April, 2005, in Paris, Burgandy, & Rhône-Alpes, France

Karen and I went to France in April of 2005 to tour. We celebrated our anniversary in Paris at a dinner at Jacques Cagna's wonderful restaurant on rue des Grands Augustine, near our hotel, L'Hotel on rue des Beaux-Arts. Best dining experience ever. We also dined at some other wonderful establishments, like Guy Savoy's Les Bouquinistes, Jacques Francois on nuits St Georges, Le Bounty Brasserie, and on and on. We had wonderful Champagnes, Burgundies, Pomards, and you-name-it. In Paris, we toured the Louve, saw Mona and Venus of course, and Notre Dame. On several occasions as we looked at our maps, people would come to us and ask if we needed help or directions. We encountered only the best of hospitality from everyone with whom we had contact. At Notre Dame, for example, a mature Parisian stopped us and said she had something interesting to show us... a secret. She took us to a panel sculpture on the side of the building. She told us the story of a man trying to get to Mary Magdalene's body as her casket was being carried to her tomb, and his hands were cut off. Sure enough, on the sculpture we saw two unattached hands on the casket and a man lying at the foot of a procession without his hands. She was very entertaining and she just wanted these two tourists to gain some greater appreciation of the site. Such were the people we met. If you would like to see a twelve-minute video of our trip to France, click here. (Note that it takes a few seconds to load the video - be patient!)

Below: We are at Notre Dame in Paris, and at the Deaux Maggots:
Chuck and Karen at Notre Dame in Paris   Chuck and Karen at Deux Maggots

Our tours included the Eiffel Tower, the Arc D'Triomphe, the gardens of the Teulleries, St. Chapelle, and we crossed the Seine every day from our L'Hotel in St. Germain on the Riv Gauche. We had cafe latte at Deaux Maggots, the cafe widely known for the intellectuals such as Jean Paul Satre who dined there. We stayed in Paris four days, and then took the SNCF from Paris Gare Lyon to Lyon Perrache (just train stations, but they sound so nice, don't they?).

Below: St. Chapelle Interior in Paris, and Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa in the Louve:
St.  Chapelle Interior in Paris Mona Lisa in the Louve

In Lyon we stayed at Cour des Loges, a beautiful hotel in a connected cluster of buildings built in the 13th & 14th centuries. Our room had a garden (see photos). We loved Lyon, and had a fine meal at Pierre Orsi. You have to talk with Pascal Nabat, the Maitre d'Hotel there. Both Jacques Cagna and Pascal Nabat spoke with us extensively about Georges Perrier, who of course is famous for Le Bec Fin and other Fine Philadelphia establishments. We also dined at Le Palais Saint Jean near our hotel, and a small restaurant, Proseca. The small restaurants are generally called "Bouchons". The specialties of local gastronomy include Quenelles (almost like an omelet with more substance based on fish), Gratons (a fried pork), Cervelle de Canuts ('cervelle' means brains and Canuts were the old silk workers of Lyon, but is just cheese and spices), and of course, andouilettes (sausages made of tripes - cow intestines). Don't try the Andouilettes unless you are adventuresome; I did and would have preferred something else. Oh, and the wines! I dwell on the dining only because Lyon is the capital of French gastronomy.

Below: Karen in the garden by our room at Cour De Loge in Lyon, and a view of the Lyon Open Air Market:
Karen in the garden by our room at Cour De Loge in Lyon Lyon Open Air Market

We walked through the Traboules (like tunnels through ancient houses), we took the Fanicular (tram) up to the Fourviere (a cathedral with a great view of the city), we toured the ancient Roman ruins in Lyon, wondered at the brilliant combination of the very old, the old, and the new in the buildings and continued use of streets, etc. We wandered around Lyon on both sides of the Saone River. Lyon is built among the Saone and Rhone rivers, like Philadelphia is built between the Schuylkill and the Delaware rivers.

We drove from Lyon to Beaune. Actually, we toured a number of villages along the way, taking small roads instead of highways. We went to Cluny and toured what was once the center of the Catholic empire, where four successive Popes lived. It is a fascinating assembly of 12th and 13th century buildings. We had an enormously pleasant lunch on the square. Driving from Cluny we passed so many beautiful villages, stopping from time to time. In Beaune we stayed at the very best hotel I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing: Le Cep on rue Maufoux. Jean-Claude Bernard is the manager, and he runs a truly magnificent place.

Below: Chuck at Cluny, and a church wall example in Cluny:
Chuck at Cluny Church wall example in Cluny

While in Beaune we toured the wonderful wine region, including a stop in Dijon. There we toured the Palace Ducal, where the Duke of Burgundy lived and is entombed. We stopped for lunch in Fixin, a tiny village in the midst of vineyards, where we dined at Napoleon, an ancient and beautiful little restaurant that I'm sure tourists rarely find. We had a grand meal of Boeuf Bourguignon, a local specialty. Too good. We then toured Clos du Vougeot, a spectacular ancient winery amidst the vineyards. No longer in operation, it has 13th century wine presses that you cannot believe unless you see them. A beautiful chateau or castle, whichever it is. You should try the wines of Clos du Vougeot. Or the Pommards. Or, oh you get the picture. At the bar at Le Cep, Monseur Bernard introduced us to Armagnac Veuve J. Goudoulin, a fine vintage brandy, that he mixed with a champagne. What a treat! Then he served us several trays of hors D'Oeurves that included little breads on which he toasted cheeses.

Below: Auxerre river scene, and the ancient Veougeot wine press:
Auxerre river scene the ancient Veougeot wine press

Finally we drove to Paris, but on smaller roads. We stopped at villages along the way, like Sussy, Avallon, and Auxerre. These were very pleasant (no so much Avallon), and we were overwhelmed by the beauty of the countryside. We stayed our last night in the Airport Hilton to kind of re-insert ourselves into our real world. We flew back through Frankfurt, the reverse of how we arrived. The whole trip was business class, courtesy of USAir Gold Preferred miles. We flew mostly Lufthansa, and the travel was extraordinarily pleasant.

Below: Typical scene driving near Sussy:
Farmland scene in Sussy

So much for France. We shall return. {editor’s note: We did return in the Fall of 2013 - see above}

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