Our autumn tour of country France

Jan 8th, 2019, 06:02 AM
Join Date: Jul 2018
Posts: 329
Again quite enjoyable read !
I do hope someone explained what 'Montcuq' means (phonetically) in French ... Avez-vous fait le tour de Montcuq ? is an old joke.
thibaut is offline  
Jan 8th, 2019, 09:46 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,337
Excellent details. One of my best friends has a house in a hamlet just outside of Gramat, which is actually almost too convenient for the main tourist draws of the Lot -- Rocamadour and the Gouffre de Padirac. But Gramat itself is a lovely small town, not at all overrun (I think it has maybe four hotels).
kerouac is offline  
Jan 8th, 2019, 04:13 PM
Join Date: Jun 2007
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"It is another beautiful village." And yet we don't get tired of them, do we? There are so many regional variations in landscape and architecture that catch your eye.

You and your husband seem to collaborate well in planning your trips. Does he plan only the drives between gites and your job is to plan the days you spend near each gite?
Coquelicot is offline  
Jan 8th, 2019, 09:54 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 320
I leave the route planning for our Saturday change overs to P because he is doing the driving. The rest we share . We each find things and it comes together fairly well. You are right about the differences between regions, and that is one of the things we enjoy about our travels around. We have not found a region we did not enjoy, but do have some we enjoy more than others.


We were looking forward to our Saturday drive as it would take us back through the Tarn where we stayed in 2016. We turned off at Caussade and headed towards St Antonin Noble Val. It was quite foggy just as it had been when we visited two years ago almost to the day. We went through Cordes sur Ciel as the tourists were arriving, and then on through Albi which was very hazy. That cathedral is stunning. We stopped at the Intermarche at Realmont where we bought a delicious pain d'epice.

After a picnic lunch at Mazamet we followed the very scenic road through the Montagne Noir towards Carcassonne. It was closed further down from the recent flooding but we turned off before the closure. We visited Carcassonne in 2012, so decided not to go back this time. Once we turned off we started to see evidence of the disaster with some road damage and lots of debris in places. We were charmed by three statues of truffle hunters with their dogs at a roundabout on the way out of Villeneuve Minervois. We really enjoy some of the interesting features and displays we see on roundabouts in France.

Our gite was in the fairly average town of Rieux Minervois. There is an sturdy chateau beside the river and the old bridge and we could see evidence of the flooding down by the river. What is interesting in this village is the church. It is an unusual heptagonal design and appears round inside with huge pillars and lovely capitals. It is very different and quite appealing. The village has all amenities so was a good base. Our gite was behind the owners' house and and was very modern and opened onto the pool area. It was still warm but not for swimming.

We were greeted by a neighbour from down the road as the owners had had a death in the family and gone away. The generous owner had left us two bottles of very nice Minervois wine from a nearby cave. Once settled we found we could not get the WIFI up, and then found out it was not working because of the flooding. The neighbour came down on Monday to tell us it was back up, but still no connection. He went off and came back with the next door neighbour who happened to be his brother in law. When he saw that his connection was showing on our devices, he insisted, despite our protests, on giving us his password. This is just one example of the generosity and friendliness of the people we met. While it was weak and did drop out at times, it was better than none at all.

That night for dinner we had the boudin blanc we'd bought in Lalbenque. They were delicious. You can buy these and other sausages such as morteau prepacked in the supermarkets. However we prefer to buy ours from a boucherie or the charcuterie section of a supermarket as they are better.

On Sunday morning we went up to Caunes Minervois which is known for its red marble. There is a Romanesque abbey there with some wonderful scuptures and altar in marble. There is also marble throughout the village in various forms, and sculptures of animals in a park along the stream. It is quite a pretty little place.

After lunch under the olive tree by the pool we went for a drive to some of the nearby villages. Now we started seeing flood damage in the form of lots of debris, flattened grapevines and swollen streams. We were in the wine region of the Minervois with grape vines every where. There is a very attractive church in the small village of Escales, and outside Montbrun there was a sweet little church, Notre Dame de Colombier. It was out on its own with pine trees around. Roquecourbe Minervois had a chateau with two towers beside the church. It was a lovely sight, and the lady was out working in her garden above the road. She told us that they had a very old stone wall collapse as a result of the torrential rain. Azilles has a long avenue of trees, portes into the village and an attractive church with big bell tower .

On Monday we drove to Minerve via a couple of villages that did not really do much for us. There did not seem to be a centre and the buildings did not appeal. I think we had been spoilt by the lovely bastides and villages of the Lot. But then the country started to change . There were still lots of grape vines but the country as a whole was more appealing and the air seemed clearer. We drove along the gorges and Minerve is impressive from the road positioned as it is on a spur between two rivers. It is only a small village which does not take a lot of time, but its position makes it spectacular. You have to drive about a km past the village to the carpark, but then it is only a 200m walk into the village. We walked to the ramparts and down to the river. We finished the morning by driving home through several villages which appealed more, including Siran where we had considered a gite.

After lunch we went to Lastours. On the way we saw more flood damage including a car being hauled out of the river. Lastours is actually four Cathar castle ruins together on hills. It looked to be a steep walk up from the village and it was still quite warm, so I chickened out. We drove up to the belvedere where there is an amazing view of the four castles. We spent some time there just absorbing the majestic sight.

On Tuesday we went down to Fontfroide abbey and really enjoyed our visit. It is very well laid out with a good information leaflet which was easy to follow. Sometimes we find the maps they give you hard to follow. The abbey has large courtyards and beautiful cloisters with marble pillars. It had a very nice chapter house and stained glass in the dormitory and there was grand staircase. The abbey church was big with huge pillars and beautiful stained glass. We walked out through the rose garden and then up to the terraced gardens and walks which offer views over the abbey. We were fascinated by the beehives and little ' houses' to encourage insects into the gardens. I would love one or two for the garden at home, but am yet to convince P he needs to make one. It was a wonderful few hours .

On the way home we stopped in at Fabrezan which is round and has a 12th century donjon. All the donjons we see seem to be 12th century !!

One day we drove up to St Chinian which is the centre of another wine growing region. On the way we detoured into the small village of Quarante because we saw it had a star on the Michelin map. It proved to be a charming small village with lots of little alleys and stairs and a 10th -11th century abbatiale with several 1st - 3rd century sarcophagi. We were pleased we took the time to stop at the village. We then stopped at a viewpoint and resistance memorial before reaching St Chinian which is in a nice location on the river. We found the country more attractive up here and the air less hazy. St Chinian is an attractive small town and we enjoyed our visit and an especially delicious tarte au citron meringue for morning tea.

After leaving St Chinian we drove through a scene worthy of being on a postcard or a calendar. There were grape vines turning yellow, a ' young ' avenue of trees also turning yellow and a stone building in the middle. It was just gorgeous, but as luck would have it, there was no where to stop and a white van nudging our bumper. We had to imprint it in our minds.

We passed through several pretty little villages and stopped in Pepieux where there is an impressive church with a large square bell tower. It was similar to other bell towers we had seen in the region. In the nearby park we were surprised to discover an aviary full of budgerigars. These are an Australian native bird which I grew up with as my father used to breed and show them.

We went into Narbonne one day. It was quite busy with lots of one way and no entry streets and we took ages to find a park. It is an attractive town in the centre and we enjoyed walking along the canal where there were lots of boats moored. The Halles are quite impressive both outside and inside. There was a market outside along the canal, but not what we consider an appealing market. We like food markets, but not ones selling clothes and mattresses and what appears to be cheap junk, and that was what this was. It did spoil the outlook of the canal and halles for us.

It is a lovely old centre and we really enjoyed our exploration. We were impressed by the lovely pink marble pavement in one arcade. The Archbishop's Palace which is now the Hotel de Ville is impressive and the cathedral is stunning. Of course it was closed for hours over lunch and we had planned to see it and then leave. It is so frustrating. We always enjoy our visits to larger centres as they are different from what we usually do, but we do not enjoy traffic and crowds and are quite content to return to the peace and quiet of the country after a day out to one. I really am not looking forward to the day P no longer feels comfortable driving in France.

Friday followed our usual pattern of the morning out and then the afternoon spent planning our route, packing, cleaning the gite, filling the car and taking a last walk around . We went for a drive to some of the villages a little to the north and they were quite lovely. One we paricularly liked was La Liviniere which had some lovely old buildings and a nice church with another square bell tower. Just outside Siran ( another nice village ), there is a little chapel at Centeilles. It was just a little misty and it looked beautiful surrounded by grapevines.

We went out to lunch at one of the cafes in Rieux. We quite like the ' buffet au volonte' entrees and this was the only one of the trip. There were two choices for the mains, steak et frites and encornet farci ( stuffed squid ). We chose the latter and they came with rice and a rich seafood sauce with mussels. Very nice. Then back to the buffet for some cheese followed by Ile Flotante. There was a bottle of red wine on the table and coffee included. We are going to miss these lunches.

Well, another week is over. We enjoyed our stay, although we found some parts of the region appealed more than others, as did some of the villages. The weather here was still mild but about to change.

From the kitchen

Boudin blanc and salad
Magret de canard with fennel and haricot blanc braise.
Leek, lardon and goat's cheese frittata
Morteau sausage with fennel and potato boulangere
Chicken cuisse and salad
Poitrine fumee and flageolot bean salad

Tomorrow we are off to the Ardeche.
rhon is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 05:55 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,002
Rhon, if my husband can't drive us around I don't know that we'd go back to France. Cities just aren't for us--a day trip, yes, but then back to peace and quiet at the end of the day.

You arrive at each gite with a general plan, right? You've done your preparation at home using Michelin or Fodor's plus internet and know what there is to see and do nearby. Do you already have a plan of where you'll be going each day, or do you work out/adjust your plans each night for the next day?

You may have mentioned this earlier and I would have read it, but if so my brain has already released it!
Coquelicot is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 09:15 PM
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Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 320
When we are looking for gites we look around the area to see what we could do from a particular base. A bit of research will indicate whether we could happily spend a week or two there. Once we decide, we do more research, but we do not really organise an itinerary. This time, the ' must sees ' were the gorges, Puy de Dome, and then we just have a lot of general things. If there is something that is only open at specific times or a market maybe, we may allot a day, and for something like Puy de Dome , we wanted a clear day. Other than that we just go day by day depending on weather, what we feel like doing, how big a day we had the day before. I will admit that now with most of our gites having WIFI, we do more while there than we used to.


It was raining when we left on Saturday and quite busy until we got around Beziers. The rain eased and the driving became more pleasant. We skirted around Clermont l'Herault near where we stayed in 2014 and then across past Pic St Loup which is a really scenic drive. We were still seeing grapevines. We reached the town of St Ambroix which is where we would shop and it looked quite interesting. As we had time, we checked out the Intermarche super which was busy.

Our gite this week was on the edge of the little village of St Andre de Cruzieres which is in the Ardeche but almost in the Gard. It had a bar and a small epicerie, but we could not work out the hours of the latter. We only saw it open once. There was a boulangerie in the next village. Gone were the big square church bell towers from the previous week. Now we were seeing tall elegant spires.

Some gites are obviously holiday rentals, but this house had been someone's home. It was well equipped and comfortable with some beautiful old wooden sideboards and furniture. The owner was very excited to have Australians staying there. She really stretched my converstional French and came bearing welcome gifts of a bottle of Ardeche rose, home pressed fresh apple juice, home-made blueberry jam and a bottle of superb home-made chestnut confiture. The next day we bought some crepes and had warm crepes, chestnut confiture and creme fraiche. Yum, yum.

On Sunday morning we went into Saint Ambroix for a look around before going to the supermarket. It is quite an attractive medieval town with some big tree-lined squares, old houses and back streets to see. In the centre is a high rock with the circular tower Guisquet on top. There are quite a few shops and we went into a boucherie where the boucher explained some of his products made in house. We came away with a slice of terrine au Piment d' Espelette which was very nice with just a hint of the piment.

That afternoon we went out for a drive to the nearby village of Barjac which we really liked. It was very tidy with lovely light coloured stone, narrow streets, but also several more open areas with lots of small shops scattered around. It was the size and type of place we would choose to stay. After that we pottered around some nearby villages. Labastide de Virac was very attractive with a chateau and there was also a chateau ( now a chambre d'hote ) in Bessas. The country varied from flat plains with vines to more hilly and rugged. We saw a lot of vines, olive trees and even some lavender fields. The autumn colours of the vines and trees made for lovely views.

Monday was an awful day - raining and cold and bleak. We did think we would go across to Aigueze and maybe drive along the Ardeche gorges. We did see the gorges in 2010 but would have liked to return. By the time we got to Barjac it was bucketing down, so we stopped at the little Carrefour contact and came home. On early trips we soldiered on in the rain, but I am afraid we are past that now. That night there were heavy snow falls up in the Massif Centrale with thousands stranded for hours in cars and trucks.

Tuesday was fine and clear so we had a big day planned. Our first stop was the PBV of Montclus which is on the Ceze river. It is quite small with pretty little streets, a donjon, arches, a church with simple front. After leaving Montclus there is a short drive along the Ceze gorges.

Just off the main road is the pretty village of Cornillon. It is high on a hill with a chateau that has been in the same family since the early 17th century. In the courtyard is a stage and seating for performances. There is a great view over the Ceze valley from the belvedere.

Down below is Goudargues which has a small canal running through the main street lined with trees, shops and cafes. What a pity it was too early for lunch as it looked most inviting.

La Roque sur Ceze is another PBV. It was lovely with lots of cobble stone streets which were a bit steeper. The houses are attractive and there is a chateau at the top and two towers. The information boards here tell about the many people of the arts who have spent time in the village.

From the car park it is then a walk of about 5 mins to the Cascades de Sautadet. I had seen photos but that really did not prepare us. While the cascades flow over what appeared to be a man made barrier, it is the rocks below that are absolutely amazing. Over the years the water has carved out channels and holes and crevices and it is very impressive. We spent quite a while walking around on the rocks admiring the rugged shapes and pools. Well worth a visit.

After a picnic lunch we took the back road ( we do enjoy back roads ) to Lussan. On the way we detoured off to Les Concluses which are the gorges carved by the Aiguillon river. We walked for about a kilomtetre, maybe a bit more, who knows, and enjoyed our views of the cliffs and caves. The colours were beautiful - a streaky blend of dark grey, ochre, white - and it was an interesting walk.

Lussan was our last stop and I had not realised it was a PBV. It is round and on a hill, and the very impressive chateau, now the Hotel de Ville, is the first thing you see as you walk in. There are great views from the well preserved ramparts and we enjoyed the buildings, including a temple which was a Protestant church. It appeared to have a private house opening on to the walled garden in front where there was a lady gardening when we entered. It was a bit different from the others - no cobble stones for example, but still nice to visit. It had been a long but very enjoyable day out.

The heavy rain returned on Wednesday. As the following day was a public holiday ( All Saints' Day ), we went into St Ambroix to shop in case the shops were closed next day. It was pouring rain and stormy. As we were waiting in the supermarket for the rain to ease to dash to the car, there was a huge bang and smoke everywhere. A large light pole in the car park, not far from where we were parked, had exploded! We are not sure if it was lightning or simply water in the electronics, but it certainly gave everyone a fright.

It is interesting how traditions vary from country to country. In France, potted chrysanthemums are the flowers put on graves on All Saints day. Here in Australia they are a popular flower for Mother's Day in May.

It was still showery on Thursday morning but we ventured out as it eased. We enjoyed Balazuc which is a very old village on the Ardeche river. It has lots of little nooks and crannies to explore and little cobblestoned streets. There is an old church and we walked up to look over the Ardeche whch was swollen and flowing rapidly, and to the cliffs on the other side. We walked over the bridge to look back at the village and its beautiful location.

Next stop was Vogue which is also on the river. The river seemed even fuller here and one carpark in the village was flooded. There is a very well preserved chateau at the top of the village. I am not sure why, but Vogue did not appeal as much as the other villages we had been seeing.

On the way back we called in at Venezac which we thought was lovely. The walk through the porte opens into a pretty little village with narrow streets, lovely stone buildings and lots of ivy growing around.

Our last stop was Largentiere which was completely different. It is on the Ligne river which was also full and flowing. This village has very tall buildings - up to four floors - with painted shutters. The streets are steep and there are lots of wide, old, worn stone stairs up to one of the churches, and there is another large church with pillars in front. There is also a chateau which is best viewed from the bridge over the river. It was another interesting place.

We were still seeing lots of grape vines and wine caves. It was not until we began travelling around the different regions that we realised just how big the wine industry is in France. A lot of people know of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Cotes de Rhone, maybe the Loire and Alsace and think that is it. We have been lucky to have stayed in so many other less well known wine regions and always enjoy the local product. Not only are the wines great, the regions themselves have so much of interest. And do you know? You do not have to spend a lot to get excellent wine.

The weather improved on Friday. The small market was in progress in St Jean de Jeune so we stopped for a look. We like the smaller markets and this one had all the stalls we like - cheese, charcuterie, fruit and veges, roast chickens, bread, local wines and honey. I had been having difficulty finding green beans sometimes, so was pleased to find some and also some lovely little potatoes ideal for a bean and potato salad we like.

Banne is an interesting small village in two parts. There is a lovely big church in the newer part and you look over to the older part where there are the ruins of a chateau above the village. Once over at the old section we walked up through the pretty streets to the ruins. From there it is a wonderful view over the surrounding country. We could see olive groves and grape vines and terraces on the hills and it was gorgeous. We like the simple things. Beside the chateau are the impressive stables which have been restored. In their day they housed 35 horses. It was a nice little village.

Well another week is over. Once again we did not do some things we had planned. We had hoped to drive along the Ardeche gorges again, visit a cave, maybe return to Uzes, but no matter. We may have to return!! This is a lovely area with lots of interesting places and varied and beautiful landscapes.

From the kitchen

Montbeliard sausages, tomato and haricot blanc braise
Magret de canard with lentils, sweet onions and creme fraiche
Morteau sausage with fennel and potato boulangere
Saucisse aux herbes and ratatouille
Leek and lardon pasta
Baked trout and warm potato and green bean salad.

Our last week is coming up and we are off to our favourite region in Burgundy, Saone et Loire.
rhon is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 09:58 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,974
Thanks for sharing your trip details. We live in Brisbane too and had a month in France last September - in fact I had to check the date but we were probably on the same flight from Brisbane to Singapore - I think there's only one a day. We went on to London first though. It sounds like your French is much better than mine. I did a French language course at U3A which was helpful and also listened to a lot of French language podcasts but one of the things we missed was being able to chat to French people. It felt a bit isolated at times with only basic language skills.

I like the idea of travelling for longer periods but keeping to a budget and not eating out each night. We went to some wonderful food markets, the one at La Rochelle was particularly good. Would you mind sharing costs with us for the trip?

KayF is offline  
Jan 9th, 2019, 10:31 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,210
And share your survival tips for driving.... it pains me to read your report and look up the places you mention, then have a little panic attack about driving and decide I’ll never do it. We have zero French, never driven other side of road, and drive automatics.
Adelaidean is online now  
Jan 9th, 2019, 11:20 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 320
We actually live in Toowoomba and our Qantas flight left at midday. That would be a co-incidence! I do remember reading your report here with some lovely photos. I am not tech savvy enough to do that yet.
We always stay in gites and do not stay in the tourist hub as you will have gathered. We booked them all through Gites de France, but there are lots of other sites. We just like GDF and are comfortable with it. Because we travel shoulder to low season, the costs do reduce. We also unexpectedly got a discount when we booked the two weeks in the Lozere. So our accommodation costs came in under 300 euro a week. We eat well for around 25 euro a day, not including meals out, but most were inexpensive lunches. We only had two evening meals out in the ten weeks which I know would not be enough for everyone else. We spent 50 euro a week on fuel with only a few places of paid parking and no tolls.
I am afraid I cannot give driving tips as P does all the driving. We began driving in France when he was about 52. I do not think he would be so keen starting in his 60's. He just finds that after the first day it becomes natural. I would not be so comfortable and I know he would not enjoy being a passenger!!
rhon is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 06:50 AM
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 138
Bonjour et merci! Following but haven't had time to read much of this yet!
Rocket79 is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 08:44 AM
Join Date: Jun 2003
Posts: 21,337
Considering the quantity of sausages that you eat, I am surprised that you spend as much as 25 euros a day for eating.
kerouac is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 12:05 PM
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Posts: 320
Ah but Kerouac they are the good ones!! We love morteau and montbeliards, which we first discovered in the Jura in 2008, in particular and we do not get them in Australia. Some trips we have not been able to find them other than the prepacked ones and they are not as good. And they are so easy to prepare. I am quite happy to cook but like to keep it simple.
We have a list of things we like that we do not get here. We live in a small provincial city but duck is not as readily available where we live, is more expensive and definitely no magret. And as for the prepared gesiers, not a hope. We were tempted by pigeon in one place, but never having cooked it, I thought I would ruin it. We were buying two whole trout for 5 euro . Of course we get trout here but definitely no fresh sardines where we live. We also like fromage blanc which we do not get here either. And we do not spend a lot on wine. So all in all, we do pretty well, we think. We are happy. And I did not get to do a rabbit casserole because I did not have a suitable dish, and the weather was mild up to the last two weeks. Next time.
Bon appetit!!
rhon is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 09:21 PM
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Posts: 320
And now, our last week. The journey is over,


As we did not need to see anyone before we left and we had a fairly long drive, we made an early start . What started out as a pleasant day turned foggy and windy as we travelled up through Grignan which we stayed near in 2010. The scenery was quite attractive despite the fog. Then up past Crest and our base from week1. We had come full circle ! We let the GPS get us around Lyon and then skirted the edge of the Dombes and on through Macon. On the way we passed some lovely colombage farm buildings on a grassy rise. We were near the Bresse and it has some attractive buildings.

This week we were back in an area we love. We had already spent a week in 2010 and 2014 in Chissey les Macon, about 15kms away. This time we chose a gite just out of the wine village of Lugny. The Cave de Lugny is a great wine cave we have been to before, and we stopped in to stock up with some Cremants, Aligote and Passetoutgrain before going to our gite. 10% off in November. Excellent!! Our gite was attached to the owners residence which has the lovely porch typical of this region. The owners were very welcoming and gave us a bottle of the local wine and a jar of blackberry and raspberry jam. The gite was lovely, on two levels and with a well equipped kitchen. It was cold but cosy inside.

Sunday morning was foggy so we just went and found the Intermarche about 5kms away at Peronne. After lunch it was still a little misty but that seemed to add to the appeal of our drive around. We think the villages and country are just beautiful in this area. We saw lots of fields of vines, wine caves in almost every village, lovely stone houses with little porches, some interesting churches. There is a sweet little church in Bissy le Maconnaise with a lauze roof, a listed church with an interesting tower in Laize, a large church with columns in Ige, the gorgeous little chapelle de Domange surrounded by grape vines, and in the distance on our way home, a church on top of a hill. We saw several tiled towers and roof tops that are a feature of buildings in Burgundy. We just love it, and autumn is just beautiful.

That night we had a rose cremant de Bourgogne to compliment the sinfully rich cheese, Brillat Savarin, and some poire william rouge. It was soft and oozy and creamy and oh, so delicious.

Well, we are into November and foggy starts are quite common. The fog had lifted to a nice sunny day by the time we reached Bourg en Bresse and we skirted around the centre. We were there to visit the Monastere de Brou which was commissioned by Margaret of Austria to house three tombs, one each for her husband and mother and one for herself. The complex is quite big and there are three cloisters, two of which had wells and the third was cobblestones. They were not especially ornate but still lovely. The church itself does have a very elaborate altar and the three carved marble tombs are superb. The choir is carved wood and there are beautiful stained glass windows. You can then walk up to the gallery which looks down on the church and the magnificent tombs. Margaret's apartments are up there, and then the the monks' building houses a fine arts museum with paintings and furniture. An exquisitely carved 3-D wooden scene particularly appealed to us. There was scaffolding around the front of the Gothic church, but did not detract from the view of the wonderful tiled roof. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit.

We then came home on a different road and stopped in the town of Chatillon sur Chalaronne. Why had we never heard of this lovely little town? It was a bit cold for picnics by now, so we stopped in at a little restaurant - it seated about 16 - for a very nice lunch. The owner and people at other tables were very friendly. Ratatouille accompanied the main course, and I was pleased to see it looked and tasted like mine. I must be doing something right!

This charming medieval town is well worth a stop. It has lots of buildings in colombage, cobblestones, magnificent halles, an old chateau, ramparts, hospice, porte, and flowery bridges over the small stream. St Vincent de Paul lived here at one time. But this is France. You never know what pleasant surprises await. On the way home we stopped to photograph the farm buildings we saw on Saturday.

One day we just went for a wander up through Chardonnay and on to Ozenay where there is a chateau and a small but lovely church with a porch with huge wooden beams and simple, arched interior. Then along the road past Brancion, a medieval village on a hill. The country was changing - grapevines still, but also some cultivation and cattle. Now the fairytale Chateau des Nobles with towers and porte looking gorgeous with the golden vines in front and the trees behind. And another fairytale chateau crowned in autumn colours with a lake in front at Sercy. By this time we were in Buxy and stopped at the supermarket. At last, some Jambon Persillee, a burgundian speciality, a favourite of ours and not found very often in other regions.

We then meandered home along small back roads of which there plenty in this region. All the time we were passing through small villages with an attractive church, the lovely winemakers houses with porches and wooden pillars, a lavoir. So many of these have a small private chateau, all a little different, quite a few of which are chambre d'hotes. And all the time surrounded by the glorious autumn tones. Do you see why we love this region?

On Wednesday we drove over to Louhans in the Bresse region. It is a busy market town well known for its weekly poultry market - of course this is the region of the famous Bresse chicken. It was a pleasant drive over, passing through several small villages. The houses are different here - more modern in appearance and often flat on the ground.

The church in Louhans is in two parts with an old and a new side, and it has a beautiful tiled roof. But the charm here is the Grande Rue which has arcades down each side - 157 in all. They are all different shapes and made from different materials. and it is very appealing. While they are still arcades, they are very different from the arcades we were seeing in the bastides of the Lot. There are lots of shops with some beautiful patisseries and interesting charcuteries. We bought some aspic au saumon fume for a late lunch at home with buttered baguette ( butter encrusted with sea salt of course ). Delicious. It was then a nice drive home through some different villages. That afternoon we went in for a wander around Lugny which is a pleasant little place with a good Petit Casino and an excellent boulangerie. The charcuterie was closed for the annual vacance. A lovely day.

On Thursday we went across to Tournus and visited the cathedral which we first saw in 2006. The church has big round pillars, a magnificent organ and a small chapel reached by narrow winding stairs to look down into the church. It also has small attractive cloisters. We then walked down into the town which was quite busy. The hotel de ville, as is often the case in French towns and villages, was wuite attractive. We came home through Chapaize to look at the restaurant we planned to visit the next day.

After lunch we went into Cluny which is an attractive small town . We have been before, of course, but we always enjoy visiting. It has an impressive Haras du Pin, and the remains of an abbey. There are remains of walls and lots of attractive buildings, a tower and a very impressive war memorial beside the church. Then a quick stop at the boulangerie in Lugny which does beautiful patisserie. I think we will have a Foret Noir ( rich kirsch soaked choc cake, cherries, cream and chocolate ganache) and a Caramelou ( biscuit base, caramel mousse with bits of caramel and encased in caramel ganache ) for dessert after our rose trout. Sublime.

Last day. We went across to Chapaize to Le Saint Martin, a restaurant we had eaten at on another stay. Chapaize is a quiet village dominated by its magnificent Romanesque church. It also has two excellent restaurants. We had a superb lunch - a splurge for our last day. It was French food with a modern twist, beautifully presented, absolutely delicious and a fitting end to another wonderful trip. We lingered over coffee and went for a walk. On the way home, Burgundy sparkled for us - sunshine, glorious autumn colours, our last look at little villages and church spires nestled among the trees. Our hearts were full.

Next day the rain matched our mood as we headed back to Lyon airport to drop the car and begin the long journey home. We had a bit of drama at the airport. The airline had installed some new software and while we were listed on the flights, the system kept blocking our passports. It took about 30 mins to resolve. The lady was getting quite frustrated by the end, on the phone to who knows who. " There is nothing wrong with their passports. They are just Australians who want to go home. " Did we?

From the kitchen.

Magret de canard with tian of fennel, zucchini, tomato and blue cheese
Chicken cuisse and leek, potato and creme fraiche bake
Montbeliards with lentils, sweet onions and creme fraiche
Rose trout with salad
Gesiers de canard salad


We have had another wonderful trip to this lovely country and I find it hard to believe that we have now spent 56 weeks in France since 2006. We feel the window is slowly closing on how long we can keep returning. At this stage P is still comfortable driving and hopefully that will not change in the near future .
All our gites were booked through Gites de France and we were happy with them all. We are very economical travellers. I am sure some people think of what they spend in a week, multiply it by ten and need to be revived. But we have found a way to travel that we love and can afford. It may not suit others who would consider what we do as a sacrifice on a holiday, especially the cooking at home. But for us, it is one of the things we enjoy about our trips. And lest you think I have a terrific memory, as well as journal of what we do each day, in 2012 I began to keep a food journal. In it I record what we cook and eat, markets, shops, our thoughts on new cheeses, charcuterie, meals out- anything related to food. Any interesting labels get pasted in and it becomes a scrap book of our trip and transports me back to France, at least for a little while.
Thanks for taking this journey with me.

Happy travels.
rhon is offline  
Jan 10th, 2019, 09:32 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,210
Rhon, I'm sad you had to go home, too! So enjoyed this. What wonderful descriptions, I love how you travel and one day I hope I can do a road trip too. I actually like cooking on holidays, the shopping is kind of fun, not a chore at all.
Adelaidean is online now  
Jan 11th, 2019, 09:33 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 320
This time we really found we missed being there. We are all settled back home now though. We will probably return in Spring 2020. Back to barbies on the back verandah. And some camping at the beach after school goes back. P wants to go bush for a bit when the weather cools down but before winter. So lots happening at home.

Have fun whatever you do this year.
rhon is offline  
Jan 11th, 2019, 10:56 PM
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 1,210
Am going to Switzerland in June, and possibly taking my mother to Italy in September. So nothing to complain about! Thanks again for sharing your travels.
Adelaidean is online now  
Jan 13th, 2019, 04:37 AM
Join Date: Jun 2007
Posts: 2,002
Rhon, it's such a pleasure to read your trip reports. It gives me a different look at France, in a way I'll probably never experience.

And so another trip ends for you two and the next one begins, at least at your computer. Enjoy your planning. Maybe now and then you can give us fodorites a hint as to where you'll be going on your next trip.
Coquelicot is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 12:33 PM
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 423
Thanks for all the lovely information about France. When my husband retires we would like to travel as you do. You have inspired me to return to France for a lengthy stay.
Sberg is offline  
Jan 13th, 2019, 10:27 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Apr 2011
Posts: 320
If you have the time, it is a lovely way to travel we think. You can really do what you want. If you prefer cities you can stay there. If you love the country, you can do that or you could do a mix. We were lucky to be able to do this before my husband retired. Good luck with your planning.
rhon is offline  
Jan 15th, 2019, 09:00 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 2,974
Wow, 56 weeks in France. That's amazing. We also love the food aspect of travelling, not just France but anywhere we happen to be. Browsing through foreign supermarkets is fascinating, there is always something that we end up saying "what IS that?". We once bought what we thought was cream to have with a tarte tatin in Strasbourg but it definitely wasn't cream! The tarte tatin though was wonderful. We also love food markets, even if we can't buy anything I love seeing how different (or similar) it is from home.

KayF is offline  

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