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Posts from the ‘Around France’ Category

Tours-Savonnières-Villandry-Azay-le-Rideau-Bréhémont

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With a little extra sleep and a homemade breakfast in our tummies, we headed out for an unhurried day of châteaux-ing. My plan was to spend an easy 39 km in our saddles, stopping wherever our wheels fancied. It took Superman a little time to adjust to this plan, as an American, he likes to set a goal, and go, go, go.

When I suggested we stop a mere 10 km into the ride in the charming village of Savonnières, he was less than enthusiastic. That’s when I decided that our motto of the day (the trip?) would be: “What would the French girls do?” Loire_Valley_biking_velo.jpg Savonnieres_loire_France.jpg Obviously we stopped…although not for a coffee, and looked around. And so the day unfolded with numerous stops and a slow meander through the stunning gardens of Villandry.

villandry_chateau_gardens_loire_france.jpg We meandered so slowly, that we almost missed lunch, which set Superman’s heart aflutter and resulted in a surprising stop at l’Etape Gourmande. From then, we were goners, and the day became all about lunch. l-etape_gourmande_restaurant_villandry_france_loire.jpg   l-etape_gourmande_restaurant_villandry_france_loire.jpg IMG_1613 l-etape_gourmande_restaurant_villandry_france_loire.jpg l-etape_gourmande_restaurant_villandry_france_loire.jpg l-etape_gourmande_restaurant_villandry_france_loire.jpg From lunch it was all downhill to Azay-le-Rideau, an attractive town with a handsome boutique hotel, but disappointingly, the château itself is under extensive renovation. azay-le-rideau_loire_a_velo_biking_France. jpg While it looked like this on our first visit years ago: Azay-le-rideau_château_douves It looks like this today, and will, until 2017. l-etape_gourmande_restaurant_azay-le-rideau_france_loire.jpg My advice: Château de l’Islette, A-l-R’s little sister, and just 3 km away… Chateau-de-l-Islette-8 We ended our day with a final 20 km ride and picnic on the riverbank of a picturesque hamlet called Bréhémont. loire_a_velo_biking_France_ brehemont.jpg

Blois-Amboise-Tours

loire_a_velo_amboise_Biking_in_France.jpgYesterdays we followed the ‘pays des châteaux’ cycling tracks from Blois to Chaumont-sur-Loire where the impressive château oversees the happenings of the tiny village, then continued on to Amboise and visited her marvelous majestic château, then crossed through the uniform vineyards of Montiouis, and 78 km later, arrived in Tours just in the nick-of-time to get Kitcat on her train back to Paris, and we hoped on to London. (Mais malheureusement, the Chunnel was closed due to a strike, so it appears she is stuck in Paris for the day…although there are certainly worst places one could be marooned.)

In any case, the day was filled with blue skies, beautiful scenery, tranquil moments, unexpected hills, friendly packs of cyclists, and a wonderfully warm reception from our delightful host at la Maison aux couleurs—who smiled and laughed with us, despite our rusty, basic French.

The highlights for me were:

  • cycling with my free-wheeling, happy daughter who is always up for a challenge and even a few steep hills,
  • a lunch of crêpes and cidre,
  • a quick mother-daughter stroll through the château Royal d’Amboise,
  • a golden, thirst quenching beer in Tours,
  • a surprise meeting with Amy L. from Paris,
  • and watching the late afternoon sun light up the vineyards and sparkle on the water.

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And now after eating too much ‘vrai’ pain perdu loving whipped up by our host, we are off to Azay le Rideau in the Indre Valley via Villandry.

Bye for now…à tout à l’heure!

Orléans to Blois: une histoire d’amitié

Our first day on the Loire à vélo was incroyable in so many ways.

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However, as it is late and I’m exhausted, I will let the pictures speak for themselves.

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The real story of the day lies in not what we saw, but with whom we saw it. It was a day to remember the value of friendship and importance of making time in our busy lives to spend with friends and family; because in the end those relationships make the ride worthwhile.

I was so touched that the French girls and my flexible and optimistic daughter, Kitcat found the time to ride 65 km with us along the wild riverbanks to the shuttered village of Baule, to the flower-filled city of Beaugency, to the country churches and finally to our friendly hotel in the shadow of the stately château in Blois.

The great thing about traveling with the French girls is, well,  they are French. And the French understand how to do a cross-country bike trip. They are really good at finding the beauty in the small things, and have no problem making a lot of stops along the way to make sure we see, smell and taste that beauty.

Bistros and cafés are key. They like their coffee (grand and with crème) and they like it in a sympa setting, preferably with some homemade crumble.

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They also will go up some pretty steep village hills (even if they have to walk their bikes) in search of the one fantastic restaurant open on a Monday afternoon. Plus, when they are on vacation, they insist on having wine with lunch, and are quick to remind you that, “No, no, it’s good for you (as) we need a little sugar.” And that they “never drink at lunch, but (they) catch up when they can.”

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And after a hearty, relaxing meal, they hop back on their bikes (“Oh! Mes fesses!”) and ride for another 3 hours, all without having trained a single day for the ride.

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Marie-Françoise and Hélène are nothing if not optimistic. They are total goofballs, and full of smiles and beans. Nothing like the awful French we Americans are so scared we will encounter as we travel through France.

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So, I am feeling like my Tour de la Loire is off to an awfully good start. And feeling very blessed to have such wonderful friends.

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On y va!

orleans_france_bike_velo.jpgAfter many months of silence and lots of interesting happenings in Colorado and beyond, I am back home in France and back online. We have spent several days in Paris and London and are now on our way to Orléans to start our Tour de la Loire. We arrive late this afternoon and pick up our bikes this evening, in hopes of an early start tomorrow morning.

All in all, our route from Orléans to Saint Nazaire is just a little shy of 500 km (310 miles).

Along the way, friends and family will be popping in to ride with us and follow the river past: a château built for a kings, a church as old as Charlemagne, a bridge inspired by Eiffel, an inland lighthouse, extraordinary cave dwellings, an open-air art gallery, and of course gourmet restaurants, gorgeous vineyards and artisanal fare.

I am planning on posting daily (fingers crossed for consistent WIFI), and share our adventure with you. Donc, jump on your virtual bike and follow along on what is sure to be a memorable journey…

À toute à l’heure!

No. 362: Taz in France

No matter what country I was living in, I would love my little dog Taz. He’s my dog and he is always glad to see me. It is virtually impossible to be unhappy when he is around. He makes my days better and I would be crazy for him no matter where we were.

But what I love about having Taz in France is that he has a little bit more street cred than he has in the USA. He has rights.

Dogs in France, especially little dogs, are welcomed to participate in the public life of their “people”. Taz is welcomed in cafés and boutiques, hardware stores, wine bars, and some boulangeries. Although my neighborhood marché has a picture of a black dog with an “X” through it on the automatic glass doors, the cashiers still let me bring him in and tie him by their tills where they smile and fawn over him. While I shop, he happily sits and waits and watches Paris go by.

They say that every dog has his day. Well Taz has had quite a number of groovy days among the French. You might even say he’s become one cool cat.

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No. 357: Bon voyage and all things bon(ne)

 

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As I am in the final countdown of our extraordinary 3 years in France, some of my friends and neighbors have already begun to wish us a bon voyage. But since I am still in denial about leaving this country that now feels like my home, I’ve decided to completely ignore these well wishes for a good journey and contemplate instead all of the curious and concise sayings the French use with the word bon(ne).

Yep, one last language post with some of my favorite bon(ne) expressions. Go ahead and wish me bonne chance and please do correct me and any misinterpretations I may have made with this versatile mot.

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To begin with there are all the basics: bonjour, bon après-midi, bonsoir, and bonne nuit. And then there is bonne journée and bonne soirée. At week’s end and before the hols you can always offer a jaunty, “Bon week-end!” and “Bonnes vacances”. And on Sundays all the shopkeepers are happy to wish you a “Bon dimanche!”

I like these quick greetings and send-offs because all of the “I-hope-you-have-a-good…” is tightly packaged in one robust “bon(ne).

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When we (expats) sit down to eat, we say, “Bon Appétit!” (I’ll let your French friends explain if and why this is or isn’t a gauche thing to start a meal with.) I suppose it is better to say, “Bonne degustation!” (Literally, “good tasting”.) And I heard it is good to have a “bon fromage”, not a good cheese, but a cushy job. It seems like it might be fine to be une bonne fourchette (a good fork/hearty eater) as long as there is enough food.

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On your birthday, we’ll all say, “Bon Anniversaire!” and on major holidays or meaningful occasions, “Bonne fête!” When the clock strikes midnight on December 31, we will chime in with Bonne Année!” and maybe even add a “bonne santé” (good health).

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When the French are looking for a bargain, they’ll use, bon marché, which no longer has anything to do with the luxurious and highly priced food halls in the 6éme. They may cherche un cadeau bon marché, but they definitely won’t find one au Bon Marché.

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There is a multitude of ways to wish a friend or customers an enjoyable leisure activity. At the cinema it is, “bon film”, or “bonne séance”, or even “bon ciné”. Off to Rock en Seine? Bon concert is the appropriate farewell. I’m guessing you can say, “Bonne lecture!” (good reading) to your book club, although I’ve never tried. For your hunting friends, sign off with a “Bonne chasse!” For those of you hunting for a retail deal, “Bon Shopping!” fits the bill. I have even heard, “Bons magasins!”(literally good department stores!) on the first couple of days of the massive sales. For the sporting types, “Bon match!” works before the ref blows the first whistle and after he blows the last.

I can’t decide if it is good to be told you have a bonne tête (good head on your shoulders?) or if in fact a bonne tête means you are a fool, easily duped. But it might be good to know that à bon chat bon rat is tit for tat.

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When life is tough and you are facing new and difficult changes, a sincere, “Bon courage!” Is always helpful.

I suppose I will be getting a lot of those in the next few days along with wishes for a bon retour, bonne route and my favorite, bon vent, as long as those well wishers don’t mean “good riddance”…

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No. 356: à faire une pause

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The packers were more than two hours early this morning, and the day quickly spun out of control. I’ve been chasing my tail since 6 AM, so all I have for you this evening are some happy pictures of a lovely day we recently spent at Vaux le Vicomte–a peaceful alternative to Versailles–and a LINK for you to see what makes it so interesting and special. Every Saturday night until October 4, more than 2,000 candles light up this stunning château and the magnificent gardens, and at 23h a magical fireworks display fills the sky and lights up the estate with a shower of gold and silver. It is also gorgeous in the sunshine.

Vocabulaire

à faire une pause: to take a break