I flew to France in July to mark a milestone family celebration--my brother Scott’s 70th birthday.  Home base in week one was a quaint VRBO apartment in the trendy Marais district of Paris.  When travelling with an entourage—9 Nevisons deplaned in Paris—the VRBO, Airbnb option is fairly comparable in cost to block booking a string of hotel rooms.  An apartment with a living room, fully equipped kitchen & ensuite bedrooms definitely beats a hotel room with a mini-bar & ice dispensing machine next to the elevator.

Bill soaking up the sunset at the Seine.

Despite this being my fourth trip to Paris, I have yet to grow tired of wandering down cobblestone streets, strolling along the Seine river & settling into sidewalk cafes to savor culinary delights & full bodied French wines. 

Musée D’Orsay

We happily reacquainted ourselves with historical landmarks like the D’Orsay, Louvre, Pompidou & Picasso museums; the Eiffel Tower, Palais Garnier Opera House & surveying the reconstruction of Notre Dame cathedral (due to reopen in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics.)

Galeries Lafayette rooftop terrace

For anyone who hasn’t visited Paris, there are several vantage points offering commanding views of the City of Lights’ scenic sights.  A popular cost-free option is the rooftop terrace at the Galeries Lafayette department store across the street from Palais Garnier. 

Another favorite photo-op setting is in front of the giant clock window on the top floor of D’Orsay next to the Impressionist gallery which includes iconic paintings by Van Gogh, Manet, & Renoir among others.

We were in Paris on France’s national holiday, Bastille Day, July 14th.  In the morning, a large military parade wound down Champs Elysees & was culminated by wave after wave of flyovers by air force jets, helicopters, drones, & other big shiny flying objects.

Our week two residence was a 7 bedroom rental house in Val-Du-Layon; a small Loire Valley village 300 km’s southwest of Paris.  The swimming pool was immensely refreshing & the games room pool table & foosball table triggered fierce friendly competition.

My brother John & I went for early morning runs through vineyards & nearby villages.

Chateau D’Angers

We all took day trips to historical castles, cathedrals & cultural landmarks.  The nearest big city, Angers was 27 km’s away & features a magnificent 9th century fortified compound aptly called Chateau D’Angers.

The compound contains a gallery with the Apocalypse Tapestries which were embroidered in the 14th century & depicted 90 scenes from the Book of Revelations story of the Apocalypse. The stitched together tapestries were initially 140 metres long. 71 of the tapestries survived & are on display.

Winemaker Kenji siphoning chenin blanc samples from oak barrel

One afternoon our entourage carpooled to a nearby village where my nephew James’ friends, Kenji & his wife Mai, run a relatively small but distinctive winery.  Some of their wines have been featured at restaurants in Vancouver, Manhattan & elsewhere.  We spent an informative afternoon surveying their vineyards & sampling their very aromatic chenin blanc & cabernet franc varietals straight out of large oak barrels. 

Bill irrigating new vineyard crop

Later on, my brother Scott, James & I donned our peasant work clothes to help irrigate their newest vineyard crop. 

One pro tip to anyone considering renting a house or apartment in Europe in the summer season:  Check the availability of ceiling fans & portable fans.  Our house had 10 TV’s—almost every bedroom had a TV—but there was only one portable fan on the premises.  Our bedrooms were all on the 2nd floor. We can all confidently confirm that heat definitely rises.  Thankfully, keeping bedroom windows wide open at night offered enough relief to take advantage of our assigned sleeping arrangements.

Another pro tip for airline travellers is to attach a homing device like Apple Airtag or Samsung Smarttag to checked luggage.  After arriving at ORLY airport in Paris, my brother-in-law David’s checked suitcase never showed up on the designated baggage carousel.  When he went to the baggage desk to report his missing suitcase, he found other people on our flight lined up to report the same problem.  The overriding fear was that the suitcases either hadn’t been loaded onto our plane at LAX or had been diverted elsewhere.  Luckily, a fellow passenger in the line up had an Apple tag on his suitcase.  His iPhone app revealed his suitcase was somewhere downstairs, which likely meant David’s suitcase was also at the airport.  Fifteen minutes later, the missing suitcases appeared on an alternate baggage carousel & we were soon in the back seat of a taxi headed to Paris to begin our 2 week travelling adventure.

My brother’s extended 70th birthday celebration in France definitely lived up to all the advanced billing.

Bill having lunch with his sister Anne & brother-in law David at a Musée D’Orsay restaurant