Skip to content

Posts tagged ‘European Travel’

No. 230: Bourges: France’s Heartland

map_france-Bourges.jpgWe are a couple of days back from faire(ing) le pont in Bourges.

This was one of those completely unexpected, point-to-a-place-on-the-map-where-we-can-afford-the-train-tickets type of getaway. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

Bourges lies almost exactly in the center of France, so now if/when I have to leave France, I can say, both that I left my heart in France, and that I have been to the heart of France.

Bourges is a classic French town housing one of the great Gothic cathedrals of Europe, Sainte-Etienne, a UNESCO world heritage site, known for its stunning stained-glass windows, some dating back as far as the 13th century, an amazingly accurate astronomical clock, and its arched-entrance, chiseled with eerie carvings illustrating a grim Judgment Day.

bourges_cathedral.window.jpg

According to our bed and breakfast host, guests tend to use Bourges as an overnight stop when traveling north-to-south or vice versa. But I would say Bourges is worthy of a long weekend, to allow you the time to get to know the picturesque town surrounded by rivers, listen to the pealing church bells, soak up the rich history, and experience the relaxed and friendly locals.

bourges_france_medieval_houses.jpg

Southeast of Orléans, this hilly city, where Joan of Arc wintered before she was burned at the stake, rises up at the intersection of the Yèvre and Auron rivers in the Department of Cher and will charm the pants right off you with its half-timbered medieval houses, cobbled lanes, sculpted gardens and marshy marais—more on that tomorrow.

bourges_france_garden.jpg

May is the perfect time to visit, as the town hosts Les Printemps de Bourges Contemporary Music Festival, (we were one weekend too late), and les Nuits Lumière (Illuminated Nights), an impressive light, sound and architectural show highlighting the city’s heritage (screened across the ancient buildings) on offer every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, rain or moon-glow.

light_show_bourges_France.jpg

Summer may be an even better time to visit Bourges, as there were loads of signs heralding Été à Bourges and an impressive line-up of free, outdoor musical performances, of all shapes and sizes.

When all is said and done, Bourges is a super cool place to visit either on whim or as a planned stop on your itinerary. If you want to hear and feel what makes this complicated country tick, venture au coeur, to the heart of France.

heart_france_640

Vocabulaire

au coeur: in the center, at the heart

Été à Bourges: Summer in Bourges

faire le pont: to take a long weekend, literally to make the bridge

Les Printemps de Bourges: Bourges’ Springtime

No. 200-204: Stroopwafles, Canals, Tulips, Friets with Mayo & Bucket Lists

Holland_wooden_shoes_benioff.jpg

I’m going to be a bit cheeky again and add Amsterdam to the list of the things I love about France.

I know the Netherlands is not part of France. I know French isn’t the native tongue (although some residents speak French, along with two or three other languages), and I know I should be spending my last few months in France rather than dipping in and out of other countries. But with the high-speed train network crisscrossing France and the rest of Europe, it’s hard not to take advantage of extremely cheap rail tickets and take a peek at how the non-French live.

bikes_Amsterdam_Benioff.jpg

After four lively days in Amsterdam and the surrounding areas, I have to say, I’m pretty jazzed about the Dutch and how they run their capital city. First of all, they are so organized, efficient, and clean. Second, they all ride bikes all the time and everywhere. (In fact, there are more bikes in Amsterdam than residents.)

Holland_stroopwafel_Benioff.jpg

Third, they speak American English. Fourth, stroopwafels hot off the griddle oozing caramel and dipped in chocolate are to die for. Fourth, their canal system and ability to make land where there was only water is remarkable.

canals_Amsterdam_Benioff.jpg

Fifth, friets, or “French” fries smothered in Dutch mayonnaise, just may make a heart attack worth having.

friet_mayo_Amsterdam.jpg

But the real reason to travel to Amsterdam in the springtime is the tulips…those flat and insanely brilliant fields of tulips, that seem to go on and on for miles, or kilometers, I suppose. Seeing and smelling these fields of colorful perennials has been on my bucket list since I was a shy 10-year-old girl dreaming about my future beyond the Wild West. I drew the Netherlands from a hat for my fourth grade term paper, “Countries of the World”, and since the moment I discovered the tulip fields in LIFE Magazine in 1974, I have been itching to go.

Tulips_Keukenhof_Netherlands.jpg

Tulips_Keukenhof_Holland.jpg

And now I’ve been, and seen, and smelled, and it was glorious. So I have another thing to love about France. Life in Paris gave me my jumping off point to realize one of my first childhood desires and see it first hand, just as I planned nearly 40 years ago.