French Riviera/Paris, September 2013

September 23-26, 2013 - Traveling to Arles then a High Speed TGV train to Paris
It has been a whirlwind trip with limited time to blog in the nights. We have had such a wonderful time and this blog will be completed in more detail when time is ample and shuteye is abundant. We plan on updating this blog with more details once we arrive home. In the meantime, I will again let pictures give you snapshots ad continue our trip to Arles onto Paris. So for now, sit back and view the pictures and indeed look for your favorite individual(s) on this trip.

Kevin Miller, Karen Shaw & Marilyn Kennedy at entrance of our wine tasting adventure.
We had an excellent stop at the Chateau Sainte Roseline in Les Arcs Sur Argens. While we had a great 3 wine tasting adventure, the history of the Villeneuve family and their daughter St. Roseline is intriguing. Just think of the Miracle of the Roses to know the history of St Roseline. You'll love the story so come back and read it!
Wine that was delicious, tasty and simply a joy.
The Chapel of Sainte Roseline
A little sip after hearing "just how" from the experts...

St Roseline's body
It was then on to Les Baux de Provence for an olive tasting experience
Our Thelma Travelers amongst the olive trees before the tasting itself
Art Boy in deep contemplation upon leaving the olive gardens
Then on to Arles & the Ancient Roman Ruins plus a great visit back into the life of Vincent Van Gogh
Talk about a duplicate (well almost) of the Coliseum in Rome, and extremely well preserved
They now host bullfighting & Rodeos in this arena inside the Coliseum
Vincent Van Gogh lived here. He painted here. He cut his ear off here. Our visit was a reliving of the pictures we have seen many times in our lifetimes then seeing the same place on our visit.

Van Gogh's painting of Café Terrace at Night
The restaurant in his famous picture. The historic significance is fantastic but the food...not so good
Van Gogh's painting Courtyard of the Hospital of Arles
Today!!! This has to be one of those "wow moments" of any trip
We next took a high speed train from Arles to Paris....we had reserved seats and all. But the reality was the railroad was short of time and the conductors literally pushed us into cars. Outcome was a pleasant trip but not in assigned seats, yet enjoyable just the same.
Arrival in Paris!
Upon arrival we met our expert guide, Antoine, who because of his contacts we were literally able to skip long lines to fill our hungry bodies or see events. We then toured Paris from the bus. We stopped to take memorable pictures of the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffle Tower and Notre Dame..not to forget Napoleon's tomb...then to our hotel for showering, relaxing and getting ready to spend first night in Paris.
We were able to visit the Louvre as well as Notre Dame on our first full 1/2 day in Paris on Sept 25.

Mona Lisa
The City of Lights....Paris
Playing with the lighting in the City of Lights...Eiffel Tower at night
That night we met our resident artist, Maia Flores, at the "Thelma Reception".What a delight it was as she shared and explained  her artwork with us. For more go to the Thelma Center for the Arts web site in Fond du Lac. She was also featured in a recent edition of the New Yorker.
Kevin Miller, Maia Flores, Wayne & Valerie Graczyk
Our final day in Paris was "free" so people had the day to themselves...something rare in the travel industry. Jim & Rosie Neumann took the romantic route, taking a bottle of wine to just sit on a grassy spot someplace in Paris and sip how romantic!!! Kevin spent the day touring art galleries with Maia while Wayne/Valerie/Judy Stevenson/Sandy Beyers/Penny & Bill Werner all spent the afternoon on the HOHO bus (Hop On-Hop  Off). Others will more than likely share their day with us, then  you.
Many of the Thelma Travelers went to a dinner to say "good bye" to Paris. It was a delightful and fun evening with lots of music, good food, laughter and a great "final night in Paris".
This blog is presented to you by Wayne &Valerie Graczyk
"Helping Make Your Someday Travel Dreams Come True" 
September 22, 2013 - City Medievale, Monaco, Monte Carlo & Villa de Rothschild

What an exhilarating day this was. Reversing our regular itinerary per the advice of our guide, we made an unscheduled stop at the City of Medieval and walked up and down this delightful ancient medieval town built high on a mountain top. Only pictures can describe this adventure, one preceded by an outstanding overlook over the Mediterranean Sea. Only pictures of both sites can say what words would take too long to do.

Art Boy, a.k.a. as Kevin Miller

What's  down there?

Many people live on the mountain and this an example of their creativity when living on a mountain...a garden that was simply mind-boggling.

Jim Neumann and his camera at "the ready" for that perfect shot. Judy Stevenson and Sandy Beyer will make it, really! And they did.

Little stores and residences dotted the way up the 1400 foot elevation at Eze

Every climber needs a picture break to catch their breath. But the smiles on the faces of Marilyn, Camille, Jean, Mary Jo & Sandra let you know they are loving it.

Art is everywhere if you work hard enough to find it, just ask Marilyn and Sandra.

But no matter where we are there is time to shop.

We traveled to Monaco & Monte Carlo for our next venture. It was only about a 30 minute drive and was it ever worth it. Monaco is the 2nd smallest country in the world behind only the Vatican. Only the very rich can afford to live there. To buy an apartment in Monaco would cost about 25,000 euros...PER SQUARE METER FOR ONE OF THE CHEAPEST! The average cost for property in Monaco is about 260,000 euros per square meter or about $345,800 per square meter. Very expensive indeed. It is a very safe community because there is one policeman per person with a population of 8000 permanent residents. Monaco consists of 5 different cities, two of which are Monaco City and Monte Carlo.

Monaco is a Principality with Prince Albert II the current Prince. It covers only a surface area of about 1.95 sq km. It only ranges from 350 to 1050 meres wide and it stretches along the cost for 4.1 km.We observed the changing of the guard at the Palace. This takes place every hour but at 11:55 a.m. it is a special ceremonial changing of the guard which was something we had the opportunity to observe.

The palace is such a site. The flag is flying which means Prince Albert II is in the palace. 
Monaco is built right on the mountain and Monaco City is nicknamed The Rock 

We visited the Cathedral of Monaco and paid our respects to deceased Princess Grace (Kelly)

We finished our sojourn to St Jean Cap Ferrat and the Villa-Musee Ile de France (the Ephrussi de Rothschild Foundation). Founded by Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild, the villa is surrounded by splendid gardens & water fountains set to music while in the inside there are furnishings of the Regency Louis XV  Louis XVI periods, statues by Falconet, paintings and drawings as well as Impressionist works by Monet & Renoir. Once again, our pictures should speak volumes about its beauty. The villa sits high above the sea and features breathtaking views on each side.

Art Boy (Kevin Miller) contemplates the beauty and awe of the view.

The water fountains erupted to music which made the entire garden come alive!


Judy Stevenson & Sandy Beyer enjoying Gelato in front of the Casino in Monte Carlo

We were not able to take pictures inside the Casino of Monte Carlo but we did play some slots...sorry but no big winners in our group!

Monte Carlo Casino is up the next flight of steps. Sandra, Marilyn, Kathy, Mary Jo, Jean

Taking a pause on the steps up to the Monte Carlo Casino. Judy, Camille, Sandy, Marilyn, James, Lucy and Jim

8th Floor haven...or is that heaven?

September 21, 2013 - Biot, Antibes, Vallauris & Cannes

We visited Antibes, Vallauris, Biot & Cannes today and had a great time. The weather was great - well, actually a bit warm but we all managed quite well!

Antibes is known as the Capital of the Flowers.  The Square Castle (pictured below) is now unoccupied and owned by the city.  It overlooks the Mediterranean and city of Antibes.

The Square Castle
Pablo Picasso's Museum in Antibes.
Picasso lived and created art in one level of the museum for 4 months and when he left he also gave all the artwork to the museum, which we were fortunate to see.

Valerie in front of a beautiful art piece outside the chapel where Picasso's Life/Death artwork is displayed
Picasso Museum in Antibes
On the steps between the Cathedral & the Picasso Museum
The Picasso Museum highlighted against the almost constant blue sky

A beautiful view of the harbor from Old Town Antibes high above current Antibes

Gathering with our guide, Isabella (far right), for the walk back to the bus along the Mediterranean.

Biot - we visited a most interesting glass blowing company in Biot. We were able to see the art of glass blowing from the furnace to the finished product.

Red hot glass in Biot
Mary Jo wants to buy in the worst way, but...

A special process creates glassware with bubbles within the glass. Really a work of art.

Judy Stevenson, Sandy Beyers, Clairese Huennekens, Elaine Dishaw & Kathy Keating admire the beauty of the finished product.
CANNES - A place of dreams, holidays, palm trees, sumptuous palaces, blue sky and sea, film stars and royalty & luxury yachts. 

SANDY OR ROCKY BEACHES? Our guide shared with us that only Americans think they have sandy beaches along the French Riviera. They don't, except in Monaco and Monte Carlo and that is only because it is brought in from outside the area and recycled every spring. Beaches along the French Riviera are really very rocky and stony. One wears shoes or something with hard soles to walk on the beaches. Pads are very thick to support the body when you lay down. In Monaco and Monte Carlo they used to bring in sand from the other side of the mountain each spring. They have found it is cheaper to recycle the sand. It is pulled into the seas during the winter months (waves, etc drag it out) so they use pumping devices that actually pump the sand from under the water back onto the beach every spring.

An artful house in Cannes, film capital of the world
Mary Jo Keating, still smiling & energized as we began our climb up to Old Towne Cannes
You're almost to the top Penny & Bill (Werner)!
Bill and Karen Shaw "safely" at the top of Old Towne Cannes
Clock Tower in Old Towne
A beautiful view of the Cannes harbor from the top of Old Towne
Heading down from the top of Old Towne Cannes
September 20, 2013 we arrived in Nice (pronounced Niece). We landed at their beautiful airport, 2nd largest in France, and spent the afternoon touring this quaint city on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.  We then either found a restaurant to eat, crashed to catch up on sleep or observed the hustle and bustle of Nice itself from a outside restaurant or when just walking about. We learned that Nice gets about the same amount of rain annually as England but gets there's in bunches whereas England's is spread over 12 months. Nice has sunshine about 300 days a year.

On Friday, September 20 we were off to St Paul de Vence a few kilometers away but a 55 minute drive due to traffic. St Paul de Vince is a commune in the Alpes-Maritimus Dept in SE France, one of the oldest medieval towns on the French Riviera. We visited the Marquerite & Anne Foundation (The Maeght Foundation), a unique example of a private European Foundation started in 1964. It presents its visitors modern and contemporary art in all forms. The Foundation Maeght L'Hopice is a museum that contains one of the most important collection in Europe with painters, sculptures, drawings & works of art from the 20th century.

Our Thelma travelers were captivated by the outdoor artwork in the enclosed grounds.

Kevin Miller in front of a Chagall piece of art.


Bill Shaw "just relaxing"
The three Keating sisters...enjoying the day and art!

We then visited the Art House in St Paul de Vence, a unique Art Studio. They say of themselves that "on the surface they might look like a regular artist studio or Art Gallery, but they are neither one or the other, yet both at the same time." Actually Arthouse is about the active collaboration between two international painters and sculptors.

Kevin Miller, Marilyn Kennedy and Sandra Uecker talking to the artist in the Art House
St. Paul de Vence is a village which belongs first and foremost to the artists who have made it famous, including Marc Chagall who died there. Marc Chagall was referred to as the quintessential Jewish artist of the 20th century.

St. Paul de Vence

We continued our tour in Vence which is about 15 kilometers away to visit the Cathedral of Vence which has some amazing artifacts on display.

This mosaic was made by Chagall and is entitled "Moses Saved from the Nile".  It is a prefiguration of the Spiritual Sacrament.
Outside the chapel is the St. Lambert tower on the left.

Most of the furniture and figures (above) in the Cathedral are registered on the list of the historic monuments.

For the record, the Thelma Travelers are having fun and wish you were here with us!!!

Penny & Bill Werner enjoying the airport? Kind of out of sequence but it was such a lovely picture we had to get it into the blog somehow.

Did you notice that these were not wine glasses in Kevin and Jim's hands? Clairese got a kick out of something, probably because they had a chance to sit.

If you had a hat, you got into this picture on the square outside the Cathedral in Vallauris

Valerie certainly stands out under an art piece at the Foundation Maeght

Rosie Neumann at the Foundation Maeght

Kevin ponders an art piece at the Foundation Maeght


Jim McNally & Noreen O'Brien enjoy the shade of a vine overhead

The 8th floor of the hotel was a relaxing gathering place for our travelers. Rosie & Jim Neumann and Sandy Beyer and Judy Stevenson enjoy a glass of Vin!

A pool on the 8th floor as well.

September 17, 2013

Tomorrow we leave for France and the French Riviera! Even though we have led tours several times to France we still feel a deep sense of excitement and anticipation.  As we travel  we will strive to capture the beauty, cuisine and the art that awaits us and share with you on this blog.

Welcome Thelma Sadoff Art Center Travelers.  We are pleased to be partnering for the second time with "Art Boy", Kevin Miller and seeing great art and tasting delicious cuisine and wine.  Thank you!

On our travels we will actually have a French couple, James and Lucy Baucher meet us in Nice.  James is a former  summer exchange student tennis coach for my niece and nephew in Kenosha, WI.  James and Lucy have met us at least four times and have joined  our tour groups adding a unique French flavor.  Welcome James and Lucy!

Next blog entry  will be from Nice!

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