Travel notes from the real France. Carnet de Voyage is a weekly personal travel story in France sent in by readers. If you’d like to write a story for Carnet de Voyage, head here for details on how to submit.
I announced, in 1999, that I was visiting Paris and Provence in Spring. I asked one of my 5 daughters to join me. Of course, she said yes! And that began a 20-year tradition to bring each of our children to my favourite country – France!
My friends and family call me a “Francophile”, and I do agree! Whether I am dining in the Eiffel Tower restaurant or visiting the beautiful Place des Vosges, I am surrounded by historic beauty.
Paris is a “walking” city. Each arrondissement has its own charm, a noted bistro and corner café. Café de Flore, Les Deux Magots & Brasserie Lipp were frequented by Paris luminaries Picasso, Hemingway, and de Beauvoir! A favourite quote from Marie Benedict’s book Her Hidden Genius, I relate to – “Every other city pales in comparison to Paris”!
I am frequently asked “Why Paris? Why so often?” Of course, the energy and vibrance of the people, culture, history, cuisine brings me joy. A great cartoon in the New Yorker by Victoria Roberts put in it very simply: a woman carrying her packed suitcase approaches her husband and says ‘I’m going to France, I’m a different person in France’. That’s my answer. I am a different person!
Each one of my visits have been shared with each daughter. Sitting in the box seat at the Opera house watching a ballet was a highlight for each of us. Afterward we had a beautifully presented dinner by Chef Alain Ducasse in the Eiffel Tower looking out of the windows at the City of Light. We went to the famous Shakespeare & Co bookstore and heard talks from authors. Directly across the street stands the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral – it was such a joy to attend a service and be graciously welcomed. One year, we observed Easter at Notre Dame and were moved to tears.
As I’ve reflected on my many visits to my “home away from home” I have great anticipation on what each visit will bring me. That visit in 1999, I took the train from Paris to Provence. First stop was Avignon. Walking through the flea market to dining at a renowned café made it a memorable visit for my daughter and me. We boarded the train again past the fields of lavender to Nice. A few stops in between our ride to Nice was filled with friendly conversation with French passengers. We did enjoy a special stop in St. Tropez where we met the parents of our exchange students many years ago. Staying in their beautiful home was a unique experience. We were graciously welcomed and felt like a part of their family. The following few days was spent touring Normandy and the landing beaches. We watched a film on WWII and toured the quiet cemetery.
I remember my eldest daughter standing in Luxembourg Gardens, surrounded by the beauty of flowers, trees, and majestic buildings and saying, “Mom, I see why you keep returning.” I’ll never forget her validation. On the last day of a visit, as I was finishing my espresso and croissant the hotel manager Monsieur Guipet came to my table and asked, “Madame Sommers what can I do for your last day at Hotel D’Abusson?”
I smiled and said “extend my visit!”. He replied with a smile and said, “when will you be returning?”
I replied, “very soon”.
“Madame Sommers, we will be waiting!”
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Lead photo credit : Place des Vosges in Paris © Jerome Labouyrie / shutterstock
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