Category Archives: Travel in France & beyond

When you mix oil with wine

Olive oil tasting bar

Growing up, I wanted to be a microbiologist until I got to college and found out that in addition to biology you had to also be good at chemistry. Bill’s a wiz at that but I still can’t tell the difference between emulsify, liquefy, and puree—unless those are blender settings, of course. That explains why, when I only caught snippets of the conversation between him and our friend Sally regarding something about oil and wine, I didn’t pay close attention. It was only when I saw them get out their calendars to schedule a day trip that I understood that we would be visiting an olive grove and a winery. Naturally there would have to be time for lunch, so let’s go! Read the rest of this entry

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Travel Tips and Observations From Bill

First class on an Italian train

First of all we had a wonderful trip using the trains which allowed us to relax while enjoying the view of the countryside and sea. We do take our meals and apero snacks along with us when we are on the train to make sure we are well fed and have enough to drink at the appropriate times. It is possible on most of the major train lines to buy food but it is not always convenient to wait for your meals to be delivered to your seat (if you are in first class) that you might have pre-ordered and the menu pictures do not usually correspond with the items served. You might be able to save enough to add a nice bottle of wine with your lunch, apero or dinner by buying a nice salad, sandwich, cheese and sausage platter from a grocery before entering the station. Coffee brewed yourself is always better than they have the ability to serve on the trains. A half liter thermos is just about right for each of us for breakfast and is easy to pack and manage. One more thing to consider is that all trains do not have food on board so if you bring your own you know it will be there when you are ready. Read the rest of this entry

Annecy, France in 2 days

Sailboats on Lake Annecy

We’ve been wanting to visit Annecy at least since we moved to France two and a half years ago and probably long before that given how many travel videos about this country we used to watch in the US. Since the train is our preferred mode of transportation and it generally takes 2 changes to get there from Carcassonne, we’ve put it off. When Bill was planning our trip in northern Italy he saw that on our return we could stop overnight in Annecy and then get one direct train from nearby Lyon to our station at home. If it really were that easy (true confession at the end of this post) then we were off to see this city in the Alps! Read the rest of this entry

Milan in 2 days

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II domed roof

One of the best tips I saw online about visiting Italy was that your trip should not be rushed. You should take the time just to observe the life going on around you. Of course, this advice was accompanied by a photo of a canal-side café table bearing a glass of wine and a plate of tapas. With that in mind, I took my Top 10 list (19, really) of what to see in Milan compiled from our two favorite travel websites, and pared that down to half its original size. Surely we could make it to nine sites in about 2 days time, right? Considering that we were in one of the world’s fashion capitals and only about a 20-minute walk from a showcase of designer-everything, it made sense to head for Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a soaring iron and glass arcade built beginning in 1865 and at the time was Europe’s largest shopping arcade. Read the rest of this entry

Venice in 4 days

The Grand Canal by the train station

There are many cities around the globe that either have the word “Venice” as part of their actual name or use it in an effort to attract tourists. In that second category we have several listed as the Venice of the North, including the Netherlands’ Amsterdam, Brugge, Belgium, and Manchester, England. To the west in Ireland are Shannon and Monasterevin and to our south is Aveiro, Portugal and Empuriabrava, Spain. Not to be left out, France has Nante, Sète, Annecy plus Colmar and to the east across the border is Bamberg, Germany. We’ve been lucky enough to travel to almost all of those places and when we lived in Los Angeles, a short bus ride took us to the beach at Venice and on the opposite coast we even had Venice, Florida on our list of possible retirement spots. There are apparently 11 cities with that name in the US but Italy has only one and it was time to see the “real” one. Read the rest of this entry

Genoa in 4 days

The hills above Genoa

Given that our destination was on the Italian Riviera and is the second largest port on the Mediterranean Sea, it seemed only fitting that our journey would begin at the Sea’s largest port and hug the coastline of the French Riviera. In keeping with that theme, we started on a French train from Carcassonne and transferred to the Italian Thello once we arrived in Marseilles. Familiar sounding city names such as Cannes, Nice, and Monaco appeared outside the window on the passenger platforms where we stopped but then after emerging from a tunnel the station names took a definite change in spelling. First we saw Vintimille, then Sanremo, Diano, and Alassio meaning that we were definitely in Italy with dinner waiting for us that evening in Genoa. Read the rest of this entry

Saint-Émilion day trip

Monolithic church and bell tower

Although Saint-Émilion is too far from Carcassonne to see on a day trip, it’s only 30 minutes by train from Bordeaux so going there was an easy decision while we were visiting that regional wine capital with a big, bold name. In the US we knew that this region produced some famous and often pricey wines (Château Cheval Blanc,Grand Cru $1000, for example) but in our local supermarket we can find a Grand Cru produced 5 kilometers (3 miles) from that winery for about $10 and many more from the area, without that official superior grade classification, for half that small price and less. It was time for Bill and me to take a trip to see this well-known territory for ourselves and to find out why one British newspaper described it as “the French wine town that’s more beautiful than Bordeaux.” Read the rest of this entry

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Two American Guys & Their Dog Move to France

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The Vicious Cycle

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