Camping gear: check. Rental car: check. 5 days of (mostly) open roads through France: check.
We rented a car in Marseille, and after a morning kayak trip in the Calanques National Park, we made our way up the the Alps De Haute to a beautiful campsite overlooking the largest reservoir in France.
As we drove by the artificial lake we stopped to take a photo and noticed kayaks and pedal boats! We opted for the pedal boat and made our way from the reservoir up through the Verdon River that “cuts a ravine to a depth of 700 meters through the limestone mass.”
Back in the car we were off to the countryside. We made the decision to avoid the quick and efficient toll highways and opted for the rural roads that lead from one small village to the next.
Though the draw back to the magic of spontaneity, or just lack of data/wifi, was when we arrived to a closed reception at a campsite. With no way to get our rental car in the gate & no where to leave it, we opted to drive through the night. We drove from one medieval town to another, on pitch black roads, often with narrow lanes where perhaps two cars can pass without collision, only to be followed by an even narrower long tunnel. Around 3am we spent 30 minutes navigating through a small medieval town whose single main road was closed for construction. We drove through every tiny alley with Siobhan’s head out the window so we could avoid running over flower pots or leave car paint on the stone walls.
The next day we picked up three 20-something French hitchhikers. They explained how it was common and simple for them to get around this way. Admittedly, I was jealous that we were not doing the same. Maybe next time.
Arriving near Bordeaux, we dropped off our passengers by an onramp and left our car at a campsite just outside of town. In the city we had the opportunity to have a private wine tasting & workshop (thanks Anne & Tom for the wedding gift!).
We got to smell and (sheepishly) attempt to identify precise scents. Our closest guesses were chocolate when it was coffee & roses when it was violets. We tasted wines and learned about the different regions within Bordeaux and the complexity of their value. The highlight being Chateau La Violette Pomerol, which was hands-down the best wine we have ever had 🙂 (that is until we go proper wine tasking in California, because west coast is the best coast)
We set out for the city of Rouen, stopping along the way at a gorgeous campsite nestled in the hills by a lake with a beautiful sunset just as we arrived. ❤
Rouen: (by Siobhan)
This was the last stop on our road trip before returning the car and catching a train to Paris. The EuroCar employee had no idea what we were talking about when we told him we wanted to return the car in “Roo-en”. It took some creative hand motions and finally writing it down to realize it’s pronounced closer to “rw-aww”. It’s a fun word to say over and over again, and we definitely did for the entire road trip.
The reason we wanted to visit this city in Normandy is because it was the place where St. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. Sounds morbid, but Joan of Arc is my patron saint (assigned by my parents due to the English translation of my name) and she is someone I have looked up to my whole life. Turns out, Rouen is a beautiful city with delicious food and a lot to see. So although Joan of Arc was the main focus of the day, we were able to enjoy a traditional Norman dinner and a walk by the river.
The Joan of Arc museum was well worth the visit. The exhibit is set up in the building where her trial was held. As groups move through each room, a three dimensional projection displays scenes from a “re-trial” where actors, playing the parts of important people in her life as well as court officials, review the evidence presented against her. In this way, the history of the time period and a detailed description of the players in her story are presented in a very creative and entertaining manner. At the end of the “re-trial” we were brought to another exhibit that shows how Joan of Arc’s image was used in France and throughout the world and what her image and legend meant to various groups of people. It was very interesting and probably the highlight of my time in France.
My dad and brother were in Paris for the week (attending the Ireland vs Sweden Eurocup match), so we met up with them for our last two days in France. Those 48 hours were spent enjoying cafe au laits in corner cafes, watching Euro Cup games in bars, eating nutella crepes, beignets, dinner in the latin quarter, and waiting in line for the Eiffel Tower. We made a conscious decision to take it easy knowing we would return at a later date for a extended visit to the city of light.
It was a cloudy day with scattered showers, but this newly wed couple couldn’t have been happier. And we know exactly how that felt. ❤