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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Saint Malo in 2 Nights

(Please check back to see new pictures for this post- having technical issues in France, so will update when I get home)

So our trip was planned- where to go, flights, hotels, car rental, train tickets all booked.  Next research. Or not.  

I love Rick Steves guide books, but when you are going to several places it is overwhelming the amount of work- time and patience it takes to make everything come together. Then there can be information overload on learning the history, what to do, etc about each place. I don’t know about you, but as I have gotten older I retain less information, so what I started reading months ago, was lost in my memory bank when I had time for a quick refresher the week before our trip- AND with limited vision. So, all that said, in advance of our arrival in Saint Malo, I knew that  they were famous for Gallettes- buckwheat crepes, and mussles, and had a beach. Was good enough for us!

On arrival via train, we took a taxi to our hotel, and boy am I glad that we did. Aside from it being quoted as a 30 minute walk, it actually could have taken us hours to find it in addition to the far walk from the bus station to the Old City, where our Hotel was located.  The old city is like a maze, and it was confusing us just riding in the taxi, let alone us dragging our luggage behind us on the cobblestone streets.

We were extremely pleased with the location of our hotel- Hotel St. Pierre as it was only steps from a popular beach because of the interestingly designed and executed Ocean Pool that even has a diving board. And also the wall that you can walk on around the perimeter of the city was also steps away.

I was also pleasantly surprised with the shopping close by, and picked up a few treasures for myself, and my boys. Kalyna spent her own money on some Berkinstocks that you can not get in Canada, so she was as happy as a pig in mud!

BUT, one of the best parts of staying in the walled city of Saint Malo is that there is  a crepe shop- literally on EVERY corner, that also sells Gallettes! I was in gluten free heaven!!! Also the rest of the food was reasonably priced in most restaurants (make sure to check the menu before entering a restaurant), and the Mussles were one of the cheapest items on the menu and some of the best I have EVER tasted!!! If you aren’t a mussle fan (I still suggest you open your mind and try them just one more time here), there is also a great variety of other food, including fresh seafood, which is what I love the most, so that is what I was always looking for.

An interesting fact to learn was about the Canadian heritage and history with this city. Jacques Cartier, who was credited as &discovering& Canada, lived and sailed out of Saint Malo. There is a statue of Jacques, a small Quebec museum and also the Quebec flags are flown in tribute to Quebec being the twin city.

Unfortunately when we arrived it was cloudy and cool outside and was spitting off and on.  A unique part of this area is its tides. They are some of the largest in Europe, and when I looked online for what the high and low tides were over the 2 days we were there, it was a difference of 27ft from high to low tide! That is huge in numbers, but our pictures and video of when the tide was out, and we were able to walk to another island, or of how big the beach was is incredible to compare to when the tide was high, and there was a very small beach, and in other places no beach at all, the ocean pool had disappeared and you could only see the very top of the high diving board that is on top of the wall that forms the pool.

You can only see the top of the diving board!

You can walk on the sea floor at low tide

The sea floor is coverd and the beach is small

At low tide we walked out to the 2 islands

The bay empties at low tide

I would absolutely recommend going to Saint Malo again, as there is a lot to do in this area for all types of people, but be prepared for cooler weather!