Sorry to disappoint, but this post will not be about cheese. Although, I can attest to its superior qualities judging by my husband's rapturous indulgence as frequently as possible. We Americans are invariably amazed by the comparative svelt-a-tude of the French given their seemingly large portions (even at Paul Bocuse) and their rather continuous consumption of cream.
But, enough about food. I'm hear to report on some off-the-beaten path observations from my third trip to France.
1) Lyon: the promenade along the Rhone River is divided into unique sections, each with its own navigational sign. In the afternoon or evening, the pedestrian walks and bike paths are alive with activity. Surprisingly, the city does not feel the need to publicize what appears to be a recent, excellently executed renovation, with a website, so no link is currently available. I'll add pictures later. What most distinguishes this inviting development are the changing environs that reflect the heritage and current uses of the parts of the city: from meadows scattered with wild-flowers to playgrounds and skate parks, the promenade progresses from floral to funky and back again, creating a public space that appears truly inviting to locals and welcoming to tourists alike.
2) Noramandy: the Caen Memorial Museum was the first stop on a Normandy WWII history bus tour we took as a day trip from Paris. Our tour-guide wisely advised us not to try to see the entire museum in the hour we were given to explore before lunch. Directed to view only the section about the Normandy allied invasion, I was still overwhelmed by the overabundance of text lining the walls, with photos used as illustration. Of course, the museum was charged with the difficult burden of presenting content in French, English, and German, but it was still disappointing to find the walls laid out like a text-book with artifacts used as illustration. The most fascinating section, at least for me, was the one about the invasion's impact on the inhabitants of Normandy's small towns. Video oral histories provided fascinating, and at times, shocking insights into the experiences of the locals who were caught between the necessity of the allied invasion to liberate France and end the war with Germany, and the realities of their towns destroyed by bombardments with limited protection offered to the old and the young in church basements. Propaganda posters put forward by the Vichy government also provided a unique glimpse into the universal technique of the imperial puppet government using the plight of the citizenry to divert popular scorn away from their own policies.
Stay tuned for Paris's sewers and Versailles...