World Map

Victor's and Barbara's Travel Diaries

                       France 1999               

In France we drove to St Omer and stayed in a quaint old hotel where we enjoyed a delicious home-cooked dinner. After getting terribly flustered and lost in the Paris traffic on the 'peripherique', we ended up in Milly-Le-Foret at a lovely hotel 'Le Cygne'. We travelled across the hilly and pretty Auvergne countryside, and stayed at a Chambre d'Hôte in Cahors, where the hospitality of our hosts was fantastic. 

We drove via the Pyrenees to Spain, then after 10 days or so we returned to the French border at Urugne, near St.Jean de Luz. This is Basque country, their language is quite unlike Spanish or French, our hotel (2 nights here) was called 'Arotzeria'. The sun came out for us and our spirits revived. We saw a lovely little chapel on a hill overlooking the sea, a small château, a pretty floral park and nursery where we had a pleasant lunch. We then strolled around the lovely seaside town of St Jean de Luz, with its cafés, promenades, cliffs, and quaint buildings.St Jean de Luz, France

We by-passed the cities of Bordeax and Poitiers, and wandered along French country lanes, to come across the delightful village of Mirebeau, near Lencointre, staying at 'Le Cerbre' where we really enjoyed our evening meal of salmon and other delicacies. Then to the Loire Valley, where we saw Chinon Château, Chinon Castle, Loire Region, France high on a hill above the river Vienne. Here Joan of Arc came to persuade the French King to let her lead his troops against the 'English'. We had a picnic lunch in a forest of oak and pine, then visited Azzay-Le-Rideau, drove through Tours, then got worried about accommodation. It was 1st May, a Public Holiday "Labour Day" in France, and everywhere was full. We eventually stayed at an expensive château called "Du Coteau". Chateau de Chenenceau, Loire Valley, FranceThe next day we visited magnificent Chenonceau, built astride the river Cher, one time home of Diane de Poitiers, then of Catherine. We spent practically all day here, thoroughly exploring the castle, the forested grounds on both sides of the river, the formal gardens, and the secret glades in the domaine. That evening we stayed nearby at Claire Cottage in Chisseaux The next day we drove north-east towards Monet's garden. We stopped off at Anet, (halfway between Chartres and Rouen), Monet's Garden at Givernyat a country motel in a garden setting called 'La Dousseine". Then we went across the Seine at Vernon, and then to Giverny and Monet's house and garden, which, though terribly crowded with tourists, was still really beautiful. Our next call was Mametz on the Somme, where Victor's Uncle William died in the First World war. We saw Mametz Wood, where he fell, and the memorial at Thiepval, where his name is engraved along with a million others. Memorial at Thiepval, Somme.Barbara was interested to spot her great Uncle Sedgley's name also engraved there. We stayed at a lovely farmhouse chambre d'hôte at Grandcourt, near Albert, which is north-east of Amiens.The following day, 5th May, we parted with 'Cleo' at Hertz in Calais, and boarded the ferry to Dover.

We stayed in UK a while, then visited Austria, Italy and Switzerland, then back into South-Eastern France via Basel.

This region we found attractive, with pretty houses and places with German names like Altkirch. We stopped at a chain hotel "Étapes Soiré" at Lure then we headed west to Rambouillet, where the Kosovo peace conference had only recently taken place. We stayed 3 nights here, so we could visit Versailles and Paris by train thereby avoiding the Parisien traffic. On Monday 31st May we went to Versailles, only to find the palace is closed on Mondays. However we spent a magnificent day walking over almost every inch of the park, which is absolutely enormous. Marie Antoinette's Hameau at Versailles, FranceWe especially admired Marie Antoinette's "Hameau", an idealistic creation of a fantasy "English" hamlet, built by the King to satisfy Marie's every whim, and now restored as an educational feature, with a lovely animal farm for the children. Notre Dame Cathedral, ParisOn 1st June we spent the entire day in Paris, walking around the Isle de la Cité, entering Notre Dame cathedral, taking a bateau vedette along the Seine, lunch near the Louvre, a parisien nap in the Jardin des Tuileries, a walk along the Champs Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe, culminating in a visit to Monmartre and the Sacré Coeur, and dinner near the Place du Tertre. We had a scare in the métro when they announced that trains were being cancelled due to a strike, as we had to get to Gare Montparnasse for our last train to Rambouillet! The next day we drove all day through pouring rain to the German border at Saaarbrucken, en route for Frankfurt Airport.