France/Paris

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QUESTION: Hi Terry, Your credentials are extensive! I was looking for a restaurant suggestion for Loire Valley.We will be staying there 3 nights at Le Clos d'Amboise. Looking for local atmosphere without breaking the budget.Two people, first time to France,love red wine.Like all foods except not heavy sauces.
Also, what do you think about going to the Louvre on Wednesday evening instead of Daytime. I am not a fan of big crowds. we may go to 3 museums total so I am thinking of getting the Pass when we arrive to help with the lines.We are only in Paris 4 nights.
I am exchanging Euros here in the States at a local money changer.
Any other good tips would be helpful. We mostly travel to Central America,Costa Rica. I guess my Spanish is not going to help me much.
Thanks.

ANSWER: Hi . . .    Janet Polito from Florida!

Sorry for my delay in responding.  Been busy on work and home needs.  Lots to love in France and its many charming areas.  Appreciate your kind comments in saying "Your credentials are extensive!".

YES, the Spanish will not help much in France.  On getting your euros, I would suggest waiting until you get to Paris and use your bank card to obtain those though an ATM.  That will be a much better rate for your budget.  

On Le Clos d'Amboise, as I understand that is located in Amboise and it looks very nice.  I have not dined recently in Amboise and would suggest checking with folks at your hotel, plus following my suggestions noted below.  It's hard to have a bad meal in France.  Especially when combined with good wine.  Great fun!!

Getting the Museum Pass is smart and allows more flexibility.  Yes, Wednesday evening there can be good for the Loire.  BUT, there is so much there that just one evening would not do proper justice to ALL at this great location.  Much is going to depend on when you are visiting Paris.  What's your planned timing there?

Below are some of my notes on the Loire and Paris.  

Reactions to these various ideas and options????  Look forward to hearing back from you with more details and specifics.

Does this start to help a little? What are your needs for added information?  Be happy to provide additional info and answer other questions after learning more from you.  Be sure to complete the evaluation section so that our "bosses" on this volunteer service know we are working hard to make inquiring minds as happy as possible. ENJOY!  Merci Beaucoup!

Thanks.  Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio


HERE'S SOME BACKGROUND ON THE WONDERFUL LOIRE VALLEY:

This is the major chateau and castle country southwest of Paris.  It is easy to reach during the a day-trip from Paris taking the quick and comfortable TGV Express train to the Tours suburban station of the St Pierre on the edge of town.  Then pick up your reserved rental car.  See and enjoy the area.  Then drop your car off in the evening, returning back to Paris in only an hour without having to battle the big city traffic.  This  area peaked in power in the mid 1400's to 1700's period; Joan of Arc helped win battle at Orleans in 1429 that spurred power of French monarch to unify the country and drive out the English; Blois has population of 50,000; Tours has population of 130,000 with half-timbered houses on Place Plumeneau; priority for lunch or dinner at Chateau de Beaulieu (4 1/2 miles SW of Tours, 18th Century country estate, phone 47-53 20-26); among the top chateaus to see (all rated as three stars by Michelin Guide) that we have seen and loved are:

Azay-le-Rideau, 15 miles SW of Tours, built between 1518 and 1527 with Gothic elements combined with early Renaissance decoration set in wooded area surrounded by water on River Indre, "a romantic pleasure palace", exterior unaltered over centuries, open 9:30-6, night lumiere program during summer; called by Balzac as "multifaceted diamond set in the Indre";  PRIORITY

Chenonceau, 14 miles SE of Tours, built starting in 1513, structure stretches across waters of Cher River, early home for King Henri II's mistress; developed later by Catherine de Medici and five successor women associated with royal families, "a romantic pleasure palace", open 9:00-7 pm March 16th to September 15th, closes a little earlier late fall through winter, see first since it is closest to train station, avoid crowds and opens at 9 a.m., has one million visitors a year, and with the exception of Versailles, is the most visited castle in France; lunch or dinner at L'Orangerie on grounds.  www.chenonceau.com  SUPER PRIORITY

Cheverney, eight miles SE of Blois, privately held by family with lavish interior furnishings, rich tapestries, hunt tradition, built between 1604 and 1634, open 9:15 noon and 2:15-6:30 p.m.; kennel feeding time of 5 p.m., except 3 p.m. for Tuesdays and weekends. PRIORITY  

These other two are also rated as "three stars" by Michelin:

Villandry, 12 miles west of Tours, gardens are key focus, open 9-6 for chateau, last great Renaissance chateau built in Loire Valley;  Super wonderful gardens with many water features and other unique attractions!

Chambord, ten miles east of Blois, with curved exterior towers, double curved interior staircase and Italian influence, largest in Loire Valley with 440 rooms, 365 fireplaces, begun in 1523, can rent horses here to ride in nearby woods, downside: few furnishing on interior and big to see in short visit; royalty of this period did not keep their furnishings at each location, they moved rugs, tapestries, furnishings, etc. as they shifted from location to location; open daily 9:30-11:45 a.m. and 2-4:45 p.m.  Chambord is at a little distance from some of the other locations.  Large, but a little cold because it is not as well furnished and lacks some of the comfort and charm seen with other chateaus.  Their website:
http://www.chambord.org/Chambord-en-idm-1-n-Accueil.html

Local tourism office/site: www.holidays-loire-valley.com


MAJOR LOIRE VALLEY CITIES/OTHER OPTIONS THERE

ORLEANS: Once France's second largest city and now the vinegar capital of France, a direct result of the region's wine industry, Orleans was liberated from the British by Joan of Arc in 1429. Each year in May a celebration commemorating her exploits is held; the house in which she stayed during the ten-day siege of Orleans can be visited. The city also features the Hotel Groslot, a brick and stone Renaissance mansion which served as the Town Hall, and the Gothic Cathedral of St-Croix. Places of interest to visit in the surrounding area: the castles of Chamerolles and Sully-sur-Loire.

BOURGES: Located at the geographical heart of France, Bourges is a rich historical town of paved stone streets, medieval and Renaissance architecture, ancient ramparts and the remarkable Gothic Cathedral of St-Etienne which dominates the hilltop. Places of interest to visit in the surrounding area: the château o' Meillant, George Sand's House in Nohant, and Noirlac Abbey. And of course, Sancerre and its famous white wines.

BLOIS: Its famous castle has been linked throughout the centuries as the center of court intrigue during the 15th - 17th Centuries and with the history of French Kings. Its mixture of architectural styles is extraordinary: from flamboyant gothic to classical.  Nearby: the châteaux of Beauregard and Chaumont-sur Loire, which holds a famous International Festival of Parks and Gardens from mid-June through mid-October.

TOURS: At the junction of the Loire and Cher Rivers, Tours is a busy university town and the traditional point of departure for exploring the Loire Valley. During the Middle Ages, it was one of the great pilgrimage sites of Europe. Today, the city boasts wonderful Renaissance and neo-classical mansions, which are clustered around the famous Plumereau square, fine museums including a collection of craftsmen's masterpieces and the Cathedral of St-Gatien. Famous wine region, especially Vouvray, Chinon, Bourgueil... The most interesting sites in the Surrounding area are the châteaux of Azay IeRideau, which reflects on the river, Villandry, surrounded by Renaissance gardens, Ussé, said to be the original Sleeping Beauty's castle, Langeais and Loches, as well as the splendid medieval city of Chinon.

AMBOISE: Huddled under the shadow of its impressive royal castle, Amboise is a pretty town with white stone houses dating from the 15th century. Also of interest is the Cbs Lucé, the former residence of Leonardo da Vinci. A few miles away, the Château of Chenonceau, also called the Ladies Castle, has a famous viewing gallery, built by one of France's great Queens, from which to admire an impressive view of the Cher River.

Chinon: Its massive, 400 meter-long castle towers over the town’s medieval quarter.

Chateau de Chaumont: Its sets on a bluff overlooking the Loire. Its most famous feature is the luxurious Ecuries.

Chateau d’Amboise: The rocky outcrop on which it sits has been fortified since the roman times.

Musée des Beaux Arts de Tours: Tour’s Fine Arts Museum, housed in the 18th C. Palais de l’Ancien Archevéché, has an excellent collection of paintings from the 14th to the 20th C.

NEARBY CHARTRES CATHEDRAL
The world-famous Cathedral of Chartres which Rodin called the Acropolis of France, is a remarkable testament to medieval architecture. Musts include the sculpture, the 12' and 13' century stained glass and the collection of ancient musical instruments. The Old Town of medieval cobbled streets, gabled houses and charming footbridges lies at the foot of the cathedral.

LOCAL TOURIST OFFICES:
In each town and for many of the better villages, they will have a local tourism office.  You can use Google.com to search for that tourism office.  As example in the cute and historic town of Chinon (west of Tours in the Loire), you can do this Google search with these key words: "Chinon tourist office France" and it will yield this result for their local office:  http://tourisme.chinon.com/indexgb.php
Go to that site (or for whichever town you are seeking) and then you can contact them (probably by e-mail)  for the dates you are seek, type of accommodations, etc.   Some will have detailed info on the options there, etc.


KEY PARIS HIGHLIGHTS/FACTS/OVERVIEW:

FAST FACTS:   Paris is 2.1 million people in the main heart of the city.   There are 10.9 million in the metropolitan Paris area or 18% of the total for all of France.   The Metro has 124 miles of track with 368 stations.

36 million tourists visit Paris yearly, with 60% of them from abroad.   Paris has two main airports, Orly and DeGaulle, handling over 70 million customers.

WHAT MAKES PARIS GREAT/UNIQUE:   With style and sophistication, Paris is correctly proud of its cultural achievements over the centuries.   This confidence is expressed in Parisian life, including its architecture from ancient structures to controversy over Hausmann's bold late 1800's master plan and more recent modern developments.
Paris has taken bold decisions, including the Lourve with is now well-accepted glass pyramid by I. M. Pei.

Although at the heart of Europe, Paris is very individualistic and intuitive.   The city has attracted great writers artists and thinkers.   Historically, it has been a city of unrest, rebellion and revolution (an idea they helped finance in America and that lead to the sharp-edged 1789 removal of the Royal family).   Paris has a special style and soul.   It is a high-flying mix of architecture, fashion, history, idiosyncrasy, style, texture, color and atmosphere.   Paris is romantic, distinctive!

MAJOR PARIS HIGHLIGHTS/OPTIONS:
(Some times might have been adjusted slightly since this was put together a couple of years ago; plus there can always be strikes, budget shortages, etc. that affect scheduled openings in France.)

1. LOUVRE (closed Tuesday, open 9-6, Monday and Wednesday until 9:45 p.m.) with Cafe Louvre on site for lunch or dinner (and break or rest), plus food court area with wide mix of different items. This museums’s encyclopedic coverage is divided into seven departments covering ancient times to middle of 19th century; Pyramid entrance designed by I. M. Pei, opened in 1989; very big and can spend four days there and still not see everything; Denon (south) Wing on first floor has many of the key European paintings; Richelieu (north) Wing opened in 1993 and has large, covered sculpture courtyard in its middle; Sully Wing (east) has mostly Egyptian and other antiquities.  Over eight million visited the Louvre in 2006.  It’s very popular! From this website (www.louvre.fr/llv/commun/home.jsp?bmLocale=en), you can get more detailed information about its collection exhibits, facilities, etc.
PRIORITY

2. NOTRE DAME AND PALAIS DE JUSTICE on island of Seine River at site of Paris' start; Notre Dame completed during the 1163-1345 period, tours 9:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; famous southern Rose Windows, climb up 380 steps of the tower for the best views of the city; Sunday night 5:30 p.m. organ concerts; famous Rose stained glass windows; Sainte Chapelle near Palais de Justice is 700 years old with outstanding stained glass windows; La Conciergerie is prison where many, including Marie Antoinette were held prior to being guillotined, is well-light at night with its unique architecture, functioned as prison from 1391 to 1914.  Cathedral is open every day of the year from 8:00 am to 6:45 pm (7:15 pm on Saturdays and Sundays).  Web site: www.cathedraledeparis.com. PRIORITY

3. MUSEE D'ORSAY (door-say) (closed Monday, open 10-6, except Thursday 10 am-9:45 pm), covers 1848-1914 period and is especially great for Impressionist art.  It is a former railway station and hotel with an excellent cafe in museum (doing lunch in this spectacular dining room is a nice way to break up the visit, re-charge and get nice food service).  This dining area is a magnificent space defined by enormous windows, lighted by crystal chandeliers with gilded decoration bringing out the radiance of the sculpted ceilings.   Thursday night is perfect for walk from museum west toward Assemblee Nationale and cross Seine River bridge towards Place de la Concorde seeing all of the building lighted and then looking back towards Eiffel Tower; Place de la Concorde was designed in 1775. From this website (www.musee-orsay.fr/en), you can get more detailed information. PRIORITY

4. EIFFEL TOWER, (985' tall, 3rd floor at 305', built for 1889 Universal Exhibition). The vistas are magnificent and breathtaking from the topmost platform, especially one hour before sunset. Built in commemoration of the centenary of the French Revolution, weighing 7,000 tons, it was the world's tallest building until 1930. Nearly demolished in 1909 at the expiration of its 20-year lease, the Tower gained new utility as a perch for broadcast antennae and was saved. The Eiffel Tower is open every day all year long,
from 9:30 am to 11:00 pm, January 1 to June 12 and September 1 to December 31
- from 9:00 am to midnight, June 13 to August 31. Web site: www.tour-eiffel.fr/teiffel/uk

5. SEINE BOAT TRIP (can board at Pont Neuf), great views of famous Paris sights, especially at night as major buildings are lighted. From this website (www. vedettesdupontneuf.com), you can get more detailed information on one of the companies offering these trips.

6. CHAMPS-ELYSEES and ARC DE TRIOMPHE, started 1806 to celebrate Napoleon's early victories, completed in 1836, 165' high and is the world's largest triumphal arch. It is at the center of a star-shaped configuration of 12 radiating avenues, including the Champs Elysées. The Arc de Triomphe offers a vista seen the length of the Champs Elysées from the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel in the Tuileries Gardens and from the Obélisque de Luxor in the Place de la Concorde.  Since 1920, the tomb of France's Unknown Soldier has been sheltered underneath the arch and this site has an eternal flame for World War I & II fallen soldiers.  There are stairs climbing to the top of the Arc de Triomphe with great views over the city from this vantage point.   Website: www.arc-de-triomphe.monuments-nationaux.fr

7. MONTMARTRE/BASILIQUE DU SACRE-COEUR (church started being built in 1875 on one of highest points in Paris, dedicated in 1910); dome is second highest point in Paris, took 35 years to build with public conscription, great views at dawn and dusk plus from dome area over city, area made famous by artist Toulouse Lautrec, cubism born there; do direct Metro here, nearest station is Anvers or Pigalle. With its narrow cobblestone streets, gardens, steep steps and view over the city, this area is the emblem of romantic Paris.  This church was mainly dedicated in the memory of those thousands who died in the uprising of the Paris Commune of 1870-71.  Two dining options to consider in this area are: La Cremaillere on the famous Place du Tertre, where artists and intellectuals would meet. Just before World War I many artists such as Picassso, Modigliani, Utrillo and Apollinaire lived nearby. +33 1 4606 5859, info@cremaillere1900.com, Open Hours: 9a-12:30a M-Su. http://www.cremaillere1900.com/  Au Lapin Agile gives a flavor of Montmartre as it was at the turn of the century when it was a favorite of local artists and intellectuals. Open Tuesday to Sunday 9pm to 2am. 22, Rue Saules, 75018 Paris, +33 1 46 06 85 87, www.au-lapin-agile.com

8. LUXEMBOURG PALAIS and Gardens, built in 17th century for Marie de Medici, now houses French Senate, food available in gardens, great place for picnics. This 25-hectare green oasis on Paris' fashionable Left Bank has formal gardens populated with many statues (including one of Sainte-Gèneviève, patron saint of Paris), fountains and beautiful flowers.

9. SAINT GERMAIN MARKET, open 8 a.m.-1 p.m. and 4-7 p.m., open air, various food and meat items, near apartment; many galleries, cafes and antiques shops in area; rue de Buci street market.

10. ST. SULPICE CHURCH, second largest church in Paris, block from our apartment, famous for its organ and DeLacroix paintings, took 134 years to build, open 7:30 7:30.

11. LE MARAIS Area, NE of Hotel de Ville/City Hall, has Musee Picasso (structure built in 1659, opened in 1985 to settle his estate, open Wednesday-Monday 9:15 5:15) and Musee Carnavalet (built in 1540, two adjoining mansions with decorative arts from the various periods in Paris history), older area starting around metro St Paul station, has Jewish section in area with special foods and historic areas.  It has the super great park and architecture of the Place des Vogue area. The Place des Vosges was the prototype for the residential squares of European cities that were to come. What was new about the Place Royale in 1612 was that the house fronts were all built to the same design, of red brick with strips of stone over vaulted arcades that stand on square pillars. Cardinal Richelieu had an equestrian bronze of Louis XIII placed in the center of this charming park. Nearby is Brasserie Bofinger, one of the oldest and classiest places to dine (www.bofingerparis.com).  It has a gorgeous domed stained-glass ceiling over the main dining room.

12. MUSEE RODIN, has nice scale in both the interior exhibit area as an old mansion, plus the gardens with the outdoor sculpture, at Varenne Metro stop next to Hotel des Invaldes, has third largest private garden in Paris, originally built in 1730, Rodin used as his studio from 1908 until his death in 1917, open Tuesday Sunday 10-5:45.

13. PALAIS-ROYAL, former home of Cardinal Richelieu who died there in 1642, old houses, restaurants, teas rooms and shops border the formal gardens on three sides, near Louvre.

14. POMPIDOU CENTER or Beaubourg Museum, opened in 1977, closed Tuesday; mostly post 1918 art work; duct-work and steel framing on outside. From this website (www.centrepompidou.fr), you can get more detailed information.

15. PARIS OPERA HOUSE/OPERA GARNIER, opened 1875; 2nd Empire style, see its grand staircase and foyer, 2156 seats, large stage area, current home of Paris Ballet.  Wonderful place to do a tour.  It was just recently re-done for many of the key reception rooms with all of the great gold trim, etc. Spectacular to see! A model for many auditoriums around the world, this fine piece of design was constructed in the time of Napoleon III as part of Haussmann's city development scheme. Charles Garnier submitted the winning design and construction lasted from 1860 to 1875. Enjoy the marble Grand Staircase, the red and gold auditorium, the ceiling by Chagall and an 8 ton crystal chandelier. From this website (www.opera-de-paris.fr), you can get more detailed information.

16. MUSEE DE L'ORANGERIE de Tuileries, impressionism collection, including Monet's work; closed Tuesday, open 9:45-5:15 p.m. (www.musee-orangerie.fr). It has unveiled a fresh look, with its 19th- and 20th-century works relocated underground, and Claude Monet's famed Nymphéas displayed as the artist intended them to be: lit by sunlight, in large oval galleries that recall the shape of the garden ponds on his Giverny estate.

17. MUSEE MARMOTTAN, open most every day (except Jan. 1, May 1 & Dec. 25) 11 am-6 pm, with its excellent impressionist art, including Monet works. From this website (www.marmottan.com), you can get more detailed information.  At 2, rue Louis-Boilly, this Museum possesses the world's largest collection of works by Claude Monet. It has a very complete and representative group of works of theses artistic movements, including more than three hundred paintings, pastels, watercolors and sculptures of the Impressionists and Post-impressionists super-stars.

18. HOTEL LES INVALIDES, Napoleon' s tomb, 643 foot dome, built in 1676 by Sun King, Louis XIV, for old soldiers, many disabled, open 10-5:45.

19. ILE SAINT LOUIS is one of the most charming little areas in all of Paris. So nice to stroll up its main street as you walk towards Notre Dame and other key highlights. Famed Berthillon ice cream: The only true Berthillon can be found at 31, rue St Louis-en-l'Ile, where it was born. This delicious ice cream has rich colors and equally intense flavors. It comes in myriad flavors, but the rum raisin, dark chocolate (chocolat noir) and mango (mangue) flavors are incredible. This is divine dessert territory.  Lots of Boutique shopping and dining places line this street in the heart of Paris.  Try Brasserie Ile St-Louis, 55 quai de Bourbon, 1er (tel. 01/43/54-02-59), that Frommers calls the last independent brasserie in Paris.  They note: “Far from the polished restaurants that masquerade as true brasseries, this one has as its heart old Paris.”

VERSAILLES: By suburban subway/train (RER-C5 line, from St-Michel, every 15 minutes) or train (30 minutes) from Saint Lazare; started being built in 1660's for Sun King Louis XIV (during 1661 to 1715 period, involved 32,000 to 45,000 workers) in French classical architectural style; conceived as a world unto itself as seat of government, permanent residence of the royal family and the cream of nobility, was previously modest hunting lodge in swampy area; palace highlight is 236-foot long Hall of Mirrors where the treaty was signed ending WWI; a three-year restoration of this spectacular Hall of Mirrors was just completed in June 2007; through 2020, they are completing a $455 million project to upgrade Versailles with cleanings, new roofs, other restorations, etc.; this property has 700 rooms, 2,153 windows, 352 chimneys and 28 acres of roof; in the huge garden areas are Grand Canal, Grand Trianon, Petit Trianon and Hameau used by Marie Antoinette; town population of 100,000; possible bus tour or car drive options out to Versailles; open 9:45-5, park open sunrise to sunset; tour palace first and gardens later (closed Monday). From this website (www.chateauversailles.fr/en), you can get more detailed information.


PARIS METRO/SUBWAY: Great, great system! Probably best to buy packets of ten tickets, rather than a multi-day, three or five day pass. There are fourteen different subway lines, plus the four different suburban RER rail options. It is important to know which line or lines you want to use, IN ADVANCE, and the name of the end station for your direction so that you go down the right set of stairs to be on the correct side of the tracks. It's not as simple as New York City with uptown or downtown! But it offers totally great, fast, frequent service. Very clean and nice!  Single tickets (1.60 Euros) may be purchased at the counters each time, but the better value is a carnet of 10 (11.40 Euros), which will also save you waiting in line. For all day use, for adults (there is a cheaper children’s daily pass), the pass cost in euros is for one day (8.80), two days (14.4), three days (19.6), or five days (28.3).  Compared to London, the daily pass might not be the best value.  It depends on your needs.  WEBSITE for maps and other info/details: http://www.ratp.info/touristes/index.php?langue=en

PARIS MUSEUM PASS: Strongly suggest getting the Paris Museum Pass for access to 60 museums and monuments in Paris and the surrounding region. Multiple visits to the same museums are possible and there is no waiting in line. You get:
* Entry into more than 60 Paris museums and monuments inside and outside Paris, including Arc de Triomphe, Pantheon, The Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Musee National du Chateau de Versailles, Musee National Picasso, Pompidou Center, Musee Roding, Chateau de Rambouillet, Basilique Saint-Denis, Chateau de Chantilly, Fontainebleau, etc.
* Multiple visits to the same museums or monuments at no extra charge
* Validities: 2, 4 or 6 consecutive days
* No admission charge, no waiting in line
Paris Museum Pass, 2-Day Pass 32 Euro
Paris Museum Pass, 4-Day Pass 48 Euro
Paris Museum Pass, 6-Day Pass 64 Euro
You can get the Paris Museum Pass at the Paris Tourist Office, and in its reception offices in Paris train stations, and the Eiffel Tower or at over 60 museums and monuments concerned.
More info:
www.parismuseumpass.fr

GIVERNY  is best known as Claude Monet's garden and home, sitting on the "right Bank" of the River Seine. The village lies 80km or 50 miles northwest of Paris on the border between the province of Normandy and the Île-de-France. Claude Monet noticed the village of Giverny while looking out the train window. He moved there, renting a house and in 1890, he saved enough money to buy the house and land.  He created the spectacular gardens he wanted to paint. Some of his most famous paintings, such as his water lily and Japanese bridge paintings, were of his garden in Giverny. This pond and bridge are actually separated by a roadway between this scenic feature and the main house/gardens. There is an under the road connector linking these two parts of this wonderful site.  Monet lived in Giverny from 1883 until his death in 1926. He is buried in the village cemetery. Monet's house and gardens were opened to public visit in 1980 It is open April 1-October 31, Tuesday through Sunday, closed on Monday.  You reach Giverney by taking the train from to Vernon. You can get more info about this area and its options from www.giverny.org. As per www.raileurope.com, two of the best rail connections to Vernon (Giverney's nearby town) are from St Lazare station at 8:20 am or 12:20 pm arriving in 46 minutes.  There are some other rail options, but they would involve changing trains at Mantes and this would take more time in getting to Vernon/Giverney.

South of Paris grand palaces and gardens:

FONTAINEBLEAU is one of the largest French royal chateaus.  It is located 34.5 miles south of Paris. The palace is the work of many French monarchs, building on an early 16th century structure of Francis I. The building is arranged around a series of courtyards. The city of Fontainebleau has grown up around the remainder of the Forest of Fontainebleau, a former royal hunting park. Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, began to transform Fontainebleau into a symbol of his grandeur, as an alternative to empty Versailles, with its Bourbon connotations. Napoleon hosted Pope Pius VII there in 1804, when he came to consecrate the emperor, and again in 1812–1814, when he was Napoleon's prisoner. With modifications of the château's structure, including the cobblestone entrance wide enough for his carriage, Napoleon helped make the château the place that visitors see today. At Fontainebleau Napoleon bade farewell to his Old Guard and went into exile in 1814. Fontainebleau was also the setting of the Second Empire court of his nephew Napoleon III.
Their website, but only in French:
www.musee-chateau-fontainebleau.fr

VAUX-LE-VICOMTE, a baroque French chateau located near Melun, 55 km southeast of Paris, was built from 1658 to 1661 for Nicolas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s finance minister.
This grand estate was the most influential work and most elaborate and grand house built in Europe in the mid-17th century.  Architect Louis Le Vau and landscape architect André le Nôtre worked together on a large-scale project for the first time. Their collaboration marked the beginning of a new order: the magnificent manner that is associated with the "Louis XIV style" involving a system of collective work, which could be applied to the structure, its interiors and works of art and the creation of an entire landscape. The garden's use of a baroque axis that extends to infinity is an example of this style. The château was lavish, refined, and dazzling to behold, but these characteristics proved tragic to its owner. The King had Fouquet arrested shortly after the famous party  on 17 August 1661, with Molière's play 'Les Fâcheux.  The celebration had been too impressive and the finance minister's home too luxurious. The King seized Vaux Le Vicomte, had his minister jailed and had its team of artists design what would be a much larger . . . the palace and gardens of Versailles!  
For more info:
www.vaux-le-vicomte.com

For Paris and nearby bus/coach tours, look at:
www.pariscityrama.com/en

For private, personal tours, check with
parisphototours@aol.com
Or, her website of
www.lindamathieu.com/paris



DINING:  Assuming you're not looking for the high-end, pricy places, the great news is that most any place will be very good to great to excellent. It's hard to have a bad meal in France!! The secret is to do some asking where you are staying and/or of others you meet there for their local suggestions. Then apply the eyeball test! If it looks touristy and the people sitting there (or the staff) are bored and uninterested, then that place probably should be avoided. If it looks like there are locals there and/or they are enjoying it, then it will probably be very good. Or maybe even better!

Here's a good "balancing suggestion" for saving your dining budget. Grab your lunch at one of the many bakeries/boulangerie/patisserie shops. Most are very cute and wonderful. Great breads! Get a sandwich, pastry, drink. Maybe some cheese. Other nice fresh things. Maybe spend only $4-5-6 a person. Eat in a park area or bench in Paris or the country side. Like a little picnic! Saves money and time during a busy day. Allows a little more budget for dinner in the evening.

FINAL KEY POINT: Read up, in advance, with such books (maybe from your library) as Eyewitness France (great maps and pictures) . . . or the Michelin Green books . . . to help you target what you most want to see and enjoy to fit your needs and taste. Don't wait until you get there to decide what you want to do. And be flexible. There could be strikes, rain, etc. that will require you to be able to adjust quickly to take advantage of your best available options each day.




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QUESTION: Hi Terry, Thank you for all the information. I didn't tell you this was a pre-booked tour through an Auction company. We are all set on Castle tours ,which we get one day and a tour of Paris, also.We will have a lunch at Eiffel Tower. I am really focusing on food, language and the information on the train is very helpful since I sprained my knee and it is a little sore. I can walk fine but don't want to go up and down for no reason. Since we are on a time budget, I would like to go to Louvre, the Army museum and the Rodin Museum or Maritime Museum.With my busy schedule I do not want to return exhausted and I need time to people watch. I never miss a meal!!We stay in Loire Valley 3 days which is plenty ,Paris for 4 ,then London for 2 nights. We leave this week.I am studying Rick Steves Paris Book.

Answer
Appreciate, Janet, your nice ratings and follow-up.  Good luck on your "adventure" in both France and England.  All great areas.  Love London, too, from many wonderful visits there.  

Lots of great walking options in Paris.  Much fairly flat and somewhat easy to do.  Have not been to the Army or Maritime museums in Paris.  The Rodin Museum is excellent and not too massive.  Get ready to return "exhausted".  Too much to see and enjoy in these areas.  You can rest later.  

Check your library to see a copy of the Eyewitness book for France.  Their books have great visuals and maps to help get a good idea on your many options, etc.  

Let me know any other questions, needs, etc.  When you get back, let me know what you liked most, surprised you, etc.  

ENJOY!  Merci Beaucoup!

Thanks.  Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio  

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Terry Casey

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Most experienced for Paris, Loire Valley, Provence, Dordogne, Alsace, Burgundy, Normandy and Reims/Champagne Country. Terry likes helping travelers get trip "flow and pacing" right so your adventure is neither . . . a bore, NOR a blur! Make sure your timing works, fitting your interests, tastes, personal experiences and needs. Terry has planned and done great trips to the Baltics, Russia, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Ireland, England, Austria, Italy, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Norway, Turkey and Switzerland, plus South America and Cuba. Did wonderful April, 2007, week in Paris, summer 2008 southern England trip, summer 2010 fjords/North Cape, Norway coast, etc. Has visited twenty=two different countries in Europe. You can check out our Norway coast/fjords adventure with lots of great pictures from last summer at: www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1227923 This live/blog has gotten nearly 52,000 views. For Villefranche, ports in Italy and along the the Croatian coast, you can check this live/blog. We are now at 42,762 views here. www.boards.cruisecritic.com/showthread.php?t=1426474 France is great, but these other parts of the Europe are wonderful, too!!!

Experience

There is much post 9-11-2001 worry about travel to Europe, but all reports and experiences say things are fine, with proper care and planning. From wide travels in many parts of Europe in 2005- 2008, my personal experiences are that things are good there and reasonably behaving Americans are treated well. See, enjoy the world and experience its great diversity! I have visited 20 countries in Europe and know that there's lots there to see and do. PROVIDE KEY BACKGROUND INFORMATION with QUESTION: To help me answer your questions better, please provide some info on your past France/Europe travel experiences, ages, general budget range, personal travel style/interests, number in your party, what you most want to enjoy and see, etc.

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Ohio State University grad

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