A Travellerspoint blog

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Our trip starts in California, USA

From San Francisco to Bordeaux, the Basque country, Carcassonne, the Dordogne and two short stops in the Loire Valley


View Bordeaux, Basque country and the Dordogne 2017 on Beausoleil's travel map.

The plan was to revisit friends in the Loire Valley and then spend a few days in Bordeaux. We hadn't visited the French Basque country so that was next on our agenda and included a trip to Bilbao, Spain to visit the Guggenheim Museum there. My husband has always wanted to spend the night in the Cité of old Carcassonne to see it lit up at night so we did and found a great restaurant in the process. Then I found a gite on a sheep farm between Cahors and St. Cirq Lapopie for a week. We love the Dordogne and decided to explore a slightly more western part of it this time so rented another gite directly in the Plus Beau Village of Limeuil for a week and then drove back to our friends' place in the Loire before we faced the long plane ride home.

Day 1 — Sept. 5, 2017 (Tuesday)

Finished packing, ate breakfast and cleaned up, then said good-bye to Mimi, our perfect kitty. Kelly will be here to keep her company this afternoon. Tossed everything in the car and left for San Francisco forty minutes early. We had gone about five miles on Baseline Road when traffic came to a stop . . . and stayed that way! An hour later we reached route 99 and continued our trip . . . no longer forty minutes early. That was the first of several accidents we passed, but we managed to arrive at Peg’s only about a half hour late. She drove us to the BART station and the real adventure began.

No delays on BART and an hour later we were at the airport. We hiked to Air France and were ushered right to an agent. I had printed our boarding passes, luggage tags and receipts so she checked passports, weighed the bags and put the tags in a cute plastic holder. We were fast-tracked through Security . . . very easy . . . shoes on, coats on, computer stashed. Off to the gate . . . naturally the very last gate. We found seats by an electric outlet and I plugged in my Kindle and started reading. At one point Ed got us a sandwich to split and eventually we started boarding. The plane was a huge Airbus completely full and the easiest boarding we’ve had. One screaming child up front, but blessedly it finally fell asleep. Very easy but long flight. Not much sleep. I read Jean’s birthday book but finished it before we got to the Atlantic Ocean . . . long trip.

Lost in Paris, we finally found ourselves at Place de la Bastille

Lost in Paris, we finally found ourselves at Place de la Bastille

Day 2 — Sept. 6, 2017 (Wednesday)

Landed in Paris a few minutes early. Walked miles to the luggage carousel and waited. Both bags arrived and I called TT Car to come and pick us up. By the time we walked over, he was there. Wow! We got our little Peugeot and the nice young man showed me how to work the GPS and we were off.

That’s when “easy” ended. Stupid GPS took us all over the airport to get to a gas station about a mile away. I finally recognized it from Google Maps and got us there by ignoring the GPS. Ed gassed up the car and we set the GPS for Rebecca and Phillip's. This GPS isn’t too bright . . . it says second exit when it’s the third, and once said fourth exit when it was the first . . . maddening. Finally at one point (and we could hardly hear it), it said to keep left and bear right with about six roads of two to six lanes each merging. I told Ed we had a right coming up and to get in the right lane. No sooner did he do this than the lane we’d been in veered south and we were headed straight into central Paris. AAAGH! A very nice older Frenchman let us in front of him and we made it through the chaotic intersection but the poor GPS was more confused than we were at this point. We drove around and through Paris. At one point I looked up and realized I was seeing the monument at Place de la Bastille. We passed the Paris Opera, the new green mall, Les Docks at Quai d'Austerlitz and the new Bibliotèque Nationale. Eventually the adventure ended and we were headed south to Montrichard but after a 10+ hour trip and no sleep, it was a rather harrowing experience. I felt very guilty. Ed never mentioned it, bless his heart . . .

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France from the Peripherique

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France from the Peripherique

View of Blois across the river Loire

View of Blois across the river Loire


The rest of the trip was blessedly uneventful and we arrived at Sackers around five o’clock. They welcomed us, caught us up on their family and showed us our room. We had reservations at Hotel Bellevue at 7:15 and opened the restaurant. I ordered the souris d’agneau and Ed the coq au vin, but as it turned out, there was no coq au vin so he got the lamb too. As usual, it was excellent. Ed got the crème brulée for dessert and I got profiterolles. The view out onto the river Cher was beautiful as always. Domaine de la Chapelle, gite and B&B; 1 route des Maugeres, 41400 Faverolles-sur-Cher; tel: +33 (0)2 5432-5848. Domaine de la Chapelle web site

Bridge over the river Cher at Montrichard

Bridge over the river Cher at Montrichard


We returned for some desperately needed sleep. I couldn’t get my phone set up for wifi and finally gave up until morning. My credit card wasn’t working and the Internet was so slow Ed couldn’t contact them. There is also a nine-hour time difference from home.

Domaine de la Chapelle near Montrichard

Domaine de la Chapelle near Montrichard

Posted by Beausoleil 14:28 Archived in France Tagged airport transportation san_francisco sfo bart Comments (2)

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau and some lovely old cars

Day 3 — Sept. 7, 2017 (Thursday and Jean’s birthday)


View Bordeaux, Basque country and the Dordogne 2017 on Beausoleil's travel map.

Château Azay-le-Rideau, one of my favorites

Château Azay-le-Rideau, one of my favorites


Slept until 8:30 . . . felt great! Fought with my phone for a while and finally gave up to go eat breakfast. We ate in the conservatory and it was lovely. Returned to our room and got the phone recharged using Ed’s credit card. Before we left, he called the card people about the trip and I guess they only listed his card and not mine even though it’s the exact same account. Since they gave us separate numbers on the same account a year ago, it’s been a nuisance. We never had problems before. Sometimes you wish people would stop “improving” things.

It was late so we decided to save Chambord for tomorrow and headed to Azay-le-Rideau. I had a map and GPS and it still took over two hours (and a beautiful drive) to get there. In the process, I managed to raise the volume of the GPS so we can now hear it with the windows open, so we got it to avoid toll roads.

*****

Street outside Hotel les Trois Lys Restaurant in Azay-le-Rideau

Street outside Hotel les Trois Lys Restaurant in Azay-le-Rideau


Got lost multiple times but drove through some really beautiful villages and along the Cher and Indre rivers. Finally arrived in Azay and got a parking place. Walked up to Le Ridelloise for lunch and it was closed . . . forever! So sad. We headed further into town and found the Logis de France Hotel les Trois Lys Restaurant. Knowing Logis de France has good restaurants, we entered near the end of the sacred lunch time. No problem. We were seated by a window where we enjoyed a horse and carriage filled with tourists clopping by regularly. Fun! We both opted for the sandre that came with a more-than-generous serving of cold ratatouille. We got a fudgy chocolate cake in créme anglais with raspberry sauce for dessert and I skipped coffee so we could get to the château. [Hotel les Trois Lys Restaurant, 2 Rue du Château, 37190 Azay-le-Rideau; tel: +33 (0)2 4773-8068] Hotel les Trois Lys Restaurant web site

*****

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

Château d'Azay-le-Rideau

Walked on to the château and found a display of old cars at the entrance. Must be a car group touring together. I took pictures. Rebecca and Phillip gave us discount tickets that we used at the château and entered the grounds and wedding-cake castle. We haven’t visited Château Azay-le-Rideau since 2006 and they have been busy bees. They’ve added a lot of furniture and beautiful new drapes and upholstery along with lots of interpretive signs. Finished and walked around the small castle enjoying other tourists, gardens and waterfalls. Azay is so lovely. [Château d'Azay-le-Rideau, Rue de Pineau, 37190 Azay-le-Rideau; tel: +33 (0)2 4745-4204] Château d'Azay-le-Rideau web site

Impromptu Car show at Château Azay-le-Rideau

Impromptu Car show at Château Azay-le-Rideau

Impromptu Car show at Château Azay-le-Rideau

Impromptu Car show at Château Azay-le-Rideau

Carriage rides at Château Azay-le-Rideau

Carriage rides at Château Azay-le-Rideau

Église Saint-Symphorien behind Château Azay-le-Rideau

Église Saint-Symphorien behind Château Azay-le-Rideau

Café at Château Azay-le-Rideau (former stables)

Café at Château Azay-le-Rideau (former stables)

By now it was five o’clock so we decided to skip Villandry and head home. We stuck with the GPS and it did skirt south of Tours and got us home pretty quickly but missed all the cute villages on the way.

I charged all the electronics and checked email. Finally got hold of Charles on my phone and then emailed LeFrench Mobile asking for help setting up my online account. Finally started my Journal and we skipped dinner to get some sleep. Hooray!

Posted by Beausoleil 14:29 Archived in France Tagged azay-le-rideau Comments (2)

Château de Chambord and the Equestrian Show

Day 4 — Sept. 8, 2017 (Friday)


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Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley

Château de Chambord in the Loire Valley

Got up at a more reasonable time today so we were the first ones at breakfast. Chatted with Rebecca and Phillip for a while and then headed for Château de Chambord in the very lightest mist. The GPS worked like a dream and took us straight to the château parking. Somehow Ed knew Parking 0 was nearest the château and on a rainy weekday, we had no trouble finding a place. We parked and got a day pass and walked around to the stables for the raptor and equestrian show. We found rather damp seats and joined the others waiting. Eventually a man came out and herded us all into a larger arena so we managed front row seats behind the King and Queen.

*****

Château de Chambord, Entrance to the Equestrian Show behind the château

Château de Chambord, Entrance to the Equestrian Show behind the château

*****

]Château de Chambord Equestrian Show - Entrance of the King and Queen

Château de Chambord Equestrian Show - Entrance of the King and Queen


It was a truly fun show by actors who ride well (or riders who act well) and one falconer and his feathered friends. Like a play, there were several acts or chapters, all but one featuring the horses. The giant book was a backdrop and the pages were turned at the end of each chapter. We started with a joust and at one point had Saracen riders doing stunts. The woman rider who doubled as the Queen was a fantastic rider and in the Saracen scene even stood up on her horse. There were quite a few birds including a beautiful bald eagle. I almost ended up with a vulture in my hair at one point courtesy of sitting in the front row. French TV3 was there filming the show so the riders outdid themselves.

The Market Wagon Chapter (note the large book backdrop

The Market Wagon Chapter (note the large book backdrop

The Market Wagon Chapter

The Market Wagon Chapter

The Joust Chapter

The Joust Chapter

The Battle Chapter

The Battle Chapter

The Death in Battle Chapter

The Death in Battle Chapter

The Death in Battle Chapter

The Death in Battle Chapter

The Saracen Riders Chapter

The Saracen Riders Chapter

Château Chambord - the famous double helix staircase

Château Chambord - the famous double helix staircase


After the show, we had a sandwich at the snack stand and then started through the largest château in the Loire. They’ve added a lot of furniture and exhibits since our last visit so it was more fun this time. We climbed the double helix staircase to the roof where there was a wedding. Got pictures! [Château de Chambord, tel: +33 (0)2 5450-4000] Château de Chambord web site

Château Chambord stairway from the roof

Château Chambord stairway from the roof

Château Chambord - The Church

Château Chambord - The Church


Climbed back down and walked over to the château church and thence to parking where we paid and headed home. We stopped at a pharmacy in Montrichard for hydrogen peroxide and band aids, then to the B&B to relax before dinner. Ed caught up on news and I transferred photos to my computer and wrote my journal.

*****

La Villa Restaurant in Montrichard - dessert

La Villa Restaurant in Montrichard - dessert



Back in Montrichard we checked a couple places and decided on La Villa recommended by Carol Lynn and David. We had two really nice waitresses and a wonderful meal. The ice cream dessert was served in crazy cups shaped like exotic birds. Jean would have loved them! [La Villa Restaurant, 34 Rue de Sully, 41400 Montrichard; tel: +33 (0)2 5432-0734]

‘Twas quite late when we got back so we called it a night. Tomorrow . . . Bordeaux.

Posted by Beausoleil 12:31 Archived in France Comments (1)

A long rainy drive to Bordeaux

Day 5 — Sept. 9, 2017 (Saturday)


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Le Moulin Des Aigremonts in the Loire Valley

Le Moulin Des Aigremonts in the Loire Valley


Up early to finish packing and eat breakfast. Phillip said there was quite a storm last night but we slept through it. We said our goodbyes, loaded up the car but as Ed backed out of our parking place, the dashboard console lit up with a warning icon. I can read English and French but I cannot read icons. Ed checked around the car and I leafed through the manual looking for the icon. No luck. Finally, Ed got Phillip who tried the same things with no better luck. He looked at the back of the car and asked if we had a backup warning system. Yes. Suddenly he reached down and removed one small yellow leaf stuck to the back bumper and the console warning light immediately returned to normal. The wet leaf, blown down by the storm, had landed exactly on the tiny sensor in the back bumper. You can hardly see the sensor, but there it was . . .

*****

Driving through the rain near Saint-Jean-d'Angély

Driving through the rain near Saint-Jean-d'Angély

Car and GPS working, we said goodbye again and headed for Bordeaux. It’s a long drive on the AutoRoute with Saturday vacation traffic and periodic rain, some very hard, but we finally arrived in Bordeaux around three o’clock in the afternoon. There was construction on a main bridge which was closed to car traffic but the Peugeot GPS insisted we use that bridge. We tried driving further to make the GPS recalculate and it refused. Rather than continue to find ways to get to the same closed bridge, I got out our own Garmin GPS that has no problem recalculating whether you want it to or not. By this time, Ed had found another bridge and Garmin cheerfully told us to use it while the Peugeot GPS still insisted we return to the closed bridge. We crossed the bridge by the new Cité du Vin and suddenly both GPS devices agreed and brought us to our hotel. We had chosen the Ibis Bordeaux Centre Meriadeck because it had parking and we could walk nearly everyplace from there. It also was across the street from a main trolley line. It wasn't a cosy B&B, but it was comfortable enough and the location was perfect.

Cité du Vin in Bordeaux from Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas over the river Garonne

Cité du Vin in Bordeaux from Pont Jacques Chaban Delmas over the river Garonne

*****

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux


Checked in, parked in the hotel garage, semi-unpacked and walked up to the laundromat where a nice lady explained everything. That done, we headed back to the hotel where Ed retrieved our umbrellas and we walked to the cathedral to check Mass times tomorrow. There is only one Mass so we’re going at 10:30.

I took a few pictures in the church and we headed out to find dinner since we had missed lunch. Café Rohan across from the cathedral looked okay and was. Ed got bar (sea bass) and I got veal. The wine was better than the food, but the ice cream was excellent. No coffee . . . plan to sleep tonight. [Le Café Rohan, One Place Pey-Berland 33000 Bordeaux; tel: +33 (0)5 5644-4606; email: lecaferohan@free.fr] Le Café Rohan web site

Back to the hotel to check email, transfer photos and sleep.

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Dinner in Café Rohan by the Cathedral in Bordeaux

Dinner in Café Rohan by the Cathedral in Bordeaux

Posted by Beausoleil 09:34 Archived in France Tagged driving bordeaux loire_valley Comments (1)

Exploring Bordeaux and a visit to the Beaux Arts

Day 6 — Sept. 10, 2017 (Sunday)


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Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux


I forgot to turn off my regular Sunday alarm so we woke up at 5:45, turned off the alarm and went back to sleep. Woke at a more reasonable hour and walked to the local patisserie for breakfast. We made our choices and started to pay when Ed realized he had forgotten his wallet. Oops. We owed 9.95 euros and I only had five. Ed dug some coins out of his pocket but we were still short a little over a euro. They gave it to us . . . and people complain about the French! Obviously, they have never met the French people we have met.

*****

Market at the foot of Tour Pey-Berland in Bordeaux

Market at the foot of Tour Pey-Berland in Bordeaux

We returned to the hotel for Ed’s wallet before heading to Cathedral St. André for Mass. By the church and Tour Pey Berland, the bell tower, there is a Sunday-morning market you walk through to get to the church entrance. The tower is separate from the Cathedral and was built in the 15th-century to provide the cathedral with a large bell without threatening the church structure. The market is small but very busy, has coffee and pastries available and seemed to be popular with the Sunday morning crowd downtown. [Tour Pey Berland, Place Pey-Berland, 33000 Bordeaux; tel: +33 (0)5 5681-2625; Tower of Pey-Berland web site]

Tour Pey-Berland and the Bordeaux Cathedral

Tour Pey-Berland and the Bordeaux Cathedral


Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux

Cathedral St. André in Bordeaux


Inside the church, an obviously regular parishioner sat in front of us and friends greeted her as they entered. One was a very cheery small girl (5ish) in a cute dress and wearing a little white cape. She was chatty in a quiet way and sat on the last seat in the row. A couple times she disappeared and reappeared but on one outing a family (mom, dad and teen daughter) came in and decided on the three end seats in that row so the daughter took the third seat in followed by her mother, but when the father tried to sit down in the end seat, the small girl had returned and bounced into “her” seat. We all laughed and the man was surprised and amused. It was apparent the little girl was not moving so the family of three moved over one more seat. A lady behind them explained the little girl really had been there first. Soon the little girl had charmed the dad and they became great friends. I think he’s ready to be a grandpa!

*****

Porte Dijeaux in Bordeaux

Porte Dijeaux in Bordeaux


After church, Ed volunteered to go get our umbrellas while I waited in the nice dry church, and I saw the friendly lady in front of us leave with the tallest deacon . . . obviously a couple.

Ed returned with the umbrellas and we set off looking for lunch. We walked up rue des Remparts to Porte Dijeaux and went under the triumphal arch (or porte) where we found Café le Dijeaux. We both had the confit de canard which was excellent and washed it down with a Bordeaux . . . what else?! We got dark Valrhona chocolate mousse for dessert and coffee came with a plate of small cookies. A truly fun experience. [Café le Dijeaux, 14 Place Gambetta, 33000 Bordeaux; tel: +33 (0)5 5681-9065; Café le Dijeaux web site]

*****

*****

Installation between buildings at the Bordeaux Fine Arts Museum

Installation between buildings at the Bordeaux Fine Arts Museum

We walked to the Beaux Arts in a light rain, paid and entered. We covered both wings pretty thoroughly. It’s nice enough but not a great collection. They did have a portrait of Rosa Bonheur and a huge unfinished painting of hers (her last) that I really enjoyed. I fell in love with her at the Musée d'Orsay when I saw her huge painting of two teams of oxen plowing a field. You can almost hear the birds in the field. (Labourage nivernais, also called Le Sombrage or Ploughing in Nevers is the painting at the Orsay Museum in Paris.) [Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux, 20 Cours d'Albret, 33000 Bordeaux; tel: +33 (0)5 5610- 2056; Museum of Fine Arts in Bordeaux web site]

Musée des Beaux Arts de Bordeaux

Musée des Beaux Arts de Bordeaux


La Foulaison du blé en Camargue <br />(Treading Wheat in the Camargue) by Rosa Bonheur

La Foulaison du blé en Camargue
(Treading Wheat in the Camargue) by Rosa Bonheur


Portrait of Rosa Bonheur in her studio by the female painter George Achille-Fould<br />Notice the painting behind Rosa; it is her last and unfinished.

Portrait of Rosa Bonheur in her studio by the female painter George Achille-Fould
Notice the painting behind Rosa; it is her last and unfinished.

At rue des Trois-Conils as we walked to rue Ste. Catherine

At rue des Trois-Conils as we walked to rue Ste. Catherine


We left and walked down to rue Ste. Catherine, the ultimate shopping street in Bordeaux. It was jammed with humanity including bicycles and scooters . . . very crowded, very festive, very busy, very overwhelming. It was so crowded I didn't even take any pictures because I was too busy trying not to be bumped.

We walked as far as rue Victor Hugo and headed back to the hotel since I was quickly wearing out. When it comes to shop-til-you-drop, I drop pretty quickly.

Tribunal de Grande Instance de Bordeaux<br />that is attached to the ancient Château du Hâ

Tribunal de Grande Instance de Bordeaux
that is attached to the ancient Château du Hâ


Checked email and transferred photos. Got an email from Carol Lynn. She and David are enjoying Venice and their tour starts tomorrow. She sent a photo of them in a gondola. They looked very happy. We're spending the day at the Cité du Vin tomorrow so we should be very happy too.

Posted by Beausoleil 14:53 Archived in France Tagged museums cathedral bordeaux Comments (3)

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