Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Where to go on my French trip?

My name is Katherine and I'm a mapoholic.

I love maps. I collect maps. I have shelves for maps. I frame antique maps. Basically I'm just an unrepentent mapoholic.

So, when visiting a country I'm not likely to just go and buy one map. That would be too simple.
  • There are of course merits to maps at different scales.
  • Plus of course they have different boundaries.
  • Then they have different graphic treatments - which tend to make them more or less easy on the eye and accessible in terms of interpretation.
  • Plus they tend to have different purposes, ones for driving, ones for finding your way round a town or city and ones for being to locate streets within a town or city, ones for using public transport, ones for finding museums and ones for finding the shops!
Which is a long way round of saying that when travelling with a sketchbook abroad, the maps come too!

The section for maps of France in Stamfords
photo copyright Katherine Tyrrell

I'm going to be visiting France in the near future - and needed some maps. Stanfords (in Long Acre) have rather a lot of French maps from which to choose and I spent rather a long time in there last Saturday afternoon. After all, if it's good enough for customers as diverse as Shackleton, Bill Bryson and Michael Palin it's bound to provide me with what I need!

Below is the route map of where we will be visiting and the maps top right are part of my haul!

France 2009: Route Map

Plus here are some of the highlights of where I will travelling with my sketchbook for:
  • four days musee visiting and sightseeing in Paris
  • then two days "doing a Monet" - with a visit to Monet's garden at Giverny followed by an overnight stay in Rouen. I'm rather proud of the fact I've managed to get booked into the hotel which is bang opposite the front of the cathedral - so I'll be up early that morning and out sketching in the early morning light - "doing a Monet"
  • followed by a detour across Normandy to the coast and Mont St Michel and a stay in a chateau
  • next travelling down to the Loire and Touraine - possibly encountering Laura of Laurelines en route if she gets to Britanny
  • then 6 nights in a cottage in the Touraine - in the grounds of a chateau just north of Tours. To get us in the mood as we'll be visiting the chateaux of the Loire valley - Chenonceau, Azay-Le-Rideau, Villandry and Chinon - and meeting up with Ronelle (African Tapestry / Coin Perdu) in her french kitchen in Montlouis-sur-Loire
The itinerary is essentially driven and dictated by my 15 year old niece with some minor tweaks by my sister and me who are providing the chaperone/chauffeur service! :)

I'm not going to go into any more detail at this stage as I'm planning to shedule posts which will publish while I'm away which will say where I am and what I think I will be visiting nearly every day. I'll be an absentee blogowner leaving a trail across France..... ;)

So - dear readers - to make this a bit more of an interactive visit - what I would like are your recommendations of great places to go and/or see

What are your ' do not miss' places to go? These might be
  • either from the point of view ofseeing great art
  • or a great place to visit?
  • or a great location from which to sketch
I'm particularly interested in locations from which to sketch - where are the good views?

Links: Stanfords 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9LP
Tel:020 7836 1321


  1. oh you'll be going by Falaise - there's a castle there you'd like with the remains of a moat, now a lake. You can part there too - and do some lovely sketches :>)

    William the Conqueror was born there.

  2. Interesting to meet another mapaholic. "Mrs DJ" thinks it's just me...!

    On your way from Giverny to Rouen, Vernon has some interesting old Normandy townscapes and sights by the river Seine. If you can use country roads from Vernon to Rouen then a stop at Les Andelys has good views from its castle over the townscape.

    In Rouen, St Catherines Hill gives a unique view over the city and the river: at the East end of the main drag along the North bank of the river ignore all the main roads and look for a residential street headed roughly NorthEast signposted 'Corniche'.

    If your niece has any interest in things 'goth', don't miss the 'Aitre St Maclou' in the entrance to the art college near St Maclou - a few steps E of Rue Republique. There are some nice modest eateries here on the N side of St Maclou.

    The modern chapel in the old market place - to the W of the Cathedral - dedicated to Ste Jeanne is a curvy counterpoint to its traditional surroundings.

    Further West in Normandy, nearing Mont St Michel, Villedieu-les-Poeles used to have a bell foundry and a main street lined with shops selling locally made copper pots and pans.

    Fougeres is another spot with a ruined castle with vast sheer walls.

    Anywhere along the Loire is nice. The views from the opposite bank to the main towns is often striking. eg. Saumur and Amboise. Chenonceaux is my favourite for blending generations of buildings, but very postcardy and touristy. In this case justifiably I think.

    If the evening weather is right, finding a spot on the bank of the Loire and watching the sun sink in the W can be magical.


  3. Thanks for some great suggestions! Keep them coming.........

  4. Are you going to be any where near Rochefort ? We were there a few years ago, wonderful old town worth a visit. We will be in Paris for 4 days, 5th Oct to 9th, and then on to London on the 9th and there until 13th when we head up to Yorkshire and the Border country above Newcastle. Looks as if we will miss each other.

  5. Hi Katherine,
    I've been meaning to write you an e-mail anyway - wanting to tell you how much I enjoy following your blog and this feels the perfect occasion! I am an American artist living in France, lived many years in Paris, and have just moved to a house in the country a few kilometres to the northwest of Paris - in the Seine valley towards Giverny and other incredibly rich painting country. I would be very happy to give you some suggestions, let you in on some of my secret painting spots if you will - although it sounds like you've got a pretty lovely full "palette" (as the French would say) already - but anyway, would be very happy to share some suggestions, although would rather not write it all out here - some of them are precious spots and I'd rather not blast them out around the internet. Anyway, perhaps we could have a chat on the phone, or could meet up for a coffee when you get to Paris. If you want to have a gander at my blog (very fledgling) you'll get an idea of what I'm up to here in France and my e-mail is aliaena@aol.com.
    Would love to make you acquaintance over on this side of the pond if you'd like! All the best, Aliaena

  6. Shirley (E17)September 18, 2009

    Hello Katherine
    I can second DJ's recommends! We have just come back from Brittany via Normandy visiting Giverny, Vernon, Rouen etc en route. We have done almost all the other places on previous holidays.

    Three places I would add as worth getting to if you possibly can: Vetheuil (with Monet's on the main road and a church much painted by the Impressionists with amazing patterned roof); the cliffs at Etretat (famously painted by Monet which are really worth the detour) and Honfleur (picturesque harbour, tall buildings and lots of people with paintbrushes!). You can drive up to the chapel on the eastern headland at Etretat for a good view across the bay as long as you don't mind the steepness.

    At Vernon don't miss the ancient mill on stilts by the river (right bank) by the small tower/chateau - the mill was originally one of five! The large church in the main town also has an amazing roof.
    Fougeres is fantastic!

    Even though I have only just got back I envy you - I got lots of drawing done and am sure you will find plenty of inspiration too.
    Bon voyage!
    Shirley (E17)

  7. It's great that all the genuine visitors are leaving such wonderful and extensive comments - for which many thanks.

    I'm not impressed by the guide services which leave two lines as a comment and a link to their services - hence why their comments are not being published. Anybody inclined to do likewise, please read my rules for comments.

  8. Azay-le-Rideau is very picturesque. It is said to be the location for Sleeping Beauty.

    I would endorse the comment about the Chapel in Rouen - very dramatic roof.

    If you have time to go further west, I would also suggest you try to take in some Breton Calvary. I can't offer a specific one but there are many.

  9. hahaha... i'm very much with you on the mapping front. the most beautiful ones i saw framed were in neruda's house in valparaiso, chile: maps as abstract art, some really unusual pattens, landscapes with surreal and abstract beauty. ... must look more often in second hand shops for exotic maps, gesa!

  10. follow up to Ian: Azay is a lovely spot - round turrets set in a broad moat. But I think the inspiration for Sleeping Beauty was Château d'Ussé, 15km W of Azay?


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