Rental Cars, Toll Roads, and a Chateau in Amboise

Next stop-  The Loire Valley

We bid adieu to the noisy seagulls of Le Mont St. Michel with my $9 coffee in hand, and found our way to the bus stop.  We arrived in Rennes from Mont St. Michel on the bus, and picked up our rental car at EuropCar, which I had arranged through my CAA membership at home. I was guaranteed a Fiat 500L or something similar, and we ended up with a manual Hyundai – fully loaded including navigation! The 1 thing I was nervous about was navigating, as when we last drove in France was in 2012, and we used paper maps and it was a HUGE challenge. I had pre-loaded maps of Amboise, and the Loire Valley on my CityMaps2Go by Ulmon maps and Google maps, but to have voice navigation was going to be a very nice bonus, especially because Kalyna informed me that she was going to watch Netflix on her tablet and NOT be my navigator….. Guess what my response was!

While we were trying to figure out the car navigation, I inputted the Amboise address in my google map on my phone, and found out quickly that they had added the voice guidance feature to their offline maps!  So off we went to the Loire Valley with 2 voices guiding us.

Some advice when driving in France:

  • Have small bills for the Toll Roads- we were on a toll road for a distance, and the amount to pay at the end of it was €19.20 and all I had was a €50, and as the signs at each line are not clear as to which ones take credit card and which are cash, so as I was in the cash only line, the change I was given was all in €1 &2 coins! It was like I won big in Vegas, the sound the machine made as it dispensed all of my change.

    Which lane do we go to, to pay?

  • Also try to get food before you get onto the toll highways. The nice part to taking a toll highway is that there are regular rest stops, but if you want food, you need to stop at a rest stop with food, and the one we stopped at was CRAZY BUSY! The parking lot was huge, yet there was nowhere to park, so we ended up blocking in a semi truck in their parking lot, like many others, while we ran in and got food as quickly as we could then ate in our car.

    Where do we park?

  • Load Google maps on your phone before you leave for your trip. Now that voice guidance is available on offline maps, there is almost no need for navigation in your rental vehicle.

We arrived safely in Amboise and with only 1 hiccup when our 2 navigating voices had an arguement as  to which way to go, which cost us an extra trip on a toll road, a few loops around, and a side track on a remote- narrow and windy country road.  All things said, it was a successful journey, and Kalyna ended up helping to navigate and she surviced not getting to watch a movie on the way- something that this generation is clueless how to live without!

We checked in at our Chateau, Le Clos D’Amboise, which was a splurge for us on this trip. It was a chateau from Renaissance times, and was beautifully decorated. It also had a pool, which we were looking forward to being able to use after a nice day of driving in the country exploring the chateaux and castles. The weather was beautiful when we arrived, so we decided to have a much deserved pool break. To feel the sun and heat was such a nice feeling after so many days of clouds, cool temperatures and rain.

We arranged to meet up with Heather and Roger, whom we met in Mont St. Michel for dinner and enjoyed each others company as we got to know each other more. I especially liked eating with Heather as she is a fellow Sans Gluten traveler, as she is Celiac, so to feel not so ‘alone’ was a nice treat for me! It was also nice to drink wine with someone as Kalyna was not a wine drinker and had no desire to become one with me….

Look closely and you will see that the Galettes flaming with Grand Marnier

Amboise is a nice, small city with a lot to offer in a condensed area- hotels, shopping, eating, wine stores, a Chateau in the city center and is central to drive to many, many other Chateaux and wineries. I will tell you more about Amboise and its Chateau in another post, but here are some photos of our first impressions of this pretty city!

Great restaurants and shops on Rue Victor Hugo

Aerial view of Rue Victor Hugo and Amboise

Tomorrow we start to explore the Loire Valley and a few of its Chateaux!

 

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France with my Daughter

Paris- Day 1

It is July 23, 2017 and Kalyna who is now 18, and I have landed in Paris for the start of our 16 days in France together; a Grad gift that was promised to each of our 3 children if they graduated from French Immersion.

Want to give your child some incentive to go to University and get a job, so that they can support themselves in a lifestyle that they grew up in and were acustomed to, then take them in the way you like to travel, BUT let them know that this is THE LAST time that you will be paying for anything like Business class, or nice hotels. So this may be Kalyna’s first and last time flying business class- she now writed her own destiny after this trip.

We landed just after 1pm, and we both are exhausted, so the decision was easy to just jump into a taxi rather than navigate the metro, bus and walking to find our hotel in the 9th Arrondissemant. After the last month I just had, I needed to push as many &easy buttons& as possible, even if the cost was more.

What happened in the last month?  The hightlights are: I had eye surgery the end of June, which was supposed to be routine- Refractive Lens Exchange (cataract surgery), which was going to fix my asigmatism, and enable me to not wear glasses anymore. 2 weeks later, my vision was very blurred and my eyes were blood shot, and during a follow up appointment, a spot was found on my left retina, which was later diagnosed as an Edema at an emergency appointment with a Retinal Specialist over 2 hours from where Iive and only 2 days before I was scheduled to leave for France. Further tests were ordered for most importantly, when I returned from France!  During my recovery from eye surgery, KIm and I were both actively involved in the planning and excecution, in addition to being the Title Sponsors of an International Airshow in Lethbridge, where we live and have a business. Rest was NOT in my vocabulary, and that Kicked me in the Butt HARD!

Our plans for Paris were quite simple- Chill, eat, sleep, shop and do some exploring. As this trip was without my travel buddy, Kathy, chilling was on the agenda but not too chill as I would need to wean Kalyna off of her adiction to Netflix and constant SnapChatting!

I would normally tell people that no matter how tired you are when you arrive in Paris to go to the Eiffel Tower, but there was no way possible that this body could rally to do this- instead we napped then went exploring and found an Amazing Crepe shop with a huge selection of Gluten Free options, including Gallettes, which are buckwheat crepes. We then had an Amazing French meal consisting of Escargots, beef carpaccio, french fries, salad and a couple glasses of Rosé. On the walk back to our hotel we stopped for Gelatto and Macarons, then easily crawled into our comfy beds for a good nights sleep. 

Pleased with Provence!

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We are almost done our touring of Provence. One word to explain it is, simply Beautiful! The people are lovely, and we continue to get many compliments on the kids french. They are amazed that they have the opportunity to be in french school. It has really confirmed my decision to put my children in french immersion. What an amazing gift they have that I am watching them use. To hear a France, French person say that they speak really well makes me feel proud, as I had heard that they can be critical of Canadian french.

What a tour we have done so far.  I will first list all of the places we have visited so far, not listing places visited more than once due to getting lost and having to retrace our steps multiple times. May I say that round a bouts….love them and @#@&%&*&%&% them.
Pont du Gard, Remoulins, L’Isle Sur la Sorgue ( pronounced, Lees sir la Sorg), Les Baux,  St.Remy, Gordes, Rousillon, Joucas, Coustellet, Fontaine-de-Vaclause.  Phew!!!
It is nothing that I thought it would be, yet much, much more. What a gift we are living!

Day 6: We left Carcassone, and managed to find our way to Pont du Gard uneventfully.  I was expecting to see a big Roman bridge but I had no idea the immensity of it, and the swimming, canoeing, and kayaking activities on the river in every direction.  I also did not understand its history, which is also equally impressive. We spent time there walking around and Noah and Kalyna swam. I welcomed being splashed while I waded in the river- the temperature was only 39`c. After checking out the museum to learn more about what aqueducts are, and why and how it was built, we hit the road in our lovely air conditioned car.
I now have to explain to you my comment about round a bouts. You see, they are great if you missed your turn/exit because you can just keep going around until you find the right one. But if you do not know which one you need to take, you are hooped. We were looking for the hwy # or the
Rd name, which was on our Google directions. What we needed to be looking for is the name of the closest town you are driving towards-not to be confused with your final destination. After our 3rd try, we stopped to ask for help, and this is when we caught onto needing to know this important piece of information for EVERY round a bout, to which there were 100’s, which also broke up the speed Kim could get to in our speedy diesel.  Long story, short, we made it convinced once again that we could not play the Amazing race together and stay married…

Day 7: After some much needed sleep, we got up and found a Pattiserie right around the corner from our hotel- croissants, pain au chocolate, espresso…mmmm…We were already off to a late start when the keys got locked in our rental car, the mechanic came to our rescue, but charged us €145 to be our hero,and after deciding where we should go with the rest of our hot day, we headed off to St. Remy to find what the big deal was about with Joel Durand and his chocolate. I would like to say that I bought presents for some of you from Joel’s store, but I must be honest that they will most likely not make it home to Canada by August 12th….
I also lucked out that there was a small market happening in St. Remy that day, so we got a glimpse of some of the local produce and products.
Next stop was Les Baux, which is a medieval town up on a hill, surrounded by stone hills, which reminded us of being in Drumheller, AB, and Righting on Stone Park, AB, minus the castles… It was Amazing, and we were lucky to have gotten there later in the afternoon as the crowds had dispersed,  so that we could negotiate the narrow streets  with all of the dog caca everywhere. May I say right now, that the French need  lesson in picking up dog poo.  We stayed long enough to have a nice dinner overlooking the most impressive view available in Les Baux. One of the reasons we chose that restaurant, and also that there was a chef hamburger on the daily specials and the kids were having a craving.  I giggle as I type hamburger, because when the server brought one of them to our table, she announced, “Your Hamburger.” with such a thick french accent it made it sound exotic (and also how Steve Martin said hamburger in the Pink Panther).

Day 8: We attempted to get up early so that we could beat the heat and the crowds. We drove towards Gordes (Kim calls it Gordos). Another town that I was thankful to being able to see. A town also up on a hill, which a narrow, and windy road leads to. The highlight for Jordan was that we saw red Ferrrari.
Once again, more Amazing views of this town from above and below, and also of the Provencal countryside.
Next town, Rousillon and its red buildings from the Ochre. It was baffling to us, how close each town was, yet with such differences, and in this case, the color of the dirt, which was the color of shale.  This made the buildings here distinct compared to the other towns we visited.
The highlight for the kids was that I sat in some orange Ochre while we were eating our lunch on a ledge watching traffic. The back of my dress of course turned orange and even Kim’s hand when we tried to wipe it off….
Joucas, was a very small artsy town that loves its sculptures with stone and wood. We tried and tried unsuccessfully to find its fountain, which turned out to be nothing fancy, but a place to fill up your watering can. Still the journey up the windy cobblestone paths was adventuresome.
Last stop, Coustellet to visit the Lavender Museum.  We are in Provence for lavender harvest, so we have not yet seen it all in bloom in the fields but in every market, store, and many restaurants. The smell is everywhere….mmmmm… I LOVE lavender! The museum was a quick visit for Kalyna and I while the boys waited for us outside in the shade. We saw how it is harvested, and the differences in the different lavender plants.
Because we left the hotel by 8:40 in the morning, we were back at the hotel by 3pm so that there  was lots of time to hit the pool. Yeah!

Day 9: Our last full day in Provence was one to be a relaxing one. At dinner the night before we decided as a family that we didn’t want to travel very far the next day as planned. Basically we were burning out, and we were all sound asleep shortly after 10pm on day 8.
After gently trying to wake the kids up at 8:30 am, we decided to head off to explore on our own, and let the kids sleep. It was Sunday, and it was market day in L’Isle Sur la Sorgue- music to my ears! There was miles of vendors selling a variety of goods from produce and meat to jewellery, clothing and antiques, and everything in between. You will never guess what I bought- my 1st pair of shoes!!! I had to break the seal sometime.
We walked up and down the many streets and main canal browsing the many vendors, and purchased some yummy things for a nice picnic lunch with the kids. The produce is not cheap, but it is soooo good and fresh!
Finally tonight, we went for supper, and found a great creperie, to which we all tried something new, and ended our meal with some extravagant ice cream desserts.
Tomorrow will take us to Ville France sur Mer, which is right next to Nice- on the Mediterranean.
Enjoy the many pictures!
Love to all!
Trina, Kim, Jordan, Kalyna, and Noah

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You know you are in Paris when you have done…

You know you are in Paris when…
Today is day 3 of our 23 day adventure. Day 1 we left Calgary at 3:20 (woke up at 6:30am) . Day 2 we arrived in Paris at 10:45 am (8 hrs ahead). I had arranged a shuttle from the airport to our hotel, which saved significant travel time, so we arrived at our apartment in the 11th district/ Bastille area by 12:05. Our apartment was not ready, so we went for our first Parisian lunch- my first mmmmm… french coffee, Jordan’s first restaurant legal beer, and some YUMMY food with of course OMG good bread!
We got all settled into our apnt, and it was time to go to see the Eiffel Tower. BUT, how do you explain to a 17, 13, and 10 year old (that already know everything) that even though they feel like a pile of #2, that they must perservere, and find the energy to not only find the Eiffel Tower, but take the metro there, wait in line to climb 720 stairs to the second level, so that we can stand in line again to take the elevator the top, so that we can feel the inevitable exhileration you feel once you reach the top of the EIFFEL TOWER IN PARIS!
So after I allowed my family to nap for just over 1 hr while I went for some groceries, woke everyone up, then we did the previous explained steps.
It was a killer- almost (Noah was especially emotional due to the lack of sleep…)
We then had a crepe from a street vendor, and it was exclaimed that we were officially declared to be in PARIS!
We found the energy to go for a nice italian meal not far from our apartment- 2 pizzas, 1 lasagna, 1 tortillini, 2 salads, 1 bottle of wine, 2 beers later it only came to E53!
As well as we had intended on going to bed early that evening so that we could wake up fresh the next morning so that we could be on the train by 8am to go see the Palace of Versailles, we did not set our alarm until 7:20- 33 hours from when I had last slept!
We were up and on the train day #2 to Versailles with our tummies full of wonderful Parisian pastries, and cafe, only 2 hours late. We did not leave Versailles until just after 7pm, our feet aching from all of the walking (especially gaming boy, Noah).
After exhausting the possibility of finding one of Rick Steves recommended restaurants, we sat down in a french restaurant where we had some wonderful things. Kalyna had escargot, Noah had lamb, Jordan and I had killer mashed cheese potatoes with sausage, we all shared pate and creme brule, and swiss ice cream. Of course with beer (Kim and Jordan) and wine for me.
Another late evening with the promise of sleeping in- thank goodness!
Another day of exploring- The Louvre, Champs Elysee, Arc d’Triumphe, Notre Damne, and an attempt at the military museum (a whole other story).
Off to bed so that we can get up to take the train to Carcassonne.
Enjoy the pictures of our first few days! Once they are sent.  I am having tablet issues… with my blog. Love and Blessings to you all!
Trina, Kim, Jordan, Kalyna and Noah

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