Entries in France (29)


Basque country {France and Spain}

In an effort to stay ONE year ahead of my European travels, I think I'll slide right on in with this last trip post about our travels to southern France/Northern Spain last May! It was one of our last trips and we went with some friends of ours, which was extra fun (but minus the hubs = less fun). He would have especially loved this trip bc the Basque region of Spain (San Sebastian) is a foodie's paradise! We even took a tapas tour where we sampled loads of Basque specialties. My foodie girl was in heaven for sure!

Here's a map of our itenerary. Since we started in one country (Biarritz, France) and ended in another (Bilbao, Spain), renting a car was crazy expensive. So we trained and bussed this trip and it turned out ok in the end. Biarritz is a lovely little resort town than any Frenchman will wax poetic about. We just thought it was ok. Granted, it was chilly and grey, a public holiday AND we were traveling with kiddos.. but I think San Sebastian has my vote for the best beach spot in the area. I'll let you be the judge I guess!

For my geographically challenged readers, here's the a visual :)
And a little zoomed in for you:

Biarritz, France:
I'm sure a little warmth and sun would have helped our opinion of Biarritz, but we were happy to head south to San Sebastian, Spain. We took a great walking tour in which we learned a lot about the Basque region and people and then sampled the best part of the culture: the food!
we took a cable car up to the top of the mountain and got to take in the gorgeous views..
the tapas...
We ended our tour in Bilbao, Spain, which boasts the Guggenheim. I'm a sucker for fantastic architecture and I totally geeked out and loved every angle and view of this fantastic building. The museum was pretty good for kids too, actually, and had a great playground and ice cream galore. Score!

so there you have it! I do hope you make it to this side of the globe one day. If so, please go when the sun is shining and make sure and wear stretchy pants :)
Thanks for reading and check back for adventures from a new continent coming next: Asia!


"Make a Wish" Granted.. in Paris! 

If you haven't read yet about my niece Ashley, you can catch up here and here.
The hardest part is well behind her and she was given the most amazing gift: a trip to Paris from the "Make a Wish" Foundation with her mom and brothers! It has long been a dream of hers and we were THRILLED to be able to meet them there for a majority of their time there. (And I was happy to bring along my camera to document the experience!)

Our first full day (Valentine's Day) , they were given a hop-on-hop-off bus pass, so we decided to see a lot of the city that way. It was chilly and drizzly, but the kids were so happy to be together!
First up was a traditional Parisian breakfast: cafe et croissant (Ashley's favorite was the pain au chocolate).
Next up was a trip to the local market to buy fresh flowers.
hopping "off" the bus proved to be a little difficult because of reduced winter hours. So we mostly stayed ON the bus and they got a good tour of the city. We did hop off in Monmarte and went up to see Sacre Coeur, have lunch and see the "love wall". (fitting, as it was Valentine's day)

We wrapped up the day at Trocodero overlooking the Eiffel Tower.

That night, "uncle Danny" arrived from Brussels and our traveling party was complete! MANY thanks to the lone dad for keeping the boys busy the next day so we could do the major item on Ashley's wish list: SHOP.
Forever 21, Zara, H&M & Topshop were top on her list (oh to be 15 again :)) so we hit those, then went to the fabulous Galleries Lafayette for a better look at Parisian shopping.
Lunch stop for escargo and croque madame below :)
That morning, we split up and they went to the Louvre, and our family visited the Musee de Carnavalet, which is a museum of Paris. It really was a nice collection and I'd recommend to those with more than a few days in Paris.

We had dinner at Les Galopins, where our friend is the chef, and enjoyed visiting with our Parisian adopted family. Our cousins experienced a real 3 hour European dinner and we were all tuckered out after a full day!

Day 3 was all about this guy:
look at those skies! I think i've been to Paris about 10x now and this may have been the 2nd time only that i've seen it that clear. Ahh.. what a treat!
When we were walking towards it, the morning sun was a nice backlight..
We decided to take the stairs to the 2nd level and then a couple went on up to the very top. Incredible views to be sure!

My 11 year old nephew pointed out the shadow. (I almost missed it, so thanks Andrew!!) What a fantastic sun dial!
Quick stop by the Arc..
We walked down the Champs Elysees and indulged in a little Lauderee.

We then headed to the Marais for lunch at a recommended favorite, Chez Janou (bottomless chocolate mousse anyone?) and enjoyed walking around the Marais afterwards to show them a little more intimate side of Paris.
Turns out the Marais was SO BUSY on Sunday (it was a gorgeous day plus a lot of the shops are open, which is not the norm for the rest of Paris) but I found a couple of good photo spots none-the-less.
Back at our hotel at the Place de la Republique. We rested up for a bit, sent dad on his way and tucked into a late local dinner..
Last day - We started off with some photos in the Tulleries Gardens.. Part of her pre-sweet 16 photo shoot.

there's a WHOLE lotta love in the photo below! :)

We had a great breakfast, a stop at L'Orangerie, then we took a walk along the Seine to the lock bridge. They had ordered a lock with the family names on it.. in pink. It was perfect!!
we then made it to Notre Dame (Maybe they can look back fondly on the walk, now that it's behind them??) :)
We then headed over to San Germain de Pres and Luxembourg Gardens for some fun in the park!

And that concludes the photo portion of our trip!
What a fabulous gift for my niece after such a long ordeal. We are so thankful that she's on her way to good health and are so very blessed to have been able to share in her special wish.

I hope her horizons are broadened, her heart grateful and her imagination inspired to continue to wish and dream the biggest and grandest of dreams!


St Emilion and Bordeaux {wine & gastronomy with kids}

Welcome back!

So, hopefully you've read about our adventures in the Dordogne already.  If you need to get caught up, click here and here. The Dordogne portion of our week was just the kids and I andon Friday morning, we picked up Dad at the Bergerac airport and drove the 1.25 hours west to St Emilion. Actually, we checked into our room for the night in nearby Saint-John de Blaignac, in the Chateau de Courtebotte which we would HIGHLY recommend! We had an amazing suite, and the hostess was most helpful in arranging our vineyard tour and beyond. There's a pool and amazing grounds which would be so fun for summer.. please stay there if you're in the area!
*This region is also known for it's food. Fois Gras, pates, souflees and sauces.. it's all a culinary dream and my foodie family was in heaven. We took the kids to Auberge St John for their first multi-course French meal and they were champs, cleaning their plates with ease. The bar has been set pretty high for these two.. I hope they can find partners later in life that will be adventurous eaters with them!

Here's the map of Dordogne that I've used previously, but now with an arrow to denote Bordeaux. As you can see, it's on the western-most part of the region..

We had lunch in previous town square and wandered the streets a little to get our bearings. Of course we had to climb the tower and we set up a tour the next day to see St Emilion's resting place and see the world's largest monolithic cathedral! (underground cathedral, carved out of stone, which was started in the 12thc).. way cool!
A lot of people dont know about this part of St Emilion because most tourists are there for one reason:

the wine! :)

Of course, we partook as well, but also enjoyed the many other aspects of the ancient town..

The next day, we had a private tour lined up at Chateau Fonplegade. Even the kids enjoyed the tour enjoyed their grape popcycles at the end :) (great thinking, huh?)
We ended up shipping a couple of boxes back to Brussels of our favorites and am happy to report they all are almost gone! Sign of a decicious wine, indeed!
later that day, we headed to Bordeaux, about 45 minutes more due west. Once again, we lucked out on an amazing apartment in the center of town. I finally decided to take some photos of our accomodations!
Bordeaux was a complete suprise I must say. Since it was the last stop of the week, I was not well prepared. I expected to visit a winery or 2 and hadn't thought much about Bordeaux itself. Well, it ended up being beautiful, sunny day and we enjoyed walking around the city and just relaxing. It has a nice river-front area, some very nice historical buildings, great nightlife in quaint plazas, and completely looked like a mini Paris to me. We loved it! Here's a few pics to whet your whistle :)

our plan was to hit this large winery/educational center on the way to airport and we had missed it's closing by about 30 minutes. (Sunday hours) Bummer! But the kids had fun on the grounds instead..

So that concludes our adventure in St Emilion and Bordeaux. This would certainly have been a great adult trip, so maybe we'll revisit one of these days.. but since we do, in fact, have children in our daily care, we made it work. ;)

Thanks for looking and check back for just a couple of more posts before I'm all caught up chronologically! We start traveling again this weekend, so the slate will be clean and ready for new adventures to share.
Hopefully, by the end of the school year I'll have adventures in Cyprus, Sardinia, Greece, Iceland, Paris (x2 or 3!), Italy, and more to share!