille’s City Pass which also gets you free public transport which you’ll need to visit both LaM and La Piscine. The City Pass is available for 1, 2 or 3 days and you can purchase it at the Tourist Office in Place Rihour.
The Ferris Wheel in Lille’s Grand Place (Place Charles de Gaulle) at Christmas.
I loved, loved, loved Annecy. It’s so funny how some places instantly attract you while others don’t even make a blip on the radar. We were passing through Annecy on the way home from Florence so had very little time to visit but those three or four hours exploring the old town, canals and lake area were more than enough for me to fall in love with the city.
First up was breakfast. Breakfast is rarely worth writing about in my opinion but a chance stop at Remi Driot on rue de la Poste and a delicious pain au sucre (also rarely worth writing about) was a great start to the day. Our coffees were served with little almond tuiles which were superb.
From there it was straight to the heart of Annecy and the city’s main attraction, the Palais de l’Ile. Built in the 14th century on a natural rocky isle, the Palais de l’Ile has had various uses including as a mint, an art school, a retirement home, a gym, a courthouse and a prison. Nowadays it’s the local history museum and one of the most photographed monuments in France.
We didn’t have time to visit the Chateau d’Annecy but did spot it from various points around the city.
Like most museums in France, the Palais de l’Ile and the Chateau d’Annecy are free on the 1st Sunday of the month.
The old town and in particular rue Sainte Claire is where you’ll find the foodie action. There are hundreds of restaurants, cafes, bakeries, delicatessens and so many other specialty food stores. I was so disappointed at not being able to stay for lunch as the contemporary restaurants were particularly inviting. Instead I had to settle for picking up a few picnic items which we sampled later that day on the drive home.
Pralines seem to be huge in Annecy (the candied almond type not the Belgian chocolate type) and you could see them in all the bakery windows in brioche, croissants, meringues and in the famous Praluline from Pralus.
Before calling it a day we made the short walk through the Jardins de l’Europe to see Lac d’Annecy (Annecy Lake). The park is quiet and relaxing and the views over the lake are stunning. We then ended our 3 hours in Annecy by crossing the Pont des Amours (Lovers Bridge) and driving home to Paris.
Of course there are plenty of other things to do in Annecy but this was a fantastic introduction to this cute city in south eastern France.
Completed in 1893 in Byzantine-Roman style, Marseille Cathedral is located a short walk from the popular Vieux-Port quarter of Marseille. The locals nicknamed it ‘pyjama’ after the unusual striped look of the architecture. While not as famous as the Notre Dame de la Garde basilica on top of the hill overlooking Marseille, it is equally beautiful.
The opulent Opera Garnier in the 8th arrondissement of Paris was constructed in Beaux-Arts style in 1875. The Grand Foyer (pictured above) is where the audience sips on their champagne (what else would they be drinking?) during the intervals when at the ballet.
I have always loved travelling by train but the freedom you have when driving trumps all other forms of transport in my books. So now that I finally have my own wheels I am determined to take as many road trips as possible and forget about public transport for good.
My first trip in my little car, from Paris to Innsbruck, was a 10 hour drive, taking in 4 countries. I wanted to take my time so spread the trip over 3 days, stopping in Belfort, France (just near the Swiss and German borders), Vaduz, Liechtenstein and then Innsbruck, Austria.
Prior to leaving Paris, I played around with Google Maps and figured Belfort would be a good place to stop after 5 hours of driving. In retrospect, it would have been more interesting and cheaper to stop somewhere like Fribourg in Germany but I was trying to avoid driving too far in one day.
Unfortunately, there’s not much to discover about Belfort. It’s known for the ‘Belfort Lion’ a statue to commemorate the Siege of Belfort during the Franco-Prussian War.
After getting up close to the statue and exploring the adjacent Citadel, there isn’t much else to see or do. Belfort is trying to reposition itself as a cultural centre with recent upgrades and expansions to its museums but it’s hard to get away from its main industries which are mostly for chemicals and plastics. It’s a region with high unemployment and a depressing feel. Not a great choice for where to spend the night.
The two main squares were buzzing with many restaurants and cafes and judging by the packed terraces I’d say they all offer decent meals. We ate at a little Italian place, L’Angelo on Place de la Republique. The food was standard Italian fare which I would happily recommend to anyone heading to Belfort.
I arrived in Belfort without a hotel booking so was lucky enough to stumble upon the All Seasons hotel which is part of the Accor group. I prefer staying with Accor when I don’t have time to check online reviews because I don’t need any nasty surprises when sleeping in a strange place. The All Seasons is a 3 star hotel which is within easy walking distance of the main square and the Belfort Lion. It’s priced at 55 euros per night on the weekends and 85 during the week and includes free wifi, breakfast and parking. I would definitely recommend this place.
All Seasons Belfort
Rue Gaston Defferre
There was no point in sticking around Belfort so we headed straight for Liechtenstein. Vaduz is around 3 hours from Belfort and getting there includes a brief trip through Switzerland. For some reason I thought Switzerland used tolls on their motorways but it turns out you need a vignette/sticker which is only available as an annual pass for 40 euros. Un peu cher when you’re just driving through. The clever Swiss use radars to check you have the sticker so the only way to avoid paying is to avoid the toll roads but that’s almost impossible to do and probably not worth the effort. It just means I’ll have to go back to Switzerland before the end of the year to get my money’s worth.
I’ve always been curious about Liechtenstein and was looking forward to seeing what it had to offer. Surprisingly and disappointingly it has little to offer in the way of tourism! I did read some good reviews about the country before going but it didn’t strike me as a particularly interesting place. Vaduz is tiny and the main attraction, Schloss Vaduz, is off limits to visitors as it’s inhabited by the Prince of Liechtenstein and his family who govern the country along with the elected government.
It was a stinking hot day when we were there and decided to take the little train tour to get out of the heat. The most interesting thing about the tour was the Liechtensteiner Polka folk music they played. Very catchy tune!
We had lunch under the trees at our guest house/pub. The food and service was great but 60 CHF (54 euros) is super expensive.
We later had great cocktails at Nexus but they were also expensive at 15 CHF (13 euros) each. It looks like Liechtenstein is not a budget friendly destination but if you head to the Coop supermarket you can get wine in a carton for 2.50 euros. Thanks Italy!
The little tourist office in the city centre (at the bus station) can give you a list of places to stay in the region but they don’t make bookings. I picked a place for us based purely on the pretty picture in the brochure. The best aspect of Landgasthof Au guest house was their shady beer garden serving local specialities and the worst was the uncomfy bed and the price (118 euros).
At least now I can tick Liechtenstein off my list of countries to visit in Europe.
The GPS lady (I should give her a name) took us through countless back streets in Liechtenstein and just as I was starting to think we were lost we found ourselves back on the motorway crossing the Austrian border. In Austria you also need a vignette to travel on the motorways but you can get them for the day for a few euros at any petrol station.
Innsbruck is only 2 hours from Vaduz so we arrived well within time for a Wiener schnitzel lunch at Cafe Central. Tastier and cheaper then Vaduz and in a stunning setting, I was so happy to finally be in this beautiful Austrian city.
I’ve already posted my first impressions of Innsbruck and there are more posts on Austria to come including my trip up a Tirolean mountain to enjoy the sunrise and a champagne breakfast.
The Pré Catelan is a small botanical garden found within the Bois de Boulogne, the woodlands to the west of Paris. It’s one of my favourite places to sit and read on the rare occasions in Paris when the sun comes out. It’s so quiet that it’s hard to believe you are only minutes from the Boulevard Peripherique, the main boulevard circling Paris.
The garden is mostly wide open space but some areas have small winding paths which you can explore. There is also the Jardin Shakespeare which has all the plants mentioned in Shakespeare’s works.
I’m not the only one who likes to sit and read in the park.
If you have kids, you can let them play on the grass (unlike in other Parisian parks), play on the swings, and/or take them to the Theatre de Verdure du Jardin Shakespeare to see one of the regular shows.
As for the garden itself, the flower displays obviously change with the seasons but in general, they aren’t anything special. You can see the tulips in spring but during the rest of the year the flower displays are quite subdued.
I don’t know what this is:
If you are feeling hungry and want a full on foodie experience, you can try the Le Pré Catelan Restaurant run by Frederic Anton. You can read a very detailed review of the restaurant at Food Snob. It’s not for the budget conscious and the review is mixed but it would be quite an experience.
Lastly there is this copper beech tree which has been labelled as a ‘remarkable tree’ for both its age and the circumference of its trunk. It is believed to be more than 200 years old and is 5.60 metres in circumference.
Once you’ve had your fill of the the views of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadero you might want to escape the crowds and find somewhere quiet to relax. If your budget allows, you could sit in one of the cafes at Place du Trocadéro or sample a classically French patisserie at Patisserie Carette (WARNING: their website auto-plays hideous music). Granted, they are probably not the quietest of places to take a load off your feet. My preferred resting place near Trocadero is Square Lamartine, 10 minutes walk from Trocadero along Avenue Georges Mandel. It’s the ideal spot if you have kids, don’t mind screaming kids, or if you hate the smokers who occupy the terrace seats of cafes (I fit into the latter category). So get your patisserie to go and sit under the shady trees of the square.
This is an especially good place to stop if you have young kids as they can play on the swings and train. I love how the City of Paris is now labelling all the park playground equipment with recommended ages. I wonder if they did that after some kind of incident.
You don’t need to worry about buying water before you get here because you can get fresh water from the artesian well which has been here since 1855. I didn’t try the water but there was a queue of people filling up water bottles with it so it must be ok to drink. Artesian water is supposed to be cleaner than river water so I say go for it. As a side note, did you know artesian wells are named after the former French province of Artois (in the north of France) where many artesian wells were drilled in the 12th century by monks? No? Did you need to know that? Probably not.