France, from Paris to Nice – Part 1

France, from Paris to Nice – Part 1

France, which is said to be nearly as big as Texas, has three impressive mountain ranges (the Alps, the Pyrenees and the Massif Central), two coastlines (Atlantic and Mediterranean), cosmopolitan cities (Paris, Lyon, Strasbourgh and Nice) and countless sleepy villages.

Although Paris has always been the place of my dreams. I’ve now been to Paris three times and it has never disappointed me. The first time was when I took myself to Europe for my 50th birthday in 2006, the week from Christmas to New Years for 2009 and into 2010 on a Rick Steves tour with my good friend Debra Hall and this trip with another good friend, Bonnie Davis.

Bonnie and I did our own thing to the west of France for a week which included picking up our rental car in Auray and dropping it off in Roane, before joining our Rick Steves group in Paris to start our “Paris to the South of France,” tour. Follow along through photos and captions of our 3-weeks from leaving Sept. 2, through France from Paris to Nice.

Bonnie and I arrived early this Sunday morning at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle Airport but moved quickly to take the train at Gare Montparnasse to Chartres to begin the first leg of our 3-week tour of France. Chartres was much more than I had expected, especially its cathedral with its beautiful stained glass, situated so prominently in this quaint town. The cathedral is said to be Europe’s best Gothic example. Sept. 2, 2012
Once Bonnie and I got to our hotel, the Best Western Grand Monarque in Chartres, which was an easy walk from the train station, we showered and made our way toward the Cathedral where we had lunch at an outdoor cafe. In 876, the church acquired the torn veil supposedly worn by Mary when she gave birth to Jesus. The veil became the focus of prayer at the church and in 1194, when the church burned down, the veil miraculously survived inspiring the people to erect this grand cathedral to display it. Sept. 2, 2012
The interior of the Chartres Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres. The current cathedral, mostly constructed between 1194 and 1220, is the last of at least five which have occupied the site since the 4th century. Sept. 2, 2012
The Chartres Cathedral is known for its extraordinary stained glass. This is one of three rose windows. Made around 1215, it shows Christ as the Judge being surrounded by an inner ring of 12 paired roundels containing angels and the Elders of the Apocalypse The outer ring of 12 roundels show the dead emerging from their tombs and the angels blowing trumpets to summon them to judgement. Sept. 2, 2012
A close-up of the stained glass in the Chartres Cathedral in Chartres. Sept. 2, 2012
Taking in Chartres on a stroll around the city. Sept. 2, 2012
Bonnie enjoying a ride on the very dreamy merry-go-round. Sept. 2, 2012
More beautiful Chartres. Sept. 2, 2012
Posing for a photo op in Chartres. Sept. 2, 2012
We got to Chartres just in time to see a gorgeous night show. Chartres en lumbers, an annual event held during the summer months, was a vision at nightfall as the various buildings were illuminated. It was difficult to stay awake until nightfall, but it was so worth it. Tomorrow, we head to Auray. Sept. 2, 2012
To get to Auray, in France’s northwest Brittany region, Bonnie and I had to head back to Gare Montparnasse train station in Paris before taking our train to Auray. Sept. 3, 2012
Bonnie looking a bit tired at a restaurant in Auray, but glad to be at our destination. We picked up our rental car at the Auray train station and proceeded to find the Brit Hotel Auditel, which wasn’t as easy as we had hoped to find. But, with the help of a local woman waiting on a bus, we found our way. Driving in France is like driving in the U.S. except the signs are in French and there are roundabouts instead of signal lights. Array turned out to be a wonderful surprise. Sept. 3, 2012
At the Lamor-Baden harbor, Bonnie and I took a boat to the 3,500 B.C. Cairn de Gavin, an above ground cave-like monument with Neolithic carvings…which we could not take pictures of the interior. Bonnie has an interest in all things paleolithic and neolithic, as well as a fascination with ancient and modern burial practices of different cultures. Sept. 4, 2012
We also made our way to the Tumulus of St. Michel, a gigantic megalithic grave mound built around 5,000 B.C. and was used as a burial chamber, in the Brittany area. Sept. 4, 2012
Rounding off our ancient sites visits are the megaliths of Carnac. The Carnac stones, about 10,000 standing stones also known as menhirs, were erected during the Neolithic period which lasted from around 4500 BC until 2000 BC. Sept. 4, 2012
Me at the megaliths of Carnac in Brittany, France. Sept. 4, 2012
Back at our home base of Auray. This residential and commercial street leads to the harbour of St Goustin, the old part of Auray. Sept. 4, 2012
The port of Saint-Goustan, located in the lower town of Auray. Sept. 4, 2012
We left Auray for Saint-Malo, but on the way, we made a quick stop at Dinan. I enjoyed this medieval town with its cobbled lanes and its many 13th century picturesque half-timbered buildings. It was also much more touristy than Auray, but had an old, charm feel about it. Sept. 5, 2012
The medieval town of Dinan with its fine old buildings dating from the 13th century. Sept. 5, 2012
Our room at Saint-Malo where we spent the night with a back porch and a view of the ocean. Sept. 5, 2012
The beach of Saint-Malo at low tide. Sept. 5, 2012
Part of the city wall and tower of Saint-Malo. Sept. 5, 2012
Looking down at the town of Saint Malo from its city wall. Sept. 5, 2012
The town of Saint Malo. Sept. 5, 2012
The sun setting from the beach of Saint-Malo with the Fort National in the distance. The fort is on a tidal island built in 1689 to protect Saint-Malo’s port. Sept. 5, 2012
After our peaceful night in St. Malo we were off to Honfleur with a stop at Mont St. Michel but not before enjoying a beautiful day’s drive along the Emerald Coast of Normandy. Bonnie read that the Pointe du Grouin was one of “Rick Steve’s favorites.” So, we took the “scenic route” along the Emerald Coast and stopped at Pointe du Grouin. Actually we made a couple of stops along the way just because we were in awe of the breath-taking emerald sea views. Sept. 6, 2016
In my mind, Mont Saint-Michel was going to be as mystical and magical to me as Saint Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, England. But, it really wasn’t. To get to Mont Saint-Michel we had to park the car and walk about 40 minutes just to get to the abbey. There was bus service but we didn’t realize it at the time. Plus it was very touristy. Construction to build a causeway/new bridge was also underway, which also took away from the mystique. Sept. 6, 2012
A closer view of Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. The island has held strategic fortifications since ancient times and since the 8th century AD has been the seat of the monastery from which it draws its name. Sept. 6, 2012
Bonnie making her way inside the ground floor of Mont Saint-Michel’s heavily trafficked tourist shops. Sept. 6, 2012
The climb up to the abbey at Mont Saint-Michel. Sept. 6, 2012
The view of the village area as we climb up to the abbey at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. Sept. 6, 2016
The view of the causeway from the abbey at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France.  Construction to build the causeway is underway. Sept. 6, 2016
The exterior of the abbey at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. Sept. 6, 2012
The exterior of the abbey entrance at Mont Saint-Michel in Normandy, France. Sept. 6, 2012
The choir area of the Mont Saint Michel abbey in Normandy, France. When the Romanesque choir collapsed during the Hundred Years War in the 15th century, it was rebuilt between 1450 and 1521. Sept. 6, 2012
Statue of Archangel Michael in the abbey of Mont Saint Michel in Normandy, France. Sept. 6, 2012
Between the fog and the roundabout, Bonnie and I finally made it to Claude Monet’s home and gardens in Giverny. It turned out to be an absolutely beautiful day to walk thru the gardens, the water lilies pond and the quaint home. Sept. 7, 2012
The pond at the Claude Mont home in Giverny. To be able to walk the same beautiful landscape that Monet saw and painted was thrilling for me. Money (1840-1926) spent the last 40 years of his life in Giverny and is buried by the church in Giverny. Sept. 7, 2012
Red roses to match my red purse. My love of red lives on. Sept. 7, 2012
After a leisurely lunch at a quaint restaurant close to Monet’s home in Giverny, , we drove four miles to the village of Vernon. Since Vernon is my son’s name, so checking out the village was a must. Sept. 7, 2012
A French town named Vernon turned out to be a great place for a quick stop after Giverny and before heading back to our home base in Honfleur. This building is the Notre-Dame of Vernon church which was started in the 11th century but was not completed until the 17th century. Sept. 7, 2012
Even though we spent two nights in Honfleur, we didn’t spend a lot of time in town until tonight, our last evening when we had dinner in the laundromat. We picked up some take away and while washing our clothes at our dinner. Sept. 8, 2012
After washing our clothes at a laundromat in Honfleur, Bonnie and I decided to take a walk around the corner to the cozy picturesque harbor with its restaurants and homes while enjoying a gelato and the beautiful sunset during our last night in Honfleur. Sept. 7, 2012
After washing our clothes at a laundromat in Honfleur, Bonnie and I decided to take a walk around the corner to the cozy picturesque harbor with its restaurants and homes while enjoying a gelato and the beautiful sunset during our last night in Honfleur. Sept. 7, 2012
Today we head to Paris to meet with our Rick Steves tour group where we meet our guide and begin getting to know our tour group members for our “Paris & the South of France 15-Day” tour. But before we return our car and take the train to Paris, we head to the Abbey of Jumieges. It turned out to be another beautiful foggy morning drive thru the French countryside. We left Honfleur early in the hope of making it to the Ancient Abbeys enroute to Rouen to drop off the rental car. What should have been a 90 minute drive, actually took four hours from getting lost to needing to slow down thru the fog. But, the Ancient Abbeys were definitely worth the stop. The Abbey of Jumieges, founded in A.D. 654, were destroyed by the Vikings, rebuilt by William the Conqueror and torn down again by the French revolutionaries, but what was left is still stunning. Sept. 8, 2012
The Abbey of Jumieges, founded in A.D. 654, were destroyed by the Vikings, rebuilt by William the Conqueror and torn down again by the French revolutionaries. Sept. 8, 2012
The Abbey of Jumieges. Sept. 8, 2012
Just one more look at the Abbey of Jumieges…with me in it. After enjoying our walk thru the ruins, Bonnie and I jumped back into the car and made our way to Rouen. The confusing part was trying to find the car rental agency, which we knew was located near the Rouen railway station, but every effort to locate it was met with frustration. Since the rental agency was not visible on the outside of the railway station, especially after driving around the station several times, we decided to drive into the parking garage and low and behold we spotted the car rental company sign, an empty parking space under the sign and parked the car. We did find the car rental agency office in the railway station, but they were closed for lunch. So, we dropped off the car keys and paper work through the office mail slot and proceeded to wait on the next train to Paris. Once we  arrived at the Paris Gare-St-Lazare train station, we hailed a cab and made it to our hotel, the Duquesne Eiffel with 20 minutes to spare before our Rick Steves “Paris & the South of France,” 5:00 p.m. welcome gathering to meet our guide, Patrick Vidal, and group members. Sept. 8, 2012
The first day of our Rick Steves “Paris & the South of France” tour began early this morning with our visit to a par of significant Gothic church, this legendary 700-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral and the exquisite Saint Chapelle in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
Detail of the 700-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
Detail of the 700-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
Detail of the 700-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
Side view of the 700-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
Inside the 700-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
Inside the 700-year-old Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
The entryway to Sainte-Chapelle, the 14th century Gothic style royal chapel. Located  within the medieval Palais de la Cité, the residence of the Kings of France on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, the chapel was begun some time after 1238 and consecrated in 1248. Although damaged during the French Revolution, and restored in the 19th century, it has one of the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collection anywhere in the world. Sept. 9, 2012
Inside Saint-Chapelle. Sept. 9, 2012
Inside the Saint-Chapelle. Sept. 9, 2012
Strolling through the Latin Quarter in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
A view of the Seine river from the rooftop of the Orsay Museum in Paris. Sept. 9, 2012
To me, the Louvre in Paris is a museum in and of itself in addition to the collection housed within. It is the world’s largest museum and a historic monument. I am truly in awe of this museum. I can’t imagine ever coming to Paris and not stepping food inside this magnificent structure. Sept. 10, 2012
Th Winged Victory in the Louvre Museum in Paris. Sept. 10, 2012
The venus de Milo inside the Louvre Museum in Paris. Sept. 10, 2012
The Mona Lisa, behind a protective piece of plexiglass, is the work of the Italian painter, draftsman, sculptor, architect, and engineer Leonardo da Vinci. The poplar wood-paneled oil painting was painted sometime between 1503 and 1519, when Leonardo was living in Florence. Considered the world’s most famous painting, the Mona Lisa hangs in the Louvre in Paris. Sept. 10, 2012
Inside the Louvre Museum in Paris. Sept. 10, 2012
One of many of my favorite paintings, is this one…The Intervention of the Sabine Women in the Louvre Museum in Paris. It is a 1799 painting by the French painter Jacques-Louis David showing the abduction of the Sabine women by the Romans. Sept. 10, 2012
The Coronation of Napoleon is a painting completed in 1807 by Jacques-Louis David, the official painter of Napoleon, depicting the coronation of Napoleon I at Notre-Dame de Paris at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Sept. 10, 2012
Getting in my traditional picture of myself inside the striking Pyramid at the Louvre Museum in Paris. Sept. 10, 2012
After our time at the Louvre, Bonnie and I took a walk around Paris including crossing over this bridge with the love locks. Sept. 10, 2012
Along with the Louvre Museum, there’s nothing more Parisiene than the Eiffel Tower. Sept. 10, 2012
A view of the Eiffel Tower from our hotel room at the Duquesne Eiffel in Paris. Today was our last tour group day in Paris so ending it with a night photo of the Eiffel Tower is the best way to say “Au Revoir”…. at least for now. Bonnie and I will return to Paris at the end of this tour and have tickets to go up the Eiffel Tower. Sept. 10, 2012