Category France

The unanticipated side effects of a picnic at Pont Valentré, Cahors

Want to visit a unique city nestled inside a bend in a river, an authentic and non-touristy town with highly-cultivated gastronomy? Yes?  Then Cahors is for you. But wait until you get a look at this bridge—now you’re sold, aren’t you? The Southwestern region of France is teeming with medievalist catnip, and Cahors’ Pont Valentré is […]

The finest Romanesque mustaches are at Moissac Abbey

This church. The elegant forms.  The fantastic creatures.  The visionary composition.  The mustaches. Moissac Abbey is one of the great Romanesque churches (and admittedly deserves much better photos than what we managed with our crappy camera).  The South portal, created 1120 – 1135, and the tympanum are a masterful sculptural illustrations of the vision of […]

A day at Cathédrale Ste-Marie in Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges followed by a night of flocked velvet wallpaper

Cathédrale Ste-Marie is a pilgrim magnet.  Once you catch sight of this Romanesque-Gothic beauty at the foot of the Pyrenees in the village of Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges you are inevitably  pulled in by it’s compelling attraction. Don’t you want to come closer? Unlike the scenery, the weather during our visit to Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges was less than idyllic.  Not to put […]

Saint-Just Basilica in Valcabrère, recycled Roman ruins, no cheese shops

Saint-Just Basilica is cozily nestled in the tiny village of Valcabrère, population 164, in the Haute-Garonne department of Southwest France.  This small Romanesque church built in 11th -12th centuries is handsomely proportioned, with well-preserved portal sculptures.  As if the setting wasn’t picturesque enough, what with the red chickens clucking about, antique barns and strategically placed […]

Faux-Pilgrim’s Progress: how we faked a pilgrimage

Last week as we were walking about in the rain in Santiago de Compostela looking for a post office, we were stopped by the leader of a tour group.  “Excuse me” he said politely “I see that you are pilgrims.  My group would like to see your pilgrim’s passport stamps.  Could you please show them […]

From the Pyrénées into Bayonne: Basque culture and a jar of beans

We got up early this morning, walked out into a star-filled sky, and made our way to the Basque region of France to Bayonne.  After a fascinating visit to the Basque Museum, we walked about enjoying the rainy ambience of this pretty town. Dawn in the Pyrénées. Confidential to the people of Bayonne: you live […]

You’ll all be relieved to know my right boob did not set off the metal detector at airport security and we are now walking around the Pyrénées chasing St. James

We made it to Toulouse drama free, well, drama free except for my usual fear of flying and a new-found concern that my boob would set off security alarms.  I recently had two titanium chips implanted in my breast during a biopsy of a suspicious lump….and I’m happy to report that not only was the […]

Medieval eye candy and Monsieur John Waters in Semur-en-Auxois

We had hardly arrived in Semur-en-Auxois when HOB started to worry: “But where will we catch our bus tomorrow?”  I was doing my best to oooh and aaaah at all the charming details of this quaint town in the Burgundy region of France, but HOB couldn’t focus.  Most places have well labeled bus stops complete with daily […]

Go ahead, talk politics while traveling

In November of 2008 we were in France listening to people tell us how much they hated our president.  It was, of course, the month of the McCain/Palin vs. Obama/Biden United States presidential election.  At home in Chicago, HOB and I had pushed each other to volunteer for the Obama campaign, promising “A few more volunteer hours tonight and you’ll get extra […]

Figeac: the genius of Champollion and the body odor of Jacques

Figeac, a well-preserved medieval town in Southwest France, is a scenic stop on The Way of St. James (Jacques) Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage trail.  Our personal pilgrimage was meant to pay homage to hometown hero Jean-François Champollion, though we unintentionally found ourselves in rather intimate proximity to a distant relative of St. Jacques (more on that later). Jean-François Champollion, […]