Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Aaaah! Finally France

It's been a busy few years since our last trip to France. We had intended to return every 2 years, but then life happened. 2013 would have been the time for the next trip, but son Michael married his sweetheart, Browen, in May that year and we were up to our eyeballs in wedding.  Most people would think that we could have gone in the fall instead - and seen the grape harvest as a bonus. But those of you who know my husband know that we don't travel in the fall because it is football season and we have season tickets to the University of Wisconsin Badger games. Winter months are less than ideal times (unless visiting ski resorts) for visiting France and the summer months are overrun with European vacationers and high prices.

So we started to look toward 2014 and it became obvious that my arthritic hip would not allow me to walk enough to enjoy the trip. So we postponed again while I got a hip replacement done this past May.

And now it's 2015. There's another wedding, this time in late June and in northern Wisconsin which limits how much help we can be in planning. Daughter Christie and her fiance Alex have things well in hand and have graciously given us their blessing to travel to France for April and May.

So we're off. This time to the Dorgogne. Near Sarlat-la-Caneda in southwestern France. An area we don't as yet know well, but which promises a fantastic immersion opportunity with all our favorite elements: food, wine, history, and beautiful scenery.

We've rented what promises to be an idyllic retreat for the months of April and May near a small village called Bezenac. La Borie des Combes is a 700 year-old farmhouse that housed the communal bake-ovens for neighboring medieval villagers. It has been lovingly restored by an American couple who now live full-time in France.

La Borie des Combes

We have again leased a Peugeot manual diesel car since we had such good luck with our last Peugeot. Once again this will be a brand new car and, apparently, they don't mind if we return it full of bread crumbs. (Did I mention how tasty French bread, the real thing, is?)

Dave has put new sim cards into our European cell phones and created US and European phone numbers for them.  His works fine (at least in the US), mine not so much, but we're hoping the fact that mine is a true French phone means it will start working when it can access French rather than US networks.

This time, we got credit cards with chip and pin technology so that we can use them in French self-serve kiosks such as toll-booths and unattended gas stations. We had a near disaster when I nearly ran out of gas out in the country and the only gas station was unstaffed. Then there were the few times we nearly had to run toll booth barricades because we didn't have the right change for the automatic machines. Oh, and then there was the time we had to drive over the curb in the surface parking lot because we couldn't pay for our parking ticket, so couldn't raise the barrier and exit like honest people do. There aren't many US credit card companies that support this technology (which adds an additional layer of security to using the cards) but it is possible to get them in the US if you are persistent.

We'll have lots of friends and family joining us at varying times during our stay which prompted us to rent a 3-bedroom apartment. The rooms will be full for all but a few days of our two-month stay.  We've had such fun exploring with friends in the past that we're glad we'll be sharing our experiences with so many again this time.

 There will be activity options for all interests -

  • hiking and exploring the countryside
  • kayaking or tour-boating on the Dordogne
  • visiting endless castles and bastide towns
  • visiting medieval cities and churches
  • seeing pre-historic cave paintings
  • farmers markets, cooking and eating great food
  • and of course, exploring the wine regions of Bordeaux, St Emilion and the surrounding areas

So we're excited that it's finally time to get ready - I'll share some of the books we're reading in my next post.  It may still be winter here in Wisconsin, but it's spring in our hearts.