Wednesday, July 11, 2018

5 Artsy & Cool Day Treks from Paris

By Jacquelin Carnegie
In addition to all the wondrous things to see and do in Paris, there are also really interesting places to visit within a short Metro (subway) or RER (light rail) ride from the center of town.
MAGNIFICENT GROUNDS: MANSION, SCULPTURE GARDEN & PARK
Fondation de Coubertin
Coubertin Park (photo: JCarnegie)

Domaine de Coubertin, Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse
Tel: +33(0)1 30 85 69 60; www.coubertin.fr
(Open: Sept-Nov; Wed, Sat & Sun, 1:30pm-6pm. Entrance fee.)

This gorgeous place is only open to the public for two months each year, usually from the beginning of September to the start of November, so plan ahead. The stunning property was once the Coubertin estate. You can visit: a small museum (just a few exhibit rooms within the mansion) with a permanent collection and a changing exhibition each year; a lovely sculpture garden; and a magnificent sculpture park. The rest of the year, the Foundation is a training facility for apprentices in: Woodworking; Metal/Ironwork; Stonecutting, and Sculpting.
Dine/Do More: Le Chalet Café (3 Rue Ditte) is right across from the train station if you need a cup of coffee or a snack. Next store is La Giostra (5 Rue Ditte) an Italian restaurant. If you're feeling energetic, you can also walk or take a bus (#39.17 or #39.03) or a taxi into the pretty little town of Chevreuse for more options, plus a visit to the hilltop castle, Chateau de la Madeleine. You may like it there so much, you may want to stay overnight!
Getting There: From Paris, take RER (B) to the Gare de Saint-Rémy-lès-Chevreuse, about 20 minutes, then a 5-minute walk from the train station in the direction of Chevreuse.


BEAUTIFUL BUCOLIC SETTING: MANSION & GLORIOUS GROUNDS
Propriété Caillebotte
Maison Caillebotte
(photo: Ville de Yerres)

8 Rue de Concy, Yerres
Tel: +33(0)1 80 37 20 61; www.proprietecaillebotte.com
(Open: Garden-Park, daily, all year. Free; Mansion, March-Nov, Tues-Sun, 2pm-6:30pm. Entrance fee.)

After a 20-year restoration project, the Maison Caillebotte, a 19-century mansion--surrounded by 25 acres of beautifully-landscaped, garden-park--is open to the public. This lovely spot is the former home of the cultured Caillebotte family. One son became a priest; the other--Gustave Caillebotte--became a talented Impressionist painter. Even if you've never heard of him, a visit here offers a charming glimpse into the lifestyle of an affluent French family in the late-1800s. The Maison Caillebotte is tastefully furnished, the English-style garden-park is splendid with several follies and a potager (kitchen garden). Weather permitting, you can picnic on the grounds, go boating from a river landing right on the property, and see art exhibits in the l'Orangerie. This is such a pleasant place to spend an afternoon--so close to Paris--you'll want to return again and again.
Dine/Do More: La Table du Parc is a cafe/tea salon right on the Caillebotte property with a prix-fixe menu. Or, wander into the town of Yerres for more options. Getting There: From Paris' Gare de Lyon, take RER (D) to Yerres (direction Melun), about 20 minutes, then a 7-minute walk downhill or take the bus (line F).

A FAMOUS ARTIST SLEPT HERE
Jean Cocteau Maison
Cocteau's Chapel
(photo: 
Françoise Signeyrole)


15 rue du Lau, Milly-la-Forêt
Tel: +33(0)1 64 98 11 53; www.maisoncocteau.net
(Open: Wed-Sun, 2pm-6pm. Entrance fee.) 

Jean Cocteau was one of the most influential creative figures in the French avant-garde movement in the early 19th-century. He was a poet, writer, designer, playwright, artist, and filmmaker. While he grew up and lived in Paris, Cocteau bought this house in Milly-la-Forêt in 1947 as a refuge and lived here until his death in 1963. In the house, see several decorated rooms in his unique style as well as exhibits of his work and those by his illustrious friends. In the town, stop by the tiny Chapel of Saint-Blaise-des-Simples. It's decorated with stained glass windows and frescos by Cocteau, illustrating medicinal plants that can be found in the chapel's herb garden. (Cocteau is buried here.)
Chapel interior
(photo: 
F. Signeyrole)

Dine/Do More: The ancient town of Milly-la-Forêt is absolutely lovely. Download a walking tour and wander around. (In French, but it's easy to follow the map.) It's worth visiting on a Thursday afternoon for the market in La Halle, a covered-wooden marketplace, that's been in operation since 1479. For lunch or an overnight stay, Hotel/Restaurant: Le Cygne (23 Place du Marché) or Au Colombier (24 Avenue de Ganay). 
Getting There: From Paris' Gare de Lyon, take RER (D) to Gare de Maisse (direction Malesherbes), about 25 minutes, then a 15-minute taxi ride to the Maison. Be sure to call a taxi in advance; it costs around 20€ each way, another reason to stay for longer than a day! (Taxis: 06 07 72 29 39; 06 77 42 01 86; 06 80 40 50 58.)

FAMOUS FRENCH FABRIC
Musée de la Toile de Jouy
Chateau de l’Eglantine, 54 rue Charles de Gaulle, Jouy-en-Josas
Tel: +33(0)1 39 56 48 64; www.museedelatoiledejouy.fr
(Open: Tues-Sun; Entrance fee.)
Toile de Jouy
This museum is a fascinating place devoted to the history of the iconic French fabric Toile de Jouy, first manufactured here in 1760. The printed-cotton fabric, made popular by French royalty, was used for both clothing and home decorating. In Jouy-en-Josas, engravers created designs for the famous Toile de Jouy cloth, known for bucolic, country scenes--printed in either red, blue or black on a cream-colored background. Learn all about it on an excellent guided tour.
Toile de Jouy

Dine/Do More: Download a walking-tour booklet from the Jouy-en-Josas tourism office that also has dining recommendations. (In French, but it's easy to follow the map.) Getting There: From Paris' Gare Austerliz, take RER (C) to Petit Jouy-Les Loges (direction Versailles Chantiers), about an hour. The museum is a short walk from the train station.

CENTURIES OF CERAMICS
Sèvres - Cité de la Céramique
2 Place de la Manufacture, Sèvres
Tel: +33(0)1 46 29 22 00; www.sevresciteceramique.fr
(Open: Wed-Mon, 10am-5pm. Entrance fee.)
17-Century Faience, France 
Since 1740, Sèvres has been considered one of the finest porcelain manufacturers in the world. If you love ceramics, plan to spend hours in its incredible museum, Musée National de Céramique, showcasing the history of ceramics. The collection includes pieces from every time period--antiquity to modern, in every material--pottery, earthenware, stoneware, faience, porcelain, etc., and from all the places known for producing quality ceramics. You'll see Islamic creations, Greek vases, Delft tiles, Chinese and Japanese designs, pieces of Art Nouveau and Art Deco as well as works by contemporary artists.
Gustavo Perez, 2010
Dine/Do More: The town of Sèvres, considered a suburb, is right across the river from Paris. Sèvres' Cité de la Céramique, an enclave of 25 historic buildings, is on the edge of the Parc de Saint Cloud (where Louis XIV's brother lived). If you have any energy left after your museum visit, stroll through this magnificent park. Pack a picnic or dine at any of the nearby, local restaurants.
Getting There: Metro: #9 to Pont de Sèvres in Paris, about 20 minutes. Get off in the front of the train (sortie n°2), then walk across a small bridge to Sèvres and the museum, about 10 minutes. 


Caillebotte, Portraits à la Campagne (photo: Mathieu Ferrier)
Where To Stay
To get the most out of Paris, stay in a variety of places all around town: 
Getting There: Norwegian Air (norwegian.com) - This low-cost carrier has several routes to Paris from the US: New York (JFK), Los Angeles (LAX), & Ft. Lauderdale, FL (FLL). Coach is quite comfy but, with these great fares, go for extra legroom in Premium. It's also worth getting the package (about $45) for an assigned Seat, Luggage & a Meal--which can be pre-ordered online. And, since new routes are added all the time (to the Caribbean and other US & European destinations), you'll have lots of ways to use your Reward CashPoints.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Beyond the Beach: 5 Things You Didn't Know You Could Do in Curaçao

By Jacquelin Carnegie
The island of Curaçao, in the Dutch Caribbean (formally the Netherlands Antilles), is right next to Aruba and well worth a visit. This island has beautiful beaches and a fascinating history. 
 Willemstad
(photo: Curaçao Tourist Board)
Plus, it’s outside the hurricane zone! In addition to lounging on a beach chair, you can visit Curaçao's beautiful capital, Willemstad, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, filled with lovely, restored Dutch colonial buildings, great shopping, waterfront restaurants, and interesting historic sights. If a destination wedding appeals to you, get married in the oldest synagogue or in a beautiful old church. Already got kids: go on an ostrich safari. In to wellness: try herbal remedies. Interested in history: visit an anthropological museum and take a culinary/cultural walking tour, then head back to the beach and relax.
TAKE A CULINARY WALKING TOUR
Culinary/Cultural Walking Tour
Floating Market
(image: Baselmans)
(Clarita, claritahagenaar@hotmail.com; Cell/WhatsApp: 005999 682 0942) - A wonderful way to explore Curaçao's culture is through food. Go on a culinary stroll through the historic, old town of Willemstad, stopping for a fruit smoothie in the Otrobanda neighborhood before crossing the bridge into the Punda district. Check out the fresh fruits and veggies at the Floating Market, examine the day’s catch at the new Round Market. Then, have lunch with the locals at the Old Market (Yvonne di Plaza’s booth is a good pick).
TRY HERBAL REMEDIES
Den Paradera: Dinah Veeris’ Botanical Garden
Seru Grandi Kavel 105A, Banda Riba; Tel: 9/767-5608; www.dinahveeris.com 
Dinah Veeris provides traditional, Caribbean herbal treatments by propagating over 300 species of wild medicinal plants in her botanical garden. Visit and try some of the remedies from herbal creams to coconut soap.
Aloe Vera Plantation  
Kura Hulanda's beach 

West Groot Sint Joris, Santa Catharina; Tel: 9/767-5577; www.ecocityprojects.com
Aloe Vera contains more than 75 nutrients. The gel is considered a “miracle cure” for the skin and the juice is recommended as a nutritional supplement. Learn how it’s harvested and processed and pick up some pure aloe products.
GIVE YOUR KIDS A UNIQUE EXPERIENCE
The Curaçao Ostrich Farm 
(photo: Ostrich Farm)
West Groot Sint Joris, Santa Catharina; Tel: 9/747-2777; curacaoostrichfarm.com
If you’re traveling with kids, take a “photo safari” ride through the farm and learn all about these weird and wonderful birds; it’s a fun and educational experience. Afterwards, if you’re brave enough, chow down on an ostrich burger in the lovely open-air restaurant.
VISIT A FASCINATING MUSEUM & ART GALLERIES
Kurá Hulanda Museum
Klipstraat 9, Otrobanda, Willemstad; Tel: 9/434-7765; www.kurahulanda.com/en/museumx
After soaking up some rays, spend time in this fascinating, anthropological museum. The exhibits focus on the predominant cultures of Curaçao offering a world-class chronicle of the Origin of Man, the African slave trade, West African Empires, Mesopotamian relics and Antillean art.
Market (artist: Jan "Jakke" Francke) -
Landhuis Daniel

Art Galleries - Take home some meaningful souvenirs; artwork by local talent: curacao-art.com
Gallery Alma Blou (Landhuis Habaai, Frater Radulphusweg 4, Otrobanda, Willemstad; Tel: 9/462-8896; www.galleryalmablou.com) - This gallery has a lovely collection of Curaçao paintings, photographs, pottery, sculpture and handmade jewelry.

Landhuis Bloemhof (Santa Rosaweg 6, Saliña, Willemstad; Tel: 9/737-5775; www.bloemhof.cw) - Built in 1735, this

Mon Art (artist: Herman van Bergen)
plantation (landhuis) has been a venue for art exhibits since the 1950s, showcasing local and international artists.
Mon Art Craft & Gift Shop (Rif Fort, Otrobanda, Willemstad; Tel: 9/462-2977; http://bit.ly/2f2SVyb) - This shop has unique, local, handmade crafts, paintings, gifts, and souvenirs.
GET MARRIED
After exploring Curaçao, you might fall in love with the place and each other. No matter what your religion, you’ll find a wedding planner to help you organize the big day.
Mikvé Israel-Emmanuel (Hanchi di Snoa 29, Punda, Willemstad; Tel: 9/461-1067; www.snoa.com)
This is the oldest synagogue continuously used for religious services in the Western Hemisphere. It was built in 1732 by a Sephardic Jewish community that relocated from Amsterdam. With its sand floor, cobalt-blue windows, dark mahogany interior and candle-lit, brass chandeliers, it is just stunningly beautiful.
Fort Church (Fort Amsterdam, Punda, Willemstad; Tel: 9/461-1139; http://bit.ly/2I8cjWv) - Built in 1769, this is Curaçao's oldest Protestant church.
Carnival (Jan-Feb) is a great time to visit 
(photo: Curaçao Tourist Board)

Basilica Santa Ana (Breedestraat 31, Otrabanda, Willemstad; Tel: 9/462-3507; http://bit.ly/2D4qrfy) - Founded in 1752, Santa Ana was elevated to basilica and co-cathedral status by Pope Paul VI in 1975.
Where to Stay: There are all kinds of accommodations in Curaçao (www.curacao.com) from rental apartments to resort hotels. Here are two nice options:
Kurá Hulanda (Langestraat 8, Otrobanda, Willemstad; Tel: 9/434-7700; www.kurahulanda.com) - This is a unique, stunning place for an in-town experience. The Kurá Hulanda is made up of beautifully-restored, little townhouses in the Otrobanda section of Willemstad. You'll feel as if you’re staying in a small European village, not in a hotel. (There is also a beach-side sister property.)
Kura Hulanda


Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort (Santa Barbara Plantation, Porta Blancu, Nieuwpoort; Tel: 9/840-1234; http://bit.ly/1k0fyvp)
This is a great location if you’re into golf or just want to relax. On 27-secluded acres, the hotel looks out on Spanish Water Bay and the Caribbean Sea. The Old Quarry is the island’s only 18-hole championship golf course, designed by Pete Dye. There’s also great diving and water sports, 3 pools and a private beach, tennis courts, and hiking & biking trails. Get eco-friendly treatments at the Atabei Spa. For kids ages 3-12, there’s Camp Arawak.
Getting There: Flights on American and JetBlue from the USA; KLM from Europe.

Willemstad, Curaçao (photo: Rodry)
Editor's Note: a) As of 2010, the Netherlands Antilles no longer exists as such. Curaçao is now autonomous, but there's still Dutch influence. b) The currency is the Netherlands Antillean guilder (florin), but the dollar is widely accepted. c) The local languages are Dutch and Papiamentu (Curaçao creole), but almost everyone speaks English and Spanish.
[A version of this article first appeared on Frommers.com]