France

We are based in France and have really enjoyed our trips so far. The biggest surprise is the quiet and beautiful countryside away from the cities. We love the extensive agriculture areas. The mix of countryside and history is really a highlite for us. I have arbitrarily divided the country into two halves with everything south of Burgundy being listed as Southern France, and Burgundy and North listed under Northern France.

We find the road system in France to be easy to use on the whole, though the tollways are very expensive. This is a good reason to enjoy the back country as France has some of the most beautiful countryside we have seen in Europe. Camping is extremely easy in France with numerous campgrounds and the fantastic system of Aires de camping that many towns have. Wild camping is generally allowed with some common sense, and we have done more wild camping in France than anywhere else in our travels.


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The world famous Eifel Tower at night.

FAVORITE PLACE

Ron- Albi. We ended up in Albi by accident one day when we could not find a decent route to another city we wanted to go to. I loved the setting with a 12th century bridge still in use to cross the Tam river. It has an interesting cathedral which is the largest brick cathedral in the world. The old bishops castle has been converted to a museum which features Toulouse-Lautrec one of our favorite artists. The area around Albi features Galliac wines which are varietals that go back to Roman times and are not generally available in the US. I had a great time around Albi.

Ton-Provence. I liked the countryside and the small villages full of cafes and art. The food and wine was of course great.

Honorable mention. The fields of canola. I just like looking at all of the yellow fields as we are driving thru France when the canola is in bloom.

DISAPPOINTMENT

Ron- Olive oil factory near Gordes. I struggled to find a true disappointment in France. This one is a bit of a stretch. We had been wanting to visit an olive oil factory for much of the trip and found one near Gordes. Greta Garmin sent us there on a convoluted back road route, only for me to later realize the place was only a couple of kilometers from where we had spent the night. When we got there there was no tour as advertised, and the workers there were a bit cold and disinterested. After poking around for a few minutes we moved on.

Ton- Everything is closed on Sunday. I hate losing the chance to shop one day a week.

FAVORITE FOOD OR DRINK

Ron- This was hard to pick, but I finally settled on Norman Mussels. Mussels were not a food I associated with France, but I do now. They come in large cauldrons holding a couple of pounds of steamed mussels in a delicious broth. Pared with Norman Cider (another surprise for me as I generally do not like cider) it is a simple but delicious meal.

Ton-The food in Alsace. I really liked Tarte Flambe and their version of Sauerkraut. We also found the best beer in France in Alsace. I also enjoyed the cider.

SURPRISE

Ron-How rural and open the countryside is away from Paris. My vision before visiting was that it would feel much more crowded than the US. I was wrong, in many ways it reminds me of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, or parts of the mid-west. The farms are larger than you expect, there is not much traffic between towns, and the pace of life is slow and relaxed.

Ton-Jean Pierre Mortet. Jean Pierre welcomed us to his winery with open arms. I enjoyed his passion, and it was very interesting to see how a true family run winery operates. His dad was also a character.

RETURN TO EUROPE

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