- Travel Topics
My mom joined us in France and though she was only coming for 10 days we planned an incredibly ambitious driving tour around the country. Thinking about it now she should have flown into the south or we really should have chosen only one part of the country to conquer in those few days, but we went for a full loop.
Starting and ending in Paris over the course of 8 days we saw Saumur, La Rochelle, Bordeaux, Carcassonne, Marseille, Nice, Cannes, Rousillon, and Lyon.
In case you didn’t get the idea from the Paris post, I was already in love with France before we even left the capital city. Once we got out into the countryside, driving along vineyards and lavender fields I had a permanent smile glued to my face and a nice tipsy wine buzz (thanks to being under 25 it was too expensive to add me as a driver so I simply occupied the passenger seat and gazed around).
Our first stop was Saumur, a small town frequently overlooked by foreign tourists it seems. After a brief walk down the cobbled and charming streets we settled in a quaint cafe for lunch, where I just happened to order myself a salad of champions.
Looks amazing right?
After a brief walk through the nearby flea market, and photo shoot by the river we made our way to the main destination – the castle.
Perched up on a hill and fairly void of tourists, the castle was a perfect attraction to start off our driving tour.
For the night we stopped in the 9th century port city of La Rochelle, where we feasted on locally caught fresh mussels and battled tight parking spots made for Smart cars.
La Rochelle is where we discovered the complexities of the French dining culture. After an afternoon tour of the city my mom and I set out for lunch around 2:30 only to be abruptly turned down by restaurant after restaurant. Closed from 2:30 until 7:30 they said, a break for the staff. Coming from the US this is simply unheard of. Luckily we were able to find a non-stop service cafe (meaning the staff doesn’t take a 5 hour break between lunch and dinner). But if you’re looking for the real authentic French eateries make sure to have lunch by 2pm or risk being turned away!
From there we made our way to Bordeaux – a city where although everybody else comes to explore the plethora of vineyards we only had enough time for a brief city tour. It really is another one of those charming cities, where you could stroll for hours.
Trying to get acquainted with directions Dave approached a French man asking where the sea was, which naturally perplexed the man who knew Bordeaux is not in fact anywhere near the sea. Confusing Dave’s attempt at locating the sea for finding a west heading he pointed us in the direction of north. See this is what happens when I do all the logistical planning myself and Dave doesn’t have a clue in which direction we are headed.
The following afternoon we made our way to Carcassone, the small city which holds a medieval fortress with a 2500 year old history.
The Cite (as the fortress is called) is truly remarkable. Bringing it to the next level is within the fortress narrow streets are numerous cafes, shops and restaurants, bringing the whole area to life. A perfect place to stop for a glass of wine.
That night we made our way to Marseille, the biggest Mediterranean port and one of the oldest cities in Europe (dating backing to 600 BC). Here we would spend four nights in our loft apartment and finally get to relax a bit. For me this meant I could finally prepare some breakfast and dinners for us!
We spent two days exploring the various parts of Marseille, starting off our days with a bottle of Prosecco and stopping in a cafe later in the day for a glass of wine. Living the French way.
We were staying by the small port which had a simply gorgeous view and for one of our last nights we decided to go out for oysters at the restaurant by the port.
I had only had oysters once before and only one oyster. My mom, a true oyster fan, was not going to let us leave without a full sampling. We ordered one tray, with a request of tobasco sauce on the side (the way my mom likes her oysters) and with a squeeze of lemon juice and a splash of tobasco I slurped up those oysters.
Accompanied by a bottle of wine I was simply ecstatic. Delicious fresh oysters, wine and an evening out with both my mom and Dave. Couldn’t top that.
After the first tray was finished my mom and I looked at each other and instantly signaled the waiter to bring another- Encore as they say in French.
Dave wasn’t as excited as we were; he doesn’t like oysters and couldn’t see what all the fuss was about.
After a second tray we ordered a third. After having paid the bill and on our walk home we realized that by confusing the waitress with all the encores she had accidentally charged us for only 2 trays instead of 3. A nice surprise.
For a long day trip from Marseille we made our way to first Nice and then Cannes. We couldn’t pass up the chance to see those famous cities on the French Riviera. And they were everything we expected. Sunny skies, pebble beaches, topless sunbathers, cafes brimming with espresso and wine drinkers.
After a stroll through both cities we finished off a wonderful afternoon with dinner of fresh fish and the biggest prawns I’ve ever eaten. Truly paradise.
For our last day we made our way to the small picturesque village of Roussillon where we had a nice stroll for a few hours. With the red stone houses, the entire village flows together and the contrast of the greenery wrapping around the buildings provides a stark contrast.
As our last stop before Paris we went to Lyon where we spent the night and had an afternoon to see the city.
Overall we had a whirlwind of a driving tour and didn’t have enough time to thoroughly inspect most of the places but we still had an amazing time even if we only got a small taste of each city. The countryside through France is simply stunning and full of colors. I would highly recommend everywhere we went, especially the less touristy places like Saumur, La Rochelle Carcassone and Roussillon. I don’t think these places are on the main tourist trail and having a car gave us the freedom to stop by them in the afternoon and get a glimpse at the magical small towns.