Archive for the 'Foodies' Category

Follow the Impressionist Painters Along the Normandy Coast

Like a beret perched askew on a Frenchman’s head, the 360-mile Normand coast curls along the north and northwest of France. After visiting Rouen, I headed for the coast to soak in the beaches and soft-green landscapes bathed in shifting light.

Cliffs of Etretat. Painted by Monet.

Etretat

I count on doing a large canvas of the cliffs of Etretat, although it is certainly bold of me to do that after Courbet who did it admirably, but I will try to do it differently …” Claude Monet, January 1883

For several years Monet visited the seaside resort of Etretat to paint the white cliffs, beach and fishing boats.

You can stand in the exact location along the beach where Monet painted the rock arch and needle sculptures jutting into the sea. He painted in all light and weather conditions.

After an exhilarating, windy walk along the green hillsides above the precipitous cliffs for views of vast sky, sea, and beach.

Honfleur

The port of Honfleur attracted painters, including Turner, Boudin, Corot, Courbet, Pissaro, Braque, Seurat, and Bonnard

The port of Honfleur attracted many English, Romantic and Impressionist painters, including Turner, Boudin, Corot, Courbet, Pissaro, Braque, Seurat, and Bonnard, who were captivated by the light of the bay, the old streets, the lighthouse and Sainte-Catherine church. Monet visited Honfleur many times and painted numerous canvasses here including the bell-tower, Le clocher Sainte Catherine. Take time to absorb the fine workmanship of the interior as well as the exterior of the half-timbered Sainte Catherine, the oldest wooden church in France.

In the center of the old town a long dock with colorful yachts punctuates the picturesque harbor built in the 17th century. Across the water half-timbered and slate-fronthomes and a parade of open-air cafes and restaurants vie for your attention.

Unlike Le Havre, which was almost entirely bombed during World War II, Honfleur escaped the destruction and the streets and locations painted by the 19th-century artists have been well preserved.

Helpful Websites:

www.normandie-tourism.fr

www.seine-maritime-tourism.fr

www.calvados-tourism.com

www.manchetourism.com

Outstanding Restaurants  Rouen: www.lacouronne.com.fr/and www.le-sixiemesens.fr Etretat : www.allchateaux.com/hotelledonjon.html  In the Pays D’Auge: www.auberge-des-deux-tonneaux.abcsalles.com

France. Follow the Impressionists in Normandy. 1.

Rouen. The Street of the Large Clock leading to the Gothic Cathedral Monet painted from 20 views

Who’s a Francophile? Someone who appreciates French history, culture, fashion, art and cuisine, and that describes me.  Ever since I lived in Paris for four years when I was in my 20’s, I jump at every opportunity to return.

Last month  I jumped at a chance to return to Normandy to follow in the footsteps of the Impressionist Painters. I criss-crossed the countryside from Giverny to the cobble-stoned streets of Rouen, across a patchwork quilt of emerald jewel fields and lush valleys dotted with lambs and cows,  to storybook seaside resorts with chocolate shops, toy stores, fresh fish and flower markets, pastries and sidewalk cafes.

TIP: Pack your umbrella, sunhat, sunscreen and a windbreaker.

Regardless of the season, I knew that we could count on the whimsical weather of fleeting clouds, peek-a-boo sun, and moody mist as our companion.

Rouen

The art history journey began in Rouen, the capital of upper Normandy; one hour and ten minutes by train from Paris.  Filling street after colorfully-restored street are two-stored half-timbered homes. Antique shops, cafes and restaurants fill the first floors and red geranium-choked flowerboxes decorate the upper floor windows.

I meandered down narrow cobbled-stoned streets admiring some of the 800 restored homes dating from the 14th to the 18th century.

The pedestrian street of the Great Clock (rue de Gos Horloge) is the busy shopping area, home to tempting pastry shops and fancy stores. We meandered through this historic part of town, built in the 16th century, then relaxed in a pew at the 13th-century Gothic cathedral (painted by Monet) and watched twinkling red and blue light filter through the stain glass windows. On a more somber note, no visitor to Rouen misses the historic square where Jeanne d’Arc was burned at the stake.

Claude Monet said “Color is my day-long obsession, joy and torment.”

When Monet painted the façade of Rouen cathedral, he worked on up to 14 different canvasses at one time, capturing the ever-changing light and color.

He painted at various times of day and the year and in different weather conditions as he tracked the passage of time, color and light on the cathedral façade. Monet painted – from a window in the second story of a women’s underwear shop – today it houses the office of tourism where we stood to take in his view.

In  July and August “Impressionists Nights,”  a light show, is projected on the cathedral façade and the Beaux-Arts Museum portraying the life and work of Monet, Pissaro and Gauguin in Rouen.

Red Carpet rolled out for guests at Rouen's 5-star hotel in a 16th century Renaissance Manor

You can go for a day or rent a car and visit all the Normandy sites in four days or more.

The tourism websites are: www.normandie-tourism.fr , www.seine-maritime-tourism.fr,

Where to stay.  Rouen:  A 5-star hotel in a 16th century Renaissance Manor. www.hotelsparouen.com

Outstanding Restaurants  Rouen: www.lacouronne.com.fr/ and www.le-sixiemesens.fr

Air France has daily flights from major US cities.

How to avoid airplane germs

I admit that I”m a germ freak. I wear an air purifier around my neck for ion technology clean air, and use a

Germs on an airplane

tissue to touch anything in the bathroom.

What else can you do?

  • Don’t put your head down on the food tray to sleep, or put your bread or snack directly on the tray.
  • Use hand sanitizers often and wipe down the remote in your hotel room.
  • Buy a portable air purifier. This is the model I have used for years  Ultra-Mini.

s

“Four out of six tray tables tested positive for the superbug methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), and norovirus, the highly contagious group of viruses that can cause a miserable one- or two-day bout of vomiting, diarrhea and cramping, was found on one tray. Most of the bathrooms he swabbed had E. coli bacteria. Thirty percent of sinks, flush handles and faucet handles had E. coli, as did 20 percent of toilet seats, according to his research.”

In case you missed this article in the New York Times Travel Section, March  2011.
http://travel.nytimes.com/2011/03/06/travel/06prac-germs.html

When planning travel online is a bust – get honest answers from friends.

Do you ever wonder who writes the reviews on travel sites that rate hotels and restaurants? Here’s a cool new online travel resource that gets around this issue.  Check it out. , Gogobot

Reviews for online resorts, hotels, restaurants - Are they unbiased?

When all the reviews are “over-the-top” complimentary, I question their credibility. Was this written by employees or friends of the owner? After all, they’re anonymous.

Recently I stayed in a “romantic”  hotel along the river in Sedona, Arizona. The descriptions and reviews online  were all exceptionally good , so I should have suspected something was wrong.  So I followed the advice of strangers and booked a room. The resort was noisy, (meaning I could hear the couple in the next room), accommodations were damp and cramped and the staff was disdainful.  And the hotel didn’t have a view of the signature red rocks that change in color and mood from sunrise to sunset. O.K. I made a mistake.

Where could I find more honest answers?

“I should have asked my travel buddies for recommendations,” I chided myself when I returned home. Perhaps you, like me, don’t appreciate lots of friends asking for advice often, about Paris, New York or Sedona.  As a travel journalist with over 20 years of friends and colleagues, I have lots of contacts, but I don’t want to impose on anyone. But I learned a way to get around that.

When I discovered this new website I was skeptical until I tried it out.  No one is anonymous, so your friends will see what you’ve written. In the The Passport section, you share a  list countries and cities you’ve visited, sports you enjoy and you can write and read reviews for and from your friends.  You can also see the travel credentials and hometown of the person who gives you a recommendation.  This is how it worked for me.

I became a member and posted a question on gogobot, that was also posted to my Facebook pals. I asked:

Any recommendations for restaurants and night life in the Tri-Beca area? I’m going to NYC with my  daughter.

WOW. Within minutes, friends I hadn’t communicated with in months began responding with short entries and great advice. And the followers of gogobot also chipped in. One responder is a professional woman who lives in TriBeca. Another friend told me about a hip night club and offered to get us reservations through a friend. What a deal.

New York City restaurants recommended in the TriBeca area included:

Blue Hill on Washington Square where all the ingredients come from from local farms, so they are incredibly fresh.

In Vino Wine Bar & Restaurant is a great cozy neighborhood Italian restaurant in the East Village. The cave-like interior makes for a very intimate experience.

PDT (Please Don’t Tell), on St. Mark’s Place is an underground speakeasy that has so much appeal that even the uber cool Europeans are all over it.

If you want to see more recommendations from New Yorkers living in the neighborhood, check out my profile at Gogobot.

Next I posted this:

Is Mexico Safe? Traveling to Playa del Carmen. Again, the response was immediate and from colleagues that had traveled to this area recently. Is it safe? YES! And I also learned that it’s easy to rent a car and visit Tulum and other Mayan sites on our own. I heard from people all over Mexico including two friends in San Miguel de Allende who assured me that the drug violence is far away from tourist destinations.

All this advice was so freely offered by avid and experienced travelers, so I felt the urge to give back.

Since I know Paris well, and have wrote about it in my book Best Girlfriends Getaways Worldwide, I shared my favorite Left Bank hotel and favorite place for ice cream and sorbet (Bertillon on Ilse St. Louis).

When I have time I’ll add more personal favorites. Best of all, what I wrote on gogobot will always be there to send on to other friends.  Gotta love it!

Top Picks for Romantic Spots in San Francisco

Sand Beach and walking trails at Chrissy Field

From Gogobot with changes and additions by the Gutsy Traveler, Marybeth from her book

50 Best Girlfriends Getaways in North America.

1. Gary Danko

“This place is absolutely amazing in so many grand and subtle ways… As usual, the service was impeccable and cannot be disputed. Everything from the greeting to the entry to the wine pouring was perfect down to the last drop.”

2. Napa Valley

Okay, this isn’t technically in SF, but it’s an “easy drive north of San Francisco, Napa Valley is a perfect weekend getaway! It’s great for couples.”  Visit romantic wineries like the Mondavi Vineyard or Frogs’ Leap, and take a hot air balloon ride over the valley complete with a champagne breakfast.

3. Dosa on Fillmore

“Our dining experience was extremely enjoyable–great service, ambiance, and fancy cocktails. I would HIGHLY recommend Dosa on Fillmore to anyone interested in Indian cuisine. True, although many dishes have been slightly modified from their original state to compliment San Francisco, you will be hard pressed to find a spot that serves such high quality, South Indian inspired cuisine.”

4. Chapeau on Clement

“The place is quiet and the entire experience screamed something cozy, seductive, and most definitely French.”

5. California Academy of Arts & Science

“If you were here to enjoy the night it’s definitely a spectacular experience filled with live music, great DJs, alcohol and cooking demonstrations full of great food and useful learning resources.” Be sure to take your sweetheart to the 2 and 1/2 acres of live plants and flowers blanketing the roof and watch the sunset over Golden Gate Park.

6. Ana Mandara in Ghiradelli Square

Ana Mandara means “beautiful refuge” in a Vietnamese Dialect. Its dramatic interior transports you to an Asian tropical garden accented with potted palms, a koi pond and cozy alcoves defined by dark carved wood. Ana Mandara is my favorite New Vietnamese restaurant (with French accents) restaurant because of its opulent beauty, the gracious service and the fabulous cuisine.

7. Gitane Restaurant and Bar

“Gitane is tres sexy in every way. The ambiance, the staff, the food and the cocktails are all incredibly sexy. It’s the … quintessential date spot in SF.”

8. La Mar Cebicheria Peruana

I discovered La Mar in the Mira Flores district of Lima, Peru and was ashamed to learn that there’s a sister restaurant in San Francisco. Now it’s one of my favorites. If you feel like a gastronomic adventure for the land of the Incas, this is a great choice.

9. Chrissy Field and the Fort Point National Historic Site

Chrissy Field's Location along the Bay

The view here is understatedly indescribable and breathtaking at the very least and grandeur … and amazing as well. Walk on the sandy beach and look across at Alcatraz, the Marin hills and the Golden Gate Bridge. Have a hot chocolate or double latte at The Warming Hut.

10. Golden Gate Park

“This park is very serene and nice in many areas and contains specialty places such as conservatories and museums with a huge … selection of specialty gardens such as the Japanese Tea Garden.”


About Marybeth Bond

Marybeth Bond is the nation’s preeminent expert on women travel. She is the award-winning
author-editor of 11 books.

Marybeth has hiked, cycled, climbed, dived and kayaked her way through more than seventy countries around the world.

She was a featured guest on the Oprah Winfrey Show. Marybeth has appeared on CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, National Public Radio and National Geographic Weekend.