Loire Valley: Ladies, Leonardo and Sleeping Beauty

Chenonceau Chateau in the Loire Valley

France's Loire Valley is renowned for its magnificent chateaux. Scores are scattered over the landscape and choosing which to see is a challenge. On this leg of our journey, John and I rented a car and made our home base in the quiet village of Chenonceaux, staying in a hotel just 300 meters from the chateau. Chenonceau Chateau is one of the most visited sites in France for good reason. ... Read Full Article

National Museum of Scotland Displays The World

Ancient Roman cameo glass, 'Portland vase'

Scotland has scores of museums, all of them interesting, but the National Museum of Scotland, in Edinburgh, is truly exceptional. Its collections of thousands of objects cover natural history, world cultures, geology, archaeology, science and technology, and of course the entire story (pre-history included) of Scotland. The museum is set in the heart of the city, on Chambers Street near the George ... Read Full Article

Hotel or Apartment? How to Choose

Small balcony off Paris apartment kitchen

After you've decided where to go and how you'll get there, the big question is where to stay. A hotel is still the most popular choice, but there are other options, and plenty of savvy travelers are choosing to rent an apartment or house. My recent trip to France is a good example of the pros and cons of hotels vs apartments; my husband, John, and I stayed in two of each. Our one-bedroom, ... Read Full Article

The Loire’s Castles and Gardens

Chateau Villandry

Touring in the Loire Valley means you don't have to travel far to see the grand chateaus and pretty villages that dot the landscape. John and I stayed in one place, Chenonceaux, and found a multitude of treasures on short day trips along and over the rivers that wind through this green, broad valley. The farthest we drove was to Fontevraud Abbey. Fontevraud was high on my list because I'm ... Read Full Article

Montmajour, the Oldest Abbey in Provence

Montmajour Abbey

  Vincent Van Gogh visited Montmajour Abbey at least fifty times, he wrote, just to look at the view across the plain.  Today's visitors to Provence, France, are drawn to the abbey for the same reason and to see the impressive old ruin in stone, a French historical monument and the oldest abbey in Provence. It was a significant site from the time construction began in the tenth century, ... Read Full Article

Favorite Villages in Provence: Eygalières and Mausanne-les-Alpilles

La Maison Sucrée, a creperie in Eygaliéres, France

Dozens of  inviting villages are scattered throughout sun-drenched Provence, in southern France. Two of my favorites, perhaps because they're lesser known and have such unpretentious charm, are Eygalières and Mausanne-les-Alpilles,  in the Bouches-de-Rhone region. Both lie near the Chaine des Alpilles, a low east-west range of limestone peaks that rise steeply from the Rhone River valley. ... Read Full Article

Following the Footsteps of Cezanne in Aix en Provence

Paul Cézanne Mt. Ste. Victoire

  Paul Cézanne was devoted to his hometown of Aix-en-Provence, in southern France, and it's easy to see why. More than a hundred years after the great artist's time, it's still a lovely, livable city. “When you're born here,” Cézanne said, “nothing else is good enough.” He was fascinated by the light of Provence and painted the region's landscapes over and over—some 60 versions of Mt. St. ... Read Full Article

Five Places to Stay in Aix-en-Provence

Aquabella Hotel

  In charming, lively Aix-en-Provence, lodgings abound for every taste and budget. This civilized, cultured, fountain-filled city in southern France has been a popular tourist destination  for a very long time. Here are five hospitable choices in the historic center, close to the famous main boulevard, Cours Mirabeau: Hotel Cezanne 4-Star Hotel Cezanne,  named for Aix's most famous ... Read Full Article

Marseille, European Capital of Culture

Fort St Jean Marseille

  Marseille is in the spotlight this year; the historic seaport on France's Mediterranean coast was chosen European Capital of Culture for 2013. A dazzling array of displays, performances, and exhibitions is underway and, happily for visitors who can't get there this year, much of it will spill into the future. The city, with government and EU assistance, has renovated museums, constructed ... Read Full Article

The Marvelous Soaps of Marseille

Savon de Marseille, sold at outdoor market stall

  Soaps made in traditional fashion and within the city limits of Marseille, France, are the only ones allowed by French law to use the coveted name: Savon de Marseille. What makes this simple, mild soap so special? Why is it favored in exclusive boutiques and salons in the U.S. and Europe? Recently I went in search of the answer in Marseille itself. On La Canabiére, the city's main ... Read Full Article