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Autun - Vézelay - Avallon, a scenic drive

Day 28 — July 28, 1996 (Sunday)

Burgundy near Vezelay

Burgundy near Vezelay


Ed’s knee hurt and my toe blistered so we decided on a “scenic” drive today. Had a camp breakfast and started out the D973 south to Autun and tried to follow a route given in “France Today.” The place names were great, but the route numbers were not completely accurate. Fortunately Michelin was with us! [Keep in mind that most of these route numbers are different today so use town names, not route numbers if you follow the trip.]

*****

Vézelay from the D951 southwest of the village

Vézelay from the D951 southwest of the village


At Autun we picked up D978 to Château-Chinon, switched to D944 and at Vauclaix to D977 bis on to Corbigny. At Corbigny we followed D985 north to the D951 at Dornecy. We followed the D951 into Vézelay and were glad we did “France Today’s” tour in reverse. You round a curve in the road — having gone though much forest in the Parc Naturel Régional du Morvan — and high atop a hill is the beautiful medieval city of Vézelay. You really never get that view if you come in the other way, and it is truly overwhelming. There is no great wall but it is as thrilling as the first view of Carcassonne.

Same view of Vézelay taken in 2009

Same view of Vézelay taken in 2009

The Basilica of Vézelay

The Basilica of Vézelay


We parked at the “Parking Obligatoire” and hiked a hundred miles straight up the hill to the Basilique Ste. Madeleine — stopping at several galleries and stores to catch our breath. The hike was worth it; the church is wonderful. They have used two colors of stone — dark and light — to create interest, and the carvings are magical. The windows were clear glass but cast colors on the floor when the sun shone through them.

Ate lunch at an outdoor café near the church. We were a bit annoyed to discover shaded parking behind the church after our uphill hike! Vézelay also has the worst bathrooms in the entire country of France . . . . gaaaaack! I suppose it’s not the fault of the French that many tourists are slobs, but it was truly disgusting. [We've returned to Vézelay any time we were near and have made a point of finding "facilities" in a nice restaurant rather than using the public ones so perhaps things have improved in the ensuing years. It was just a shock since everyplace else had been so clean.]

We walked all over the beautiful village taking pictures of cobblestone houses and streets, enjoying monks and nuns walking around in sandals and looking in tourist / pilgrimage shops. This is still a pilgrimage site so you do see pilgrims on the streets. It's a wonderful village.

The Basilica of Vézelay

The Basilica of Vézelay


The Basilica of Vézelay

The Basilica of Vézelay


The Basilica of Vézelay

The Basilica of Vézelay

Avallon and the Running of the Bulls . . .

Avallon and the Running of the Bulls . . .

On our return we took the D957 to Avallon where, as Ed put it, we saw the running of the bulls. A police car stopped traffic (us) and two men walked through town with about five or six cows followed by another police car. Naturally I whipped out my trusty camera and took a picture to prove it!

Took the D944 south to D977 bis — this time east to Saulieu where we picked up N6 to Arnay-le-Duc. There we got on D17 to Bligny and after one minor unplanned detour on a C road, the D970 into Beaune. Beautiful countryside! Getting lost here is a pleasure. [Years later we returned and rented a farm cottage (gite) for a month in the area so we would have time to really enjoy it.]

Decided to eat dinner at our campground — enough riding for one day. Had Boeuf Bourguignon carte and went to bed early for our trip to Paris tomorrow.

Posted by Beausoleil 13:38 Archived in France Tagged burgundy 1996 vézelay avallon autun Comments (1)

Back to Paris - Hooray!

Day 29 — July 29, 1996 (Monday)

The Conciergierie in Paris

The Conciergierie in Paris

Blessedly — no rain! We folded up a dry tent and then laid out suitcases on our tarp to repack. A tight fit, but we got everything in them.

Ate breakfast and found the A6 to Paris. It is a pretty drive but you see more of the towns and villages on N and D roads. We were glad we took our drive yesterday. On the A you occasionally glimpse a château or church tower in the distance; the rest is like driving on Interstates in the U.S.A. We often saw large fires in the distance and assumed it was farmers burning off harvested fields.

Arrived in Paris and found Hotel Véronèse with no trouble — we remembered the one-way streets. As luck would have it, we got a parking place right across the street from the hotel. We have a different room this time — still in front and still on the first (second in the U.S.) floor but with two windows, one in the bathroom.

*****

Goat in the Picasso Museum

Goat in the Picasso Museum

Ate lunch at a sidewalk café around the corner and then went to the Metro ticket window and got Paris Viste two-day tickets. The guide books all say you have to get three or four-day passes, but, in fact, you can get one, two, three or five-day passes. [We quickly discovered the various passes cost more than just buying what you need. We now get a carnet of 10 Metro tickets that we share and the only time we've needed more than that was when we stayed in Paris for a month. Then we used 3 carnets. The Paris Viste is now 19.50 euros for two days and each person needs their own pass so two people will pay 39 euros. The carnet of 10 tickets is probably more than you will use in two days, costs 14.90 euros and you can share the tickets. A Mobilis day pass is 7.50 euros and each person needs a pass each day so your total cost for two people for two days is 30.00 euros. There are lots of transportation options in Paris but we like the carnet or Mobilis. If you are going to use the Metro a lot, the Mobilis will be the better bargain. Here is my blog entry on the Paris Metro system and how to use it.] Learn the Paris Metro by Beausoleil

*****

In the Picasso Museum

In the Picasso Museum


We discovered the Picasso Museum is closed on Tuesday, so we quickly hopped on the Metro to the Museum. Our little tourist map didn’t have all the streets, so we had to ask directions twice. Don’t know why I expected a modern building, but the Musée Picasso is in a beautiful old building that has been redesigned inside to show a marvelous collection of both works by Picasso and his private art collection. It’s Paris; it was crowded! The Picasso Museum web site

[Another thing we quickly learned was to get a good map. For years now we have used "Paris Pratique par arrondisssement" or "Paris le Plan Pratique" that are maps in booklet form, easy to carry and easy to use with everything in them. We no longer get lost. You can order it online but we just pick one up when we arrive. You can get them at a local tabac, most news stands, most tourist souvenir shops and nearly all bookstores. They have a full Metro plan with Metro, bus and train stops marked.]

*****

Notre Dame de Paris from the Hôtel de Ville

Notre Dame de Paris from the Hôtel de Ville


Took the Metro down to near Notre Dame and had coffee at a little café facing the cathedral. As we finished, it started to rain lightly. Whipped out our trusty umbrellas and headed for the Latin Quarter. We wandered around but the maître d’s were getting very assertive in attracting customers so we set off looking for a Metro stop.

Relaxed in our room for a while and walked down to the corner to a salon de thé for a light dinner.

Posted by Beausoleil 10:50 Archived in France Comments (0)

Paris and the Orsay

Day 30 — July 30, 1996 (Tuesday)

Sculptures by Charles H. J. Cordier in the Musée d'Orsay

Sculptures by Charles H. J. Cordier in the Musée d'Orsay

Showered, ate breakfast at our hotel and headed for the Metro. We wanted to get to the Musée d’Orsay before a long line formed. It was much easier to find than the Musée Picasso. Ed got a faculty discount — our first on the trip. If you’re not under 18 to 25 or over 60 to 65, it is difficult to get a discount. We’re at the “awkward” age. Seems like we always have been.

We spent over four hours at the Musée d’Orsay and could have spent four weeks. It is a wonderful building (former train station) and the collection is stunning. All the paintings I expected in the Louvre were at the Orsay — which was equally crowded. We did get right in, but you tripped over people everywhere you went. If you wanted to view a painting from a distance, it was made nearly impossible by all the people who wanted to examine each point of a pointillist. Nearly everyone seemed to want to rub their noses on the art — strange! Musée d'Orsay web site

*****

The Eiffel Tower from the BatObus

The Eiffel Tower from the BatObus

When we left, loooong lines had formed for entrance. We started to look for a café for lunch and headed toward the Seine. Bad choice — no restaurants. We walked all the way back to the Latin Quarter — passing innumerable closed galleries (because of the sacrosanct dinner) and finally found a nice little restaurant with a fun waitress who decided to help us with our French (she was from the Loire and informed us they had the “purest” French there). [Again, live and learn. Now we walk away from the Seine and there are many excellent restaurants including two of our favorites within an easy walk. For an inexpensive lunch that is delicious, I'll recommend Café L'Empire at the corner of rue de Bac and rue de Verneuil. For something more expensive but absolutely delicious try La Bonne Excuse at 48 Rue de Verneuil.] La Bonne Excuse web site

Walked over to Pont Neuf looking for boats. As we walked back toward Notre Dame, we found the Batobus and got tickets. We rode the boat up to the end, back to the Eiffel Tower (huge from the water) and back to our starting point. What a fun way to explore Paris from the river. Batobus web site

Following my less-than-good directions we boarded a bus for the Luxembourg Gardens — headed the wrong way. We went to the end hoping he would repeat the route, but he was “terminé.” We got off and found another #27 bus and wound our way to the Luxembourg Gardens. Paris is a good place to get lost.

*****

Smoke in the Distance - Luxembourg Gardens

Smoke in the Distance - Luxembourg Gardens


There was an ethnic-type concert/dance in the Musique at the garden. As we walked down into the lake section, we saw a huge cloud of black smoke in the distance. No one else seemed to notice! We walked through the lovely gardens — lots of people reading, resting, playing boules or tennis and sailing little boats on the lake. When we got to the far side of the gardens, smoke was definitely in the air. Two older men commented on it, but we never did find out what it was.

Walked up to the Pantheon and took the bus the short way back to the hotel.

A Concert in the Luxembourg Gardens

A Concert in the Luxembourg Gardens


The Luxembourg Gardens

The Luxembourg Gardens


Palais du Luxembourg

Palais du Luxembourg


Statue of Liberty in the Luxembourg Gardens

Statue of Liberty in the Luxembourg Gardens


The Pantheon in Paris

The Pantheon in Paris

Posted by Beausoleil 10:55 Archived in France Tagged museums paris orsay 1996 Comments (0)

Sigh - Time to Go Home. Good-bye, Paris.

Day 31 — July 31, 1996 (Wednesday)

Arc de Triomphe with a distant Eiffel Tower

Arc de Triomphe with a distant Eiffel Tower

Repacked last night and threw away a few things. Our suitcases are crammed. Ate breakfast, stuffed the car and headed for Orly. Only one wrong turn and we arrived. Orly is a zoo — crowded, dirty, disorganized. Because of the Olympic bombing, security is almost scary . . . French soldiers walking all over the terminal with big guns. Better safe than sorry, I guess . . .

Checked in the car and put our luggage on a chariot. We fought (literally) our way to Continental Airlines Security only to be told we couldn’t check in until 10:00 A.M. (When we confirmed, we were told to arrive early as our flight was seriously overbooked. This was in English so I know we did not misunderstand.)

*****

The Eiffel Tower from the plane

The Eiffel Tower from the plane

Sat on the cement floor until 10:00 and checked through security and baggage. Then we walked back out into the terminal to go to Customs — they forgot to mention that. Our flight gate wasn’t posted yet, so we got in a line through another security. When we got up to the security, we were sent back to Customs. It was a major mess; had no idea where to go and all of a sudden a cheerful voice said, “Hi. Are you leaving too?” It was a woman from New York who stayed at our hotel and had spoken to us at breakfast yesterday. We followed her and zipped through Customs. At her suggestion we even managed to get a cute little stamp in our passports. You have to ask for it.

Still no gates posted, so we went up one more flight where there are chairs and, wonderfully, chaise longues where you can actually sleep. We wait!

Café Le St. Germain near our Metro stop

Café Le St. Germain near our Metro stop


P.S. We finally boarded our flight, took off without incident and suffered through the long trip back to Los Angeles. We watched two movies, finished our books, ate a couple meals and became eternally tired of sitting. It is a very long flight indeed. Jean met us at Los Angeles and, despite dire warnings of heightened security because of the Atlanta bombing, we had no trouble getting our luggage, getting through Customs and getting out of the airport.

[I didn't take any photos on that last trip to the airport so these were taken at other times. BTW, one other thing we learned, but not until we had made one more trip to Paris, was to NOT rent the car while in Paris. After the second trip, we decided it was a waste to pay for the car and pay for parking when we were using public transportation. Now we go into Paris for a few days and enjoy the city. When we're ready to leave, we return to the airport, pick up the car and set off on our adventure. Much easier.]

If you would like to read some of the things we've learned about traveling in France (and Europe) over the years, go to my blog Questions About France where I have listed some of the information we've found. Click here: Questions about France

Posted by Beausoleil 11:31 Archived in France Tagged paris orly Comments (0)

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