Category Archives: Trip Report

Visiting Southern France in Winter, Episode 148

My guest today is Christine Hegerty from Australia, and she joins me today to talk about visiting Southern France in winter. They started their trip in Nice and exited the country via the Basque Country, so they really went all the way across.

What is it like in France in the winter? Are the weather conditions good enough for touring? Aren’t most attractions closed? Christine answers all my questions and brings a lot of zest and astute observations about visiting southern France in winter.

Places Mentioned in this Episode: Nice, Toulouse, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Nîmes, Pont du Gard, Uzès, Montpellier, Carcassonne, Mirepoix, Forges de Pyrène, Grotte de Niaux, Foix, Camon (09), Rennes-le-Château, Carla-Bayle, Grotte du Mas d’Asil, Toulouse,  Albi and the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Moissac, Bordeaux, San-Sebastian, New Caledonia.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

Visiting France in winter, Christine and husband

Visiting Southern France in Winter, Episode 148

Episode Highlights with Timestamps

  • [7’15] Why did you choose to come to France in the winter?
  • [8’50] What sort of weather did you encounter?
  • [10’30] Flying into Nice instead of Paris
  • [12’30] Finding accommodations where we could park a car + using a car elevator in Toulouse
  • [15′] A lovely cooking class in Nice
  • [22′] Panisse and Socca, food specialties from Nice
  • [23′] Aix-en-Provence and Marseille by Regional Bus
  • [24′] Cours Mirabeau, Les Deux Garçons, and the Christmas Market in Aix-en-Provence
  • [24’45] A day in Marseille: Musée d’Histoire de Marseille, great street for restaurants, rue Sainte, lunch at Les Echevins (best steak ever says John!),
  • [28’30] Walking tour with a volunteer greeter, meeting on Quai des Belges in Marseille, a look at the Mirror Pavilion by Foster
  • [30′] Musée Archéologique de Marseille in Le Panier
  • [31’45] Marseille City Greeters
  • [33’06] Lovely Tea House called Cup of Tea, tea shop and book shop
  • [34′] Great food in Marseille, and not just Bouillabaisse!
  • [35′] The realities of planing a trip from home vs. taking the trip: cutting things out
  • [36′] Worries about leaving luggage in the car and Annie’s recommendation about that
  • [37’48] Two nights in Nîmes and what they loved about it: les Arênes de Nîme, la Maison Carrée
  • [39′] Carré d’Art by Norman Foster in Nîmes, a great place for photography, among other things
  • [40′] Stumbling Upon a light show projected on the Maison Carrée in Nîmes. This happens a lot around Christmas, not just in Nîmes, but in other French cities too.
  • [42′] Around Christmas is busy for people, but tourist attractions are empty.
  • [43′] Pont du Gard and getting lost looking for it. Don’t set your GPS to the village called Vers-Pont-du-Gard. Set your GPS to either the attraction called Pont du Gard OR the village of Remoulins or Collias.
  • [46′] Lunch at Uzès on Place  Aux Herbes, great place to spend a couple of hours.
  • [47′] Tour Magne, Le Jardin de la Fontaine, le Temple de Diane in Nîmes
  • [48′] Montpellier, a large and charming city. Air B&B apartment that used to be a butcher’s shop for one night.
  • [50′] Musée du Vieux Montpellier, running into churches with Crêches and Santons, and
  • [50’30] More podcast listeners eating at L’Entrecôte, they should sponsor the show!
  • [52′] What’s nearby? Sète, Camargue
  • [53’30] Daylight hours are shorter in winter, fewer hours for touring.
  • [53’47] Christmas in Carcassonne, lunch at the Michelin Star at the Hôtel de la Cité, La Barbacane.
  • [57’39] Carcassonne is not busy and crowded in the winter, and certainly not on Christmas Day!
  • [58’33] The Christmas Market in Carcassonne.
  • [62′] Staying in Mirepoix for one week.
  • [65′] New Year’s Even in Mirepoix, le Réveillon de la Saint-Sylvestre with a group of all-French people who didn’t speak English! <–Funny
  • [68′] Typical New Year’s Eve celebrations in France
  • [72′] Attractions near Mirepoix: Montsegur (Cathat, hike), Les Forges de Pyrène (demonstrations of old techniques), Grotte de Niaux (painted caves), Foix (hike).
  • [78′] Most Beautiful Villages in France: Camon. Beautiful but completely empty this time of year. This is an obvious problem with visiting southern France in winter: many things are closed!
  • [80′] The Arriège is a part of France that doesn’t get a lot of tourists any time of the year, and in the middle of the winter, you have to find ways to keep busy.
  • [81′] Market Day in Mirepoix is Monday, the town comes to life. Visiting Rennes-le-Château, must read-up on the conspiracy theories. Pack a picnic!
  • [83′] Even in a remote part of France that is not very touristy, the food is quite good.
  • [84′] Visiting Carla-Bayle and the Grotte du Mas d’Asil on the way to Toulouse. Don’t go in the middle of the winter, it’s empty!
  • [86′] Toulouse is like a small little Paris, a lot of life, even in the middle of the winter.
  • [88′] Going to Albi and the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, Cordes-sur-Ciel (Cordes is also dead in the winter!)
  • [89′] Museums in Toulouse: Natural History Museum, Musée Saint-Raymond, Basilique Saint-Sernin, Musée des Augustins, Musée des Abatoirs, Les Jacobins where Saint-Thomas Aquinas is buried.
  • [91′] Which Toulouse Cloister is nicest: Jacobins or Augustins?
  • [93′] General observation about French Museums: they are well curated.
  • [94′] Go to the big open-air food market in Toulouse (Marché du Cristal, 33 boulevard de Strasbourg), every morning.
  • [97′] WizEat in Toulouse and the Toulouse accent.
  • [100′] Stop in Moissac to visit the chruch with beautiful cloister–but the cloister was closed on a Saturday morning (again, an issue with visiting southern France in winter).
  • [102′] Bordeaux: swapping the red stone of Toulouse for the white stone of Bordeaux.
  • [104′] The shopping areas were busy in Bordeaux (probably due to sales coming up, people like to “stake-out” the stores where they want to go back on the day when sales start.
  • [104’30] Attractions in Bordeaux: Saint-André Cathedral, Flea Market near the Saint-Michel Church, Marché des Capucins (covered market).
  • [115′] Instead of walking to the Cité du Vin, they took a ferry which gave them a great perspective on the city.
  • [118′] For a great view, go up the Tour Saint-Andrée, fantastic at sunset time.
  • [118’40] Another great thing to do at dusk in Bordeaux is to go to Place de la Bourse to see the water mirror.
  • [120′] Taking the bus between Bordeaux and Saint-Sebastian. They used OuiBus and had a good experience. The bus took them through several cities between Bordeaux and Saint-Sebastian and they enjoyed seeing them briefly. Christine recommends taking the bus.
  • [126′] New Caledonia, also in France, even though it’s close to Australia.

Conclusion

Visiting southern France in winter can be a wonderful experience with a little planning and some awareness of peculiarities of rural France in winter. Christine shares some great insights, listen close if you’re planning a similar trip!

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Honeymoon Ideas: the French Riviera, Episode 145

Honeymoon Ideas: Gary and Leslie in Èze
Gary and Leslie in Èze

Honeymoon Ideas: the French Riviera

This episode is full of great honeymoon ideas for people who want to have the best of both worlds: a vacation where you explore a new country and city, plus spend plenty of time relaxing at the beach and enjoying one another’s company.

In the episode Romantic Paris, Gary told us about their time in Paris, but as fun as that was, Gary and Leslie also wanted to spend time on the Mediterranean Sea. Why? Because that’s where all the celebrities love to go because it is so scenic and pleasant. So, settle in with the drink of you choice and find some of the best honeymoon ideas for 2017!

If you like this episode and want to visit the French Riviera, you should also listen to Episode 118 and Episode 37 about Marseilles; Episode 33 on Aix-en-Provence; Episode 83 about the Baux-de-Provence, the Lubéron and the Abbey de Sénanque.

Hotel recommended in this episode: Hôtel La Pérouse in Nice.

Places mentioned in this episode: Nice, Cannes, Saint-Paul-de-Vence, Èze, La Turbie, Monaco.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.
 Episode Highlights
  • [2’06] Announcing Enhanced Show Notes for Patreon Supporters
  • [8’12”] 4 days and 4 nights in Nice, on the French Riviera
  • [9′] The idea was to explore Paris, but also add a relaxed but take time for the romance as well
  • [10′] The French Riviera where the elites go to vacation and some of the most beautiful places in the world
  • [11’31] Nice seemed like a good place to be based out of because it is so central, and old-town Nice is so quaint
  • [12’15] Thinking about renting a luxury car but changing their mind after learning some specifics about driving in France, and especially parking on the Riviera (listen to the episode in full for more reasons not to do that!)
  • [13’42] Booking private tours just for the two of them on Viatour instead and finding out some interesting historical facts from the drivers/guides
  • [14′] You can see strong historical ties between France and Italy when visiting the Riviera, and it looks like Tuscany in places
  • [15′] Great Pizza and Italian food at the French Riviera, and how they don’t slice it for you
  • [16′] Their driver took them to Cannes (you can also listen to the episode about the Cannes Film Festival) to get a quick taste
  • [17″15] Antibes, which has a lovely Picasso Museum, but if you want to see amazing yachts and boats, this is the place to go
  • [19″] Saint-Paul de Vence, the Jewel of the French Riviera, a walled medieval city with a lot of history, cobblestone streets, and art galleries
  • [21′]Èze, another medieval city with a beautiful not-to-be-missed garden at the top of the hill, great gelato, great cheese and meat platter, and the Parfumarie Galimard where you can get a free tour of how they make soap
  • [23′] Parking in Èze is difficult, La Turbie is very close to Èze and also very nice to visit
  • [24′] Monaco, second smallest country in the world, extremely rich, very interesting to see, you can see sites where they filmed To Catch a Thief, you can see the Casino and all the luxury cars, they drove on the road where the Grand Prix de Monaco takes place, there’s also a great aquarium, you can tour the Palace
  • [29′] Is 4 days enough? Just right? Too much?
  • [30’15] Hôtel La Pérouse in Nice, Gary describes the wonderful view and great services
  • [33’44] Local food and restaurants: a lot of seafood, pastas with octopus
  • [35′] Popular drinks in Nice:  a “Monaco” (beer + grenadine) and a “Panaché” (beer + limonade), Pastis or Anisette (anis-flavored apéritif drink)
  • [36′] La Fougasse: bread with onion and anchovies or other items, pizza is also very good, great ice-cream parlors (Fenocchio is a favorite of Annie’s)
  • [37’30] Beach clubs: a highlight of their honeymoon, they went to Castel Plage, you pay for lounge chairs, umbrella, towels, and you have service, food, drinks (including a very large Blonde de Saint-Tropez)
  • [44′] It’s a rocky beach in Nice, so it’s good to have a beach chair and have beach shoes, and then you don’t have to worry about messy sand!
  • [46’30] September was great weather in both Paris and Nice
  • [48′] Old town Nice is lovely, has great restaurant, great to walk around and explore
  • [49′] Spending 4 full days in Nice would be too long, but breaking it up with visits to other areas makes it just right
  • [49’30] How listening to the podcast was critical in helping Gary get inspiration

Conclusion

To sum it all up, to come up with great honeymoon ideas, you have to bring a mix of the following magical elements:

  1. Beautiful surroundings: both Paris and the French Riviera have an over-abundance of that!
  2. Pleasant weather: September in France is not too hot, not too cold, it is just right!
  3. Be willing to pay for a lovely hotel in a great location.
  4. Plan on some tourism, but limit those activities to 3 or 4 hours per day, so there’s plenty of time to relax.
  5. Don’t try to do it all yourself: driving yourself can be fun, but it can also be stressful. Let other people take care of anything stressful for you.
  6. Take into account the preferences of both spouses, you can have plenty of exploration mixed in with relaxation if you plan it right as Gary did.
  7. If you enjoyed the show be sure to subscribe below so you don’t miss a single episode!

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Hiking Around Bordeaux, Episode 144


4 women Hiking around Bordeaux

Hiking Around Bordeaux, Episode 144

Who hasn’t daydreamed about hiking or biking through the French countryside? Stephanie, Dawn, Krista and Barb made it come true and in late September 2016 flew to France to do some hiking around Bordeaux. They used a tour company that sold them maps and arranged for accommodations, breakfast and dinner, as well as  arranged for their luggage to be transported to their next stop every day. They would rather not name the company, so we’ll keep that vague on purpose. All they had to do is walk. And get lost. But they had a fun time all the same and they explain all about their adventure in today’s episode.

This episode is for anyone who wants to have an active vacation in France, and if you like this episode, you should also listen to Episode 52, Cycling in France with Marion Clignet and Episode 40 on Saint-Émilion, Episode 44 on Bordeaux. For more information on the specifics of what Stephanie and Dawn did, please take a look at their travel blog.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

 Episode Highlights with Time Stamps

  • [9’47” ]  Start of hiking around Bordeaux interview
  • [11’50] You don’t need to be an athlete to do this, but you do need to prepare
  • [12′] Special equipment required: hiking boots
  • [13’30”] What’s the longest hike you did in one day?
  • [14’26”] How this trip got planned
  • [15’10”] How did your tour work? What was provided by the company?
  • [17′] Getting lost a lot!
  • [18’32”] Getting a ride from a stranger to get to the wine tasting
  • [22’20”] The types of terrain they hiked through
  • [23’11”] Dinners and accommodations were planed and luggage was transported from place to place
  •  [23’40”] Meeting a seasoned walking Scottish couple who knew about Randonnée Maps and kilometer counters
  • [26’30] GR stands for Grande Randonnée
  • [27’39] Doing this without GPS coordinates sounds crazy nowadays!
  • [28′] What did they enjoy the most and the least about their experience hiking around Bordeaux? Active vacation which is great when you’re eating French food.
  • [29’37”] There are different brokers all selling the same tours
  • [30′] Do you need to buy a tour? Couldn’t you organize this whole thing by yourself?
  • [30’52”] Other hiker gave them precious tips about when stores close etc., the tour company hadn’t warned them!
  • [33′] For people who want to do this by themselves, look for GR maps and IGN maps
  • [34’34”] Meeting people in tiny little towns, seeing how people live and enjoying the culture was great: you can’t do that from a tour bus!
  • [35’58”] No mosquitoes, really?
  • [38′] Dawn speaks French, the others do not. The French came in handy especially at restaurants
  • [39’45”] Outstanding accommodations and dinner at the Barsac Castle, Paul and Ginette were wonderful, the salt-water swimming pool was great too
  • [41′] All the places they stopped: Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion, Saint-Martin-de-Lerm, Caudrot, Saint Macaire (beautiful hike between Caudrot and Saint-Macaire), Sauterne and Barsac
  • [43’17”] Review of the Musée du Vin in Bordeaux
  • [44’58”] Review of L’Entrecôte restaurant in Bordeaux
  • [47’47”] Annie’s guess on what’s in the Entrecôte sauce
  • [49’32”] How to beat the crowd at L’Entrecôte (and many other French restaurants!)
  • [49’49”] Wine every day on this tour?
  • [51’52”] Most French villages will have a public restroom, usually where old men gather to play Pétanque
  • [52’55”] Luggage or carry-on?
  • [54’38”] Heated towel bars in France
  • [55’15”] What are packing cubes?
  • [56’27”] Did you feel safe doing this as women?
  • [59′] French Tip of the Week “Tu ne peux pas changer la tête avec laquelle tu es né(e), mais pas besoin de faire cette tête !”

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