Two Weeks in Provence

May 22nd, 2018, 02:26 AM
  #41  
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The following is DH’s write up of our dinner in Tourrettes-su-Loup:


Each time we walk through the narrow streets of Provence’s hilltop medieval villages we’re mesmerized by the ancient stonework, beams, alleyways and passages. We’re constantly reminded of just how old everything is as we breathe air infused with molecules of materials placed in symmetrical beauty by hands of artistry and strength so many centuries ago. Each village is unique and yet all feel manifestly the same. So why are we left with a special fondness for Tourette Sur Loup?

Perhaps it’s because of the alleyway where when you stand in a specific spot, the structure you’re facing looks artistically identical to the one behind you. Maybe it’s simply the way the light happened to fall on the cobblestones in the late afternoon of our first visit. Or it could be the way the streets possess a grade of incline and decline precisely designed for our style of ambling.

Without a doubt our affection for the village in all its glorious architectural design and workmanship was sealed by the meal we enjoyed here at the end of an unforgettable Samedi en Provence.

We approached le patron of L’Ami de Paul about an hour before he was prepared to seat us and were relieved to learn the last available table for 4 was ours to reserve. We initially hesitated due to a poster advertising live music later that evening by a local chanteuse, but put our purist expectations aside and gave him our name.

We killed the hour with more walking and a pre-dinner drink at a nearby bar, decided against a being fashionably late, and stepped across the threshold as the clock in the tower struck 7. The reward for being the first guests to arrive was a meal experience we’ll never forget. Our server was a young lady of strong character, kindly spirit and plenty of charm. She began the meal by serving me a Panache, warning in a whisper “don’t tell Le Patron.” While the chef prepared side dishes and salads in the back, Le Patron stoked the wood-fired oven behind the bar and began searing the meats for our dinner, entrecote (ribeye) and cote d’agneau (rack of lamb), delicieux and all cooked to perfection.

The young chanteuse sang and played her guitar beautifully while Le Patron’s wife tended to their weeks-old baby at the table next to the oven. Le Patron, his wife, our server and the chanteuse enjoyed the evening as much as we did, all of us smiling, swaying and chewing along to solidly performed pop cover songs. Our server kindly took pics of us, and to our surprise offered to join us in a group selfie ("Avec moi?"), which will permanently preserve the memory of a most treasured day in Tourrettes-sur-Loup.

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boots08 is offline  
May 22nd, 2018, 04:23 AM
  #42  
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Part 15

The next day we drove the kids into Cap Ferrat to spend the day at the beach. What a mistake to drive into the town. We got stuck in a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam of several cars trying to move forward, sideways, reverse, an inch at a time, negotiating the maximum space available on what should be single-lane roads. We couldn’t get far enough into Cap Ferrat to see much more but finally made our way out thinking, sure the place is nice but these traffic nightmares must get old.

Mine and DH’s plan for the day was to drive up the mountains to do a Beaulieu > Peillon > Peille > Sainte-Agnes > Menton > Monaco > Beaulieu loop.

Off to Peillon, situated 40 minutes northeast of Beaulieu.

The arduous drive up involves several sharp, narrow turns and switchbacks…
but all is forgotten once you spot the village. As Stu Dudley says in his itinerary, have your camera ready.




^ Peillon

Because it was time to have lunch, we decided to move onto neighboring Peille where there would be a better chance of finding a restaurant.

Peille is another beautiful hilltop village...

^ Peille

Thankfully there weren’t a lot of tourists and a parking space was easily found.

The first two restaurants we saw upon entering only served pizza and pasta. We wandered in further and spoke to a couple that recommended Chez Nana. We had a bit of trouble finding it, got there just after 2, but thankfully they were staying open until 3.

Chez Nana has a rustic, country style atmosphere where it feels like you’re dining at someone’s house rather than a restaurant. The tables, covered in Provencal blue and yellow tablecloths, are situated by sheer blue-curtained windows that overlook the mountains and deep gorges.

We were given the choice of their Sunday lunch buffet (28 euros) served on antique tables and hutches, or to order a "viande" (meat entree) a la carte - lamb, chicken, beef, rabbit or veal (or ravioli which they were out of).

Our young, somewhat unrefined server, dressed in jeans and a Levi’s t-shirt, took our order of two chicken dinners. We'd asked if we could share one entree and the response was a quick, emphatic, “Non - seuleument une personne.” So they brought the two entrees to us on a silver platter – two quarter chickens (coquelette or something) with thyme (a tad dry but tasty), a few red peppers, whole unskinned onions and roasted potatoes (delicious). I wish I had've taken a picture of the platter because of how pretty the Provencal meal was presented.

I ordered a small pitcher of vin de maison (very good), and DH a “lemonade” - which for the first time turned out to be bottled lemonade instead of a lemon-flavored soft drink.

We saw the servers bring small metal bowls of oranges to the tables of other guests, which looked so ornate with the green leaves still attached. DH ordered a coffee and got 3 timbit donut-like pastry balls which were melt-in-your mouth delicious. I asked the young server what they were and couldn’t understand her strong accent, but she said in Paris they call them ‘bijoux’. Total bill came to 51 euros. Tripadvisor reviews attest to why this is such a popular place, and though it wasn’t overly busy yesterday, advise you to make advance reservations for their Sunday buffet.



^ Chez Nana restaurant in Peille

Off to Sainte-Agnes, our third and final hilltop village stop.

On our way up this highest coastal village, we spied snow-capped mountains far off in the background and thought they might be the Alps?

Though we didn’t see much of the village itself, the views from Sainte- Agnes are spectacular (especially from the Saint Yves restaurant), no doubt contributing to it’s status as one of France’s Plus Beaux Villages....

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^ Saint Agnes

DD wanted to see Monaco (Casino Royale with Daniel Craig is one of his favorite movies) so we included Menton then it in our little road trip.

By now, my neck and shoulders are bearing the brunt of the numerous roller-coaster rides we've taken up to these beloved villages. Add to that DH's tendency to brake hard at roundabouts and curvy corners. Probably not as bad if you’re actually hanging onto something like a steering wheel.

Two Weeks in Provence-7-img_20180520_161130809.jpg
^ road descending from Saint Agnes down to Menton

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Two Weeks in Provence-9-img_20180520_155155026.jpg^ two of the numerous rock tunnels we would go through to visit hilltop villages in Provence

We found Menton beautiful, with its large, colorful, nouvelle epoque buildings and numerous palm trees. It felt and looked more Italian than its French Riviera counterparts, and was larger than I’d read about.

We took a couple of wrong turns before finally ending up in Monte Carlo (we weren’t sure if there was an actual coastal route there from Menton), our GPS taking us to the famous Casino. The large construction cranes around it at this time may have tainted the efforts of the many tourists we saw trying capture a good photo. The city was crowded, dense, heavy in traffic. I was over it after 5 minutes and content to head back home.

Boots in Provence
boots08 is offline  
May 23rd, 2018, 07:22 AM
  #43  
 
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>> thought they might be the Alps?<<


You were already in the Alps!!. Nice is where the Alps dump into the Med. The department is actually called Alpes-Maritimes.


Stu Dudley
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May 25th, 2018, 08:51 AM
  #44  
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Part 16

It was time to eat so we chose to drive into neighboring Villefranche-sur-Mer to find a restaurant. There are several terraces up from the water's edge with restaurants and shops ascending from the coast; the closer to the port, the more expensive the menu. We chose a place several terraces off the water called Cote Jardin where both the meal and service were average. We’d visited the port many years ago on a cruise but this time around we found Villefranche-sur-Mer to be less authentic than we remembered, and more touristy.

The next day after another leisurely morning, we drove to the Super U in downtown Beaulieu to get a few groceries. This Super U is somewhat smaller than the one in Sanary, and it’s darkly lit interior gives it a more upscale atmosphere. We bought several items from the produce section but for some reason couldn’t find any cucumbers (a staple in our household), so bought zucchini instead.

Near the meat section, there was a madame carving thin slices of meat off a whole leg of some animal. Upon closer inspection, we saw that the leg included the hoof and fur on the untouched side, perhaps keeping with the trend here of including an identifiable animal part near the meat display. The madame explained what kind of animal it was but I didn’t understand. She said something about it being quality meat because of the animal having fed on (I’m almost positive she said) “noisettes”, from a “chene”, which would translate to acorns from an oak tree? I remember reading about a special type of meat that comes from an animal that eats acorns, so unless there are varying versions of this, I’m thinking they’re one and the same, a goat perhaps? The meat tasted like ham, but the hooved limb appeared longer than a pig’s leg would be.

After loading up our groceries we walked down the street to have lunch at nearby Café de la Paix. The inviting green awning had caught my attention on an earlier drive, and online pics and reviews solidified our desire to make a reservation.

The entrance part of the restaurant had small tables where several men were gathered for a drink. The man and wife owners tending to them greeted us, led us inside, and gave us the choice of sitting in the middle room near the bar counter, or in a slightly more formal room at the back. We chose the latter for the white tablecloths, pretty red distressed walls with blue and white accent pictures, and the quiet setting for DH to make his one, short business call.

I ordered the “volaille aux champignons de Paris” - chicken breast with Parisian mushrooms (not familiar with the mushroom distinction). The chicken came smothered in a cream sauce with mushrooms and frites on the side and it was simply d e l I c I o u s. DH had the salade au chevre chaud which he raved about. The chevre was baked inside a thin fold of pastry making for a uniquely delicious version of his favorite salad.

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The restaurant is more homey than fancy - the husband and wife owners were kind and friendly and our meals were superb for the price. I would definitely return here, especially for those two particular meals. Our bill came to 54 euros.

We headed back home so that DH could check in with his staff and get some work done.

At dinner time, rainclouds were taking shape so we opted to look for a restaurant via car rather than foot. We drove around for quite a while looking for a place that was both open and had parking, all the while googling the names of the restaurants to check reviews and menus. We finally ended up at L’Aristee, the restaurant we first went to the night we’d arrived in Beaulieu. The same waiter/manager welcomed us back and brought over the chalkboard of listed menu items.

I’d been craving moules mariniere (mussels in white wine, butter, garlic) and the waiter insisted that the “palourdes (clams) mariniere” on the menu would be just as tasty, so I ordered that and a glass of Cote du Rhone wine. I was disappointed in the clam entrée, which was nowhere near as good as mussels (to my taste anyway). DH ordered the duck rose (very good), and we shared an artichoke appetizer (okay). We ended the meal with a most delicious chocolate cake with crème anglaise. I would go back to Aristee just for that cake. All of the above with one more glass of wine came to 84 euros, one of the more pricier meals of our trip. This might be why the less fancy Catalan restaurant down the street was much busier.
boots08 is offline  
May 25th, 2018, 09:34 AM
  #45  
 
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What you ate was undoubtedly pork. Noisettes are hazelenuts, not acorns, which are glands. It might have been either "noisettes de porc," which would be tender little medallions of pork (nothing to do with hazelnuts themselves except for the shape of the meat) or another pork cut cooked with hazelnuts under the skin and braised in hazelnut liqueur. Most likely, though, it was porc noir de chène, a special breed of black pig from Gascony that feeds on acorns and the roots of oak trees. If that was it, I'm sure it was delicious!
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May 26th, 2018, 07:43 AM
  #46  
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Makes sense, StCirq. The leg looked long to be that of a pig's but now that I think of it, too short for anything larger, and the hoof did look that of a pig's.

sidenote - I might be able to understand French more if people spoke more slowly, but I don't like having to ask them to. Our hosts in Sanary said the same of us - that we spoke English too fast for them to understand. That's the first time I'd heard the reverse being a thing as well.

Boots
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May 26th, 2018, 08:44 AM
  #47  
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Random photos from trip:

"pain perdu" in the making from leftover baguette for petit dejeuner:
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DH lounging by the pool in his favorite tattered Toronto Maple Leaf t-shirt at our "mas" in Sanary-sur-Mer:
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View of Bandol Bay from the dining room window in our Sanary villa:
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roast pork dinner ready for the oven:


The infamous California (Zin) Rose our hosts graciously imbibed with usATTACH]930[/ATTACH]

One of my favorite things in France - chalkboard menus! (this one at La Femme du Boulanger in Nice)
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Entering our villa in Bealieu-sur-Mer:
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Two Weeks in Provence-8-img_20180520_121010882_hdr.jpg

A view of the Mediterranean Sea from our walk in BeaulieuATTACH]937[/ATTACH]

My last Nespresso cafe in Beaulieu, and a travel guide that, though good, came nowhere near as valuable as the advice from my fellow FodoritesATTACH]939[/ATTACH]
Attached Thumbnails Two Weeks in Provence-5-img_20180516_184459761_hdr-effects.jpg   Two Weeks in Provence-9-img_20180519_111703799_hdr-effects.jpg   Two Weeks in Provence-10-img_20180522_113245308.jpg  
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May 26th, 2018, 08:51 AM
  #48  
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The above photos got messed up when I deleted a duplicate post. Hope you can make sense of the captions with missing photos from the thumbnails.

Boots
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May 26th, 2018, 09:16 AM
  #49  
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Part 17

The next day, DH had to drive to Nice to get some Nespresso pods. The guest manual at our villa said to replace whatever we used and specified that this brand of coffee could only be purchased at the Nespresso store in Nice. Between the four of us we’d used up quite a few, and in retrospect should’ve bought some boxes while we were in Nice earlier that week.

Though we use a Keurig machine at home, I’ve come to like this brand of coffee. I like the foamy top Nespresso creates as it lends itself to needing less cream or milk. DH just happens to have one at his office in California so we’ve decided to bring it home so we can both enjoy it.

Later that night we walked down to the port in Beaulieu to give the row of restaurants along the water another chance after that disappointing meal at Pourquoi Pas. It was so conveniently located and surely there had to be at least one decent option.

The one that appealed most to us in terms of ambience and menu choices was Le Max. The nice young waiter politely beckoned us in after we perused the chalkboard menu but I told him we’d like to investigate his neighbors before deciding. I appreciated that he said go ahead and do a tour of the restaurants, then “pas de souci” (no problem).

In the end we ended back up at Le Max and asked the two gentlemen sitting at a table smoking and having a drink if it was a good restaurant. They insisted it was and it became apparent that one of them was the owner. We had a good laugh about that and a friendly chat, then he showed us inside and let us pick our table. When I told him I hadn’t satisfied my craving for moules mariniere he said he’d go ask the chef if he’d make some even though they were not on the menu. I thanked him but said I’ll have something else as I’d had the clam version just the night before.

DH and I ordered the fish and chips (cod) and as there was no salad on the menu, asked if they could possibly make us a tossed salad to share. He said that was no problem, what would we like in it? Hmm, we had to think…how about lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber and mushrooms (to keep it simple). He came back with a large, colorful salad and said they used “roquette” (arugula) instead of “laitue” as that makes for a better salad. No argument here – I just couldn’t remember the name of a salad green other than lettuce. When we thanked him, he explained that Le Max’s motto is “our kitchen is your kitchen” – if there’s something missing on the menu you’d like, the kitchen will do their best to prepare it. That alone would make it a good reason to return. Though I prefer my cod with plain batter, it was still quite tasty with the breaded crust. The fries were good and the green tartar sauce which got its color from parsley, was excellent. The meal with my wine came to only 45 euros.


That would be our last night in Beaulieu. We walked from there to downtown to find a place for dessert and settled on Café des Saveurs. We ordered the chocolate lava cake to share (too rich), and a café au lait. Not sure why but it’s customary here for them to serve your dessert and coffee as separate courses. I can’t enjoy a sweet dessert without tea or coffee, so we learned to do the above so that they will be served together.

We had to get back home to pack for our morning flight and the serveuse was taking too long to bring us “l’addition” so we left the right amount for the cake and coffee plus a tip in coins on the table. We pointed this out to her when she saw us leaving. I hope that wasn’t too far outside the boundaries of Provencal etiquette but that alarm was going to sound early.

It was a beautiful night to do the 20-minute walk from downtown to our villa. DH checked in with his team in California (the 9-hour time difference would be a challenge at times) and I started packing.

We got to bed early and DH set his alarm for 5:30am. I must’ve been exhausted when I hit the sack because I forgot to set mine as backup.

I woke up at daybreak to silence, checked the time and flew out of bed when I saw that it was 6:10am. DD had already gotten up but didn’t know we’d slept in. DH had mistakenly left his phone at his workspace in the dining room, too far away from us to hear the soft alarm and oh, by the way had mistakenly set it for 6:30! We were supposed to leave for the airport at 7am...

We wanted to get to the airport as early as possible, not only because it was an international flight, but just in case Air France cancelled it because of the strikes.

Thankfully I’d gotten all the packing done the night before but the villa owner had an extensive list of things to do before we left – strip beds, clean out fridge, take out garbage, etc etc. Between the four of us, we got everything wrapped up and we were able to leave on schedule.

The drive to the Nice airport was smooth and the terminal/car rental drop-off easy to locate. We would be flying on Air France to CDG, then to JFK where we had a room reserved through Hotwire for the night before heading back home to California.

Hotwire booking note: DH mistakenly booked a hotel in New Jersey rather than near La Guardia, where we would be flying out the next morning. I told him it was worth getting a rep on the phone to see if they’d let us rebook, on the basis that we would book again through Hotwire. Thankfully they helped us to do that. My motto in these things is four eyes are better than two. Anytime we book flights or hotels on sites where rebooking isn’t always an option, it’s always better for an additional set of eyes to look over the details before clicking that final book now button. Patience when booking travel is not his strong suit

We are home now, jetlagged but glad we experienced no major mishaps on our trip.

I can hear a mockingbird outside the window right now, singing his artful string of 30+ different songs, and it brings me in mind of a bird we heard daily in Beaulieu. We couldn’t locate it for identification but would love to know what it was. Its song was melodic and cheery.

DH insisted that it sang in French.

I hope my trip report has been in some way helpful - as Fodor reports have been for me in planning our vacations over the years.

Thank you for joining me on the journey,

Boots
boots08 is offline  
May 26th, 2018, 07:06 PM
  #50  
 
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Really enjoyed travelling with you
Adelaidean is online now  
May 27th, 2018, 02:32 AM
  #51  
 
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Thanks again Boots, you seem to have had an absolutely marvelous vacation, with good weather too! As I mentioned in one of my previous posts we should be in Provence in a little over a fortnight, so your Trip Report was a kind of an avant première to me...

The chalkboard menus are de rigueur in francophone Africa too, where DH and I have business interests and spend six months of the year, we sort of take it for granted ��
geetika is online now  
May 28th, 2018, 11:21 PM
  #52  
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I'm glad you enjoyed my trip report! Thanks to all who read it, especially to those who commented. Writing a trip report can be arduous (at least for me), and even though it got a significant number of views, the comments give tangible evidence that it was actually being read.

Special thanks to Stu, the Magellan of France, for his exhaustive and informative itineraries. They were consulted frequently on our trip.

DH got his French film fix on the flight back by watching both Jean de Florette and Manon of the Springs. Kudos to Air France for having such a great selection of French films. (It almost makes up for the mediocre meals we were served.)

Last night we watched A Good Year with Russell Crowe. It's more Hollywoodish than French in style but it was great to see Gordes and Bonnieux as film locations.

We are planning to watch Babette's Feast at some point soon. We saw it aeons ago and will no doubt salivate anew when it comes to the part featuring the epic meal she prepared.

Speaking of, I looked through a French cookbook I'd bought a few months before our trip to France and was glad it included recipes for some of my favorite French dishes: coq au vin (which I've made from time to time), salade chevre chaud (which I've yet to perfect) and cherry clafouti and tarte tartin (which I've yet to try).

Nothing like a trip to France to rekindle one's desire to cook

Boots
boots08 is offline  
May 29th, 2018, 12:32 AM
  #53  
 
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Ah, tarte tatin, looking forward to having my fill in a couple of weeks... Last September we found the most delish tarte tatin at an obscure boulangerie in one of the back lanes of Amboise, to die for ��
geetika is online now  
May 29th, 2018, 06:56 AM
  #54  
 
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I've really enjoyed your blog! You have a nice travel writing style -- just enough detail and you keep things moving. I've had similar experiences where you can't get enough French or Italian movies to remind you of the fun you had on a recent trip. You might enjoy the following: Marseille (Netflix), Suburra (also Netflix) and Little White Lies (French, Amazon Prime).

Here is link to my travel blog if you are interested in taking a look. We've also enjoyed trips to Paris, Provence and the South of France: https://travelfam.wordpress.com/category/france-2015/ and https://travelfam.wordpress.com/cate...ce-spain-2016/

The houses you rented sound very nice. Would you be willing to post the rental listings or PM me for future reference.

Thanks again for sharing your trip!
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May 29th, 2018, 07:05 AM
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>>Special thanks to Stu, the Magellan of France, for his exhaustive and informative itineraries. They were consulted frequently on our trip.<<


I'm glad my itineraries helped. Where & when is your next destination in France??


Stu Dudley
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May 29th, 2018, 06:45 PM
  #56  
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Originally Posted by StuDudley View Post
I'm glad my itineraries helped. Where & when is your next destination in France??

Stu Dudley
Likely (hopefully) spring 2019, with destinations determined by home swap agreements.

We like the idea of staying in a "mas" or similar old home in the countryside for half, then closer to a place on the coast for the second half.

I would love to explore the Dordogne area (never been), and perhaps southwest regions like Toulouse or Narbonne.

How about you - when and where is your next destination?

Boots
boots08 is offline  
May 29th, 2018, 09:23 PM
  #57  
 
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>>How about you - when and where is your next destination?<<


- June 16th this year till July 14 in Brittany
2 weeks in a gite just outside of Vannes, followed by 2 weeks in a gite close to Concarneau


- Last 2 week of Sept & 1st week of Oct this year in Paris


- First 2 weeks of Dec this year in London.


- Next year, 2 weeks in June in Normandy near Rouen, followed by 2 weeks in Brittany near Dinan


- Sept next year, 2 weeks in Alsace, followed by 2 weeks in Burgundy just outside of Auzerre.


Consider renting gites in France so you can go to the local farmer's market, buy some stuff, and prepare a dinner at home - or not!! We have rented 72 gites in France for a total of 114 weeks.



Renting Gites through the Gites-de-France web site


Stu Dudley
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May 30th, 2018, 11:54 AM
  #58  
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Wow, how nice to be able to travel to Europe that frequently! I don't know that I could do 3 different overseas trips from California in a span of 7 months. That's quite robust.

>>Consider renting gites in France so you can go to the local farmer's market, buy some stuff, and prepare a dinner at home - or not!! We have rented 72 gites in France for a total of 114 weeks.

The properties we stayed at in Sanary (top floor of a "mas") and Beaulieu (a villa) were rentals, but the owners also do home exchanges if they like the look/location of your place. The Beaulieu property would've likely been above our budget to rent.

Like you, it's the advantage of a kitchen that I love. We went to the markets in Sanary-su-Mer, Bandol and Beaulieu to bring home fresh goods to cook. It's a joy to prepare a meal in a French kitchen with local Provencal ingredients - especially while enjoying a glass of rose.

Boots
boots08 is offline  
May 30th, 2018, 12:33 PM
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>>Wow, how nice to be able to travel to Europe that frequently! I don't know that I could do 3 different overseas trips from California in a span of 7 months. That's quite robust.<<


We live in the SF Bay Area & within 10 mins of SFO. There are three flights daily to CDG. About 10 years ago, we decided to take as few flights as possible to get to our destination in France. We often take a non-stop to CDG then TGV to our first destination. We also never take more than 1 flight home - so that means TGV back to Paris for an overnight and our last meal in France (often at Train Bleu ? Accueil | Restaurant Gastronomique au coeur de la Gare de Lyon - Le Train Bleu - Lieu d'Histoire Paris 12 ).


My grandmother died at 25. My mother died at 63, my father at 69, I have only 2 male uncles and they both died at 53. Life can be short. We retired at 52 for me & 50 for my wife so we could travel more. No kids (which helps).


Stu Dudley
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May 31st, 2018, 03:43 AM
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We also love to buy local produce, then open a bottle of wine and and cook a leisurely meal at home...one of our pleasures when we travel.

Stu, I love the line up you have planned for 2018 and 2019, way to go... WE have four weeks in France this June/July, then a little over two weeks in Greece next May. And probably Alaska for two weeks next August.
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