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Trip Report Chopin's Paris and Van Gogh's France: a September journey

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I returned a week ago from a fabulous three week trip which started in Bruges, Belgium and ended in Nice.

About me: I just retired last June from high school English teaching. I've been a student of piano for 3 years, and have loved the music of Chopin most of my adult life. Having recently read Chopin in Paris, I was determined to get to at least a couple of his apartment buildings (still standing) while in Paris. I was not disappointed.

About the trip: I decided to include Bruges in this trip by stopping there first. If hindsight were as good as foresight, I would have skipped Bruges this trip and flown nonstop to Paris. I went to a great deal of trouble (missed trains included) to get to Bruges, with terrible jet lag upon arrival in Brussels. Lesson learned!

From Bruges I went straight to Paris for 5 nights.

After Paris, I joined a Rick Steves tour in Chartres that went through the Loire Valley, Dordogne, Carcassonne, Arles, Les Baux, and Nice. The fact that I did an RS tour might be met with some vitriol on this forum. At the time it seemed a reasonable way to see an area (Loire and Dordogne especially) not well serviced by public transportation. Would I do another tour? More on this later. I usually travel independently.

Not wishing to rent a car this trip, I also booked a day tour of the Lot with a private driver/ guide who lives in the region. That was the best day of the trip!

Where I stayed: In Bruges I stayed at a beautiful bed and breakfast place called Huis Koning, located right on a canal. The hosts couldn't have been nicer! In Paris, thanks to advice from LateDayTraveler, I stayed at Rue Dauphine, which couldn't have been more conveniently located -- a 3- minute walk to the Seine between Orsay and Notre Dame. I enjoyed my stay there. The hotels on the tour (beginning in Chartres) were fine: some more charming than others.

Favorite days on the trip: Visiting Chopin's and Sand's residences at Square d'Orleans in Paris, visiting Van Gogh's Auvers-sur-Oise, exploring the Lot region with a private driver, visiting the cave art at Rouffignac, and a visiting Van Gogh's asylum at St. Remy.

All in all, this was one of my favorite trips ever -- I largely attribute this to the beauty of the Dordogne and Lot regions, and an opportunity to step back in time to view the worlds of Chopin and Van Gogh.

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