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Table of Content for france2013:

More pages: June 2013 July 2013



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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