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Just Returned from Languedoc/Rousillon-Dordogne-Pays Basque

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Oct 7th, 2006, 12:05 PM
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Just Returned from Languedoc/Rousillon-Dordogne-Pays Basque

I will do this in parts...my departure from Asheville was somewhat comical. Checked my luggage and said I wanted to be there when my bag was searched. A young man had a very large suitcase open and it looked like it was filled with an armfull of ladies underwear that had been taken from the dryer! He was taking one item at a time, looking at it and putting it in a pile outside the suitcase. How long would it take to determine that there were no liquid bottles or bombs!! I told him that he certainly was not doing that kind of search on my luggage. He responded that possibly so, or I may not be flying that morning. He asked if I wanted his supervisor and I told him that it would be a good idea. A normal, more mature person came and she said she would search my bag herself..I told her that I had TSA locks..she used my key, used a long handled wand around the sides and that was it. She said there should be no other opening of the bag. The young man was still busily taking one piece of underwear at a time and searching for bombs or liquid items when I left the area! I wonder if the person ever got their luggage.

While I think of it..I have always put my pill type medication in a ziplok bag and did so for this trip. There had been some discussion earlier, with some thinking they had to take their prescription bottles. I can assure you that no one, at any place, was the least bit interested in my medication. Many places were not interested in much of anything!! You would not have to be very sophisticated to travel with items that you were not supposed to..or with items of destruction from what I saw!!

I shuttled to CVG and later departed for CDG. My arrival at the new F terminal should be called the disaster area, but what else at CDG!! They had no on board info for connections. A very tiny area with a display screen..the time for my connection was beyond their timeframe. There was a sign to go one way for lower number gates and another way for higher numbers...I just picked one. There was a queue a mile long(or so it seemed) for the passport people. Many people had short time connections and kept crawling under the tapes and crowding in...many others were not sympathetic to their problems! Fortunately, I never plan close connections. I was heading on to Toulouse from F, also. Finally made it and when I entered the large open area it did not matter which area I had gone to. I spotted an info desk and inquired about my flight. She directed me in one direction..there were signs to head in many directions for my gate...another look at my passport and boarding pass....3 ft. later another look and told to go to another area..another person checking and when a group of us arrived the person just gave up and told us all to go on. Finally into the big open area of F!! They have a couple areas with steps ging down into "holes" for coffee/snack areas and toilettes...down the steep steps!! I had plenty of time and wandered around. Right inside the entry area on either side are two very large round pillars..one has the International display and the other A/F display. I later wandered around the back of the one with the Intl. display and lo and behold there was an elevator in this thing...I went down to the toilettes!! No signs in ANY language of the elevator existing!

In due course I had my flight to Toulouse...a much smaller than expected airport for a city the size of Toulouse. I had made arrangements for a Kemwel lease/buy back car. A bit of confusion in contacting them..they picked me up, took me a short distance, gave me the car papers and some directions and I was off to a place between Carcassonne and Beziers. The auto route was nearby and navigating around Toulouse etc. worked out very well.

I arrived at Bastide Cabezac in good time. I was pleasantly surprised with a charming place, charming owners, talented chef and very attractive dining room. A great start for my first stop for a 3 night stay...

More to follow......
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Oct 7th, 2006, 12:11 PM
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Welcome back! Hope you had a great trip. Looking forward to following along in anticipation of our own trip to the Dordogne in July.
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Oct 7th, 2006, 02:14 PM
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Grace: Thanks for posting. I can't wait to read your report on eating in the Dordogne. Hope you have time to post before I leave Monday! Many thanks and welcome back.
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Oct 7th, 2006, 02:54 PM
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Because you are leaving on Monday, I will tell you a bit about my eating in the Dordogne.

By far, the best was in Tremolat at View Logis. It is a lovely spot in every way. I could easily stay there!

l'Esplanade was somewhat disappointing. Maynardie is a nice place. La Belle Etoille is in a great location for views. In Sarlat Le Presidial is a good spot. There are so many restaurants in the area. Depending where you are staying you may want to find those nearby for evening and do some driving for some lunches.

I was a bit disappointed in the dress at some nice restaurants. People with an attitude that they don't really seem to care about how they look. If it is a nice restaurant I feel it is rude to dress like a slob. You can put a denim jacket on over a tee and wear jeans and be presentable....we run into these dress problems without having to go to Europe!

You will find that therre is no enforcement of driving speeds. Being a guest in the country I drive the speeds per the signs..30/50/70/90 etc. in the villages. The French do not..they have one speed..as fast as they can from one place to another..they will get annoyed with you for driving the speed limits and might flash their lights or use the horn. I drove 2600 km and never once saw any kind of highway or local patrol. I live in the mountains of western NC, so am not timid about mountain type driving. You get tired of the constant right on your bumper type of driving....the small roads will change their numbers as they enter a different area, so just know the names of the villages down the road and you will do fine...lots of signs in the Dordogne...the Basque country was more difficult as you also have the Basque language to deal with...
Have a good trip...hope the weather is as good for you as it was for me...could not have been better..much like here........
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Oct 7th, 2006, 04:23 PM
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Welcome back, gracejoan.
Hope you had a wonderful time in the Pays Basque. Am eagerly awaiting the next editions of your trip report!
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Oct 7th, 2006, 05:27 PM
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Am looking forward to the rest of your report! I agree with you about the drivers in France. I like to go the proper speed limits, too - but they certainly don't. It's nervewracking when they are constantly on your tail. I love the really deserted country roads. I enjoyed driving the less-traveled northern Dordogne roads. In recent trips I've driven around the Loire, Burgundy, Provence, Alsace and the Dordogne (at least 12 days in each), and never saw any highway patrol types anywhere!
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Oct 7th, 2006, 08:00 PM
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Grace thank you so much for taking the time so soon after your return. We did book lunch at Le Vieux Logis and am holding off at Esplanade; it seems to get very mixed reviews so we might save our money for Paris!
I agree with you about the dress of some people..it does bring down the ambience to be surrounded by very sloppy diners. I am now in my typical packing frenzy before a trip with exactly that issue in mind. I look forward to reading the rest! Thanks again.
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Oct 8th, 2006, 02:51 AM
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To begin again.. I thought La Bastide Cabezac was a real "find". When I was In the Basque the hotel had a Karen Brown guide and it had a wonderful write up on it. www.labastidecabezac.com check it out if you are in that area.

I did the Millau Viaduct. It is something else. Give it a try if anywhere nearby. I did the St. Guilhem-le Desert area..wandered around old town Pezanas..did some nice shopping there..picked up some gifts. I drive all around the Bize-Minervoise area. Some very nice villages. I dined every evening at Cabezac.

I then did the south coastal area..Collioure etc...very nice area.

My next stop was in Llo which is in the Pyrenees just east of Andorra. The drive to Prades was nothing to speak of, but from there on to Llo it was pretty spectacular. I made a planning mistake..I had planned to spend the following day (Sat) in Ceret. They have a great Sat. market. It was much too far to drive back to Ceret. Only the one road. It turned cloudy with a bit of drizzle..was to continue for the next day. The Llo area is best for hikers. The hotel Atalaya. I think it has seen better times. The dining room was charming and the meal was very nice. I decided to stay only the one night. I got on my mobile and started checking up the road...My next stop was the Dordogne, so I was looking for something part way. I found a place in Moissac. I took off in the morning and was in Moissac early afternoon. Moissac is a very nice area. The area uses their grapes for fruit juice rther than wine. I was served some at breakfast. To me, it had a touch of apple taste. Sunday morning a market in Moissac. I dropped by. Some really interesting buildings.

I was then off to St. Crepin et Carlucet and Les Granges Hautes(found it via Fodor's)for the next 6 nights. My French friends were joining me there for 3 nights and also arriving the same day(Sunday). The Faustes were great hosts..my room was charming. The grounds here are huge, ver park like. No telephone/Tv. Wonderful big shower. I called my friends on my Mobal phone..that is a great buy for the $49.95. I have used it the past 2 years and it is great..all you need. They were about an hour away.

We could have dined at the table d'hote that evening, but I felt we had so much to catch up on that we might be best not to join the group. Reservations had been made for us at La Maynardie. Friends arrived.She had developed some sort of back problem and decided not to join us for dinner. The two of us went to dinner..a great choice as it is not far from where we were...they definitely don't get any drive by customers..very remote. Big open dining room. Attractive. A nice dinner. I was a bit taken back with the dress of a couple..she had on baby pink cropped pants and baby pink sweater..he had a white cable sweater over a t-neck. They were French. This is late Sept and baby pink seemed a bit strange..this was only the beginning for dress...spaghetti strap tops, very beach resort wear IMO..oh well...We had reservations at Vieux Logis for lunch the following day. Friend still not well..cancelled the lunch..I made one for myself for later in the week..after they had gone back to Paris. We ended up taking her to the Dr..she got some pain pills and patches etc..We did l'Octroi that evening. The meal was fine..the place was quite full with dining inside only. The smoke was really very bad. I would think that in time they will probably have it no smoking only in the restaurant. It is not built to accommodate the combination well.

The following day we went to a close friend of my friends who have a chateau just east of St. Emilion. What a beautiful old place. We dined outside. This was grape picking time and they were busy in all the areas where I had been. We drove to a neighbor's who was busy hand picking (the very best way)of their grapes..stood right next to the truck and watched the whole process of the grapes going into the machine that takes them through several steps and spitting out the naked branches after removing the grapes and the juice then going off. This was a small family operation and he had 12 or 13 of those huge stainless steel tanks!! Quite a small operation!!

L'esplanade was our dining experience. My friends were critical in many ways. The views were great. It just left a feeling of less than expected.

They were off the following morning. By the way, they have just completed the renovation of a place they bought in Alsace, Riquewihr..they already have it rented for Xmas/N.Years and next summer. They said they had a week mid Dec. If anyone is looking, I can put you in touch with them. I know it will be nice.

I did Presidial. Dinner was good. A large crowd of Americans in adjoining room were quite noisy.Saw them when they left..really poorly dressed. I personally feel it is rude when dining in a nice restaurant..ah so.....

I also dined at La Belle Etoile in La Rogue Gageac. Pretty location, nice service. I asked to see a room. Sorry, not for me!!

Le View Logis lunch in Tremolat was the best dining experience in the area. A lovely place. I definitely could stay here..a bit distant from Sarlat.

I drove all over the area, stopping here and there..walking and walking, shopping and shopping. Had fun. The weather could not have been more perfect.

Then off to the Pays Basque. I did the auto route. I had planned to go via St. Emilion, but becvause of our trip there I did the fast route. Probably a good thing as it is a drive. I got off the auto route and headed down towards Sare and my next 5 night stop at the hotel Arraya. The signs...along with little nearby stop areas for travelers...are not as good as in the Dordogne. You also have the addition of the Basque language!! I may have taken the long way around to Sare, but I made it!! What a charming place.. family owned and operated. They have a boutique. The Basque items are very different than in the Dordogne.

I dined there, and in Ainhoa at the Ithurria Hotel(twice). I did the Rhune train. I don't know where all that I went. St. Jean de Luze, of course, dined at Le Kaiku. The Pays Basque countryside is beautiful!! Driving is a bit hectic..and the bicyclists...they take up the whole road in groups..you see some across the center line heading straight towards you!!!

I then left from the Biarritz airport..it is tiny.

Observations:
Toulouse airport is great for flying into for the Dordogne.

Dress can be easy to do..take jeans, layered tops, one pair of black pants, 1 decent jacket. I always have a black cashmere cardigan. Take some rain gear, of course.

Michelin maps are really the best. Do your homework for where you are going. Print out some Via Michelin or Mappy info.

Credit cards: I had absolutely no problem. I used Amex (even at a gas station) Visa and Mastercard. I used, for the first time, an ATM card..just to try it. I am one who takes lots of euros with me along with credit cards. The one time use, only for 40 euros, cost almost as much as my large amount of euros...I don't know if the exchange rate was up or down when I did it. It would not be good to use the ATM for 40 euro amounts!! I like it the way I do it. The small amount extra is woth it, for me!

Driving: Speed laws are obviously not enforced..so what can you do. Makes it quite annoying for visitors who feel that they should abide by the laws. Who needs speeding tickets when on vacation in a foreign country!!

The weather was absolutely perfect..a little rain that did not affect anything. Pretty much like we have here in our western NC mountains.

I drove 2600 km. I liked the Kemwel lease buy/back. You don't have to fill the caar up before turning it in. It was a great car..Peugeot automatic. Would do it again.

If you have any specific questions..please ask....
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Oct 8th, 2006, 07:50 AM
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Gracejoan, welcome home!

Thanks for sharing your experiences. I'm very impressed that you wrote your report so quickly as I'm still working on my report of our June Dordogne trip.

Something I realized from your disappointing visit to Bisto l'Octroi is that we had quite a different experience with restaurants as we were there in a heatwave and almost always ate outside. We rarely even saw the dining rooms. The few times we did, smoke wasn't a problem and I was very impressed with the change from our last visit to France. The only bad time was when we were seated in a corner of the upstairs, terrace at Quatre Saisons beside chain smokers.
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Oct 8th, 2006, 08:19 AM
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Moolyn,

I'm sure being able to sit outside is a totally different experience. In fact, I know it is lovely outside with the gas lights etc. at l'Octroi. I guess you have to think of the seasons when thinking of the different restaurants.

Something I forgot to add was a thank you to many who supplied me with information for my trip. The forums are great to be able to spread the information and updates for what is really going on.
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Oct 8th, 2006, 10:18 AM
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Great report, looking forward to all of it and I am planning a similiar trip for next year. I also love Alsace and plan to go there also sometime next year, I would love the contact info for the place your friends are renting. You can post it here or email me personaly @ ciaosusanna1875 at yahoo.com
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Oct 13th, 2006, 12:19 PM
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Hi Gracejoan - welcome back. sorry I never got round to telling you what I thought about hotel atalaya - but i was both busy and not sure what to say!
The situation is very peaceful and the meal [or in our case meals] was quite good, but I agree it has seen better days. Madame is not in the first flush of youth, and kept complaining about the staff - never a good sign! The first night we were there it was almost full, but the 2nd night there was just us, and another party of 4, which is hardly economic.
Still we did some lovely walking nearby, and found the spanish enclave nearby, called "llivia" - suddenly all the cars had spanish number plates and the petrol was loads cheaper. The locals in the cafe we stopped at were having tri-lingual conversations - french, catalan, and spanish. Our waitress in the hotel said that they did the same at home.
After Llo, we tried Collioure, but it was a friday night, and half of france seemed to be trying to get a room there, so after 10 "complet" signs we gave up. we ended up in Perpignan, which we loved.
glad you had a good time,
Ann
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Oct 13th, 2006, 12:30 PM
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annhig

The one night in Llo at Atalaya..I think there was a British couple, a threesome of Americans and one other couple. My dinner was fine. The dining room was rather attractive. I did make a good move to head up to Moissac the next day...both because it it really quite a historical area..had a Sunday Market and it got me up the road towards Sarlat, where I then needed to be..........
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Oct 13th, 2006, 01:47 PM
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gracejoan3,
I've really enjoyed your trip report and would love to hear more about your time in the Pays Basque.

When we stayed at the L'Atalaya in Llo, it must have been shortly after Madame's husband died. She no longer played the grand piano during dinner, and she seemed a bit overwhelmed by the upkeep, the maintenance of the property. The pool was open but had not been raked so was filled with leaves, and her head housekeeper had her wedding reception at the hotel that weekend, so rooms got cleaned very hastily.

I sensed that Madame was having difficulty keeping up the standards that she and her husband had maintained (still a member of Chateau & Hotels of France). As annhig has remarked, Madame is getting on in age. She seems to try to make due with a skeletal staff. My room in the annex, which had somewhat of a rustic log cabin décor was certainly in need of a renovated bath. My friends' room with balcony on the second floor was more nicely furnished with newer bath fixtures. But the setting is lovely as are the walks in the area. And my friends and I did enjoy the two well priced dinners in the pretty dining room

Did you enjoy your accomodations at the Hotel Arraya in Sare?
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Oct 13th, 2006, 02:07 PM
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Welcome home and here gracejoan3. We stayed in Ainoha, did you stop there? It's a beautiful village. Please post more.
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Oct 13th, 2006, 03:19 PM
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The Hotel Arraya was a most charming place. I had a nice room that looked out upon the garden. The family operation was well done and well handled.

I did go to Ainhoa and dined at the Ithurria twice. It is also a nice spot. I think the dining was a cut above Arraya.

I did a lot of driving around the area..took the train up the mountain..great view from there. I did St. Jean de Luz...pleasant village..lots to do. Did some fine dining there.

Surfing seems to be big in the area. I could see why when I saw the ocean waves.

There are hiking/walking trails all over. A great area for that sort of thing. Bicyclists all over the roads..a little too much so!!

The countryside is beautiful. The buildings are very attractive. The people in the area are very friendly.

A brightly colored area fabrics are lovely. The Hotel Arraya has a boutique with all sorts of things. I did some shopping there along with various area places.

A good trip with a variety of areas and places. I think I am still digesting some of it!!

I really appreciated the advice from many who are knowledgeable of the different areas that I visited.

I enjoyed my visit with Carlux. She has a lovely place, in a very peaceful, lovely area.

The weather couldn't have been better. Very much like here. Mid 70's during the day and cool mornings and evenings. Can hardly beat that!
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Oct 13th, 2006, 04:06 PM
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That is way we stayed! Happy you liked it too.
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Oct 13th, 2006, 05:02 PM
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lol...WHERE. I have a towel from the hotel they said I could keep that I wrapped my still wet lingerie with.
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