From Paris to Normandy by Andre Beaupre
We had an epic vacation filled with laughter, adventure, crazy weather, terrific food and wonderful experiences. SmoothRed handcrafted the specific experience we were looking for in France… a custom combination of big city (Paris) and country (Normandy) that went beyond the ‘normal list’ of what to see.
The people from SmoothRed we dealt with in preparing the trip were kind, courteous, helpful and always responsive. Each of our hotels was unique, charming and wonderful. We got lucky and slept in the same room Monet requested every time he went to Honfleur to paint!
Weather is sometimes the big question mark on a pre-planned vacation… you never know, right? We had our share of crazy weather in France in May, with temperatures as low as 36F (2°C) in Paris and Versailles. We were catching hail in our hands on the coldest day in 200 years. It didn’t faze us, we kept to our schedule, did our thing and had fun despite cold hands and wet clothes. We had four different guides across our journeys… our second guide was with us every step of the way on those uncharacteristically cold days in Versailles and Paris (including catching hail). He had a great sense of humor and we hit if off… that kind of thing transcends little aggravations like cold weather every day of the week.
I’m a photographer – discovering “the shot” is always part of what I enjoy about travel. The rain and overcast conditions actually make colors “pop” — so in charming places like Montmartre the driving rain, wet cobblestone streets, bright greens of vineyards and soft pastel buildings created a mesmerizing effect that will be remembered in our minds and showcased on the walls of our home
In Paris our highlights included an evening dinner on the Seine – seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up in gold with the strobe-light was cool, as was the cruise itself.
We loved our Museum day – Le Louvre and d’Orsay, especially the Impressionism wing in the latter. Our dinner at the restaurant the team booked was the definition of a world-class French gourmet experience with amazing views… riverboats on the Seine and the grand Notre-Dame (we were there two weeks after the fire) with a setting sun behind it. Sainte-Chapelle is a stunner – those windows! Every pane of glass was recently restored by hand and it showed.
In Normandy, Giverny (Monet’s Garden) and its little village was a highlight. In our mind’s eye, we hadn’t envisioned anything as grand and beautiful. The tour company helped us construct a personal getaway to Etretat and Fécamp on the Alabaster Coast in Normandy to see where my descendants originated in 1600. Talk about making travel a personal thing; loved it.
Honfleur won our “best village” honors with its double harbor view and colorful boats. Our D-Day experience was moving and personal. Instead of visiting endless museums, we had one awesome guide who made the stories of people come alive as we spent an entire day walking, feeling and reliving the beaches and villages.
Mont St. Michel is one of the amazing views/places of my lifetime so far – (including Machu Pichu in Peru, the Golden Temple in Kyoto and Milford Sound in New Zealand). No wonder it’s a precious UNESCO sight- a well-earned reputation. How they constructed that Abbey over 1,000 years ago on an island granite rock in the middle of nowhere is something to behold and experience.
What would you change to your trip?
Ha! We would trade the cold temps, hail and driving rain for a little more warmth and sun.
Written by Andre Beaupre, satisfied SmoothRed customer