Saturday, December 27, 2014

Clouds over the Valley

Had to stop and take pictures of the amazing cloud formation today. It was a sight to behold.



Image by TravelswithCharie


Saint Malo


Ramparts of Saint Malo

The stone ramparts of Saint Malo stretches 1,754 meters and wrap around the old town known as the intra-muros. A stroll along these ramparts is a walk through the history of this city which traces its origin to the arrival of Maclow, a monk from Wales, in the 6th century. Saint Malo is named after him. 

Le Grand Bé

There are exits to the beach below from the ramparts. It's possible to walk to the islands of Fort National, Le Petit Bé and Le Grand Bé when it's low tide. But high tide has a way of rushing in and leaving unsuspecting visitors stranded on the islands. It's best to check with the tourist office for the times when it's safe to walk to the islands. The waters of La Manche may rise as high as thirteen meters and pound the walls of Saint Malo. The oak tree trunks lining the seashore and which form the breakwater can attest to the might of the waves. 

Grande Plage

On a cold and intermittently wet November day, the Grande Plage was bereft of people. I hesitated a bit before stepping foot on the sand which was packed rather than sugary loose. The waters had receded far out to sea. Only a man walking his dog was about. The three of us owned the vast shoreline for a spell.  When I returned a day later, the shore was nowhere to be seen. And Fort National was once again an island bobbing in the distance.

Rose Window at St. Vincent

Construction of the Cathedral of Saint Vincent began in the 12th century. It was partially damaged during World War II (as was most of the old town) and carefully restored after the war with beautiful stained glass windows and a spire reaching 72 meters to the sky. The spire is so high that it can be seen above the fortications. Inside the cathedral, the light emanating from the rose window behind the altar is a sight to see.

La Houssaye

It is said that Anne de Bretagne, the Duchess of Brittany, may have slept in this turreted stone house when she visited Saint Malo. Anne became the Queen of France twice - first after her marriage to Charles VIII and later to Louis XII after the death of Charles.


Saint Malo is a maritime city so it's only fitting that shop windows hail the mariner look and style. Even the bébé has his/her own marine inspired clothing. 

Where to stay:
Hotel Best Western Balmoral
24 Rue Théodore Monod
35400 Saint Malo
Contact@balmoral.fr
www.balmoralsaintmalo.fr

I stayed at the Balmoral because it is across from the train station and I was going to Mont St. Michel early in the morning. I was happily surprised to have had a spacious and modern room which included a full breakfast. And the location is safe and quiet. It is a 20 minute walk to the old town or you may take the bus. There's a supermarket, several restaurants and a bakery close by. My favorite find was the Nutella panini at the bakery in front of the train station. It was the best. 

How to get to St. Malo:
Take the TGV from Paris Montparnasse. It is a 3 hour ride and there's no need to change trains depending on the time of departure from Paris.

Bretagne cuisine:
Brittany is of course famous for its crêpes. There are many different fillings to choose from--sugar, orange, Nutella, ham and cheese, and a host of others. Saint Malo is on the coast so seafood choices abound. 

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Images by TravelswithCharie


Friday, December 26, 2014

Sunrise - December 26, 2014


This is the second year I've taken a sunrise shot after Christmas day outside my door in Central California. Today, I saw these birds flying in the sky and made a lovely guest appearance on this photo.

"It's the hour when night breaks away from the day, my dove, let me go." Jean Genet, The Balcony

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Image by TravelswithCharie


Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas


Joy to the world
The Lord is come!

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Image by TravelswithCharie. Yosemite National Park. 


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mont Saint Michel

"The following morning at dawn I went toward it across the sands, my eyes fastened on this gigantic jewel, as big as a mountain, cut like a cameo, and as dainty as lace. The nearer I approached, the greater my admiration grew, for nothing in the world could be more wonderful or more perfect". Guy de Maupassant, The Legend of Mont Saint Michel

Mont St. Michel from the causeway

It's hard to forget the first time I saw Mont Saint Michel from the bus window. I saw its fairytale like silhouette from a distance and I was captivated. So this time around, I waited with bated breath as the bus approached Mont Saint Michel but alas, we took a different route and I didn’t see the Mount until I had walked up the causeway from the new village that grew in recent years. Our bus from Dol dropped us in front of the tourist center where free shuttle buses ferry visitors to the foot of the Mount. I opted to walk the 2 km distance so I could see the Mont from afar and feel its magic. It was sprinkling a little bit so the Mont was shrouded in mist that partially covered its spire. And it was low tide so the bay was quite dry.

The Bay of Mont Saint Michel

The approach to the Mont has changed dramatically from my visit ages ago when visitors were dropped off close to the foot of the Mont. The bay surrounding the Mont has silted up due to land reclamation, intensive farming and a host of other human activities including the use of land for parking and the construction of the old causeway. The Mont is increasingly engulfed by sand and salt marshes. The French government and local authorities are now correcting this problem by addressing the causes of the problem including building a new dam over the Couesnon River which will flush sediment out to sea. The parking lot has been moved to the mainland where thousands of flora and fauna have been planted to provide a green landscape.  And the old causeway will be replaced by a footbridge which will be more in keeping with the environment. They estimate all phases of the project to be completed in 2015. And Mont Saint Michel will once again be surrounded by the bay and rise from the sea as it has in the past.

The half timbered houses of the Mont Saint Michel

As I had visited the abbey in the past, I spent my time walking along the ramparts and going up and down steep stairs wet from the early morning rain. It was a good (if not precarious) way to see the village with its narrow passages and remaining half timbered houses.

Grande Rue

The Grande Rue is the main street of the Mont. It's lined chock a block with souvenir shops, restaurants and houses which date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Walk past the shops and go up the Grand Degre or Grand Staircase toward the ramparts and abbey for great views over the rooftops of the village and the bay beyond. But don't miss the village church of St. Pierre just off the Grande Rue. It's a respite from the hectic street below and there's a beautiful stained glass window inside.

Stained glass window inside the Church of St. Pierre

To get to Mont St. Michel from Paris, take the TGV from Paris Montparnasse to Rennes and transfer  from there by bus to the Mont. Alternatively, there are trains to Dol or Avranches where you will again transfer by bus to the visitor center near the Mont. A free shuttle called Passeur takes passengers to the Mont. It's a short walk from the shuttle stop to the gate of Mont Saint Michel. There's also a horse drawn carriage which takes visitors to the Mont for a fee. But the best way to approach the Mont is to walk up the short distance and be rewarded by exceptional views of the Bay and the Mont. The restrooms are just outside the gate as you enter the village.

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Images by TravelswithCharie

Friday, December 12, 2014

Fondation Louis Vuitton

Fondation Louis Vuitton

The Fondation Louis Vuitton at the Bois de Boulogne in Paris is a new gallery for modern and contemporary art.  Bernard Arnault, Chairman and Chief Executive of LVMH, envisioned architecture that would be symbolic of the 21st century and to this end, entrusted the project to renowned architect, Frank Gehry. The glass and steel building represents Gehry's idea of an evolving structure as it interacts with time and light, creating an impression of perpetual change.


The gallery was inaugurated in October of this year and the line to purchase tickets was understandably long in late November. I opted to enter the Jardin d'Acclimatation to get a close look at this colossal structure and observe the play of light on the curving glass panels as the afternoon progressed. 


Gehry's creation was inspired by glass and steel buildings of the 19th century. However, the Fondation is definitely 21st century. It appears like a ship with a recognizable bow under which the bones of the structure can be seen. The curving and overlapping glass panels called Verrière are the sails. The Verrière shelters the gallery spaces below called the "Iceberg". 

The Fondation Louis Vuitton is a privately owned museum. LVMH will turn over the museum and its contents to the city of Paris in 55 years.

How to get to the museum:
Take Metro line 1 to Les Sablons then it's a short walk along Avenue Mahatma Gandhi to Jardin D'Acclimatation and the Fondation.  For more information about the museum, check out their website: www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr.

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Images by TravelswithCharie


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Galeries Lafayette Christmas Displays 2014



The inverted Christmas tree at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is sensational! And the glass cupola reflects the changing light moods of the tree. You get a different perspective of the Christmas tree from the upper galleries and a great view of the golden legs that reach up to the cupola.


Pink monsters dance behind display windows to the delight of the children. They flocked to see the decorated Christmas themed windows as their parents excitedly took their pictures with the monsters. I couldn't get a full view because there were so many people milling around. So I had to make do with a side view. 


It's a Joyeux Noël indeed in Paris. Through January 4, 2015.

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Images by TravelswithCharie


Rue Crémieux

Rue Crémieux

It’s as if I’m going out again with my old lover. I’m discovering new things about him that I wasn’t aware of before. That’s how I feel about my love affair with Paris. Case in point: Rue Crémieux.

Rue Crémieux is a sleeping beauty with its cobblestone street, pastel painted façades, thoughtful murals, potted plants and an air of unhurried pace amidst the bustling Gare de Lyon area.  

The concerted efforts of the residents of Rue Crémieux to beautify their neighborhood is cause for applause. This is what happens when neighbors commit themselves to a worthy and far reaching goal.


I love the illusion of a tree straddling the house as if it always belonged there.


Notice the murals on this house. These well thought out personal touches define this neighborhood.

To get to Rue Crémieux, take the metro to Gare de Lyon. Walk down a few blocks along Rue de Lyon which is across from the station and Rue Crémieux will be on your left side. Please be mindful that this is a residential neighborhood and respect the peaceful ambience.

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Images by TravelswithCharie


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Fashion Show/Défilé


The program for the Fall/Winter 2014 Collection

One of the unique experiences I had in Paris recently was attending the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann fashion show. Paris is, of course, at the forefront of haute couture so I was thrilled to have the chance to be at the défilé. The show beautifully presented the trends of the season. I was mesmerized by the variety of fun, chic and elegant outfits. The clothes and accessories worn by the models on the catwalk were available at various GL department stores. 

By the way, no photos are allowed at the fashion show but I inquired from the usher who seated me about the no photo policy and he informed me that I could take pictures without a flash. It's always good to ask first.


The ensemble shown above is categorized as PopTimisme. PopTimisme is defined by rhythm, color, and energy. It evokes New York City's street style.


Young fashionistas will be both comfortable and hip in this plaid shirt with cool black and white plaid scarf and black side zip pants. Casual sable high tops complete the look.

To make a reservation and get a voucher to see the fashion show, contact fashionshow@galerieslafayette.com. Arrive at least 15 minutes before the show so you are seated before it starts. There are fashion shows on Mondays and Fridays only. Entrance is free.

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Images by TravelswithCharie



Sunday, December 07, 2014

Rue Thermopyles


 Rue Thermopyles

Rue Thermopyles takes its name from Thermopylae, that narrow pass in Greece where a great battle was fought in 480 BC between a handful of Greek warriors under the command of Leonidas and the 150,000 strong Persian army under Xerxes. But that's the end of the similarity - a narrow street. Rue Thermopyles is a tranquil neighborhood with trees climbing up the walls of its houses and covering some of them in rich foliage. The cobblestone street is lined with potted plants.


If you continue walking to the end of the street and make a right, you will find these two charming homes one of which is nearly hidden from view by trees and shrubs. In front of these homes is the Alberto Giacometti Park, a small square which is a nice extension to Rue Thermopyles.


Paris is a big city with staggering urban growth that comes accompanied by the cacophony of modern day living. It's refreshing to find a haven such as Rue Thermopyles, a little piece of "country" in this bustling metropolis.  

Rue Thermopyles may be reached by taking the Metro Line 13 to the Pernetty stop. 


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Images by TravelswithCharie

La Coulée Verte

Viaduc des Arts

La Coulée Verte or the Promenade Plantée is a 4.5 kilometer trail on what was once an elevated railway track that was decommissioned in 1969. The trail begins at Bastille and continues on to Bois de Vincennes. The Promenade has been planted with trees, shrubs and flowers. Every section has a landscaping theme such as the bamboo grove or the fountains. There are vine covered trellises and enough benches for those who wish to read their newspapers or chat with friends or just hang out.  

Of the flowers on the trail, I saw white roses and dark pink double impatiens. There were many shrubs with tiny flowers - one which I noticed looks similar to jasmine but minus the scent. And I was delighted to see holly, so perfect for this season. It's amazing to find many blooming plants this late in the fall. 

 Bamboo grove

I met several joggers along the trail which promises to be a good, long run all the way to Vincennes and back. But walking has its rewards. The path is flanked by 17th century and modern style architecture. It's nice to see that private balconies in the neighborhood are filled with greenery as well. The trail sometimes passes under a building. I wonder how the residents can sleep in summer when the crowds drop in.

Vertical garden

There are stairs and an elevator strategically located along the way if you wish to get on or off the trail.  One of these stairs has an attractive vertical garden.  I pas d by two gardens during my stroll and I stepped into Jardin de Reuilly with its patch of green that is traversed by a footbridge. The trees are stunning at this time of the year in all its golden glory. Interesting nude female statues are silent sentinels of the garden. 

Jardin de Reuilly Paul Pernin

La Coulée Verte was designed by Philippe Mathieux and Jacque Vergeley and was opened in 1993. It precedes New York's Highline which opened in 2009 by sixteen years. Plants that thrived along the old railway track have been thoughtfully planted on the Promenade.

 Modern architecture along La Coulée Verte

The arcades below the track are occupied by galleries, boutiques, and cafés. These shops face Avenue Daumesnil and is a short walk to Gare de Lyon.  The closest metro stops to La Coulée Verte are Bastille (the beginning of the trail) and Gare de Lyon. The trail is open weekdays from 8 a.m. and 9 a.m on weekends. Closing times vary depending on the season.

Have a nice walk!

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Images by TravelswithCharie


Saturday, December 06, 2014

Love, Love Locks and Paris


L'amour is alive and well but it's beginning to take a toll on the Pont des Arts in Paris. The growing tradition of hanging love locks on bridges around the world has destroyed sections of this footbridge. The city of Paris has previously removed and replaced certain sections of the railing as the locks weighed them down and caused the grates to separate from the railing. The Pont des Arts is checked regularly as damaged railings pose safety issues as well.


Some of the locks are fancy and well thought out, some are engraved with the couple's names but most locks are plain and heavy and the names hastily scribbled with a marker. Many locks are now rusty and the names have faded into oblivion.


If you arrive in Paris and want to hang your love lock at the Pont des Arts but you didn't bring a lock, worry not. There are lock sellers around the bridge who will gladly sell you one along with postcards and other souvenir items. These resourceful street peddlers will even sell you an umbrella if it starts to sprinkle.


Sections of the bridge were covered with posters advocating the removal of these love locks during my visit in late November. The controversy continues whether these locks should stay or go but the world of lovers will keep coming to Paris to pledge their love with a lock at the Pont des Arts. Lol.

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Images by travelswithcharie