It was my university friend, Laurie’s first trip to France and she and I did it all: travelling by plane, car, and train! She said she’d use this trip to “get France out of her system”. (Note: It’s not out of her system yet!)
The itinerary and some highlights:
- Paris (4 nights)-watching the Bastille Day (July 14) parade down the Champs Elysee and having lunch in the Eiffel Tower (Jules Verne restaurant). What a meal! Champagne plus smoked salmon, sole with crab, a dessert parfait and a bottle of Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine. Cost was about $165 per person (this was many, many years ago).
- Dinner at Cremerie Restaurant Polidor, which was founded in 1845 and is STILL in operation (and getting great reviews). In my notes I said the food was very good, but the service was slow.
- I took the Metro and bus to Château de Malmaison, which was the residence of Napoleon Bonaparte’s wife, Empress Josephine in the late 1700s. It’s located in the western suburb of Paris, Rueil-Malmaison. I noted in my journal that the architecture was lovely but the tour was too long and it did take me ages to get there by public transportation.
- Dinner at Au Gourmet de l’Isle, which was located on Ile St. Louis closed even after changing ownership. Too bad. We had a lovely dinner there. Ile St. Louis is a great little area and if you can’t dine there, at least get an ice cream at Berthillon.
- Dinner at Le Procope. This is the oldest cafe in Paris (1686) and is still open! It was the meeting place of authors and intelligencia. Famous people such as Danton, George Sand, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin use Le Procope as a meeting place. Dinner was definitely memorable. How can I forget the aperitif that had the red, white and blue colours or the champagne with sweet cherries? Dinner was very good. (We went with the fixed price menu)
- Loire Valley (3 nights)-visited 7 chateaux and stayed at Auberge du Bon Laboureur (where I had stayed during Trip #3) and one night in a real chateau: Chateau de Chissay. This chateau was quite enormous and we were upgraded to a larger suite as a bike tour was also staying there. Our room had a fireplace and a very large bathroom. The chateau also had a pool and the dining room served excellent seafood.
- We had many picnics by the River Loire and visited some chateaux that are still being living in by their owners. Some were VERY old. I don’t want to say run down, but they certainly were not as pristine as some of the grand chateaux of the Loire, such as Chenonceau.
Burgundy, French Alps, Provence, and the Côte d’Azur
- Burgundy (1 night)-drinking wine in the Marche aux Vins in Beaune—we tasted 37 wines and then joined some folks who we had met in the wine cellar for escargots French Alps (3 nights)-took the telepherique (cable car) up Mt. Blanc. How was I to know that Laurie was scared of heights? This was a turning point in her life. She is no longer scared of heights.
- Grenoble (1 night)-We don’t like that town. Nothing there. Sorry Grenoble. I know you had the Olympics, but…..
- Provence and Côte d’Azur (5 nights)
- We visited 10 famous towns in the two areas such as Cannes (not too impressed), Aix-en-Provence, Les Baux, Avignon, Grasse (Perfumerie), St. Paul de Vence (lots of artists shops), Monaco (seeing the changing of the guards), and the Pont du Gard.
- We particularly enjoyed visiting some wineries in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (Mont Redon and Hotel des Fin Roches).
- The most unusual memory was during a sunbathing episode in Nice. There was a young woman who kept going around the beach dressed in a different outfit. She’d do a circuit, change in public, and then show a new outfit. It was kind of like a fashion show. She says nothing and has no price tags attached to the clothing.
- Night train from Nice to Paris-why not offer some Chateauneuf-du-Pape wine to our bunkmates in the train? Too bad I left the window open during the journey as my feet got wet.