Sunday, 29 October 2017

Walking Paris: the Promenade Plantée

We lived in Paris for 6 months a couple of years ago and, during this time, we made a point of making the most of this amazing city...
Because Paris is really a surprisingly amazing city, more than any travel guide or magazine will ever tell you. And it is lively. And so full of art. And so deeply French!

During those 6 months we tried to optimize our time and to feed our love for art. But, although we deeply loved the amount and variety of museums that the Ville Lumière displays, I have to admit that one of my dearest memories of our time in Paris comes from when we walked the Promenade Plantée.
Let me explain you why.

The Promenade Plantée is a 4,5 Km park walkway starting behind the Opera Bastille above the Viaduc des Arts, ending at the Bois de Vincennes and passing through the Jardin de Reuilly, ancient railway tunnels and the Jardin Charles Peguy.

Place de la Bastille

It is an extraordinary journey above street level (at least for the first part) among Parisians rooftops, surrounded by flowers and trees along the long-abandoned mid-19th century viaduct. The conversion started in 1988 and the walkway was inaugurated in 1993, but it has really become popular with locals only recently and it is mostly unknown to the tourists that are probably too busy visiting the more popular landmarks to discover this little jewel.

The views are spectacular in the elevated part of the park walkway and the atmosphere is extremely relaxed: traffic is 10 meters below and from above you can enjoy some interesting architectural details of the astonishing buildings surrounding you....until the moment when the walkway reaches street level and you find yourself cutting in two modern buildings to end up surrounded by wild lush vegetation to the point that you wonder if you are still in Paris. But of course you are, as you will be reminded when entering the elegant and perfectly kept Bois de Vincennes.

Bois de Vincennes

Bois de Vincennes

Walking the Promenade Plantée offers you the experience of a real journey within an iconic city that can always surprise you.

Note: if you have good legs you may decide to go the extra mile and extend the walk up to the interesting Chateau de Vincennes!

Monday, 17 April 2017

La Combe des Loups, circular walk in the Dordogne Valley

Among the numerous circular walks that can be found in the Perigord Noir, there is one that stands above the others and that we loved in a particular way.
It is the Combe des Loups in Saint Andre d'Allas and we just discovered it a few days ago: 12 Km, 4 hours walk among the amazing blooming lush nature of this fantastic region of France.

But, as we are passionate walkers nature is not unusual for us. Indeed what really struck us is that this is a real complete walk: it offers the "usual" beautiful scenarios of the Perigord, colorful flowers, wild strawberries, blackberry bushes but also open views over one of the most beautiful castle of the region (the Chateau de Puymartin), some typical Perigourdine landmarks such as stone huts and rocky outcrops, ancient wash houses and hamlets dating back to the XIV century.

But I think pictures are worth thousands of my words....

Cabane en pierre
Lavoir/Wash house dating back to 1908

Hameau de Boussieyral - XIV -XVII century - ancient residence of the bishops of Sarlat

Chateau de Puymartin

Church of Saint Andre d'Allas
Useful links: our B&B in Sarlat La Caneda, Sarlat Tourist Office

Friday, 13 January 2017

Top 10 things to do in the Dordogne Valley

If you ran into this blog post, we assume you are probably already planning a visit to the Dordogne Valley.  Well done, excellent choice.

This beautiful and welcoming department of the South-West of France offers plenty of culture, history, beautiful nature and amazing food, so no wonder why it is one of the top destinations in the country.

We have prepared a little list for you that it's just meant to be a starting point, to give you an idea of the most interesting sites and things to do during your stay, and if you haven't booked your trip yet, we are pretty sure you'll be doing it straight away after reading this!

Here is our top 10 list of things to do in the Dordogne Valley:

1. Savour the local produces: duck, walnuts and truffles.
Food lovers already know that the Dordogne Valley is a top gourmet destination. And not only for the voluptuous, fairly expensive and surely controversial (in its preparation) foie gras, but for any kind of duck dish, for the highly sought-after black truffles and the delicious walnuts protected by a local appellation. In fact, the Périgord (ancient name for what the Dordogne department) is actually one of the richest countryside areas of France covered by chestnut, hazelnut and walnut orchards, beautiful fields of juicy strawberries and deep forests filled with mushrooms, black truffles and wild animals. No wonder why the local cuisine is so rich and intense in flavours!!

Duck plate served with potatoes `a la Sarladaise`
2. Visit at least one of the 1001 castles
It is said that the department hosts 1001 castles, and even though lot of them are private (luckily for their owners) and can only be admired from the road, there is a wide choice among the visitable ones. The most famous are probably the Chateau de Beynac and Castelnaud, but the Chateau de Milandes or the Fenelon or the Biron ones are also well worth a visit. And what makes all these castles so interesting is that they are all very different, both in age and in style, making every visit an extremely stimulating experience.

Castelnaud Castle
3. Spend a day at a `Brocante` or `Vide Grenier`
The French love their markets, and I am not talking only about the weekly farmers' markets where you can find all sorts of local delicacies but also the flea or antiques markets that happen almost every week in a different village. Don't miss them, there's plenty of little treasures to discover.

Vide Grenier at Saint Genies
4. Canoe on the river
The main character of the region is, without a shadow of doubt, Her Majesty the Dordogne river. And there is no better way to explore it than taking a ride on a canoe over its calm waters. You will be impressed by the astonishing surrounding scenery of green lush vegetation, beautiful medieval villages and castles along its banks. And in summer you may also want to stop by one of the little pebble coves to sunbathe or take a refreshing dip in the exceptionally clean waters.

View from the canoe
5. Find your favourite view of the river
Once again we are talking about Her Majesty. But this time we are trying to have a look at it and the beautiful surrounding valley from above. When thinking about beautiful views, the region offers an amazing array of choices. From the castles nestled above the villages, from the belvedere on top of the medieval bastide of Domme, or maybe from the terraced gardens of Marqueyssac....there is plenty of choice, it's up to you to find your favourite spot for the best romantic view and most unforgettable picture.

View from Castelnaud Castle
6.Get lost among the windy countryside roads
Do you love driving in the countryside? Or are you a biker? Then, here is the place to come. The countryside is rich and colorful with intense tones especially in autumn and spring and the windy and peaceful roads among the medieval villages of fairy tales stone houses are just perfect to get lost.

7. Experience Sarlat at night
By night, Sarlat enjoys a very special gas lighting put in place during the rehabilitation of the city according to the Malraux law. Shadows and lights draw a captivating urban landscape that seems to animate its past bringing you back to the age of splendor of this unforgettable town and leaving you with extraordinary memories. Have a walk after dinner or join one of the night guided tours organized by the local tourist office  to discover the history and hidden treasures of this enchanting town.

Maison de La Boétie
8. Taste some walnuts olive oil
Walnuts have been grown in the region since prehistoric times, as evidenced by findings dating back 17 thousand years ago.Once upon a time they were used not only as part of the daily diet but even for the illumination or for soap production. And they were so valuable that farmers were paying their debts in baskets of nuts. But it 's in 2002 that this rich local product has earned the AOC label of origin. Périgord walnuts are now used in cooking in many ways, in bread, cakes but also in savory preparations, and certainly one of the most delicious products is the walnut oil that, thanks to its excellent nutrients is considered a fine substitute for olive oil. Try it with an endive and Roquefort salad!
Perigord walnuts
9. Take a look at it from above
Are you looking for the experience of a lifetime? Well, then take a hot hair balloon and gently fly over the beautiful green countryside, cut in the middle by her majesty the Dordogne river and scattered by little stone villages and imposing dawn or sunset. Hold your breath and enjoy the spectacular views. It may be expensive but it is totally worth every minute!

Hot air balloon - public domain picture

10. Walk one of the many circular paths
In the Dordogne Valley, the harmony of the landscape is made of green rolling hills, quiet valleys and beautiful forests full of birds. And if you like hiking, you will find a wide choice of circular paths that will give you the chance to explore this beautiful scenarios alternated to the little golden stone hamlets that seem to be lost in time and space.

Dordogne countryside
For more info and updates on local and seasonal events, check out our Facebook page and website.

And here are a few useful links to plan your visit:
Sarlat Tourisme
Perigord Tourisme
Dordogne Vide Grenier

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Unusual Paris: Montparnasse cemetery

You may think we have a sort of taste for the macabre, but after visiting the Montmartre cemetery we decided to repeat the experience and explore another monumental cemetery of Paris, the Montparnasse one.

To be honest with you, we actually ended up there quite in a random way, after trying to get into the Catacombes de Paris and giving up due to a massive, incredibly long queue (eventually we would then end up leaving Paris without ever visiting the catacombes despite several attempts).
Montparnasse area was not far away and we thought about having a walk around to explore the neighborood but then, reading the guide we got tempted by this ancient cemetery!

And if Montmartre cemetery had a Gothic fascinating atmosphere, Montparnasse is surely not less charming with its sculptures and bizarre decorations, illustrious tombs and large airy spaces filled with trees and flowers.

Montparnasse cemetery

Montparnasse cemetery

Montparnasse cemetery

Montparnasse cemetery

Montparnasse cemetery
Samuel Beckett's tomb in Montparnasse cemetery

Serge Gainsbourg's tomb in Montparnasse cemetery

Philippe Noiret's tomb in Montparnasse cemetery

Julio Cortazar's tomb in Montparnasse cemetery

Jean Paul Sartre and Simone De Beauvoir tomb in Montparnasse cemetery

To all of these people that has filled our world with their art we wish to rest in peace in this beautiful little corner of Paris.