Guest Notes for Episode 471: The Road Less Traveled in France

Category: Off the Beaten Track in France

Heather Fronskevitch (phonetically) (52) and Zbyszek (54), married for 29 years

June 28-July 19

Normandy, Brittany, Champagne, Alsace, Paris

A trip to some less-common places for someone who already has seen the basics

  1. Puy du Fou
  2. Staying in a castle
  3. Celebrating la Fête Nationale (bal des pompiers)
  4. Chilling on the Normandy beachfront
  5. Walking around Vannes
  6. Visiting a champagne seller, Philippe Morlet
  7. Sucinio castle
  8. Walking around Strasbourg
  9. The VR Notre Dame experience,
  10. Trying the best baguette in Paris.

In general, doing a lot of things that are more French than tourist activities.

We stayed in AirBNBs, a variety of hosted and ones where you have the place to yourself.

Bordeaux – a townhouse near the river. It was a great location, parking was a bonus but the space was small and traffic was bad so we avoided driving.

Cerizay – a small unit attached to a house in the country. Very quiet and peaceful, but if you needed to get groceries you had to drive. Close to Puy du Fou.

Vannes – a wonderful apartment near the ramparts. Again, parking was reserved but we chose to leave our car parked for the days we were there.

Vay – a castle from the 15th century. The owners were wonderful and gave us a tour and told us of the history of the castle. Walking distance through a beautiful forest to get to a small town, simply amazing experience.

Bernières-sur-Mer – a tiny studio, very small but practical and a great location. Walking distance to a hypermarché and literally right on the beach. Beautiful views from the balcony.

Fontaine-sur-Ay – a separate unit that was comfortable and rustic. Not as modern as the other places we stayed, but the host welcomed us warmly with recommendations for champagne. She let us use her washer/dryer and accepted a missing suitcase delivery for us before we arrived.

Strasbourg – a modern apartment that had everything we could want. Perfect location right on the tram line.

Paris – an apartment in the 20th, upstairs from a bar and a bakery. Not very many tourists in this location, so the traffic was bearable and we were in walking distance from everything we needed.

We ate most of our meals at home, and enjoyed shopping at grocery stores and the marchés. We did eat at a restaurant in la Rochelle but I don’t remember the name. I did take my husband for O’Tacos so he could try some French tacos. We had Turkish food at Restaurant Soleil D’Anatolie, just across from our apartment in Paris. We tried the best baguette in Paris 2023 – au Levain des Pyrénées.

The baguette from the best baguette in Paris 2023 was great, fresh and hot from the oven. My husband fell in love with the different packaged salads in the supermarkets, especially carottes in vinaigrette. We tried a lot of different cheeses. Restaurants are easy to find and most are quite good, we ate lunch out and then tried to eat dinner at home.

A bit of everything! We rented a car in Bordeaux and used that to drive from city to city. Once parked, we preferred to walk around within the city. In Strasbourg and Paris, we used the tram and metro. We didn’t have any transportation problems, other than my luggage being lost and never returned to me.

We went with the goal of scoping out possible retirement locations. My husband has been to France before, but only on guided tours. I planned our route specifically so he could find out about different types of living in France – apartments, rural homes, small villages, large cities. We learned that we would not want to live in a large city, and he decided that Normandy was his favorite place to consider. The Tour de France wasn’t nearly as big a deal as it used to be, you would never know it was happening from the cities we visited.

If I had known that KLM was going to lose our luggage – and I would still not have it back 23 days later – I would have packed differently! It is impossible to get anyone from the airport where the luggage is still sitting to respond to my emails.

I still don’t like driving in the bigger cities and would not rent a car if I were only staying in larger cities with public transportation. But if you are visiting the rural areas, you are going to need one.

Decide what you really want to do more – see things or relax? Make your plans accordingly, perhaps alternating between busy days and relaxing days if you have enough time. Electric vehicles are starting to be more common, but gas vehicles are probably still easier to deal with. My credit cards still didn’t work at McDonald’s kiosks or some gas stations, so plan to go up to the counter when you need to pay.

I would say it was just right, my husband would say it was stressful (but he gets stressed easily and would be equally stressed if we stayed at home.)

Listening to different trip reports and episodes gave me an idea of some of the things that we might want to try. Hearing about your electric car made me decide that I wasn’t quite ready to rent one in France, even though I drive one at home.

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Category: Off the Beaten Track in France