France – exploring some of it’s wine regions & cuisine. September, 2002

Back in 2002, we did not own a digital camera but we did manage to find a few photos that we’ve scanned to include in this post. We’ve written a few highlights so that this trip can become part of our travel journal.

On this trip, we travelled with friends to France. We wanted to discover some of this country’s renown wine regions and experience some of the local cuisine.

Amboise – The Loire Valley

We flew into Paris and took the train immediately to Amboise. The town of Amboise is located in the Loire Valley.

In Amboise, we stayed at Le Blason. Our room was on the top floor so we needed to take a very narrow staircase to get to it. (please don’t take trunk suitcases if you plan on staying here. (I did learn over the years, Bernard😊) What we thoroughly enjoyed about this hotel was that it was in a great location and it had a beautiful outdoor garden patio restaurant in the back of it where we ate a couple of great meals.

The Loire Valley is often visited because of all it’s beautiful Châteaux and wines. We only wanted to visit one of those châteaux so we choose the Château de Chenonceau as it is supposedly the Loire Valley’s most recognizable and romantic château.

The other reason we choose this Château was that we could cycle there from Amboise. It only took us about 50 minutes each way. We rented our bikes from Loca Cycle which is located at 2 Bis Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 37400 Amboise.

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Hard to believe we didn’t wear helmets back then. It was an easy bike ride to the Château with picnic supplies & wine to go.

The beautiful garden was a nice spot for our picnic. Hard to believe, but we have photos that show us having lunch on our little nappe champêtre. It was even travelling with us back then! 😊 We didn’t visit any of the other chateaux of the Loire Valley but we certainly enjoyed seeing the interior of this one. No wonder they named it “The Ladies Chateau”. It has a touch of elegance!

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La p’tite nappe champêtre in the gardens of the Château Chenonceau 😊

When we arrived back to Amboise we returned our bikes to the rental place and we were greeted by the owner, Jean Francois, with a bottle of bubbly champagne! It was so funny, in such a brief period of time we seemed to have developed a special connection with Jean Francois. We appreciated this welcoming gesture to his store and we spent an hour or so with him sharing stories of our countries and culture. A plaque on his wall wrote …

“MON DIEU, DONNEZ-MOI LA SANTE POUR LONGTEMPS, DE L’AMOUR DE TEMPS EN TEMPS, DU BOULOT PAS TROP SOUVENT MAIS DU VIN TOUT L’TEMPS.”

Merci Jean Francois!😊

The next day it was off to Bordeaux but not before doing a quick stop to Cognac to do a tasting at the Rémy Martin Estate.  Cognac & brownies, what could be better than that!

Bordeaux-

We actually stayed in a small village just north of Bordeaux called Castelnau de Médoc. We stayed in a château, Château de Foulon.( unfortunately they are no longer taking overnight guests). This was a beautiful property and in a great location.

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Château de Foulon
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Laundry day at the Château!

Staying at this château was definitely a highlight of this trip. We had some spectacular wines during our stay here. We left Bordeaux with a much greater appreciation of this whole wine region and why it is so appreciated & renown worldwide.

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Château Palmer – a prestigious Margaux wine.

Well, we girls wanted to spend a day at a spa to get a bit pampered. The name of this spa was, Les Sources de Caudalie 

This spa & hotel resort is located in the countryside of Bordeaux and is situated in a natural setting surrounded by the vines of Château Smith Haut-Lafitte. This wine estate makes a well-appreciated Grand Cru Classé wine.

This was an amazing day and would recommend it to anyone going to the Bordeaux region. Pamper yourself! You’ll remember this spa experience forever.

 Les Sources de Caudalie Hotel & Spa
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Barrels of Bordelais wine to soak yourself in.

While we were at the spa the guys opted to spend the day in Sauternes. This village is about 65km south of Bordeaux and is a village that is famous for its high-quality sweet wines. It only has a population of about 1000 people or even less. The village is surrounded on all sides by vineyards and produces some of the world’s most prestigious dessert wines. Absolutely to die for with Foie Gras!

After this beautiful day, we finished the evening with a meal at a One-Star Michelin restaurant in Lauzon, Restaurant Claude Daurroze.

We felt quite appreciative of this incredible day!🌺

The next morning we decided to bike in the Bordeaux region. We ended up on the Lacanau Cycle path which takes you to Lacanau-Océan which is on the Atlantic coast. It took us about an hour each way. The route is completely flat and paved which makes it suitable for leisure bikers. There are long sections where you are distanced from any road making it a relaxing bike ride. We got to the beach and had some refreshments. 🍺 This a bike trip definitely worth doing.

Saint-Émilion & Sarlat –

Early the next morning we were off to Saint-Émilion for the day en route to Sarlat.

Saint-Émilion is actually a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Certainly, this is a little village that is quaint and we think enjoyed best by wandering around and appreciating its history and simplicity. This little village is what you imagined before visiting the Bordeaux wine region. We were lucky enough to take part in a wine tasting class while we were there.  Gained lots of great knowledge on these Saint-Émilion renowned wines. But really guys, do we need to learn all this? I just want to get to the tasting part of this class! 😊

I have a little place in my heart for Sarlat. I felt like I was in the heart of French culture.🇫🇷

Sarlat is well-known for its outdoor markets & cuisine. We were told that in early March Sarlat’s top chefs prepare an outdoor banquet. I wish we could be there!

Here is an excerpt from “Rick Steeves” collections of articles-

Sensational Sarlat, My Favorite Town in France.”

In Sarlat, we stayed at Hotel Renoir. In the morning we were lucky to experience their well known open market. This market went on for miles. Everything you could imagine. Foie Gras galore, wide variety of cheeses, nuts, spices, sausages, bread, and awesome pâtisseries! 😊01112018145835_Page_16

In the evening we had a memorable meal at the Présidential. Food & service, excellent!

Next day, our destination-

Région Provence, Arles –

We stayed at Hotel Calendal . It is located in the historical center of Arles. Very nice. In the morning when we woke up we were blown away by a horse parade that was taking place right in front of our hotel. This festival takes place every year in May and is known as the Festival of the Herdsmen.01112018145835_Page_17map showing the location of Arles

We ate at Chez GiGi in Arles. A French Canadian that moved into the area and decided to open a little casual restaurant. here. Its menu is simple but from reading the reviews it seems to be well appreciated by locals and tourists, even to this day.

We visited Gordes on one of our days in Arles. Our little discovery there were Santons,  which are small hand-painted terracotta nativity scene figurines produced in the region. A few have made their way to Canada! 😊

After Provence, we made our way to the French Riviera and Monaco.

French Riviera – Saint Raphael, Nice, Cannes, Monaco & Saint Tropez.

On the French Riviera, we stayed in Saint Raphael in the hotel, La Potinière. It was a  hotel that was surrounded by palm trees and flowers and in a beautiful setting.

During our stay on the French Riviera, it was all about RELAXATION! We discovered many beautiful coastal towns, palm trees, nice wines, ate the best bouillabaisse we’ve ever had as it was made with that morning’s fresh fish that was brought up from the wharf.

To our surprise, we were in Cannes during the week of the Film Festival de Cannes. Who did we spot right beside us while walking on the beach, Whoopi Goldberg! 😊

Of course, we travelled as well to Monaco and spend a day there. $$$💰

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Casino de Monaco

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Biking in Saint Tropez.

I hope we will be back on the French Riviera someday for another vacation. (Maybe to get away from our Canadian winters).

Paris-

We ended this trip to Paris. We left the rental car in Nice and took the fast TGV to Paris. We stayed at the Minerve Hotel in the Latin quarter of Paris. In Paris, we visited all the well-known attractions and got to do a bit of shopping. We kept saying, hope we can visit Paris with our children someday…and we did two years later.

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