FRANCE 2012

Tournez à gauche, Tournez à droite? Maitai’s Scenic Detour Through France

P1030535Paris, The Dordogne, The Loire Valley, Normandy

In a little less than three weeks, we visited our favorite city on earth (Paris) and traveled to Sarlat for our base in the delightful Dordogne.  We also enjoyed the chateaux of the Loire, the beauty of Bayeux, while reliving history on the beaches of Normandy.  We ended our trip with a night in relaxing Honfleur and then made it back for a few more days in Paris.  Life is good!


Chapter One: We’re Off To Paris

Chapter One:  We’re Off To Paris Despite the fact that my liver is now only slightly better off than those of the ducks and geese we saw (and devoured) in the Dordogne (I have a full blown case of foie gras remorse), our journey through the Dordogne (five nights in Sarlat), Loire (three nights in Amboise and one in the underrated city of Angers), Normandy (three nights in Bayeux and one night in Honfleur) and Paris (two nights at the beginning and three at the end) was completed without causing an international incident (that we know of).

  Even after dire warnings from their children about traveling with us again, our friends Kim and Mary joined us for another of our … Read more…

Chapter Two: Checking Out Paris

Chapter Two:  Checking Out Paris Day Three – Cheer Cheer For Old Notre Dame, Silver And Gold, Church Goers, Panthéon Sans Sperm, You Might Rue Our Description Of This Street, Sherpa Revisited, On Track For Limoges, Dinner Quandary and Didn’t I Buy One Of These At Trader Joes Last Week Overcast skies greeted us as we left the hotel a little after 9 a.m. (I can’t believe I let this crew sleep in that late). After a quick stop at the corner pâtissière (it had been quite some time since I had a pain aux raisin)…                                           …the fearsome foursome took a metro ride to the Cité Métro station… …and we walked the short distance to Cathédrale Notre Dame de … Read more…

Chapter Three: Sarlat-Bound (with a detour)

Chapter Three:  Sarlat-Bound (with a detour) Day Four – In The Dark, Filet de Maitai, A Bloody Time In Limoges, Dr. Mary’s Bag Of Tricks, Introducing Madame Bleu, Unspeakable Crimes Against Humanity, Dueling Navigation Systems, A Sarlat Sensation, Mind Your Manoirs and A Great Name For Our New Business Venture Most people relax on their vacations, unless, of course, you travel with me. Today’s schedule would be a good example of why Tuscan Tom’s Tours (even when operating in France) is not for the casual traveler. Alarms in two rooms at the Hotel De La Paix Montparnasse started ringing shortly after five, because we had a train to catch…the 6:40 to Limoges. Our taxi got us to the station about … Read more…

Chapter Four: Markets, Chateaus, Gardens & Boats

Chapter Four:  Markets, Chateaus, Gardens & Boats Day Five – Going To Market, Cum On Feel The Noix, Cashed Out, Chateau Hopping, Sir Bleed-A-Lot, Jardin Party, Roque & Rolling On The River, Gizzard Wizards and Where’s Anthony Quinn I will be the first to admit it; I really don’t care for Market Days in Europe (or anywhere else for that matter). Yes, I know I am in the minority, but I can shop for crappy trinkets and various fresh produce items at a number of Farmers Markets in and around where I live. 

But as the leader of Tom’s Tuscan (Sometimes France) Tours, I listen to those traveling with me, and they were all excited and ready to explore the … Read more…

Chapter Five: Josephine & Dordogne’s Beautiful Villages

Chapter Five:  Josephine & Dordogne’s Beautiful Villages Day Six – There’s A Man With A Gun Over There, Visiting Chateau Josephine Baker, For The Birds, Chasing Windmills, A Domme Good Lunch, Chats & Chats, No Bertha Butt, Watch Out For Falling Rocks, Seeing Beynac In A New Light, Inhaling Soap and I Can See Russia From My Dessert The weather reports didn’t lie (for a change). It was a gorgeous Sunday morning, and after finding a café au lait and croissant in town, it was back in the car for our initial stop of the day, Château des Milandes, quickly dubbed Château Josephine Baker. That’s because the most famous owner of this chateau had been Folies Bergères, movie and singing … Read more…

Chapter Six: Drivin’ The Dordogne

Chapter Six:  Drivin’ The Dordogne Day Seven – Wow What A View, Wrong Way Maitai, How Many Stairs Is That Again, A River Runs Through It, The View Was Better, Our Most Beautiful Village, (No Offense) Our Most Overrated Village, Carennac The Magnificent, Seeing Red and Are You Sure That’s Not The Place You Wanted To Eat I heard grumbling from the troops as my iPhone sounded the 6:45 a.m. Duck Quacks (to wake everyone up). “Why do we have to have the alarm set when we are on vacation?” Tracy groused (as you can see, she was in a fowl mood). Not thinking it a big deal, I said, “Well, we get up at this time at home.” Tracy … Read more…

Chapter Seven: Did You Really Write On That Bison?

Chapter Seven:  Did You Really Write On That Bison? Day Eight – So Easy A Caveman Could Do It, Please Don’t Write On The Bison, A Beautiful Drive, Down By The Lazy River, Cave Dwellers, Where Is That Damned Restaurant, Finding Pasta In The Land Of Foie Gras And A Final Walk Through Sarlat Hard as it was to believe, this was going to be our last day in the Dordogne.  It only seemed like yesterday I was bleeding all over the Limoges train station. We left for Font-de-Gaume about 9:30 on this very sunny, brisk morning.  Since our reservations were not until 11 a.m., and I did not feel like another beat down from a ticket taker, so we … Read more…

Chapter Eight: The Loire & It’s Captivating Chateaux

Chapter Eight:  The Loire & It’s Captivating Chateaux Day Nine – Kim Takes The Wheel, Talley-Ho Talleyrand, The A-MAZE-ing Race, Taking The Scenic Route, Scouting Mission, Paving The Way, An Oasis In Amboise, Horsing Around and The “Ten-Minute” Walk Goodbye Dordogne. Hello Loire. On a misty Wednesday morning, we bid au revoir to David and the Villa des Consuls, packed up the Audi and took off for Amboise (with a slight detour along the way). We also bade farewell to the ducks who gave their lives so tourists like ourselves could eat. RIP Daffy and Donald. Getting me to be a passenger in a car is about as easy as getting me to eat a pickle…in other words, virtually impossible. … Read more…

Chapter Nine: Blitzing Through The Loire

Chapter Nine:  Blitzing Through The Loire Day Ten – Breakfast Of Champions, The Answer My Friend Is Blois-ing In The Wind, Chateau Liqueur Drive-By, Chiens Gone Wild, A Unique Chateau Garden Festival, There’s No Place Like Gnome, The Wild Goose Chase To A Winery, A Chat With Kim and No Reserves At Reserve Even though we had a long day ahead of us, I must admit it was difficult to leave Manoir de la Maison Blanche on a slightly drizzly Thursday morning. That’s because our gracious hostess, Annick, prepares a breakfast spread fit for a King (or even a lowly Knight like Sir Bleed-A-Lot) and it is served in a lovely room overlooking the spacious grounds. There were breads from … Read more…

Chapter Ten: da Vinci, Dueling Gardens & More da Vinci

Chapter Ten: da Vinci, Dueling Gardens & More da Vinci Day Eleven – Casa de Leonardo, A Walk In The Park, We’ll Cross That River When We Come To It, Belles Fleurs, Da Vinci’s Final Resting Place, Is That Liz Taylor, In The Annick Of Time, Bruno Redux And How Much Is That Little Kitten In The Window Just a little after 8:15, four people, with an appetite larger than Annick’s horses, waddled into the breakfast room at Manoir de la Maison Blanche.  She might as well have put a trough in front of my face as I filled up on brioche and croissants slathered in her homemade jam. I just couldn’t say “neigh” to anything. The other three thought … Read more…

Chapter Eleven: Azay, Joan, Eleanore & Angers

Chapter Eleven:  Azay, Joan, Eleanore & Angers Day Twelve – Boar Wars, A Chateau That Floats, Traveling In Joan Of Arc’s Footsteps (Without The Fire), Eleanor Really, Don’t Look Back In Angers, Get Me To The Church On Time and A Ferme Decision For Dinner It was time for one last Gorge-athon for breakfast at Manoir de la Maison Blanche, and after saying goodbye to Annick, the horses, cats and dogs we were on our way to Angers, with a few stops scheduled along the way. Only Mary looked wide awake.                             Annick had been nice enough to purchase a “brioche for the road” for us.  She must have sensed we needed to eat every half … Read more…

Chapter Twelve: Mont St-Michel & Bayeux

Chapter Twelve:  Mont St-Michel & Bayeux Day Thirteen – The Road Less Traveled, Stairway To Heaven, Sermon On The Mont, Addressing An Oversight, How Much Duck Could A Wood Duck Chuck, Another Oasis In A City and You Mean We Have To Walk This Far Again For Dinner My iPhone awoke us promptly at 6:45 a.m., blaring out the Old Car Horn sound (yes, I am a joy to travel with), and a little before 8 a.m. the four of us trudged through the lobby of the Hotel Continental. Although we didn’t eat there, the smell of the still baking croissants was quite enticing. Driving out of Angers on Sunday morning, the vibrant city of the night before was gone, … Read more…

Chapter Thirteen: Bayeux Tapestry & Arromanches

Chapter Thirteen:  Bayeux Tapestry & Arromanches Day Fourteen – I’m From The United States…of Canada, An Astounding Cathedral, My Favorite Tapestry Minus Carole King, What A Way To Go, Any Port In A Storm Of War, A Senior Moment, D-Day 360, Honoring The British and Perhaps The Best French Onion Soup…Ever It was raining pretty hard when we woke up on Monday morning, but by the time the four of us had dressed and piled into the car, there was just a slight drizzle. We drove into Bayeux, parked and walked a short distance to get some croissants, sweets and café. Plopping down at our table, we were seated next to a couple from England and within minutes we were … Read more…

Chapter Fourteen: Remembering D-Day

Chapter Fourteen:  Remembering D-Day Day Fifteen – Walking In The Footsteps Of History, Germ Warfare, Checking Out the City of Bayeux Plus An Inventive and Incroyable Dinner Up early, the four of us walked through our countryside estate, said hello to the swans (the ducks were sleeping…or hiding) and strolled down to the Place de Quebec (maybe that’s why Mary thought we were Canadians yesterday), where, at a little before 8:30 a.m., we were to be met by our guide from Overlord Tours who would take the four of us (and three others) on a half day tour of D-Day sites.                                         … Read more…

Chapter Fifteen: An Impressionistic Harbor Town

Chapter Fifteen:  An Impressionistic Harbor Town Day Sixteen – Harboring Four Americans, Is That A Boat Or A Church, Killer Caramel Crepes, Dancing In The Street, Death Stairs 2012, What’s This Tree Doing In My Shower, Not Dine But Dash and The Perfect Way To Spend An Evening Goodbye Château de Bellefontaine. On an overcast Wednesday morning, the four intrepid travelers were off to our next locale, which would just be a short one-night stand (ah, the college days..oops, excuse me) in the cute town of Honfleur, where Tracy and I had also had a one-night stand (of a different sort) in 1998.                                              It only took … Read more…

Chapter Sixteen: Return To Paris

Chapter Sixteen:  Return To Paris Day Seventeen – Mr. Maitai’s Wild Ride, Lane Violation, Where The Hell Did They Put Our Rental Car Agency, Dining In The Rain, The Good Samaritan, Service With A Smile, The Rue You-Know-What, Fancy Meeting You Here and A Return To Ray Romano’s Restaurant After deftly avoiding the tree in my shower, it was time for breakfast at La cour sainte Catherine’s beautiful dining area. Tracy and I carefully walked down our stairs not wanting to disturb the mushrooms.                             As a noisy (and thirsty), cute chat noir rambled around the lovely breakfast room at La cour sainte Catherine, we all sat down at a table thankful that no one had fallen into the street … Read more…

Chapter Seventeen: A Beautiful Day In Paris

Chapter Seventeen:  A Beautiful Day In Paris Day Eighteen – No Room At The Top, Sac It To Me, Break On Through To The Other Side, Finally Some Beef Bourguignon, Fancy Meeting You Here…Again, Organ Concert, My Favorite View Of Paris, Damn We Should Have Gone Here Today and Getting Ready For Our Final Day While Kim and Mary slept in a bit, Tracy and I hit the pavement in search of…well when walking in Paris “in search of” means whatever comes next. As I have said, I really wanted to climb to the top of Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris since it was something I had done nearly every decade of my life. After walking a few blocks, I … Read more…

Chapter Eighteen: Our Bloody Good Final Day In Paris

 Chapter Eighteen:  Our Bloody Good Final Day In Paris Days Nineteen and Twenty – Planteé Lovely, Free Musée, The Butt Heard Round The World, Your Table Has Waited For You, One Last Look At History, This Sure Beats The Water Lilies, Shop Till We Drop, I See Dead People, Dinner With An Attitude and Au Revoir Beautiful Paris/Bonjour LAX Hell  Never in a million years would I think that one my all-time favorite day of meals would actually begin with a quick stop at McDonald’s, but when this group needs caffeine, it’s any port in a storm. Showing my disappointment with our stop below (ok, I might have not been that sad to be in McDonald’s), I bought a café … Read more…