There are two reasons why I agreed to return to France for vacation. The first is that the wifey loves the country (she claims to be French). The second is that I didn't manage to buy a special memento when we were there the last time. Presenting, "Napoleon at the Saint-Bernard Pass" (also known as "Napoleon Crossing the Alps") by Jacques-Louis David. The plaster model now stands on the shelf in my library. All thanks to the wifey who braved a hungry tummy to accompany me to the Montmartre area in search of Napoleon. In spite of his eventual defeat at Waterloo, I admire the man for his "never-say-die" attitude. He didn't give up even after being forced into exile after the defeat at the Battle of Leipzig. Instead he managed to escape, returned to power and amassed his army for one last hurrah.
We started off this trip with a day in Paris. Dinner was at the "Le Relais de Venise" restaurant. It was the first time in an "ang moh" country that I came across a long queue waiting to enter the restaurant. They only serve steak there. The special thing about this restaurant is that they first serve half of your steak. Only when you finish, do they serve the second half. This is to keep the meat hot. Jireh would love this place with its never-ending serving of fries.
We left on the SNCF train to Avignon the next day. Our castle for this leg was the magnificent 16th Century residence known as the Hotel D'Europe. Formerly the residence of the Marquis de Graveson, this handsome property has seen prestigious guests of the likes of Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens and Queen Astrid of Spain. In fact, it was Napoleon Bonaparte himself who gave it it's name.
Avignon, the city of popes. A visit to the Palais des Papes (Palace of the Popes) is a must. This was the Pontifical seat of power from 1309. The lure of prestige of Saint Peter's Tomb proved too strong and the popes moved back to Rome in 1377.
What's a visit to Avignon without a trip to the half-collapsed Pont d'Avignon, over the river Rhone. No, we did not dance on it. The popular song was originally about dancing under the bridge instead of on it.
|Lavender ice-cream anyone?|
|My first go at Boeuf Tartare - marinated raw beef. Yummy.|
We wanted to join a group tour but they were all fully-booked. As a result we ended up with a local guide - just the wifey, myself and the guide in a brand new Peugeot with hidden backdoor handles. First we visited Arles, where Vincent Van Gogh spent about a year but produce over 300 paintings.
|Roman coliseum in Arles|
|The "Yellow House" where Van Gogh stayed and painted (painted the picture, not the walls)|
|Tasting olive oil at the Chateau d'Estoublon - Mogador|
|Lunch in Les Baux. One of my must-eat when I'm in France - lapin (rabbit)|
We also visited the sanitarium where Van Gogh checked himself into. It is here where he produced some of his most prolific works of art.Then it was off to Chateauneuf du Papes. The wine from this region can rival that of Bordeaux. I have never tasted such full-bodied reds that went down so smoothly. The white wine was gorgeous; this coming from someone who doesn't really drink.
|Wine-tasting at Chateau Mont Redon. Easily the best whites I've ever tasted. The reds were excellent too.|
|The castle at Chateauneuf du Papes - recreational residence of the Popes and Cardinals. Bombed out by retreating Nazis during WWII.|
|View from the hills overlooking the valley of wine and olive groves.|
|Margret de Canard for dinner - another "Must Eat" down.|
|Wifey going for more local fare - scallops.|