Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Category: France (Page 1 of 2)

Colmar

We were heading to Europe for a few months, flying into Paris and picking up our leased car. This is a much cheaper way of having a car in Europe for a few months than a rental and gave us a brand-new Peugeot. It was MUCH smaller than it looked in the pictures so there was a lot of interesting language while trying to get us all in plus suitcases and Darwin. But we did it and set off for our first few days in Colmar. This is a small town in the Grand Est region of northeastern France, very near the border with Germany.

The old town is very atmospheric with cobblestone streets lined with half-timbered medieval and early Renaissance buildings. The Gothic 13th-century, Eglise Saint-Martin church stands in the central Place de la Cathédrale and the whole town is like a fairy-tale place. It is also on the Alsace Wine Route, with a special focus in Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines (sweet for me but loads of great beers too).

There are some nice museums and places to visit. Plenty to do for quite a few days.

We enjoyed multiple meals of sausages, sauerkraut, and hefty dumplings plus a lovely pizza-type meal of flammekueche which is cheese and onion on a base of cream and then grilled. Heavy but delicious.

One evening we met up with online friends from a big FB group we are part of. We do check-ins each week and often connect with people who are in the same place. It’s really fun to meet new people and learn where we are all traveling to.

Our time was short in Colmar but we really want to go back and especially for the Christmas market as apparently it’s really incredible. Put it on the list!

Paris: House-Swap

We had a lovely house swap just outside of Paris but with easy train rides into the city. It also allowed us to do lots of day trips around too.

The picture above looks so lovely with our favorite crepes but then we fell into laughing as Mark snaffled the top of Charlotte’s crepe — kids!

One of the day trips was somewhere I had wanted to go for years and that was Giverny – Claude Monet’s garden. It was really lovely and so worth the drive out there to visit. I think we all enjoyed it even though it was quite full that day.

We celebrated Halloween there and went to a farm to pick out our pumpkins. A very rainy and cold day!

And on another rainy and cold day we headed up north to the coast and went to Honfleur. It’s a lovely town and probably better enjoyed when a tad dryer and warmer but it was nice to visit.

A fun house swap in a great location although slightly “dangerous” as it was a five minute walk to a wonderful boulangerie with incredible tarts and bread. We indulged a tad often!

Loire Valley

We spent a few days in the Loire Valley and visited multiple Chateaus that were just gorgeous. There were a few wet days in October but often we had lovely sunny skies and quite warm weather thankfully.

It’s fun to watch an 11-year-old’s face when you pull into another chateau or cathedral!

But it was lots of fun with much laughter and oohing and aahing.

Clermont-Ferrand

We needed to make our way from Provence up to Paris for our next house-swap and Erika suggested stopping for a few days in a town I hadn’t heard of before. There apparently is a neat volcanic park area complete with a train to take you up to one. So we did and the city was really neat. The cathedral was black as made from the volcanic rocks and so quite imposing but really lovely inside.

We all enjoyed the trip up the mountain and lunches outside in the square. I think that is one of my favorite things to do is sit and enjoy a meal with family while looking around a new place like this.

Near the square there was also a lovely bookstore with both English and French books. We are always drawn into bookstores!

In the evening we had plans to go to the symphony but sadly when we got there they had a mix up and there weren’t enough tickets. Still we enjoyed an evening in the main square.

Provence House-Swap

We were lucky to have a month-long house swap in Provence, just outside of Aix. The picture above is sunrise from our patio!

The house was gorgeous and in the pine forests there. Too far to walk into the small town but we had our little blue car lease and so just enjoyed the peace and quiet of being in the country.

Over the time there we found our favorite markets and produce stores and of course boulangeries for the “best” bread.

Tomatoes!

We did quite a lot of day trips with the favorites being Cassis, Sannary-Sur-Mer, Cannes, and Aix. A lot of our time though we just simply enjoyed the house and lovely gardens. For most of the time, Christian was with us, and then the last week, Erika and grandson Mark arrived. So we were happy with family time.

I celebrated my 60th birthday there and we went to a lovely Michelin starred restaurant where some of us ate too much and indulged in very expensive champagne.

We even visited the village that one of my favorite authors wrote about: Peter Mayle. All in all a lovely month.

South of France: Pouzols

We had yet another great house swap in the small town of Pouzols which is about 25 minutes outside of Montpelier. The house was a modern build inside an old walled garden. We had lovely places to wander and old buildings around us to look at and yet all modern conveniences. Plus cats – lots of them which was neat.

Grandma enjoyed the garden

There wasn’t much to do or any cafes in the village but we found plenty of towns around us and it was a short drive to the Mediterranean for food and views. The weather was just right for sitting outside and eating but the pool was closed up and it got cold quite quickly at night.

We found so many neat spots around us to visit. Highlights included Uzes, Saint Guilhem-le-Desert, Bouzigues, and of course Pont du Gard aqueduct which is an incredible Roman ruin built about 40-60 CE.

We ate happily too. Oysters and bouillabaisse, cheeses and market goodies, plus incredible Moroccan tagine.

Interested in house swapping and earning points from the site?

If you would like to sign up here is a link that gets both of us some extra guest points just to get you started:

https://www.homeexchange.com/?sponsorkey=351-1389991-8c5a98ef

Colours of Brittany

It really is a gorgeous summer and the colors and sights of Brittany kept impressing us.

 

Our favorite outing and one we went back and did again was to the oyster beds in Cancale for a picnic. You can buy dozens of them quite cheaply and carry your tray to the steps for a picnic. We took wine, cheeses and bread along too and had feasts. Better than a 5 star restaurant any day! The two pictures show the same spot with the tide out and oyster beds visible and then when the tide is in. Pretty neat.

 

Saint Malo was lovely.

 

This castle was on a head land at Cap Frehel and the water color amazing. It really is this blue!

 

Brittany Bound

We had been offered a house swap in Brittany so happily had jumped on that. I’d spent holidays there as a child but most of my memories were of wind swept beaches and cliffs in a caravan. Having a lovely house made it a bit easier and the summer was so warm with little rain or wind that we were spoilt!

Sunset from our deck:

The area is lovely and the cliffs and beaches gorgeous. A great beach vacation spot with plenty of castles and historical towns to keep all engaged.

I think our favorite was Dinan. Gorgeous old buildings and lots of good food – galletes are the famous buckwheat crepes here. Yum.

Another pretty spot was Mont San Michel. We parked and took the shuttle bus over to the island and the trip was pretty cheap and easy although coming back we had a long wait as the crowds were high. It was hot going and loads of steep stairs so not an easy day out but interesting. Worth the effort.

 

 

Paris Again

We picked up Grandma, Auntie Jo, and cousin Janet at the airport in Paris as the start to our summer together – yay. We had a short week just south of Paris in a small town that allowed day trips into the city. Having a larger car with a carrier on top plus the dog and 7 people it was easier than trying to navigate and pay for somewhere right in the city.

The house was lovely and had a walled garden with big table outside plus another garden room with another large table for dining. We took full use of this and enjoyed some great meals (and sampling of wine) together. Darwin was pretty happy to have more of his pack back together too.

 

Our day trips into the city were fun and a chance to for the kids to again explore old and new sites.

 

Paris and then off

Even nicer weather today. We packed up and left all the suitcases at the hotel and had until 4 pm. We walked through the park right next to us – Buttes Chaumont
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parc_des_Buttes_Chaumont

It was a really lovely park on a high hill with rivers and cliffs to climb up. I was amazed at the numbers of people jogging/running. People of all ages and shapes were out there in force exercising. Very nice to see.

This area has been fun to stay in because it is a regular neighbourhood and not touristy. It’s nice to see regular stores and people going about normal life.

latin quarte

We hit the Metro again and headed over to our favorite area: The Latin Quarter. I guess that’s expected our group would like this as the Sorbonne and other universities are there and it’s quite lively with college students. The mix of restaurants and people is fun. We went traditional food though and had a late prix fixe (price fixed) lunch of 3 courses. Max really wanted escargot as he loves them but wanted to try ones actually in Paris. The desserts were best to me – crème brulee and chocolate mousse!

escargot

We staggered back to the hotel, picked up bags and taxied off to Gare du Nord for the trains to The Hague. We had to change in Rotterdam with 7 minutes to get from one platform, downstairs, upstairs and onto new train. We could not have managed this without amazing help from a couple of Dutch men. Everyone is so nice.

cafe in paris

We arrived at Holland Spoor station, the boys ran across the street to buy some fast food to take home, got in a big taxi and headed to the house. It quickly felt like home.

train

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