Chauvet Cave: Now UNESCO's Oldest World Heritage Site

35 days ago

Horses - © Jean Clottes - Le Centre National de Préhistoire

The committee meeting at UNESCO’s 38th session has added the Prehistoric Painted Cave of Pont-d’Arc, known as Grotte Chauvet, in the Ardèche region of Southern France, on the World Heritage List of cultural properties. The cave is thought to date back 36,000 years.

The cave sits on some pretty interesting property, as you can see on the map below. The gorges of the river Ardèche start here, and the stretch between Vallon Pont-d’Arc and the point where the Ardèche river joins the Rhone is popular with canoe and kayak enthusiasts.

You can’t visit the original cave these days. But just wait until next spring. It turns out that now that money is flowing, they’ll create a replica cave like they did at Lascaux. Despite the fact that Lascaux is much more widely known, Chauvet at 8000 square meters is quite a bit bigger than Lascaux at 1500 square meters. The Lascaux facsimile cave is a mere 500 meters square, which Chauvet’s will be around 3000. The Cavern of Pont-d’Arc replica is expected to be open in spring of 2015, so plan your vacation now.

The closest town is Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France, which becomes a madhouse with adventure tourists during the summer season. You might wish to come in the spring when the water is still high but with fewer folks on the river. There is lots of camping around the real and the fake cave site. You can also search for the best hotel prices in Vallon-Pont-d’Arc, France

Map of Grotte Chauvet and Area

Wandering Man


Maxim's de Paris: When it's time to experience Paris, then and now

114 days ago

The legendary Maxim’s combines opulence, living history, and timeless fun. Opened in 1893, in the midst of the Belle Époque, Maxim’s became and remains the last word for elegance, where kings and dukes, duchesses and courtesans, danced, gossiped, smoked, and feasted (at least, the men did). King Edward VII (England), he of the Edwardian era, rotund figure, and many mistresses, dined here, at the Red Table, still reserved for him. The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were habitués. Noted fashion designer Pierre Cardin purchased the entire building in the 1960’s, renovated Chez Maxim’s, and housed his amazing art nouveau collection over three floors upstairs.

Maxim’s is open Monday through Saturday. Be warned: it is expensive! Pierre Cardin has taken Maxim’s into the 21st Century, while revitalizing and continuing its unique Belle Époque character. The cabaret is the traditional heart of Maxim’s, featuring fine dining and dancing to piano jazz. The dress code is quite formal. The cuisine is Belle Époque French: refined, esoteric, and rich, e.g., crepe veuve joyeuse (Merry Widow) . . . hmmmm. . . Maxim’s International Club is for art lovers, offering passionate discussions and exhibits with dinner under the Tiffany ceiling. Parties at the Bar Imperial are much more informal, pitched to the young, chic, movers and shakers of toute Paris. It features modern artists, musicians, video and light displays. The monthly invitation-only “supernatural” evenings start at midnight. Apparently, there is even karaoke! (Other than cabaret, activities not personally verified.)

According to the website, but not independently verified, Maxim’s has 3 boats moored at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, available for special events, product launches, gala dinners, receptions, and the like. They even have their own free parking. The Bateau Ivre cruises the Seine, seating 100 for lunch or dinner or hosting 120 for cocktail receptions. For an even-more-luxurious experience, try Le Maxim’s sur Seine, described as a “floating palace”, with two decks. The upper deck can seat 100 or host 200 for cocktails. The summer terrace can serve 40. The lower deck is a lounge for 220 seated guests or 350 for cocktail receptions. Both decks have dance floors.

And now, the ageless Pierre Cardin has added something new: a high fashion homage to the prestige and luxury of Maxim’s and of toute Paris: Maxim’s La Nuit. Maxim’s La Nuit offers high fashion collections for men and women. The first collection debuted November 2013. New collections were shown in January and February 2014. Check it out at:

Guided tours to the Art Nouveau Museum are available from Wednesday-Sunday, in the afternoons. Large groups can combine the tour with lunch or dinner. Tours are available in English and French. I took this tour and loved it. I was almost too sick to walk, the day was gray and cold, and it was still one of the highlights of my trip. Pictures and more will follow.

A 360 degree on-line tour, pictures, and reservation form, are available at:


On Sunday afternoons, starting January 16th, drop by the Theatre Maxim’s for a performance of “Moi, Colette”, written by Pierre-Andre Helene, directed by Theodora Mytakis, and headlining Veronique Fourcaud. Paris tends to close down on Sundays, which are still reserved for family and friends, so something to do in the late afternoons is a welcome change from museum-going.

Information and reservations at:

Maxim’s is located at 3 rue Royale in the 8th arrondissement, quite close to the rue de Rivoli, in the Champs Elyséés district.
Telephone: +33 (0) 1 42 65 30 47
Métro: Concorde

GPS: 48.867142/12.3223540000000185

So, for fun, food, and culture in the heart of Paris, check out at Maxim’s de Paris:



Happy Poisson d'Avril!

118 days ago

I hope everyone enjoyed April Fish day today, the French version of April Fool’s Day. Did anyone get tagged with a red fish? Did anyone get a chance to window shop the designer chocolatiers? Were the windows full of chocolate fish and strange chocolate seafood creations? Of course they were. One can count on the French to apply wit to craft, which is one of the many, many reasons why I love France.

Bienvenue Printemps! Welcome Spring!



The Louvre: Taking it Lightly

118 days ago

Some people have little weekend homes, the farmhouse in Normandy, the hunting lodge in Picardy, cottages in the woods, and the like. Louis XIV had Marly. When Versailles got to be just too much, he would retreat to his little country home in Marly, starting in 1684. The central chateau was for himself and his family only. It was flanked by two wings of six pavilions each. Eleven housed favored courtiers and one was dedicated to bathrooms. The wings were connected to the chateau by lush, fragrant arbors and separated by cascades and water works. Marly was small compared to Versailles, but the scale is hard for the ordinary person to grasp. Etiquette was more relaxed and it was possible to have the king’s attention. When he announced a potential visit, courtiers would surround him and whisper “Marly, Sire?” in the hopes of receiving the royal nod. The picture below is a painting of the chateau, courtesy of the public commons of Wikipedia.

Marly as it once was

The chateau did not survive, but even the remains are lovely.

Marly as it is now

I bring up Marly to make my point about taking pot-luck at the Louvre. We had finished “doing” the exhibits we wanted to see, notably Egypt, and were standing in the Carrousel wondering what to do next. As every guidebook agrees, the Louvre is huge and overwhelming and so full of options as to be paralyzing. We broke the stasis by randomly choosing an aisle and diving in. We found ourselves in a huge, gorgeous sculpture garden, radiant with natural light. It turned out to house some of the few remaining sculptures from Marly. We would never have known to look for them, but here they were.

Urn from Gardens, with 6’ human to show scale

great machine, marly

As you can tell, these statues are huge! Yet, they take up only a tiny piece of the Louvre.

Marly was also famous for the “great machine at Marly” which was the huge waterworks that fed the fountains, cascades, and pools at Versailles. The great machine is gone, too. Little remains of Marly but a few vistas and views, again courtesy of the public commons of Wikipedia.

The great machine at Marly is featured in Plague of Lies, a mystery by Judith Rock that features former soldier, now Jesuit, Charles du Luc. The mysteries are always intriguing and honest. She somehow immerses the reader in the life of the period so naturally that it seems like you’re right there, in Paris and Versailles, perhaps taking chocolate in Paris with La Reynie, Chief of the Paris Police. La Reynie was the man stuck with telling Louis XIV that Mme. De Montespan, then his main mistress and mother of his children, was strongly implicated in the Affair of the Poisons. Better him than me.

Our random dive into the Louvre was richly rewarded, easy, and fun. If you don’t have much time, see what’s on your highlight list, take a breather, and dive in.



Angelina Paris - Could this be the best hot chocolate ever?

137 days ago

The best hot chocolate experience of my life, worship-worthy, occurred on a cold, rainy day on the rue de Rivoli in Paris. I was in search of art nouveau and respite. We had gotten soaked at Versailles, a surprise to all in July. I had heard about Angelina (formerly Rumpelmeyer’s), a Belle Epoque (1903) chocolate and pastry palace. The reviews talked about “faded glory”, Proustian memories of the past, and so on, but promised that the chocolat a l’africaine would change my life.

It did.

First of all, Angelina was gorgeous even then and is more so now. The classic mosaic floor, the hanging frosted flower-shaped lamps, the arched galleries, beautiful murals, and white-draped tables are all there. The pastry case is mirrored and beautifully lit. One is definitely in the presence of greatness. But it’s very friendly greatness.

Bill and I were obviously U.S. tourists, despite my valiant efforts to speak French and to exhibit politesse. But we were greeted with genuine smiles and shown to a nice table. And then . . .

“Chocolate chaud a l’ancienne” or l’africaine. According to Angelina’s website, the chocolate a l’africaine is a blend of four chocolates. It is rich, dark, heavy, and almost refuses to be poured. It’s almost like melted chocolate bars. The scent is intoxicating; it is essence of chocolate and heaven. The lovely waitresses bring the chocolate in a pot, with a vat of real, lightly sweetened, whipped cream (crème chantilly), water for antidote, and cups. Reluctantly, the chocolate flowed into our cups. It was more like a rich sauce than a drink. Then we piled clouds of cream on top. And the chocolate was so thick, so rich, so luscious that the whipped cream melted across the top, so we had chocolate, cream, and then fluff. My husband, who was then not-a-foodie, whispered “Oh. My. God”. I could hear the capital letters.

Angelina serves breakfast until 11:45 a.m., light lunches, such as club sandwiches, goat cheese and leek quiche, omelets (I’m trying the truffle omelette next time), croque monsier (of course), and other options. The pastry menu changes with the seasons and is magnificent in scope. Even a simple éclair (allegedly simple) is elegant, with choux pastry, bitter dark chocolate cream filling, and a glassy-smooth coat of chocolate icing. Check out the website for a list of seasonal pastries, each with a well-lit photograph and description.

There’s even a store, with take away pastries, fine sweet groceries, a bottled or powder version of the hot chocolate, teas, chestnut cream, chocolates, cakes, and other delights. A good strategy might be to rent an apartment and then fill it with goodies from Angelina . . . .

Present-day Angelina is revitalized and imperial in scope. There are seven Paris locations:

1. The original on the rue de Rivoli,
2. At the Louvre, in the Aile Richelieu (must be Museum visitor to enter)
3. At the Luxembourg Museum, 19, rue de Vaugirard, Paris, 6th
4. 40 Blvd. Haussman, first floor, Mode Femme, Paris 9th
5. Left Bank, 108 rue du Bac, Paris 7th
6. Palais des Congres, 2, Place de la Port Maillot, Paris 17th
7. Jardin d’Acclimation in the Bois de Boulogne (must be visitor to enter)

And, in keeping with the luxury of the experience, two locations at Versailles:

1. Chateau de Versailles, 1st floor of the Pavillion d’Orleans (must be visitor to enter)
2. Park of the Chateau de Versailles, Petit Trianon, entrance at the Gate Saint Antoine

I definitely recommend at least one visit to the original site, to complete a lovely day of exploring the Palais Royal and museum-going. One can almost hear the laughter and gossip of yesteryear.
Further, the gilt and glamour of the two Angelinas at Versailles are perfectly in keeping with the glorious new restoration work there. A nice cup of tea and a lovely pastry at Petit Trianon sounds just the ticket, n’est ce pas? A trip to Lyon would not be complete without a stop at Angelina’s either, at the Galeries Lafayette, Centre Commercial La Part-Dieu, 42 Blvd. Eugene Deruelle, Lyon, 3rd.

Finally, for the world-traveler who needs a taste of Paris in far-flung locations, Angelina has opened tea rooms in Japan, China, and Dubai.

Hours vary from site to site and from summer-winter, so please check the website or call first. The website is:

Drink up!



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