France Paris 2002.10.20 - 10.24

Paris Eternally Beautiful

Travel from Chasteuil to Paris is possible in a day. A more enjoyable route makes a few stops at some gastronomic pleasures. We drove from Chasteuil to Avignon (4 hours) for a delicious lunch at one of our favorite restaurants, Hiély. Next we drove to Lyon (additional 3 hours), reputed to be the gastronomic center of the world. On day 3, we completed our drive to Paris (additional 4 hours).

Hiély, on the main boulevard within the inner walls of Avignon, remains elegant, delicious, and professional. Portions are large, and the meal takes a minimum of 2 hours to complete. To fully enjoy the meal at Hiély, we began preparing 2 months in advance. Step one of our preparations was to increase our appetites that shrank to barely anything in Uzbekistan. (Uzbekistan has the certifiably least appetizing food in the world.) Step two was to begin eating small portions of meat again, since after a long absence from meat consumption, the body has difficulty digesting it. When we started to eat meat again, a small morsel would cause painful stomach cramps for about 1 hour. We arranged our travel schedule to reach Avignon on a weekday that Hiély is open and made our table reservation 1 week in advance. Hiély is open Thursday - Monday for lunch and dinner. Since the meal is lengthy, the last lunch seating ends at 13:30. Find Hiély at 5 rue de la Républque (Tel: +33-(0)4-9086-1707).

Between Avignon and Apt is the small town of Coustellet where Le Château du Bois sells their fine lavender essential oil. Each year, we stop here for one of the highest quality lavender oils in the world. Prices are production field direct. A 500 ml bottle sells for 100 Euros (about US$100); a price you won't beat for the same quality. (Note: the price per ml for smaller volumes is substantially higher.) Unfortunately, Le Château du Bois' international shipping prices make distant deliveries almost cost prohibitive. If ordering by mail, expect to pay about the same value for shipping as for the oil.

See Le Château du Bois online at Tel: +33 (0)4-9076-9123.

Evidence of the importance of food in Lyon is hard to miss. We arrived at dusk in the rain without seeing much of the city. The next morning, streets in our area were lined with produce vendors stretching many kilometers. Stall after stall were fresh garden vegetables, a huge variety of fruit, hundreds of cheeses, pastries, bread, herbs, meat, fish, olive oil, honey, etc. The drawback was trying to leave this city by car. Every street was jammed to a standstill. The expected 4-hour drive from Lyon to Paris lengthened to 5; 1 hour was spent just trying to exit Lyon.

"You don't want to drive in Paris," our friends Etsuko and Philippe warned. We arrived by car intending to drop off our luggage at Etsuko and Philippe's apartment before returning the car to a rental office. Sounds easy. But driving the streets of Paris is nerve racking. Narrow streets are double-parked and teaming with pedestrians, motorbikes, impatient French drivers, and no-nonsense bus drivers. Trying to avoid oncoming impacts for a mere 30 minutes is exhausting. I don't envy anyone who drives the streets of Paris regularly.

After ridding ourselves of the car and settling into our friend's apartment, life in Paris improved immensely. An easy subway ride downtown took us to the wonders of Paris that will eternally preserve its beauty. The Louvre Museum exterior is a museum in itself. La Place de la Concorde got a facelift and now has gold trimmed copper-green lamps and fountains. Gone are the gaudy amusement park rides. We walked along the Seine River passing the Louvre, Notre Dame, and many exquisite buildings in between. Since we had only one full day in Paris, we chose to return to our favorite museum: Musée d'Orsay. It's packed with paintings by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, and Cézanne.
Musée d'Orsay hours are
Tue, Wed, Fri, Sat: 10:00-17:30
Thr: 10:00-21:15
Sun: 09:00-17:30
Mon: closed
Entry may be denied up to 1 hour prior to museum closing.

The Seine River flows through the center of Paris past the Eiffel Tower, Le Louvre, and Notre Dame. Across the bank in this photo is the west end of Le Louvre.
Place de la Concorde is much improved from one year ago. Gold trimmed copper-green lamps and fountains replace gaudy amusement park rides.
Notre Dame in the middle of the Siene River is a gorgeous cathedral from any angle.

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