Weeks in the French Interior - Summer, 2007
We have been to France many times, but this was one of the few times that we went without visiting Paris, and the first time that we did not spend time by the sea. Our visit was confined to an inland loop from DeGaulle air terminal, south to the Dordogne and Lot, and then southwest to Toulouse. Next, we headed north past Bordeaux to the Loire Valley, then drove back northeast to the airport for our trip home (see map below).
The vacation was "unscripted" at the height of tourist season, done entirely by car (a rented gray Citroën), and we moved by whim. We were trying to escape bad weather, and avoid the worst of the crush of tourists.
We were not especially successful on either count, since we had torrential rains during the second week that affected the entire country, and since I now think that there is scarcely a place worth visiting in France that is not inundated with tourists in high season. Of course, we were "part of the problem". Still, at its worst our trip was much nicer than what we could have expected if we had tried to do the same sort of unplanned tour in Provence, the Côtes d'Azur, Normandy, or other "target" destinations.
In spite of the limitations, it was a good vacation: we had excellent food, choosing our restaurants on the run, trusting our feelings about a place, rather than guidebooks. We had little difficulty finding good lodging in 2 and 3-star hotels--all clean, most nicely decorated, and including all amenities. Even counting the terrible exchange rate for the dollar/euro, we paid less for lodging and food in France than we would have paid for similar quality in Maine. We "compromised" our tastes only a couple times--the first and last nights--when we resorted to "chain" hotels with no character, and had dinner in a "chain" restaurant within quick driving distance to the Paris airport.
If you wish to come along, see a few of my travel pictures, then follow the links and narratives. (None of F.'s photos are included here, except for a few of me, and the narrative is, of course, my take on our experiences, and does not always represent F.'s views.)
Though it is better than nothing, this sort of travel is not ideal. We had frequent-flier miles to spend. F's work prevented traveling off-season, so we decided to "just go". I would not, myself, again schedule more than a week of unplanned auto travel, even off-season. In spite of the remarkable food, I missed cooking and other unstressed domestic rhythms. Indeed, this trip was "saved" for me by finding "Fontaine des Oiseaux", a chambre d'hôtes in the countryside of the Lot. This lovely old stone farmhouse is owned by a British couple who rent out an apartment and a couple suites, running it as a bed-and-breakfast. The huge rooms, open outdoor space, and laid-back atmosphere provided a perfect breathing space just over a week into our trip,
Though I have lived in New York, Paris, Los Angeles, and other urban areas, there remains a certain claustrophobia that attaches to European culture for me: the narrow streets, stuccoed walls, quick pace, parking issues, language challenges, crowded cafes, motorcycles, and my unfamiliarity with the normal social "cues" --all make me crave a quiet, high-ceilinged, well-lighted space after only a few days of playing at tourism. If I have such a space as home-base, then I love the challenges, since I know I can "reboot" back at my base. Maybe I'm just past the age of abandon...
a linked map of our stops, so you can jump to any day or area easily,
or, if you prefer, you can use the navigation arrows on each page to
go to the next page of narrative and pictures. To
get the slide-shows of photos to work, you will probably have to click
on "allow active-x controls" or some such message put up by
Copyright© 2007 - Darrell Taylor