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6 weeks in France Sept-Nov 18 Trip Report

6 weeks in France Sept-Nov 18 Trip Report

Jan 19th, 2019, 10:24 AM
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Join Date: Nov 2017
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6 weeks in France Sept-Nov 18 Trip Report

Thought I would share my wife and my experiences on a recent trip to the country of France. First, I would like to thank the many Fodors Forum regulars who provided so much help in planning this trip. Stu Dudley you were so kind to share your knowledge and we are grateful. This is my first trip report, so if I am doing something wrong please advise.
Day 1 Paris
Our trip started from Chicago and we took a direct flight to Paris.We managed to pack for 6 and a half weeks in two roller carry on pieces of luggage and 2 very small back packs. We opted to change out sim cards for our phones at the airport CDG,however we landed on a Sunday and had no such luck. We managed to make it through customs in approximately one hour and we were on the RER train line to a one night hotel stay in the Bastille area of Paris. We spent the first afternoon and evening walking off the jet lag and admiring the Paris fashions. Interesting, we had read previously that things get quiet on Sunday as this is for family time spent together. We were amazed how quiet Paris was, where were all the people? We stumbled upon a outdoor play area near a Catholic church and found hundreds of families playing together. Very refreshing for travelers in their 50's to see,unlike what we are accustomed to back home.We also visited a few museums as this was the last day of the France European Heritage Days. Many of the streets in Paris were free of cars this day and hoards of skateboarders dressed up in like Halloween costumes paraded through the city. We had amazing warm weather for most of our entire trip and this Sunday night was our first outdoor cafe dinner experience. Early to bed, tomorrow we train to Reims and rental car pick up.
Day 2
For those of you that have not been to Paris, the public transportation, Metro is amazing. We felt it was much cleaner than a previous trip 20 years prior. You can ride in any direction for 70 minutes on a $1:50 or so. In Chicago that train ticket would cost 6 bucks one way. Oh and the metro has trains arriving/departing every 2-5 minutes. We chose to take the train out of Paris to Reims to get a rental car via AutoEurope. They are a broker based in the US and we got a very good deal for a automatic transmission very small Toyota station wagon. My biggest beef of the whole trip comes down to my rental car issues. I chose to not pay for GPS through Europa and our second rental car Hertz. Both wanted to tack on 18 dollars a day. I read on Fodors of many people using a personal GPS after market purchase. So I bought a Garmin unit and Europe map totaling 200 US. The cigarette plug in would not fit in the car receptacle and all my preloaded trips were wasted energy. The crazy part and lesson for you is that both rental cars came equipped with GPS and I did not pay a penny extra for this in either of my car rentals. The GPS was so helpful and even alerted me to the millions of radar zones throughout France. Sorry my frustration is over. Back to a great trip.

We visited Verdun after a lovely 2 hour car ride. This is a must for WWI sites. The museums and fort highlight the terrific losses of both the German and French youth/soldiers. We spent 3 hours visiting the bombed out villages and grabbed our first boulangerie lunch. A small baguette pizza with Jambon ( ham ) no Italian style sausage in France and a beautiful Shepherds Pie type meal. 2 cokes and we were on the road to the Alsace region. By the way the Coke products in France taste nothing like in America. We drove another 4 hours through the beautiful French countryside into the Vosges mountain region and arrived at our hotel in Eguisheim.
For the next 4 nights we stayed at the Auberge Alsacienne in adorable Eguisheim. The hosts were fantastic, the town absolutely charming and quiet compared to the rest of the Alsace towns nearby. Our first nights meal was appropriate for the region. Au Vieux Porche is a very nice restaurant serving authentic regional cuisine. A bottle of wine and 2 heavy plates of sausages sauerkraut and dessert why not and I fell asleep waiting for the check at the table. Tomorrow to Colmar
mcsles is offline  
Jan 19th, 2019, 11:33 AM
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Great start! I'm in!
joannyc is online now  
Jan 19th, 2019, 12:25 PM
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Looking forward to more.
rhon is offline  
Jan 20th, 2019, 03:04 AM
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Breakfast anyone, or not? Laura did a great job of packing breakfast bars, individual bags of almonds, and individual powdered starbuck's coffee. All of our hotels offered a electric gadget that heated water for coffee or tea. More then half of our hotels offered a version of a continental breakfast. However, the price was 10-15 euro per person. Some hotels had a nice spread but this was not like an american sit down plate of eggs and bacon. In most towns we visited in France restaurants were closed for breakfast. We would then visit the local boulangerie and get a croissant, mini quiche, or a pre-made sandwich for the road.Ordering a coffee in France is also an experience. Very few places have a drip coffee on hand, an Americano coffee we are used to in the states is more like one shot of expresso with equal water. Enjoy the experience and we learned to laugh at the situation.
Today was Tuesday and we drove a half hour north to visit Colmar. This city is much larger then the other neighboring Alsace towns and had quite a history. We decided to visit the town covered market where local vendors sell fruits, vegetables, cheeses,meats and of course wine. We opted for a slice of quiche and a blueberry tart. What looked like ham and cheese in the display case was actually ham and sauerkraut. We took advantage of a free!! toilet and ventured on to walk the town. Colmar like many of these towns was built around a water source. The local mountains provided a constant supply of fresh water and businesses thrived. This walk was spectacular as this town is made for the camera. There are two main churches in the town and I can hear the bells ringing as I type. My local church was built in 1964 and has a nice bell tower,however, the pitch or sound of all the bells throughout France were remarkable. After 3 hours of viewing this gorgeous village we attempted to visit there spectacular Unterlinden museum. Closed on Tuesdays. Lunch was a pre-made sandwich at a Monoprix grocery store. These stores are everywhere throughout France. They sell groceries,wine,booze,cheese,extension cords and clothes.
We decided to visit the nearby walled city of Bergheim. It is a very small town and a walk about is worth an hour or two. One neat feature is that in this town you can actually walk on top of the outer wall fortification to comprehend how people lived in these villages. Water was supplied from the mountains and channeled throughout the town via various man-made troughs or mini aqua ducts. Locals would go to a communal large fountain to bring back water to their residence. The outer wall was there to protect the locals from a host of barbarian types outside. A fascinating dose of reality.
Our next visit was to the massive Haut Koenigsbourg Castle. This castle is set up high on the side of the local mountains. The views of this region are breathtaking from atop this fortress. The entrance cost includes a very good audio guide that helps walk you through the many rooms. The renovation mind you took place in 1901. We would highly recommend a visit here.
Wednesday Day 4
We first visited the village of Riquewihr. This town was inspired by Beauty and The Beast my wife Laura tells me. Everyone of these Alsace villages were breathtaking. They feel nestled into the close by mountains and the miles and miles of beautiful vineyards creep right up to their walled entrances. The structures,businesses,homes that line the beautiful cobbled stone roads are a blaze in the most beautiful array of colors. Like a painters palette or the lucky grade school kid whose parents could afford the pack of 64 crayon colors, every color speaks to you.
Ribeauville was the next town in line and was also very beautiful. One thing worth mentioning is that these villages of France all compete for the prettiest towns in the country. The signs you see on the drive in are marked with a number of flower bouquets,like one, two, three or four on the sign. The higher the number of bouquets on the sign the more flowers the locals displayed flowing from their window baskets up high on the building facades. Pictures do very little justice to the beauty of these towns.
Kayserberg was another very beautiful town. We actually did a walk from one of our guidebooks in this village. We were fortunate to be here in September so we avoided many of the bus crowds and day trippers we read so much about in the summer. Another advantage was that the grape harvest had begun so we were able to peek in on some of the local wineries and understand the harvest process. Truly amazing and interesting how almost all of the vineyards present a depicted Jesus on a cross at the foot of their vine plots.
Turckheim was untouristy, but still cute. We did the town walk as advertised by their local TI. Again almost to much beauty in one day, brain on sensory flower quaint village overload. Time to head back to Eguisheim and our favorite village of them all. Pizza from I Soliti Ignoti in Eguisheim for dinner. Marvelous thin crust pizza and finally over jet lag . Tomorrow we explore our favorite city of Eguisheim, visit Colmar's Unterlinden Museum and eat our favorite meal in Alsace
mcsles is offline  
Jan 20th, 2019, 05:15 AM
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really great start to your trip report - thank you.

I love the detail about the places and the food plus your opinions which are really bringing the TR alive, especially as this is not a part of France that I know very well at all.

Just a small point - since you were good enough to ask for suggestions - inserting another line between paragraphs would make reading it a lot easier.

Looking forward to more!
annhig is offline  
Jan 20th, 2019, 05:04 PM
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Enjoying your report. Will watch for more.
tomarkot is offline  
Jan 20th, 2019, 06:53 PM
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Enjoying this report! Brings back memories of our trip to Alsace many many years ago, when we stayed in Riquerihr, but visited all the other villages. We ended with a fabulous 3 hour lunch at the Haeberlin brothers restaurant: L'Auberge de L'Ill. superior!
taconictraveler is offline  
Jan 21st, 2019, 01:01 PM
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Day 5, Thursday,9/20/18
When we were planning this vacation we were honestly not sure which of the Alsace towns to use as our home base. They all sounded nice and very beautiful. We chose Eguisheim because it was well liked by various travel books and rumor had it was not as overrun by bus tours. This morning we got the opportunity to walk the whole village.. We believe we picked the perfect village after this walk and seeing the rest of the other towns on previous days. Eguisheim had such charm,history and such friendly people in all the shops we visited. We found just the right amount of restaurants and sights minus the commotion. Remnants of all the wine making are scattered throughout the village. Many of the homes have dates and various insignia above the door entrances depicting when the home was built and what type of trade they operated inside. A baker, a wood worker, blacksmith were identified by the carving above the door.

We decided to drive back to Colmar to visit the Underlinden Museum. If you get the chance do not miss this museum. It has wonderful insight as to the history of the region. Also the religious painting Isenheim Altarpiece is quite beautiful. This depicts various scenes from the Bible and the attention to detail is amazing. We decided to head back to the covered market for vegetarian tacos and burger. Delicious. I love to cook and I was amazed throughout this trip how beautiful all the produce looked and tasted. The meats and seafood on display looked like you would expect them too. Clear fish eyes and pork with real fat on the meat. Somehow I felt like no needles were injecting these meats for my consumption.

Back in Eguisheim we walked across from our hotel to Gruss winery for a white wine tasting. We got a nice tasting and met the 4th generation owner and his wife. The family lives above the winery. She asked if we could wait a minute to see the winery operation while she met her son from the school bus. Her husband Joseph 40 year old ish explained their operations and we had a few more tastes of wine. He allowed us to see how wine is produced in their building and explained that over the past couple hundred years they now have 50 plots of land spread out the area to harvest their grapes.This was so cool of them to treat us like family. It just made us feel so great for picking Eguisheim.

Our last night we dined at the hotel restaurant. It was a bit of a splurge for us but did not disappoint. The Restaurant L'Auberge is open for I believe only lunch and dinner. I got a beef lamb and pork stew with potatoes and Laura got a chicken breast in riesling wine. Dessert was apple strudel and something chocolate for my bride. Oh and a fine wine from across the street Gruss winery.

I miss Eguisheim and the people. On to Burgundy region in the morning.

Day 6
We left Eguisheim at 7AM and drove the back roads to Dijon. The common theme on this trip was to get as much of a view of France within our six weeks. While several Fodor travelers can afford the time to visit one region of France for the entire six weeks, we did not. While we enjoyed several stops on our journey some stops did not wow us. When friends asked us about our vacation Laura and I agreed that this trip was a sum of all the parts. Driving the French countryside was in our minds what made this trip so beautiful, enjoyable and entertaining. I type this because we only spent 4 hours in Dijon. Several Fodorites loved this town and we were a little concerned when I did not afford us any time in this town.

Dijon is a bigger city with a lot of history. Tons of architecture and a bunch of romanesque buildings. At the time we visited their was a bunch of construction going on in the downtown area. Many of the older buildings had scaffolding as part of a restoration project. We eventually found the TI and got the map for the famed OWLS walking tour. This was fun and takes you on a walk featuring 20 or so of the important historical building/sites in Dijon. The large covered market or Les Halles as it is referred to was massive. We loaded up for lunch. I think I read where this market was designed by Gustave Eiffel. Our take was Dijon looked old, dirty and like it needed some love.

We drove an hour south to our next 4 nights lodging at the beautiful Hotel Le Clos just outside Beaune in Montagny les Beaune. This hotel was a old winery that was abandoned and had now been restored to former glory. When you eventually find this place you feel like a bit of royalty. The showers in the bath room are the only quirky part. They are tiled large enough walk in but lack a curtain to keep the water spray from getting on the floor sometimes. The common area downstairs is beautiful like post and beams exposed. After check in we met the owner and his wife. The young lady at the check in desk, Stephanie I believe was so helpful in making restaurant reservations and winery visits etc.

Dinner was at Pizza Bufala in downtown Beaune. About a 10 minute car ride. We enjoyed driving around the town to get the lay of the land for tomorrow was market day in Beaune
Day 7
We drove to town and found parking and walked to the thriving Saturday market. This was one of our favorite markets. Very nice mix of fashion,clothing, craft items, flowers and of course food. We ran into a family from Minneapolis who were on their last day stay of a 2 week France visit and they directed us to their favorite coffee shop. After caffeine we bought bread and some fantastic olive tapenade. I got a mini seafood pasty type hand pie,yumm and then after a walk around this beautiful part of town we decided to get cultured.
The Hotel Dieu des Hospices de Beaune is not a hotel but a former hospital. A must visit for a Beaune stop IMO. Built in around 1475 this facility was more of a hospice or end of life facility then a hospital. It ironically was the Beaune hospital we were told up until 1971. I have worked in medicine for 38 years and this was amazing to see how antiquated the facility was by our US standards.
We then did a drive through the rolling Burgundy country and did a tour of Chateau de la Rochepot. I am not a history buff and over the course of six weeks I saw so many old buildings and heard about enough kings and queens I came to understand the French revolution. This chateau is breathtaking from a far. The picture from a mile or so away makes you understand the build site. 12th century building rebuilt later and constantly in need of repair. My take away is how fascinating it was to see something so old and beautiful. Also how many beds does one Duke actually need ?
Dinner was a 10 minute ride from hotel at a fancy place Bistot du Bord de L'eau. A beautiful interior and lovely food however small portions in my opinion. I had fish and Laura had zucchini risotto followed by a cheese course for dessert. Rest up because tomorrow we drive north and west to a bunch of beautiful villages and probably our top 3 best eating day in all of France. Au revoir
mcsles is offline  
Jan 21st, 2019, 06:21 PM
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Looking forward to your next installment.
crefloors is online now  
Jan 22nd, 2019, 01:13 PM
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Day 8
This morning and the next three mornings we enjoyed the breakfast at our hotel. Fresh breads, real good coffee or tea, eggs, bacon sausages, cold cuts, cheeses etc. Fully caffeinated we drove the back roads of Burgundy and visited Semur-en-Auxois, as well as the fort Chateaneuf-en-Auxois. Then we visited Flavigny-sur-Ozerain. This is the very sleepy village where the movie Chocolat was filmed . Laura and I visited the church and sites where they filmed and talked to some of the locals,very friendly. We had read about a restaurant La Grange so we figured why not. Inside was communal tables and a couple of Grandma type ladies in a very open kitchen. The drill was you grabbed a cafeteria tray and silverware and had a choice of five or six hot dishes. when they were out there was no more. I got roast pork,veal and beef meatballs served with roast tomatoes served over mashed potatoes. Laura got the quiche lorraine and a dark flourless cake for dessert. Two glasses of house wine for 20 euro. Fresh baked bread on the table with soft butter to slop up all the goodness, we both got the clean plate club. I signed the guest book and thanked the ladies and told them that was the best lunch I had in quite some time and they all smiled. What a great experience. Isn't it funny, you can read up on a expensive restaurant and go dine and come away thinking that was good but not great. But I always remember the little mom and pop places that just nail the meal and I am so grateful that I stopped.

Next we visited the amazing Abbey of Fontenay. The grounds of this Abbey are worth the admission price. The brochure allows you to visit quite a few of the buildings on site and imagine what it might have been like for these young minds hundreds of years ago. We eventually headed back via the Cote d 'Or and Route des Grande Crus. This is the route that allows you to drive up close to the million dollar plots/vineyards where Grand Cru bottles can go for 500 dollars a bottle. We stopped in a couple of the vine villages and poked in a few shops finally to Morey - St- Denis to the Caveau des Vignerons wine shop. A few bottles of red wine and home for dinner.

Our hotel recommended the restaurant next door Le Berger du Temps. Upon first glance it is unusual. Looks like a large outdoor warm weather terrace for dining and then inside where you would check in the chef is cooking a large majority of the meat dishes in a large wood fired pizza like oven. The restaurant inside is very cosey with porcelain rooster figurines hanging on all the walls. At first we were a bit nervous. We ordered a french classic, oeufs en meurette, eggs in red wine for an appetizer. It was the first time either of us had this dish. It was fantastic. We then ordered free range chicken and sauteed beef checks both served with a delicious wine sauce. Dessert was a Grand Marnier orange souffle and Dark chocolate mousse. If you ever are in Beaune I would highly recommend this restaurant.
mcsles is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2019, 03:10 PM
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I loved your report. Thank you very much.

But this cracked me up: <<We first visited the village of Riquewihr. This town was inspired by Beauty and The Beast my wife Laura tells me.>>

Riquewihr has been a presence/town since the 6th century. Do you really think it inspired Disney and not the other way around? I think you got things a bit backwards there

Anyway, carry on. Nice report.

Glad to hear you enjoyed oeufs en meurette, a real French classic that a lot of people are loath to try.
StCirq is offline  
Jan 22nd, 2019, 05:27 PM
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I am really enjoying your report.

Dessert was a Grand Marnier orange souffle and Dark chocolate mousse.
That sounds amazing!
pgtraveler is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2019, 12:36 AM
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StCirq, my apologies, I am the guilty party. I transposed my wife's notes. The town/towns of Riquewihr and Ribeauville inspired the set designs for the movie Beauty and the Beast.
Day 9
After another amazing breakfast and my futile attempts at the perfect soft boiled eggs we visited the very pretty downtown of Beaune. We did a walking tour of the town and visited a few shops for the odd trinkets to take back to US. Beaune is another town that has a outer wall. Inside the village is quite pretty. We purchased a map for a bike ride or walk in the vineyards surrounding Beaune. Upon returning to my rental car a bus driver smoking his cigarette informed a local French women not to park next to my car and the four or five that I had parked next too. When I inquired what he had said he told me I was illegally parked in a tour bus lot and that the police had already ticketed me for 135 euros. Mind you I had dropped the necessary amount upon entering the lot and displayed my ticket stub in the windshield. Upon further review at the entrance to the lot was the very small sign informing that it was a bus lot. Stupid thing is turn to the right and it was a regular pay parking lot. I went to the left and was guilty. I went to the police station to plead my case and what transpired was fit for a seinfeld episode. The male officers and I speaking thru the bank teller type glass got no where. Finally a very nice female officer brought out her google phone and we managed to have a conversation via google translate. I was at the national police office not the local police office. I needed to take up my case with them and that office was closed for lunch.
We decided to walk a bit in the vineyards, The vines are so beautiful in Burgundy. They flow right up to the mountain range or hill tops. The soil that the vines are planted in is also filled with more rocks then I would have expected. One person in town said that the vines struggle to grow in this soil make for a better wine. We got lost trying to find our walking trail so we decided to get lunch in neighboring Mersault. Very pretty town with a cute downtown. A pizza with a perch on a bench was a meal to remember. Across the street a funeral was ongoing at the town church. Laura and I were serenaded by the church bells," For All Those Saints"
Next we drove to Chagny to visit the Thomas Jefferson Bridge . A bridge in tribute to the man, impressive gesture not that pretty of a site.
Dinner was at Auberge des Vignes. A local restaurant right on the 2 lane highway,however the dining room has a marvelous view of the vineyard. You sit eye level with the vines and we watched the sun set into the hills. I had a ham terrine and Laura had the oeufs en meurette for our entree. Not as good as the night before. We both had beef burgundy for our main.

We went back to our lovely hotel and packed for the next day we were headed for Annecy. We enjoyed Beaune and the vineyards of the Burgundy region are breathtaking. The towns of Alsace were much prettier in our opinion. The colors in Alsace are so vibrant compared to the Burgundy villages which look like they need a good power washing. One of the beauties IMO about travel and planning this trip was the next day was something new and exciting just waiting for us.
mcsles is offline  
Jan 23rd, 2019, 09:42 AM
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love it that you went to the police station to plead your case about the parking ticket and then found you were in the wrong one.

Did you ever get to the right one? and have you paid your fine?

Still enjoying your travels with you - I think I have to go back to Alsace.
annhig is offline  

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