The prettiest and least visited part of the Canal de l’Ourcq, which enters Paris at Porte de la Villette, is its beginning at Port aux Perches in the Aisne département, 70 km north east of the capital. Continue reading “Cruising the Canal de l’Ourcq”
Visit the town Auver Sur Oise where the artist Vincent van Gogh spent his final days. In this picturesque village located just a short train ride from Paris you can walk in van Gogh’s footsteps, from his attic room at the Auberge Ravoux to the places where he planted his easel: the church of Auvers, the house of the painter Daubigny, the house of his friend Doctor Gachet, and the field where he painted his last work, “Wheat Field With Crows” (1890). Continue reading “Vincent van Gogh Revisited in Auvers-sur-Oise”
Paris offers enough diversity to satisfy the most demanding tastes, but it is also the best starting point from which to explore the rest of France and, indeed, of Europe. Starting a new series of suggestions of places interesting enough to justify a weekend trip, Martin Hills finds Avignon Continue reading “Weekend Away: Avignon”
Fougères, a town of “art and history” at the confines of Brittany and Normandy, has been reinventing itself for over a thousand years. From Celtic settlement to medieval stronghold, from artisanal marketplace to industrial powerhouse, imprints from the past – along with signs of its current revival – are visible throughout this lovely little Gallo-Breton city.
The Guinguette Auvergnate — located in Villeneuve Triage—is the perfect place to take visitors to Paris, who never fail to be charmed by its friendly relaxed atmosphere, the view of the Seine from its windows framed by potted geraniums and the unpretentious cooking from the Auvergne, the home region of the patron. If they are lucky, they will see their fellow-diners waltzing to the strains of the accordion, ‘just like a Renoir painting’, as a friend once whispered to me. I have arrived as late as 3 pm and still been fed, as Sunday lunch here can last up to 5 pm. Continue reading “Guinguette Auvergnate…just like a Renoir painting”
Was surprised to discover that people in Aveyron resent the expression la France profonde. They interpret it as condescending, implying a backwater inhabited by country bumpkins. No matter how hard you insist you meant it as a compliment to a rural area that has preserved its authenticity, the Aveyronnais will look at you suspiciously, or at best dubiously, and understandably so, since not so long ago the Aveyron was precisely this, backward and underdeveloped. Today, still, the keen observer will detect remnants of those times here and there, even in its main towns (the largest of which, Rodez, has only 53,785 inhabitants, and that’s including the suburbs). Continue reading “Aveyron travel notes”
Take part in one of the most enjoyable of French popular traditions – eating, drinking and dancing at a guinguette, in the open air, by the river… This one is on a tiny island, reached by a raft. When you step off the raft onto this particular island on the Marne, less than half an hour away from Paris, you step into the timeless world of guinguettes. Continue reading “Ile-du-Martin-Pêcheur”
If you are looking for a day out in the country you can find it, astonishingly enough, at the end of the Metro line to Créteil. Créteil, characterized by charmless 1960s architecture, is the last place on earth where you would expect to find four small islands, linked to each other Continue reading “Créteil island hopping”
Crécy-la-Chapelle, 27 miles east of Paris and only five miles from Disneyland, might as well be on another planet. It is a tiny medieval town guarded by moats, towers and drawbridges where life is lived at a gentler, provincial pace. Continue reading “Crécy…stepping into another world”
If you are interested in the French Renaissance, there is no need to travel as far as the Loire. A walk through the forest leads to the fairy tale setting of the château of Ecouen, with its collection of historical treasures and objects. If you are interested in the French Renaissance, there is no need to travel as far as the Loire. One of the most elegant examples of this style in France, the 16th-century château of Ecouen, is the setting for the furnishings and objets d’art that make up the collections of the National Museum of the Renaissance, some of them from the Musée de Cluny.