Our French Adventure

It’s almost a little bit hard to believe, but this time next week we’ll be in Italy, and will have finished up a 37-day journey through France, visiting four major areas of the country.

Hopefully we’ll leave France on a high note, but for now I am still struggling with the head cold I brought along from Strasbourg, and trying to get my energy back. We’ve optimistically booked a Friday afternoon wine tour to the area south of Bordeaux, and plan to spend Saturday afternoon in Saint-Emilion, but otherwise are just taking it easy and hanging out close to our apartment. We were going to go to Saint-Emilion today, and even got as far as getting to the station and on the train, but I must have looked and sounded awful because Brett strongly suggested we get off the train and go back to the apartment and try again another day (thankfully we hadn’t bought our tickets; we were going to buy them on board from the conductor). I have no idea why I thought it might be a good idea to undertake that major of an outing today, but I was glad I took Brett’s suggestion.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about all of our time in France, the things we’ve seen and experienced, and with Brett’s help I’ve ranked the four very different areas of the country we’ve visited:

Strasbourg

  1. Strasbourg: We felt comfortable in Strasbourg from the moment we got off the train, and loved every minute of our stay, including our tiny, efficient apartment. The city was warm and welcoming, and filled with friendly, helpful people. We thoroughly enjoyed the local cuisine with its German influences, from bretzels (giant pretzels) to kugelhopf, from tarte flambeé to choucroute with its delicious sauerkraut and sausages. The entire city and public transportation system was easy to figure out and find our way around, and the central area compact enough to walk from place to place (as long as we looked out for bicycles!) without becoming disoriented or lost. The city held loads of both the old and the new to explore and appreciate. Also, everything, from food to transportation, was very affordable. Strasbourg’s location also made it easy for us to make a short getaway visit to Lucerne, Switzerland. If things ever get to the point where we feel like we need to bug out from the U.S., Strasbourg is probably where we would go.

    Omaha Beach, Normandy

  2. Normandy: We spent four wonderful days here, even if it was cold and windy for most of that time. Brett got to eat a huge bowl of moulin-frites (steamed mussels with french fries) at Mont Saint-Michel, we ate locally produced camembert, fresh-baked apple tarts, and drank homemade Normandy apple cider. We lucked out with our cozy, comfortable little apartment in Balleroy, well-placed to easily visit the landing beaches and American cemetery, Bayeaux, and get out to Mont Saint-Michel. We loved driving through the beautiful Normandy countryside and old villages, and what at times seemed like the crazy routes our GPS provided from place to place. And the history, both old and more recent! Everywhere we went was a reminder of the past. There was far too much we didn’t get to see in four days and we’d love to go back if we can some day.

    Notre-Dame de Paris

  3. Paris: I think if we had not arrived so exhausted, and had more than four days to spend in the city, we might have liked Paris more than we did. I love city life, but Paris was almost too much for me. Still, we had a wonderful time and it was thrilling to visit so many places we had only seen in pictures before – the Arc de Triomphe (my favorite), Notre-Dame, and the Louvre Grand Pyramid – and to sit in the park and relax in front of the Eiffel Tower and watch the sun set and the lights come on. Montmartre was the perfect neighborhood for us to stay in as well – we could have happily spent several more days exploring the area surrounding our apartment, including its boulangeries, patisseries and markets.

    One of two spectacular fountains at the Monument aux Girondins, Bordeaux

  4. Bordeaux: Poor Bordeaux. It’s not its fault that I’m still sick and we’re so far not able to enjoy our time here as much as we could. It’s also been a bit gloomy, weather-wise, but we hope it will improve. Besides our weird introduction to the city courtesy of our taxi driver, we’re finding it a bit grittier than Strasbourg, with lots of renovation and building going on, and streets torn up (a new leg of the tram system is being installed), and it feels a bit more stand-offish and less warm and inviting. I’m hoping by the end of the week that I’ll be feeling better enough to appreciate the city, the wine tour and the countryside, and able to actually taste the wines on our tour! I’m also looking forward to walking through Saint-Emilion without fear of collapsing.

Porcus charcuterie and upstairs restaurant, Strasbourg

What will we miss when we leave France? Cheese, so many different kinds of delicious, stinky cheese. Wine – even an inexpensive bottle of wine here is wonderful. Boulangeries, and fresh, warm baguettes. Patisseries. Charcuteries and paté. Mirabelle plums. Café au lait. French cookies from the supermarket. Receiving a cheery “Bonjour!” and giving one in return before starting any encounter. So many people putting up with my horrid French. Most of all, being encouraged to take our time and relax, and appreciate the joie de vivre of daily life in France.

Next Monday though our suitcases will be packed once again and weighed and re-weighed – we are flying RyanAir for the first time and know they are super-strict about weight limits. When we land though we will be in Italy!

 

21 thoughts on “Our French Adventure

    • Laura says:

      The mind was willing but the body wasn’t today for a trip to Saint-Emilion. The weather should be better for a visit on Saturday though, although the number of visitors should be larger too. We stopped by the tourist office and they gave us a lovely map of the village so we should do OK getting around to see it all.

      We arranged the wine tour through the tourist office as well, and received a nice discount based on our ages! The tours to Saint-Emilion and Medoc can have up to 50 people in them; the area we’re going gets about 12-15. It was also the only tour with white wine tastings.

      Like

  1. UnwrittenLifeBlog says:

    I’m curious . . . and you don’t have to answer lol . . . but it seems like you’re walking more than enough to enjoy all the delightful foods without fear of weight gain? What a great life!

    Like

    • Laura says:

      I read something from an American who has lived in Paris for a few years: “If you eat two buttery croissant every day for breakfast it doesn’t matter how much you walk – you will gain weight!” LOL.

      We are definitely not eating two croissant every day, and also not indulging ourselves every day – most everything, like pastries, or big meals and such, are treats to be savored. We typically eat simply and not a lot, and neither of us has gained any weight (I don’t think we’ve lost any either though).

      That being said, we do indulge in French cookies – the ones we can buy at the supermarket are so far superior to anything we can buy back in the U.S. – so we enjoy a few of those in the evening, and we also have eaten a lot of cheese, although probably not as much as we think we have. A baguette usually lasts us for two to three days. We typically only have one glass of wine in the evening. And, we are walking anywhere from 2 1/2 to 5 miles per day. It’s all given us a new way of looking at how we need to maintain the exercise and change the way we eat!

      Like

  2. Katherine says:

    I don’t know if you remember me previously commenting on one of your blog posts about me wanting to have a blog but being too scared? I have a large family and live in Australia….anyhow, I’ve been doing sone research and see that WordPress blogs seem to be the best option for having a successful blog?? BUT it costs money each month and they want payment in full? Blue host is recommended? Would you have any advice for me? I love reading your blog (you write so well) but I’m a bit afraid of wasting money (and picking a good blog name!)
    I was about to commit to a plan but then got worried about making the wrong choice.

    Like

    • Laura says:

      Hi Katherine – Yes, I remember you! You shouldn’t have to pay for a blog through WordPress – they offer free blogs and it’s very easy to set it up. You only have to pay if you want your own domain name (for example, “Katherine.com” vs. “Katherine.WordPress.com.” Go to http://wordpress.com/create-blog/ and the site will walk you through setting up the blog for free. There should be absolutely no costs involved (I think you may have gone to wordpress.ORG vs. wordpress.COM – to use .org you do have to pay for a hosting service). Start with the free service until you feel like your blog is settled and running smoothly, and then for a very small fee you can upgrade and get your own domain name later.

      Let me know when you’ve got it up and running!

      Like

    • Laura says:

      Hi Juhli – thank you for your concern. I was initially worried that I had picked up an infection versus a cold, but I am getting better day by day and should be completely fine in a couple more days. I’m still dealing with a stuffy nose at times, but it’s w-a-y better than it was a couple of days ago. We are getting out each day, but trying not to overdo things and that has helped.

      Like

  3. Tommy says:

    Good luck on your new adventure: Ryanair! 🙂

    I’ve only used the low cost carriers in Europe a few times but I have to say I was really impressed with easyJet versus the other companies. Their website is simple to navigate and the planes are clean. One of best things I found was their upfront or exra legroom seats – you get a better seat and because you board early, there’s no stress about finding room for your bags overhead. I’d recommend giving them a chance if the schedule/fare works with your plans.

    Cheers!

    Like

    • Laura says:

      Tommy – thanks for the tip about using easyJet – I had seen the name but knew nothing about them. We did book priority with RyanAir, with upfront seats and extra luggage on both our flights with them, so we’ll have early boarding and hopefully a bit more legroom. We have one other low-cost carrier to deal with in December: Norwegian Air. They got good reviews though so hopefully that will go well. Our flight on AirEuropa from Montevideo to Madrid was absolutely miserable, but thankfully no other low-cost flights will be as long as that one way (12 hours).

      Like

  4. Tamara R / My Retirement Project says:

    Your experience in Bordeaux appears to emulate my experience in Florence, Italy -too sick to appropriately take in the city. My husband adored Florence, but I have virtually no memories, save feeling utterly lousy. Sometimes it happens!

    We walked between 8 and 10 miles a day in Paris, primarily because we love walking, however, loved that it also gave us a caloric buffer to enjoy all the gastronomic loveliness that is France! (BTW- just reached for a chocolate mini-croissant here in Tokyo as a result of reading your blog post today! 😆

    Like

    • Laura says:

      Thankfully I am feeling better and we were able to get out for a while today. I’m looking forward to our wine tour tomorrow afternoon, and a trip out to St. Emilion on Saturday. We just learned this evening that there’s a balloon festival going on out there this weekend though, so it may be more crowded than usual.

      We walked a lot more in Paris than we have since we left – around 6+ miles per day while we were there. We had to drive in Normandy, and Strasbourg and Bordeaux have wonderful tram systems that are easy to use and convenient. Neither of us has gained any weight (our clothes aren’t getting tight) but I don’t think we’ve lost anything either. I would love to walk more but the bursitis in my right hip has really been acting up – Brett thinks it’s because of having to deal with so many cobblestones!

      Have you been to one of the convenience stores yet? The food you can find in them is very good, both taste and quality.

      Like

      • Tamara R / My Retirement Project says:

        We did last night! So exhausted from jet lag and a long day of touring we could barely put one foot in front of the other, and just wanted a nearby , quick bite and bed.

        We got a good night of sleep last night, finally, so I think we broke the back of the jet lag. Which is good, because sushi and the Tokyo Fish Market await today!

        Like

      • Laura says:

        I thought about the convenience stores yesterday – and wished they had something similar in France!

        I am loving your pictures – sounds like you are having a great time.

        Like

  5. beautea97 says:

    Gosh! Glad you are beginning to feel better! Don’t want to miss out on all of the planned adventures…

    I loved my visit to Normandy; the history and beautiful area was something to see!

    Like

    • Laura says:

      I am feeling better – I realized a little while ago that I haven’t had to blow my nose all evening and my head doesn’t feel stuffy. No coughing either. Fingers are crossed that the worst is over!

      I think Brett and I could happily live in Normandy, except for the weather. We saw a cute sign on the side of a train one day while we were there: A map of France, with the words “I Have A Dream” at the top. Over Normandy is a brightly shining sun, like for a weather report, and over all the other areas of France are big rain clouds!

      Like

  6. Katherine says:

    Thank you SO much for replying to me! I started the process for the blog today. A real mental hurdle I had to get over was the feeling of ‘missing out’ on the dot com domain name I wanted (which I have with the regular WordPress blog address. I just told myself to not worry about it. Hopefully I can find more time to set it up over the weekend and start writing….eek!!

    Like

  7. Laurel Hill says:

    We didn’t visit Strasbourg, but I completely agree about Normandy! We enjoyed Paris (and were really fortunate to have great weather almost every day of our last trip), but the countryside was much more appealing to both of us. We did walk more in Paris, of course.

    Glad you are feeling better and can’t wait to follow along in Italy. We’re one year past our trip and were just looking at pictures again the other night. The food is just fantastic, although it sounds like you’re enjoying that in each city. 🙂

    Like

    • Laura says:

      We leave France day after tomorrow – we made our last trip to the market today for cheese, and to the boulangerie for a baguette (and they had baba rhum so we got two of those too, and some pastries for Monday morning). Brett and I are already talking about when we can get back again! We would like to visit Paris and Normandy again, and of course Strasbourg, but then spend some time in Lyon, and in the south. We’ve had a wonderful time here. As parents we’re sad we didn’t get to share the experience with our kids.

      I was feeling better, but feel like I had a setback today. The cold seems to now have settled in my lungs, so I’m out of breath easily and feel more tired than ever. I really hope to be better by Monday – our trip to Italy is going to require some effort on both our parts and require just about every form of transportation there is: walking, tram, bus, plane, bus, train, and finally taxi, all with our big suitcases and heavy backpacks. Ugh. Thankfully we’re in Florence long enough that we can just collapse for a day or two if we need to.

      Like

Comments are closed.