Giverny: Walking in Monet’s Footsteps

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One of the first things I ever painted in art class was a copy of Claude Monet’s bridge over water lilies, so it was pretty surreal when I found myself standing on that very bridge this weekend. Of course, a gazillion other tourists were sharing the experience with me, but there was something magical about strolling through Monet’s gardens, discussing with Gui in which shady spots the brilliant impressionist likely sat painting his masterpieces.

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Bordeaux: Le Vin et le Sable

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We had gorgeous weather for our weekend getaway to Bordeaux last month, which made wandering through vineyards, soaking in the city’s beautiful architecture and climbing Europe’s largest sand dune particularly delightful. I wasn’t expecting the city of Bordeaux itself to be so cool — It’s filled with sidewalk cafes, interesting bars and students having picnics on the grass along the river. Gui and I met my two friends from grad school there for a weekend adventure and by the end I was googling the cost of rent for flats near the waterfront. Maybe one day 🙂

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Mont Saint-Michel: The Big Flood

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Guillaume had long had his heart set on a trip to France’s iconic monastery so we decided to time our visit with one of the special periods each year when Mont Saint-Michel becomes an island, with access to the mainland completely cut off at high-tide. We didn’t have the best weather for our October visit — gray skies with periodic rain showers — but watching those tides come in and surround the giant rock island completely was incredible, even in the chilly mist.

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Loire Valley: Princess for a Weekend

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My obsession with Mary Queen of Scots dates back to the month before we moved to Geneva, when I boarded a plane with my dear plant Nigel to relocate him to his co-parent’s home in Cleveland, Ohio. It would turn out that the co-parent’s cat would try to eat Nigel and he would have to be relocated yet again, but that’s a story for another day. The main point is that my friend got me hooked on a CW show called “Reign” about Mary Queen of Scots during that visit, and thus when Gui made our itinerary for the Loire Valley of France he knew that visiting the castles that Mary had lived in was a necessity.

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Côte d’Azur: Menton, Monaco, Cannes & Nice

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We spent last weekend in Côte d’Azur to celebrate Gui’s 30th and gosh did we love it. The southern French architecture is full of character and elegance, and the area just has a really fun, relaxed vibe. And despite what our skeptical friends told us about the French Riviera in July, the crowds were completely manageable and added to the whole atmosphere. So yes, fellow Geneva-dwellers, book that 40-minute flight now!

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Toulouse: Pretty in Pink

I honestly knew nothing about Toulouse before our quest to see Carcassonne brought us to France’s fourth largest metropolis, but it’s a lovely place. Known as the “Pink City” for the color of its brick, Toulouse has gorgeous French architecture and is quite lively thanks to a large population of university students. We stumbled across a group of them leading llamas around the sidewalks on leashes in order to, quote, keep Toulouse weird, which was indeed a pretty interesting sight to behold.

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Carcassonne: Quite the Castle

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Guillaume has had the medieval walled city of Carcassonne on his travel wish list since we moved to Geneva, but the logistics of getting there from our perch on the opposite side of France are a bit complicated. Luckily, I stumbled across bargain plane tickets to the nearby city of Toulouse one day during my regular sweep of travel sites and snatched up two for the first weekend in March. At the time, I didn’t know that March falls comfortably within Carcassonne’s off-season, but that turned out to be a real blessing: The normally tourist-ridden city (according to our guidebook) had only a trickle of visitors during the day — and after dusk we had the place gloriously to ourselves. We also got lucky with the weather, as it was originally forecasted to be dark and rainy all day, but turned into a beautiful, mild, sunny afternoon. You can see the change in the photos 🙂

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Chambéry: The Mystery Château

My friend and I were looking for a relaxing destination to celebrate our winter break and — after discovering the the Swiss hotel with the internet-famous infinity pool cost more than 600 francs a night — settled on the much more affordable option of a day trip to Chambéry. Gui suggested the French city and former capitol of Savoy because he had read about its cute old town and château, and with lovely 50+ degree weather and blue skies on tap for Thursday, we were sold.

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