We had grand expectations of weekend and holiday travel when we moved to France two years ago and while we have done a good bit, there were some places that we still wanted to visit before we return to Seattle. Stamps-With-Foot went into over drive researching, planning, calculating the budget and logistics to fit as many of our wants into one trip as possible. The below are posts from her web journal as we made our way, day to day and from place to place. I have included pictures from both our phones as well as some additional commentary.
On the road – Farewell to France tour
Matt and I will be leaving France at the end of November, so we had to plan a great trip to say Farewell to this beautiful country. We’ve got 12 days off sans puppies and a whole country to explore. Obviously we can’t go everywhere, but we planned a nice loop. We each had a place we wanted to go (for me it was the Dordogne to see castles, for Matt it was the Loire to see castles) and we both wanted to go to Paris again although we have both been there before, It’s Paris. So the trip goes as follows – one day and night in Rocamadour, one day and night in the Dordogne, two nights one day in Versailles, four nights and four days in Paris, two days one night in the Loire, a night and a day in Saint Emilion for our ninth wedding anniversary, and a night and a day in Bordeaux visiting our neighbor and friend Nico who has just moved there. And then home!
Farewell to France tour – day one
We got on the road later than expected and had to forgo one of our stops (the caves of Peche Merle) but our stop in the beautiful picturesque village of Saint-Cirq-Lapopie more than made up for it. It was so cute, we would totally live there!!! Next stop was Rocamadour. We arrived just after sunset when the lights were already shining on the ramparts of the castle. Beautiful. And our little hotel was right next to the castle! We had a fairly disappointing dinner at a tourist trap (mt: hundred+ of flies in the dining room and bloody-rare beef), went home to the hotel, planned the next stage of the journey and turned in early. I was so tired – it was the first day of “fall back” in Europe and it was past my bedtime.
mt: I would live Saint-Cirq-Lapopie: Open a little wood shop near the church and have a 5 or so bee hives in the fields above the village. The village is known for its view and boxwood craftsman. Tiny shop in town with a turner that still uses an overhead shaft and leather belts for his lathe, drill press, band and tiny/scary table saw. No pictures allowed, so this is all I could snap.
Farewell to France tour: day two
Woke up in Rocamadour. We had no idea the fall in France would be so lovely. The autumn leaves are stunning! We had breakfast at our hotel, with views of beautiful trees in golden hues. Then we went to the Main Street of L’Hopitalet and saw a few ruins while waiting for our tour at the Grotte des Mervilles to start. It’s an underground cave discovered in 1920 which has gorgeous stalactite and stalagmite growth, unground ponds and cave art. There are other more famous grottoes and caves in the region, but we are on a whirlwind tour and can’t do everything. This was right there and easy to do and we are so glad we did. It was truly amazing. Afterward we checked out the Maison des Abeilles which Matt really liked as he is super into bees and beekeeping. Then we got on the road and drove to La-Roque-Gageac on the Dordogne river to take a boat tour. We saw five castles from the water and learned about the history of the region and the river. Next we went to the Château de Castelnaud where Matt was like a grinning nine year old. They have a huge collection of swords, armor and artillery including several huge trebuchets. We also saw a metalsmith demonstration and I almost took a dare to use the ancient garderobe but the door didn’t close. All in all it was a very busy and wonderful day!
Mt: While at Castelnaud, France and there was a guy doing a lathe demo/sale in front of his little shop. Wooden lathe bed the hardware from a 1920s US made saw. His grandfather made it. Look at the wooden pulleys and detail on the machine. Was really happy to share his tools, method, and story.
Farewell to France tour – day three
Lots of driving today. We traveled from a tiny village on the Dordogne (Vezac) all the way to Versailles today. We went for awhile through gorgeous French countryside until I got carsick from all the windy roads and we switched to the freeway. We stopped for lunch in Limoges where I have been wanting to go and buy all new dishes for a few years now. I didn’t break the bank and go all out, but I did buy a beautiful porcelain gravy boat with gold detailing that makes me feel all swoony inside. Remember the pilot of the TV show Friends where Rachel is talking about breaking up with her fiancée? She says “I was looking at this gorgeous Limoges gravy boat and I realized I was more turned on by it than I was by Barry.” I’ve always remembered the line. I love to quote TV shows. I guess I needed a Limoges gravy boat of my own.
Mt: Lesson Learned: When your wife wants to “pop into” the Royal Limoges factory store (oldest in region -1796 – and super bougie), keep driving or fake a seizure or heart attack. Really, really. If you let her through the door you will be doomed to own plates that will only be used if the president or royalty comes to your house for dinner. No one else, including you, will be allowed to even breathe on them.
There will be indecision about the gravy boat and one of the sweet old ladies in the shop will help her find the one that was fired with unicorn horn and has adamantium detail work written in ancient Atlantean. Fucking “helpful” old ladies…
Farewell to France tour – day four
Slept in. So nice. Lots of driving yesterday. Leisurely morning, then hit Versailles. Our Airbnb is just fifteen minutes walking distance. We did the low key way – started at the far end of the park and made our way backward, going to the palace last. There was no line. One person ahead of us. But I am getting ahead of myself. We took the “Petit train” to the Petit Trianon and walked hand in hand to Marie Antoinette’s little hamlet. I loved it before I ever saw it, and loved it even more when I visited last summer. It was wonderful getting to show Matt a place I love so much, and knew he would love in equal measure. The fall colors were stunning. It looked like rain but the sky never opened up and soon the sun broke through. We saw lots of animals at the little farm, and made our way back toward the palace. (Pictures to follow at some point.) A new exhibit had opened the day before called Le Roi est mort (the king is dead) all about royal funeral practices. After that we went to the royal apartments and walked the hall of mirrors as the sun was going down. The lights were spectacular. Laurel has always wanted a chandelier. Now she wants more of them.
mt: I would give up a finger and one testicle if I could live in and use that mill! I would have an overhead line shaft running a huge lathe and a 14kw generator head hooked directly to the waterwheel shaft that would power the house and the rest of my shop. There would be bees and chickens in the garden. I may have put too much time into lusting after this daydream…
Farewell to France tour – days 5 to 7
Oh, Paris. Je t’adore. No matter how many times I visit, I am happy I did. I love Paris. I didn’t do that much in the way of sightseeing, as I was there to visit a friend and attend a convention, but I did have a wonderful time.
Day five: drove from Versailles. Checked in to the hotel in Montparnasse. Rested a bit. Went to Notre Dame for vespers (first time inside the church!) and heard beautiful singing. Walked around hand in hand with my sweetie, who also loves Paris. Saw other churches. Paris at night is especially wonderful. Ate Thai food for dinner (it was ok) in a lovely little restaurant with a good vibe, music that made me happy and a gorgeous chandelier in the entrance. Also did a little shopping. Got a new winter coat and a pretty black wool cape for half off!
Day six: got up early with Matt to help him get out the door for work. Also, our check engine light came on – Roxanne (our 2013 Suzuki Swift Diesel) needed her 30,000 km checkup and Matt took her in for servicing. I so appreciate him! I spent the morning in the bath, had lunch by myself, and went lingerie shopping. So much fun! I had help from a very chic French woman who must have brought me 50 things to try on. Afterward I was so tired I needed a coffee. Met my lovely friend Nina at the History of Paris museum, and afterward had mint tea and falafel plates in the Marais neighborhood. Attended he start of the conference, then home to Matt and a glass of red wine at the hotel.
Day seven: all day conference- It was fantastic. Afterward I met Matt at our favorite bookstore in Paris – Shakespeare & Company – where I bought my dad something special for Christmas and also got myself a book on Parisian street fashion. Wandered the streets again hand in hand with Matt. It was Halloween on Saturday night in Paris and there were lots of people out and about in costume. Had dinner together and shared a bottle of red wine (Côte du Rhone, one of our favorites). I ordered a rump steak and fries. Matt ordered a Caesar salad. My jaw dropped. My husband is trying to eat more healthfully and I’m super proud of him. I’m also marveling over the fact that we as people can change over time and together. Matt and I will celebrate 9 years of marriage next week. When we met I didn’t eat steak (or drink wine, or coffee!) and he sure didn’t order salad. Fell asleep reading my book on Parisian street fashion. A very long and wonderful day.
Mt: I spent the day working in Paris and lugged around a bag full of crap from appointment to appointment all day. I dumped it out when I got back to the hotel and decided I have what professional organizers term professionally as “A lot of shit.”
iPhone, cord and euro-plug, city/metro map, funny book to read while on the metro, sunglasses, regular glasses, glass cloth and case, REWE fountain pen (green ink), Lamy fountain pen (brown ink), Sennhiezer headphones and pouch, Faber ‘Perfect Pencil’, passport with 55€ stuck inside, gumX2, pocket knife, pipe, tobacco pouch, matches, two tins of tobacco (actually picked up for a buddy) Rhodia notebook, accordion receipt organizer (it was a work trip and I have to turn in an expense report), used Metro tickets, and a tote bag I got with my Monocle Magazine subscription to put it all in. None of this counts my keys, work computer, wedding ring, wrist immobilizer (broken wrist 3+ weeks ago), watch, hat, and coat….
Jesus, it is like I carry fucking hipster Bug Out Bag everywhere I go!!!
Farewell to France tour – day nine
Woke up in the footprint of the Château de Chambord (which we could see from our hotel room yesterday by opening the window and hanging out of it.) This morning the fog had rolled in and the castle was shrouded in mist. Pretty cool! It’s still surrounded by wild lands (and acts as the largest game sanctuary in Europe) and it’s easy to imagine what it was like when Francis I used it as a hunting lodge. After breakfast we drove an hour down the Loire to Amboise and toured two châteaux. First stop was the Château d’Amboise where Francis I was born, and Leonardo da Vinci is buried in a sweet little Chapel. We also went to the smaller Château de Clos Lucé where da Vinci lived and spent the last years of his life. Lots of cool things were seen – pictures to follow. And perhaps even cooler – our Airbnb down the street from both châteaux happens to be in a troglodyte cave in the side of the hill that the Château d’Amboise is built upon. It’s a stunning little studio apartment. Photos to follow as well!
Farewell to France tour – day ten
Woke up, all snuggled up in our troglodyte cave, and didn’t wanna get up! But it was our anniversary, and we had a full day planned. First we went to a lovely little breakfast at the patisserie/chocolatier recommended by our Airbnb owner. I had an “omelette natur” and the best coffee I have perhaps ever had in France. As I travel I have taken to drinking it black with a lump of sugar, since I am lactose- intolerant and it’s inconvenient to carry my own milk for 12 days. (Okay so I did for the first few but then I threw it out.) I also avoid gluten and have carried my own bread. Matt ate a croissant that he said was to die for. It was really tempting! But I enjoyed my omelet and coffee, and bought a chocolate bar on the way out. The shop has been open over 100 years and was started by the owner’s grandfather.
Next stop was the gorgeous Château du Chenoncheau. It deserves a post all of its own, so I will save that for another day. But I’ll just say, for all the castles we have seen over the past week, it was by far our favorite. Guess we saved best for last! We had a beautiful anniversary lunch in the former orangerie on the property, complete with local wine of course. Then we got on the road to complete the final long haul of our trip, since we had a reservation at a hotel in St Emilion that night.
After checking in, we walked across the street and had a fabulous meal at a little resto called L’Alcove, which I had bookmarked on yelp as a possibility for dinner having no idea it was across the street. The local red wine was of course fantastic – we ordered a Demi bottle of 2005 St Emilion. Our steak was melt in your mouth. Pictures of course. Soon.
Mt: The next couple of days were spent wine touring and shipping. In addition to shopping for us, we also picked up some wine for some family and friends back in the US. Notice how low the car is riding in the picture below? It was due to the 8+ cases of wine stacked to the roof. We overloaded the rating on the suspension by 15kilos or 33ish pounds according to our car’s info book. Also notice how happy my wife is in the front seat. It really was a fine couple of days and I cannot imagine the village of St. Emilion and the surrounding vineyards and prettier than when we were there: the leave of the vines were all turning orange and fire-red, there was a complete lack or tourists overrunning everything. The temperature and sunshine were as perfect as one couple ever hope for. Really a magical trip.