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Trip Report 25th Anniversary Trip in Dijon, The Luberon and Paris in September

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Thank you all for your help in planning this incredible trip. I know this is overdue, but hopefully it may be helpful to those planning a similar trip. I am not a creative writer, so bear with me!

I will just start out with our itinerary, so you have an idea of where we went. We had already spent a week in Singapore visiting my stepson and family when we arrived in Paris. Sort of an "around the world trip"!

Arrived CDG 9/6 and took 10:23 train to Dijon. Spent two nights in an apartment by the Palais in Dijon. Picked up rental car on second day.
Drove to Bonnieux and stayed 7 nights at the Old Gendarmerie.
Returned car in Avignon and took a noon train to Paris. We stayed 4 nights in an apartment on Rue Dauphine (6th), one block form the Seine. This is the web site of the apartment:
http://www.parisianflat.com/rent-a-parisian-flat-2-rue-dauphine-saint-germain-des-pres.html
The apartment was HUGE- approximately 1000 sq. feet! The location was perfect, the bathroom and kitchen were wonderful. The only caveat to this apartment is that it is 2 stories (ground floor and below with a very narrow iron staircase). Also, the bathroom is in the "cave" and the bedroom is upstairs. The property managers were great to work with.

I don't have time to write more, but will try and post again later this evening or tomorrow. I will fill in details on the other apartments, restaurants, etc.

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    Ok, back to the beginning.
    Our first stop was Dijon. Here is the web site for the apartment: http://www.luxuryflatindijon.fr
    We stayed in the Benigne le Compasseur apartment. It had a private courtyard entrance. We were able to park our car in their courtyard (more about the car in a moment). I can't imagine a more centrally located apartment. It was literally off the Ducal Palace place.
    We had two dinners while we were there: Bistro des Halles and Chez Leon. By far, Bistro des Halles was the better of the two. In fact, it was excellent and so was the service. We did the prix-fixe and my recollection is that we had roast pork. It was a nice evening (great weather the entire visit) and we sat outside at both restaurants. It was fun to watch the comings and goings by the market hall. We didn't opt for any fancy restaurants on this trip as we travelled with a 22" carry-on and a tote each.
    We rented a car on the second day with the intent on going to Beaune and have lunch at Ma Cuisine and see the sights. This is hard to admit, but we were so burnt out on big meals after a week in Singapore (and not ready to conquer the road signs) that we cancelled our reservation and had lunch in town at a cafe off the place. In retrospect, we should have waited till our departure to rent the car. There was so much to see in Dijon that two days wasn't enough time to travel outside the city. We thoroughly enjoyed Dijon. It's very doable on foot. We love Dijon mustard and actually brought an empty crock to be refilled with their fresh mustard (I like the white wine one). My understanding was NOT to bring the cork, but that wasn't the case. We had to pay for a new cork (no big deal, but thought that might be helpful for others).

    I'll post again tomorrow.

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    I'm very happy you had a good time in Dijon and enjoyed Françoise's apartment. Too bad you only spent 2 nights, but I hope you followed the Owl's trail to make the most of it.

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    Thank you Coco. I understand you have a wonderful apartment as well. I'm embarrassed to say we didn't do the owl walk. The first day, we were in a jet lagged state. The morning of the second day was taken up with getting the rental car and trying to get back to our apartment, which was an endeavor in its self! We stayed on Rue du Palais and it one one way street after another. After a few attempts we made it back to the apartment. I knew my DH was very frustrated, so I didn't push going to Beaune. It was just too short of a time for Dijon. (First of many lessons learned!). We did go the covered market, stopped in a few wine shops(bought some wine) and walked a lot, enjoying the architecture. It was a good introduction to the city. We also enjoyed sitting in a cafe, both mornings, enjoying our cafe creme and croissants. It was very expensive, though.

    The next morning, we headed out for Provence. 2nd lesson learned - don't drive, take the train. I had envisioned us stopping at a few chateaus along the wine route, NOT! My DH was on a mission. It turns out he was smart to do so. We came to a crawl outside of Lyon and we barely made it to our apartment in the designated window to pick up the key.

    As I mentioned before, we stayed at the Old Gendarmerie in Bonnieux. Here is the web site:
    http://www.bastidemarechaldenier.com/en/appartements.html
    We stayed in Le Capitaine overlooking the pool and the hills. The apartment was very comfortable. Nothing fancy. The location was perfect. My only reservation about renting there again is the property manager. He bordered on rude. We were both taken aback . He spoke virtually no English (even though the management company is British!) He didn't really show us anything. It was obvious he wanted to get out of there asap. There were NO start up provisions. We had to go to a little market down the street for toilet paper, etc. The irony is that one of the reasons we chose this property is because they had a management company and we assumed would be better maintained. There was a common washer/dryer area in the basement with two washers and two dryers. Only one dryer worked, which ,want long waits, at times, to dry your clothes.
    On a more positive note, we loved the Luberon! We had stayed in the Alpilles a couple years ago on a bike trip, but had never been to the Luberon. It reminded me of Tuscany.
    I will report on restaurants, villages, weather, etc. later today.

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    The irony is that one of the reasons we chose this property is because they had a management company and we assumed would be better maintained. >>

    as an owner of a holiday cottage which we manage ourselves, I think this is unlikely. there are few things worse than being confronted with a guest who is saying that the loo is blocked or the shower water's cold when it's YOUR property, of which you feel [justifiably, i hope] proud.

    but I'm still here and enjoying your report, chutney.

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    "My understanding was NOT to bring the cork, but that wasn't the case. "
    We too brought our crock back to be refilled with the assumption that the cork was not needed. I think they must have changed their policy but I have the crock and the cork wrapped in the cardboard waiting for our trip to Paris in March. I am enjoying your trip report and waiting for additional installments. Thanks for writing.

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    annhig and Coco,
    Gosh, i didn't mean to offend you, if I did. I was just pointing out that we made an incorrect assumption that a "condo" would be easier too deal with and would have on the premises management. Wrong! It was reasonably priced, but next time will stay in a home either in town or in the countryside.
    Ok, I've got some time to write, so will start with restaurants in the Luberon. I had done a ton of research on this site and Chowhound, so had a good list going in. We actually didn't make it to one, as we decided to stay in and have a dinner on our balcony overlooking the beautiful scenery. Here is the list of restaurants I had reserved for dinner:
    Le Fournil in Bonnieux
    La Bartavelle in Goult
    La Ferme de la Huppe outside of Gordes
    Le Castellas in Sivergues
    Le Petite Cave in Saignon
    L'Arome in Bonnieux (the night we stayed in)

    Our first night , Saturday, was Le Fournil. It couldn't have been a more perfect evening. We were so glad to be out of the car and loved sitting out overlooking the sunset and the street around their terrace. I think I had fish. What I do remember is that the service was VERY friendly (we had a very funny waiter) and the food was delicious. Especially my champagne to start (which I did most evenings!)

    Sunday, we went to la Bartavelle. We liked this so much that we went twice! We enjoyed it more the first time because they had the same prix fixe menu on the second visit, so it wasn't as new and "wow" as the first night. Also, the second time we went, we were in the midst of the mistral winds and ate inside. I think we caught one of their last nights of outside dining on our first visit. It is a husband and wife team. The husband does all the cooking. He does magic with vegetables. Everything was delicious. We had fish and I think either veal or pork the second time. I would highly recommend this restaurant. They book out a ways, so I would book early. It is a small restaurant.

    Monday was La Ferme de la Huppe. We ate poolside, which was lovely. The food was good, but don't have any strong recollections of what we ate (I know, I should have kept a journal!). There were a lot more Americans there, if that kind of thing matters to you. I think because it's so close to Gordes.

    Tuesday was Le Castellas. Where do I begin? The food was AWFULL yet the experience was one of our most memorable. The drive was hair raising, white knuckle experience for my husband. (actually worse in the daylight because you could actually see the drop-offs!). My husband said to get someone to lead you out at night, so you have tail lights to follow! We arrived early so we could catch the sunset. What a spectacular view! I had read so many posts about this place, so my expectations were very high. Unfortunately, a lot of the aspects of this working farm are gone. There was only one lone goat and a few cats. The patriarch of the place reminded us of the "soup nazi". There were a few other guests there and he made us all squish in together on the same bench, even though it wasn't full. Very strange, but funny at the same time. We met a very nice couple from Scotland and 3 others from France. There was no roast pork (which they are known for). Instead, it was roasted beef almost as tough as jerky. The roasted veggies were good. that's about all I can say about the food. It would be worth going for the view, but don't expect a good dinner. Ironically, we still talk about that evening and laugh about the drive and the owner.

    Wednesday was my birthday and turned into a VERY special evening. The mistral winds had started up that afternoon and it was freezing! This restaurant is in a very tiny town not far from Bonnieux and there was hardly a soul out and about. When we first arrived, we were the only patrons in the restaurant. We joked that my DH had reserved it just for me! We had a wonderful waiter/maitre'D. He brought us complimentary champagne and took some pictures of the two of us. This was our favorite restaurant of the trip. The setting is very intimate with original stone walls and the food is fabulous. We highly recommend it.

    Thursday was back at La Bartavelle. Friday night was our last night. We were both tired of big meals, needed to pack and had gone to the market in Ille sur la Sorgue earlier in the day and brought back roasted chicken, potatoes, ratatouille ( one of me favorite dishes) and good bread and cheeses. This meant that we had to cancel on L'Arome. I had specifically planned on dinner the first and last nights in Bonnieux. I understand it is very good. Hopefully, we will go there on our next visit.

    We also had made lunch reservations for Bistro du Paradou, but the market in Lourmarin took up more time than planned, so we had lunch in Lourmarin while we were there.

    Highlights and Memorable Moments in the Luberon:
    *Renting Sunbikes on two separate days and tooling around the area. I can't recommend this enough. We are both cyclist and have gone on several cycling trips. This is NOT difficult cycling. You have a battery pack that motorizes the bike while peddling. It gives you a little "push" up the hills, which is very helpful with all the hill towns in this area. It was the perfect way to breathe in the scenery, so to speak. We went to Gordes, Rousillon and Lacoste on our Sunbikes. My DH still comments on how happy I was on my birthday, tooling around next to the vineyards. I called out to him at one point exclaiming it was the best birthday ever! I remember going up to Rousillon and meeting up with a young couple on road bikes. I felt guilty riding off on our sun bikes while they struggled up that hill! Had a delicious lavender ice cream cone there! We rented the Sunbikes in Bonnieux, but they are available in other towns. We had been looking to rent hybrids, but this was MUCH better for the Luberon.

    Cooking class at Auberge la Feniere with chef Reine Sammut outside of Loumarin. It is worth going there just for the property and that incredible kitchen. My DH has really taken up an interest in cooking, so this was made to order. The only two issues were that the chef spoke virtually no English, which was an issue for my husband, and the entire meal was based on potatoes! They were spectacular potato dishes, but all potatoes?? She did bring out a boeuf en daube to go with the main course of potatoes. My DH would have enjoyed it more if he could have understood what she was explaining.

    The markets! We went to Lourmarin and Ille Sur la Sorgue. I bought a wonderful oil painting from a young artist for 80EU. It is now framed and hanging in my kitchen!

    The terra cotta colored hills of Rousillon. Also, Gordes- Senanque Abbey and the Village des Bories.

    The vistas and the weather. September is a great time to go to the Luberon. The crowds are down and you have beautiful sunny days-but no sunflowers:(

    Next post I will go give you our feedback on Paris restaurants, etc.

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    Gosh, i didn't mean to offend you, if I did. I was just pointing out that we made an incorrect assumption that a "condo" would be easier too deal with and would have on the premises management. Wrong! It was reasonably priced, but next time will stay in a home either in town or in the countryside.>>

    not insulted at all, just pointing out that IMO you're likely to get better service where the person in charge has a personal investment in the enterprise, wherever it is.

    great TR by the way. very useful should we go to the Luberon.

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    I finally have time to finish this report. Before I go to the Paris portion of the trip, here are a few trip tips that I thought might be useful:

    1. if renting a car, be aware there are traffic cameras everywhere and it isn't difficult to end up with a speeding ticket. Upon our return home, we receive three charges from our rental car company for speeding fines! With all the fees, etc, they totaled about 70-80 EU each! One was from the first day we picked up the car. We still can't figure out that one out. All we did was pick up the car, get very turned around inside the city of Dijon and finally make our way back to our apartment. The other two were on the day we were trying to find the Avignon train station. We did have a few tense moments and it is possible we drove a bit faster than we normally would have, but none of it was super highway driving. It was all country roads and city streets.

    2. The signs to the Avignon train station rental return are TERRIBLE! It was by chance that we found the lane that leads you to the return area. When you drive up to the train station, there is fencing all around the station area. Go right and there is a small lane with very small rental car co. signs. Take that lane and it leads around to the left and will deliver you into the rental car return parking area. Also, the road signs to actually get to the train station are not well marked either.

    2. Get SIM card with data for your iPad or phone so you can use a map app. We relied on printed out directions, which was definitely an issue on several occasions. We had wifi in our apartment, so thought that would be enough.
    Next post will be the Paris portion.

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    Our four days in Paris:

    Our first night (Sat.) we went to Reed (7th). It was a nice evening and decided to walk from our apartment in the 6th. The food was delicious and it was a pleasure to meet Catherine, whom I had read so much about. We would definitely return. After dinner, we strolled over to the Eiffel Tower. The park was teeming with couples and families, many with picnics. There were actually guys selling bottles of wine! We took a cab back to the apartment because my feet were killing me! (I know, don't wear new ballet flats on a trip to Europe!) One of the bonuses in our apartment was the big bathtub. I took a nice long soak before going to bed.

    Sunday morning, I headed off to the d'Orsay with my prepaid ticket ( I highly recommend buying your ticket ahead of time on line. I walked right in!) My husband headed off to the Sewer Tour by Pont de l'Alma bridge. This was my first time at the d'Orsay since they remodeled. What a beautiful museum. After seeing all the paintings, I went up to the top terrace to take in the view. Spectacular! It was a picture postcard day! You could see Sacre Coeur in the distance. Words can't describe how special that view is. The only disappointment about my morning there was being alone. I would have loved to have shared the beauty of the place and stay and have lunch there. My husband now regrets not going with me. I asked him how his tour was. His reply: "you wouldn't have liked it". Enough said! I had lunch back in my neighborhood at Cosi. Another great spot. There was line out the door. They make great brick oven focaccia type bread, sandwiches and great salads. It is owned by the same people that own Semilla and Fish.

    That evening, we ate at Semilla (6th). They are known for their small plates, but it was Sunday, so they only had a set menu. The menu was a choice of roast pork with au gratin potatoes (yum!) or a vegetarian dish. They had a few dessert choices. My recollection is that we had a fruit clafoutis. It was very good. It is a very popular restaurant, so I would recommend booking ahead. They were turning people away. The restaurant has a nice vibe to it and the staff is young, friendly and energetic.

    Monday morning we went on a Medieval Life Tour (5th) with Context tours. We walked around the medieval streets of the 5th and ended up at the Cluny. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me (not so much for my husband). Having a guide made all the difference. If you haven't been to the Cluny, do yourself a favor and go. Some of the original statues from Notre Dame are there and, of course, the unicorn tapestries.
    After the tour we headed to Gare du Lyon so I could go to the lost and found and see if someone had turned in my brand new prescription sunglasses I left on the train from Avignon. ( I know, check your seat and the floor around you throughly before leaving the train!). Unfortunately, no glasses. We decided to eat lunch at Le Train Bleu while we were there. This was another highlight of our time in Paris. Not so much for the food as for the restaurant itself. It is over the top sumptuous. Every inch is guilted and painted with murals. My husband said he felt like he was on a movie set. I reminded him it was in a movie (Hugo):) It has probably been in many movies!
    After a huge lunch, we were too full for a dinner out, so were picked up a few things at a local "deli" (that word doesn't do it justice- more of a prepared food shop) and enjoyed a candlelit dinner with a nice bottle of wine in our cozy stone-walled dining room. I had made reservations for Terroir Parisien, which I had read many good things about. I hope to go there on our next trip to Paris.

    On our last full day, we went to a Cook'n with Class market and cooking class in the Montmarte area. This was another highlight of our trip. The market tour was very interesting, especially the cheese shop. Our chef instructor was young and VERY French. She spoke perfect English, which was a big plus for my husband. Me met a nice couple from NY and two other women. We started at 9:00 AM and didn't leave till almost 3:00PM. On our way back to our apartment, we stopped at a few cooking stores in the Les Halles area and at Printemps, so I could buy my niece a baby gift. We also stopped at one of the discount luggage places for an inexpensive duffel bag. We bought tons of food items on this trip and needed a way to get them home! I don't buy clothes, I buy food that I can't get as easily at home. We love to cook and it makes great memories of the trip. We are still using the honey form Provence, the mustard from Dijon, the Fines Herbes and tubes of mayo from Paris, ...
    I had made reservations for Regalade St. Honore (1st). Another excellent restaurant, but will have to wait till our next trip...

    I will try and post pictures in the next couple of days, in case anyone is interested.

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    I Loved this trip report! We're going to Paris and Provence in June and it's given me lots of ideas! Hadn't considered bikes in the Luberon but the Sun bikes sound like a great way to wander around the area. Bookmarking also for restaurants and cooking class. Thanks for posting this.

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    I also enjoyed your trip report, Chutney. There is a scene in the movie "Mr. Bean's Holiday" which takes place in Le Train Bleu. Funny, funny stuff. Just thinking about it makes me laugh.

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