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Click on the colored areas of the
map to access a travelogue. The colors indicate different regions of
France -- scroll down for explanation and introduction for each location. (Original
map comes from the CIA
Introduction. More than
any country in Europe, France cannot be painted with one
single brushstroke. It was about as diverse a culture as one would find
anywhere, and it was a culture they cherished wholeheartedly. This, of
course, led to the stereotypes sometimes painted by Americans -- French were stubborn, obstinate, snobbish,
blah, blah, blah.
Totally false. My own experience with the French was
nothing short of positive, especially outside of Paris. I have been to
France numerous times, including several trips along the northeast provinces of Alsace-Lorraine near Germany,
an extended stay among the D-Day regions of Normandy, a few excursions down to
the French Riviera (also known as the Cote d'Azur), and a life-affirming
pilgrimage to the holy Sanctuary of Lourdes in the Pyrenees mountains of the
southwest. Now, I'll grant that while some Frenchmen considered Americans
unsophisticated and brash, I found such attitudes typically didn't last beyond
the introductory handshake. But the French retained a
protective streak, and this did lead sometimes to inflexibility, particularly
when dealing with business. Then again, one ought to hold one's ground if
what was at stake was some of the best regarded traditions in the world -- of wine, cheese, art,
music, theater, cuisine, etc. French pride was strong, and showed in their
France was also a beautiful country, despite its occasionally
fickle weather. The
cliffs of Normandy, the rolling vineyards of Alsace, and the beautiful southern
beaches were just some of France's scenic treasures. I have not yet visited
the French Alps, nor the west coast, the Massif Central, nor the scenic Loire -- hey, given my
schedule, there was only so much France I could hit!
Travelogues by Region. The
coloring of the locations on the map above indicate different regions in France, as shown below. Click
on a place name to access the travelogues.
PARIS (4 Chapters). Ah, gay
Pah-REEE! Paris was the first place I'd ever visited in France,
most Americans might do. Except I had the
to visit it in wintertime when it wasn't quite so crowded and getting
around was pretty easy. Taking a bus trip, I was able to hit
virtually all the major sights, and I had a fabulous time when I wasn't
freezing! I divided the Paris travelogue into four chapters,
starting with an Introduction Page. Next is a
chapter on the western part of downtown that
included the famous Eiffel Tower, Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides and the
Champs Elysees. The eastern part of downtown
includes the Notre-Dame and the Louvre. Finally, the fourth chapter
covers the fabulous Palace of Versailles!
Normandy and the D-Day Invasion (4 Chapters).
This is one part of France that still embraces Americans
wholeheartedly. The seven travelogues
are all products of a four-day trip I took to the region in June
2002. Four travelogues are devoted to the battle sights of the
invasion -- a D-Day introduction page, plus one
each for the three major sectors -- the American sectors at Utah Beach
and Omaha Beach, and the British-Canadian Sector
at Gold Beach and Pegasus Bridge (pictured above is the 101st Airborne
surrounding towns and cities are worth a visit themselves. My
personal favorite was Caen (pictured below) with
its massive abbey and fabulous canal district. Then there was the
huge port city of Cherbourg, and the gorgeous
city of Bayeux that is home to a famous tapestry
of William the Conqueror.
This part of France has changed hands with Germany
four times in recent history, and as a result has the best of both
worlds. If you are a carnivore and want a truly filling meal, try a choucroute (a massive plate of sauerkraut covered with luscious slices of
ham, pork cutlets, and tasty sausages)! The
Alsace-Lorraine region is gorgeous with its half-timbered buildings, like
those seen in Colmar's (pictured above) Little
Venice region. The regional capital of Strasbourg
is the home of the European Commission and is one of the must-see cities
for anyone's itinerary. Finally, there's the industrial center of Mulhouse
with its colorful town square.
Cote d'Azur (the Blue Coast, or Riviera).
The famous and popular vacation district! Beaches everywhere,
gorgeous ports, sunny Mediterranean islands, and all the fish-head soup
you can stomach! (Ok, maybe you have to drink some red wine first
before you try it.) Daily night trains run from Alsace to Monaco,
allowing plenty opportunities from those from the shivering north to
venture southward. I took three trips to the Cote d'Azur from
2000-2002, and always had a great time. My first trip went to Marseille
(pictured), site of the famous Cathedral and the mountain-topped Church of
Our Lady. Other trips took me to wonderful Nice
and Cannes during its famous Film Festival.
I also did the nearby country of Monaco,
which is a protectorate of France but given its own country section in
Champagne-Ardenne. The Champagne-Ardenne
region is famous for its bubbly, but also deserves recognition for its
natural beauty, with rolling farmland and forested hills. Sparsely
populated, its charm is found in its small towns that dot the
landscape. Some of
are featured in my driving tour of the Ardennes
border region with Belgium. Meanwhile, Champagne's cities have
fabulous architecture and are a joy to wander around. Reims
(pictured) is a great, nearby alternative to Paris if you don't want the
crowds or the kitsch but want to see a beautiful old Cathedral and
wonderful arcades. And Chalons-en-Champagne
is a mini-version of Reims.
Lorraine. The Lorraine region is the site of two
major cities where the post D-Day advance of Allied troops slowed.
These two are now beautiful and bustling cities with lots of character.
Metz (pictured below)
is a great city on the Moselle River with the picturesque Temple Nine on a
massive island. It also has one of the more famous Cathedrals in
eastern France. Nancy has the absolutely
fabulous Stanislaus Square
and numerous gorgeous parks dotted throughout the city..
Franche-Comte Region. The eastern part of
France south of Alsace has some very dramatic scenery, with the river
valleys turning steep as the emerge from the Swiss and French Alps further
south. The cities here are marked with grand fortresses sitting high
daring all comers. Vauban, the famous architect of well-defended
cities, designed the famous citadel of Belfort,
now decorated with a massive red sandstone lion symbolizing the city's
successful defense against invaders. Further west, Besancon
(pictured) is a gorgeous city that embraces a sharp bend in the
river. The views from the citadel high above the city are among my
most cherished photographs.
Lourdes (7 Chapters).
The holy city of
Lourdes in the
mid-Pyrenees was one of the most fabulous trips we've ever taken. Not
only was the city of Lourdes itself beautiful and a joy to visit, but the
was a sight to behold, especially when it was crowded with thousands of
fellow pilgrims from around the world. The travelogue contains seven
chapters. After the introduction page, the next three chapters
describe the city -- covering the Lourdes Sanctuary(shown),
the tourist zone of Pont Vieux, and the
Fort and City. The final three chapters
describe our participation in the 47th annual Military
Pilgrimage conducted in May in 2005. The Chapters are divided
chronologically into Day 1,
Day 2, and
Night 2/Day 3.
ALSO (BLACK): Veyrier. Veyrier
is a divided town between France and Switzerland, overlooking the Swiss
city of Geneva. This travelogue is found in the Switzerland section.
Stories and Features:
|Cannes Film Festival.
I spent a fabulous day trip in Cannes soaking
in the environment at the famous Film Festival. I watched a red
carpet opening, overheard wacky artist types talking business, and
witnessed the crowds gaggled around the hotels trying to catch just a
glimpse of the stars! It's a city all abuzz during the world's greatest
movie event, a day I'll never forget!
||Annual Military Pilgrimage to Lourdes.
This will be an exciting three-part series on this massive event that
included Roman Catholic soldiers from over 30 countries -- an event that
gets larger each year. The planned stories will include coverage of
the main ecclesiastic events, the military parades and events, and our
participation in the most fantastic Stations of the Cross ever seen!
Links. The below links connect you to
external sites in a new window. All links are official sites sanctioned by
the national, state, or local governments unless otherwise indicated.
These links will open to the French-language home page, which will usually offer
an icon or link to an English-language section (normally limited content).
The most common icon used is that of an American or UK flag. If an English
language link is not available, click on links named "Tourisme".
This is for the tourism page, which should have English content. Locations
where we were unable to find any English content are marked as "French only". Links updated
2 January 2006.
and Town Links: