A Festival of Scallops in Monmartre, Paris

Snapshots of La Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques

I’ve had this year’s La Fête de la Coquille Saint-Jacques (Festival of Scallops) in Montmartre on my calendar for a couple of months. A French friend told me about this annual Breton event and I was instantly intrigued. David and I love scallops. We had big fun in October at the Meaux “Brie Happy” Festival celebrating the local cheese so had high hopes for a festival centered around scallops and other specialties from the Brittany region of France. A quick online search promised booths of food, cooking demonstrations, traditional Breton dancers and more. Fun! read more

The Biggest Medieval Festival in France is a hit once again

Encampments outside the ramparts at Les Médiévales de Provins

My boys and I used to make the annual Fête Médiévale de Provins whenever possible, but–with my children grown–it had been some years since I’d been. When David and I decided to move back to Paris for the year, I looked up the festival, put it on my calendar and signed up for the festival email list. Then, I packed the “Guinevere” dress I bought some years back just for the occasion and crossed my fingers that we’d work the Provins fête into our schedule. Despite early summer heat and the possibility of storms (that didn’t materialize) we made it out to the picturesque walled town this past Sunday for the 38th annual festival. Les Médiévales de Provins was packed with visitors, entertainers, vendors, craftsmen and more, lots of whom sported elaborate medieval (or fantastical quasi-medieval) costumes in a perfect setting. What fun! read more

Versailles: Beyond the château and gardens

La Galerie des Sculptures et des Moulages (The Gallery of Sculptures and Casts). It’s hard to believe the spectacular venue was a stable and arena for horses!

[I’m still committed to blogging our three-weeks in New Zealand (Fall 2022), but decided that I wouldn’t let that stop me from posting about our current year in Paris when the mood hits me.]

The town of Versailles is an easy Métro/RER ride from our apartment and we love heading out there just to wander the extensive château gardens, especially on days when the château is closed so that the crowds are thinned. Recently, though, we headed to Versailles on a Sunday to the Galerie des Carrosses (Gallery of Carriages), a place I’d been wanting to visit, but that is only open on weekends. Housed in former royal stables known as La Grande Ecurie, the Grande Ecurie along with nearby La Petite Ecurie were built for Louis XIV between 1679-1682. Located just across from the main entrance to the palace of Versailles, they comprised the largest, most extravagant stables ever built. Since the Galerie des Carrosses is only open on weekends, we got a chance to check out the masses of tourists at the château across the way. Wow. And no thank you. I’ve visited the château many times over the years so feel lucky not to have to brave a mob like that. Still, it is one of the top tourist sites in the world and absolutely worth a visit, even in a crowd. But, back to Versailles beyond the château : read more

Corsica, at last

Bonifacio, Corsica

Corsica is a French island in the Mediterranean southeast of Nice and just north of Sardinia. It’s the birthplace of Napoleon I and a place of rugged beauty with a culture all its own. I wanted to visit Corsica for decades, but despite living in Paris on-and-off for years, I never made it. The time had finally arrived!

After finishing a house-and cat-sitting gig in little Thoiry, France, we flew EasyJet from Geneva to Ajaccio, Corsica, an 1h10m non-stop flight. We picked up a rent car at the Ajaccio airport and drove two and a half hours through rocky mountains to Bonifacio at the southern tip of the island, stopping a long the way to admire views and snap photos. We had nine nights in Corsica and I’d agonized over where exactly to spend our time. With all the winding roads, driving times in Corsica can be long and I didn’t want to fall into the trap of rushing around trying to see everything and being rushed everywhere. I settled on Bonifacio as one of two places to stay because it was just so dramatically beautiful. And given how many dramatically beautiful places there are in Corsica, that’s saying a lot. Wow, was I happy with my choice of Bonifacio! read more

Saint-Claude, France, and a magical hike to the Trou de l’Abîme

I had to share a quick post about the charmingly pipe-happy town of Saint-Claude, France, and the nearby Trou de l’Abîme, an enchanting hiking spot in the Jura region of France. With the June weather getting a little too hot for us in the village of Thoiry where were spending a couple of weeks house-and cat-sitting, we were off for a day in the low Jura mountains searching for somewhere cool. The pipe-happy town of Saint-Claude and the nearby Trou de l’Abîme riverside hike were the perfect finds. read more

Chamonix-Mont-Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi cable car

Looking back at Chamonix, France, from the Aiguille du Midi cable car as it ascends

Decades ago, I was intrigued to learn it is possible to take a cable car over the Alps from Chamonix, France, to Italy. I’d wanted to make the trip ever since, but I learned that weather was a huge factor. The Aiguille du Midi (“Needle of the Midi”) is a 12,606ft mountain peak in the Mont Blanc massif. The Aiguille du Midi cable car is the highest cable car in France and the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without climbing. Weather can turn bad quickly at such high altitudes and the cable car can be halted without notice. Losing visibility is also a risk if clouds form on the mountain peaks. Even when living in Paris, a dash for the Chamonix cable car (a 6+ hour drive or multi-stage train trip) on a day forecast to be sunny just never made sense. With two summer weeks to spend house- and cat-sitting near Geneva, I realized we were only an hour and twenty minute drive away from Chamonix. My time might finally have come to visit the famous ski town and the Aiguille du Midi cable car! read more

Château de Voltaire at Ferney-Voltaire

The Château de Voltaire at Ferney-Voltaire

Wanting to take full advantage of our time house- and cat-sitting in Thoiry, France, I avidly browsed local websites and scanned any tourist brochures I came across. I was excited when I discovered that Voltaire’s home-in-exile-from-Paris for 20+ years was in nearby Ferney-Voltaire, France, only 15 minutes away. I’m a fan of the famous, witty and irreverent French philospher and writer. We had to go!

Banished from Paris by Louix XV, Voltaire (né François-Marie Arouet) lived at Ferney (later Ferney-Voltaire) from 1758 to 1778. Among other well-known works, Voltaire wrote Candide at the château in Ferney in 1759. read more

Annecy: a picturesque city on an Alpine lake bustles in the summer sun

The Palais de l’Isle in the middle of the Thiou River dates to the 12th century.

I’ve known several people from Annecy, heard about it for years, but had never had the opportunity to visit. With Annecy just under an hour drive away from our house- and cat-sit in Thoiry, now was the perfect time.

The route took us over the Rhône River and through the Haute-Savoie region of France. We arrived on a warm, sunny June holiday (Lundi de Pentecôte) to find Annecy absolutely buzzing with people. Despite the hordes and lack of street parking, we found ample cheap parking in the château parking lot just a short walk up the hill from the city center. I was worried about the crowds at first, but the city absorbed them well and the atmosphere was festive rather than claustrophobic. For lunch, we surprisingly had no wait for an outdoor table in the shade at the café of our choice, Café Bichette. We enjoyed trying award-winning local beers – a blonde for me and a triple for David – from Brasseurs Savoyards. read more

House- and cat-sitting in a little village near Geneva

Swans on Lake Geneva at Vevey, hoping to share our lunch

It had been awhile since David and I did a pet- and housesitting gig for someone new, but we had a couple of weeks to fill between our latest cat-sit in Antwerp and the time I’d set aside for a long-wished-for trip to Corsica. On whim, I searched Trustedhousesitters.com for something that might work. (See my earlier posts on pet- and housesitting here and here.) I was intrigued to find a two-week cat- and housesit in Thoiry, France, a small village nestled against the Jura Mountains just outside of Geneva, Switzerland. I wrote the owner, Lydia, right away; we had a great video chat and it was a done deal. Her tomcat, Leo, turned out to be the easiest cat-sit ever. He roamed at night and came home in the morning for breakfast and to socialize and nap. He never even used his litterbox during our stay. Lydia’s home was cute, comfortable and modern and a breeze to maintain with techy touches including a robot lawn mower and big, retractable awning over the patio. read more

Quick recap of a repositioning cruise from Florida to Copenhagen

Enchanted Princess docked in Ponta Delgada, Azores,
en route from Fort Lauderdale, Florida, to Copenhagen, Denmark

I haven’t blogged since last fall’s Belgium/Paris/Kenya/South Africa travels, but that’s not to say we haven’t traveled. David and I spent three months doing a transAtlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Copenhagen, 5 weeks in Antwerp, 2 weeks near Geneva and a final stay in Corsica in the spring before heading home to Texas for a 4th of July family reunion and some summer pool time in the sun. Our spring travels were great, but I wasn’t sure I had much to add to the ever-swelling ocean of travel reviewers and bloggers. A dear friend disagrees, so I’m back at Wanderwiles just for you, Phyllis. I won’t detail it all (I’ve written a fair amount about our much-loved Antwerp already.), but there were some fun discoveries I’m happy to share. read more