Category Archives: Trip Report

Discovering France on a Scooter, Episode 198

Discovering France on a Scooter with Oliver Gee


On today’s episode, I talk to Oliver Gee and his fiancée Lina Nordin from the podcast Earful Tower. They are planning a wonderful honeymoon in France and I bet many of you are doing just that too! They plan to go all around France, exploring a lot of the country as they go along. They are calling their adventures Amour de France, which is so cute and clever, I love it!

Discovering France on a Scooter

So, where do you go if you want to see a little bit of every part of France? You’ll find out today. And what if you want to do it with a small budget a nothing much in the way of luggage? That’s what Oliver and Lina go into with me today. I mean, they are traveling light, really really light! The song says all you need is love, doesn’t it?

This episode came about because Calee Spinney, listener and Patreon supporter who also appeared on Episode 155 to tell us about her experiences running the Paris Marathon, is a fan of both the Earful Tower and the Join Us in France Travel Podcast and she put us in touch, which was wonderful, thank you Calee!

amour de france: touring france on a scooter

Learn More

If you’re interested about going on a road trip in France, you should also check out Episode 25, where my guest Laura K. Lawless talks about her visit to the 6 corners of the hexagon, the hexagon being the shape of France. She and her husband mostly camped and had great adventures too.

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touring france on a scooter episode: toulouse capitole building
Photo Annie Sargent

Best Destinations in Corsica, Episode 173

Best Destinations in Corsica


What are the best destinations in Corsica? William Ciardiello tells us how he made friends in Corsica and how they showed him a fantastic time in Corsica, an island in the Mediterranean that is not on  many people’s radar, but is stunning in every way: landscape, food, wine, activities, all are outstanding on Corsica!

Coming up with a list of best destinations in Corsica is difficult because there are so many! But with the help of locals who live there year-round, William helps us curate a list of best destinations in Corsica and some of the best this French island has to offer. 

Recommended in this Episode: La Ferme de Campo di Monte, a good place to stay would be Corte because it’s in the center.

Places Mentioned in this Episode: Corsica, Saint Florent, Cap Corse, Bastia, Murato, Bonifacio, Santa Guilia, Sant’Antunino, Calinzana, Corte

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

William and his hosts in from of the Sea; Best Destinations in Corsica

What You Will Hear About in this Episode with Time Stamps

On today’s episode William lists all the best destinations in Corsica as he discovered them with a family of locals he became friends with after hosting their son in America.

[02:36] William meets an organization called Education First looking for host families for international students.

How Long Do You Need to Visit Corsica?

[04:34] William originally thought 2 or 3 days would be enough, but his hosts insisted that you need a week in Corsica because it’s a big island. The family he visited is Chaulet family in Bastia,  Corsica: Karl, Diane, Lukas & Lilwen.

Ferry Ride Between Nice and Bastia

[07:11] It’s a 4-hour ferry ride between Nice and Bastia, it’s about $60 and you can take a car if you need to.

Some of the Best Destinations in Corsica

[09:11] Corsica is an usual place, a vacation place full of history. It’s a Mediterranean island, southeast of France, west of Italy, North of Sardinia. It’s the 4th largest island in the Mediterranean (after Sicily, Sardinia & Cyprus). 3,351 square miles. Stunning coastline and mountains of up to almost 9,000 feet high. 330,000 population in Bastia.

Under Genoese rule, Corsica we ceded to France in 1769 to repay debt to Louis XV. Corsica has been a part of France for over 200 years. It is the birthplace of Napoleon in 1769. French is official language on Corsica though many still speak Corsican. June temperatures in the low to mid 80’s, humid but not a lot of rainfall.

[12:00] Bastia is hilly like San Francisco. They had lovely views from the apartment where they were staying.  As soon as they arrived, their host took them on a overview drive of northern part of the island and on the mountain roads.

[14:18] They weren’t sure what there is to do on Corsica, they thought they’d just be lounging around on the beach, but that’s not what happened. Their host took the week off work and planned things for every day they were there.

Scenic port in Corsica; Best Destinations in Corsica

Saint Florent, Cap Corse

[14:38] Saint Florent is a small and very beautiful small town (we call them “commune” in French). There are about 2,000 people with Pleasure boats, yachts, bars, restaurants. Cap Corse is a fishing village, rock like peninsula, genoese tower, ruins, beautiful.

Bastia Petit Train Touristique

[16:17] Bastia is the 2nd largest city on Corsica, about 43,000 people. The geography of Bastia looks like San Francisco. There are hills—between the sea and the mountain. It’s a port city-2 ports, old and new.  The train takes you Saint Nicolas Square and its Napoléon Statue, the Port, the Citadelle, the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Bastia, Eglise St. Jean Baptiste, and Bastia Cathedral.

Driving to Murato

[18:00] Small mountain town, about 600 people
@3,700 feet elevation
San Michele Church
Checkered appearance, 2-tone layering of stone
The legend says that this church was built by angels.

Best Dining Experience in Our Lives!

[19:00] The ate at a restaurant  called La Ferme de Campo di Monte
Winding road from Murato ends in a short dirt road to the restaurant.

There were beautiful valley and mountain views, stone buildings. Start with aperitif by the pond. Very attractive and well-appointed dining room. There were small dining rooms, with about 6 tables each. The owner explained the menu in Italian-thought she was giving choices but she was listing everything that was to come.

The 5-course set menu dinner includes wine, grappa and coffee
All home-cooked and copious—Corsican food
Hearty vegetable (minestrone-like) soup.
Corsican charcuterie with courgetti beignets, sautéed veal, meat lasagna, potent and huge cheese basket (sheep and goat milk), souffled beignets (dumpling-like) with clementine preserves, lots of grappa.

You need a reservation to eat there, the restaurant doesn’t open if not enough people. Best dining experience of my life–location, food, scenery, atmosphere, company, all of it was amazing!

Relaxing Sunday in Bastia

[28:00] Slept in, went to market in Bastia, got some local cheese (brocciu), rotisserie chicken, potatoes for home. Went to the local beach and had some gelato. The have a lot of gelato stands in Bastia and it was all delicious.

Visiting Bonifacio, Most Beautiful Place They Saw!

[30:00] Bonifacio was the most beautiful place the saw on Corsica.
Southern tip of Corsica, @3 hours from Bastia
Southernmost commune in Metropolitan France @3,000 population
Limestone outcroppings, large cliffs and smaller ones contrast with deep blue water of the Mediterranean Sea
2-sections of city—vielle ville (old town) and haute ville (high town) plus the harbor.

9th century citadel in the high town where parking is difficult. You can see northern coast of Sardinia from Bonifacio. There are grottoes, a citadel, cemetery Marin de Bonifacio. You can also see the Gouvernail de la Corse—20th century fortification, long steep stairway (168 steps) from cemetery. Polyphonies Corse—a cappella, hymns (poster for church concert)

Corsica Food Specialties

Pizza, menu board of traditional Corsican fare:
Aubergine a la Bonificienne
Ravioli au brocciu
Assiette de Charcuterie
Civet de sanglier
Saute de veau Corse
Fête de la musique (each town music festival on 1st day of summer)

Stop at a Beach Santa Guilia on the return to Bastia.

Lukas and William playing ball; Best Destinations in Corsica

Visit to Sant’Antunino

[38:45] The viewed Île Rousse from the road
Coastline, beaches reddish island in the blue sea

[40:] Sant’Antunino, another favorite, gorgeous place.
It’s a mountain town, tiny population (weekend residents)
Winding roads lead to it with great views of the sea
Village of steep narrow lanes/pathways
Cars park at base, but it wasn’t too crowded on a week-day.
The visited the Church of the Annunciation. You can easily spend 2 or 3 hours at Sant’Antinino.

Visit of Calinzana (near Calvi)

[42:00] Domaine Orsini Vineyard, Corsican wines are getting more and more popular, especially rosé. This wineyard also tried some  jams (confitures), fruit paste (Pâtes de fruits) and nougats.  Great vineyard to visit even if you’re not a wine lover.

Cooking American Foods for their Hosts

[45:35] Willian cooking his favorite meatball with French ingredients. Not as straightforward as you might think in a different kitchen and with metric ingredients, but finding genuine Italian products was not an issue in Corsica!

Shopping at a Hypermart, large supermarket + department store.
Baseball—catch in the park

Last Day in Corsica in Corte

[52:00] The apartment where they stayed didn’t have AC, so to cool off they went to the middle of the island where it’s cooler. Geographical heart of the island. This is where they got off of their comfort zone again because it was really steep.

[54:25] Picnic on the Gorges de la Restonica
Steep decline from road, slippery rocks
Picnic under the waterfall, very cooling
Corte—university town, @7,000 people
University of Corsica Pasquale Paoli 4,400 students
Modern and very old—nice contrast, also beautiful.
Citadelle, fortress.

Corte would be a great central place to stay for people who want to explore Corsica. Ajaccio is the only place they didn’t get to in Corsica. It’s the cruise ship port in Corsica for Royal Caribbean so some listeners may have stopped there on a cruise ship. Otherwise that are not a lot of American visitors who ever make it to Corsica.

Be Polite and French People Will Love You (Corsicans Will Too!)

[64:00] Make an effort to be polite and the magic words that will get you everything in France. Don’t ever “demand service” in France, it never works. Being overly polite works a lot better!

[65:00] Consider doing student exchange, it is great! You will make lifelong friends, and you may get to experience the best destinations in Corsica.

Conclusion

Even if you don’t have friends on Corsica as William and his partner did, you now have a list of all the best destinations in Corsica. Corsica gets visitors from Europe, but very few Americans even know about it. Corsica has a definite culture of its own. There is a separatist movement in Corsica that gets the headlines every now and then and has for a long time.

William keeps wanting to visit Hawaii where his son lives, but now that he’s seen Corsica, he’s not sure it will measure up. Have you seen both Hawaii and Corsica? What do you think?

[70:00] Annie’s Personal Update

[82:00] French Tip of the Week: “il y a un problème, la voiture ne démarre pas !”

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Chenonceau Chateau History, Episode 171

Chenonceau Chateau History

Don’t let the title of this episode fool you: I cannot possibly tell you the whole story of the Chateau of Chenonceau in such a short format! This is a trip report to which I’ve added to with a French History Tidbit. I intend for it to give you a flavor or the Chenonceau so you can decide if you’d like to include it in your itinerary next time you visit France.

In this episode, Nancy Calkins tells us about her visit to the Chenonceau and Cheverny Chateaux in the Loire Valley. They are both spectacular, and Cheverny also offered stimulating activities for her teens, including the hunting dog pack and the tie-in to the Tintin stories. Nancy has some recommendations of where to stay in Montrichard which were quirky and fun.

Then, in the French History segment of the podcast, I share the parts of Chenonceau Chateau History that grabbed my attention. The story of the rivalry between Diane de Poitiers and Catherine de Medici and how two French Kings died. I am editing this episode on Halloween, so that probably influenced that choice. Listen to how François I and Henry II, and you tell me: which one was worse?

Sign-Up for the Extra Content! This week it’s all about Chenonceau Shenanigans

I’ve started posting a photo of France each day on Instagram. Follow the Addicted to France account on Instagram to see them.

Recommended in this episode: Canoe sur le CherLa Chancellerie (hotel in Montrichard)

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

 

Chenonceau seen from the side; Chenonceau chateau history episode

Episode Highlights with Time Stamps

[03:25] Nancy Calkins Introduction

Visiting Chenonceau

[04:25] Picturesque countryside, meandering along the Cher and the Loire, it’s the world of Châteaux.

[04:55] It’s difficult to choose where to stay because everything is in close proximity to the Châteaux, but they decided to start in Montrichard because it is a little off the beaten path and you can take a canoe trip that starts there.

The tour takes you under the arches of the Chenonceau Château. Canoe sur le Cher is the name of the company. You can also bike and combine it with canoeing. Montrichard is not a touristy town at all, you’re mingling with locals.

Recommendations Near Cheverny

[07:55] They stayed at a place called La Chancellerie, it was quirky, but it’s a miniature château , you go up a circular staircase up to an apartment, there’s a pool in the basement, troglodyte pool and area. Pétanque playing area. Game-room in the attic of the chateau, rocking horse, pool table, roulette table.

It lacks some refinements but is full of charms. The caretaker is laid-back that looks like Aussie Osborne but skinny and healthy. Gave good recommendations.

[11:00] The town is also cute, there’s a restaurant called Les Tuffeaux. The gentleman who runs that place was conversational and charming and attentive. Amazing wine from Cheverny. There’s Montrichard castle that got turned into a museum, they explored at night and went up the hill to get a lovely view over the valley.

[12:00] Great for families with kids, not up-scale, not recommended as much for honeymooners, although if you want something low-key.

[13:20] L]There are lots of little châteaux everywhere that you see as you drive around to the big ones. Montrichard was a manageable spot as a central location. Everything is accessible from there. Not far from Tour.

, hound dogs at cheverny; chenonceau chateau history

Loire Valley for Kids

[14:00] Loire Valley for kids. They went to Chenonceau chateau first, it is spectacular. The story of the rivalry between Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poitier is amazing.

Catherine wanted to have the last word, so she put her own portrait up in the mistress’ room, she built her garden to rival the other, building on her bridge. Floral arrangements at Chenonceau are also amazing.

[15:40] Cheverny. This is the Château that Captain Haddock’s Mansion is based on in Tintin. There is now a Tintin exhibit there too and the kids love it. The hunting dogs are also amazing. There are 200 of them, they lounge around and they look cool. Cheverny is a great kid’s oriented château.

[18:10] There is a little wine tasting place just outside of the Cheverny château, it’s a great place to taste and buy some wine.

[19:10] Other cool things to do in the Loire are biking, seeing the troglodytes, see more of the châteaux. The two major rivers are the Loire and the Cher rivers.

[20:24] Thank you for your support!

French History Segment of the Podcast

[26:00] The French History segment of the podcast: Today Chenonceau Chateau History.

[44:00] French Tip of the Week: Où se trouve la station service la plus proche, s’il vous plaît ?

Chaumont-sur-Loire Chateau; chenonceau chateau history episode

Conclusion

Learning about Chenonceau chateau history is definitely one of the reasons to go visit. Not just big historical events, but also all the small steamy stories too!

Cheverny is also gorgeous, and has the added interest of being the place that Tintin creator Hergé modeled Captain Haddock’s Castle on. So if your kids have any interest in Tintin, they will love it. The hound dogs there are amazing too, that alone makes it worth the visit!

Both places are gorgeous, remember to charge your camera, you will definitely make good use of it! Enjoy your visit to the Loire Valley!

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