we are back

We had a great time in France. It was jam packed and relaxing. Great weather – crisp mornings, warm sunny afternoons – perfect for cruising and sightseeing. The boating on the Burgundy canal was delightful. We visited several chateaus and stayed in one in the Loire Valley. Then on to Brittany for several days of boats, seaside and local shellfish. A quick trip on the TGV and a couple of days roaming around Paris before heading home.

Lots of eating – many fine restaurant meals with multiple courses, wine and dessert. Leisurely picnics in transit with terrific cheeses and pates from the grocery store that were as good as anything we would get at specialty shops in Marin. Fresh bread and pastries following a brisk walk to the nearby boulangerie every morning. And of course wine – we made visits to several local producers and selected local wines – Chablis, Sanserre, Muscadet, from the menus wherever we went.

Everywhere people were helpful and gracious hosts. Many spoke English but seemed pleased that our French was pretty good. All in all – a good time was had.

2007.9.7 Friday
Overnight flight to Paris

boat image2007.9.8 Saturday
Train from Paris Gare de Lyon to Châtel Censoir. Picked up the boat at Connoisseur (aka Sun Sail). Pizza and salad at local restaurant.

2007.9.9 Sunday
South on canal du Nivernais (downstream – lock up) to Coulange sur Yonne – 9km. Drove to Clamecy. Terrific dinner at L’Hostellerie de la Poste in Clamecy – reasonably priced and turned out to be one of the best meals of the trip. Old church in main square. Met some other folks from Seattle and Vancouver who we saw regularly throughout the trip. They actually powered to Clamecy, then had to travel extra distance back.

Having a car and bikes was interesting. Some logistics involved moving the car – either a cold morning ride, a long ride after securing the boat for the evening, or some biking in parallel with boating. We did some of each. However, having the car meant we could drive to places that were not easy to bike or walk to.

2007.9.10 Monday
Returned upstream (lock down which is much easier) to Maille la Ville – 23km. Water available. Dinner at Relais de l’Etoile

2007.9.11 Tuesday
Intended to stop at Bailly near the caves de Bailly but the limited dock space was full. Although there were a couple of other places to stop, they were on the river with no direct access to parking for the car, so we continued on to Auxerre – 27km.

Terrific long tie-up south of the city along the park river bank on the left, just before the Botardeau lock. There is a marina on the other side of the lock but it was very busy and charged for dockage. Supermarket, banks, shops, cybercafe, cathedral all nearby within easy walking. Dinner in Auxerre at St Perkin – short walk.

2007.9.12 Wednesday
Left the boat tied up in Auxerre and drove to wine area and sightseeing. Didn’t find cheese in Vincelles but apparently there was a great farmers’ market we missed. On to Irancy and randomly selected Chais & Crus cave for tasting from 25 located in the town. Lunch in neighborhood restaurant. Tour and tasting Caves de Bailly.

Learned of Grottes d’Arcy-sur-Cure with 28,000 year old paintings – mammoth and hand displayed on tour, others are not open to the public for preservation and study. Caves were large and complex with multiple chambers with different formations. Dinner in Auxerre at Hotel de la Poste near L’Horlarge (clock tower) in the old town above Auxerre Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne d’Auxerre).

2007.9.13 Thursday
Biked to Gurgy and guys powered – 12km. Electricity, water, showers available although we didn’t use any. Drove back to Auxerre to cycbercafe, car repair. Dinner at Pecher in Monteau with great view of the river and lots of truckers (considered a good indicator of quality and value).

2007.9.14 Friday
Picnic at haute nautique tie-up on bank. On to base marina at Migennes – 23km. 15+ foot lock – one of the deepest of the trip. Roman mosaic in tourism office is part of a larger 200 sq m. Walked to Auz Rives de L’Yonne in Laroches St Cydrione. Wonderful Chablis premier cru with dinner.

2007.9.15 Saturday
Turned in boat for 9am. Drove to Château de Chambord. This is the largest, most elaborate of all the chateaus. Lunch outside at Hotel Grand St Michel with a view of the chateau. On to Chateau de Noue in Villedomer where we met Christine, granddaughter of Baron de Cools. The Chateau has been in her family for almost 200 years. 16th century castle near the “Grand Vallee” of the Loire. Grand old building in need of some repairs. Shared living room with hornets. Two huge bedrooms with bathrooms. One smaller bedroom with bath. Nice kitchen, dining room and laundry room on ground floor. Large outdoor seating area. Nothing interesting in Chateau Renault (nearest town). Dinner in Amboise. Celebration – Royal night closed off downtown.

2007.9.16 Sunday
Château d’Amboise. Lunch at L’Epicerie in Amboise near chateau. Clos Lucé, where Leonardo da Vinci stayed. Château de Chenonceau – smaller but lovely, on the river with formal gardens. Called “chateau des dames” as several women were influential in its design and use. Part bridge with interesting kitchens. No restaurants open Sunday evening so we had an “at home” picnic.

2007.9.17 Monday
Château de Blois in the city with wings added in many styles (1500-1600) – gothic, renaissance. Restored in 1840s. Interesting external staircase. Statue of Francoise I over the main entrance. Lunch of crepes near the chateau. Drove to Tour past Château de Chaumont on hill across the river. In Tour, visited Cathedral Saint Gatien. Particularly interesting stained glass windows with notes about the stories of each. Gallo Roman city wall near by. Stopped in Vouvaray for wine tasting. Returned to Vouvaray for dinner at La Val.

2007.9.18 Tuesday
Left Chateau de la Noue as the hornets were still a problem and we had seen plenty of chateaux. Visited Château d’Angers – more fortification than chateau. Interesting circular towers as primary structure. This is the chateau that used to have a display of cages where prisoners were kept – Richard finally found someone who confirmed this. The tapestry of the Apocalypse – more than 100 metre long and 6 metre high is enormous and fairly well preserved. It is now housed in a separate building within the Anges fortification. Headed for Brittany – 4 hours drive. Stayed at La Pointe de Mousterlin in Fouesnant. Lovely beach road. Dinner at the hotel.

2007.9.19 Wednesday
Day trip to Concarneau where family had vacationed. Walked around fishing port. Small ferry to cross the harbor to the old town. Nice mussels for lunch. Dinner in Fouesnant at Auberge du Bon Cidre – cider is a local specialty.

st malo2007.9.20 Thursday
Drove to St Malo to Hotel Aubage described as cozy. Small hotel, small rooms but recently remodeled, faces the port near the ocean front. Lots of Open 50 and 60 boats in the harbor. Old city is walled and very dense. Jacques Cartier left for Canada from St Malo. Dinner at Le Brick in the old city – suggested by the hotel as having really good seafood and shellfish.

2007.9.21 Friday
Mont St MichelMont St Michel (also monum.fr) – several separate churches and buildings make up the abbey. Crypt with huge pillars supports several stories. Lunch at La Mere Poulard in the old town – very touristy and not particularly interesting. Back to St Malo walked toward the Barrage de Rance, the tidal power generation facility. Beer and cheese at Lion d’Or in the old city. Very nice dinner at Le Franklin on the waterfront overlooking the beach near the hotel.

2007.9.22 Saturday
Saw others off to drive back to Munich. Catamaran regatta getting underway in St Malo – very competitive event with 70+ entries in several classes including Hobies 16 and 18. Took TGV to Paris. Hotel de l’Orchidee near Gare Monparnasse. Dinner at creperie.

2007.9.23 Sunday
Musée d’Orsay – impressionists, art nouveau furnishings. Batobus – boat tour. Lunch near Institute d’France. Walked down Champs-Elysées, around the Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile. Dinner at brasserie near hotel.

2007.9.24 Monday
Notre Dame was impressive but rather cold. Sainte Chapelle is remarkable for the stained glass windows – every one of the long narrow windows are beautiful. The brochure describes the upper chapel as feeling very high and lofty although its actual height (67 ft) is not quite double its width (34 ft). Although the windows in Tours are similar, they are in a much larger building along with many windows that are not stained glass. There is a lower chapel that was intended for the palace staff.

Coffee at Le Zimmer. Galeries Lafayette Coupole and Gourmet Food Hall – lots of interesting prepared and packaged foods but not as interesting as Harrods. Lunch near Cadet. Walked around Les Invalides, Grand Palais, Pont Alexandre-III – bridge with the golden horses, Champs-Élysées, Place de Concourse, along the Seine to Musee d’Orsay. Dinner at Au Metro restaurant near hotel. nice photos

2007.9.25 Tuesday
Flew home.

Next time…

St Malo – take the ferry to Jersey -day trip, tour Barrage du Rance – tidal power generating station

France : barging, Loire Valley, Brittany, Paris
cheese & wine

Learn more…

The Centre des monuments nationaux

Loire Valley – Tours, Blois, Renaissance chateaux at Amboise, Azay-le-Rideau, Blois, Chambord and Chenonceau