France 2016

bonnieux-1The Roads Less Traveled: Traversing France With Mai Tai Tom & Tracy

Tracy and I took to the road (always a dangerous proposition with me behind the wheel) for most of our nearly three-week trip to France. The trip took us on the highways and back roads through Burgundy, Provence and Languedoc, before boarding our train for the last four days in Paris. Driving was an adventure, and Tracy doesn’t know how we navigated Europe without GPS in previous years. (although our British lady did abandon us occasionally, making for a few unforgettable moments).  From gorgeous scenery to ancient wonders to charming towns dotting the countryside to the incredible food and wine, we had the great fortune of enjoying 18 wonderful days exploring many places we had never ventured before.  Thanks for joining us on this marvelous journey.

Chapter One: We Make It To Burgundy…Finally!

Chapter One:  We Make It To Burgundy…Finally! My sister believes that had I been born 25 years later, I probably would have been prescribed Ritalin. I suppose that’s why I’ve never been characterized as a “Slow Traveler.” In our ardent attempt to “stop and smell the vineyards” on our Autumn 2016 journey to Burgundy, Provence, Languedoc and Paris, Tracy and I did our level best to relax.  Really, we did!  I even set the alarm as late as almost 9 a.m. one morning.                          On our three week expedition, we spent one day (well, make that really just barely a night…thanks CDG & EuropCar) in Auxerre, three nights in Beaune, three nights in Bonnieux, … Read more…

Chapter Two: Witnessing History On The Drive To Beaune

Chapter Two:  Witnessing History On The Drive To Beaune Day Two: No Way Vézelay, Where’s Orson Welles, Please Don’t Pee In Our Photo, The Chateau Less Visited, Gosh I Didn’t See That Sign, Do You Know The Way To Fontenay, We’re On The Road To Nowhere, Dear Abbaye, Sure Now I Hit The Red Button, I Got A Beaune To Pick, B&B Heaven, An exCEPtional Hotel Bar, Meeting Friends, Dinner In The Golden Arches and Nightcaps With Paco Ostensibly, after a good night’s sleep, my plan was to head down early to a UNESCO World Heritage site, Abbaye Sainte-Marie-Madeleine de Vézelay, to start a busy driving day. My heart had been set on visiting this abbey, but dropping dead early … Read more…

Chapter Three: Checking Out Beaune…From Above and Below

Chapter Three:  Checking Out Beaune…From Above and Below Day Three: MaiTai and The Amazing Technicolor Roof, Second To Nun, Our Man Rogier, Woman Of The Cloths, It’s All About The Tapestries, The “Elevator List” Revisited, Historic Cellars, Wine In Our Spacious Backyard & Dinner At The God Of The Grape Harvest With that final Rusty Nail dancing in my head, I awoke relatively early so I could plop myself down in the nearby breakfast room of Les Jardins de Loïs.  A few cups of coffee later and filled with some breakfast goodies, Tracy (who had joined me) and I were ready to stroll over to the Hospices de Beaune/Hôtel-Dieu de Beaune. After breakfast, I ran into Phillipe in the driveway … Read more…

Chapter Four: Dijon Cuts The Mustard

Chapter Four: Dijon Cuts The Mustard Day Four – Scrambling For Breakfast, The Elusive Dijon Parking Lot, Heart-Stopping Climb, The Tomb Room, Owl Be Damned, Aztec Wishes, Not So Grand Cru, Not My Cup Of Wine, Oh That Wasn’t Our Bottle, A Looney Tunes Dinner and Last Call Up early (sorry Tracy).  Although I enjoy bread, cheese, jam and calories as much as the next guy, on this morning I needed to hold back on my carb intake, and the lovely folks at Les Jardins de Loïs provided me with a hearty helping of scrambled eggs. Sadly, their croissants and jam are so good here, I ate those, too, so my non-carb diet stayed consistent.  It did, however, give me … Read more…

Chapter Five: We Head To Provence

Chapter Five: We Head To Provence Day Five: “Diesel” Or “Diesel”, Shut Out At Obi-Wan Kenobi, Never Pick The First Restaurant You See, Lost In Translation, Chicken Or Beef, It Helps To Have The Address, Room With A View, Beautiful Bonnieux, Circuitous Dinner Route, Dining Delight and Carrying A Torch It was time to leave Beaune, but not before consuming vast amounts of Les Jardins de Loïs’s great croissants and jam. I reiterate; this is one of the finest lodgings we have stayed anywhere in Europe!  The gate opened, and we were on our way. Our destination was Bonnieux in the Luberon area of Provence. Tooling down the highway, I noticed we were in need of petrol, something that always … Read more…

Chapter Six: Looping The Lovely Luberon

Chapter Six: Looping The Lovely Luberon Day Six – Mr. Belvedere, Wine Sale, Seeing Red, Frankenstein Goes Hiking, Another Sleepy Town, Take My Restaurant Recommendation With A Grain Of Salt, Going Cucu, Do We Need To Buy Them a Gift, Chateau Diversion, Finally A Busy Town, Chasing Camus, Sunset To Remember, Hail Cesar, Trump’s Detective Cousin and An Impromptu Meeting Of The United Nations Promptly at 9 a.m. we sat down for a quick breakfast of croissants, jam, cheese, ham, bread and coffee (starting to have a familiar ring, eh?) at Les Terrasses du Luberon. Then, donning my “Squirrel Whisperer” t-shirt, we were off to a gorgeous village where we might be afforded the opportunity to take a hike (something … Read more…

Chapter Seven: Old Bridge, Old Popes, Old Town, Old Man!

Chapter Seven:  Old Bridge, Old Popes, Old Town, Old Man! Day Seven – Pont Diversion, Papes Goes The Palace, A Tour We Could Have Skipped, Stop All These Weddings, Solemn Ceremony, How Art Thou, A Bridge Too Far…and Too Short, Going Out Of My Gordes, Better From The Road, Lavender-less Abbey, Does The Gift Store Have a Defibrillator, Tracy Takes The Wheel, More Deserted Hill Towns and Dinner Is Not For Nil Our last day in Provence…On a picture-perfect Sunday morning, we had a quick breakfast because we were going to the big city; well, a bigger city anyway…Avignon. Tracy and I had paid a quick visit to Avignon in 1998, and truthfully the only thing I remembered about it … Read more…

Chapter Eight: Waterwheels, On Gard & Uzés

Chapter Eight: Waterwheels, On Gard & Uzés Day Eight – Brexit Chat, Big Wheels, On Gard, Paging Ned Beatty, Circling Uzés, Always Best To Check Your Emails, Castle Keep, Is That The Leaning Tower Of Pisa, Patio Perfect and The “Important American” After chatting with some Brits about Brexit (they were the only Brits we met on the trip in favor of it), we were on our way to Uzés, but not without a couple of stops along the way. About a half an hour from Bonnieux, we detoured to what some people call “The Antique Capital of Provence, Isle-sur-la-Sorgue.”  Fortunately it was a Monday morning, and nearly all the stores were closed, plus Tracy was traveling with her own … Read more…

Chapter Nine: Cave Exploration, Gas Problems & More Of Uzés

Chapter Nine:  Cave Exploration, Gas Problems & More Of Uzés Day Nine – Breakfast in Paradise, Are You Sure This Is Right, Private Tour, It’s The Statue of Liberty, Lit Up, Road Block, Nurses Aid and Pay Pal, Médiéval Jardin, A Sad Day For MaiTai, Castle Keep…Out and Never Drink This Before Dinner Ah, the good life. We took our breakfast on the patio of L’Albiousse, where we gorged ourselves on fresh banana nut muffins, fresh fruit cocktail, yogurt and coffee. I was ready for a nap after that, but Tracy reminded me we had just woke up. In order to circumvent the Deliverance area, Guillam provided a paper map as back up, and we were on our way to … Read more…

Chapter Ten – Ruins & Doins in Two Historic French Towns

Chapter Ten – Ruins & Doins in Two Historic French Towns Day Ten – Getting Agrippa on Nîmes, The MaiTais In Ruins, This Old House, A Walk Through A Vomitory, Canal Zone, Tour Of Death Heat March, Get Me To The Tour On Time, Stay By Me Diana, Salt Of The Earth, Our GPS Aigues Me On, Stop! Stop! Stop!, You Could Burn Up Here, Ramparts Last Gleaming, Hop On In, Will the Car Fit, Church Bells Are Ringing and Please Join Us. I must admit that L’Albiousse’s chocolate muffins, along with yogurt  with apricot & lavender that topped our fresh chopped fruit made it difficult to leave Uzés, but we had a long day ahead of us visiting two … Read more…

Chapter Eleven – Languedoc Loop

Chapter Eleven – Languedoc Loop Day Eleven – Babette’s Feast, Another Old Bridge, UNESCO Abbey That Has Parts In New York, You Mean This Isn’t A Vegas Circus, Old Man Climbing Deterrence: Part Deux, A Lunch Setting Perfect For A Movie, Drive Around The Lac, Wine Salvation, Vats In The Belfry, I Don’t Think We’ll Fit, Rooftop Time, Without A Kir In The World and Dinner on The Square Eat. Sleep. Eat.  It’s tough to travel, especially when your pants are getting tighter and tighter. Although I hadn’t quite digested that last bite of Baba au rhum from the previous evening, Tracy and I ventured into Babette’s gorgeous salon for our breakfast consisting of chopped fruit, yogurt, ham, cheese, croissants, … Read more…

Chapter Twelve – Meandering Through Montpellier

Chapter Twelve – Meandering Through Montpellier Day Twelve – This Drop Off Ain’t No Drop Off, Comedie Central, What’s This Wet Stuff, Monet’s Talented Friend, I Don’t Think You Smoked The Entire Pack Yet, Montpellier Meanderings, How Art Thou, We’re #1 & One Of The Joys Of Traveling Another great breakfast… …and we were off early to scope out the capital of the Languedoc-Roussillon region, Montpellier, but first Tracy and I had a job to do. When we had picked up the car at CDG, the Europcar guy had given us the address in Montpellier to drop the car on the morning we were to head out on the train back to Paris.  To make things easy that day, we … Read more…

Chapter Thirteen – Medieval Cité de Carcassonne

Chapter Thirteen – Medieval Cité de Carcassonne Day Thirteen – Beating The Crowds, Did She Really Throw A Pig, Yep…More Ramparts, Where’s Hugh, The Russians Are Coming, Morning Cassoulet/Wine Tasting Event, Not Ducky, Where’s That Church?, Picture Perfect, Pézenas Stroll, Napa Sellers and Dinner Deconstructed Yesterday we headed east.  Today it was “Go West Old Man,” to the even older (and UNESCO World Heritage Site) town of Carcassonne.  It was our grayest day so far as we left Pézenas.                       After parking, we walked the short distance to the medieval Cité de Carcassonne entrance (filling up with tourists early) and realized Donald Trump had already beaten us here, because it is … Read more…

Chapter Fourteen – Leisurely Languedoc Sunday Drive

Chapter Fourteen – Leisurely Languedoc Sunday Drive Day Fourteen: Wine Wine And More Wine, Taking A Sunday Drive, Sensational Scenery, Are We At The Marigold Hotel, Chateau Of Disrepair, Rekindling The Memory Of Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Stockholm Syndrome, Brits Galore and We’re Ready For The Big City On a very gray morning, Tracy and I had to make a choice: Did we want to take a long drive to the Gorges du Tarn, or a much shorter loop to small towns and gorge ourselves for lunch? We chose the latter as five or six hours of driving didn’t have much allure, especially since rain had been predicted. Our early Sunday drive would take us to the towns of Roquebrun, Cepes and … Read more…

Chapter Fifteen – “We’ll Always Have Paris”

Chapter Fifteen – “We’ll Always Have Paris” Day Fifteen: On Track To Paris, Camille Appeal, Oh How I Love The French, Timing Is Everything, “284 Steps…Only”, Slip Up or Have A Nice Trip, The I Fell Tower, Bruised Ego (any other things), We Are The Champs, That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles, The Garden of Two Larrys, Supertramp Armed Guards, Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Soup, Jewel Heist and Our Most Comfortable Bed In addition to my AVADD (Adult Vacation Attention Deficit Disorder), I am also afflicted with DMTTD (Don’t Miss The Train Disorder).  We had a 9:26 departure from Montpellier to Paris, but thanks to my fear of missing trains, Tracy and I were the first people in Pézenas … Read more…

Chapter Sixteen – Crisscrossing Paris & A Walk In The Parc

Chapter Sixteen – Crisscrossing Paris & A Walk In The Parc Day Sixteen – Behind The Red Door, No Not Cognac, You Can Call Me Jay, Ifs Ands & Buttes, Going To Temple, Hip To Be Square, Dante’s Infernal, Strollin’ On A Sunny Afternoon, Let Me “Think” About That, Tower Of Power, The Apple Of Our Eye and That’s Aligot It was time to lace up the walking shoes. No more relaxing for us (although we did sleep in until after 8).  After dropping off some laundry so we’d have clean clothes for our flight home, Tracy and I stopped in to the nearby historic church.  I guess it was in the Cards for us to visit a church named … Read more…

Chapter Seventeen – Nous Visitons Deux Châteaux Marveilleux

Chapter Seventeen – Nous Visitons Deux Châteaux Marveilleux Day Seventeen – Why Are My Legs So Sore, Picture Perfect Morning, Hop On The Bus, André Le Nôtre’s Park, Don’t Overshadow The King, The Man In The Iron Mask?, Another Incredible Chateau, Versailles Moves To Third Place, What A Backyard, Where’s The Bus? and MaiTaiTom & MaitaiTracy’s Favorite Parisian Restaurant Yesterday’s 12 miles of walking had its effect on my legs as we started an early morning stroll through the Garden of the Two Larrys.  We were there early because we had a 9:15 bus to catch. And what a gorgeous morning it was! Tracy and I shot a few photos and then headed over to the ParisCityVision office to catch … Read more…

Chapter Eighteen – Last Tango In Paris

Chapter Eighteen – Last Tango In Paris Day Eighteen – The InTents Place de la Concorde, I’m Thinking Here, Sac It To Me, Canal Zone, Master Locks, Where’s The Beef, I’m Here For The Soup, Mai Tai Tracy’s Kitchen Suffers A Setback, Dinner Outside My Comfort Zone, The CDG Macaron Thief, No Oxygen Required and Final Thoughts We woke up early realizing this would be our last day in France, and for the fourth consecutive day the weather in Paris was our best friend.   After a much needed coffee and pastry, it was back on the metro and before you could say “I really need another Pain au Chocolat,” we were standing on the Pont de la Concorde, looking out … Read more…