Over the Mountains and Through Moutarde, to Avignon We Go

Behold, the moutarde (well, mustard) of northern France

I’ve recently returned from just about the longest trip I’ve ever taken, encompassing five weeks and three countries  in Europe! An unhealthy dose of lingering illness aside, I’m finally ready to start telling the tale(s).

Let’s start with an epic, not-at-all-advised, mildly exhausting and yet ultimately wonderful 14-hour drive from Paris to Avignon, shall we?

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The Love Bridge of Paris

 

The Pont de l’Archevêché spans the Seine just behind Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris, but few call it by its proper name.

It’s colloquially known as “The Love Bridge” because its chain-link sides have been festooned with hundreds of padlocks, symbolizing couples’ enduring passion. These love-locks have been engraved with initials, names and/or dates, and sometimes flourished with keepsakes and ribbons.

Many lovers take this business seriously, clamping with intent and throwing their lock-keys in the river; some less romantic souls, though, have used combination locks, hedging their bets that some other love might come along.

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A Secret Tour of Paris by Citroen 2CV

 

Parisian tour guide Martin and the magical Citroen 2CV known as Seraphine

 

If you’ve ever taken a cab in Paris, you know that the experience can be as adventurous as an off-road race, accompanied by a soundtrack of unintentionally hilarious French pop music. It can help you visually stitch together this huge city, but only if you manage to concentrate…or survive.

After taking a private tour of secret spots in Paris in a Citroen 2CV — arguably the most treasured car in France, driven by a local Parisian history buff — I’ve now found an ideal way to explore a huge swath of the city and discover a few gems along the way.

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Bonjour à Nouveau, Paris

Spring flowers in the Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris

Ah, Paris — we meet again.

My previous visits were in March 1991 and January 2004, and I’d dearly missed the City of Light, pain au chocolat and tiny dogs.

Happily, I’ve just spent a glorious weekend there, and am pleased to report that Paris is still an elegant sweep of romance, carved stone and butter-laced deliciousness.

And perhaps it’s even more lovely with acres of flowers, and gleaming green leaves on the trees.

Thanks, April.

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Off to France, Italy and Croatia

Le Petit Hôpital near Avignon, France, one of my (delightful) European destinations

 

Bon voyage — to me!

I’m off to Europe for a month, and to say I’m excited would be a hilarious understatement.

This trip will take me to France for two weeks, Italy for eight days and Croatia for nine days.

This is the longest trip I’ve taken since about 1985 — and here’s how it’ll all play out:

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