Fantastique! The only word to describe our trip to France this year. A (much) belated honeymoon, this was an opportunity to slow down, eat as much as possible, and soak in the beauty. Our itinerary basically followed our South of France tour (check it out here!), with the addition of five days in Paris and two in the Vallee de la Loire. Two weeks was not enough, but we were able to do and see so much and find plenty of time to relax as well.
Not only was this a romantic getaway for us, it meant that we got to try out new restaurants, stay in new accommodations, and visit some locations that we will definitely be adding to our tours and trip itineraries!
Now, for you planners...here are our favorites from our travels, in categories for your convenience! Please see accompanying photos in this gallery!
Kayaking on the Dordogne in the Perigord. Oh how I love this region of France. It is still my favorite, and now Ernesto is fully on board, "maybe we should think about retiring here." My mission accomplished! So there you are, in a magical fairyland of gorgeous rivers and valleys, surrounded by the most perfect hilltop villages and castles perched out on great cliffs. Then, you get into a canoe or kayak for two, and you are floating through this wonder world! When we started our adventure, the weather was warm and calm and then boom! Thunder, lightning, rainstorm! Ernesto has the wisdom to moor us under a bridge and we wait it out, enjoying the sudden summer storm.
Hands down, L'Autruche in Arles. This is France. And as Ernesto says, "there are no bad meals in France". He isn't wrong. Heck, even the one night that we had to eat at a roadside 'cafeteria' while we were doing laundry, the meal was better than most evenings out here in the US. But to say that our dinner at L'Autruche was just a 'good meal' is to discount the incredible nuance of flavors, the creativity of the chef, and the finesse of the dishes. The good: an incredible deconstructed raspberry tart for dessert. The bad: I have lost all the photos that we took of this incredible meal. The sublime: the lamb. Cooked to a buttery perfection and served with new carrots and a red fruit reduction, this made my husband cry with joy.
There are two tops in this category.
1. Mathilde's Air BnB in Sarlat-le-Caneda. This adorable apartment is available on airbnb and also directly through Mathilde (www.). Located right in the center of Sarlat, it is lovingly decorated and so cozy. Perfect for two!
2. Le Relais du Silence Domaine de la Tortiniere. A verifiable chateau complete with a highly rated restaurant, outdoor pool, and gorgeous views of the Loire valley. We felt pampered just sitting on the terrace! When I ordered a glass of wine in the early evening, it was served with an amuse-bouche and my cafe creme the next morning came with a pitcher of fresh, warm cream so that I could add my own to a perfect bowl of steaming espresso. I love these little touches! We certainly felt like we were living the good life!
New Favorite Places:
I can't do this category fairly. For one, it's France, and the cities, villages, and regions are too numerous and too unique to rate. I have my favorite places, of course (Brantome, Nimes, Les Eyzies-le-Tayac, Toulouse, Cassis), but each trip deserves and requires some new additions as well! This year, we were very excited to add two new regions to the list: the Loire (how had I never visited these chateaux before?!?!) and the Camargue.
Incroyable! We were not disappointed by either! The Loire offers exquisite castles, gardens, and stunning landscapes. The pace is leisurely. Yes, you can push yourself to see chateau after chateau, but with over 300 to choose from, you can't see them all. We opted to chose one a day to really explore and give ourselves time to enjoy the countryside. This is one of those times where tourists are right! The Loire is worth all of the attention it gets, and we are now adding it to our itineraries for our clients as a "must-see" location.
The Camargue is unlike anywhere else in France. The mix of Roma, French, and Mediterranean culture and influence results in a place that is totally unique and absolutely not to be missed! A wild land of chevaux sauvages, flamingos, and ancient traditions, the Camargue will leave you entranced. The beaches are lovely, the food fresh, and the history intriguing. To visit absolument~ Aigues Mortes and its salt marshes and Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer and its church.
To say that we were entranced is an understatement. France inspires.