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  • Lady_Mystique's Profile Photo

    Edith PIAF ~ "The Little Sparrow"

    by Lady_Mystique Updated Oct 17, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: Edith PIAF was one of France's most beloved singers. Her music reflected her tragic life, with her specialty being the poignant ballad presented with a heartbreaking voice.

    She was born in Paris, France; her mother worked as a cafe singer and her father was a travelling acrobat. Abandoned by her mother, she was raised by her paternal grandmother, who ran a brothel in Normandy.

    From age 3 to 7, she was blind. And, as part of Piaf's legend, she allegedly recovered her sight after her grandmother's prostitutes went on a pilgrimage.
    Later she lived for a while with her alcoholic father, whom she left at age 15 to become a street singer in Paris.

    In 1935, Édith was discovered by the nightclub owner Louis Leplée.

    She wrote her signature song, 'La Vie en Rose', in the middle of the German occupation in World War II.
    Singing for high-ranking Germans at the "One Two Two Club" earned Piaf the right to pose for photos with French prisoners of war. Once in possession of their celebrity photos, prisoners were able to cut out their own images and use them in forged papers as part of escape plans. Today, Piaf's association with the French Resistance is well known and many owe their lives to her.

    After the war, Piaf toured Europe, the U.S.A, and S. America, becoming an international star.

    Piaf died of cancer in Cannes on October 11, 1963, the same day as her friend Jean Cocteau.
    She was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery, Paris.
    Although forbidden a Mass by the Roman Catholic archbishop of Paris (because of her lifestyle), her funeral procession drew hundreds of thousands of mourners onto the streets of Paris and the cemetery was jammed with more than forty thousand fans.
    Piaf's funeral procession was the only time, since the end of World War II, that Parisian traffic came to a complete stop.

    Edith PIAF ~
    Related to:
    • Music

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    Chartres with the Magnificent Cathedral

    by Goner Updated Jun 12, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: We were fortunate to visit this marvel of a cathedral on a sunny day. The nearly two hundred stained glass windows turned the interior into a prism of colors emanating from every side. It was an enchanting sight. It wasn't until we gazed for sometime at all the sections of windows that we took an interest in the thousands of sculptures that fill every nook and cranny, inside and out, of this cathedral. The Chartres Cathedral is but an hour by train from Paris and can be visited in one day - don't miss it.

    This magnificent medieval Gothic cathedral is located in the town of Chartres southwest of Paris. I'ts built of limestone and stands some 112 feet (34 metres) high and is 427 feet (130 metres) long. It ranked as one of the three chief examples of French architecture (along with Amiens Cathedral and Reims Cathedral), it is noted not only for its architectural innovations but also for its numerous sculptures and its much-celebrated stained glass.

    Chartres Cathedral

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  • Lady_Mystique's Profile Photo

    'CHOCOLAT' - The Movie

    by Lady_Mystique Updated Oct 17, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: This story begins in the small town of Lansquenet , where life has not changed for the last 100 years. (Which, up to this day, is not unusual in the more isolated towns and hamlets in France.)

    As the North Wind blows through a seemingly tranquil town, it carries with it a traveler also, Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol), who open up a 'Chocolaterie' filled with irresistable confections that awakens the townspeople's hidden "appetites".

    What is magical is Vianne's ability to perceive the villager's private desires, and satisfy them with just the right confection.
    Vianne consequently develops a reputation...and an enemy, the righteous nobleman Comte de Reynaud (Alfred Molina), who is convinced these chocolate temptations will wreak havoc and undermine the town's strict code of morality.
    A confrontation soon develops between the two opposing characters.

    Along the way, Vianne meets a collection of various townspeople with their own set of problems, but the most interesting, outside of the character that Judi Dench plays is the riverboat traveler Roux (Johhny Depp) who awakens Vianne's own secret desire:
    to truly belong.

    Juliette and Johnny
    Related to:
    • Theater Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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  • Beausoleil's Profile Photo

    What about your cell phone in Europe?

    by Beausoleil Updated Dec 24, 2014

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: Cell phones are called mobiles in Europe and they broadcast on different bands than the USA so unless you have a tri or quad band cell phone, it won't work in Europe. The next trick is to be sure it is unlocked. Most phones are locked and many can't be unlocked until you've had them for six months. If you are shopping for a new phone, be sure it is unlocked. I had no trouble finding one at Best Buy and I'm sure there are many other places that will sell them.

    In France in the past I have purchased a SIM card from the Orange company. It would be long distance for callers from the USA but that may not be too bad depending on the plans your callers have on their phones. Our daughter had no problem texting (not talking) because her plan allowed texting anywhere for a very low cost, something like 20 cents US.

    A few years ago after a lot of looking I bought a LeFrench Mobile SIM and the price for me is very reasonable. Again, your callers will have to pay long distance charges so it depends on their plans. You have a French phone number and receive texts and calls for free while in France. There is a small charge if you are in some European countries. You receive calls at 0.06 euro cents a minute and make calls at 0.15 euro cents a minute and that is also for the USA so a big savings over many of the other plans for travelers. Big disadvantage is you can't send text messages when you are outside of France. Service is in English if you don't speak French. Rates change periodically but recently they actually went down so check the web site at: Le French Mobile Tariffs

    Another option may be the National Geographic Cellular Abroad program that gives you both a US and a UK phone number. Their rates are a bit higher but it might be cheaper for your callers.

    Here are web sites for the plans I checked. You can look at all of them and see if any will serve your purpose. I don't see how to get around your callers having long distance charges so you might want to consider the LeFrench Mobile plan and have them call (or text) you and then you can call them back and talk on your bill which is 0.15 euro-cents per minute. There is a charge for the first full minute and then it's prorated by the second after that.

    Fondest memory: Here are several of the plans:
    Le French Mobile
    Orange Mobile
    Cellular Abroad
    Vodafone Mobile
    La Poste Mobile Service
    Boingo Mobile

    If you don't have an unlocked phone, either get yours unlocked or purchase one when you get the SIM card and you'll have a European phone for travel.

    If you are Verizon, you can rent a phone inexpensively from Verizon for your trip and then return it. We know people who have done this and loved the program. We also have friends with iPhones who purchased the European option for the time they were in Europe, cancelled it when they got home and they found that worked well for them.

    You should set up a Skype account too. It's free to other Skypers. We've got our family on it now so calls are free. Of course you need the computer to do this. I take mine for many reasons but it's very convenient for keeping in touch with family and friends.

    Chatting on your mobile at a Paris cafe Chatting on your mobile on the French Riviera
    Related to:
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  • Lady_Mystique's Profile Photo


    by Lady_Mystique Updated Oct 16, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: Known as 'La Poste', French post offices are easy to find, just look for the bright yellow sign or signs on the outside. Mailboxes are also a bright yellow.
    Post offices can be found by following sings marked "Bureau de Poste".

    Most post offices are open from 8 am to 5 pm; in smaller towns and villages some might be closed for lunch - 12 pm to 2 pm.

    One nice thing about post offices in France is that most have automated stamp machines marked 'Affranchissment' that allow you to buy your postage without having to stand in line or mumble through in French - these machines let you choose your language, weigh your letter or package, and then prints out a stamp - but they only accept coins.

    Most post offices will also have signs in the entranceway that tell you when their busiest time is.

    The web site for the French postal system is, parts of the site are in English.
    Also helpful is a French-English postal dictionary.

    French Post Office ~ Bureau de Poste
    Related to:
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    by Arial_27 Updated Jun 20, 2005

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: I went into several pharmacies and drugstores all over France and found them a lot different from what I'm used to in Canada. Where I live, the drugstores are huge and there are several aisles of anything you want to find. You choose the product you want, bring it to the counter and pay for it

    In France however, the pharmacies are very small and there isn't a lot of stock available for you to just choose on your own. You have to go up the counter and tell the people what you're looking for. They have everything stocked behind the counter! So my suggestion: any embarassing hygenial products you may have - bring them with you in your cosmetic bag!

    Related to:
    • Work Abroad
    • Study Abroad

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  • balhannah's Profile Photo


    by balhannah Written Jun 12, 2013

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: I happened to come across this trail when I was researching the Champagne area of France. On a closer look, and with a print-out of the map from the website, it was decided to follow it as much as we could.
    This was country France, "THE GREAT LAKES DISTRICT," where many Lakes and fields of crops were growing, Farmers were busy cultivating their land and sometimes we were caught behind them on the narrow roads. The Villages were small and old, quite a find, as were the very old wooden Churches. Altogether, there are 10 Churches and 1 Chapel, all dating from the 15th - 18th Centuries. Not all of them could be visited inside, but some I was able to.

    This is a scenic drive, throw in the Churches, and I think you will agree, one that is worth doing.

    Fondest memory: The Half-Timbered Church Trail.

    One of the Churches
    Related to:
    • Architecture
    • Road Trip
    • Historical Travel

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  • Lady_Mystique's Profile Photo


    by Lady_Mystique Updated Oct 17, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: The late 19th & early 20th century saw the reinvention of painting in France: first, a shift of subject matter to everyday life, and then a radical change in technique.

    Impressionism found its beginnings in the mid-19th century with Rousseau (1812-1867) and Millet (1814-1875) who were leaders of the 'Ecole de Barbizon', a group of artists who painted nature for its own sake.

    Landscape painting capturing a "slice of life" paved the way for Realism.
    The Realists were led by Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) who focused on everyday subjects but portrayed them larger-than-life on tremendous canvases.
    Edouard Manet (1832-1883) facilitated the transition from the Realism of Courbet to what we now consider Impressionism; when in the 1860s, he began to shift the focus of his work to color and texture.

    Manet's 'Déjeuner sur l'Herbe' was refused by the Salon of 1863 due to its naughty Naked Lunch theme (two suited men and a naked woman are shown picnicking in the forest) and its revolutionary technique.
    It was later shown proudly at the 'Salon des Refusés', along with 7000 other rejected salon works.

    By the late 1860s Manet's new aesthetic had set the stage for Claude Monet (1840-1926), Camille Pissarro (1830-1903), and Pierre-Auguste Renoir (1841-1919), who began to further explore Impressionist techniques. They strove to attain a sense of immediacy; colors were used to capture visual impressions as they appeared to the eye, and light became the subject matter.

    In 1874, these revolutionary artists had their first group exhibition, and a critic snidely labeled the group "Impressionists".
    The artists themselves found the label accurate, and their Impressionists' Show became an annual event for the next seven years.

    In the late 1880s, the members of the group inspired Edgar Degas (1834-1917), Gustave Caillebotte (1848-1894), Berthe Morisot (1841-1895), Henri Fantin-Latour (1836-1904), and 'Water Lilies' by Monet in the early 1900s.

    Related to:
    • Historical Travel
    • Arts and Culture

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  • Lady_Mystique's Profile Photo


    by Lady_Mystique Updated Oct 17, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: PLANE trees -- platanes -- are ubiquitous in France, they seem to line every main road with the apparent purpose of assuring that drivers who fall asleep at the wheel pay the ultimate price.

    ~ About 200 years ago, Napoleon started a project to plant trees along both sides of some of the major roads through France. His idea was that the trees would eventually provide shade for his army troops as they marched through the countryside on their various endeavors.
    Many of those trees, now magnificent and huge, still line the roads of France today.

    ~ Unfortunately due to disease, expansion, and the tree cover being so dense in some places that people kept crashing into each other in the midday dark, some have been cut down.

    I do so hope that too many of these monumental beauties aren't lost to the woodcutter's saw.
    This would be such a shame and a tragedy !!!
    .....and would really take away a special kind of uniqueness and natural beauty that makes France France.

    Plane trees in the Luxembourg Gardens, Paris
    Related to:
    • Eco-Tourism

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  • Goner's Profile Photo

    Eze - Hilltop Town

    by Goner Written Jun 12, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: Eze is a medieval village perched like an eagles nest on a narrow rocky peak overlooking the Mediterranean sea. The ancient fortified village is still crowned with the ruins of its 12th-century fortified castle (torn down in 1706), sitting on a narrow rocky peak. The castle grounds host the well-known Jardin Exotique, and from the top (429 m) you'll have an good view of the coast (it will cost you, though). Eze (also known as Eze-Village) is accessible via the Moyenne (Middle) N7 Corniche road. Signs are positioned along the coastal road indicating the direction motorists should take to reach this hamlet. You'll be charmed by the winding streets and tiny picturesque alley ways where people live and where little shops display fine art and crafts.

    Eze Alleyway

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  • Lady_Mystique's Profile Photo


    by Lady_Mystique Updated Oct 17, 2004

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    Favorite thing: To begin to understand a country, its people, its history, its personality and its culture, I try to read as many books as I can about it before even setting foot on foreign soil. I will read both fact and fiction by writers who have lived or are living in the country they write about.

    COLETTE is one of my favourite French women writers.
    She was friends with many artists (Dufy, Cocteau, Picasso), writers and theatre people that were part of the Paris scene in the first half of the 20th century.
    She wrote her first 'Claudine' books in 1900 under a pseudonym. They became very popular.

    Then in 1907 she writes as Colette Willy, leaves her unfaithful husband, becomes a Music Hall performer, shows one breast occasionally on stage, and is notoriously known evermore, simply as 'Colette', a proud statement of her fierce independent spirit.

    Strongly autobiographical, her books reflect her exclusive feminine sexuality, decadence, and classic 'femme fatales' obduracy -- a bit of a b.i.t.c.h by all accounts -- probably nurtured during her lesbian years. Or at least, this is what I have read about her.
    Not having met her personally, I wouldn't make such a strong statement because I know how too quickly that label is attached to any woman who lives her life by her own rules and not those "man"made!

    She is known primarily because she is the author of GIGI, which had to be parts of her, and which established the blockbuster genre of Hollywood musicals. But I think GIGI is about ready for a re-make, something raunchier, and more in character with its gloriously colorful creator!!

    Now on DVD
    Related to:
    • Arts and Culture

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    Stranded in Souillac

    by Goner Updated Jun 27, 2004

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    Favorite thing: Souillac wasn?t our destination, we thought we were changing trains there to visit Sarlat, a town located in the Perigord region of France which is filled with medieval buildings and is good base for visiting the prehistoric caves in the area.
    We approached the information booth at the train station and found no one spoke English, more hand signals; we pointed to the clock for time and gave them the name of the town. After talking to all three of the agents, we were sure we knew they knew what we were talking about. The train would be there at 3 pm. We sat at the quiet little train station and ate our train leftovers. My son Dan took a walk around the town, it was too hot for me to walk in the sun, so I lazed in the shade completely content watching the beautiful clouds performing spins and twirls, knowing we would soon be on the last leg of our journey for the day.

    Dan came back with stories of the quaintness of the town and a hotel he visited. We watched the time go past 3 pm, then 3:20 came around and I became somewhat agitated. I went back into the station and asked about the train - ?trac? in French, they said no ?trac?, ?bus?, what did they say? Bus, what bus, and they pointed to the other side of the train station where the busses parked. The perils of traveling in a foreign country where you don?t speak the language. However, why didn?t they say bus before???

    Fondest memory: There were no more busses that day and none until late the next day, so we spent the night at the quaint little hotel. They said they had air conditioning, well air conditioning was an open window. They did have a pool - now that was okay. We donned our bathing suites and walked down the three flights to the pool to read the sign “no swimming”. ‘Why, we asked, can’t we swim?’ The proprietor said we could. Okay, why the sign. The answer was, if you have a pool you can swim in, there is a tax, but if you post “no swimming” - no tax. Makes sense.(:(:. The pool cooled us off, unfortunately we had to dress again to go to dinner.

    This little town has it’s own medieval buildings and a nice area for outdoor dining. If you’re going to be stuck in a small town in France, Souillac would be a good choice.*

    The next morning we chatted with a lass sunburned beyond belief, she had been to Sarlat and informed us it was even hotter there...okay, we would head north to the Loire Valley.

    Related to:
    • Museum Visits
    • Historical Travel

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  • Goner's Profile Photo

    The French Riviera

    by Goner Updated Sep 10, 2004

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    Favorite thing: My first glimpse of the Riviera was from the plane before it landed in Nice. Even from the plane you can see something special is coming up with the bright blue water, the waffled coastline and mountains peaks in the distance. The Cote d'Azur or the French Riviera runs along the Southern coast of France for many miles. The beaches are are the playground for the rich and famous, but you don't have to be rich and famous to visit here and enjoy this magnificient coastline and it's spectacular beaches.

    Fondest memory: We spent most of our time driving along and stopping at the different beaches along the Mediterranian. We found a beach in a town called La Boca. This was a non-touristy beach, just the locals I think. It was a topless beach, as most are along the Riviera. Since we DIDN'T take our tops off the men kept staring at us. Rather unnerving, the must have known we were tourists, all pasty and white and covered up. LOL.

    Not everyone was topless though, I guess we just looked different.

    Riviera from the Plane

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    by Goner Updated Oct 13, 2007

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    Favorite thing: Rennes is the largest city in the Brittany Region of France (Bretagne in French) with nearly a quarter of a million inhabitants. It sits strategically on the convergence of the Viaine and the Ille Rivers. Rennes is a good base for visiting the region of Brittany as many trains arrive from Paris each day, plus nearly any part of Brittany can be reached from here within a two-hour drive.
    Rennes has two universities and many hi- tech factories. Due to a fire in 1720 that lasted six days, only a small portion of it’s medieval section is left. There is a section built after the fire dating in the 18th century with half-timbered buildings lining the narrow streets. Take a look at the Hotel de Ville on Place de la Maure, I think it’s a beautiful building.
    The Palais de Justice - Rennes’ law courts, built in 1618-55 still stood after the fire with parts of building being used until it was severely damaged in a fire during the riots over fish prices in February 1994. Since then it has been renovated back to its original state.
    Musee de Bretagne, on the south bank of the Viaine Rive provides a look into the Breton past with displays of Breton furniture and costumes. There are displays on Brittany’s prehistoric megaliths with rural crafts.
    In the same building is the Musee des Beaux Arts with paintings from the 14th century including a room devoted to art on Breton themes. There are also paintings by Gauguin, Bernard and three works of art by Picasso. Gaugain lived and worked in Brittany from 1886-1890, he painted the landscape and its people He chose to concentrate of the primitive side of the Breton Catholic faith. In his painting Le Christ Jaune (1889) you will see Christ on the Cross with Breton landscape in the background. They are located at 20 quai Emile Zola

    02 99 28 55 84 (Musee de Bretagne
    02 99 28 55 85 (Musee des Beau Arts)
    Open Wed-Mon, closed on public holidays

    Fondest memory: The Parc du Thabor, once part of a benedictine monastery is ideal for walks and picnics. Along the Viane River is also a pleasant place to take a stroll.

    There are plenty of bars and restaurants with designer shops to enjoy along with many hotels which had rooms when the other tourist areas were full. The regional food, crepes and hard cider, is served in nearly all the restaurants or the many creperies.

    Our experience getting kicked out of our the Mecure Hotel is discussed in my hotel tips.

    Viane River
    Related to:
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    • Museum Visits
    • Arts and Culture

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    AMELIE - The Movie

    by Lady_Mystique Updated Oct 17, 2004

    4.5 out of 5 starsHelpfulness

    Favorite thing: 'AMELIE' has to be one of the best and most enjoyable French films I've seen in a long time!!

    It's a collage-like blend of surreal images, and good-natured, quirky charm that is both visually and emotionally intoxicating. The film's pleasures are simple, but, because it is done with such amazing cinematic virtuosity and imagination, I felt like I was walking on clouds after seeing it. (I have since bought the DVD to add to my collection of BEST FILMS!!)

    Audrey Tautou as 'AMELIE' is as endearing and effortlessly charming as the movie itself. I loved her as much as I loved the movie!! When Am?lie turns to the camera and smiles, you'll find it impossible to not smile back!! :o)

    Movie Poster
    Related to:
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