THE LURE OF THE LOIRE: EXPLORING ITS CHATEAUX, GARDENS & SO MUCH MORE – PART ONE

Beautiful scenery abounds all along the river Loire. Photo, Odysseytravel

With an abundance of charming historic towns and villages, world famous vineyards, beautiful gardens, sweeping forests, great architectural monuments and majestic châteaux, the “Garden of France”, and “The Valley of Kings,” as the region is variously known, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and a must-see for a memorable visit to France.  As there are over 300 châteaux in the Loire Valley, around 100 of which are open to the public, it’s a region that needs more than a rushed day trip from Paris to do it justice.  Here are some suggestions to help you plan a memorable visit to this special part of France.

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DISCOVER THE RICHES OF THE MARCHÉ AUX PUCES, PARIS

Marche Paul Bert. Photo, brocabrac

To call the Marché aux Puces in Paris a “flea market” is an understatement.  Regarded as the largest market of its kind in the world and with around 180,000-200,000 visitors each weekend, at first sight its sheer size can be a very daunting prospect.  It is in fact a whole series of markets, segmented according to category and price level, ranging from vendors selling museum-quality pieces (at museum prices!), to sought-after collectables, through to inexpensive household bric-a-brac items.  Paris has a couple of smaller, lesser-known markets, but if you want to see the biggest and best, the Marché aux Puces Clignancourt-Saint-Ouen is where to go.  It’s a great experience—and you just may find that special something you didn’t even know you wanted until you saw it there!

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FOOD, GLORIOUS FOOD – HOW TO SHOP AND EAT LIKE A LOCAL IN PARIS

Said to be the oldest patisserie in Paris, Stohrer is in rue Montorgueil. Photo, frommers

Paris is Europe’s most densely populated city, and offers a mind-boggling array of food offers.  There are even local Parisian products available, if you know where to look.  One of the great advantages of renting an apartment rather than staying in a hotel is that you can explore so many wonderful culinary treats from almost any district in which you find yourself on your daily excursions.  However, no matter where you stay, it’s easy to put together a picnic of goodies from your neighbourhood to enjoy in one of the many parks or down by the Seine on a warm evening.

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TRAVELS WITH YOUR NAVIGO – CHÂTEAU DE CHANTILLY

The Chateau de Chantilly and its domaine. Photo, thegoodlifefrance

Although France has so many impressive châteaux scattered throughout the country, there is one that never fails to take your breath away.  The Château de Chantilly in Picardy is one of the most spectacular in France, set in a vast estate of 7,800 hectares.  At less than 50kms from the centre of Paris, armed with your Navigo Pass it’s easily accessible for a perfect day out.

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ALL DRESSED UP FOR CHRISTMAS!

Printemps Dept. store on Bvd. Haussmann. Photo, hoteletatsunis

France is famous for its illuminations during the festive season.  Despite the huge drop in numbers of visitors, and almost in defiance of the difficulties faced by everyone during this extraordinary year, Paris in particular is dressed with its usual impressive lighting displays to celebrate the holiday season.

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