Category: France

Jeanne Darc

Was she the craziest woman in history? Either way, she became one of those symbols people twist and turn in an effort to bring meaning to whatever absorbs and excites them. Her actual history is a mass of contradictions, none of it reliable. She was—and still is—whoever and whatever anyone wanted her to be.

Vin Rouge

How can so many French men and women—statistically speaking, of course—eat all that stinky cheese and goose liver without all the heart attacks of our odor-free, foie-free American ecosystem? The answer has to be… Vin rouge!

18 x Bretagne

It’s no wonder that Brittany was the last of the great French historical provinces to be subdued by the French crown–to the extent that it ever was. Celtic roots, both cultural and linguistic, still run deep here.

Armistice Day

I remember an evening sitting through one of those ghastly, self-righteous arguments about the Vietnam War that seemed to plague any attempt at serious conversation in the 1970s. The wild-eyed beard next to me showed no interest whatsoever and seemed to regard all the hot air as little […]

Tain-l’Hermitage

Thomas Jefferson might have had better weather in the 1780s when he came to the Hermitage Mountain here and declared this vista of the Rhône River valley the most beautiful in all of France. The trip from the Colonial Ambassador’s residence in Paris—564km by modern roads—would have taken […]

Sleepers

We’ve now traveled by sleeper coach train through every major west European country except Spain (including our own version of the Orient Express), and it’s uncanny how the experience has reflected the culture of the train’s country of origin. The French coach was dignified and correct, if a bit […]

Vittel

The European Spa Movement was synonymous with la Belle Époque, the 40-year dream period from the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 until 1914 and the carnage of the Great War.  European aristocrats and politicians held their collective breath and noses and tried their hardest not to notice the churn […]

Nancy

On 10 May, 1951, in a true exercise in dynastic futility, Archduke Franz Joseph Otto Robert Maria Anton Karl Max Heinrich Sixtus Xaver Felix Renatus Ludwig Gaetan Pius Ignatius von Habsburg-Lotharingen married Regina Helene Elisabeth Margarete, Princess of Saxe-Meiningen. The ceremony took place here in Nancy, France, at […]

Der Rhein

Everything has to start somewhere. This bridge in Konstanz on the Swiss border marks the official start of the Rhein River, or point zero on the 1939 Rheinkilometer scale. From here, the Rhein flows west and north through Germany, Switzerland, France, and the Netherlands to de Hoek van […]