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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


More pages: June 2013 July 2013