Normandy, Brittany France

Looking for a place with a Brittany and Normandy touch while in France? Rennes, Saint-Malo and Mont Saint-Michel could be the answer.

        Purring, sweet cat

Rennes is in northwestern France, 350 km away from Paris and it is the capital of the region of Brittany. We had been there in 2011 and 2012. Our friends B and C had hosted us in their beautiful villa. Well, their cat was the centre of attraction for me. She used to come purring to me always. Oh, I miss her!

Rennes as a place is quite close to our hearts as P lived there for a few years. We went on a stroll to a local park called Parc de Maurepas and along the scenic surroundings of the popular technical university. We also met up with our dear friends. We had lunch at a local restaurant that had some vegetarian pasta  to offer us. The best part came when we went around the place cycling. I thoroughly enjoy cycling specially in cycling friendly countries.

Saint-Malo, a blue beauty!  Saint-Malo beach

It was a Sunday morning and our German friend S drove us down to Saint-Malo with two other friends. Saint-Malo is a walled port city on the English Channel. Wow! It was just splendid and so cool for a short holiday. We went climbing up the friendly rocks. Pretty plants adorned the rocks. It was blue-blue up above as we looked up the sky and it was blue-blue down below thanks to the sky’s reflection on the sea. Indeed picture perfect! We had packed some food from home for lunch and we enjoyed it sitting by the beach. That night we dined at a friendly Lebanese restaurant in Rennes. A couple of more friends had joined us. The owner of the restaurant was indeed chirpy. It was the birthday of one of the customers. He played a “happy birthday” song with a Middle Eastern musical background. All of us enjoyed it.

Mont Saint-Michel  View from the Abbey of St Michel

The next day, our hosts took us in their car to Mont Saint-Michel, which is a rocky tidal island. (Midway, we picnicked at a park.) The Norman Benedictine Abbey of St Michel is located at the peak of this island. It’s one of the UNESCO recognized heritage sites. We used audio guides as we went into the Abbey. The Abbey was huge and beautiful; it had centuries-old history behind it. We had to climb up steep stairs to get some best views of the Abbey (once used as a prison during the French Revolution). The Abbey also offered us spectacular views of the waves below. Btw, there is reference to Mont Saint-Michel even in Walt Disney’s movie Micky, Donald, Goofy: The Three Musketeers. On another occasion, we were treated to a healthy vegetarian meal and dessert at a bio restaurant in Rennes. We were also invited over dinner at our French friends’ home one night.

Well, it was nice enjoying these three places with our friends. I have a feeling that we shall go there again! 🙂

PS: You just need to point your cursor to the pictures to read the captions.

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Pretty Paris

It was time for a rendezvous with one of the fashion capitals of the world: Paris. As you know, this capital city of France has inspired and attracted many a connoisseur from different walks of life.

EntrancetotheLouvreMuseum       Mona Lisa

A visit to the Musee du Louvre or the Louvre Museum housed within the Louvre Palace was a natural choice for us. You see it also happens to be ranked number one among the highest visited art museums in the world. We’d purchased a guidebook to the museum and it definitely added value to our visit. Btw, guess which painting in the museum was a crowd-puller? It was Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa! Well, you tend to look for it with a lot of eagerness, only to be greeted by a huge motley crew surrounding a dainty, little portrait!

Notre Dame Cathedral

We admired the Notre Dame de Paris or the Notre Dame Cathedral built in the French Gothic architectural style. We could see a group of little school-going children with a teacher explaining to them the significance of the Cathedral. An effective pedagogy indeed!

We decided to visit the Pantheon as well. It was here that Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Louis Braille, Voltaire, etc were buried. It was a serene place with commemorative plaques of many such brilliant French minds being displayed around the burial areas. (It was different from the Pantheon we had seen in Rome.)

Sacré-Coeur Basilica   BurialplaceofLouisBraille

We walked uphill and went to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. It was atop the highest point in Paris and it offered a panoramic view of the city. We also came across local artists playing some soothing music for the passers-by. Caricaturists, painters, craftsmen, et al were seen doing their jobs gleefully. We tried the funicular to go downhill after the Basilica visit. We shopped for some souvenirs here as also near the Notre Dame de Paris. We realized there was no dearth of sleek souvenir varieties in Paris. The most popular ones were of course miniature towers in varied sizes and forms.

Arc de Triomphe       Galeries Lafayette

The Arc de Triomphe  was another monument of historical importance. The martyrs of the French revolution and Napoleonic wars were honoured there. As we strolled ahead, we hit one of the main hep shopping streets of Paris. We entered Galeries Lafayette in Boulevard Haussmann. It was a shopping mall that looked extremely elegant. We bought a wristwatch to gift our dear one.

As we returned to our hotel, we saw a pamphlet about Paris Walks. I decided to try it.  Excitedly I went to the meeting point of the walk the next day by changing metros. It felt good doing it independently. This was a 12-euro, guided walk for two hours on a scenic route called The Village of Montmartre.

Eiffel Tower-by dayEiffel Tower-by nightViewfromEiffelTower-1

Ah, the high point of the trip arrived. A dream came true for me when we visited the 320-metre tall Eiffel Tower! We went up to the summit using the pre-paid lift service. It offered a breathtaking view of the entire city. Wow, it felt on top of the world, quite literally!

Later we walked by the banks of river Seine, which happens to be one of the UNESCO heritage sites in Europe. We also went to the Jardin du Luxembourg or Luxembourg Gardens to enjoy some quiet time in the midst of nature. Btw, there was a Saravanaa Bhavan and a Le Grenier de Notre-Dame in the city that quite satisfactorily catered to our vegetarian tastes.

ViewfromEiffelTower-2
Well, I was lucky to have travelled with someone who had been to Paris several times. With innumerable sightseeing options available, you would never feel bored of this vibrant city. Paris welcomed me twice in less than one year. I’m wondering when I would go there next! 🙂