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Table of Content for france2013:

More pages: June 2013 July 2013




2013/06/17 Long Trip to France
π 2013-06-17 01:01 in France2013, Trips
(ok, it's a bit sad that I'm posting this a whole 10 months after the fact, too much travelling in 2013, and I accumulated a backlog which I'm trying to fix now).

Jennifer had been wanting to see a bit more of France than bits of Paris in the cold during Xmas, and I couldn't blame her for that. On my side, I was pretty ignorant of France too, so that sounded like a great idea.
After a lot of research, she made a packed 3 week itinerary for us while I took care of the hotel bookings.

We had a huge trip ahead of us, 3700km across France (with a quick shortcut through Italy):

By June, we were finally on our way, with a business flight to Geneva through Germany:


Unfortunately, the plane to Geneva was not able to land and had to divert to Lyon, putting a small wrench in our trip. Lyon was probably fun to see, but we had no time for it since we had to get to Chamonix that night, and my luggage didn't even make it on the plane, so I had to go back to Geneva to get my luggage there instead of just driving to Chamonix directly from Lyon:



We took a long but comfortable bus to Geneva, picked up our rental car late just around the time that my luggage got there on the next flight, and I drove into the night to Chamonix, arriving around midnight:


honor system imigration, I love it :)
honor system imigration, I love it :)

See more images for Long Trip to France
2013/06/18 France Day 01: Chamonix
π 2013-06-18 01:01 in France2013, Trips
Day 1 was a bit tough since we got to bed by 01:00 due to the flight issues of the previous day, and the fact that we wanted to get to the peak early to catch good views before the clouds were forecast to roll in. I think we got up around 06:30 or somesuch.

While sleep was low, and time too early ;) the morning weather was beautiful. We walked from our hotel to the gondola for Aiguille du Midi (noon's peak).


so tempting to pick up a 2nd breakfast on the way :)
so tempting to pick up a 2nd breakfast on the way :)



beautiful view on the way up
beautiful view on the way up





lots of fresh pow in June still, but Johannes wasn't there with his splitboard :)
lots of fresh pow in June still, but Johannes wasn't there with his splitboard :)

slide danger was very minimal :)
slide danger was very minimal :)

Mont Blanc in the background
Mont Blanc in the background




more Mt Blanc
more Mt Blanc


this looks perfectly safe :)
this looks perfectly safe :)

Before going down, we stopped by the climbing museum they have up there:







We then stopped at the mid station to go hiking, but it was a late season for snow, so the path wasn't super clear. My GPS came in handy to make sure we were on the trail we couldn't always see. I talked Jannifer into buying hiking sticks, which turned out to be very handy considering the conditions in some places:





We stopped for a well deserved lunch with local wine and a view:




And then back to work towards the Montenver Glacier (mer de glace)




it wasn't bad the entire way
it wasn't bad the entire way




We got there too late to go down and see it though, so we took the little gear train down (it uses a gear into a track with holes to make sure it gets traction):




I used what was left of the day to see a crystals museum:







We then enjoyed some well deserved rest with the welcome in your room package we weren't able to use the previous night and headed out again for dinner (long days due to summer time):



See more images for France Day 01: Chamonix
2013/06/19 France Day 02: Chamonix
π 2013-06-19 01:01 in France2013, Trips

For day 2 in Chamonix, we had some well deserved sleep and headed out to see other lifts.

Unfortunately the weather was windy, and the gondola at the top of Aiguille du midi was broken the previous day when the weather was fantastic, and fixed the second day, but the weather (wind) made it not possible to get up there. As a result, we went to other chairs to get other views.


we went to enquire about taking the Helbronner, but no dice
we went to enquire about taking the Helbronner, but no dice

we went across to the Brevent lift instead
we went across to the Brevent lift instead



you could tell the weather across was no good
you could tell the weather across was no good


I think the snow was under control here ;)
I think the snow was under control here ;)

we could have hiked this, but it didn't feel worth the time
we could have hiked this, but it didn't feel worth the time


Next, we went back to the glacier since we weren't able to see it the previous day:


that's the gear the train uses to climb without slipping
that's the gear the train uses to climb without slipping




The glacier doesn't look like much, but actually part of the dirt is dirt on top of the glacier. That said, the amount of receeding that glacier had done in the last 50 years was heartbreaking and worrisome at the same time:


that gondola was supposed to take you to the foot of the glacier
that gondola was supposed to take you to the foot of the glacier

but we were not even close
but we were not even close

it's all the way down there
it's all the way down there

level of the glacier in 2000, we're not even close still
level of the glacier in 2000, we're not even close still











Oh man, we have to go all the way back up to where the Glacier used to be
Oh man, we have to go all the way back up to where the Glacier used to be




When we were all done with this, we drove up the valley to Col de Balme to take that chair:










to be nice on Jennifer's ankle, we took the chair back down
to be nice on Jennifer's ankle, we took the chair back down

Swiss style bad ass bell
Swiss style bad ass bell

From there, we drove to the Parc Animalier de Merlet (in the opposite direction) to see some animals:






the owner used to have a plane and land there
the owner used to have a plane and land there









And after a longish day, it was time for a well deserved dinner:


Eh, that's my sweater you thief! :)
Eh, that's my sweater you thief! :)

See more images for France Day 02: Chamonix
2013/06/20 France Day 03: From Chamonix to Villefranche-Sur-Mer through Italy and Monte-Carlos
π 2013-06-20 01:01 in France2013, Trips

On Day 3, we got up and went directly for the Mont Blanc Tunnel towards Italy since it was 3H faster to reaching the south of france than going through France:



After crossing Italy (still a long drive, but kind of boring, so I didn't stop or take pictures), we got to see la Principauté de Monaco and Monte-Carlos








my yacht is bigger than yours
my yacht is bigger than yours





we couldn't stop and see the casino, wrong clothing and no parking
we couldn't stop and see the casino, wrong clothing and no parking

We then went to the aquarium:






awesome fish with feet
awesome fish with feet

nice camouflage
nice camouflage




They had tortoises on the roof:



From there, we drove up the very scenic and narrow road with a fantastic view:


the aquarium we had just visited
the aquarium we had just visited




The plan was to go to la turbie, an ancient roman monument, but it was closed. I still went to take a peak:


So we went to Villefranche-Sur-Mer to check in our hotel and have dinner nearby before getting well deserved rest:



2013/06/21 France Day 04: Visiting Around Villefranche sur Mer, Eze, La Turbie, and Nice
π 2013-06-21 01:01 in France2013, Trips

For Day 4, we got up to drive around the area, starting with going back to La Turbie after stopping at the scenic Eze and its nice gardens:

fantastic views
fantastic views


















From there, we went back to La Turbie for some great high up views:










Le trophée des Alpes was built for one of Julius' Ceasar's children:




this is what it looked like many years ago
this is what it looked like many years ago

not much is left
not much is left


From there we walked down to the local quaint town attached to the monument:






Next, we went to Nice to see the Chagall Museum. To be honest, it's mostly because we got tricked by our guidebook's author who was a personal fan for ethnic reasons. Oh well...




the Chagall Museum was kind of a waste of time, so we took the tram to downtown nice from there and continued on foot:




We climbed up to where the Nice castle used to be:









We then walked down to old town:






Jennifer got excited :)
Jennifer got excited :)








From there we went back to our hotel in Villefranche-sur-Mer, dinner and sleep:



2013/06/22 France Day 05: From Villefranche sur Mer to Cassis via Antibes
π 2013-06-22 01:01 in France2013, Trips

After our 2nd night in Villefranche-Sur-Mer, we visited the local town and its market before heading towards Antibes and Cassis.

We checked out the market














We then drove to Fort du Mont Alban before heading out:




While driving across nice, we realized that that orthodox church was opened and we could make it there with 5mn to spare if I turned out quickly, so we did. I then had to run back to my car to get long pants since I was not allowed in, in shorts :)





And we then headed down the coast towards Antibes:




Once in Antibes, we spent a quick hour to walk around the fortifications and old town:







nice place to get a little sandwich for the road
nice place to get a little sandwich for the road


Back on the road, and towards Cassis.
You're supposed to go on a boat trip to see the calanques, and we were rushing to be able to go on a longer trip that did 5 or 7, but the water was rough, so we only got a short trip for 3 calanques, and the idiots left 10mn early without us, so we had to wait 30mn for the next one (not so bad, except we ran out of sunlight for pictures when we came back). Yes, I still hate that boat company today :)







the hotel we were staying at, with a great view
the hotel we were staying at, with a great view


After the boat ride, we went on a scenic road where you hoped no one was going to come the other way :)








After that, we got a nice dinner with view and sunset:









2013/06/23 France Day 06: From Cassis to Avignon
π 2013-06-23 01:01 in France2013, Trips

After getting up in Cassis, we had to drive out already (no time to spend a whole day to hike to a Calanque), so we drove to to a market on our way to Avignon, and went to see other things on the way.

We stopped at a nice little town to visit and see the local market: L'isle sur la Sorgue.










Next, we went to a Lavender Museum and other nice views:



Chateau de Gordes in the background
Chateau de Gordes in the background



And drove towards an Abbey which we unfortunately didn't have time to visit, and their lavender hadn't quite bloomed yet:



Next was to go see the Rousillon Ochre, quite nice:






And finally, we arrived in Avignon, a bit late, but not too late to see a few things before dinner. Le Palais des Papes is impressive. We went to see it the next day, so we went on the famous Pont D'avignon that evening:












And time for another nice dinner:


But we went back out quickly for some sunset pictures:






And finally time for bed :)

2013/06/24 France Day 07: From Avignon to Vaison La Romaine, via Orange
π 2013-06-24 01:01 in France2013, Trips

When we woke up that morning, we walked to Palais des Papes (we had thankfully secured a coveted parking spot and didn't want to lose it).















After saying the Palais des Papes, we went to the Fort Saint André across the river:









On the way out, I found out that the French airforce training is going on right there at Les Beaux


And we were driving to Orange to see its Roman Theatre, the best preserved one to date:













A nice arch on the way out:



And we ended up in Vaison-La-Romaine:





And we went for another nice dinner, this time with a meat fondue (in boiling oil) before going back to our room high up



2013/06/25 France Day 08: Visiting Around Vaison La Romaine
π 2013-06-25 01:01 in France2013, Trips

We started with a good breakfast by our loft with the gobs of cheese, saucisson and foie gras:


and we went down to the local market:

this is an ancient (2000 years old) bridge
this is an ancient (2000 years old) bridge



piggie, so cute :)
piggie, so cute :)

Next, we went walking around a while a nearby village (creslet):




We then drove to Mt Ventou, a local peak, for views:





On the way down, we went to sample lost of wineries:



plus de vin, merci!
plus de vin, merci!


encore more vin!
encore more vin!



And after a long day, we had a nice dinner on our private terrace with salad, vin, and foie gras :)



2013/06/26 France Day 09: From Vaison La Romaine to Pont du Gars, Nimes, and Arles
π 2013-06-26 01:01 in France2013, Trips

For day 9, it was time to leave Vaison La Romaine to go to Arles after a good visit of Nimes on the way. It was nice to have spent 2 nice at the same place for a change :)

Internet was non existant, but I had my phone taped to the window to act as an access point that routed to the cell service (which wouldn't reach through the brick walls) :)


So, we went to Pont du Gard, the impressive Roman Aqueduct:






still standing after so many years, impressive
still standing after so many years, impressive


From there, we went directly to Nimes:








There was nothing left of this stadium, but impressive:



they had a huge water arena for water sports
they had a huge water arena for water sports

They had other nice monuments:



From one tower, you could get a really nice view of town:








We walked down the gardens:











The water from that amazing aqueduct that went on top of Pont du Gars eneded here to bring water to Nimes:



From there, we finally went Arles where we had just enough time to see les thermes de Constantin:




We walked around Arles a bit before going for a great dinner with seared foie gras sandwich. To die for :)



oui-euh!
oui-euh!



2013/06/27 France Day 10: Les Baux de Provence and Arles
π 2013-06-27 01:01 in France2013, Trips

That morning, we started by going to Les Baux de Provence Castle:






nice weapons
nice weapons

I like the name :)
I like the name :)











A bit farther down the road, they had a really quarry with art projected on the walls:








One the way, the Glanum Archeologic site was worth stopping by:







From there, we went to a museum in Arles:

what Arles used to look like
what Arles used to look like


they had both arenas and a theatre, good for them
they had both arenas and a theatre, good for them




during the middle ages, the arena was used for protection
during the middle ages, the arena was used for protection


this was recovered from the river
this was recovered from the river

And we used the rest of the day to walk around:










until we reached the theatre:





very nice crypts underground
very nice crypts underground



And we went back to the same exact restaurant for more yummy double decker seared foie gras:

not sure why, but Jennifer looks happy :)
not sure why, but Jennifer looks happy :)


2013/06/28 France Day 11: Arles and Carcasonne
π 2013-06-28 01:01 in France2013, Trips

We hadn't gotten to see the Arena since it was closed for a concert the previous night, so we started with that:





decent view from up there
decent view from up there




And on our way out, we stopped by the Nécrople des Alyscamps.





From there, we drove to Carcasonne, a great medieval city:
















must resist :)
must resist :)

Somehow, not sure how that happened, but we got another foie gras dinner :)


After dinner we went out for a walk around the walls and see the city at night with its illuminations:







2013/06/29 France Day 12: Cahors Market, Grottes du Peche Merles, Grottes de Cougnac, Rocamadour, Foie Gras Farm, and sleeping at Eyzies-de-Tayac
π 2013-06-29 01:01 in France2013, Trips

After leaving Carcasonne, we got up early that day (06:40, argh!) to drive towards Cahors and catch the local market.

Cahors
Cahors


encore du vin, merci! :)
encore du vin, merci! :)

We then had to head out to get to the Grottes du Peches Merles for our tour at noon. Since they wanted us to be 30mn early and I optimized the driving (lots of curvy roads there), we got there at 11:30 and they had a special tour at that time that we were able to catch. This was despite Google maps which had been giving me horrible directions in rural france, and sent me on a dirt road that was more for horses and hikers. I ended up driving there rally style which was fun, but I really ended up on a walking path and made it to the Grotto parking lot on the wrong side of "don't cross this" metal pillars. That was a bit awkward. Still, I got there early somehow:





Catching an early tour at Peches Merles allowed us to visit the Grotto and museum and have time left over to see les Grottes de Cougnac which allows taking pictures in one of their grottos (the ones with formations, but no drawings):







After that, there we went to Rocamadour to visit the town and impressive cluster of churches by the rock.





lots of stores for tourists :)
lots of stores for tourists :)

nice wine names :)
nice wine names :)

and the little trains for offsite parking
and the little trains for offsite parking





If you think we had done two days' worth already, we didn't quite give up so quickly and while there, we also went to see a Foie Gras farm and how they feed the ducks for our enjoyment :)


foie gras has been made for 4500 years!
foie gras has been made for 4500 years!

those ducks have a much happier life than the poor farmed chicken
those ducks have a much happier life than the poor farmed chicken

they only get brought in cages for their feeding and are let go again after that
they only get brought in cages for their feeding and are let go again after that

We then saw a movie on how they use all parts of the duck and prepare it:





there, I'm hungry again :)
there, I'm hungry again :)


This then left me with a drive to Eyzies-de-Tayac (1h20 away) to sleep just next to Grottes du Fond the Gaumes so that I could be there at the ticket booth to stand in line too early the next morning. Damn, that was a long day :)

2013/06/30 France Day 13: Eyzies-de-Tayac Grottos: Grotte du Font the Gaume, Combarelles, Cap Blanc, and Grottes de Rouffignac
π 2013-06-30 01:01 in France2013, Trips

As another day of "let's do in one day what others do in two" :) , I had to get up at 07:00 to go in at at 07:20 for a 09:30 ticket sale and a 10:00 visit. Don't get me started on how messed up that was, or the fact that the broke government wouldn't sell any tickets at inflated prices by reservation instead of forcing everyone to go stand in line earlier and earlier outside hours before the ticket booth opens. After all this, we did get to see Font de Gaume. It is the only grotto left you can visit and that has real polychrome paintings. Only about 80 people are admitted per day. Putting aside the 2H+ line outside before the ticket counter opens, it was nice and probably the best such grotto still open to the public today. The paintings are over 17,000 years old:

bright and early
bright and early

over 2h later, the ticket counter opened
over 2h later, the ticket counter opened

the guide was really good
the guide was really good



We went to the prehistoric museum a couple of times between assigned times in the grottos:







Next, was time for our tour of Grotte des Combarelles, which is also full of drawings etched with lines in the rock about 12,000 years ago. They take an even fewer 66 people per day:





Cap Blanc had a huge fresca etched into the face of a mountain where Cro Magnon man used to live, although it had unfortunately been quite damaged by the clueless folks who first found it. Still, it's one of the only examples in the world:



Last, but not least, we went to grottes de Rouffignac, which you get to visit by taking an electric train 1km down. It also had lots of drawings, including holes where bears used to go hibernate:





To be honest, it was pretty cool to see art, and some was pretty good art, made by so called cavemen (really Cro-Magnon) about 12,000 to 17,000 years ago, and effectively the oldest writings of man left today. That was a lot of grottos and prehistoric drawings for one day, so we ended the day at Domme, a nice little village at the top of the cliff, with view on the Dordogne river, and headed to our hotel at la Roque-Gageac for dinner and much needed rest (we had a nice dinner there too):




view from our room
view from our room

2013/07/01 France Day 14: La Roque-Gageac, kayaking down the Dordogne River past castles, Chateau de Beynac, Chateau de Castelnaud, and flight over the river and castles
π 2013-07-01 01:01 in France2013, Trips

For another full day, we stayed around our hotel on the Dordogne River. We didn't have it on our list, just because our days had been so long already, but Jennifer had heard that kayaking down the Dordogne was great and scenic, so I looked into how we could do this the previous night. The next morning, we drove to a rental place that bussed us up the river, and let us go down in a canoe at whatever pace we felt like. It was a nice ride down with castles and bridges.








We stopped across from Chateau de Beynac to have a nice picnic across the river with view on the castle, and opened a fresh container of foie gras to enjoy there.





We then went to visit Chateau de Beynac and Chateau de Castelnaud (thank you again google maps for sending me up an impassage road to the castle), both castles had interesting history before, during, and after the 100 year war between France and England.

















After having finished both, we went back to Domme for a flight over the area with a local pilot in a C172 with diesel conversion.














Sarla-la-Canéda
Sarla-la-Canéda











We didn't have enough time or energy left to go to Sarlat that evening, so we went back to our hotel and had super yummy dishes with Foie Gras made by the bistro next door and that I was able to bring back to our room and eat on the terrace. Can't beat that :)
(yes, the foie gras ducks didn't fare too well during our trip in Dordogne :)



nice nose on that hot air baloon
nice nose on that hot air baloon




2013/07/02 France Day 15: Lascaux II, Oradour sur Glane near Limoge, and Chateau de Chenonceau
π 2013-07-02 01:01 in France2013, Trips

On our way out of Dordogne region, before going to see Lascaux, we did a very quick stop at Sarlat we had flown over the previous day, for a super rushed visit (like only 20mn, which quite obiously not enough, but we had to get to Lascaux by 9 to get tickets for that morning, so we only had time for a few minutes in Sarlat. It was still better to see it very quickly than not at all: cool medieval town with city walls too.






we went to see Lascaux II, a replica of arguably the best cave with prehistoric paintings ever found. Ok, it's a copy of the original cave that is too small and couldn't cope with the extra CO2 brought by the visitors, but it's a really good copy and it looks incredible. Worth the visit, even after everything we had seen. Still no pictures allowed inside, despite the fact that it was a replica, so I'm attaching some pictures I found on the net:


looking around while waiting for the ticket counter to open. I think they love duck there ;)
looking around while waiting for the ticket counter to open. I think they love duck there ;)








From there, we started a long drive north, and stopped at Oradour sur Glane where the German SS massacred an entire french village (around 600 people), apparently "just because" and as a show of force with the resistance (which didn't live there). The burnt village was left as is as a monument (minus the bodies of course) and is worth seeing, although the museum that's supposed to explain what happens, and why, and whether the culprits were found later, does a very poor job of addressing those points. Quite a shame, really. Since the museum was so bad at explaining the relevant points, I went to the wikipedia article which explains better: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oradour-sur-Glane






women and children were gathered in the church and burnt there
women and children were gathered in the church and burnt there

After Oradour sur Glane, where we kind of wasted time at the subpar museum, we got back in the car to finish the drive towards the Loire region. We had just enough time left in the day (lots of driving) to go to Chateau de Chenonceau, a beautiful castle with great grounds and pretty gardens. They also had an impressive collection of 100 hunting dogs.




cellars for Jennifer :)
cellars for Jennifer :)




the castle was extended to cross the river, sweet!
the castle was extended to cross the river, sweet!







That visit and the long stretches of driving got us a bit late, so we didn't have time for much of a dinner, and just got a very quick bite to eat before going to our chateau hotel where we got a huge room and chateau life for 2 nights.


this room should do nicely :)
this room should do nicely :)



2013/07/03 France Day 16: Chateaux de la Loire: Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Cheverny, Chaumont sur Loire, and Clos Lucé where Leonardo de Vinci spent his last days
π 2013-07-03 01:01 in France2013, Trips

After starting with Chenonceaux the previous day, we went to see more castles this day after a nice French breakfast at our chateau hotel :)


Chateau de Chambord is just huge and magnificent. Freaking big is about the right word, and it's arguably the second best Castle in France after Versailles. It was built and grown over a few centuries and was where the French Kings went on vacation, although they never stayed too long because Paris was more convenient for them. The gardens were nice, despite the light rain.



double helix stairs in the middle, just like DNA
double helix stairs in the middle, just like DNA










We stopped at a chocolate store that happened to be on the way with samples to try :)


Cheverny was smaller, but very nice inside too. The part I didn't know was that the chateau and nearby city were used as the background for Tintin, a great comic I read as a kid. They had an expo on that which was fun to visit while Jennifer was sampling local wine as she does best :)











The tintin expo was definitely worth the visit:








even the characters were based on real people
even the characters were based on real people

While I was looking at tintin, Jennifer found a new wine tasting place iwth a high tech delivery system :)


We then drove by Chaumont sur Loire, but didn't enter it after some reviews I read saying that the inside didn't look good, but I took a few pictures from outside:


We used the time to go to Clos Lucé instead, the not so great small castle where the king François 1er hosted Leonardo the Vinci for the last 3 years of his life and just paid him to do whatever he felt like. In other words, the king recognized Leonardo as a genius and gave him free reign to invent and study whatever he felt like. They have cool demos of some of Leonardo's revolutionary inventions.







he invented the first tank
he invented the first tank

he also figured out the first parachute
he also figured out the first parachute


his idea of a helicopter, only missing an appropriate powerplant and counter rotating rear prop
his idea of a helicopter, only missing an appropriate powerplant and counter rotating rear prop

water pump without vaccuum or motors
water pump without vaccuum or motors

the bearing
the bearing

secret underground passage to the chateau d'amboise
secret underground passage to the chateau d'amboise

This gave us enough time to walk back to downtown Amboise, walk by its chateau that did not have the time to visit but wasn't that great from what we heard anyway, and got a few pictures outside around sunset before heading back to our Chateau hotel for the night.



2013/07/04 France Day 17: Loches, Azay-Le-Rideau, Chinon
π 2013-07-04 01:01 in France2013, Trips

Since we figured out that we didn't need to see Amboise further, we were just a bit ahead of schedule, so after a bit of extra sleep, we elected to go to Loches, a nearby city with its own medieval town.









We then went to an underground quarry display showing how things used to be back in the day for people working there (not super great, but they had wild fraises des bois in their yard, so that made up for it for Jennifer :) ).




Azay Le Rideau had another castle that was decent, although a bit pale compared to some of the ones we had seen earlier, however a lot of local castle have their own history, so that's interesting if you care about 500 years+ of which king attacked who, and why, and the 100+ year war between the British and the French:








We then headed to Chinon to see its Castle and history, and visit the old town before heading to our hotel. Chinon had dragons on display to amuse the kids. They looked nice, but a bit out of place :)










We had a bit of time in downtown Chinon, including a nice wine cellar:






2013/07/05 France Day 18: Driving to Brittany, Dinan, St-Malo, and Mont St Michel
π 2013-07-05 01:01 in France2013, Trips

After Chinon, we started driving north towards Normandy. Thanks to Michel, we stopped at Dinan on our drive. It's a pretty little town with medieval walls and a worthwhile town center, churches, and clock tower to visit. Also had a nice crepe there :)







we walked some of the city walls
we walked some of the city walls



very nice
very nice

Next was St Malo. It also had a great downtown to visit and great views from its historic walls of the harbor and the ocean. That was well worth the 90mn stop. Quite frankly, it was worth more, but that's what we had.











the crab were so greedy, you put food on a string, and they wouldn't let it go
the crab were so greedy, you put food on a string, and they wouldn't let it go

that kept Jennifer amused and busy for a while :)
that kept Jennifer amused and busy for a while :)






From there we took a scenic route along the coast to Mont Saint Michel, with nice coastal views.





little snack
little snack

Finally we arrived at Mt Saint Michel, and some fucking company (Veolia) managed to get the rights to rebuilding the bridge that is going there. In the meantime, they are now forcing everyone to park far away from the entrance and take a shuttle bus that still stops you a fair distance from the entrance. I wouldn't mind a bit of walking, but when you are carrying all your heavy luggage across a long distance because they are preventing you from driving there, I get pissed off. Did I mention it was one mile of walking with heavy luggage? Fuck you Veolia!
Long story short, getting to our (expensive) room in Mt Saint Michel was quite a pain. Incidently the people doing tours in the national monument, the monastery were also on strike for complicated reasons due to the same company's wrong doings having increased their commute time to work from 20mn to 1h each way.
As a result of the strike, we didn't get to visit the Abey at night with illuminations like we were supposed to, so we just went around the island, walked on the city walls for some views, and went outside to catch sunset and lights as seen from outside (it was late due to the long sun days).



that's how far they dropped us off
that's how far they dropped us off








2013/07/06 France Day 19: Mont Saint Michel Abbey, Normandy D Day beaches and museums, Pointe du Hoc, Arromanches
π 2013-07-06 01:01 in France2013, Trips

Due to the strike at Mt Saint Michel due to the Veolia fuckers, we were not able to see the Abbey the previous night, so we did first thing the next morning. It was reasonably nice to see with few crowds, although we were not able to get an audioguide due to the strike too. On the plus side, it was free, and they forgot to close/man a door that let us access some very small stairs we were able to take to the top of the Abbey, somewhere visitors are definitely not allowed usually, so it wasn't all bad.




we're totally not supposed to be here, but they forgot to close the door to the stairs :)
we're totally not supposed to be here, but they forgot to close the door to the stairs :)






Then, we had a pretty painful trek back to our car carrying luggage back down from our room to the buses that are way too far from the city entrance (fuck you very much Veolia again), and very late in the morning we got on the road for Normandie to see D Day beaches and museums.



We went directly to the Utah Beach Landing Museum which was quite good, and had a quick look at the beach. It was good enough to be worth several hours, included a 1H guided tour which explained the basics of how the débarquement worked out to us. It was quite interesting.













From there, the day had gotten late a bit already, so we had run out of time for the American cemetery. As a result, we went to pointe du hoc, which doesn't close. It was a location where Germans had long range guns, and it got bombed to hell, so it looks like swiss cheese, and you can still see the bunkers that didn't get damaged much at all despite the bombings.







From there, we went directly to Longues-sur-Mer to see its Gun Battery that's pretty intact and headed to Arromanches for dinner, walk by the beach, sunset, and sleep. Oh yeah, it does have remnants of port winston (artificial floating harbour from WWII), but honestly, there isn't much left to see.







remnants of port winston, the floating harbour
remnants of port winston, the floating harbour



2013/07/07 France Day 20: American Cemetery, Omaha Beach débarquement Museum, Bayeux D Day Museum, Cathedral, walk in the city during a medieval festival
π 2013-07-07 01:01 in France2013, Trips

We headed back to the American Cemetary which had worthwhile displays on the débarquement, as well as a 1h-ish guided tour of the cemetery that was worth the time.










From there, we went to the smaller but still good Omaha beach museum (Omaha didn't work out nearly as well as Utah beach, the losses were much higher due to weather related mishaps).

really?
really?






By then you'd think we had learned enough about D day, but our next destination was Bayeux where we also started with a D Day museum :) From there, we went to town center to see the impressive cathedral, and enjoy the medieval festival that happened to be going on that weekend.


it's quite big
it's quite big





nice collage made by my friend Johannes
nice collage made by my friend Johannes











2013/07/08 France Day 21: Bayeux Tapestry, and finishing up in Caen with the Caen Memorial, and back to Paris
π 2013-07-08 01:01 in France2013, Trips

This was out last day visiting France before returning our rental car and taking a train to Paris.

We started with the Bayeux Tapestry which is indeed an impressive work of art, it took 35mn to look at it super quickly because of a fast audioguide that is meant to keep you moving and get you out to make room for others. While my limited knowledge of history easily beat poor Jennifer's who had to content with the abysmal amount of history that is taught in the US, I'll admit that I couldn't make myself be interested with the 1500+ years of history I had to learn as a kid, especially 1000 years+ of kings, wars between them, and between France and England. Turns out that the tapestry actually talks about a French duke from Normandy going to take over the throne of England which for complicated reasons was actually his.
Anyway, this filled a few holes of stuff I never really paid attention to, in school.







After that, Caen memorial was indeed yet another museum on WWII, although it ranged from end of WWI to the cold war. It had plenty of worthwhile displays that easily took 4H (or more if we had extra time).





Eh, I used to do just this in French School :)
Eh, I used to do just this in French School :)





We the had just enough time to bring our rental car to the train station, return it and take a train to Paris to meet my dad for dinner:





2013/07/09 France Day 22: Final Day: Paris During Summer
π 2013-07-09 01:01 in France2013, Trips

While this trip never was about visiting Paris, since we get to see it a little bit every year when we go to France for Xmas, we had an extra day in Paris so that I could see my family before flying home, and we had almost a full day to visit Paris during the summer (Jennifer always saw it during winters, some pretty cold).
We started with tour Montparnasse, then went to l'ile de la cité and l'ile St Louis before heading towards City Hall, and Les Halles which was being totally rebuilt. Next we went to the Louvre and caught an impromptu rehearsal for the Bastille Day Paris Overflights, and walked through the Jardins du Louvre towards place the l'Obélisque where we caught a bike transport towards the Free/Proxad offices where I spent a bit of time to fix/upgrade my server in Paris.





les invalides
les invalides

pont alexandre III
pont alexandre III

jardins des tuileries
jardins des tuileries

place de l'obélisque
place de l'obélisque

jardins du luxembourg
jardins du luxembourg

notre dame
notre dame

sacré coeur
sacré coeur

l'arc de triomphe
l'arc de triomphe

école nationale supérieur des beaux-arts
école nationale supérieur des beaux-arts





this lock fad is really getting out of hand
this lock fad is really getting out of hand



préfecture de police
préfecture de police

notre dame again
notre dame again


doesn't take much to get Jennifer happy :)
doesn't take much to get Jennifer happy :)

l'église de St Gervais
l'église de St Gervais




jardin in front de l'hotel de ville
jardin in front de l'hotel de ville


les halles, being rebuilt
les halles, being rebuilt

conciergerie
conciergerie


Then, we happened to catch a rehearsal of the bastille day airshow:






And we went through the Louvre towards l'obélisque:





it was a clear day, you could see the obelisque and arc the triomphe through the first arch that day
it was a clear day, you could see the obelisque and arc the triomphe through the first arch that day




I used to play with those boats when I was a kid
I used to play with those boats when I was a kid

we went up to get a view better views
we went up to get a view better views










centre george pompidou
centre george pompidou







We then went back to my dad's place to meet some of my family for a dinner which turned out to be in my honor as an early BD party, putting an end to our crazy tour de France (which we incidentally ended just 2 days before the biking tour the France started).

2013/07/10 Visiting France Trip Wrapup
π 2013-07-10 00:00 in France2013, Trips
Some thoughts after looking back at the trip:
  • Unlike other countries I've visited, I usually would have some thoughts aout what I learned about the people and culture, but being French, I mostly knew those already :) However, and that was not a surprise, I overall found people more laid back and friendly than they are in Paris (a bit like comparing people from New York City to Wisconsin or something), so that was nice.
  • The variety of what we saw was pretty amazing, too much to summarize here. Clearly, France had a lot to see that I had never heard about.
  • While it was a lot of driving (more 3500km), sadly driving was the best way to get around on a tour like we did. Not a big fan of driving that much, but public transport in remote regions would have made things difficult, at best (never mind storing luggage while travelling between locations).
  • we got extremely lucky with the weather, we only got a bit of a drizzle a portion of a couple of days, when apparently it had rained almost non-stop for the previous couple of months, and summers are no guarantee of good weather in France nowadays.
  • Jennifer spent a long time plannign those 3 weeks, and we got to see virtually everything she had planned, and even a bit more.
  • On the flipside, despite it being a bit over 3 weeks, and not being all of France, we saw many many things, but a few were a tad rushed. We could have gone to fewer places, but once in a location, we both prefer seeing what there is there, than leaving some out for a future day where we are not super likely to come back just for a bit we left out.
  • We had a decent or very good dinner most evenings, but lunch was usually on the go. Some will say it was heresy to do this, but we had to pick between seeing things, or spending hours in restaurants everywhere. Our take was that we can (and do) enjoy food more easily now and later than going back to a remote place to see something we didn't have the time to see.
  • All in all, it was a super successful trip, honestly I can't really saw how it could have been better. A big thanks again to Jennifer for all the planning work (based on Rick Steve's books).

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