Sunday, 20 July 2014

C'est la vie: France!

After 6 wonderful weeks in Turkey, it was time to say that word again “goodbye”. This time it was harder than usual. Leaving my family behind without knowing when I will see them again was difficult but had to be done to embrace the wonders of the world.

Our flight left from Antalya to Paris. Alex and my in-laws, Jacqueline and Christian, helped me to deal with the melancholy of the situation. Antoine, a family friend, picked us up from the airport after a 3 hour flight. Being in Paris in summer was intriguing but the weather didn't look very promising with all the rain and cold at the time.  

La Seine
The first couple of days were spent to catch up with Alex's relatives and friends. Jacqueline and Christian hosted a couple of fantastic garden parties which provided a wonderful 
opportunity to reconnect with the extended family and friends. We were fortunate to taste different home-made French dishes accompanied with refined wines carefully picked by my father-in-law. Christian loves his wine and built a small wine cellar at home. We were wined and dined exquisitely. A big thank you to Jacqueline and Christian for their hospitality and love. 

A week after our arrival, my brother-in-law and his wife, Charly and Damaida, left for Cuba to continue their adventure. After lots of struggle in France, they moved to Cuba, where Damaida comes from, two years ago to start their own business. It has been challenging for them at the beginning but they seem to be happier with the Cuban lifestyle now.   

Lunch with the family
In Paris, we had to deal with annoying formalities of travelling such as organising flights, booking tours in Peru, and getting yellow fever shots. If you are planning to do the Inca trail which is a 4 day hike that ends in magnificent Machu Picchu, you need to reserve your spot 4 to 6 months in advance due its popularity. Dealing with such formalities is not fun but necessary to get the best deals in transport and organised tours. Thankfully, my wife is a graphic designer and is very efficient in online research as I am more of a go with the flow guy.

Of course, we spent some time visiting amazing treasures of the city of romance. Going to centre of Paris is always an adventure. Alex's parents live about 20 minutes away from the centre by train. The Parisian metro system is one of the oldest in the world and is always full. We experienced some unusual (mostly unpleasant) odours during our travels with the subway. Moreover, people, apart from the tourists, seem to be irritable and unhappy. They live in a beautiful but highly stressful environment. Parisians love to complain about everything including dramas in their lives, politics, traffic, love affairs etc. I felt like being in a soap opera when listening some of the conversations. Nevertheless, Paris is an incredible city that offers a vast variety of intriguing attractions to any tourists. 

Personally, I like Montmartre which is an area full of street artists and musicians. St. Michel has also lots of nice cafes and is a quite popular spot among locals and tourists. Of course, there is the Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, Versailles Palace and the Louvre that can’t be missed in this charming city of love. The romantic walks along the Seine River on a sunny day made me feel in a magical movie. Visiting the forest of Fontainebleau and the town of Barbizon, helped us to relax and get away from the hustle bustle of Paris for a while.

Streets of Montmartre
As you already know French cuisine is very refined. On top of eating great food at home, we ate out a couple of times. Make sure to check the menu first to avoid unpleasant surprises as some restaurants can be extremely pricey. My favourite restaurant in Paris is called Chez Maurice on the Rue des Vinaigriers. It is a restaurant from the Bourgogne region where the food is extraordinary. Baguette, cheese and wine are also a good option if you are travelling on a limited budget. I think France produces the best cheese in the world (more than 365 varieties of cheese!). Don’t hesitate to try some of the stinky ones when you are there.

Incredible Mont St.Michel
One of the highlights of our visit to France was a 2 day trip to Normandy and Brittany. We started with the outstanding Mont Saint-Michel which is an island commune in Normandy. It consists of a small village around a Gothic-style Benedictine abbey dedicated to the archangel St. Michael which was built between 11th and 16th centuries. Every 12 hours during low tide, you can enjoy a walk across the mud flats. I never thought walking in the mud would be that much fun! In high tide, the sea emerges at the speed of a galloping horse which is spectacular to watch. Here is a link to some pictures of this incredible place.

Mud walk
After a traditional crepe for lunch, we visited the well-known restaurant La Mere Poulard which is famous for its omelettes. I have to warn you that it is very touristy and the prices are extremely high.

We continued our trip toward Saint Malo, a small walled port city in Brittany. It is a major tourist attraction with impressive French architecture. This region is also famous for its ciders and crepes which which we enjoyed for dinner. It is a magical town with typical French flair.

After the breakfast, we made our way to back Normandy to visit a small town, Villers Sur Mere, where Christian used to spend summers during his childhood. The drive around the country side of northern France is spectacular. Every moment you can spot a nice little village with colourful flowers and traditional architecture. We stopped in a little community, Beuvron En Auge, which is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in France. 

Quiche, cider and traditional Normandy biscuits were on the lunch menu. Our trip on the countryside continued with Honfleur and Deauville villages before we reached Villers Sur Mere. Christian was happy to show us around which seemed to bring back some of his childhood memories. If you ever get a chance to drive around the countryside of France, do not hesitate. It is absolutely stunning.

A typical house in Beuvron En Auge