Mont Saint-Michel

Last week I decided it was time to venture to Brittany. Having heard so much about the charming walled port city of Saint-Malo, I boarded the train headed west, and three hours later was welcomed by gray skies and sea. And so began my scenic sojourn in the land of crêpes, cider, oysters from neighboring Cancale, and rising tides.

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The historically independent Saint-Malo, known in the past for privateering (a privateer was often considered a pirate), is still referred to as “cité corsaire”. During World War II 80% of the city was destroyed and rebuilt between 1948-1960. With few tourists in sight, I was happy to explore this walled hideaway. But what I was most eager to discover was Mont Saint-Michel in nearby Normandy. As soon as the sun rose, that’s where I headed.

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At first sight of Mont Saint-Michel I was in complete awe. This wonder of the Western world truly takes your breath away. How did this Abbey come to be, perched atop a rock? At the request of the Archangel Michel, Aubert, Bishop of Avranches built and consecrated a small church on the 16th October 709. In 966 a community of Benedictines settled on the rock at the request of the Duke of Normandy and the pre-Romanesque church was built before the year one thousand. Here is more history and information about Mont Saint-Michel.

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Join me in this scenic journey as I climb up the steps leading to this UNESCO world heritage site.

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The views from the top are simply stunning! Where does sky end and sea begin?

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Not to mention what lies on the inside.

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I will certainly return, and next time stay the night. I hear it’s particularly stunning at sunset…

Fall for France

Sometimes life brings you full circle. Last spring I was invited along with Leah Walker, by the France Tourism Board Rendez-vous en France, to join their annual campaign in which they highlight and promote select cities in France. In my many years as a print producer in New York, (in which field I still work from time to time), I often traveled to foreign locales, managing campaigns for various advertising agencies. This time however, my role was as blogger and social media marketer. Wow, no production work! Though I was more than happy to assist whenever needed. The campaign, shot by talented photographer Braden Summers and assisted by a well curated crew stemming from all over the globe, began on the rooftop of Galeries Lafayette in Paris. Some of the best views of the city of lights!

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Braden and crew continued from Paris to Poitiers, Nice and Marseille before I caught up with them in Dijon. What a magical city filled with history, wine and of course mustard. Read more about my Dijon adventures here.

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Our next and last stop on the France tour was Reims, the land of champagne. After a private tasting at the famous champagne house Taittinger, Leah and I joined the group for the final day of photography. Our last scene took place at a gorgeous private home with a grand picnic a la Française. You can even spot me running off in the distance with Sophie from Atout France.

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For those heading to Miami Art Basel next week, stop by the France Pavilion to discover this years stunning traveling photo exposé of “Top French Cities”. The campaign can also be viewed here. Or better yet, come to France!

discovering Dijon

Not long ago I was invited to join Rendez-vous en France, the official site for France Tourism, as a select few traveled the country to create their new campaign Fall For France. Considering there were several regions of France I hadn’t yet explored, I eagerly accepted the adventure and boarded the train with Rail Europe. In under two hours I arrived to Dijon.

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Dijon being the capital of the Burgundy region, naturally day one was spent wine tasting.

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Bourgogne being my top choice in wine, I discovered new reds and even a few whites.

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Being in the expert hands of the Dijon Tourism Office, our next stop was a special one.

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The Clos de Vougeot vineyard was created by Cistercian monks of Cîteaux Abbey in 1336. This medieval wine farm was highly recognized for centuries. The Château de Clos de Vougeot, sitting regally within the stone wall, was added in 1551.

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Since 1945, it is the seat of the Order for the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin.

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Wine is no longer produced, but this historic Château holds many stories within it’s walls.

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It was now time to enjoy the city, and why not from the 46m high La Tour Philippe de Bon?

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The sunlit views were stunning, and I was eager to explore by foot down below.

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I spent countless hours walking, looking up, admiring the architecture, the historic details.

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I discovered a new love for a city and it’s neighboring landscapes. With local products in hand, including a few bottles of Bourgogne, Dijon mustard (I couldn’t leave without a tasting), and gingerbread (another specialty), I vowed to return when the vines are filled with leaves. Maybe even with a certain someone. There is much more to see… and taste.

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My next adventure is taking me to Italy…feel free to follow along on Instagram + Facebook!

 

adventures down south

In mid-August my Italian and I decided to do like the Parisians, leave Paris to the tourists, and venture south. I had heard a lot about the unpretentious charm of France’s Cap Ferret, and was eager to discover it for myself. It has been likened to Montauk, the most unspoilt part of the Hamptons, where I grew up. Our first stop was lunch in a rainy but elegant Bordeaux. I know little of this city, this being my second visit, but look forward to becoming better acquainted in the future.

IMG_5619Rather than head directly to this trendy enclave, we stopped in Arcachon for a few days. Just enough time to meet with friends and climb the highest sand dunes in all of Europe.

IMG_5737The Dune du Pilat measures 107 meters high and I felt rather accomplished reaching the top!

IMG_5697We spent the afternoon climbing, jumping, running… and sitting beneath the late summer sun.

IMG_5968Our next stop was Cap Ferret. We settled in with a plate of oysters, local wine, and a view.

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The dominant mode of transport is by bike. And that is how we explored this little French paradise.

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I could immediately understand why it was compared to Montauk with it’s chic yet relaxed vibe.

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After many great meals including at the highly revered Chez Hortense, it was time to bid adieu.

IMG_6006Via boat and train we made our way back to Paris filled with sounds and tastes of the sea.

Auvers-sur-Oise

This past spring when my mom came to visit, I thought about where to bring her. Last year we had explored Chantilly, and while it would have been a lovely time of year to visit Giverny, I opted to be more creative and we ventured to Auvers-sur-Oise. This commune, only about 27 kilometers northwest of Paris, was once home to the Impressionists. More specifically, Paul Cézanne, Charles-François Daubigny, Camille Pissarro, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot and, Vincent van Gogh.

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IMG_1742This was a trip into Van Gogh’s life. It was incredible to be amidst the church that he once painted.

IMG_1744It is here that he rests alongside his brother Theo, who passed away only 6 months after Vincent.

IMG_1750The next stop was Château d’Auvers where we discovered a most insightful interactive journey into the lives of the Impressionists. A unique experience! Not to mention the breathtaking gardens…

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As the sun was setting we walked the length of the estate, reflecting on years long gone.

IMG_1820It was time to bid farewell to Auvers-sur-Oise. Like the artists before us, we headed back to Paris.

fit for a king

A few weeks ago a dear family friend was in town. Since she’s already seen much of Paris, I planned a day of historic elegance in a landscape not too far away. We boarded a bus on an overcast morning, and soon arrived to the legendary, and now private estate, Château de Vaux le Vicomte.

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Here began our adventure into the life of Nicolas Fouquet, who created this 17th century castle.

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This majestic masterpiece was a collaboration between architect Louis Le Vau, the painter Charles Le Brun and the landscape gardener André Le Nôtre. A ‘home and garden’ to be admired by all.

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Yet the story behind Monsieur Fouquet and his château is a unique and tragic one.

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In brief, after throwing a lavish party in his new home, Fouquet was arrested by Louis XIV (who had plotted against him out of jealousy), and spent his remaining days behind bars, unlawfully so.

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In the famous words of Voltaire, “On 17 August at 6 in the evening, Fouquet was King of France; at 2 in the morning, he was nobody”.

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As we wandered the château and landscape, the gray sky set a sobering mood. At once in awe and aghast at the history lesson upon us. Certainly a castle fit for a king, perhaps even too much so.

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