FRANCE: Beginning the Journey, Part 1

We drove 1300 miles through western France and now I love the French.

Of course you’ll want me to clarify the part where I said, “Now I love the French.”

When I was 31 years old I went to France for the first time. It was one of those corporate club trips of the free spending nineties. The kind that spoiled all of the club winners rotten with private parties in the Louvre and costumed dinners at the Palace of Versailles. So why did I hate almost every minute of it?

Party at Versailles
I bet you thought I was joking

Well for one, it was only the second time I had been out of my own country. My first trip as a world traveler was to the most affable and fun loving country/continent of Australia, where the only thing more shiny and sunny then the scenery was the convivial inhabitants.

Second, Princess Diana had just died 8 weeks prior, allegedly at the hands of the bloodthirsty paparazzi, and I’m quite positive the good people of Paris were just a bit more prickly than usual at all of the World’s collective side eye of mistrust.

​So I left France that time with very little to show for my week there. No real photos, no souvenirs, and very unpleasant memories of the treatment by the people, despite our best efforts to  appease them

​So for someone whose unofficial mottos is, “Why go to the same place twice when there’s so much world out there to see?” Why did we go back?

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Arc de Triomphe circa 1997

Cheap airfare

Seriously. I had a family trip completely planned out and booked for Argentina, but the dang airfare just would not come down to a price that we could all afford. By March I had resigned myself to the fact that we were not going to the other America, so I spent countless hours virtually circumnavigating the globe for places we wanted to see, while checking ticket prices to those destinations.

Another year Argentina, another year…

But nothing was within our budget so close to travel time. Then Mike mentioned that he wanted to go to the wine region of Bordeaux in France as a possible alternative. I initially dismissed this idea because of my vow never to return to France.

But one morning in April, on a whim, I decided to check ticket prices to Paris, and don’t you know? I hit the airfare jackpot. One hasty text message to my traveling spouse later and I was booking our seats to France. Now we were going to France, and did I mention that we were going to France in only four weeks? Yep, for a planner like me this was chaos!

TIP: The best way to start planning for a trip is to make a trip outline. Much like a fifth grade book report, a good outline is the best way to keep your thoughts organized. Filling in each section with details as you complete each task. When you are ready to leave for your trip, it is a great document to have because it will contain all of your trip information in one place.


So now the tickets were purchased. We would arrive in Paris on an overnight flight and then what?

Bordeaux is a solid five hours from Paris. Since train travel had been so successful, stress free, and easy in Italy, that is where I turned to first. But as I was planning and strategizing on how we were to get onto a train straight off an eight hour, red-eye, International flight, I stumbled upon an article about a massive month long train strike in France scheduled for May.

Say what now?

But, having thousands of years of civility in their country, the French had enough foresight to post the days they were going to be striking so as not to completely inconvenience the population. Unfortunately for us, one of the strike days would be the day we arrived, so just like that, the train was off the table.

Next up, flights. But the price to fly to Bordeaux, at such relatively short notice was outrageous. Then there were the “Wine Buses” that go to Bordeaux, but we aren’t really bus people, so I scratched that idea.
That left only one option. “Let’s drive.”

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Our stocky little Nissan Juke. The paint changed colors, everybody loved it!

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Mike loved the idea of driving, and immediately agreed to a multi-city stay option. So I got to work finding the most advantageous schedule. Plunging into the deep end, I mapped out the best driving route, researched the various cities to overnight in, and purchased inexpensive tickets to fly back to Paris from Nice. My outline of our French vacation was starting to fill in nicely, with the bullet points as follows:

Touchdown in Paris and drive straight to Tours. From Tours we settle in Marignac in the Bordeaux region, continuing on to Montpellier and end the drive in Nice.

But wait until you see the side trips we took. In the upcoming blog series I will highlight some of the things we saw on this 1300 mile trip, so hopefully you will stay tuned!

First up: Tours

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