Pas De Deux: From Paris To Provence
With its artistic and architectural history, its cobblestone streets and romantic aura, France remains at the top of my list as the most beautiful and memorable place to visit.
First, you have the Westin Hotel, centrally located in Paris within a few short miles of some of the world’s most famous and breathtaking works of art such, as the Eiffel Tower, an engineering miracle; The Louvre, the 12th-century chateau turned museum; and home of the Mona Lisa. Of course, these are just a few examples of the many marvelous sights to see in France.
My French endeavor began in Paris, the heart of France, the city of lights, and the city where romance and beauty are displayed daily. We hopped aboard the Seine River Cruise, and with blue skies and a warm temperature as our backdrop, we drifted tranquilly by churches, castles and other historic pieces of architecture that were truly breathtaking. As I observed the beauty, history and talent all mixed into one beautiful sight, I thought to myself, “Do the people of Paris realize they are living in historical ruins? And do the younger generations truly appreciate all that surrounds them?”
When we arrived at the Eiffel Tower, I was instantly struck with sheer amazement as I gazed up the 1,000-foot structure that was built over 120 years ago. Originally expected to last only 20 years, the Eiffel Tower stands as strong and proud as ever, serving as a landmark for all of France.
When most people think of the Eiffel Tower, they probably don’t stop to ponder what surrounds the masterpiece. Before you explore the Eiffel Tower itself, spend some time wandering around the grounds. Underneath you will find a multitude of flowers, fountains and vendors. There are families and tour groups galore, but if you look close enough, you will find many Paris natives snuggled together on the wide-open grassy area savoring a picnic, playing with pets and enjoying the beauty that is so often overlooked. Engulfed by lush trees, shrubbery and a serene, park-like setting, the Eiffel Tower is just as beautiful underneath as the view from atop.
If you hop on the elevator and take a slow, somewhat nerve-wracking, ride up 81-stories, you will arrive at the top of the Eiffel Tower, and what seems like the top of Paris. From this point, you can see the entire city and all of its splendor. Upon arrival at the top of the tallest structure in Paris, you can look out for miles at all the city has to offer. And, if you look toward the left and over The River Seine, you will find yourself gazing at an equally astounding Parisian monument, The Louvre.
The Louvre museum, perhaps best known for housing Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, is also home to so many other astound-ing forms of artwork. I paused at the Mona Lisa, along with the throngs of other tourists, and then spent the next two hours gazing at the broad brush lines, delicate strokes and other unique techniques used by some of the world’s most notable artists including Eugene Delacroix, Nicolas Poussin and Francesco Vecellio. Visiting The Louvre was by far the best part of my French excursion.
While France is home to Renaissance history and amazing architecture that has stood the test of time, the country itself also has so much to offer.
The street markets, selling the freshest produce and endless amounts of olives and cheeses, can be dangerous for your waistline, but worth every pound. We roamed the cobblestone streets that wound into small alleys lined with restaurants and shops. Intermixed between all the produce and various edible items were hats, purses, jewelry, linens and other French trinkets, a true feast for the senses.
We spent three days in Paris and savored every second of it. After Paris, we migrated over to Provence and enjoyed a beautiful villa, nestled in the rolling hills with shops and restaurants within walking distance. We had the pleasure of inviting chefs to visit the villa where they prepared delicious, delicate meals paired with an abundance of French wines.
While many who tour France often spend their time at the standout and marvelous historical sites, the French vineyards and wineries offer an experience you wouldn’t want to miss. At the Paris Basin, there are one-hundred year-old vines grown in rock. Yes, I said rock! A marvel to the agricultural world. After our tour we were treated to a fabulous luncheon complete with pairings of some of the wineries best reserves.
This trip was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am so grateful to have spent it with great friends and my loving husband. One note to think about when planning your French excursion: study up on the monuments and secret treasures the country has to offer. It will make your trip more enjoyable and will help you decide what is most important for you and your family to explore. Above all, enjoy the experience, embrace the cultural differences and Vive la France!
WRITTEN BY: SHARON DUNCAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY: ALAINA KACZMARSKI