Category Archives: in France

Eze on the French Riviera

We spent our New Year’s Day 2008 in a small village called Eze, which I’d long wanted to visit.

Where is Eze ?
Eze is the village standing on the rocky hill between Nice and Monaco.

eze map
a postcard I bought in Eze
click on the card, and you get a larger image.

The town is situated on a craggy hill that looks like a nest of an eagle, and it’s got another name “nid d’aigle” (eagle’s nest). The high cliff is located 427m above sea level on the French Mediterranean, and it gives you a great panoramic view of the French Riviera. It’s just breathtaking.

First, we arrived at Eze station at the foot of the cliff rising to the sky. There were no other people around except us, and there were not many buses available, either. We were a little worried about our situation… One hour passed at the bus stop before our bus came. After the long wait and patience, we finally got relieved and retrieved our hope. The bus driver saved us!

The higher the bus went, the wider the view, and the more people there were. The bus driver had a great art of controlling his bus on the meandering road.

How is it possible to drive in such condition, and how is it possible they pass each other on such a road!

It was about ten minutes before we reached the village on the hill, and we found that most of the tourists here came by car. Especially we saw many sightseeing buses parked on the street…

We expected a quiet place there, but actually there were many people thinking the same thing as we were. On Christmas and New Year’s Day, more people come here to stay and have dinner at some prestigious hotels, but between the two events, I think it’s rather quiet. We came after Christmas, so for the first few days it was OK, but after New Year’s Eve it was very difficult to find a table at a restaurant.


a map of Eze I found in the village
Click on the picture to get a larger image.


Click on the picture to get a larger image

The history of Eze
Eze had a prosperous time in the Roman time and was integrated into Genoa and Monaco in the medieval time. Until 1861 when it became a territory of France, Eze was also part or the Kingdom of Sardinia and was called Eza in Italian. Under such various influences, this small village has attained the unique atmosphere that contains both French and Italian cultures. Their road signs are written in both languages, and the people also speak the two languages. Furthermore, Eze people have or had some dialects. They say it was close to the Monegasque language used in Monaco, and that it was related to the Ligurian language and the Occitan language.

The Egyptian cross that is kept in the church also tells us that the village history dates back to the time of the Phoenicians, who built a temple to worship the goddess Isis. I found the village symbol while I was walking on the street (the picture below). It reads “Isis Moriendo Renascor” (meaning “In death I am Reborn”). You see a Phoenix perched on a bone. This is the village motto.


Click on the picture to get a larger image.

Sightseeing in Eze
Eze is very famous for the wonderful view overlooking the French Mediterranean.

The oldest building in Eze is the Chapelle de la Sainte Croix, which was built in 1306. People then had meetings there to discuss how to give assistance to plague victims. The shape of the church bell shows that the village once belonged to the Republic of Genoa.

I also found an interesting fountain.

It was made in 1930 and was the only fountain in the village. Before that time, the villagers had to carry a tank of water from the town at the foot of the mountain.

Inside the village are some souvenir shops, art galleries, famous rich hotels and restaurants. It’s like a small museum, and there are no locals who live here any more.


colorful shops are packed in a small place


The shop for olive tree craft (the photo on the left)
Ravioli a la Nicoise Sauce at a café in Eze (the photo on the right)

Fragonard has an outlet shop here in Eze. If you like perfume, you may find something nice.
Visit their home page : Fragonard


I bought one for souvenir!

The village also has a botanical garden, which is famous for the great view of the sea, but when we visited there it was closed. Check the details at the official web site.

Eze at night
If you think of a few days staying in the village, I recommend your walking at night. It’s gorgeous. Maybe it’s because we were there at Christmas time, but I still think it’s more beautiful at night. Avoid the high season, and you’ll appreciate a quiet and peaceful moment there. During the daytime, there are too many visitors.


with some Christmas decorations


warm lights add more calmness


I really liked the atmosphere.

Hotels/Restaurants in Eze
Here in Eze, there are some worldwide famous hotels. Among them are Chateau de La Chevre d’Or and Chateau Eza


Chateau de La Chevre d’Or
Homepage


Chateau Eza
Homepage

They both have four stars. We couldn’t afford several nights at such an expensive hotel, but we had a gorgeous dinner at Chateau Eza. They have a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. What we had that night was Degustation Course €105. I was very excited, but at the same time, very nervous… Too good, too stylish for us. It was my first experience to have pre-dessert, dessert and post-dessert (I don’t know what I should call them, but three times I had dessert time).

And, this is the hotel we stayed in.


Hotel Restaurant Eze Hermitage
Homepage

This hotel stands on the place higher than Eze village. It’s a little far to get there on foot, but Bus 83 takes you to the hotel directly. The hotel is the terminal, “Plateau de la Justice”. It’s about 10 minutes. It stops at Eze village, too. Only one bus every hour.

Their restaurant also has a good reputation. They have three stars.

Hiking
Eze Hermitage has a negative point of being away from Eze village, but we found a great point of this hotel while staying there. One day we were walking around the hotel, because they said there were some nice hiking courses around, and we did find some nice view points. Look at the pictures we took there. Can you imagine it’s New Year’s Day!!


Mon Bastide(570m)
It was just beautiful.
No words can describe the beauty.


the blue sky and the blue sea in the south.


In the west you see Nice.


In the north you see the Alps.
This is the sunrise on New Year’s Day in Eze.

How to get to Eze
Many tourists stop by at Eze on the way to Monaco or Nice by car. We used TGV from Marseille to Cannes, and at Cannes we took a local train to Eze (the station name is “Eze Bord de la Mer”).

Arriving at “Eze Bord de la Mer”, we first found the tourist office. Unfortunately it was closed during the winter vacation, but it’s good to know. You can take Bus 83 to Eze village or Eze Hermitage Hotel (only one bus every one hour/€1.30), or you can call a taxi. At the tourist office two taxi drivers’ numbers are given (but remember, they don’t work during the winter vacation/€30 to Eze). From Nice, Bus 82 is available. It goes to Eze Hermitage Hotel and Eze village, too.

It’s a little difficult to reach there if you don’t have a car, but it’s still possible to get there in other ways.
Ligne d’azur Homepage
Information about the buses

Eze Tourist Office  Homepage

Vincennes

How to Get to Vincennes
Vincennes is situated in the southeast of Paris, and it is still accessible by Metro. Take Line 1 and get off the train at the east terminal, Chteau de Vincennes.

The admission fee is 7.90 euros.

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The history of Vincennes
Vincenne is the castle for the kings between the 14th and 17th century.

Like many other castles, it was originally built as a lodge for Louis VII to use when he went hunting. Then in the 13th century, Philippe II Auguste and Louis IX added more and more parts and built it into a manor. It is also said that Louis IX never returned after he left Vincennes for the crusade expedition. Moreover, the castle tower was constructed by Philippe VI, and the structure was the highest and strongest in the medieval times (52m high). The castle walls surrounding the tower were built in 1410.

Vincennes castle was not only a fort but also a place where some kings had a wedding ceremony, like Philippe III (1274) and Philippe VI (1322). In addition, the kings in the 14th century were all born in Vincennes: Louis X (1316), Philippe V (1322) and Charles IV (1328).

In the 17th century, after Versailles started to draw attention, Vincennes was also converted into a prison where many important people were kept.

In the 18th century, the castle was abandoned. After that, first the site was used as a pottery, and then as an official prison, and in 1796 people began to use the site as a military establishment. At present, it is part of the historic section of the French Arms Services.

Furthermore, in the 19th century, a British-style garden was created. Napoleon III released the forest of Vincennes and the castle as a public park in 1860.

In 1940, the castle experienced World War II, as well. The French army placed the military base here.

Chateau de Vincennes
After 12 years of renovation period, the castle unveiled the appearance to the public again in 2007. When I visited here six years ago, it was still under construction, and I have wanted to come back again since then.

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Inside the tall tower is rather limited in space,
and you can see how the life in the past was.

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On the ground floor there is a storage room,
the first floor with a bridge is the room for reception,
the second floor is the king’s private room,
and the top floor was used by soldiers.

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Time trip to the medieval times!
Click on the right picture to have a bigger image.

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The corridor on the rampart.
The king’s room has a more elaborate design even outside.
(the photo on the right)

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All pillars on all floors are centralized at the same point.

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The wood used on the ceiling is 800 years old.

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A fireplace on the left,
and on the right it is a bathroom.

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In the past, the rooms were colorfully decorated.

Ground Floor
In the medieval times, this ground floor allowed access only through a small staircase. The door to the courtyard was made in the 18th century. So, at that time, it was difficult to use this floor as a kitchen, and instead it was used as a storage and a room for servants. In this room there is a well and a trace of fireplace.

The window fences and the door to the cell were made in the 19th century, and their presence tells us that this room was once used as a prison. However, in 1784 all prisoners were sent to Bastille, and Vincennes became free from the dark history. Between 1785 and 1790 a bakery shop that was supplying Vincennes Village and the East Paris District occupied the courtyard.

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The Marquis de Sade’s cell
A hedonist, philosopher, atheist and scandalous provocative author, Donatien Alphonse Francois de Sade, was infamous for his salacious works. He was imprisoned in Vincennes twice. First for his violence in a brothel, and then for poisoning a prostitute. He was sentenced to death. He spent here 7 years, and was taken to Bastille, and then was freed in 1790.

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Prison in Vincennes
From the medieval times, the kings had a place to imprison prisoners in their residence in order to play a role of a judicial officer. In the late 15th, Louis XI started to use this castle tower as a prison. In the 16th century, the prison became official, and many heretics like Protestants and political opponents were arrested and confined in here.

Pierre Ernst I of Mansfeld (1517~1604) was imprisoned in Vincennes as a prisoner of war, but he was allowed to cook and do household work. He even had a hare and a parrot as his pets. Then soon after the ransom was paid he was released.

From the 17th, prisoners were put in a cell, like Nicola Fouquet. In 1661, he was imprisoned by Louis XIV. (see the page Vaux-le-Vicomte)

From the late 18th century, Bastille became a symbolic royal prison. Some prisoners were taken here with no trial. In 1749, Diderot was sent to Bastille because his work was considered subversive.

In the 19th century, after the Revolutions, some deposed dignitaries were kept in Vincennes, and until World War II it was used as a prison.

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Sculpture decorations
Decoration of sculpture is heavily used on the bases of the windows, and it is full of fantasy like an angel playing music. These sculptures were duplicated when the building was reconstructed, but the original works are also displayed in the castle. The motif of an angel playing music was often used in sculpture, stained glass, and paintings in the medieval Europe. It was used as the symbol of the heaven at that time.

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angels playing music

A bell and a clock
The bell tower made in 1369 is the first public clock. The tower standing now here was rebuilt in 2000. The original bell is placed in La Sainte Chapelle (see the page La Sainte Chapelle).

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The forest of Vincennes in the distance.

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The view from the tower is wonderful, too.

Reference:Wikipedia

It is nice to visit here not only for the castle but also for a picnic! Can you imagine it is just a few minutes by subway!!! Discover more about Paris.

Vincennes official site

Vaux Le Vicomte

Château de Vaux-Le-Vicomte

Vaux-le-Vicomte is the castle which was built by Nicola Fouquet, who was the Lord high treasurer of Louis XIV in the 17th century. The castle is known as one of the most modern and elegant masterpieces that none of other royal properties could compete with. The young Sun King was so irritated by Fouquet’s fortune and condemned him to life imprisonment. Versailles Place was then built based on the great inspiration from Vaux-le_Vicomte.

How to Get to Vaux-Le-Vicomte

Taking RER D at Metro Chatret or at Gare de Lyon, you reach the terminal station Melun, and there goes a shuttle bus to the castle. It costs 7 euro for a round-trip ticket, and the bus is available only on weekends between April and October. If you need more details, check their official site. It is a 20-minute ride from Melun station to the castle.

map
click to enlarge

The interior of the castle

Les Charmilles
First you see in the compound a castle restaurant open on weekdays between May and October. Weather permitting, it will be nice having lunch under the sun.

The Carriage Museum
Farther you walk on, you’ll hit the building which exhibits a collection of horse carriages. The yellow carriage you see in the photo below is the one which is specially designed to contain game after hunting. All carriages are taken good care of and shiny.

cart

cart

Château de Vaux-Le-Vicomte

The castle is surrounded by the moat, and the presence of water gives visitors a little break in the dry weather.

castle

Inside the building there are many things to see. Many old books and paintings, and each item tells us what the life in the past was like and how Nicola Fouquet spent his life. This is the painting which shows the scene when Nicola Fouquet was tried in the court. We can tell from this that the power of the king was absolute.

trial

Jean de la Fontaine, a fable writer, who had his association with Nicola Fouquet, was one of the contemporaries. In France, he has been admired for his contribution to the introduction of Aesop’s Fables and more stories of his own. In the middle of the absolute monarchism, it was impossible to criticize the king directly, so he did so using a character of a lion in his story as a symbol of the king.

writer

book

This is the bathroom at that time. The thing which looks like a long chair in the middle of the room is a bathtub, and the small pots were used to serve hot water. One more thing that is interesting to know is the chair on the right side which has a hole on it. It is a toilet!

And the photo on the right is the bedroom. Can you see how small the people in the past? I can’t stretch my legs on such a tiny bed!!

bathroom

bedroom

This is Fouquet’s study room. I wonder what kind of books he was reading in this room.

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The buffet room is Fouquet’s old dining room. Before his time, all meals had been carried to a master’s room or a guest room, so this is the first buffet room in the history. The right photo shows his wine cave.

buffet

wine

Have you ever heard the legend of Iron Mask? In the time of Louis XIV, one strange prisoner with an iron mask on was living. The story tells that the mask was locked and the man never spoke. People who saw his face were all executed as well. One hypothesis is that the man might be a twin brother of Louis XIV, but the truth is all in the dark. And did Fouquet know about the man?

mask legend mask

There are still more rooms in the castle, including an observatory, Dome visit. Keep in mind that this castle is the model of Versailles, so that you will find many similarities.

The Garden of Vaux-le-Vicomte
The designer of this garden is Le Notre, who was also in charge of creating Versailles Palace later. He was given a symbolic designation of cabbage and snails in honor of his great work. You can learn more about him in the room of Le Notre exhibition.

le notre

le notre

After studying about the creator of this garden, you go outside to see the garden itself. Everything in this garden is well calculated and measured. It is the garden created by force of mathematics.

The big water fountains placed in the middle of the garden make the real distance look shorter. You think it is not so far, but in reality it is pretty far. It is fun to walk thinking about the trick.

garden

garden

They have a firework festival here in the summer.
It must be very beautiful.

garden

garden

This is the view from across the river.

garden

garden

People arriving from the castle on foot are resting on the hill.

garden

Château de Vauxt-le-Vicomte
77950 MAINCY

TEL: 01 64 14 41 90
FAX: 01 60 69 90 85
Official website

OPEN
Everyday from March 24 to November 11(2007) * except July 6 and 7
10:00 am~5:30 pm *the castle is closed 1:00 pm~2:00 pm

December 22(2007)~ January 6 (2008) * except December 25 and January 1
10:00 am~6:30 pm

**More details at their official site

EVENT
Vauxt-le-Vicomte has a variety of events through the year. Check the website.

( Events in 2007)

・17th century dressed feast and Lunch Party on June 17th (2007)
event

・The party of Augusut 17th—open-air theater, music, and fireworks

・Open-air Opera [Le Barbier de Seville] September 6th to 9th (2007)

・Baroque music concert on October 20th (2007)

・Vauxt-le-Vicomte celebrates Christmas from December 22nd to January 6th (2008)

・Candle light  8:00 pm~11:00 pm every Friday in July and August (except July 6th) and every Saturday from May 5th to October 6th (except July 7th and September 8th)
event

・Fountain show 3:00 pm~6:00 pm Every 2nd and the last Saturday from March 24th to October 17th
event

Sightseeing tours from Paris
Paris Vision: 01 42 60 30 01
Euroscope: 01 49 46 24 50
Paris Trip: 01 42 12 86 76

Reims ( Champagne)

One and a half hour after leaving Paris at Gare de l’Est, we arrived at Reims in Champagne-Ardenne region. “Champagne” comes from here in France, and from the train we saw vast vine yards everywhere.

the History of Reims

・In 498, Clovis in the Frankish Empire was baptized by Rémi, the bishop of Reims, and after that 10 successive French kings were crowned here.

・During the Second World War, Reims was occupied by Germany and received a lot of damage.

・ In 1991 Notre-Dame de Reims was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. This is one of the three greatest Cathedrals (another one is Chartres) in France, where Charles VII was consecrated. It is also well-known that Joan of Arc attended the ceremony.

World Heritage in Reims

Notre-Dame de Reims
Open :7:30am~7:30 pm

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About 10 minutes on foot from Reims Station. The cathedral is standing in the middle of the city.
It was damaged by the German Army, but it is still grand enough to overwhelm visitors.

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The whole building is an art work itself, and each work is elaborate.

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The interior is also breathtaking.
I wonder how in the past such a cathedral was designed and actually erected.

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Everything is in order.

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The stained glass on the left was designed by Marc Chagall.
The original was destroyed during World War I.

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I was amazed by the immense space.
The king curved on the stone (right) is holding the cathedral in his hand.

Tau Palace
May~September 9:30 am~6:30 pm
September~May 9:30~12:30 2:00 pm~5:30 pm
Closed : Mondays、 1/1 、 5/1 、 11/1・ 11、12/25
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Behind Notre-Dame, Tau Palace is standing.
The treasures used for the coronation and the sculptures before renovation are exhibited here.

Saint-Remi Basilica
Open:8:00 am~7:00 pm

Museum of the Former Jesuits College
Under renovation ( as of November 2006)

A walk in Reims

mainstreet

lunch
Around Pl. Drouet d’Erlon there are many restaurants.
And we ate the specialty, choucroute, in this region.
Pork, sausage, bacon, ham with vinegared cabbage.
This is for 2 persons (30 euros), but it must be for 3 or 4 people!

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reims
After filling our stomachs, we walked to digest!
The city reminds us of the medieval times.

wine shop

wine shop
And speaking of Reims, it’s champagne. There are many wine factories.

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Near the station, we found Port Mars which was made in the 3rd century.
It’s a remain from the Roman time.

Walking farther toward the east, a famous champagne factory named G.H.MUMM is standing on Rue du Champ de Mars.

wine shop

wine shop
G.H.MUMM 34、rue du champ de mars
Open :5/1~10/31
9:00 am~10:50 pm 2:00 am~4:40 pm
Visits during the off-season, reservation required.
HOMEPAGE

And when you are there, don’t miss the small chapel standing next to the factory.
It is called CHAPELLE FOUJITA.

foujita chapel

foujita chapel
33, rue du champ de mars
Open:5/2~10/31
2:00mp~6:00 pm
Closed : Wednesdays、7/14

The name comes from a Japanese artist, Tsuguharu Fujita. He liked painting from his childhood and wished to study new art in France some day. After divorcing his first wife, he decided to leave Japan. He arrived in Paris in the 1930s and succeeded in making a name for himself. However, World War II was going to break out and Paris was going to be occupied by Germany, so he went back to Japan.

Back in Japan, he was forced to produce war pictures for propaganda under the orders of the Japanese Government. He created some paintings which were said to be beyond the war pictures in quality, but after the war ended he was accused of cooperating for the war.

He was disgusted by the action and again left Japan for France, and there he met the manager of G.H.MUMM, who also baptized him. He restarted his life as Leonard Tsuguharu Foujita

In 1966 he created a fresco painting for MUMM in return, and designed the chapel building, sculptures, and stained glass as well. It was when he was 80 years old, and two years later he died of cancer in Switzerland. His body is sleeping under the chapel now.

Shopping in Reims

wine

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You can’t go without buying champagne here!
We bought 3 bottles asking the clerk what is good.

: Philippe Gonet 2000 Homepage €35 (left)
:Gonet €20 (middle)
:Paul Dethune €20 (right)

FOSSIER
Homepage

sanck

snack

snack
Champagne cookies (left)
Rose crackers for dipping in champagne (middle)
Salty biscuits (right)

It was a nice trip. We learned the history, ate delicious food, saw the world heritage. There are many highlights.

Reims Official Site

Les Gorges du Fier

Lovagny is about 10 km away from Annecy, and in the city the gorges called Les Gorges du Fier share the cool with visitors who come here to escape from the summer heat. These gorges were officially recognized as a precious scenic spot in 1943.

Fier is one of the major rivers in Haute-Savoie prefecture, and its source is found on the south edge of Le Mont-Charvin (Mt. Charvin). The water is running 2019m deep under the summit. Then the water flows to the north from a small lake in the Alps, and reaches the alpine pasture basin, which is well moistened by the snow water. Then again it goes on about 70 km and meets Le Rhone (Rhone River) at Chateaufort. The river runs through the valleys called Manigod and Thones, and passes the Annecy plain and finally le chateau de Montrottier (Montrottier Castle). And there you can see the beauty of nature which is created as a result of erosion by the water. It is said to be the most mysterious creation of nature in France.

fier

fier

20,000 years ago, the glacier, which was supposed to become a lake in Annecy later, extended as long as 30 km. When the ice began to melt, a great amount of water was produced, and it is said that the surface of the lake was 15m higher than the present level. The water, then, is directed toward Le chateau de Montrottier (Montrottier Castle), forming a river, and the flow changes its course after it hits soft rocks there. And over thousands of years with the process, Les Gorges du Fier have been formed.

fier

fier

fier

In October 1868, the project to build up a visitors’ gallery was started, bringing it to completion in July 1869. It was dangerous work in which workers had to be hung in a barrel in the air using the system of a pulley in order to drive iron supports for a walk way on the rock. It was built on the left side of the gorge. It is 252m long and 20~30m above the river surface. The gorge itself is 70m deep.

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Some photos tell how the construction work was.

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People swimming in the nearby river.

It was a thrilling experience, since I’m afraid of heights. The cold of the air and the fear both cooled me a lot. If you seek a cool place in the summer, this could be one of the places.

[GORGES DU FIER]

Location :GORGES DU FIER 74330 LOVAGNY FRANCE
TEL : (+33) 04 50 46 23 70
FAX : (+33) 04 50 09 85 37
Open : March 15 ~October 15