Mystery of the Black Madonna

Vierge_noire_Puy-en-Velay

The Black Madonna has been a figure of mystery for centuries. Some say she’s simply a statue of the Virgin Mary carved from black wood, or perhaps has soot on her skin from the smoke of thousands of candles.  But speculation goes much deeper than that. Throughout Europe, especially in France, about 500 Black Madonnas, painted or carved in wood or stone, stand in Catholic churches, with a few in ... Read Full Article

Lyon, France- A Cultural Treasure Trove

Cafe des Federations, Lyon

  Lyon (often spelled “Lyons” by Anglophones) and its suburbs form the largest metropolitan area in France after Paris. Located in the Rhone-Alpes region, Lyon is known for its contributions to the world of art and gastronomy. Moreover, Lyon is where Auguste and Louis Lumiere, the fathers of cinema, attended school (at La Martiniere, Lyon’s largest technical school) and invented early film ... Read Full Article

Lots to Love in Le Mans, France

Musee-Automobile

The first time in I lived in France, I spent quite a bit of time in Le Mans. Given the fact that I am not necessarily a car racing enthusiast (Le Mans has hosted the famous 24 Hours of Le Mans sports car race since 1923), this fact came as a surprise to many of my friends back home. The reason I traveled from Rennes to Le Mans each month was that the grandmother of my good friends lived there. ... Read Full Article

Free Lodging in Paris

lines-to-enter- Notre-dame-cathedral-in-paris

We followed her up to the top floor, this friendly French girl who I had never seen before in my life but knew I could trust. I had contacted her through an international travelers' network called Hospitality Club, and we had emailed back and forth for a couple of months. She had agreed to have my husband and I stay at her flat while we were visiting Paris. Little did we know that not only were ... Read Full Article

France’s Southern Alps Snow Train

TER Touristic Train

Touristic trains are a great way to discover non-mainstream France.  During the ski season, they take you to relatively lesser-known ski destinations—which means shorter lines at the ski lift. Every week-end from mid-January to mid-March the Train des Neiges, Alpes-Sud proposes to take skiers to 24 different resorts.  The train travels from the Provence countryside to the foothills of the Alps ... Read Full Article

Minerve, France: Village of Charm and History

Minerve Museum

  The village of Minerve perches on a high ridge in the wild landscape of the Causses, in the Languedoc-Rousillon region of Southwestern France.   No cars are allowed, so visitors park outside the village and walk across the bridge above the River Cesse. Water flows in the river only in winter. The rest of the year, it’s a dry, rocky ravine. Minerve, with its cobblestone lanes and ... Read Full Article

La rentrée – France’s Season of Change

eiffel-tower-night

The term la rentrée in it’s most literal sense means “the re-entry” or “the return.” However, it’s one of those French words that takes on myriad socio-cultural meanings, depending on who you talk to.  In general, la rentrée refers to the period after les vacances (vacation/break) in July and August. The closest thing we have in the U.S. to France’s la rentrée is “back to school.” However, la ... Read Full Article

Drinks in Paris’ Montmartre at L’été en pente douce

montmartre-1

Last time I was in Paris, I met up with my good French friend and host sister (from my study abroad days in college) who had recently scored an amazing apartment in Paris’ coveted Montmartre neighborhood.  When she asked where my husband and I would like to go for a drink, I responded that I wanted to visit her place and then go to her favorite bar or terrasse (outside seating area).  So, we ... Read Full Article

Lunchtime at Le Kaiku in St. Jean de Luz, France

risotto

  My husband and I wanted to take our good friend out for lunch on his last day with us in France. Knowing that he really enjoyed seafood, we asked a few locals where we could find the best fruits de mer in the picturesque seaside town of Saint Jean de Luz. Without hesitation, all of them answered Le Kaïku on Rue de la République.  I was surprised by how reasonable the lunchtime menu/prix ... Read Full Article

Boating in France: Dole by Boat

pizza-boat

Our home port, St Jean de Losne, France, is unusual in that there is easy access to several waterways: the Burgundy Canal, the Saone River, and the Canal du Rhône au Rhine.  Last week, having never been to the city of Dole, we decided to head for the Canal du Rhone au Rhine. Taking a trip by boat is somewhat different than taking a trip by car. With a car, you put the key in the ignition, turn ... Read Full Article