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Trip Report - Loire Valley, Burgundy, Paris

Trip Report - Loire Valley, Burgundy, Paris

Old Aug 24th, 2002, 08:42 AM
  #1  
Kelly
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Trip Report - Loire Valley, Burgundy, Paris

My husband I visited France for the first time in July to celebrate our tenth anniversary. We spent 3 nights in the Loire Valley, 3 in Burgundy and the final 4 in Paris. I used this forum to get a lot of information so, I thought I'd try and give back a little. I'll try and post a couple of sections by day. Eventually I'll have a really detailed report with pictures on my website.

This was probably one of the best trips we have taken. We saw a lot of beautiful places and things, ate great food and enjoyed some excellent weather.

Short Version
Flew Continental from Houston to CDG. Took the TGV from CDG to St. Pierre des Corps outside of Tours. Picked a car from Avis at the station. Stayed at Chateau des Ormeaux outside of Nazelles. After 3 days drove to Beaune in Burgundy and stayed at the Ibis Beaune Central. Tour the area in and around Beaune for a couple of days. Then we dropped off the car at the Dijon train station and rode the TGV back to Paris (Gare de Lyon). We finished by staying at the Hotel Abbatial St. Germain in the 5th
 
Old Aug 24th, 2002, 08:44 AM
  #2  
Kelly
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To The Loire Valley - The train ride from Paris was kind of like driving through Nebraska or Kansas, all corn and sunflower fields once you cleared the city. The TGV direct from the airport is definitely the way to go. Besides being fast, the ride was quite smooth, the first class seats were comfortable and it was nice to just relax and watch the scenery roll by. Eventually we entered a more wooded zone. What a great area! No wonder the French kings decided to build "homes" here. We arrived at the Chateau des Ormeaux around 4:30 after our plane, train and automobile rides. When I was planning this trip I wanted to stay at the Chateau Noizay but, it was booked. After our stay I am happy they didn't have a room. The Chateau des Ormeaux was really wonderful. We had one of the most expensive rooms, 115 Euro per night including breakfast. The room was huge with a king sized bed, a sitting area and small nook in one of the turrets. The bathroom was bigger than the spare bedroom in our home (well nearly). Every morning own of the owners serves breakfast in the elegant dining room on fine china. Besides croissants and café, there was homemade jam, dried fruits, cereal and yogurt. The chateau sits up on a small hill and overlooks the Loire Valley. Guests are free to stroll around the grounds. Below the Italian style terrace is a pool. We headed here for a quick dip (the water was pretty chilly) after we got over being stunned by the room.
 
Old Aug 24th, 2002, 08:46 AM
  #3  
Kelly
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After a swim and getting cleaned up we drove to Amboise. We parked in a lot along the river and then walked up the hill past the royal chateau to the Chateau du Clos Luce, Leonardo da Vinci's last home. The rooms were nice but, the display in the basement takes the cake (and I'm not just saying that because we both have a degree in mechanical engineering). The models of his inventions were detailed and very interesting. I had not realized that he had designed so many different kinds of bridges. After about an hour there my stomach started grumbling so, we headed back down the hill for dinner. We ate at L'Amboiserie on their outdoor terrace. We both had the traditional menus and shared a pitcher of rose for 47 Euro. The salads topped with salmon to start were great. I had lamb chops which were pretty good followed by a cheese course. As we walked back to the car we realized that it was still light outside and it was nearly 10 pm. I had forgotten how weird it can be in the summer in the north. I was amazed that we managed to stay up that late on the first night. We usually struggle to stay awake until 9 pm after the flight.
 
Old Aug 24th, 2002, 08:49 AM
  #4  
Kelly
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Day 2 Loire Valley
The next day we started with a tour of Chateau Chambord. It was about a 45 minute drive from Nazelles to Chambord. It thought the roof terrace was the best part. Then we toured the Royal Chateau at Blois. The interior of this chateau were my favorite. I really like all of the painted wood walls. We had lunch at Le Marignau in the square in front of the chateau. We both had salads and a pitcher of white wine for about 20 Euros. I did not come to France expecting to eat so many salads. For some reason I didn't think there would be so many on the menu. I know that French cuisine is not all heavy sauces like it use to be but, I still didn't picture having so many delicious choices. On the same square as the chateau is the Maison de la Magie, a magic museum. At the half hour and on the hour mechanical dragon heads emerge from the windows accompanied by roars. The kids around us loved this. After lunch we toured the Chateau de Cheverny. My husband liked the interiors of this chateau the best. They are definitely the most life like. I guess this is because until fairly recently the family who owns it lived there. On the way back to Amboise we stopped at Chateau de Chamont but, it was closed. From the grounds there is a nice view over the Loire River. In Amboise we stopped for a beer and then picked up supplies for a picnic dinner - wine (of course), cheese, bread, rillets and chocolates. We then went back to the Chateau des Ormeaux and found a secluded table for a nice inexpensive dinner.
 
Old Aug 24th, 2002, 08:52 AM
  #5  
Kelly
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Day 3 Loire Valley - On our last day in the Loire Valley we toured the gardens at Villandry. I love to tour gardens so I was in heaven here. We didn't tour the inside of the chateau. I bought a small watercolor print and took way too many pictures. Then we drove to Chateau de Chenonceau. Even though it was lunch time the chateau and the grounds were packed. The setting of this chateau is definitely the best of the ones we saw. We skipped lunch and just had some ice cream. We returned to Amboise, bought some postcards and then toured the Royal Chateau. I think the Horseman's Tower with its huge ramp was the best part. We stopped at a café/wine shop below the chateau and had a couple of glasses of champagne. Back at the Chateau des Ormeaux we went for a swim and had a nap. This was probably one of the most relaxing places we have stayed. It was so quiet and peaceful among the trees. We had dinner that night at a hotel in Vernou, Les Perce-Neige, recommended by the chateau owner. We sat outside on a terrace and I was actually cold once the sun went down. It must have been around 55 degrees. (Coming from Houston this is cold.) The food was very good. I had foie gras pate and fish and an awesome crème brulee. I consider myself an expert on crème brulee as I it is my favorite desert. The manager, Brigitte, waited on us and she was really charming.
 
Old Aug 24th, 2002, 09:42 AM
  #6  
Gail
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Thank you, Kelly for the report! We did the same areas on our 1st trip to France 2 years ago. After Labor Day, we leave for Paris and Bordeaux for 2 weeks as we enjoyed France so much the 1st time. I look forward to more of your reports!
 
Old Aug 24th, 2002, 09:44 AM
  #7  
Kelly
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Day 3 Loire Valley - On our last day in the Loire Valley we toured the gardens at Villandry. I love to tour gardens so I was in heaven here. We didn't tour the inside of the chateau. I bought a small watercolor print and took way too many pictures. Then we drove to Chateau de Chenonceau. Even though it was lunch time the chateau and the grounds were packed. The setting of this chateau is definitely the best of the ones we saw. We skipped lunch and just had some ice cream. We returned to Amboise, bought some postcards and then toured the Royal Chateau. I think the Horseman's Tower with its huge ramp was the best part. We stopped at a café/wine shop below the chateau and had a couple of glasses of champagne. Back at the Chateau des Ormeaux we went for a swim and had a nap. This was probably one of the most relaxing places we have stayed. It was so quiet and peaceful among the trees. We had dinner that night at a hotel in Vernou, Les Perce-Neige, recommended by the chateau owner. We sat outside on a terrace and I was actually cold once the sun went down. It must have been around 55 degrees. (Coming from Houston this is cold.) The food was very good. I had foie gras pate and fish and an awesome crème brulee. I consider myself an expert on crème brulee as I it is my favorite desert. The manager, Brigitte, waited on us and she was really charming.
 
Old Aug 24th, 2002, 10:08 AM
  #8  
kelly
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Beaune - The Hotel Ibis Beaune Central had mailed me excellent directions but, I missed the turn so we got to make a complete loop of the Beaune ring road. Are room was actually larger than I expected (67 Euro). It was spotlessly clean, equiped with modern furniture and had good storage. The best part of all is that it was right outside of the city walls and only a short walk to the Hospices de Beaune our next stop. We bought a combined ticket that gave us access to the Hospices de Beaune and the Wine Museum for 9 Euro. The tiled roofs are really incredible to see in person. The displays inside were pretty interesting. I especially liked all of the jars and bottles in the pharmacy. After that we just walked around window shopping. I know you probably think I'm a garden fanatic by now but, the flowers in Beaune were just incredible. They had these double baskets on light poles about ten feet off the ground (not hanging but circling the poles). They were overflowing with the best looking flowers and vines. In fact, it seemed like every town we drove through no matter how small was clean and had flowers in window baskets, or along railings, or hanging from poles. We ate dinner at a restaurant on the Place Ziem. I can't remember the name but, its seems like it was something nautical. I had a tomato and mozzarella salad which was just ok and a small quiche.
 
Old Aug 24th, 2002, 10:45 AM
  #9  
kelly
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Beaune - The Hotel Ibis Beaune Central had mailed me excellent directions but, I missed the turn so we got to make a complete loop of the Beaune ring road. Are room was actually larger than I expected (67 Euro). It was spotlessly clean, equiped with modern furniture and had good storage. The best part of all is that it was right outside of the city walls and only a short walk to the Hospices de Beaune our next stop. We bought a combined ticket that gave us access to the Hospices de Beaune and the Wine Museum for 9 Euro. The tiled roofs are really incredible to see in person. The displays inside were pretty interesting. I especially liked all of the jars and bottles in the pharmacy. After that we just walked around window shopping. I know you probably think I'm a garden fanatic by now but, the flowers in Beaune were just incredible. They had these double baskets on light poles about ten feet off the ground (not hanging but circling the poles). They were overflowing with the best looking flowers and vines. In fact, it seemed like every town we drove through no matter how small was clean and had flowers in window baskets, or along railings, or hanging from poles. We ate dinner at a restaurant on the Place Ziem. I can't remember the name but, its seems like it was something nautical. I had a tomato and mozzarella salad which was just ok and a small quiche.
 
Old Aug 25th, 2002, 07:48 AM
  #10  
Kelly
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I'm not sure if I'm doing something wrong but, two of my replies were posted twice and the last message I tried to post didn't take. Any suggestions?

Burgundy - The Burgundy Tourism Office sent me this great guide for the area around Beaune. It contains two suggested driving tours (north & south) with all sorts of information about the towns you drive through. We had picked up a detailed map of the area from the Tourist Office (across from the Hospices de Beaune) the night before. After fortifying ourselves with pain de chocolate and café au lait from a small shop we headed out on the southern route. You wind up and down vine covered hills, through lovely old towns this was one of the highlights of the trip. I forgot to mention all of the cyclist we had seen in the Loire Valley (no not the Tour de France, we saw that later). There seemed to be plenty of guys (and it was nearly all men) riding up and down these same roads we drove. It made my thighs hurt just to look at them. I also think they are pretty brave (or maybe just crazy). While the roads were in good condition the only place we saw paved shoulders was on the autobahn. I would be afraid of getting run into the ditch. Given the number of people we saw with neck braces I'd have to guess that accidents are fairly common (especially in Paris). The first town that really made an impression on me was Saint Romain. It's tucked up against a sheer cliff. The guide said archeological digs had found artifacts from the Neolithic period, 4000 BC. Saint Romain is also one of the centers for cooperage (I can't remember the French term for this) in Burgundy. We drove past a huge lot with stacks of oak (I assume) slats drying in the sun. Next we stopped at the Chateau de la Rocheport but, unfortunately it was closed on Tuesdays. After taking some pictures we continued on to Saint Aubin. Using a guide (again from the Burgundy Tourism folks) of wine growers and wine merchants we were able to locate places that offered free tastings. The guide lists the types of wines, the hours (though our knock went unanswered at a couple of places, must have been out among the vines), what languages are spoken and an approximate price per bottle if purchases are possible. In Saint Aubin we visited Domaine Roux Pere et Fils a wine-merchant. We tasted both a white and a red wine. The white was better but, we found it nearly impossible to find ice in France so we bought a bottle of the red for our picnic lunch. The woman who offered use the tastings spoke very little English but, she also spoke German so we were able to patch together a conversation. In Nolay we stopped to see the restored covered market and pick up some bread, cheese and pate. We stopped at a little park in Change and had our lunch. There was no one else around, the sun was shining and I was with the person whose company I most enjoy. I'm not sure life gets much better than that.
 
Old Aug 25th, 2002, 07:51 AM
  #11  
Kelly
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After lunch we started making our way back to Beaune. In what had become a reoccurring problem we arrived at the Chateau de Philippe le Hardy in Santenay only to find it closed for lunch. No problem, if there's one thing Burgundy has got besides wine it is charming villages to explore. We decided to pay for a tasting to see one of the really large caves. It cost 15 Euro to enter the Chateau de Meursault but, it was well worth it. They have a small collection of art, a short film (in English) on the grape farming process and a vast cave filled with bottles and casks. At the end we tasted eight wines, some really good, some not so good. There was a gentleman on hand to answer questions and we talked to a French couple a little. We bought a bottle of chardonnay. This was the only bottle of wine that we managed to bring home. After all of that tasting we decided to head back to Beaune. We used the second half of our combination ticket to tour the Wine Museum. This would have been better with an English guide but, it was interesting still. The tourist office was able to direct us to a laundry mat (the hotel front desk insisted that there was only one in Beaune and that it was closed for a summer holiday). Between our limited French and trial and error we were able to get the machines to function and our clothes washed. Then I made the unfortunate choice of choosing a restaurant that was not in the guide because the place I wanted to eat had a line. It was awful. I ate the first course but, it was so hot and stuffy inside that I had to go stand outside for awhile. We my main course fish arrived it was inedible. We then did something I have never done before, we paid for what we had eaten and left. I don't remember the name for this place, it was part of a hotel on Rue Pasumont. I resolved that night to either make reservations and/or be patient enough to wait for a table.
 
Old Aug 25th, 2002, 08:25 AM
  #12  
Kelly
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Dijon - After breakfast we hopped on the autobahn and headed north to Dijon. The first task was to locate the train station so; we knew where to head the following day. It was easy enough to find but, we had to drive through the town. The Tourist Office was conveniently close by. We stopped in to see if there was a more direct route from the autobahn to the station but, there wasn't. We parked at an underground lot at Place Darcy and walked down the Rue de la Liberte to the old city center. First we checked out the Church of Notre Dame. The front is covered with gargoyles of all kinds. I bet they're really creepy lit up at night. We walked behind the church to see the Hotel de Vogue one of the towns many old mansions. This one has a colored tile roof and both the façade and the interior courtyard have intricate stonework details. There were also some old half timbered houses nearby. It is very evident that Dijon was once a wealthy and important city. It is still an important city in Burgundy but, I doubt its residents have the power they once enjoyed. We walked through a back entrance into the Palais des Ducs. The Musse des Beaux Arts is housed in one wing. Many of the works are by Flemish artists. I suppose this is the influence of Philip the Bold's wife Marguerite of Flanders. Some say her influence is behind the colored tile roofs as well. One of the things I like about museums in Europe is that many of them are housed in historic buildings, usually former palaces. This lets you see not only some great art but, some magnificently decorated rooms. In the guards room the tombs of Philip the Bold and his son are on display. The sculptures of the mourners that circle the bases were unbelievable. Every figure was different and they all were so finely detailed. We finished with a peak into the palace kitchens that contain six massive fireplaces. I think it would have been more impressive if they'd actually had fires going and food all about. It was definitely too clean. We walked out to the Place de la Liberation to find that it was raining lightly, not enough to keep us from seeing the sights though. We wandered around past the Palais de Justice, the Couvent des Bernardines, and some more mansions. We stopped for lunch at a café on the Place Jean Mace. We both had the plats du jour plus a coke and a glass of wine for 16.80 Euro. We made our way back to the Place Darcy with a stop to see the crypt under the Cathedrale St. Benigne. We had a little trouble getting out of the parking garage. It turns out we were supposed to use the machines at the top of the stairs to pay. The man at the exit seemed frustrated with us but, lightened up when he saw that we did have cash to pay with.
 
Old Aug 25th, 2002, 08:49 AM
  #13  
Kelly
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Cotes de Nuits - It was raining a little more heavily as we drove south from Dijon on Route 74. It soon stopped but, it was still overcast. We toured the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot. The best part was the four gigantic wine presses. It took six monks to turn the screw that drove the press. There was also a very deep well. We can not figure out how the monks dug this. It was not wide enough for someone to swing a pick ax in. Maybe they had some sort of medieval drilling rig. While the building is not much to look at its location among the vineyards makes for some nice pictures. Since no tastings are offered at the chateau we decided to check out Aloxe-Corton. We visited the Chateau de Corton Andre caves and tasted two wines. It’s a shame they don't offer tours of the building because it looked nice from the outside. We bought a bottle of red wine that was ready to drink and then hit the road. Back in Beaune we shopped for mustard and Crème de Cassis (by now I was a big fan of Kirs). I also made reservations for that evening at Le Gourmandin on place Carnot. We opted to sit inside since it looked like it might rain again. It didn't but it was kind of cool. Our dinner was enough to erase the unpleasant memories of the night before at Follets Brassierre. The cheese course was especially good as was the duck we both had for the main course.
 
Old Aug 25th, 2002, 09:09 AM
  #14  
Kelly
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Cotes de Nuits - It was raining a little more heavily as we drove south from Dijon on Route 74. It soon stopped but, it was still overcast. We toured the Chateau du Clos de Vougeot. The best part was the four gigantic wine presses. It took six monks to turn the screw that drove the press. There was also a very deep well. We can not figure out how the monks dug this. It was not wide enough for someone to swing a pick ax in. Maybe they had some sort of medieval drilling rig. While the building is not much to look at its location among the vineyards makes for some nice pictures. Since no tastings are offered at the chateau we decided to check out Aloxe-Corton. We visited the Chateau de Corton Andre caves and tasted two wines. It’s a shame they don't offer tours of the building because it looked nice from the outside. We bought a bottle of red wine that was ready to drink and then hit the road. Back in Beaune we shopped for mustard and Crème de Cassis (by now I was a big fan of Kirs). I also made reservations for that evening at Le Gourmandin on place Carnot. We opted to sit inside since it looked like it might rain again. It didn't but it was kind of cool. Our dinner was enough to erase the unpleasant memories of the night before at Follets Brassierre. The cheese course was especially good as was the duck we both had for the main course.
 
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 04:15 AM
  #15  
Ian
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Kelly

Great report, Kelly! Please continue . . .
 
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 06:36 AM
  #16  
Kell
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To Paris: We took Route 74 from Beaune to Dijon. While you can't drive as fast on this road as on the autobahn it puts you right at the train station. In the morning there really wasn't much traffic so it was nearly as quick and there were plenty of gas station to top off the tank at. Our train was about 5 minutes late but, we arrived at Gare de Lyon on time at 11:20. We bought two 3-day museum passes at the tourist office. It was then just a short taxi ride to the Hotel Abbatial St. Germain. I had set up the reservation by email and requested a room with a balcony and a view of Notre Dame. The reception area was very nice with plenty of seating. Our room was not ready so we left our bags at the front desk and walked a block down the Rue des Bernardais to the Seine for our fist view of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Spectacular! After touring the inside we got in line for the tower. We had to wait for an hour and a half to start the climb. While I waited, my husband walked to a nearby stand and got us a ham and cheese sandwich and a coke to share. At one point I was ready to just give up. I definitely suggest going first thing in the morning if you can. We were rewarded for our perseverance and climb by some wonderful views of Paris and all its famous sites. We could even see our hotel. I'd make the climb again just to see the gargoyles. Going down was much easier though I did seem to get a little dizzy making all of those left hand turns. We walked over to the Palais de Justice to see the Saint Chappelle church. This was the first place that having a museum pass paid off as we bypassed the line to buy tickets. The Saint Chapelle was my favorite church. We may have seen bigger ones but, the light from the stained glass windows creates an atmosphere in which you seem to be removed from the real world. It is too bad the church is surrounded by the Palais de Justice and not in a more park like setting. We crossed back over the Seine at the Pont Neuf and walked through the Saint Germain area to the Rodin Museum. At one point (I think it was on the Rue de Varenne) there was a pretty big police presence (or perhaps they were military, they all had automatic weapons and body armor). We couldn't figure out what they were guarding. I thought the Rodin museum was great, though we should have gotten audio guides (next time). My favorite was the Burghers of Calais. I think this piece conveys much more emotion than The Kiss or any of his other pieces that I've seen. The garden behind the mansion is very nice, all of the roses were in bloom and there were plenty of benches to take a break on.
 
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 06:38 AM
  #17  
Kelly
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We now felt we were ready to tackle the metro. It was just a short walk to Varenne. We couldn't figure out how to get a carnet out of the machines so, we just asked for one at the booth. Our plan was to head north to Invalides and then take the RER C down to St. Michel-Notre Dame. When he got to the Invalides station we could not find the correspondence to the RER heading east. It seemed like the direction we wanted to go in was taped over. Luckily there are enough lines that there seems to be more than one way to get were you are going. We got back on Line 13 went to Duroc and then over to Maubert Matualite, a block from the hotel. I asked the front desk clerk about the RER C and she the line was undergoing maintenance and was closed (at least we knew we weren't imagining things). Unfortunately this meant that the St. Michel station was closed so we wouldn't be taking the RER B back to the airport. Our room was ready so, we squeezed into the tiny elevator and headed up to the fifth floor. The room was a pretty good size though it could have used more storage space, there wasn't a place to sit or stow our suitcase. The room did have a balcony from which we could see the top of Notre Dame. The bathroom was clean and had what looked like new fixtures. We rested for a bit and then got ready for our big anniversary dinner at Taillevent. I set up this reservation by email too and I had the front desk reconfirm it when we first arrived in Paris. We caught a taxi from the stand at Place Maubert and arrived right on time. We were seated upstairs in a beautiful room. There were some many people waiting us I felt like we were royalty. We started off with a glass of champagne (it was my goal before we left that I drink champagne everyday in France). I was a little bit worried that the service might be aloof and unhelpful. Boy was I wrong. Our waiter was excellent. He offered to translate anything we might need help with on the menu. He was attentive but not annoying. I had the mushrooms stuffed ravioli with truffles, sea bass and a cheese course. My husband had the artichoke appetizer, the steak, the cheese course and the chocolate cake with the liquid center. The wine list is a little scary. We both looked at it and then just looked over at the waiter. He helped us make a selection that was quite good and not too expensive. The food was awesome. The ravioli was the best pasta dish I have ever had and it wasn't just the truffles or the mushrooms. The pasta itself was tender and the perfect thickness. My husband said his steak was delicious (this is high praise from a Texan). During our meal the owner came by and said hello. The best part was when they brought out my husband's desert. They wheeled out this tray with a big sailing ship made out of sugar on it lit by a candle. They had us blow out the candle together. Maybe a little kitschy but, heart warming none the less. After dinner we decline the doorman's offer to call a cab and walked down the block to the Champs Elysees. We looked right and we could see the Arc de Triomphe bathed in light. The Champs Elysees was bustling with people and cars. We walked under the lights hand in hand for awhile and then took the metro back to our hotel.
 
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 08:22 AM
  #18  
Pat
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I'm also going to France in Oct. How long was the car ride from the Loire Valley to Beaune.
 
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 09:42 AM
  #19  
Kelly
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Pat, The drive took us about 8 hours with stops in Bourges (nearly 2 hours) and Autun. We used Michelin maps 318 and 238 which we bought in France. The portion from Amboise to Montrichard and west of Nevers to Autun were my favorite. I don't know how much progress they will have made by October but, A85 is being extend west to Aubrien outside of St. Aignan. We went north at Villefranche and picked it up there and then took A71 to Bourges.
 
Old Aug 26th, 2002, 10:40 AM
  #20  
kavey
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Thanks Kelly
 

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