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Trip Report: 1 month - Dordogne, Provence, Paris, Ardeche

Trip Report: 1 month - Dordogne, Provence, Paris, Ardeche

Nov 27th, 2006, 05:46 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 102
Trip Report: 1 month - Dordogne, Provence, Paris, Ardeche

I busily researched the Fodor’s website before my trip to France this past summer. What I found on this chat room was more than the odd tip for a hotel suggestion or place to eat. What I found was a passion for some dearly loved regions of France that was infectious. What I found was people who were ready and more than willing to share their sage advice about the regions I was to visit. What I found was a contagious desire to explore France, it’s people, the open (yet windy) country roads, the food and wine, and anything else it might bring.

I want to extend a thanks to all of the people on Fodors who helped us plan our trip. Your insight was invaluable. And, as we look to return to France again this spring I foresee myself calling out for help again. So I want to sort of offer my help – however limited my knowledge is – to anyone who will be visiting France for the first time. As a small way to “pay back” the intellectual capital I have borrowed.

I will post the trip report in sections based on our travels.

Touch down in CDG – the wee terminal two. With our road bikes in tow, although we felt we had packed quite light for a month’s adventure, the bikes, bike clothing and other sporting equipment surely did have us looking like a couple pack mules…of course it was worth it in the end, but when carrying my bike up my tiny paris hotel stairs I wondered.

A little Jet lagged we checked into our hotel – le hotel Michelet Odeon at 6, place l’Odeon near the Luxemborg metro station. Very affordable, the hotel was clean, modern yet charming and had a great location. Here we stayed for two nights and the room even had a plasma screen tv (although that would have been all that could fit!). Then we hit the streets…I had cute shoes on, and in about 1 block I switched to my comfortable shoes. Not so stylish, but there was no way I was about to get blisters the first day out. We took a cab to the hotel from the airport…it was 45 euros including 5E extra for each large bike bag.

The first day was comprised of: Notre Dame, a lunch of ham&cheese baguette and nutella crepe on the banks of the Seine, walking through the narrow streets south of St. Germain, a trip into Luxembourg Gardens, the Louvre and then a nap on the grass in the Jardin de Tulleries. We also went to Les Deux Magot to unwind at the end of the day. I know I know…over priced 21 E for 2 Kir Royals….But the people watching was fantastic and after a couple Kir Royals a lovely salad (what is the dressing all the restaurants use in Paris…it’s delicious) we were having a wonderful evening in paris.

This pace was not really seen again for the rest of our trip in France but we were working hard to ensure the Jet Lag didn’t get the best of us! A quick stop in at the hotel let us change into some evening clothes and we went out for a simple dinner at a bistro. Our food in Paris never really met our taste expectations, except the pastry of course. The pastry was delectable…we have a few photos in fact, just of pastry, bread and I can still taste the flaky buttery folds of a croissant or apricot tart when I look back at the photos. Our best pastry was in Paris. A shop near the Eiffel tower was where we got the apricot tart that essentially ruined the pleasure we took in the so called pastries available back home.

I rose early to go for a run in Luxemborg Gardens. I love starting the day with a run and today would be no exception. After a little bit of figuring I managed to find a route that was interesting and after a couple of laps had satisfied my running craving. I was glad to be surrounded by a couple dozen other runners as well. In reading the forum, I thought I might be the only crazy person out running, and to my delight, I was out there at 6am with all the other crazy people and found the habits of the Parisians not much different than my own.

Back to the hotel to waken my to be husband and grab some breakfast. Our first introduction to the French breakfast was a delight. A baguette, a couple of espressos, some apricot jam, and butter and we were ready to go. I do have to say that by the end of the trip I craved a piece of whole grain dense bread. And so did my stomach. But as a beginning, it couldn’t have been better.

Today we traveled around using the Bato Bus that uses the Seine as it’s roadway. The Eiffel Tower was shrouded in fog today so we went to see the Champs Elysees. Besides the row on row of bistro patios I have to say that we were unimpressed. The futuristic car stores were quite neat but we couldn’t help feeling we were just in a historic car lot. The Arc d’Triump was different however. After finding our way under the roundabout we just sat under the Arc for about an hour. People watching, taking silly photos of ourselves and just being. It’s amazing how peaceful you can be surrounded by throngs of people, the largest round about I’ve ever seen and honking horns, but we were.

In our travels we always employ the grocery store method. You know, pick up some local delicacies from the market or grocery store and pull together a lunch. We found a great park near the Grand Palais and enjoyed our eclectic lunch of ham, root vegetable chips, fromage, baguette, espresso, Badoit.

By the time we got to the Eiffel Tower, the fog had lifted and like everyone, were surprised by it’s short stature…you just always picture it being much taller. Lines aren’t really our thing so we decided to skip going up the tower and instead just hung around for a bit taking in our quintessentially French landmark.

A short stroll to the Place Invalides en route to our “neck of the woods” found us taking in an afternoon boules game over a couple Kronenberg. What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. Sat on the grass we were feeling very French.

Dinner was at a cute brasserie and we walked home to the sounds of cheering from every pub, bar, and café because the French beat Spain 3-1 in the World Cup.

A relatively early night, tomorrow we go to Bordeaux and the Chateau de Smith Haut Lafayette and the Claudalie Vinotherapie Spa…then on to Saint Emillion.
jengoestofrance is offline  
Nov 27th, 2006, 06:35 PM
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Jen, you are off to a great start! I'll be eagerly following your report!
moolyn is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 06:32 AM
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Here are a few pics from Paris....

jengoestofrance is offline  
Nov 28th, 2006, 07:50 AM
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What moolyn said...
mr_go is offline  
Nov 30th, 2006, 09:58 AM
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We took the train from Paris to Bordeaux. A simple task made complex by our giant bike bags. We booked an iDTGV train…and to our surprise when we got there figured out they didn’t allow bikes. We snuck them on anyway and nervously watched the entire way to Bordeaux. Now we would have something to worry about our entire trip as we had booked one of these same trains for the return journey from Aix en Provence to Paris.

In Bordeaux we picked up our rental car from Auto Europe and headed south about 15 minutes to the Caudalie spa at the Haut Smith Lafitte. A beautiful drive through majestic vineyards. The journey was simple and straightforward and we were in for a real treat.

We had booked treatments – me a chardonnay/honey body wrap and Stu a cabernet wrap.
In addition, the entire place is just so relaxing. We arrived about 30 minutes before our treatment and had a chance to relax on the loungers, drink some tea (out of the best cups I’ve ever seen) and enjoy the thermal tub and hammam! The wrap was amazing…decked out in a paper thong a woman who spoke absolutely no English – and us very little French – smeared our bodies head to toe with sweet, sticky and gorgeous smelling concoction. They use the stems, pips and various other parts of the grapes to make the product for this treatment as well as most of their treatments and products. It was an amazing place.

Leaving the spa and our beautiful white robes behind, we slipped into the car for our drive to St.Emillion and our home for the next few days, Chateau De Roque. It was great! We had a beautiful room – large canopy bed, fireplace, stone walls and plenty of room for us to set up our bikes for a tour around St. Emillion. This is definitely some place we’d stay again!

We had dinner in the hotel the first night and it was delicious! A great bottle of wine and a stroll brought us to the end of the day.
jengoestofrance is offline  
Nov 30th, 2006, 10:54 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 932
looking forward to more
katzen is offline  
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