I made my big announcement on Monday. In case you missed it, the time has come for Michael and me to pack our bags and move back to the US after three wonderful, full years of life in Paris. The specifics will come later, but know that it is a happy decision for us and we’re really looking forward to our next adventure in New York City -- and don’t worry: the traveling (and blogging) are not going to stop!
Yet regardless that we are happily and willfully moving on, a big change like this doesn’t come without heartbreak and sadness. Our time in Paris has forever changed our lives for the better, and over these past few weeks I can’t help but reflect on all the happy memories we’ve shared.
One outcome of living in Paris is that we’ve had the opportunity to explore a decent amount of the country outside of its capital. France is very diverse, and I highly recommend to anyone to visit Paris (because it really is always a good idea) but then to get outside and explore other regions of France as well. In hopes to introduce you to a taste of what France has to offer, here’s a little photo montage of where we’ve been in France. I’ve roughly organized the post starting from the north and heading southward. I hope this produces a bit of curiosity to travel around this gorgeous country or motivates you to see more of it!
Reims | Highlights include its stunning cathedral with stained glass windows by Marc Chagall, and plenty of opportunities to do champagne tours and tastings!
Honfleur | A pretty port town that inspired great Impressionists like Monet and Boudin.
Pointe du Hoc (and WWII beaches)
Pointe du Hoc | It’s mind-boggling to wrap your head around the beauty of this area, yet see huge craters in the ground that were results of bombs dropping on the land.
Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial | There is nothing more powerful and heart wrenching as seeing rows of crosses of the young men who fought in WWII, and paying respects to the ultimate sacrifice they made.
Bayeux | The perfect home base in Normandy for reaching the WWII sights. This town features its own beautiful cathedral plus the famous Bayeux tapestry that’s almost 1,000 years old!
Étretat | This town is part of the stunning Côte d'Albâtre (the Alabaster Coast). It was introduced to me as being “the French version of the White Cliffs of Dover.” Now that I’ve seen white cliffs on both sides of the channel, I think these win out by far.
Mont-Saint-Michel | This iconic abbey on the border of Normandy and Brittany is worth a pilgrimage to see it perched up high on its own island.
St Malo | The perfect summer getaway featuring the ocean, a cute medieval town, and plenty of those galettes and crêpes the Bretons are famous for!
Chartres | Though there are plenty of places just outside of Paris to visit in the Île-de-France, I’m only going to mention one here. The incredible stained glass windows (and rest of Chartres Cathedral) were so stunning, it absolutely had to make the list.
Val de Loire
The Loire Valley | Pictured above: Château de Chenonceau, one of dozens of incredible châteaux you can visit in the area! This famous and well-visited one will always be my favorite (though I’d live in any of them if offered one...hint, hint!)
Strasbourg | This charming town in Alsace, bordering Germany, was the place to catch a Christmas market in France! It’s the best of both worlds with its German-style Christmas market with a side of French pastries and a ton of cheese.
Dijon | I’ll always remember this weekend trip as being my first introduction to escargot and that addictive garlic sauce those little guys are smothered in!
Beaune | A perfect weekend getaway for foodies and wine lovers alike. Book ahead for dinner at Le Caveau des Arches, and make sure to visit the Hôtel Dieu, a fascinating medieval hospital with a great audioguide.
Fontenay Abbey | Just one of the beautiful sights we enjoyed while driving around the countryside of Bourgogne.
Bordeaux | Classy and sophisticated vineyards ahead! Pictured above is my first (and maybe only time) sampling wine from Château Haut-Brion, the same vineyard President Thomas Jefferson enjoyed in his day.
Saint-Émilion | A preserved medieval town with the bonus of being home to lots of independent family vineyards (which were admittedly more my speed than the flashy Bordeaux estates).
Arcachon | Oysters and ocean, the perfect end to a day at the vineyards.
Beynac-et-Cazernac | Staying in a village like this, it can’t be too hard to imagine how Dordogne stole my heart away and is one of my favorite regions of France.
Lyon | The gastronomic capital of France did not disappoint in the food department! And when we needed things to do between meals, we enjoyed visiting the cool Roman ruins of Lyon.
Avignon | Home to the French line of popes which split off from Rome. Its most iconic landmark is its half-collapsed bridge, the subject of a famous French children’s song: “Sur le pont d'Avignon l'on y danse, l'on y danse…”
Les Baux de Provence | One of our side trips from Avignon was to see this fortification and castle from medieval times, complete with sweeping views of surrounding countryside.
Marseilles | During our trip to Avignon, we made a day trip to Marseilles to enjoy sunshine and walk alongside the Mediterranean.
Nice | Sunshine, the Chagall museum, and daily gelato made Nice a perfect homebase for a trip to the Côte d'Azur with my hubby and a dear friend. (Are you seeing a trend of how important going somewhere with abundant sunshine becomes for Parisians?)
Antibes | My absolute favorite town we visited along the Côte d'Azur. The views were amazing and the pizza was some of the best I’ve had in my life. We also were able to tour the Picasso Museum, which felt ironic at the time that we had to go all the way to the south of France when we lived so close to the Musée Picasso in Paris (though now it is finally open again after years of restoration work!).
The best thing about our list of sights in France is that it’s not complete. That’s where I hope you can come in!
As I mentioned, Michael and I are planning a month-long “Tour de France” road trip as an “A bientot” to this wonderful country. Our goal is to make our way south and hit the regions of Dordogne, Basque, Languedoc, Midi-Pyrénées, Provence, and Côte d'Azur; then loop back up to Paris via of eastern border, hitting Jura and Alsace.
So it’s over to you - are there any must-see towns or attractions on the route (or worth deviating from the route to see) that you can recommend? Thank you so much to those who have already reached out and provided some inspiration! And a heartfelt thank you to all who have wished us well on the transition - it’s a tumultuous time, but all the encouragement and kind words are so appreciated.
Merci à tous!