Your First Trip to Paris June 6 -13, 2016

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6 Days 7 Nights

$2999 Single - Land Only
$2499 Double - Land Only

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Driving in France

If you're considering driving in France, here are a few things you might want to think about first. How good is your French? Reading, writing and comprehension? One of my first French adventures found me on the Gorge of Galamus (Val de l'Aude) a little tiny car. The road is essentially carved into the side of a vertical cliff several hundred feet high with a roaring river down below. There is maybe a two feet high wall on the gorge side. Not scary enough? It's only one lane with two way traffic. I was on the gorge side. How did I get there, you ask? If you know me, I'm sure you'll laugh when I say my bravado outweighed my common sense. Due to some issues with my flights, my bags hadn't arrived and I didn't have my Michelin map book, AND my French was only good enough at that time to interpret the part of the sign that said Caution High Winds. There will also be times when you have that old guy working his farm for directions or times when you will need to know what's the next town with a gas station, so brush up before you go.

But what I really wanted to tell you about was this great lower priced car rental agency in France called Rent-a-Car. I saved at least $100 on the car rental (for 4 days) when we visited the Loire valley last November, but again, it was due to the fact that I can read French. Also, when we picked up the car, the gentleman couldn't speak English. (This is also why I take people to Paris, to make it easier for you.) Ask one of your French francophone friends to help you with the reservation and maybe jot down a few phrases, like "I pre-paid this on the internet." and "What time do you close?" Mind you, they will respond in French.

A few other differences are roundabouts and tollroads, and the fact that there are not a lot of what we call "freeways" here in California. A lot of roads from one town to the next maybe just one or two lanes, going through or nearby towns and villages, via the roundabout.

At first the roundabout may seem a little confusing, but it's really very easy to use. There is always a sign announcing the roundabout, with the name of the town (or your next direction) marked at the exits of each road. Hopefully before you get to the roundabout, you already know which town/direction you are going. If you see it's the second one, get off on the second one. The entrance to the road is usually marked with the name of the town/direction. If you miss your exit, pas de probleme, you just go around again.

The largest highways are tollroads, and are known as autoroutes. You might not have a toll for a few miles, but sooner or later the tollboths appear. You will be warned by a giant sign that states "peage". Take your ticket and pay when you get off at your exit. Try to have exact change and don't lose the ticket, or you will have to pay some enormous amount. There will also be a few oases on the tollroad for a bite to eat or to gas up your car, and some even have picnic areas.

Another thing to note is that if you are trying to get to a small town, there may not be an exit near it, and you will either have to get off early and make your way to it, or pass it and get off at the next exit and go back. This is really important if you are trying to find a B&B and it's in a little village out in the middle of farm land. It's also essential to have a good map, and I highly recommend the Michelin map book of France.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Rockabilly Revenge 6

This great event is coming up this Saturday, February 28, 2009, starting at 3PM. It's at one of the coolest clubs in Southern Cailfornia, The Blue Cafe of Long Beach. Not only is it a few minutes walk to ocean, it serves delicious food and drinks, has two floors and two stages of entertainment, and it even has a huge area of pool tables. Oops, and I forgot to mention it even has a great outside patio area as well. True California ambiance. The show is all ages until 9PM, and 21 and over thereafter. We'll be on the main stage about 6:30. Be there.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Dr. Phyllis Irwin Celebration

Another event of note will be honoring the distinguished career (and 80th birthday) of Dr. Phyllis Irwin, Professor Emerita CSU Fresno on March 11, 2009 at 8PM in the Concert Hall.

Phyllis is one of my fellow members at Spectrum Gallery, and this event honoring her fifty-plus years at CSUF (going back to when it was just plain ol' Fresno State College, will also feature a photography exhibit of her images as well as a reception after the concert. If you know this dear lady,please wish her hearty congratulations and a happy birthday.

Eternal Charles Aznavour et Edith Piaf

Did I mention I was a Francophile? Mais, bien sur!

And, also a member (and past board member) of Alliance Francaise de Fresno, a worldwide non-profit that promotes the French language. Our next event will highlight the lives of the world's most reknown French singers: Charles Aznavour and Edith Piaf. The event will take place on March 17, 2009 at CSU Fresno Smittcamp Alumni House at 7:30PM. This free lecture will be in French and is open to the public.

When I take guests to Paris, our trek through Pere-Lachaise cemetary always stops to pay our respects at Ms. Piaf's gravesite. To learn more about her life, I highly recommend the recent movie about her life La Vie en Rose, or on your next trip to Paris you can visit The Edith Piaf Museum.

As for a Fresno connection, it is a known fact that Mr. Aznavour's daughter has lived most of her adult life in Fresno.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Brisk and Sunny in Ol' Fresno

It was a truly beautiful day yesterday as we waited in Old Town Clovis for the cyclists of the Amgen Tour to hit the finish line. I'm sure everyone was quite proud of what a great day was offered to the riders with lots of sunshine and snow on the mountains.

Clovis was totally on the ball with free shuttle service for the crowd. Some shops were open with delicious treats like The Robin's Nest, my favorite antique store on Pollasky, and some shops were closed with their keepers on the street with the rest of us. The only downside was giving hundreds of little kids yellow chalk to write in the streets...we weren't expecting to see the exciting end of the race in a cloud of yellow smoke that choked everybody, and you know it had to wreak havoc with the riders as well.

So, the good lord must have been listening, because not only did Tom Boonen ride, but he came in second. My mother was elated. She proudly waved her Flemish Lion, and she even had press members come up to see if she was really Belgian. Needless to say, she was on cloud nine, and even more excited to get home and watch the race in its entirety. We got as close to him as we could as he talked to the press and he waved when he saw the flag.

Cavendish, an American for the Colombian team, was the overall winner of the stage. Needless to say, trying to grab a good shot in the flurry of riders and chalk dust was not really going to happen.

There was a huge showing of the LiveStrong Army as well, with my friends from the Mofo Party Band and their families there to show support.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Amgen Tour of California

Today is the big day that world cycling enthusiasts gather to see the peloton cross the finish line in Clovis, California. They are predicting the riders will arrive about 3:30 this afternoon in front of 25,000 people. Riders will include Belgium's Tom Boonen, last year's winner Levi Leipheimer, and that other guy, Lance Armstrong. I'll be taking my mom, Josie Caraveo, who is an avid race fan, where we'll be cheering on Tom, who won 75 races last year alone.

If you are truly a cycling enthusiast, then you should know about the National Cycling Museum in Roeselare, West Flanders, Belgium, called the Nationaal Wielermuseum. As far as I know, this is the only museum in the world dedicated to bicycle racing.

My mother's family has a long history of cyclists, and at the turn of the century (last century) my uncle's father was the National Champion of Belgium, and that is why this museum is in their home town. His name was Hector Martin and some of the artifacts you see here were donated by my uncle's family.

When I visited the museum in 2006 cycling star Freddy Maertens was the curator and he was more than genial. I even had permission to take a few photographs.The museum has a permanent exhibit of cycling through the years, and also has new rotating shows such as photography exhibits and, when I was there, the famous Tour de France yellow jersey.
So now you know, Belgium is not just about beer and chocolate, beautiful lace and incredible artwork. And for you Americans who don't get out much, no, they don't serve Belgian Waffles for breakfast, so don't ask.

Monday, February 16, 2009

President's Day

It has been a busy weekend pour moi. Band practice in the OC, beating home the storm, and even gallery sitting at Spectrum. There is an incredible show at Spectrum at this very moment. It's our 2009 New Members Show, but don't let the name fool you. The caliber of this work is marvelous, so don't let it slip by without taking it in. (Maybe even buy one, and help support the gallery!)

Hmmm, the other thing I wanted to mention is that I have scheduled my birthday show for May 16, 2009 at Audie's Olympic. Stay tuned for the sordid details, and let me start the rumor that Hellbound Hayride has promised to play.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Friday the 13th Unlucky for Some

Where do I begin? You are just lucky I haven't had my coffee. First, it's Friday the 13th, it's cold and rainy here in Fresno, and I'm debating where to start. Let's do art first.

Right now I have an image up at Fresno City Hall. It is part of a group exhibit for Parties for the Parkway 2009 and will continue at that location through the end of February. The show starts a yearlong series of fun and fundraising events for the preservation of the San Joaquin River. Growing up in Fresno, the river has always been part of my fond memories. My image even evokes a simpler time, and is called Clovis, California 1992 . It's an archival digital print of one of my first hand colored images. The same image is also currently the cover of the Fresno Free College Foundation Annual Report 2008 that celebrates this important non-profit's fortieth year. Please feel free to visit the show weekdays 8-5 through the end of the month. You can find my image on the first floor not far from the reception desk. The show continues onto the second floor as well.

As of March 5, 2009 the entire collection will be located at the Clovis Veterans Memorial Building for the Kickoff Party that starts at 5:30PM. Tickets are $35 for members and $40 for non-members. For more info visit San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust or call 559/248-8476.

The Rockabilly Revenge 6 in Long Beach, California at the Blue Cafe will feature Cattie Ness and the Revenge for our first show in quite a while. In fact, this was the longest break I have ever taken and am glad to report we've been practicing with our new drummer Johnny Rage, and it's all good! So mark your calendar for this one as it's just around the corner on February 28, 2009. Deke Dickerson will be the super-duper headliner, with two stages of bands, plus food, drinks, pool and just plain fun. And it starts early, at 3PM, all ages, and 21 and older after 9PM. We can even pre-sale you tickets at $14. $18 at the door. Visit Our MySpace for more info on getting tickets.