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What's there even to do in France and Italy? (Read 2242 times)

Offline theholygideons

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What's there even to do in France and Italy?
« on: October 29, 2013, 11:02:55 AM »
I'm going to France and Italy on vacation to visit some of my Asian relatives, so what's there to do :o? O_O. I live in australia, btw. I'm guessing i'll be visiting the capitals at least, have you lads ever been? what are some monumental man-made thingamajigs to visit, or where can i find some sublime nature scenery?   

Offline indianajo

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #1 on: October 29, 2013, 11:32:22 AM »
I've been to Paris and around.  To see any nature, look up Grey Line tours to get you out of town for the day for <$100.  They were 15% of the price of anything google could find, and perfectly competent. They were linked from the Paris city website. The office/pickup is across the street from the Louvre.   We took the tour to the chateau of the Loire Valley, which is beautiful, and the trip to Chartres cathedral, which is out in the farming country. The chateau to not miss are Chenonceau and Chambord, although Blois had the dual winding staircase that is so copied.  We saw all three. Get the post card book of all 12, the ideas show up everywhere in architecture.  
Paris downtown, get the Metro 6 zone pass which will get you to Versailles included on the RER without taking a tour.  If you buy the four day museum pass at  Musee do Cluney or Orsey or Rodin, it gets you into a little side door at Versailles, past a line of 12 busloads of people on tours waiting at the main gate.  Versailles has a really nice park, although the fountains weren't working May 1-8.    The metro pass is good on all the busses, too, plus the escalator to Sacre de Cour Montmartre with the great overview.  
I liked the Museum de Cluney with the tapestry of the unicorns, and the Musee de Orsey with the Impressionists. .  The Louvre had bigger paintings but not such cool paintings as the Orsey. Mona Lisa was ho-hum for me.   Rodin Museum has cool statues and outdoors in a garden.  We walked by the Opera house but I wish we could have taken the tour, it is what Phantom of the Opera is all about. That statue on a pillar is near the opera.  There is an egyptian obelisk down in the park west of the Louvre and near that is a famous fountain (dry first of may) Arc de Triumph we saw from the traffic circle, and a pity, because the guidebook didn't say, there is an underground tunnel to get there without crossing traffic. We rode the bus back from Eiful to get there and to the hotel.  
Eifel tower of course, and the Notre Dame cathedral.  Walking around the cathedral on the left bank is the best view.  We didn't do the Notre Dame tower,  Eifel and Sacre Couer have better views and shorter lines.  We saw Napolean's sarcophagus, amazing what they thought of that little *******.  
We rode the bus out to see Josephine's house, Nepolean's mistress, and it had a great music room, decent furnishings, a famous portrait of the the man,  and a very pretty garden.  We practically had the place to ourselves, no bus tours there. You change from metro to bus at La Defense.  Nice neighborhood.  
I wish we'd taken the boat ride down the Seine. I wish I'd gone to an organ concert; the best said to be north of town on the way to the airport St Denis, although I met the organist from the American church touring here.  
We stayed at the Accor Port de Clichy hotel. It was competent and had a great view of the Eifel tower over the train yard.  Great buffet in the morning, saved us a bunch on lunches at Paris prices.  Just because a hotel is air conditioned doesn't mean they turn it on when it is 85 deg at the first of May.  And you better like wine, it is hard as **** to get anything but Coca-Cola or diet Coke or  Orange soda in Paris.  No wonder 50 people died of thirst that hot year, there is no free water anywhere, not even hoses outside the gas stations.  

Offline oxy60

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #2 on: October 29, 2013, 02:41:04 PM »
Nice tips for sightseeing. But what will you take away from that? You need to bring something to the trip. What do want to learn? Do you have any idea of history? Would you like to meet some locals or attend some concerts?

Just going wide eyed won't get it.
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."  John Muir  (We all need to get out more.)

Offline theholygideons

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #3 on: October 30, 2013, 07:12:49 AM »
Nice tips for sightseeing. But what will you take away from that? You need to bring something to the trip. What do want to learn? Do you have any idea of history? Would you like to meet some locals or attend some concerts?

Just going wide eyed won't get it.

mhmm.. good point. I might go visit Charles Valentin Alkan's grave and pay my respects.  :)

Offline oxy60

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #4 on: October 30, 2013, 03:49:09 PM »
mhmm.. good point. I might go visit Charles Valentin Alkan's grave and pay my respects.  :)


Good idea. Don't forget to step outside the cemetery and check out the neighborhood. I used to live (in a residence hotel) there. The food is good and the terraces are lively.
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."  John Muir  (We all need to get out more.)

Offline indianajo

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #5 on: October 30, 2013, 06:31:30 PM »
the wife had read a biography of Josephine, I'd seen stuff about her on PBS, that is why we went to her house.  But the garden is really beautiful and peaceful.  I'd read the Willl & Ariel Durant histories of the world and the various Louis's figured large in them, so Versailles was interesting, all that palace and decoration and no bathrooms. I live better than a king!   The  Trianons and rural village come right out of the story of Marie Antoinette.  Eisenhaur stayed at the Trianon after Paris was liberated! The chateau of the Loire figured large in the life of Charles and those kings, and the Medici wife was an important story, how she took Chenenceau away from the king's mistress when the king died from jousting.  Easy to see how bribing the other nobels not to fight was an important strategy for the "French King" to consolidate power when he was sort of a country gentlemen and not an international figure.   Nepolean loomed large in the Durant histories, we had seen his stuff at an Exhibition at Memphis, TN, so seeing his sarcophogus put the nail in the coffin.  Also his horse portrait at Josephine's house was better than the stuff in the Louvre.  
At Pere la Chaize cemetery in Paris, I saw Chopin's grave, and Edith Piaf's, although I didn't know who she was at the time. I have since seen a TV show about her and play and sing one of her hits.  Also for the wife we saw Morrison's grave, one of the great artistic idiots of the western world.  
You ride the metro  you don't see much, but the bus you do.   I caught a cold on the bus from Arc de Triumph to the hotel, with about 120 other locals during evening commute.  Hows that for meeting the people?
In Paris we tried metro lottery one night to find a "local" restaurant, and ended up eating at the "Indiana Bar" which had mexican cuisine.  The place to go that's just like home. We were too hungry to jump on the metro and try again.  At least Indiana Bar had pitchers of diet sprite for 10 euros; we were extremely thirsty and really put off by the 2 euro a glass water charges.  
The other nights we ate around the hotel at Pte de Clichy, and all those restaurants are run by Syrians and Lebanese for tourists.  The only restaurant remotely authentic was the Argentinian restaurant right by the hotel, which had waaay too much meat in their dishes (authentic).  We looked through the window at a restaurant near Place de Concorde, but the prices were >^ and I didn't wear a coat and tie around.  We ate at a street front place across the railroad track from Pte de Clichy, very local, lots of pizzas going out on the back of scooters.  We had some chicken rice dish which was okay, and sat on the sidewalk listening to the scooters buzz.  I tried that place again another night, and **** de oeuf was not beef, it was eggs and rice.  Oh, well.  A cheap language lesson.

Offline oxy60

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #6 on: October 31, 2013, 12:29:32 AM »
What a story Indianajo. Too bad your Parisian visit didn't work out better. Some friends of mine just got back with similar stories.

My first introduction to Paris was at the high end and very expensive. However I didn't need to speak a word of French during the entire visit. The second visit was very authentic staying in one of neighborhoods at a hotel for 5 bucks (25F) a night. Those days/prices are be long gone but I still stay there whenever I am in Paris. It was and still is a full language immersion experience. The food is great. Often at mom and pop restaurants with hand written menus...

The poster also asked about Italy. In both countries, fluency in the language is essential, even today. English is not universal.
"In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks."  John Muir  (We all need to get out more.)

Offline theholygideons

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #7 on: October 31, 2013, 06:07:36 AM »

The poster also asked about Italy. In both countries, fluency in the language is essential, even today. English is not universal.

well, i have relatives who are fluent in both france and italy, plus they have cars so they can chauffeur me around, hopefully  ;D

have any of you been to etretat? it's not too far from paris i'm guessing?
god it's like winter in paris though..

Offline indianajo

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #8 on: October 31, 2013, 05:58:37 PM »
Wikipedia.org shows Etretat out on the Normandy coast. Quite pricey real estate, I imagine, especially in summer when the beaches are open.  Consider yourself lucky to have accomodation there, and even access to a car!  As the Swedes say, there is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.  Cold and rain can be warded off.  Heat and too much sun, you have to slather on the sunscreen and get used to it.  
Rudy Maxa and Rick Steves travel shows about Normandy always go to Rouen to see the one handed clock and old buildings, to the Beaches to relive D-Day, the cemetaries, the D-day war-Peace museum (very pacifistic IMHO), and Monet's garden at Giverney.  Rudy maxa also visits apple orchards with cider production, for some sampling of that very local product.  I could get into that, much more than I do wine from grapes which is ruined by the fermentation, IMHO.  There are also some local cheese operations around that demonstrate on the property.  
A more fun TV show is Landscapes Through Time with David Dunlop   which examines the impressionist and preimpressionist painters individually and where they painted.  A lot of impressionism was done on the Normany coast, particularly around the mouth of the Seine, and at towns overlooking the Seine.  You won't see the paintings in Normandy, they are musee de Orsay or out of the country, but the locations are still there and still beautiful. Across the bay from la Harve is one of the famous towns, there are several others. If you can't get the show, look up the painters on the internet and figure out where the paintings are painted. Or buy a book and read it before you go.  
About language. I had 8 years of public school Spanish, and I view much of French as Spanish pronounced badly.  I can remember about 50 French words, and I've discovered that if you ask a question in your bad French or German,  with all the tenses wrong and the adjectives and nouns mismatched, people are not a bit afraid to exhibit their bad English when they answer you.  Usually they speak much better English than your French or German.  Watching operas with the close captioning on is useful, although you mostly learn words like amour and Couer, which don't help you find the metro station very well.   
Enjoy yourself.

Offline kalirren

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Re: What's there even to do in France and Italy?
«Reply #9 on: November 01, 2013, 05:05:12 AM »
You could always do a Chopin Tour in Paris.
Beethoven: An die Ferne Geliebte
Franck: Sonata in A Major
Vieuxtemps: Sonata in Bb Major for Viola
Prokofiev: Sonata for Flute in D Major