Year: 2015

Six Week Road Trip in France, Spring 2015

On May 20, 2015, my husband, Phil, and I set off for a six week road trip in France, during which time we covered almost 3,000 miles. This post is a summary of what we did and how we did it.

Prior to leaving, we generally knew what we wanted to do in France, but upon arrival at the Charles De Gaulle Airport, the only hotels we booked were for our first and last days in the country. Past that, we were free to drive and stay anywhere. Now that we’ve completed our trip, this map shows the locations of the nine cities where we stayed.

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LEGEND

Match numbers in the green (start and end) and yellow boxes on the map to the legend below:

  1. Paris: We flew into Charles de Gaulle Airport, picked up our car, then drove to our first hotel in La Rochette.
  2. La Rochette: This location is within easy driving distance to the Palace of Fontainebleau and is 45 minutes away from the Palace of Versailles. We stayed here for three days, during which we determined where we’d stay next in the Loire Valley.
  3. Tours: We stayed here for three days and decided to remain in the Loire Valley vicinity for another week. Unfortunately, we could not extend our stay at this hotel.
  4. Loches: Fortunately for us, our six day stay here was far better than in Tours in terms of quality housing and things to do in the city. Here, we were introduced to the Pierre & Vacances Residence chain, which helped us formulate where we would stay in the future.
  5. Lyon/Lissieu: We stayed here one day on route from Loches to Cannes.
  6. Cannes: OMG, what an experience that we did not expect! We stayed approximately 13 days in stunning Pierre & Vacances resort overlooking a infinity pool and the Med. What a pleasure! 
  7. Six-Fours-les-Plages: Based on our good experience staying in a Pierre & Vacances resort in Cannes, we decided to stay at another one of their French Riviera facilities, this time closer to Marseilles. (“Plages” means “beaches” in French.)
  8. Sarlat-la-Caneda: From the Riviera, we headed to the Dordogne, where we spent five days in a delightful boutique resort. If we had had more time, we would have extended time in this area by at least another week.
  9. Douarnenez: Based on a conversation with a Pierre & Vacances manager at Six-Fours-les-Plages, we decided to spend our second-to-last week in another Pierre & Vacances residence on the coast of Brittany. This location was close to her home town, which she loved, and is a major French and English vacation area that is almost unknown in the USA. 
  10. Paris: Our last week was spent in the very center of Paris in a 300 year old hotel that was formerly associated with a Catholic Church.

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THE CAR

We booked our car by phone from Hertz. Upon comparison, Hertz offered the lowest price on a rental that included a GPS. This is the second time in three years we’ve rented a car from Hertz in Europe and were very pleased with their cars, service, and, of course, prices.

THE LONGER DRIVES

During our entire stay, we only had four, 6-to-7-hour drives. They were from Loches to Cannes (with a stopover at Lyon), from Six-Fours-les-Pleges to Serlat-la-Caneda, from Sarlat-la-Caneda to Douarnenez, and from Douarnenez to Paris. Main highways were excellent, with tolls easy to make (we kept a lot of change in the car). Streets in new towns were equal to those found in the USA. Roads in medieval villages were narrow, often 1.5 cars wide, and from time to time, only one car wide.

THE GPS(s)

We used three GPSs and managed to drive throughout France without any problems. In addition to primarily using the car’s GPS, we relied on my iPad Air connected to a Bad Elf GPS and the Maps.Me app for extended detail, which was very important in cities. My husband’s cell phone GPS and offline maps provided further backup, which we did use twice.

THE HOTELS

We used Hotels.com exclusively, booking everything online. Among the many benefits to Hotels.com is their “one night free after 10 bookings,” travel notifications, and keeping of accommodation records since we started using their service.

We booked all hotels “sight unseen.” That said, after a week in France, we fell in love with the Pierre & Vacances chain, which offers small-to-medium sized apartments that are built as hotel accommodations, not rental units. All locations are in prime areas with spectacular views. Their vacation apartments include one or two bedrooms, a kitchen (or kitchenette), a dining table, and two sofas that can be turned into beds. All apartments face some type of fabulous view, which can be accessed by opening a sliding glass wall onto a private balcony.

Note that when using Hotels.com in France as well as in the USA, I choose hotels by customer satisfaction ratings and comments, location (whether a central location is important), and price, in that order. In France, however, it is very important to check the size of a room before committing because it could be as small as 150 sq. ft.

THE PHONE

Learn how to enter phone numbers in France. Test to make sure that you can successfully call your lodging, as well as any 800-number you might need in your home country, before you actually need to do it.

LINKS TO HIGHLY RECOMMENDED HOTELS

Le Grand Monarque, La Rochette, France: A nice place to stay if visiting the Palace of Fontainebleau is in order. The Palace of Versailles is approximately 45 minutes away.

Pierre & Vacances: Hundreds of locations are available throughout France, Spain, Italy, and far more. This chain’s facilities are all in excellent locations with stunning views, and porches on each unit.

Hotel La Verperie, Sarlat-la-Caneda, France: This is a well-managed boutique hotel on the edge of the medieval city of Sarlat. Breakfast with freshly made croissants is included. Simple, but very roomy rooms. Lovely grounds. Sunny glass-walled restaurant.

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MY BLOGS PUBLISHED ON LITTLEVIEWS

MY BLOGS PUBLISHED ON FACEBOOK

Around June 11, I could no longer easily connect to my website’s posting area. From that time on, I posted my unedited blogs on Facebook, anticipating that I would copy the information into my site upon returning home. Instead, I spent time setting up a new, trouble-free posting area (which is where you are now) and decided to link to those Facebook pages to this summary, rather than reproducing them.

You need a free Facebook account to see these blogs. If you don’t have one, Facebook will prompt you to join.

AUTHOR:

Articles and art by Karen Little. Photos by Karen and Phil Little. Posted October 11, 2015 on www.Littleviews.com. Request permission to copy any part or all of this article from Karen at Karen@Littleviews.com.

Return to Littleviews’ main INDEX, or check out additional articles here.

Visit Untermyer Park and Gardens in Yonkers, NY

Untermyer Park and Gardens, Westchester County, NY

We became aware of the Untermyer Park and Gardens after a major article appeared in the New York Times. Located in Westchester County, NY, this park sits on the former estate of Samuel Untermyer; one that once rivaled the majesty of the nearby Rockefeller mansion.

Unfortunately, although the Untermyer family left their property to the state and county in the mid-1900s following World War II, its grounds were too expensive to maintain and eventually, fell to ruins. The mansion was torn down, but the bones of its terraced garden, including its Indo-Persian architectural detail, reflecting ponds, pools, and ancient columns, remained.

In 2010, the philanthropist, Stephen F. Byrns, founded the Untermyer Gardens Conservancy and has since raised $2 million to return the grounds into a stunning public park.

To enter the park’s main grounds at 945 N Broadway, Yonkers, NY, you pass through a small door in the center of a massive wall.

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This leads directly under a tree canopy framing the reflecting ponds, plantings, and the park’s focal point, an area representing the mythical four rivers of Paradise.

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We visited on October 8 after the flowering season, when fountains in the canals were turned down. What was left, however, was a breathtaking fall landscape.

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I was particularly fascinated with the park’s waterlily collection and found it to be more varied than what I’ve previously seen in botanical gardens.

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At the head of the canals, Assyrian winged lions (lamassus, or “guardians”) watch over the meeting grounds.

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A nearby tiled observation area is currently fenced off. When fully renovated, it will provide a gathering place where people can overlook the lower ponds and gardens.

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The estate sits on the east side of the Hudson River Palisade, from the top of the palisade to almost the edge of the Hudson River. Directly across the Hudson is the western palisade.

Because the grounds run down a steep hill, many of its features are showcased on the different levels, some of which are still being cleared along the Carriage Trail during this renovation period (it should be finished in 2016). Access the trail from the columnized structure seen in the picture below.

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From there, you will pass more gardens, a “woodland trail,” and a “vista overlook.” At the lowest level, you’ll arrive at the “Lion and Horse Gate,” which is next to New York’s Old Croton Aqueduct.

Untermyer Park and Gardens, Westchester County, NY

In a different section of the park, where the original mansion once stood, are the ruins of the Temple of Love and a rock garden. (Below)

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As we visited on an off-season weekday, we were able to stroll around this 43 acre park with only a few other visitors. During the season, tours are available. Listen carefully to what you learn and be sure to record your visit with cameras and sketchbooks.

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I most certainly made use of my sketchbook during this visit! The grounds offer inspiration wherever you look.

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DONATIONS

The Untermyer Gardens Conservancy accepts donations and with them, is building a stunning public park. It is the only one of its type in the United States, and is especially important considering its ease of accessibility by car, its location on the Hudson River, and its nearness to New York City and other historical sites. Let’s keep this dream alive!

LINKS

AUTHOR:

Article and art by Karen Little. Photos by Karen and Phil Little. Posted October 10, 2015 on www.Littleviews.com. Request permission to copy any part or all of this article from Karen at Karen@Littleviews.com.

Return to Littleviews’ main INDEX, or check out additional articles here.

Visit Waterford, New York, and the Erie Canal

Tugboat at the 2015 Tugboat Roundup in Waterford, NJ

Will Van Dorp, author, documentary filmmaker, and push behind the website, Tugster: a Waterblog, introduced us to the interesting world of tugboats and riverships. At his suggestion, we attended the 2015 Waterford Tugboat Roundup, a unique event held on the Erie Canal in Upstate New York.

Van Dorp’s role in this event was to share his 15 week experience living aboard the Urger (a tugboat) as it traveled 1,500 miles along the Erie Canal. Read about his adventures on his website under the category “Erie Canal,”  by clicking HERE and HERE

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Waterford, NY, home of the Tugboat Roundup, is located in upstate New York where the Mohawk River and the Hudson River meet. Visit Waterford anytime of the year, but especially in summer through early fall, to explore its rivers and the Erie and Champlain Canals.

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The Tugboat Roundup takes place next to the Waterford Harbor Visitor Center. During the season, boaters can dock along the city’s 1,000 linear feet of floating docks and 600 feet of concrete wall. The center provides information about the area, plus water, showers, electricity, and a pump-out station.

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Bikers and hikers can ride or walk along fairly level canal routes, as well as explore Peebles Island State Park and, of course, Waterford itself. With New York’s state capital, Albany, just 15 minutes away, visitors can also explore Albany’s historic center, plus its cultural outlets and good dining.

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The waters at Waterford are still enough for rowboats and kayaks. During the season, Mid-Lakes Navigation provides single and multiple day cruises. To be the captain of your own cruise, rent a houseboat barge and stay aboard for a week or two. Boats for hire are listed on the New York State of Opportunity – Canal Corporation’s website.

If you are unfamiliar with houseboat barges, visit the Erie-Champlain Canal Boat Company’s website and check out houseboat amenities. For more information, its section “About the Region” features a good article, plus links.

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LINKS

AUTHOR:

Article and photos by Karen Little. Posted October 3, 2015 on www.Littleviews.com. Request permission to copy any part or all of this article from Karen at Karen@Littleviews.com.

Return to Littleviews’ main INDEX, or check out additional articles here.

Fall, Farmer’s Markets, and Festivals

The Gully Hubbards playing at Hoboken's Garden Street Farmer's Market

After traveling for almost weeks on end since mid-May, Phil and I were feeling a bit bored this morning, with nothing more to look forward to than the leftovers of a delicious roast I made the night before. The only thing we figured that could make our anticipated meal and outlook better was the addition of warm, locally grown tomatoes.

Yes, our neighborhood grocery store sells locally grown tomatoes, but this is the season for farmer’s markets, which we tend forget about existing in our densely populated, East Coast neighborhood. Happily, a quick web search turned up nearby locations of farmer’s markets open on Saturdays, with one in Hoboken, New Jersey, tucked almost invisibly between hi-rise buildings.

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Frankly, we’ve driven by this area numerous times, but towering buildings shield whatever might be going on in the sliver of a block that holds the Saturday Garden Street Farmer’s Market (marked by a red rectangle, below). For those of you who follow us on www.LetsKickScoot.com, you might recognize the edge of the blue area on the map as being a prime kick scooting, biking, and strolling path along the Hudson River.

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When we turned into the area, we were very surprised to find a nicely staged farmer’s market, complete with fresh produce, homemade meals, bread, bakery, pickled products, and good entertainment.

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While eating food stand kielbasa (rather than the roast I had planned), spicy olives, sauerkraut, and roasted red peppers, we were entertained by the Gully Hubbards, an easy-going, professional bluegrass group. After sampling entertainment and food like this, we plan on becoming regulars!

Travel Tip!

Do not hesitate to find farmer’s markets when visiting big cities, even though those markets might not appear like the roadside stands you know from back “home.” You’ll be surprised at the “small town feel” big city folk can provide in unexpected places, such as under the shadows of towering apartment buildings.

LINKS

  • Garden Street Farmer’s Market: 14th & Garden Street, Hoboken, NJ.  June 6 thru November 28th on Saturdays, 9AM to 2PM.
  • Hudson County Farmer’s Markets: Hudson County, which includes Weehawken, Hoboken, and Jersey City, is directly across the Hudson River from New York City. You can reach it by car, subway, and NYWaterways ferry.
  • New Jersey Farmer’s Markets: This state-sponsored site lists farm produce that includes micro breweries, roadside stands, community markets, pick-your-own fields, and tourist tips.
  • New York City Farmer’s Markets: This site provides everything you need to know about finding fresh produce in the big city and its boroughs. Enter an address and this site will help you locate a nearby market.
  • www.GullyHubbards.com: Check out their sound!

Return to Littleviews’ INDEX, or check out our blog articles here.

Article and photos by Karen Little. Posted August 29, 2015 on www.Littleviews.com. Request permission to copy any part or all of this article from Karen at Karen@Littleviews.com.