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April 22, 2019, France

French charm

Hafiz Rasid shares snapshots of his favourite moments during a trip to France

Hafiz Rasid

The French has a saying “Paris ne s’est pas fait en un jour!”, which means Paris wasn’t built in a day. I feel that the same philosophy applies when you are exploring what the city, and beyond, have to offer.

During an eight-day trip organised by Trafalgar, I was part of a group accompanied a travel director who shared insights into the history of every destination on our itinerary. We also met local experts who shared their knowledge of certain places at various parts of our trip. So for once, I left my guidebook at home and gave Google a rest, and simply turned to them when I had questions and took photos to keep these travel memories alive.

Here are four of my favourite moments captured during my jaunts in France.

Art in Montmartre
I had fun retracing the footsteps of artists who have called Montmartre their home over the century with Trafalgar’s Paris Hidden Gem itinerary, led by its travel director Jonathan Holburn, who brought us to little-known places in the area to appreciate various art forms and art history other than at the Louvre.

Fans of French writer Marcel Aymé will love the quirky Passe-Muraille sculpture of a man partially stuck in a wall — a nod to a character in its similarly titled novel who suffered the same predicament. You will find this artwork by Jean Marais, a French actor and sculptor, in the wall that is in front of the writer’s house.

If you are with your beau at the Jehan Rictus garden square, check out the Wall of Love, marked by scribbles of “I Love You” in over 250 languages by artists Frédéric Baron and Claire Kito.

We also found the narrow alleyway at Rue d’Orchampt a great place to admire street art by a new wave of young artists who are reviving the defiant artistic spirit, just like how the artists of yesteryears shook up the heart of Monmartre when they made it their home.

On a high at Mont Saint-Michel
A day trip to Mont-Saint-Michel feels like a pilgrimage than an excursion. Climbing the steep stairs and the winding walkways, I couldn’t help but empathise with the monks and the faithful making their way to the top.

As I made my way through the winding walkways, I took several much-needed breaks to refuel. And of course, I had to do what pilgrims did in the past — stop by the famous La Merè Poulard to savour its legendary souffle omelette. The rich, buttery omelette is said to be prepared the same way as it was by

Madame Poulard herself in the 1800s. When I finally reached the top, I was greeted by the golden statue of St Michael and the dragon. That was certainly a sweet reward after overcoming my own test of commitment — and fitness level — to reach the Benedictine abbey.

In noble company
Fancy living like a character in Downton Abbey, at least for a couple of hours? And rub shoulders with a nobleman?

As part of Trafalgar’s Be My Guest experience, we got to explore a functioning chateau where its resident, Count Rémy de Scitivaux, still lives with his family.

Stepping into the 17th century Château d’Éporcé felt like being in a real-life Downton Abbey. There were cows grazing in the lush meadow, and a moat surrounding the chateau, complete with a now-defunct watchtower that served as a guard post.

Count Rémy welcomed us with warm French hospitality and a generous spread of charcuterie and cheese spread as well as macarons, which we heartily dined at various rooms of our choosing in the chateau.

Paying homage
We also sat down for a viewing of a historical film presentation of the D-day landings and the building of the Mulberry Harbour at the Musee du debarquement’s cinema.

When we left the museum, I was hungry for bite. So I checked out Arromanches’ famous savoury crepe, the galette.

The Pays d’Auge galette pays homage to the similarly named region’s contribution to French cuisine as a dairy producer with its cheese and cream stuffed crepe.

The excitement of our tour group gave way to respectful silence as we reached the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial next.

Walking among over 9,000 graves of fallen soldiers who had bravely lost their lives in the D-day landing and subsequent military operations was a solemn affair.

GETTING THERE
• I flew direct from Singapore to Paris on Air France.

TRAVELLER’S TIPS
• October to December is a low season for travel in France, so it is an ideal destination if you want to avoid crowds. Tour prices will be more affordable too.

• If you plan on going on a longer trip, Trafalgar offers several tour itineraries that cover the go-to places and hidden gems in Paris and the neighbouring arrondissements.

• Air France provides the option of ordering fine cuisine on flights departing from Paris. You can choose from five special “A La Carte” menus on long-haul flights in Premium Economy and Economy cabins.

 

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