Blog Description

A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

10 Favorite French Scenes

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Vacation time will be here before we know it. School will be dismissed for the summer break, warm weather will entice us to be outside, and longer days of sunlight will give us more time to enjoy the days.

Vacation time always brings memories of my vacations to France and brings memories of my favorite French scenes. Most of which are my favorites because of the emotional connections to my fellow travelers and because of the pure immersion of a French experience.  Aren't these the two reasons we travel? To share our lives with our families and friends and for travel to provide experiences not found at home...

If you are planning a vacation, NOW is the time to make vacation plans in order to get the best airline prices, to book hotel rooms before they are sold out, and to schedule tours during the time you will be in your chosen destination. My top destination is always France!

Enjoy my favorite French scenes... that are more personal than the usual scenic vacation pictures. They may make France your top choice, also.

10 Favorite French Scenes 

#1 Eiffel Tower 
Is there anything more French than the Eiffel Tower? Instead of a full view of the tower or a view over Paris from the top of the tower, this French scene is from the gardens at the base of the Tower where the Long Tall Texan and I strolled one beautiful June day, far from the crowded lines of people waiting to ascend the Tower. Close to the crowds, yet so far away in our own little private garden in Paris.  

Look closely, and you can see those crowds at the end of the concrete sidewalk. 

#2 Paris Rooftops from Musée d'Orsay   
Paris rooftops seen through one of the building-size clocks in the Musée d'Orsay is one of my favorite French scenes. This is the City of Light designed to perfection, built under Napoléon, and brought into the modern world following his directions. During 1853-1870, the work was overseen by Prefect Hausmann, but finished by others during 1870-1927. 

What is there not to love about Musée d'Orsay? The renovated train station originally built for the Exposition Universelle of 1889 (World's Fair) houses favorite French impressionist painter Monet's works and a beautiful restaurant still in service. 

#3 Musée d'Orsay Restaurant 
Can any visit to Paris be complete without delicious French food in elegant surroundings? Chandeliers, chandeliers, chandeliers, parquet flooring, wicker chairs, opulent gilded moldings, and ceiling murals were built for the 1889 Exposition Universelle travelers and are enjoyed today by visitors to Musée d'Orsay. Reasonably priced prix fixe (fixed price) menus make lunch here one of the best meal bargains in Paris with an ambience that cannot be surpassed. 

#4 Chateau Chenonceau 
Magnificent castles built by kings over the centuries are scattered throughout France with an impressive concentration of some of the most beautiful in the Loire Valley. Chateau Chenonceau is my personal favorite. Built for the king's mistress and reclaimed by the king's widow, the chateau spans the River Cher. Exquisite manicured gardens and stunning interior rooms filled with spectacular grandiose floral arrangements created using flowers grown in the chateau's gardens and greenhouses remind visitors that the chateau was designed by and built for women. An onsite restaurant has outdoor seating under umbrellas that overlooks a rose garden.  Are you detecting a theme in my favorite scenes? French cuisine? 

My love for Chenonceau prompted me to buy a large monochromatic print of the chateau from its gift shop in the watch tower. For years the print stood on the mantel over the living room fireplace, but now hangs in my kitchen on the back side of the living room fireplace. 

#5 Nice 
Nice, France has long been a favorite of English-speaking travelers, notably with English aristocrats who began wintering here in the late 18th century. This is one of my favorite French scenes not only because of the view overlooking the Cote d'Azur, but also for the white peaked tents in the park between the hotel and the sea. 

The tents housed a brocante (second-hand market), but this is the only view I had of it. We were so busy seeing the sights of Nice, the coast, and nearby Monte Carlo, that I did not visit the tents. Only after leaving Nice did I find out they were a brocante. Right under my nose the whole time was an opportunity to collect vintage French finds. Always ask the hotel staff if there are any special events in town while you are there. 

I am in the brown; my sister is wearing peach. 
Even though we missed the brocante, my sister and I had a wonderful time in one of our favorite French cities. This was one of the happiest years of my life. 

#6 Giverny 
Flowers and impressionist art have always been two of my favorite things. Monet's home and gardens in Giverny are just a short drive outside Paris. If you have a similar love for flowers and impressionism, then you must book a day tour to Giverny with one of the tour companies in Paris. You leave early in the morning from a tour company's office on Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre and return to Paris in time for dinner.

#7 Bleu Doors in Sarlat 
These doors open into a hotel in Sarlat, France, and this photo is one of my absolute favorite photos of France. The stone wall, street lamps, iron fence with greenery, cobblestone walk, carved arch over the doors, and the beautiful blue of the arched double doors all say, "FRANCE." Sarlat is a medieval city that time overlooked and allowed its beautiful architecture to survive. 

#8 Sculpted Trees 
French gardens exist at every turn. Some are hundreds of acres with a team of gardeners, others are small window planters on a Parisian apartment balcony, many are designed parterres (ornamental gardens with paths) of flowers, shrubs, or vegetables, but most French gardens are found along public streets in the form of sculpted trees, shrubs, and flowers. These four trimmed conical topiary trees are iconic representations of French gardening. Show me a photo like this, and I know for certain it was taken somewhere in France. 

#9 Lavender Fields 
My sister is the French-looking trés chic one wearing a hat; I am wearing lavender & sporting a French-style bob.
A dream my sister and I shared for many years was to visit the lavender fields in France. Not only to visit them from afar, but to experience them by walking IN the fields was our true dream. Here we are having the time of our lives, walking among French lavender! Experiencing French lavender was incredible, but experiencing it with my sister, who is also my best friend, magnified the experience beyond words. 

#10 La Roque-Gageac 
La Roque-Gageac is one of more than 100 French villages that are designated as one of the most beautiful villages in France. Located in the Dordogne department, the town's buildings are built at the base, and into, a nearly-vertical yellow cliff overlooking the Dordogne River. The village of less than 2000 residents includes remains of a 12th-century troglodyte fort carved into the cliff over 40 yards above the street. 

The main reason I always included at least a day trip to La Roque-Gageac when I was fortunate enough to be in the area is La Belle Étoile restaurant. Long before I realized that La Belle Étoile restaurant is recommended in the green Michelin Travel Guide, I was recommending it to everyone going anywhere near La Roque-Gageac as THE place to have lunch. The restaurant has a grapevine-shaded arbor terrace overlooking the river, and the food is delicious. 

My French-teacher friends and I still talk about the trout appetizer, the duck main dish, and the lemon mousse cake with blueberry sauce whenever we argue about what to include in our perfect composite French meals. And they always laugh about how I placed my arms around my plate in La Belle Étoile to keep the French waitress from removing my plate before I was finished. They are fluent in French; I am fluent in mathematics and hand gestures (the nice kind).

One of the most beautiful villages of France 
La Roque-Gageac 

There are over 100 other villages designated as one of the most beautiful villages of France. In every region, around every bend, on the coast, in the interior, wherever you travel there are beautiful villages, picturesque towns, and magnificent cities. 

My 10 favorite French scenes include scenic gardens, historic sites, royal castles, world-renowned art galleries, breath-taking monuments, and beautiful architecture that offered experiences of a life time. Best of all, the cuisine is extraordinary wherever you travel in France

What is your favorite French scene? Or your perfect composite French meal? 

~~~~ ❦ ~~~~ 

Please join me at these inspiring places for more joy of living. 

Dishing It and Digging It @ Rustic and Refined