So here's the recap: and buckle your seatbelts, you're in for a long one. But don't worry too much - it's categorized.
Wine: We had an excellent and informative tour around the Burgundy (Bourgogne) region that surrounds Beaune. I learned bunches about the appellations and French rules and practices as we drove through the vineyards and visited family and larger domaines. It was a wonderful experience, though it has ruined me somewhat for Tesco's Finest.
Food: So, did anyone ever tell you the food in France is fantastic? We had number of great meals along the way, including one in Paris where they brought things out without telling you what was what - it was surprising, challenging and great fun, probably increased by the accompanying wine consumption. One of my favorites, though, was our cobbled-together dinner of baguette and cheese, fruit and veg, wine and chocolate. I got to use my French 101 vocab at the market to order our meal, reminding me of the little practice sketches we used to do in class ("Je voudrais des tomates, des haricots verts..."). The chocolateries were all selling delicious chicks, eggs, fish, bunnies, frogs, and bells for Easter. I suppose each one makes about as much sense as the other in relation to the holiday!
After a while all those interiors could start to blend together; the architecture and gardens were generally the best - and most distinctive - parts of each visit.The driving and directions got a bit complicated at times too, but we always made it to our destination...eventually. And on speaking terms, no less!
Churches: I insisted we tack on Fontevraud Abbey, which was awesome, though I may have worn G's patience out a bit. (The perils of traveling with an art historian.) While their remains were destroyed in the Revolution, the abbey still houses the gisants, or tomb effigies, of Eleanor of Aquitaine, her second husband Henry II, and their son Richard the Lionheart. (Whose lion heart, I should add, is buried back in Rouen.) A music rehearsal taking place in the former refectory gave the visit an enchanting, ethereal atmosphere. They keep the abbey running with funds from different entrepreneurial schemes – renting rooms out for meetings and events, running a hotel on the site, and the like.
From there we made our way back to Paris, where we spent our last afternoon/evening. Mom flew out the next morning, and since I had the luxury of a short train journey, I made the most of a half-day there. Despite my recent trips, I still had plenty to see and do. Paris is always exciting, though I quickly missed the intimacy of the small towns where people will greet you in the street.
The city centre was hectic with all the holiday visitors, but there were exhibits to see! And looong lines; apparently everyone goes to the museums on Easter. The Velazquez exhibit at the Grand Palais was exhaustive – not to say exhausting – and impressive. I also hit the Tudors at the MuséeééMusééée du Luxembourg because I was curious how the French would present the topic. Some of the works in the Velazquez show were stunning, and the Tudor show was reliably entertaining. There was an incredible array of loans in both.
It was a bit rushed squeezing in three museums but I was so glad to get to them all. I felt like I was giving my eyes and mind a workout, trying to absorb everything I saw. Then again, why not soak up everything? The whole experience was pretty luxurious, and a Pierre Herme macaron felt like the perfect finishing touch to taste as well as see la vie en rose. All in all, a wonderful trip!