Sacre Coeur, France

Sacre Coeur is stll one of my very favorite places on Earth.  It is, I dare say, absolutely beautiful.  Every time I am in Paris, I set aside an afternoon to go to Sacre Coeur, and chill on the steps or in the grass, watching street performers and buskers.  It’s a place that I don’t even mind being surrounded by tourists.  It is kind of part of the experience.

What I don’t understand are the street vendors.  Now, I know… mini Eiffel Tower keychains are a hot ticket item.  Four for a euro, is quite the deal.  But when the guy on your left is selling mini Eiffel Tower keychains, and the guy on your right is selling mini Eiffel Tower keychains, and the guy next to both of them… isn’t it time to start thinking about selling something else?  Not to mention, this is Sacre Coeur, in the middle of Montmatre… what about a mini Sacre Coeur keychain, or a mini Moulin Rouge.  Anything other than the exact same thing everyone else is selling.

That being said, I had a wonderful afternoon, munching on a delicious crepe from my favorite crepe stand in Paris, (and therefore the world) watching dancers, singers, artists, and one guy who climbed a light post, and then did a whole bunch of tricks with a soccer ball.  Fabulous.

Work Ethic, France

Now, this is pretty solely about small town south of France.  And though I am speaking of specific experiences in general terms, I by no means, mean to imply that this is true for everyone.  Though I wouldn’t be surprised….

I spent three days in Limoges, France; trying to buy a birthday gift for my mom.  I had originally only wanted to spend one day there, but it turned into two, which then turned into three. Why?  you ask.  Was it because Limoges was so beautiful/interesting that I simply couldn’t take it all in in one day?  No.  I simply couldn’t take any of it in in one day, because that day was Sunday, and everything was closed.

Ok, but everything opens back up on Monday, right?  Right.  Except.  Monday, it rained.  Now after having survived monsoon season in Korea, and weeks on end of rain in the UK, I wasn’t about to let a little rain keep me from my objective.  My outlook was apparently not the same as most of the shop keepers in Limoges however.  When the rains came, most of them went home.  Just closed up, no note.

So we waited until day three, desperately looking at the weather forcast, hping I would not be delayed another day.  And I wasn’t.  Finally, I got into stores!  And then I ran into a new problem.  All stores close from about noon to 2pm.  Which in my book means 12-2.    In the shop keeps of Limoges books however, that means about 11:30-3.  And sometimes, for fun, a long nap is taken, and the shop doesn’t reopen that day.  And little Julie is left, standing on the sidewalk, looking at the posted opening hours in confusion, as her eyes dart to the sky to ensure it isn’t raining, and then to Tabitha to check what time it is.

Needless to say, I was not too happy, and when I finally (finally!) found what I was looking for, the hand painted box looked like it had been hand painted by a kindergartener.  And it was over priced.

Châteaux, France

I took a half day trip to visit three of the châteaux near Tours while I was staying there.  We visited Chambord, Chenonceau, and viewed Amboise.  Our guide was a really nice man, who drove like a fugitive trying to outrun the police.  Truthfully, I am in cars so infrequently that they always seem to be going so fast, but everyone in our mini van was clutching the nearest hand hold or loved one.  However, this meant more time in the castles, as we saved a lot of driving time.  First up was the viewing of Amboise.
The driver said, “On your right is Amboise,” as we flew by the castle on our way to Chambord.  Alrighty then.  There it is, that whitish blur behind the trees.
Next up, Chambord, or as I like to call it, the passably ok hunting lodge.  Because seriously.  Hunting lodge.  400+ rooms, 300+ fireplaces, 77 staircases.  Just a place to crash while hunting.  No big.  But it is big.  Seriously big.  Big enough to get lost in just the half that is open to the public.

It was spectacular.  Every bit of it was perfect.  It was extremely ornate, and absolutely gorgeous.  I don’t love spiral staircases… but it had several that even I really liked, including the double helix in the main area of the castle, allowing one person to go up, and one down, and they don’t pass each other as they spiral around each other… a neat feature for those philandering Kings of old.
One part of Chambord that really kind of creeped me out were the heads.  Or perhaps it would be more apt to call them skulls.  Rooms full of them.  Just to remind us that it was a hunting lodge, I suppose, but it was rather too macabre for my taste.  Plus, the antlers threw strange shadows.

From the extreme excess of Chambord we made our way to Chenonceau.  The Lady Castle, as it was.  It was designed and has only been inhabited by women.

A little history of the castle, because I think it’s interesting.  King Henry II gave Chenonceau to his mistress, Diane.  She lived there for twelve years until his death, when his wife, Catherine, unceremoniously kicked her out of the spectacular chateaux, and sent her down river to another, smaller, more austere châteax.  Diane, missing her home, and unhappy with her runner up castle, left after just a few years.  Catherine, meanwhile loved Chenonceau and threw amazing parties there, even hosting the first fireworks display in France.

Now, this story is told as a ‘oh that greedy Catherine, how could she do that to poor Diane?!’ Kind of slant.  But honestly, if I were queen, and another woman is sleeping with my husband for twelve years, you can be darn sure the tramp wouldn’t be getting a consolation châteaux.  She’d just be getting put out.
Also, one last note about the châteaux.  The beds- they are pretty small.  The drapery was extremely tall, and the rooms were large, which I am sure made the beds look smaller than they were, but still.  And I know… beds were smaller back then.  People were smaller back then… I get that.  But these are not just every day beds.  This is the King’s bed.  One would think he could have a bed as large as he wanted.  Heck, he built a hunting lodge with 400 rooms!  To be sure, if I am ever crowned queen of anything, I’m setting a new world record for largest bed.  And most pillows.  Which I will throw all of onto the floor every night.  Just because I can.