How Best to Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France
(This is Part 1 of our 3 part series about our road trip around France!)
Everyone meet Lucy, our spunky 4-door car we rented in France. When I was mapping out the trip I realized some of the smaller cities we were to visit did not have ample train routes. Unlike Italy where trains are as common as breathing, France catered to larger cities. So we picked Lucy up at the airport and began our journey to Normandy. Please note, practically every road you take will resort in tolls. I used Viamichelin.com to plan for gas and toll costs between each city we journeyed through. (It’s cheaper than you would expect)
Rouen was our first stop to pay respect to Joan D’ Arc-her memorial is here and is also the site that she was burned alive. The town also had adorable water wheels and storybook style shops. Any “Viking” show fans out there? We found Rue Rollon-this is the area of France that was given to Count Rollo after he married the Parisian. I geeked out a bit. We grabbed coffee and quiche before driving the rest of the way (about 1.5hrs) to Bayeux. What is the best way to fight jet lag? Just keep moving…and drinking caffeine!
After driving through back country roads and winding neighborhoods, we found our bed & breakfast and settled into a LONG slumber. The following morning took us to Mont St Michel. In the past the only way to reach this castle is by walking across sand when the tide is out. You had to leave by evening or you would be flooded in for the night. Now there is a bridge that stays water free year round. If you fancy you can take a horse drawn carriage ride to the front gate. However, my allergies warranted me a nice hike.
On our last morning we went to the D-DAY beaches and the American Cemetery before heading south to Amboise-the Loire valley. I could almost feel the spirits of the soldiers that fought on that beach. It was a cold, windy, and overcast day when we visited. It was also about 1 month before D-DAY took place and 1 week before Memorial Day weekend for the United States. We were able to walk through German bunkers that remained and hiked up and down the hillside following the path of the American soldiers. I could understand why the German’s had the initial upper hand because from the hills, you are looking down upon the beach with a sniper’s vantage point. The American cemetery was stunning. Every blade of grass in its reverent place. There were special lawn mowers that cut between the headstones daily. There were crosses and stars of David scattered neatly all around us. After stopping in the chapel to lift up a prayer for the fallen and those who still serve, we went south.
Amboise is not too far from Normandy. We arrived early evening to our quirky airbnb. Our hosts were artists, singers, and musicians-a lively married couple. We stayed on the Ile d’Or-a little island off the mainland of Amboise. This was one of our favorite cities of the trip. We went to Clos-Luce which is the final home to Leonardo Da vinci (my favorite inventor) and to Chateau Amboise. At Clos-Luce we were able to experience some of Davinci’s best creations. We strolled through his gardens and explored his many contraptions. Most of which we use today in some form or another. The man was a genius in my book.
The following day we left Amboise and drove 30min to explore several neighboring Chateaus-AKA castles with wineries attached. This is basically all we did the second day. We felt like royalty. We had lunch and wine tasting at Chateau Chenonceau, a romantic stroll in the elegant halls of Chateau Chaumont, and indulged in the perfumed gardens of Chateau Chambord. Of course we bought wine a small “caves” along the way home. Caves are basically the French term for winery. Some caves actually store their wine inside rock or cave-like units. We reveled the night away at Le Shaker Bar on the island!
Onward 6 hours to Avignon and the South of France. This was the longest leg of our journey and Lucy really pushed it. There were a couple of times that our GPS “lost satellite reception” so we broke down and bought a map of France-which proved to be priceless. When we moved into our garage apt in Avignon we decided to check out dinner and the nightlife. We stumbled upon a free concert with cheap beer so naturally we were down. Now, Avignon proved to be the best place for us to meet other travelers. Night 1 we met 3 French locals and practiced our kindergarten-level French. Night 2 landed us among Londoners at a karaoke bar whom we then bar hopped the city with. Of course, the daytime hours were filled finding ancient city walls and a nursery-rhyme bridge-the Pont du Gard. While we were cafe sitting, an art festival took place. Locals gathered in the plaza and played with homemade games. We joined in and were entertained for hours!
Since we were not going to the southern coast we decided to ride through Arles and visit some beaches that the locals frequent. Here we were able to put our toes in the water and have a “watered” down South France moment.
Ideas to Best Explore Normandy, Loire Valley, and Avignon, France:
1. Omaha Beach (DDay beaches)
2. American Cemetery
3. Mont St. Michel
4. Rouen: See the Joan D’Arc memorial
5. Go chateau hopping
6. Buy local wine along the roadside at small wine “caves”
7. Visit the last home of Leo DaVinci: Clos Luce
8. Stroll the pedestrian island of Amboise after a night at Le Shaker Bar
9. Sing karaoke at the American Pub
10. Enjoy the festivities and people-watching of market day
11. Practice French with the locals
12. Go to a French Concert and drink cheap beer
13. Eat apple pastries at award-winning patisseries
Be Well and Travel Often!
**This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own**
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