August 22, 2023

Strasbourg in 3 Hours

I had always wanted to go to Strasbourg since my 6th grade country report on France. While researching the "what-to-see-and-do," I began to understand there was not going to be a "wow factor." The sites are pretty basic for a French or European city; a few grand churches, pretty sidewalks, commemorative statues, and shopping.

I'm okay with not being "wowed," but I didn't expect Strasbourg to gently befriend me, leading me down quiet streets, across unique bridges, and through ivy-covered corridors. Strasbourg was a pleasant friend to wander with; never intimidating, always inviting. 

Picturesquely situated along the Rhine River, Strasbourg is a city of captivating charm, where history and modernity intertwine in a symphony of architectural wonders. If you find yourself with just a few hours to explore this quaint city, fear not—Strasbourg's main sights are easily navigable on foot. Let's detail a delightful 3-hour walking tour that showcases the essence of Strasbourg's beauty and culture.

La Petite France: 0:00-1:00

Embark on your journey at the heart of Strasbourg's enchantment, La Petite France. This medieval neighborhood boasts charming half-timbered houses, flower-draped balconies, and narrow cobblestone lanes that evoke a sense of fairy-tale magic. Stroll along the riverbanks and admire the reflections of these whimsical buildings on the tranquil waters. The Maison des Tanneurs, a former tannery turned into a quaint restaurant, stands as a testament to the area's rich history.

I spent half an hour on a bench by the river, soaking in sunshine and fresh air. I ordered my lunch off of French chalkboards, trying the local tarte flambée, and a dry white wine. 

Strasbourg Cathedral (Cathédrale Notre-Dame): 1:00-2:00

As you move towards the city center, the towering spires of the Strasbourg Cathedral come into view. This masterpiece of Gothic architecture is a true marvel. Spend some time marveling at the intricate façade, where ornate sculptures and statues tell stories of religious history. Don't miss the opportunity to climb the 332 steps to the cathedral's viewing platform, where panoramic views of the city reward your efforts.

The astronomical clock inside the grand Strasbourg cathedral had a most intriguing detail. The "time teller" figurine at the center of the clock was a skeleton! This is quite a distance from the typical jolly old man, cuckoo bird, jousting knights, dancing jesters, or whatever other icons of cuteness you can think of. It made me stand there an extra minute, wondering what the significance of that chosen symbol was - "Death controls our time?" "No one will escape death/time?" "Dead men tell no tales?"

Place Kléber: 2:00-3:00

Head to Place Kléber, Strasbourg's central square, and the heart of the city's shopping district. Here, modernity blends seamlessly with tradition as locals and visitors mingle among shops, boutiques, and bustling cafés. The monumental Christmas tree that graces the square during the holiday season is a sight to behold. Take a leisurely stroll around the square, soak in the atmosphere, and perhaps enjoy a quick bite to refuel for the next leg of your journey.

Barrage Vauban: 3:00

For your final stop, make your way to Barrage Vauban, a historic dam and bridge that offers captivating views of Strasbourg's skyline. This architectural gem also serves as a pedestrian walkway, allowing you to cross over to the other side of the river and take in the stunning vistas. As you stand atop the dam, watch the river flow beneath you while admiring the city's beautiful houses and bridges reflected in the water.

The tasteful blend of German and French cultures actually make for a weed-free version of Amsterdam: similarities of river canals, foot bridges, Germanic architecture, bicyclists everywhere, and the tram tracks underfoot and wires overhead.

In just three hours, your walking tour of Strasbourg has taken you through so many of the sights that capture the city's essence. From the quaint charm of La Petite France to the grandeur of Strasbourg Cathedral, the bustling energy of Place Kléber to the serenity of Barrage Vauban, you have experienced a condensed yet enchanting journey through this captivating city. As you conclude your tour, you will leave with a deeper appreciation for Strasbourg's history, culture, and architectural beauty—a testament to the city's ability to offer a delightful experience even in a short span of time.

Strasbourg is a perfect day trip from Paris, or a relaxing home base for exploring the Alsace region in France and/or the Rhineland in Germany. If you don't speak any French, it's probably better for you to sleep on the German side, and use the simple over-the-border trains to access the delightful river island that is Strasbourg.

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Hollywood Elite's 7 Favorite Deauville Draws

A standout beach on the shores of Normandy, Deauville has earned its place as a playground for the rich, famous, and celluloid elite. With its timeless elegance and captivating coastline, this coastal gem has beckoned movie stars and celebrities for decades. Here is a journey through the most glamorous sights in Deauville that have left an indelible mark on Hollywood history.

1. La Promenade des Planches (Boardwalk)

As the sun dips below the horizon, the twinkling lights of Deauville's iconic boardwalk come alive. Each wooden beach cabin, bearing the names of luminaries like Elizabeth Taylor, Orson Welles, and Clint Eastwood, stands as a testament to the town's star-studded legacy. With every step along the promenade, you're walking in the footsteps of legends who have left their mark on both the silver screen and the golden sands.

2. Deauville International Centre

At the heart of Deauville's allure, the Deauville International Centre sets the stage for glamour to unfold. Picture this: a grand red carpet unfurled, flashbulbs illuminating the night, and a parade of A-list celebrities making their entrance. The likes of Catherine Deneuve, Julianne Moore, and Johnny Depp have graced this hallowed ground during the film festival, leaving an air of allure and anticipation that lingers long after the applause has faded.

3. Hotel Normandy Barrière

Elegance reigns supreme within the walls of the Hotel Normandy Barrière, where the lavish interiors whisper tales of Hollywood luminaries who've sought refuge within its opulent chambers. George Clooney, Nicole Kidman, and Natalie Portman have all indulged in its luxurious accommodations, adding their names to the annals of star-studded guests who have reveled in its coastal charm.

4. Hotel Royal Barrière

Adjacent to the bustling promenade lies the Hotel Royal Barrière, another diamond in Deauville's crown. From the elegant entrance to the plush interiors, this hotel has embraced Hollywood glitterati seeking a retreat by the sea. Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Diane Kruger have all found solace in its luxurious embrace, making it a must-visit destination for those chasing the thrill of celebrity sightings.

5. Théâtre du Casino Barrière

The Théâtre du Casino Barrière is more than a venue; it's a cathedral of cinematic dreams. Here, the grandeur of Hollywood meets the charm of Deauville as stars like Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, and Sean Penn grace the red carpet for film premieres and galas. The spotlight's glow casts a spell, and for a moment, you're transported to a world where the magic of the silver screen comes alive.

6. Plage de Deauville (Deauville Beach)

Deauville Beach, with its golden sands and sparkling waters, has witnessed many a Hollywood moment. Imagine sipping a cocktail on a chic beachfront cabana, just like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly once did. The sun's warm embrace and the gentle whispers of the waves create an ambiance fit for stars seeking relaxation and escape.

7. Promenade Lucien Barrière

Walking along the Promenade Lucien Barrière, named after the visionary behind Deauville's prestigious hotels, feels like stepping onto a red carpet. With names like Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin associated with the Barrière Group, this promenade captures the spirit of timeless glamour that continues to draw stars to Deauville's shores.

Deauville, the enchanting coastal haven, is more than a destination; it's a canvas where Hollywood's brightest stars have painted their dreams. From the boardwalk's legendary beach cabins to the opulence of luxury hotels and the allure of red carpet events, Deauville's allure remains a timeless statement to the synergy between cinematic magic and coastal charm. As you stroll through its glamorous sights, you become part of the narrative, writing your own story amid the echoes of celebrity footprints and the whispers of the silver screen.

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August 21, 2023

Lyon of Antiquity & Cuisine

Lyon, a large French city along the banks of the Rhône and Saône rivers, is a treasure trove of history that dates back to ancient times. As you stroll through its charming streets and captivating neighborhoods, you'll encounter a plethora of ancient sights that offer a glimpse into Lyon's rich past. In this spot-by-spot walking tour we'll take you on a journey through time as we explore some of the most captivating ancient landmarks that Lyon has to offer, all the while staying well-nourished at the delightful cuisine options of the magnificent Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region.

Breakfast at Boulangerie du Palais

To kickstart your day in Lyon, head to Boulangerie du Palais for a truly authentic Lyonnaise breakfast experience. This charming bakery offers an array of freshly baked croissants, flaky pastries, and crusty baguettes that perfectly encapsulate the essence of French baking. Pair your selection with a steaming café au lait or a rich espresso, and indulge in the simple pleasure of devouring artisanal delights in a cozy setting.

1. Roman Amphitheatre of Fourvière

Step back in time to the days of the Roman Empire at the Roman Amphitheatre of Fourvière, also known as the "Grand Théâtre." This well-preserved amphitheatre once hosted thrilling gladiatorial contests and theatrical performances. As you stand within its stone walls, you can almost hear the echoes of ancient crowds cheering for their favorite warriors. The sweeping views of Lyon from this vantage point add to the allure of this ancient gem.

2. Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière

Perched atop Fourvière Hill, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a majestic testament to both faith and architecture. While the basilica itself was built in the 19th century, the site has a long history dating back to Roman times. The basilica's stunning mosaics, intricate sculptures, and soaring architecture pay homage to Lyon's ancient and spiritual roots.

Lunch at Le Bouchon des Filles

For lunch, go right into  the heart of Lyonnaise cuisine at Le Bouchon des Filles. This intimate bistro captures the essence of traditional bouchons—Lyon's distinctive eateries that serve homey, hearty dishes. Feast on specialties like quenelles de brochet (pike dumplings), andouillette sausage, or coq au vin, all prepared with locally-sourced ingredients. The warm and convivial atmosphere of this bouchon adds an extra layer of authenticity to your lunchtime culinary adventure.

3. Lugdunum

Venture to the Gallo-Roman archaeological site of Lugdunum, where Lyon's origins as a Roman settlement come to life. Discover the remains of a Roman theatre, odeon, and other structures that once formed the heart of ancient Lugdunum. The site's museum offers insights into daily life during Roman times, providing a fascinating glimpse into Lyon's past as a thriving Roman city.

4. Saint-Jean Cathedral

While not entirely ancient, the Saint-Jean Cathedral holds elements that date back to the Middle Ages, making it a must-visit for history enthusiasts. The cathedral's Gothic architecture, stunning stained glass windows, and intricate façade are testaments to Lyon's medieval heritage. The nearby traboules—hidden passageways that wind through the city's buildings—add an extra layer of intrigue to your historical exploration.

5. Musée Gallo-Romain

For a comprehensive look at Lyon's ancient history, head to the Musée Gallo-Romain. This museum houses an impressive collection of archaeological artifacts that span from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages. From ancient pottery and sculptures to intricate jewelry and tools, the exhibits provide a tangible connection to Lyon's past and the civilizations that have shaped it.

Dinner at Paul Bocuse

Iindulge in a refined dining experience at the legendary Paul Bocuse restaurant. Named after the iconic French chef, this Michelin-starred establishment is a temple of gastronomy that elevates Lyonnaise cuisine to an art form. Immerse yourself in a culinary journey with dishes like quenelles de brochet Nantua, a nod to Lyon's culinary heritage. The impeccable service, elegant ambiance, and inventive creations on your plate will leave you with a profound appreciation for Lyon's rich culinary heritage.

Lyon's ancient sights are more than just historical landmarks—they are windows into a world that has evolved over centuries. From the grandeur of the Roman Amphitheatre to the spiritual sanctuary of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, each ancient site tells a unique story of Lyon's journey through time. As you wander through these captivating locations, you'll find yourself transported to eras long gone, where the echoes of the past resonate with the vibrant energy of the present, creating a truly enchanting experience for every traveler.

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Top 5 Spots Where Nice is Nice

Gloriously positioned along the dazzling French Riviera, Nice is a city that exudes elegance, charm, and a touch of luxury. With its azure waters, glamorous promenades, and refined atmosphere, Nice is the epitome of sophistication. This walking tour will take you through why Nice is indeed "nice" by exploring the top five fanciest hotspots that make this city a haven of opulence and refinement.

1. Promenade des Anglais

The iconic Promenade des Anglais is where the magic of Nice truly comes alive. As you walk along this magnificent boulevard, lined with palm trees and luxury hotels, you will feel like you have stepped into a scene from a classic film. The Mediterranean views, coupled with the gentle sea breeze, create an atmosphere of pure indulgence. From upscale beach clubs to chic boutiques, the Promenade des Anglais offers a glimpse into the glamorous lifestyle that has made Nice a playground for the elite.

2. Negresco Hotel

Speaking of luxury, the Negresco Hotel stands as a grand testament to opulence and history. This Belle Époque palace, overlooking the azure waters of the Mediterranean, has hosted royalty, celebrities, and dignitaries for over a century. The ornate interiors, exquisite artworks, and lavish décor transport you to a bygone era of elegance. Even if you are not a guest, a visit to the hotel's opulent surroundings and Michelin-starred restaurant is an experience fit for royalty.

3. Old Town Charm: Cours Saleya and Le Vieux Nice

While Nice is renowned for its glitz and glamour, it's also home to charming corners that exude old-world allure. Cours Saleya, a bustling square in the heart of Old Town, is a haven of sophistication where you can peruse the finest local produce, flowers, and artisanal crafts. Nearby, Le Vieux Nice (Old Nice) captivates with its narrow lanes, vibrant markets, and quaint cafes. The juxtaposition of elegance and authenticity is what makes these areas truly special.

4. Le Château

For panoramic views that mirror the city's elegance, head to Le Château. Although the castle itself no longer stands, the hilltop location provides breathtaking vistas of Nice's skyline, the Mediterranean Sea, and the surrounding landscapes. The hike to the top is rewarded with a sense of grandeur that perfectly complements Nice's upscale ambiance.

5. Michelin-Starred Dining

No list of fanciest hotspots would be complete without mentioning the culinary delights of Nice. The city's dining scene is a haven for food enthusiasts seeking refined flavors and impeccable service. With several Michelin-starred restaurants to choose from, you can indulge in exquisite dishes that are as much a work of art as they are a feast for the senses.

Restaurant JAN: This restaurant is known for its innovative and creative cuisine that blends South African and Mediterranean flavors. Chef Jan Hendrik van der Westhuizen's culinary artistry has earned Restaurant JAN two Michelin stars. The restaurant offers a unique dining experience that showcases Chef Jan's passion for food and storytelling.

Le Chantecler: Located within the iconic Negresco Hotel, Le Chantecler is a prestigious restaurant that boasts two Michelin stars. Chef Virginie Basselot's cuisine combines traditional French techniques with a modern twist, using the finest seasonal ingredients to create exquisite dishes that are as visually stunning as they are delicious.

Nice's appeal goes beyond its breathtaking landscapes and sunny climate—it's a city where elegance reigns supreme. From the glamorous Promenade des Anglais to the historic charm of Old Town, every corner of Nice exudes a sense of refinement that draws travellers from around the world. Whether you're savoring gourmet cuisine, soaking in the views from Le Château, or relishing the luxury of the Negresco Hotel, Nice truly lives up to its reputation as a place where sophistication, beauty, and extravagance intertwine to create an unforgettable experience.

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