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Great plan to visit Le Mont-Saint-Michel

Le Mont-Saint-Michel can be visited in a day from Paris

If you go visit Paris soon, you might be tempted by a trip to Mont Saint Michel. The latter is certainly far from Paris, but it is one of the most visited sites in France, but also one of the most beautiful. Enjoy being in the North of France to finally explore what made ​​the reputation of Normandy. A day trip from Paris in the mythical town ensconced Mont Saint-Michel is an opportunity you will not want to miss: Mount and the bay that surrounds it, are listed as World Heritage by UNESCO in 1979. It is not by chance that it was nicknamed the Mont Saint Michel the “Wonder of the West.”

Topped with a huge rich in history and beautiful architecture equipped with Abbey, the village of 43 inhabitants has winding streets and medieval streets that take you back in the past and where you can enjoy fresh air large bowls. You will observe around Mount tides among the most spectacular in the world, offering views evolving.

But located 5 hours drive west of Paris, is it possible to enjoy the breathtaking view of Mont Saint Michel in such a short time? The answer is yes: in the space of a single day, it is possible to leave Paris and go to Mont-Saint-Michel and return the same evening in the City of Light.

Le Mont-Saint-Michel can be visited in a day from Paris

Le Mont-Saint-Michel can be visited in a day from Paris

But a busy day full of discoveries

Upon arrival, after taking a few minutes to enjoy, agape, the stunning views of Mont Saint Michel, you have 4 hours to visit the village and the abbey (if you chose the option “free”, see below). As children entering Disneyland, you may have first a little hungry: do not hesitate to perk up with a nice meal of Normandy, drinking some cider. Then you’ll have time to wander the cobbled streets to the abbey, the main attraction. With your purchase through the link below tickets, you will not have to queue and can go directly inside the magnificent Gothic building.

After visiting the abbey for 1 hour or more, you’ll have time to stroll through the streets of the small town, sunbathing in a small green park if the weather permits, and observe the movements of the tide around Mont Saint Michel. You will have the opportunity to enter eclectic shops to buy some souvenirs Norman and even eat a piece before getting into the bus late afternoon.

Book online for convenience

Several choices are available to you to visit the Mont Saint Michel. You can take the option “free”, which for only 125 €, offers direct travel to the site via an air-conditioned bus, a ticket to the abbey, and four hours of free time to explore the mountain freely . A second option for € 170 includes lunch and a guided tour. Please note that prices may vary, so do not hesitate to click on this button below for more information (what types of clothing depending on the season take for example …). You will also see that it is possible to book a real living from Paris, why not with a tour of the castles of the Loire (in 2 or 3 days) or the landing beaches, St Malo, etc …

Wrapped and Ready to Roll

Winter exercise is never easy: you either freeze your tuckus off outside or you breathe in all the moist nastiness that is other people’s perspiration in the gym. Let’s face it: in the winter, everyone flocks to the gym where there is a higher concentration of human beings, a higher concentration of CO2, and a higher concentration of sweat and humidity in the air that no gym ventilation system can really aerate. It can’t be good for you to have a fan blowing on you as you run on the treadmill (that’s how my grandmother said we all get sick). I prefer dressing up warmly and going outside. Even if its cold, I’ll take the outside.

P1010995-300x225Here in Chambéry temperatures can get pretty low at times. There is a lot of humidity in the valleys and it makes the evenings bitter, bitter cold. At times I had to triple-check to make sure the heaters in my apartment were on. What’s fantastic about biking in the cold (or doing anything in the cold) is you get the same rush as skiing: cold temperatures outside while your body cooks nice and warm. The Romans and Nordic tribes knew about the benefits of hydrotherapy, as did the Greeks and Egyptians. The expansion and contraction of blood vessels pushes blood through the body giving you the rush needed to return to your cube and finish the day’s projects, or prepare for the afternoon’s three-hour meeting. Chances are if you try it once you’ll get the taste of it and you’ll keep doing it.

This is what my buddy Marc taught me to do: invest in the gear and get out there. Great summer riding begins with great winter riding and in this video you’ll see a few suggestions of how to go about facing the bitter cold. The panorama and adrenaline rush are worth it. This is a simple ride we often take around Chambéry that isn’t very difficult but gives us a nice two hour spin – especially in the winter time when the cols are snowed in. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

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Competences et Talents Part II

A few weeks ago I posted an entry on the Compétences et Talents visa issued by the French Government . The interesting part is that after you’ve taken care in preparing an outstanding project and presenting it to the French Consulate in the states, you need to do the same thing over here in France. But the trick is, you have to reprint everything all over again. My friend Erin had mentioned it was necessary to have the original project on hand in order to complete the process over here. So when I was in the states I had asked the Consulate if I could have my original project description back (Erin was given hers back). However, the French Consulate said “absolument pas.” According to them, the whole point of going through the rigorous visa process is to facilitate the applicant’s integration in French society once they’ve arrived on French soil. So all I needed was the letter from the Consulate General, my passport, passport pictures and proof of residence. And then within a few weeks I’d get my carte de séjour.

They were a little wrong.

I don’t blame the French fonctionnaires for knowing so little about what is necessary to get the visa; this process is all new for them too (in fact, I’m the second person in Boston to be accepted and the first person in Savoie to ever apply for this visa. So both entities seemed a little perplexed on how everything actually worked). In the end, it depends on which Département you eventually live in, but wherever you end up, you need to go to the local Préfecture with the following documents:

  • The letter from the consulate general that issued the visa in your passport.
  • 4 official pictures.
  • Original birth certificate and photocopies.
  • The official Titre de Séjour application.
  • The medical examination application
  • A copy of the original application project, all pages, materials and photocopies of them.
  • Proof of residence.

Of course this list may change depending on the Département, but as a general list this is what is needed. What’s surprising is that although the visa was meant to make things faster and easier, it takes just as long as anything else. When I dropped off all the documents on the 10th of January, the woman behind the glass said it would take a good month/month-and-a-half to get any kind of carte de séjour out to me. Wow. Good thing I got it in the system when I did.

Skiing in Les Karellis

celinepatrick-300x225There are certain things about France that don’t cease to amaze me. One is the incredible skiing in the winter. I’ve skied in a number of the more popular resorts in the French Alps (Courchevel, Val Thorens, Méribel, etc.) and of course the conditions were great and I had a great time. But what’s more interesting – and fun – are the resorts that people don’t know about. Les Karellis is one of those. Nestled away in the Valley of the Maurienne (about an hour’s drive from Chambéry to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne) you’ll find the slopes pretty empty and nicely groomed. We went last Saturday and the tourists either leave or arrive on the weekend and thus don’t get out on the slopes much on the weekend – but this was amazing. Except for a few locals (and I mean locals from Savoie, not locals from Paris) it felt like we had the mountain all to ourselves. There was great snow in the morning and the off-piste was spectacular. We sat around a few picnic tables at noon to eat lunch with Combe de Savoie cheese, ham, tea, and peanut butter and jam sandwiches (supplied by me – my French companions did not appreciate the American delicacy). Not only was the weather perfect, but so was the company: Lucile is an old friend of mine who organized the trip – this was the first time we got to ski together. She’s from the other side of the valley from Les Karellis and knew all of the surrounding valleys and peaks. She also pointed out the local fauna that were grazing just above her house. Natasha is a student in Geology and works with the local mountain guides; Céline hails from the North, but prefers the mountains and changing atmosphere of Savoie; and Patrick is half-Venezuelan, half-French and is a mad driver (especially when he stuffed four people and all their kit into his Peugeot to take us safely back to Chambéry). Towards the end of the day, we sat around Lucile’s house and ate crêpes, drank hot chocolate and tea and chatted about the enviromental issues concerning the Maurienne valley. A great day and a great way to listen to the concerns of the local Savoie youth, who are just as concerned for the mountains and the environment as are many of us who enjoy the outdoors.Thanks to Lucile and the rest of the gang for your hospitality.

If you want to check out the film of Les Karellis, its here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBe-bW4T2Mc. Otherwise you can go to the Vids page and see it there.

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Another one of France’s hidden secrets: La Féclaz

AHSkierBetween the cities of Chambéry and Annecy in the French Alps, lies a mountain range called the Massif des Bauges. It is part of the French pre-Alps and contains a number of summits above 2,000m – meaning that in the winter time there is plenty of snow. If you’re into a ski ‘resort’ with short lift-lines and pretty amazing views over the Lac du Bourget, then you ought to take a detour towards Le Revard, La Féclaz and St. François de Sales (together known as the Grand Revard). It’s also oddly known as “Little Canada” primarily because it resembles the vast winter tundra of the Canadian west: miles of rolling sunlight clearings spotted by thick evergreen forests, exhibiting only the peace and tranquility a winter tundra can provide.

Although situated in the mountains, the whole ski range is on a high-plateau, thus allowing for miles and miles of endless Nordic skiing. In fact, the resort reputes itself as being the number one French destination for Cross-Country skiing with Alpine sking and snowpark activities as secondary attractions. But if the skiing isn’t enough for you, there are snowshoeing itineraries, dog-sled rides, tobogganing, ski-touring, snowscooting and an old form of Savoyard sledding called yonner. To top it all off the ski passes couldn’t be at a better price: a five-day pass costs 70 euro and gives you full access to all the services I mentioned above.

It is without a doubt one of the most impressive ski areas in Southwest France, and not overrun with hundreds of skiers. You can stay in any one of the Chambre d’hôtes found in the mountains or in any one of he hotels in the valley. For a bit more you can get the 5-day pass and bus transport. In fact, many shuttle busses leave daily from Aix-les-Bains and Chambéry making this little-known-little-Canada a perfectly convenient destination for anyone interested in breaking new ground on the skinny skis.

If you go up early in the day, remember how cold forests can be (regardless of how hot you’ll get later on in the day). Temperatures were well freezing at even 9:30 am as we cut through the thick of the forest. Thankfully, the ticket booth and the main activities area are all located right where the sun’s rays come shining through even at 8:00 am. But dress warm, lots of layers and a good change of clothes for when you’re hanging out at the Creux de Lachat drinking vin brûlé and experiencing that post warm/cold bliss that’s as delicious as the mountains surrounding you.

Compètences et Talents – Living in France

For those who are interested in pursuing a career/life in France, the Pres. Sarkosy has recently instated (2008) a new visa aimed at streamlining foreign entrepreneurs who wish to work in France. Since there is very little on the subject except for a well detailed French Embassy site in Washington DC, I thought it would be helpful to include here all of the necessary paperwork needed in the French US-based consulates. Keep in mind that the criteria is tough, since the French are looking for serious business – they will not accept any application that seems weakly prepared. The list should include the following items:

a) Visa Application for long séjour: 2 copies
b) Multi-page project description: if you write it in French its better. They only ask for 1 page, but you’d be smart to write several detailed pages (mine was 7). Include the following:
–     How project will benefit France and include where in the project there is a strong component of multicultural sharing.
–     Goals of Project: What is it specifically you intend to do? What are the benefits for everyone involved?
–     Business Plan: if you’re an independent contractor, its good to have a translated business plan.
–     Estimated Income: very ball-park, but put in how much you are expecting to earn over the first three years.
c) Birth Certificate (original, photocopies and translation)
d) CV (in French)
e) Diplomas: for this visa you need an M.A. I’m sure they will make some exceptions, but I haven’t heard of any yet. If you don’t have an M.A., they will probably not consider you for the visa.
f) Tax returns for any given tax year as well as any bank and investment info (they want to see you have cash).
g) Customer Testimonials and references: if you’re in sales, give a list of customer references as well as professional references.
h) Articles: if there are any write-ups about you in any newspaper, magazine doing what you do then add it along.
i) Any sample work that can be incorporated is a great help as well (i.e.: if you’re in design add some of your portfolio).
j) Criminal Record Check – this is fundamental
k) 4 official pictures
l) approx: 150$ application fee

A big thanks to Erin who went through the whole grueling process before me, so that I was able to fly my application by without any trouble. My application was for an entrepreneurial endeavor – there are also possibilities for people who are employed with French companies to apply for the same visa, but a few more documents need to be put into the application (such as the cerfa document, etc.).

I put all of these documents in order of importance (project description and business plan first, birth certificate second, etc.) into a three-ring binder which had tabs along the side, so the consulate could easily find whichever document it was looking for. Then of course the outside of the binder was labeled as well with my name, the date, my passport number and the type of visa I was applying for.

Seems like too much? Maybe, but at my consulate I was told that I was the second person to get the visa. Plus, the organization of the paperwork (and maybe giving all the documents necessary) prevented me from having to go back to the Consulate every week to bring them one more piece of paper. I got the visa in 1 month so I must have done something right.

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