Category Archives: in France

Chantilly Castle

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Located in the north of Paris, a small town called Chantilly is standing in the lake. It takes only 30 minutes by SNCF, a French local train, and you can find a peaceful and quiet place. It’s hard to imagine the town is only 30 minutes away from the big city.

There is a tourist information office near the station, where they give you useful booklets and a map. After you check the route to the castle, walk through the woods and you will come to the horse race track. The building you see on your right is the horse museum. The castle is over the field.

The origin of this castle goes back to the families of Orgemont, Montmorency, Bourbon-Conde and Orleans. It was the 14th through the 15th century.

Chantilly can’t compete with the Versailles Palace in spectacles, but the atmosphere is very calm and relaxing. Especially when I visited there in the morning, there were only a few people.

There is a beautiful park behind the castle, too. Some birds were resting in the water. In winter the water freezes, so I saw birds skating there!

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Chantilly Castle
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skating birds
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decoration on the wall

Inside the castle is full of art collections.

The Petit Chateau of Chantilly, built by Jean Bullant around 1560, has many beautifully decorated rooms. On the first floor, you can find the main room of the Princes of Conde, designed between the 17th and 18th centuries. When you go downstairs, you can visit more rooms which were designed for the Duke of Aumale in the 19th century.

The Grand Chateau was razed to the ground during the Revolution and rebuilt on the foundations of the 14th century Orgemont fortress, by Henri d’Orleans (1822–1897), Duke of Aumale and the son of Louis-Philippe, who donated Chantilly to the institute de France in 1886. He stipulated that the original aspect of the Musee Conde should be respected, and this explains the unique lay out in this museum. The paintings are hung side by side in rows, regardless of the time or the categories of schools.

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Hunting Scenes

It is surprising to see a great number of paintings. You can learn a lot about the past of Paris. For example, French people have been with dogs long since. Even in some important people’s portraits you see dogs next to them.

I also found some ceramics which were sent from Japan in the Edo period. It was amazing. I didn’t expect to see something Japanese here, and I was impressed thinking about those items came to this country all the way from Japan by boat, taking many months.

Here is one more thing. “Chantilly” means fresh cream in French. They say this is the original place of whipped cream, but there was no big advertisement in the town. But I really wanted to taste the cream here and found one restaurant on the way back to the station. Actually it was a nice restaurant. I had a crepe with fresh cream, and my boyfriend had a bowl of fresh cream. It was delicious. They also have other specialties. The sign says “BIO”. They serve healthy traditional foods. La Belle Bio (22,rue du Connetable 60500 / 03 44 57 02 25)

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La Belle Bio

Access
SNCF Chantilly-Gouvieux
30 min from Gare du Nord
45 min from Chatelet-les-Halles (RER line D)

Open Hours
March through October 31st 10:00 am—6:00 pm
November through February 28th 10:30 am—12:45 pm, 2:00 pm—5:00 pm
Holiday: Tuesday
The park is available every day

Homepage

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Racetrack and Hose Museum near the castle

Chartres

Chartres is a village which shows us how the medieval times were. It is located 96 km southwest of Paris, with the population 42,059.

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To get to the village, take the train bound for either Chartres or Breast at Gare Monparnasse in Paris, and get off the train at Chartres. It takes about one hour and costs 20 euros for the round trip. The train goes through the suburbs of Paris, and you can catch sight of the Versailles Palace at a small town called Chantiers. Chantiers means workers or labors in French, and that tells you the town used to be a place where the workers in charge of building the palace formed a community.

chartres

Chartres Cathedral is one of the greatest buildings in France. It is well-known for its unique medieval architecture which has links with both Romanesque and Gothic styles. It is also registers on the World Heritage list. Behind the cathedral is an observatory, where you can overlook the panorama of the town. When you enter the building, you will see the splendid architecture and sculptures, but don’t miss the oldest stained glass in France called Chartres Blue. It is very beautiful. Another sacred item we can see inside the building is the cloth which is believed to have been worn by Maria when she gave birth to Christ. There are always pilgrims coming here from all over the world.

Open 8:00~19:30 all year around
tel: 02 37 18 26 26。

stained glass stained glass
Chartres Blue It is said to be the oldest in France. 172 pieces of glass are used.

Maria cloth
The sacred cloth worn by Maria.

sculpture

interior sculpture

These are exterior decorations. The whole building is filled with art, and it is said to be the best art in the 12th and 13th century. In those days, a cathedral is the symbol of bishop’s power and the central place where the medieval people got together to show their faith to the god. The construction of Chartres Cathedral started in 1144 and ended in 1260. All these art works are well settled in the space with 130.2 m in depth and 37.50 high.

tourist course

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Behind the cathedral is a miniature of the medieval village. There is a tourist route running through the town. It is very quiet, so you may think you have time-traveled.

restaurant

restaurant

This is a restaurant I visited, La vielle Maison. It is just next to the cathedral. You take a small street on the right side of the cathedral. As the name shows, La vielle Maison ( the Old House) has a very intimate atmosphere and serves you delicious dishes. I ate melon soup, salmon and chicken with basilic sauce. I arrived the town before noon, so I could find a seat easily, but there were many people coming into this restaurant. Some even couldn’t get in and left.

tourist office
Tourist Information Office
Find a city map here.

Saint-Tropez in Provence

History of Saint-Tropez:

Saint-Tropez is a small village which is located between Marseille and Nice. The fame of the Bay of Saint-Tropez was already established a long time ago. A legend tells the name of Saint-Tropez would come from Torpes, an intendant Nero’s martyr who refused to abjure his faith. He was beheaded and his body was thrown in a boat which drifted in the bay towards the shore.

In the 9th century, after their defeat in Poitiers, Saracens set up the last bastion there. In the 15th and 17th, Saint-Tropez became a small autonomous quite thriving republic. At that time, the Citadel, the Suffren Castle and the Mercy Chapel were built.
In the 19th century, Saint-Tropez was an active and picturesque harbor trading in “rosé wine,” cork oat and chestnuts. A Napoleon III’s minister, attracted by the beauty of the place, bought a castle (present-day Chateau de la Moutte).

Maupassant and Signac also fell in love with this exceptional light in Saint-Tropez, and then, Matisse, Marquet, Bonnard followed.

After the World War, it became a French existentialists’ summer quarter. But, for sure, the fifties’ wave and its figurehead Brigitte Bardot definitively made this town popular.

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Scenic Spots in Saint-Tropez:

nouveau port

Nouveau Port (New Port):
Leaving the public parking for the center of the town, you should take the street which goes along the new port. There are a number of expensive cruising boats at anchor. Sanit-Tropez is a village where many rich people come from all over the world. When you walk there you will wonder what kind of people own such a nice boat and wish to have one of your own, too! All boats are well furnished, and a nice painting is on the wall. It looks as comfortable as being at home on land. You can also look over the beautiful sea beyond the port, and people are enjoying cruising in their boats. It’s really cool.

Vieux Port (Old Port):

When you go past the new port, you will come to a big space. There are cafés, restaurants and souvenir shops. And you might find a few painters working on their canvas. And there is a fish market near the port, a bit off the street, where you can find a pretty mural painting (below). It was designed by my husband’s father. It’s kind of personal, but if you have a chance to visit this town, please go check it out!!

fish market
Fish Market
After you take a break with tea or something at the port, why don’t you take another excursion? This time you can get much closer to the sea. First you walk toward the sea, passing those shops and cafés, and then you will find a small path on your right side, which goes along the sea. It’s very quiet and peaceful in that area, and you can hear the ripples. Some old buildings also add more colors to the landscape.

Now, let’s take a walk.

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There’s a small path along the sea.
You can enjoy a peaceful moment, hearing the sound of ripples.
Many small inlets and beaches.

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st-tropez
People are enjoying swimming, beach volleyball and painting.
The colors of the buildings and the blue of the sea match well.

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The blue is really blue.

Citadel:

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A view from the top of the citadel.

When you come to the hill, you have to hike up for a while. It will be good exercise. When you find the gate of the citadel, buy a ticket, and keep going up toward the top. Inside the citadel there are some rooms, and in each room you can find interesting items and pictures on exhibition. And again go up to the top of the building, and you will find a wonderful view. This is the best place to take a picture.

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A view from the top of the citadel

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A good hiking course

Annonciade Museum:

Now go back to the old port and take a break. There is another place to visit. Annonciade Museum has many nice paintings. It stands on the corner of the port. It’s very small. It was used as a church before. You can find some famous artists’ names there. My favorite painters are Cignac and Seurat, and some of their works are on exhibition. Of course other paintings are interesting, too. So I recommend you to visit there if you have time.

Lices Park:

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Last, there’s one more place I want to mention. Lices Park is a nice park to visit. There are some cafés, and people are enjoying chatting over a cup of coffee or tea. And if you are lucky, you can watch a petanque match. (Petanque: see [Marseille in Provence]) I really like the atmosphere of this park. Very calm and relaxing. Time is passing very slowly.

Saint-Tropez is a small village with the population of 5,000, but many celebrities have their second houses here because it’s really beautiful and attractive. And you can find many expensive shops and restaurants. In such a small town it’s surprising to see so many boutiques. It’s also well-known as a fashionable town. But if you prefer to relax quietly, you should walk off the area, maybe a few blocks away, you will soon find a calm and nice place with many narrow alleys and small art galleries.

There are more nice small villages around Saint-Tropez. It would be exciting to drive there from Marseille. There are more nice beaches and scenic points, too.

Official Site of Saint-Tropez

Gogh’s villages

ARLES

There were many peoples before in the South of France. In the 6th century B.C. the people who built Marseille established a new commercial extension in Arles, and it’s the beginning of Arles. Arles is located between Spain and Italy and has many rivers and ports. So it prospered in the Roman times. You can find old traditional buildings in the city such as the Colosseum, an old theater and a forum.

Arles

In 1853, Gogh, who was born in the Netherlands, came to this city to seek more chances for his talent. Thanks to the Provençal nature he developed his talent to the fullest and left us a lot of paintings, like “Sunflowers.” He stayed in the city for two years and kept painting. In the forum in this village there is a small café, Café Forum, which gave Gogh a hint of painting “starry night” (Orsay Museum), and there is a hospital where he had treatment after he cut his ear off. There he painted “the garden of Arles hospital” later. And he liked to paint the bridges in Arles.

Arles gogh aruru gogh

Auvers-sur-Oise

Auvers-sur-Oise is a very small village about one and a half hour away from Paris by train. This is the place where Gogh spent his latter life. It’s a very quiet and peaceful place. And somehow you may feel very nostalgic here.

First, when you arrive here, you should visit Ravoux Inn. Gogh was renting one of the rooms. This is not a museum but you can find how his life was. They allow you to enter the room he was using, and some of his paintings were found under the bed in the room. One of them is “the church in Auvers” (below/Orsay Museum). You can also find some nail holes on the wall which were made when he hung up the paintings to dry. And one century later, a small exhibition was held in this small room to make his wish come true. In his letter to his brother, Gogh said he believed that the day would come when he could have an exhibition of his own.

You should take a walk in the village, too. There are many sites where you can recognize. And when you come to the end of the street, you’ll find a grave yard where Gogh is sleeping. And behind his grave there is a big wheat field that you can see in one of his paintings, too.

Auvers-sur-Oise church gogh

I was very happy that I could see Gogh’s traces. Now his popular paintings look different.