Paris and Beyond

Our Personal Tour de France & Other Exciting Adventures!

All That Glitters

You’ve heard that saying: All that glitters isn’t gold. It couldn’t be more true when you wade through dozens and dozens of travel guides and websites available for your chosen destination. You have to spend quite a bit of time reading all the sparkling recommendations and reviews in order to sort them out and make the best choices for yourself. Much depends on what your personal objective is for your travels. For us, it is always to experience the country like the locals and appear as little like tourists as possible. Many people prefer to have someone else lead them through their travels, but I enjoy being our own personal tour guide. It does require a bit of preparation in advance, but I find all the research is almost as exciting as the journey itself.

How do we choose all those places on our itinerary? Ah, so many places, so little time! Even for a trip of several weeks, I find I really have to rein in the number of stops we’ll make. It’s very tempting to try to go everywhere. Some of the choices are easy because there are just certain places you have to see — Barcelona, Madrid, Paris, Provence, etc. You get the picture. But those don’t always turn out to be our favorites. It’s all those little towns, villages, and countrysides in between where, for practical reasons, we have to take up residence for a couple of days that often surprise us. For example, at the end of our first trip spanning much of France, we needed a stop midway between the Dordogne Valley and our return to Paris. We ended up choosing Bourges and was it ever a pleasant surprise. We thought we’d just be resting up – far from it. An impressive Gothic cathedral and spectacular 15th century palace once belonging to the wealthy merchant, Jacques Coeurs, were just two of its jewels. Check out Pleasant Surprises for all the details.

Beautiful Saint Étienne Cathedral in Bourges…

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On another occasion during that same trip, we were traveling from the French Basque Country to the Dordogne. Again, we needed a halfway stop. I can’t recall how I chose the tiny hamlet of Asques which consisted of little more than a church and a few houses including a large one on the river with a very inviting Fisherman’s house turned self-catering gîte. There was little to do there. It was perfect because we were ready for a vacation from our vacation at that point. However, upon arrival, our host informed us that it was music festival season in France and handed us a schedule of all the free performances to be held at local churches in the area. This is an opportunity for professional musicians from the big French cities to share their talents with people who might not otherwise get a chance to enjoy them. At first we were hesitant because, truthfully, we were tired. Being the music lover he is, Norman decided we should take advantage of this opportunity. After all, the first concert was only a short walk up the hill from our little house. We were so taken by the experience that each evening we ended our day by attending another marvelous performance nearby. In such small, rural places, we found ourselves to be the only American guests. The music was amazing! We also discovered the very fascinating mascaret, a fluvial phenomenon that only occurs in a few rivers around the world. You can find out more about that and our visit to Asques in our post Le Mascaret.

Tiny, ancient church in Moulliac — concert set to begin…

On our 2015 trip, we stayed in another out of the way place called Le Puy — literally in the middle of nowhere. It was one of those places where if you drive too fast, you miss it. Our accommodation was a uniquely restored pigeon tower and house. Once again, we were ready for a break. We spent most of our time there just relaxing and enjoying the very welcome pool. Our host recommended an event in a town close by that we had heard of elsewhere on our journey. It intrigued us so we decided to muster up some energy and investigate. We are so glad we did! As it turns out, this is a traditional farmers’ market and then some! Here’s an account of our experience with the Marché Nocturne (night market) which is held weekly in many small towns around the country during the summer.

The Marché Nocturne in Monségur gets rolling…

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It’s really important to plan all the major details of your trip, but equally as important to keep your eyes open for the unexpected things that crop up along the way. They may turn out to be the highlight of your entire adventure.

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2 thoughts on “All That Glitters

  1. Cathy Thompson on said:

    Looks like you had many wonderful experiences on your trips. Now you can look forward to many more. This trip should be a lot of fun for you both!!
    Love – Cathy and Jeffrey

  2. Kathy on said:

    We found Bourges to be a pleasant surprise also, on our trip last year. We were visiting the Castle of Guedelon, and saw that Rick Steves has his tour group stay in Bourges after visiting the castle. It’s not the nearest village by any means, but when we got there we realized it had lots of charm, and that explained the choice!

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