Some of the pictures from our trip to france on Flickr just click the link
Oh well we are home now and the trip is just a memory, a very good memory I might add. So I thought it would be a good idea to share some of our experiences we learnt along the way, the first one I will talk about is timing where by if you want to eat lunch the restaurants open at 12 noon and close at 2pm, dinner is from 7:30 to about 9pm this seems to be a very strict time regime with no leeway also if you want the Plat Du Jour menu (dish of the day) you need to be seated as near to noon or 7:30 as possible. Also all restaurants have to offer a fixed price menu, these can range from €8 for two courses to €57 (the most expensive I saw) per person, also its worth bearing in mind to check out the drinks prices before you order and don’t get caught out like we were on our first night where three beers cost €31 about £28. France is pretty expensive compared to the UK we even found what would be the equivalent to our £1 shop but there it was the €2 shop, so bear the prices in mind when budgeting for the trip. Petrol is more expensive than the UK except if you drive a diesel. Now before we went on the trip I updated my Sat-Nav to a Garmin which I might add is very good, but one feature that was very useful and saved us a good deal of money was the nearest fuel feature which enabled us to buy our fuel at supermarkets ie Carrafour & Intermarche most of which were just off the a junction of the autoroute, but without the Sat-Nav we would not have known, for example fuel on the autoroute costs €1:67 a litre for unleaded and in the supermarket it was €1:54 so you can see that after travelling some 2500 miles in France quite a saving was had. Whilst I am on the subject of supermarkets its worth bearing in mind that they are not like ours where they are open 24-7 the smaller ones close for lunch and this is not half an hour it’s from 12 to 2:30, and they all close on Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday. Now like I said there are what seems to be strict times for lunch the same goes for the shops where they are closed from 12 to 2:30 and are also not open on a Monday and this is just not in the small towns its in the large cities also, but I must add we did not find this a problem in fact it was quite refreshing to have the slower pace of life you have to get used to it that’s all.
Driving in France is a breeze, sometimes you can be on a autoroute on you own with no other traffic for miles, not really much more to say on the driving front except the standard of driving seems a lot better than ours, people just seem to take their time and are not trying to break any land speed records.
Finally I would like to add that this trip has certainly wetted my appetite to explore more of France and contrary to urban myths the French are really nice and friendly people and if like me you try to learn a little French before you go it goes a long way. Below is a list of web links that you might find useful
Also I will be uploading some of the 400 photo’s I took on my Flickr photo page for anyone who is interested
Finally I would like to thank my travelling companions my wife and my very dear friend Jackie for making the trip a barrel of laughs and to all of you who took the time to read my ramblings. Until the next time, Au revoir
Like the journey down to the Mid Pyrenees when we started our trip where we had an overnight stop, we decided to do the same on the return journey and chose the town of Orleans a couple of hours drive from Wisteria house where we were staying. We left early and headed straight for the centre of town. Now like I said in previous posts France is expensive compared to the UK but one thing which is not and there are an abundance of is car parks and normally right in the centre of the tourist areas, so we parked up and explored the city and what a treat we were in for as unbeknown to us the Festival de Loire was on the very weekend we were there so it could not have been better so after a good few hours exploring the city, the cathedral and the many sights we headed off to our hotel. When we got back into the car I set the Sat-Nav for the hotel and was pleasantly surprised it was a very short distance from where we parked. Now we found the Hotel des Cedres via the booking.com website it is always a gamble when booking hotels, all you can do is read the reviews and hope for, but we was very pleased with our choice, the hotel was very nice indeed, friendly staff great room, a great find, so it was a couple of cold beers in the lovely garden, a freshen up and a walk back to the centre of town for the evening. A very nice meal was had by all, we were overlooking the town square and the statue of Joan of Arc then back down to the riverside where all the festivities were going on then closing the evening with a spectacular firework display a great end to a fantastic holiday
Well we are back now,our last week was in France was very busy so was unable to blog much, but now is a good time to catch up. Firstly Bourges the capital of the province of Aquitaine a wonderful town with a magnificent cathedral lots of really old timber-framed building a photographers dream another must visit if you are in the area in fact whilst in France we did not come across one town or village which did not have some pretty or historic element about it, it is my opinion a wonderful country to visit, and contrary to English belief the French are really nice people, always happy to share a joke and extremely helpful. Another interesting town is La Chatre, also in the area is Chateau de Meillant our one and only Chateau visit (there are so many). We also took in the two pretty little villages of Gargilesse and St Beniot du Sault which are both in the category of France’s prettiest villages. So as you can see our last week was pretty busy.
Weather a bit cloudy today still warm though, so we decided to have a drive to a bigger town than our nearest “Auch” to try to find some more life, you see the strange thing about France is that there does not seem to be many people around, there is nothing open at all on Sunday’s & Monday’s and everywhere shuts between 12:00 & 2:30 even in the large towns it’s quite surreal so when visiting a point to bear in mind. Tarbes is a large town looks quite industrial on the drive in but it has a lovely centre plenty of shops bars & restaurants. So we found a very nice café overlooking the centre fountain, and a very nice meal was had by all. After our meal and drinking a very nice expresso we look at the map to see if there were any other interesting sights in the area, only to discover that we were not far from Lourdes, although I knew it was in our region I did not think it was so close to where we were. So off we went to have a look.
Lourdes. Now I am not religious at all but I am a lover of religious architecture and Lourdes basilica is a stunning piece of architecture it’s absolutely enormous, and attracts 6 million visitors a year, it also has spawned many shops selling tacky religious items it’s just unbelievable it has to been seen to be believed, and as for the candle’s you can buy all sorts of sizes starting at around €5 the people then queue to the grotto where the apparition happened, but this is not to light them as you would expect but to hand them to chap who then neatly stacks them in a container to maybe be sold again? big business if you ask me. The other strange sight was around the rock base of the basilica there was a line of taps where people who had bought containers from the many tacky shops (see photo) and filled them with I suppose holy water? These containers ranged from very small right up to 5 litre ones, like the candles it had to be seen to be believed. Toulouse on Friday so watch this space.