Summer Getaways: French Sojourn

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Throwback to last year’s vacation tempted me to pen it down here!
There’s simply so much you can do in France – Imperial architecture, state-of-the-art museums, beaches, medieval town charm, pebbly shores, dolce vita and more, however, time may be a constraint .
So it’s probably an easier task to book flights and hotels, get the Visas done and stuff. What’s more challenging is to book an itinerary that’s equally exciting and palatable to each one traveling with you (esp if you plan to travel with kids).
So we kind of narrowed our vision and focused our sojourn on Paris and the South of France, with a major part of the vacation spent in the South. While Paris is about art, culture, bespoke fashion and gastronomical experiences, the offerings in the South can be quite diverse.
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Paris
The first feelers that I had arrived in Paris came with the sight of macaroons and  baguette at cafes all across the airport. And I was so looking forward to relish them only to get sick and tired of their sight at the end of my ten day sojourn here. The other noticeable point that instantly caught my attention was the formal dressing. No wonder Paris is named as the fashion capital, thanks to its truly impeccable dress culture.
The city of lights is likely to be your first stop when you enter France and I hope you get lucky with the weather here! Well, no wonder it’s a favourite topic that rules coffee conversations.
The drive from the airport was fairly comfortable and after a quick check in and lunch, it was time to step up and get a taste of the city.  So I stepped out of the hotel and headed towards the nearest tube station and it rained!! You rarely get lucky with the weather here, especially in the evenings.
It’s likely that you’re bound to begin your tour of the city with the Eiffel or the Louvre, that’s what we did as well. So you would queue up and climb up the Eiffel with ecstasy, enjoy a view of the city, click pictures and be back. To be honest, my visit to the monuments and museums here was the least impressive part of my vacation.
And while you would queue up and wait to visit the Eiffel and the Musee, get clicked at the Arc and rush to visit the Cathedral of Notre Dam, there’s more you could explore in the city.
Here’s my take on Paris, once you’re through with tick off, must see spots!
River Sienna Cruise
River Seine is the essence of Paris, meandering through the city’s heart and simply accentuating it’s beauty. There are 32 bridges on the river with the oldest being Port Nuef. The river banks are worth exploring with floating restaurants, cafes and discs. Pick one of these and spend the eve or if that’s not what you like, simply sip wine with cheese on one of the benches and gaze around.
To enjoy the essence of Paris, you must cruise down River Seine and spend an evening on the waters. Quite a few cruise options to choose from, with/without dinner. Cruise along while you enjoy the sparkling Eiffel at night (well I find the night Eiffel better) and several other exotic sights on your way.
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Mont Marte
This was no where on our itinerary, but turned out to be a great last minute tour. A random scrutiny of the city map, bit of googling and last minute research took us here. A complete not-to-miss for Art-lovers, shopping and food junkies, the place has a vibe of its own, Mont Marte is known primarily for its artistic heritage and the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur at its summit.
When you enter Mont Marte, a typical junk shopping flea market is probably waiting to be explored. Haggle your way through, pick a few oil paintings and mementos while you climb towards the Basilica. There’s a fun tram ride here which my daughter loved. It took us to the top of the hill and is worth a one way ride.
Once you reach the top, a breath-taking view of the city awaits you.
Just when you step out of the tube and take the exit, you would spot the Moulin Rogue, a cabaret built in 1889. A complete not-to-miss, book a show and line-up in the queue, its gonna be worth the wait.
Getting there:
Take the tube, the closest stations are as below:
 
Abbesses – Line 12 (green)
Anvers-Line 2 (blue)
Lamarck Caulaincourt – Line 12 (green)
Food tours:
Gastronomical experiences in the city of macaroons are bound to be a treat to all across age groups. There’s something sweet and savoury all over the place waiting for you to relish. Explore the world class chocolatiers, macaroons at Laduree or simply indulge in one of these half day tours you would cherish for a lifetime.
Heading down South:
That’s all I could talk about Paris. If you know of more unexplored pastures I could include in my next trip, I would love to hear about them from you.
Heading down south, pebbly shores, old world opulence and a vibrant night life with luxury yachts lined up all across- south of France exudes luxury, charm, serenity and more.
The French Reviera has been a haven for artists- some aimless while others as renowned as Pablo Picasso- one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
While I wanted to include Lyon in my itinerary, a city  renowned for it’s architectural landmarks and gastronomical experiences, so much so that it has been christened as the gastronomy capital of France (to be honest, the latter was a bigger motivation), but we were running short of time, so after a four day stay at Paris, we took a flight to Nice and headed down to the South of France.
There’s a contrast of sorts here in the south. Nice, the capital city, offers a spectacular view  of the French Riviera and has a typical resort town charm. The Promenade Des Anglais, one of the most iconic French Boulevards, happens to be the most vibrant part of the city. You could walk down the pebbly shores, enjoy one of the sea side eateries or simply take a leisure stroll to Place Massena and explore the city. Place Massena is the epicentre of Nice with loads to shop, eat and hang out. Besides, the trams from  this place connect you to key train stations as well.
Saint Paul De Vence
One of the oldest medieval towns in  the South, the place has an old world charm and is renowned for its modern and contemporary art galleries. The place is also known for the La Colombe d’Or hotel once a weekend haunt for artists like Pablo Picasso. The winding narrow streets and medieval architecture adds a unique charm to the place. Perched precariously on the French Riviera, the little village has a lot to offer and I would highly recommend a half day spend here.
Getting here: A thirty minute taxi ride costing circa 45 euros brings you here. Besides, quite a few tour operators stop by here while on their way back to Nice from Cannes. However, time bound tours may make you feel shackled and often restrict meaningful explorations of such places.
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Antibes:
An old resort town nestled between Nice and Cannes famous for its star shaped fort, luxury yachts moored, an old world charm, Antibes is great stop by.
Cannes
A resort town widely known for the annual film festival (well, you could time your visit in May, just in case you wish to do a bit of celeb spotting), sandy beaches, vogue and upmarket boutiques.
Getting here:
Now that I pen this down, I am beginning to wonder how expensive (or cheap? well that wouldn’t be the case) would it be to rent out a hotel. That’s because we just kind of stopped by for a few hours and drove through the glamorous city hosting the International Film Festival on those dates. Drive through Cannes and spend an hour or two at the beach while on your way to St Paul de vence. You could take a train, taxi or a day tour that takes your through Antibes, St Paul’s and Cannes and back Nice.
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Monaco
A drive down the French Reviera brings you to Monaco Ville, an independent state-town on the Mediterranean coast. The place is well known for its classy and upscale casinos, buzzing night life, yacht lined harbours and luxe hotels. The belle-epoque casinos and Villas of Monte Carlo, Grand Prix race tracks and nightlife here is worth an evening spend. Make sure you visit the place in the evening to enjoy a slice of luxe life!
Marseille
This city has a charm of sorts. An eclectic  cultural heritage on one side and a vibrant nightlife on the other.
A port city in the South of France, Marseille is just a two-hour train ride from Nice. So we kind of did a day trip and were back around 9pm. Vieux-Port (Old Port), is the heart of the city. Enjoy the port and take a short ride to Chateau d’ Ilf, just a 45 mins ferry ride away. This island, a fortress, was later converted to a prison. A must-see spot when in Marseille, the place offers a spectacular view and is great spot for travel enthusiasts.

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