Category Archives: France

French village for sale – for the low low price of $400,000. Or maybe you prefer an Italian village?

I’m probably not the only person looking on a map for Courbefy, France this morning.  How could I resist after reading in the paper that this village in the Limousin region  is for for sale – for $400,000? It appears to be about 1.5 hours north of Sarlat,  our touchstone town in the spectacular Dordogne region, which we explored  about seven years ago when my stepdaughter was going to school in Bordeaux.  For the village price, you get over a dozen buildings including a former luxury hotel and restaurant, a horse stable, tennis court and swimming pool.  But the photos I found make the place, which is about 280 miles southwest of Paris,  look more decrepit than “rustic.”  Still, one can dream…

Also read about a medieval Italian village that’s  for sale (for 550,000 euros):  the historic village of Valle Piola, in the heart of one of Italy’s biggest national park….

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Filed under France, Italy

A “High Line Park” for Chicago or Paris?

The second section of New York City’s remarkable High Line park, built atop an abandoned elevated rail trestle on Manhattan’s lower west side,  is due to open in June, which prompted an interesting essay from Witold Rybzynski in the NYTimes on Sunday. He mentions that the High Line was modeled after a similar earlier project in Paris – the Promenade Plantee, on the right bank’s 12th arrondissement (must remember that for my next visit). Apparently other cities including Chicago would like to do something similar with their abandoned inner city elevated rail lines. Not so fast, Rybyznski warns – laying out a case for why the High Line cannot be easily cloned elsewhere – except maybe in Chicago.

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Filed under Chicago, France, New York City

Checking out Des Moines’ new restaurants

Des Moines has so many new restaurants it’s hard to know where to start in checking them out. But slowly, we’re making our way – and so far, so good. Dinner at Baru 66 – an upscale french bistro  in Windsor Heights – turned out to be excellent on a Saturday night last month, although they were out of the duck which I really wanted. My lamb was good as was my husbands Steak Frites. My fois gras, oddly, was slightly frozen – not the way I was served  it in France’s Dordogne region (the land of fois gras). We split a luscious oozing chocolate cake – but really didn’t need it since they also served us, free of charge, some handmade chocolates on sticks (which reminded me of the amazing array of after-dinner goodies we were served years ago at a four-star restaurant in France’s Burgundy region. I just checked and Marc Meneau’s amazing restaurant, L’Esperance appears to still be in the village of Vezelay.)

Last weekend, we tried the new Kirkwood Lounge (the former Azalea)  in the old Kirkwood Hotel (still a gorgeous Art Deco building that now has apartments) in downtown Des Moines. What a change from the white table-clothed Azalea which we visited only once. The food was good but pricey and the atmosphere too austere for us. At the Kirkwood Lounge, gone are the white table clothes and other embellishments. The decor now has a  stripped-down urban chic poured concrete, exposed pipes kind of vibe – which is okay but to be honest, it was a bit drafty on a cold winter night and the high ceilings don’t inspire the kind of welcoming cozy atmosphere you feel at Star Bar (The Kirkwood Lounge’s oldest sister on  Des Moines’ Ingersoll Avenue and a favorite of ours.) It didn’t help that we were left to seat ourselves – which was confusing since we couldn’t tell if people lounging on couches or at tables near the bar were waiting for a table to open up.

The service was very slow – but once the waiter finally got to us, he was speedy and helpful, recommending what turned out to be our best dish – a special appetizer that I told the waiter after devouring it should definitely go on the menu. He said that was the plan – it was an Asian/good ole boy take on tacos – soft chewy chunks of pork  in some sort of salty/sweet Asian sauce with pickled cabbage (I think) served on small soft tacos. I’d return  just to eat that again. The fries dusted with Parmesan and rosemary were also good. We hoped to try the Puttanesca Pizza (why didn’t I invent that? I make a mean Pasta Puttanesca) but at 6:45 p.m. on a Saturday night the restaurant was already out of pizza dough. Oops.

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Filed under Des Moines, DINING, France

New big-budget bohemain spots in Paris

The new bohemian spots in Paris (p0ssibly not for long since they’ve just been outed by the NYTimes) include two neighborhoods – Belleville and Pigalle (a former red-light district.

Along Belleville’s “steep hilltop streets” are galleries and fashion designers and upscale winebars and restaurants.

In Pigalle, are artsy hotels (the Hotel Amour) , designer boutiques popular with the likes of Lady Gaga (jean-charles de castelbajac) ns of course more great restaurants (Nomiya). The gentrified Canal St. -Martin sounds like a charming place to wander. Also the Du Pain et Des Idees boulangerie.

These must be Bohemians with a big budget. for more see:

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Filed under DINING, France

Randonnes in the Dordogne!

My brother and his wife made it safely home from France – fortunately flying into Barcelona and out of Geneva during the strikes that crippled French airports and rail. He apparently did okay with getting gas since they did drive across the country. As expected, he loved the Dordogne region and recommends “randonnes” – walks in the french countryside that are well mapped out and marked. Other highlights – the duck  confit and “all the delicious stuff with walnuts in it.” Their last two days were in Annecy which they liked too but found a little seedy in parts (that I don’t remember.) They also did a quick tour of Talloires and got a pix of the hotel we stayed at in 1989.


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Honeymooning in France during the strikes – it can be done!

My brother and his new wife have made it to Dordogne and are, of course loving it although my brother fears he may be developing gout from all the rich food. He highly recommends the place they stayed La Tour de Cause – which judging from the website looks like heaven.  Word has it it’s run by a I highly recommend it. It’s run by a really cool, fun California couple. Next stop in Annecy and Talloire – so hoping he can get there safely without encountering any blockades or major gas shortages. And I’ll be living vicariously…



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Filed under France, LODGING

Vacationing by car in France during the strikes….a handy ipod app

I’m a little concerned about my brother who is driving across southern france this week as part of his honeymoon.  Strikes across the country can’t be making that easy. Fortunately he’s not flying in or out of French airports (he’s flying into Barcelona and out of Geneva) and I don’t think he’s using mass transit. But it doesn’t sound like driving – especially getting fuel – is that easy right now. I did read about a new iphone app people are using to find out where gas is available but not sure there’s an english version or if my brother’s smart phone works in Europe.

This from the Guardian

One third of petrol stations across France still have no fuel. Over night, police broke up barricades and lift blockades at three strategic fuel depots in Donge, Le Mans and La Rochelle – the west of France has been worst hit by the petrol blockades.

All of France’s 12 refineries remained blockaded this morning and picket lines barred access to around 20 key fuel depots.

The prime minister François Fillon says it will take the country four – five days to get back to normal fuel levels. But France’s autumn half-term holiday begins this weekend and panic-buying continued as families wondered whether they would have to cancel plans amid travel chaos.

Pickets and stoppages were expected at airports today with Toulouse airport blockaded this morning and cancellations at Orly and Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

Train, bus and tram staff were still striking across France today but walk-outs on some public transport had eased since yesterday, in Paris for example. In Marseille, buses and trams were not running and strikers blocked key road tunnels causing miles of tailbacks. Hauliers and freight delivery drivers across France were continuing their protests with more motorway go-slows planned.

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