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FRANCE 10 YEARS ON: Paris Dordogne Albi Toulouse Arles S Rhone and Nice

FRANCE 10 YEARS ON: Paris Dordogne Albi Toulouse Arles S Rhone and Nice

Old Oct 21st, 2017, 06:53 PM
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Sounds lik3 we missed out by not seeing the Jacobin church. I really hope we can go back one day though. There are a few other things we missed.

Thanks for the compliments Yestravel. We were in Sarlat September 13 and by the time we got to Toulouse it was the 20th, so we were headed in opposite directions I think... ?

TPAYT yes we stayed at Cour des Consuls we loved the location, central but quiet. I’m going to look for those mirror photos.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2017, 05:21 AM
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I went online to find photos of the mirror in Jacobins Church. Neither my husband nor I saw it and are wondering if it had been removed for cleaning or repair. I stood right where it looks to be and took several photographs of the pillars. Looks fantastic and sorry we missed it.

Yes, literally ships passing in the night -- we left Toulouse on 20 Sept headed to Sarlat via a visit to Albi.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 12:09 AM
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I had been using my iPhone to take photos in Toulouse, so it wasn’t until we were packing to leave that I realized my camera never made it to our room when we checked in. We right away checked at the desk to see if by chance I had left it on the desk when we checked in, but no. We did a double check of the car when it was brought around, but no sign of the camera.

I can remember seeing the case beside our luggage at the time we checked in, though. We think that perhaps the bellhop left the luggage cart too near the sidewalk and someone grabbed it as they walked by.

Anyway, that was the last of my camera. Fortunately I had been downloading all the photos nightly to my iPad so they could be backed up on iCloud, so I didn’t lose any pictures.

That was a bummer though. Now I really need a new camera.

It didn’t take long to get to Carcassonne and we were checked in by noon at the Mercure. It was supposed to be a view room, but you had to stick your head out the window and crane your neck to see the city. The room was fine, though, and it was a short walk to the city, and that’s what we came for.

So off we went, had some lunch at L’Escargot, visited with the owner and other patrons, then did a tour of the place, which thrilled my husband no end. Carcassonne was one of his requests for this trip. Although we’d already seen quite a few castles, none compare to La Cite, it is so large and so complete. And at night, it is quite a thrilling sight. We started our tour at around 3 pm and it was not crowded at all.

We had a couple of hours before dinner at 8, so we jumped in the car and drove down by the train station, where the river boat docks are. There is a nice canal-side walk and we spent some time just walking along and looking at all the possibilities for rentals for a Canal du Midi self-cruise. Wow there are some gorgeous boats that could hold 10 or a dozen people! It’s like camping on a boat! We really want to try this one time.

Our meal was at Auberge des Lices. This restaurant looks like it could hold quite a few people, with a large terrace in the center, and several dining rooms around it. It was a very busy evening, and we didn’t want to sit outside because it was too cold, so we were seated in the back dining room by ourselves. As a result, our service was very slow, although the food was very good.

We shared a lobster truffle salad with a vinaigrette of walnut oil, then DH had for his main plate the lotte, which I believe is monkfish, steamed with the scent of anise and Risotto d’épeautre aux Algues Wakamé, translation unknown!

My main dish was large prawns and linguine in a delicious sauce pili pili again not sure what that is, and for dessert, we shared apple tart with salted butter caramel.

Total with a bottle of white wine and water Euro 107.

We could have visited Carcassonne as a day trip from Toulouse, but I’m glad we stayed over, even if only for one night, because it was a fun evening, and we took some pictures of La Cite all lit up at night, which is fabulous.

On to Provence!
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Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 07:54 AM
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Bummer about your camera--at least you have the photos.
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Old Oct 23rd, 2017, 01:48 PM
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To Arles and Gigondas

Next morning, we enjoyed a pretty good breakfast at the Mercure, again included in the rate.

It's a very good highway that runs from Carcassonne through to Provence, so we got on our way. Ten years ago, we visited Les Baux de Provence, and the plan was to stop on our way to Arles to revisit this place.

On a whim, we decided we’d had enough castles and medieval villages, and that we’d like to go off the highway to the Mediterranean and visit Sete. It’s called the Venice of Languedoc, and is the largest fishing port on the French Mediterranean coast.

It’s an interesting drive along the canals to the port and there is lots of underground parking right downtown alongside the water. Little shops and seafood restaurants line the canals and we strolled along one side and back on the other, looking at all the interesting fishing boats of all sizes, some brand spanking new and clean, others rather old and rickety looking. I was wishing I had my camera at this very picturesque town, but had to suffice with the iPhone camera.

Seafood was being served, not fancy, just plain and very fresh, so we chose a spot and ordered a pot of mussels and fries. They are so good on the Mediterranean, not too big, and a bit sweet, unlike our mussels at home which can be big, chewy, and strong flavored.

The lower town is built at the foot of Mont St Clair. There is a panoramic view over the sea from the top of the little mountain, so we drove up the hill and admired that and took some more photos. It’s really worth the drive up, just gorgeous views, and I had been missing the sea, so this was a couple hours of real enjoyment and we both agreed, we were glad we stopped at Sete instead of Les Baux.

It took another hour and a half to get to Arles because we took the scenic route, and taking longer than planned at Sete, we were late meeting our apartment host, but he was easy to communicate with and he kindly waited for us, as we drove in to the parking lot to which he had given us detailed instructions.

What a lovely apartment! Clean and very nicely decorated, and every possible need has been anticipated. It was a great place to stay and our host was very helpful and kind.

Arles Hideaway—on booking.com, including washer and drying racks. The location is great, it’s easy to walk everywhere, and nearby parking is included.

Time to get some groceries, and some supper. Saturday night, and the restaurants we wanted to eat at were all full, complet, so we walked around until we found a place with one table in the corner available. Middle eastern food, nice friendly atmosphere, but I can’t remember the name, just that the food was good, there was a little kitchen in view, and the chef was a young woman.

We had one full day in Arles, but it was Sunday so that limited what we could see. Arles is a very pretty little city on the Rhone River, characterized by Roman ruins, shady squares, a few good museums, and of course it’s known for being an inspiration for Van Gogh.

It’s a nice city to walk around, with pleasant pedestrian streets, and something to see around every corner.

We were able to visit the Reattu Fine Arts museum, only the outside of the Roman monuments, the Arena, the theater, and the baths. Of course, it’s a must to visit the Hotel Dieu with its beautiful garden which was the subject of Van Gogh’s painting.

Dinner that night was at Lou Marques, in the Sofitel hotel on Blvd des Lices. This place was very pricey, and the food seemed like it was prepared ahead of time and warmed in the microwave. I do not recommend this place, even on a Sunday night, when there’s not much open. Euro 141 Don’t go!!

By now we were getting on to a process of ordering one menu and one main plate. Or one menu with appie and main, and one menu with main and dessert. It’s a good way to share, and be able to sample everything without overdoing the calories, although it seems to confuse the waiters

There is so much to explore from Arles, but we have been here twice before, so our itinerary took us this Monday to Pont du Gard for a visit, then Chateauneuf du Pape for some wine tasting, then on to Gigondas to stay for 3 nights at l’Oustalet, in a Superior Suite. This suite was very well appointed, but up 3 narrow staircases.

Originally, a friend of ours was going to meet us, so I had booked a room with a loft with beds upstairs, and the main bedroom downstairs. A tall ladder takes you up to the loft, not so good if you’re older, and maybe not so good for young kids either, but our friend said she would have love it.

We really enjoyed the room. And breakfast was delivered each morning, very good and fresh products.

That first night, we had dinner at Les Florets, on the picturesque road out towards the Dentelles. It has a lovely outdoor patio, but this night it was pouring rain, so we ate inside. We had had an over the top dinner here 10 years ago, and also enjoyed this dinner very much.

Velouté de potimarrons, dés de foie gras de canard, espuma de cépes en cappuccino
Tartare de thon rouge à la mangue, cumbava et coriandre, réduction de yuzu, crackers de sesame

Main: We both had:
Médaillon de lotte rôtie, chorizo, riz vénéré comme une paella, jus de viande, émulsion safran

For dessert, we shared the (large) macaron, poire pochée à la vanille, créme mascarpone aux marrons
Very good, but too sweet even for my sweet tooth.


Tuesday is Market Day in Vaison-la-Romaine. I am not a huge shopper, but this is a very nice, large market in a beautiful setting, and we enjoyed browsing the stalls. I bought a neutral colored Provencal tablecloth, since our condo is a modern design, and the bright colors look out of place. Euro 49 Great price.

We also bought some picnic supplies, some really good cow’s milk cheese called Comte de something. I just can’t resist those cheeses!

The medieval city is gorgeous to walk up into, first crossing over the ancient Roman bridge. This is really steep, though, so beware if you have bad knees or don’t do hills well. The streets and buildings, and the view from the top are very, very pretty. I think it would be fun to stay here. We passed the Hostellerie Le Beffroi, not sure how much it costs, but it’s so attractive!

To complete our afternoon, we visited a couple of towns on the west side of the Dentelles, Seguret and Sablet, and made a stop in Vacqueyras to taste some wines. These wines are so full bodied and fruity! We bought a couple of bottles again to drink and bring back.

Canada has abominable rules about importing wine. We brought back 6 bottles between us, but in fact we’re only allowed half of that. So most of our wine tasting is just to inform our palates about the differences in wine in different regions of France. And hopefully we can buy some of them in the liquor store at home.

Back in Gigondas, although it’s a small town, there is a nice walk up the hill, around to the various sites, and the botanical garden, not sooo beautiful, but a gorgeous view from the top. And we were there in time to watch the sun go down, and it had been a beautiful day.

I booked the restaurant l’Oustalet way in advance, and was looking forward to tonight’s meal, as this place is highly recommended. Again, it has a beautiful terrace, which would be so enjoyable in summer, but was too cold this evening.

Since we were staying in their rooms, I think we enjoyed a little extra attention that evening.

We both had the menu, with wine pairings. The menu has changed on the website, so I can’t find the food descriptions:

Starter: A salad of braised leek with lobster and a scallop.

For the main plates, DH had turbot in browned butter with cepes, and I had a filet steak with juniper berry jus. With that came 3 kinds of bread baked in house, very good, and herbed butter.

The dessert was refreshing and not too sweet—pear with ice cream flavored with orange blossom honey, and lemon house-made marshmallow in a delicious sauce. We loved it!!

With the wine pairing, the total was Euro 189, worth every penny. And we only had to walk home about 50 feet around the corner.

Wednesday was our day for a tour of the towns on the east side of the Dentelles. I think this is the more scenic view of the mountains. From Gigondas we went to Beaumes-de-Venise, Lafare, La Roque-Alric, then to Suzette, and finally Crestet. Around every bend, the view seemed to be more beautiful than the last, with the mountains behind, and every nook and cranny possible planted with vines. This is really a gorgeous drive, and the towns, built into the mountainside, are so picturesque. Another lovely day.

We thought we would eat at the wine bar just below us, as there are few restaurants in Gigondas, and we had eaten at two, and the other was closed. So, the menu board said, Tapas, marinated mussels, razor clams, sardines…mmmm we were thinking of what we ate in Spain, so were shocked when our meal came out on a board. Three tins of canned seafood, with the lids pulled back, tapas style I guess!! Well you can’t win ‘em all, haha! The wine was good though!

Next day, we were on to Nice by train from Avignon TGV station. First we had an hour drive to the station in traffic, and then had to return our rental car before boarding the train at 10 am. We left at 8, thinking we wanted a relaxed drive to the station.

It was getting a little touch and go with the traffic, and we were glad we had allowed lots of time. All was going well until Google maps decided that the Europcar maintenance yard was the rental return at the TGV station. Unless you’ve been there before the map looks right, but we ended up coming into the station from the backside, and missed the rental returns.

Time was getting short now, and I had to try hard not to panic because we just couldn’t see where to return the car. Finally, I stopped someone, and they didn’t know for sure but thought the return lots were on the Other Side, yes over there, but how to get there? We had to go into the paid parking lot to get through, and finally we saw the Europcar sign, but had to drive the long convoluted way around to get into the lot. How stressful!!

Our car came with a whole list of dings, so we made sure the agent checked it over carefully and signed off that we hadn’t added any damage to it.

Finally we made it into the station with about 10 minutes to spare. Wow! Just a heads up for anyone driving into Avignon TGV station, make sure you plan it out ahead of time, because google maps can get you lost there.

On the train at last, we had First Class seats for the 3 hour ride. I thought it was quite a scenic ride, and we relaxed, on our way to Nice.
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Old Oct 24th, 2017, 05:02 AM
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Wonderful report, brings back memories of our trip to the Dordogne and Lot in May of this year - the posts and contributors on this forum provided very valuable input.
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Old Oct 24th, 2017, 05:04 AM
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Wow! You sure visited some interesting, out of the way, Provence places.....very interesting indeed. Your food descriptions are making me long for another trip to France.
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 05:27 AM
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Enjoying your report. The allergic reaction to the mushrooms must have been scary! And that's too bad about your camera. Looking forward to hearing about Nice. How many nights were you in Nice? Did you rent a car? Or use public transportation?
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 05:58 AM
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I loved Les Dentelles. Isn't Crestet unique? Was the one little café there open? It wasn't when I was there, but it would have been special to sit there an gaze out over the hills.
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 07:44 AM
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Thanks everyone, happy to know someone is still following along...
Nice is coming up, but I've been organizing some photos and will post them soon.

The Dentelles are so unique and beautiful...I wish I had some artistic ability, I could sit and paint some of those beautiful landscapes. Crestet was in the midst of some water or sewer works, and so much of it was blocked off from tourists. Oh, I think you must mean the place right at the very top of the town? We drove up there and parked, but the cafe was closed. Next time, for sure, the view must be amazing!
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 07:47 AM
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Yes, the place at the very top. I wonder if it's ever open?
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Old Oct 25th, 2017, 11:50 PM
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So I have updated the photo link with photos from Paris to Dordogne to Toulouse to Carcassonne to Sete, and the rest will be added later.

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Old Oct 26th, 2017, 02:32 PM
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Absolutely stunning photos! Really took us into the areas of The Dordogne.
Loved all the food photos. They added a lot to the experience.
Those gorgeous tiny red strawberries just jump off the page.
I’ve never had any better than those little gems in Sarlat.
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Old Oct 26th, 2017, 03:25 PM
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Your photos are beautiful! We visited many of the same places in the Dordogne in May 2015.

I agree about the strawberries! French strawberries are better than any I have ever had in the U.S. So sweet!

I love your photo of all the toy cars. My 2-year old grandson would love them! Is the store in Sarlat?
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Old Oct 30th, 2017, 11:59 PM
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TPAYT, Karenwoo, thank you. I love those little strawberries!

The toy cars were at a stall on market day in Sarlat.

Finally, I've found some time to write up our time in Nice.


Nice is nice! There I got that out of the way! Before our trip, I had been waffling about going to Nice, and I had read reports from some people who loved it, and others who thought it was crowded, and there is nothing but bad pizza in Nice! Of course that is all subjective, but I’m glad I listened to those who encouraged our visit there, because we had a great time, and had the best meal of all time there.

We took a taxi to our hotel, but realized later that we could have got on the tram, a short walk from the train station, and our hotel was not far off the tram way.

Mercure Nice Center Grimaldi—This is an older hotel that has been updated somewhat, is decorated in a modern style, has a nice bathroom, a decent bed, a Nespresso machine and mini-fridge. What more could you ask for? Well, the air con was a little tricky; the front desk informed us that the trick is to turn the fan on high and crank it to the lowest setting. That worked for us, but I can’t imagine it would be great in mid-summer.

Also, the windows are old and don’t fit well. Therefore there was street noise at night that kept me awake, but not DH, he could sleep through a hurricane. Otherwise, the position in the city is just about perfect for ease of walking everywhere.

After a bite to eat just a block from the hotel, we headed for the Promenade des Anglais. What a glorious stretch of multi-purpose seaside walkway! There is a happy vibe along the Promenade now, with the sun shining, and beach-goers, skate-boarders, bicycles, roller bladers, giant bubble blowers and buskers share the walkway with some rowdy sports enthusiasts dressed in team colors.

The machine gun carrying security police that are accompanying them nervously are a reminder of the events that happened here on July 14, 2016. We will see many of these foursomes patrolling the streets over the next few days.

Talking to some locals, they point out the barrier which has been put in place to prevent vehicles from entering the promenade. We also see many newly planted palm trees lining the avenue along the Promenade. Terrorism is changing the world, but there is also a response to it to keep citizens and tourists safe.

In Carcassonne, I had seen a poster showing what to do in case of a terrorist attack. That took me aback a bit. No doubt we will see more of that sort of thing, along with training for school kids and offices, retail areas etc. Or maybe it’s already happening, and I’m just behind the times.

Also in London, we saw big concrete barricades on the sidewalk at the entrance to the bridges, so a vehicle would be unable to enter. Just a few things that I noticed, along with the metal detectors and security searches at the entrance to museums and other sights. It does help to make me feel more secure as we enjoy this big open beautiful space.

We walked along the Promenade all the way to the Marina, then back the other way to the Negresco, then through the Jardin Albert I to Place Massena, and up Avenue Jean Medecin as far as the Gare. On the way back down I was ready for some refreshment, and a glass of wine at an outdoor bistro on the Avenue was just perfect.

Pizzeria O’Palermo near our hotel provided a quick and easy and quite delicious supper. The pedestrianized streets in the area are full of outdoor eateries, shops and shoppers, perfect for wandering and people watching. Place Massena at night is very attractive all lit up, with the red buildings and checkered paved areas, a little music here and there, and lots of people.

We had our first glimpse of the old center, walking through the narrow lanes and scoping out the plethora of restaurants. We saw Acchiardo, and thought we might try it.

We counted a lot of steps on this day, and were ready for bed.

In the morning, over coffee, I scoped out some restaurants on the internet, and saw one called Jan that looked pretty amazing. DH played telephone tag with them all day, and finally the hostess contacted Tim and said they were booked solid for the entire time we were in Nice, but if we wanted to come at 7 and didn’t mind the cold weather to sit outside, then we could have a reservation.

Yahoo! DH said, we’re from Canada, we don’t mind a little cold.

Two museums are on the radar today, so we pick up the bus behind Galleries Lafayette to get up to Musee Matisse. We found the buses and trains so easy to use around Nice and the coast. So up the hill we go to Cimiez, a nice ride past beautiful apartments and clean streets looking so pristine in the sunshine.

The museum is housed in the Villa des Arenes, although the entrance is through the new addition which also has the temporary exhibitions. In the entry hall are a couple of large attractive cut out pieces that Matisse did towards the end of his life.

We really enjoyed this small museum, which was blissfully peaceful. If a person is looking only for face value ie many familiar paintings, then you may not care for this museum as much. But we liked that the exhibits and rooms give a pretty detailed history of Matisse’s work, how he started, how his philosophy changed and thus his art changed, through his life.

He became known for his exploration of a new style with pure colors and bright light, using the white of exposed canvas, which began to be called Fauvism. Then in later years, this morphed into his cut out collages, which I found more impressive in real life, where you can see the paper on paper texture of his work. Also, the museum has an interesting film showing how Matisse created his cut outs.

The Musee Marc Chagall in contrast, is a modern, light filled feast for the eyes. Chagall had this place built and the paintings chosen specifically for the rooms.

His paintings are colorful, dreamy, full of symbolism, incorporate folklore from Russian life and his Jewish upbringing, and are very unique. They incorporate the styles which were in vogue at the time when he was painting, but yet are very much his own. His works are oh so photographable, and so this museum was busier than the Matisse.

One room, with the theme of the Song of Solomon, is dedicated to the love of his life, his wife. What a tribute!
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Old Oct 31st, 2017, 05:17 AM
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I am enjoying your report on Nice. How many nights did you stay there? Was it convenient using trains and buses to get around? Or would it have been easier to rent a car?

I am asking these questions because I might be planning a trip to Nice and the
Cote D'Azur for myself, my husband, and 2 friends who have never been to France. They have expressed the desire to see Paris and the Cote D'Azur. We have been to France quite a few times because my daughter and her family live in Provence, so my friends consider me the "France Expert". I have been to Nice twice, but for only one-night stays, and the first time was to go wedding dress shopping (fun!) with my daughter. We really didn't see much, and we did not go up the coast. We didn't visit any museums, either.

Were you in Nice in October? You mention it was cold at night.
Thanks, Karen
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Old Oct 31st, 2017, 09:27 AM
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Hi Karen. We took the train from Avignon to Nice and stayed 4 nights. That wasn’t enough to get up in the hills. We did take the train along the coast. That was easy! Planning to go back and stay a week next time.

The weather was nice not too hot but I like it that way. It may seem cold to those who live there and have that summer heat but we loved it.

More details coming up!
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Old Oct 31st, 2017, 09:31 AM
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Hi Sundriedtopepo.

I am very much enjoying your report and your gorgeous photos

regards Ger
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Old Oct 31st, 2017, 10:33 AM
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Love Marc Chagall. Even though we’ve been to Nice 3 Times never went to the museum. That means we must return!

Did you try any Socca in Nice?

You sure covered a lot of territory on this trip. We’re you happy with your itinerary or were there places you wished you had stayed a bit longer?
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Old Oct 31st, 2017, 10:21 PM
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Thank you, OReilley!

TPAYT, I tried the Socca, it's interesting isn't it?
We did cover a lot of territory. Both DH and I had a wishlist, and we had 3 1/2 weeks, but that's a week and a half shorter than we usually have, so I do feel I crammed a bit too much into the time. We were happy with what we saw, but I got a bit tired out by the short stays.

Figeac 1 night Cordes 2 nights Toulouse 2 nights Carcassonne 1 night Arles 2 nights....this string of stops was basically to get from Dordogne to Provence and see some things along the way. But it nearly did me in, and I won't be planning that again.

In retrospect, I think I would have stayed in Albi instead of Cordes. Although it's a beautiful town, there just wasn't much happening there. And if we'd had two more nights, I would have added one to Toulouse and one to Arles.

Oh well, we still had a great time, though.
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