Category Archives: Travel in France & beyond

Plan that trip

Canal-du-Midi from Office de Tourisme Grand Carcassonne

In the old days, when our annual trips to Europe required a transatlantic flight, our planning began more than 11 months in advance because that was how far ahead we could book the airline tickets. We then had almost a year to do all of the fine tuning and to picture how we wanted our holiday to turn out. Once we moved here and started traveling almost exclusively by train, where tickets are generally available only 3 months in advance, we had to change our strategy. No longer did we have months of anticipation but only weeks and according to an article I read last month it’s that period of looking forward to your break that makes you feel better about life in general and specifically about your health, economics, and social situation. With the article titled, “Waiting for Merlot”, I just had to read it.  Read the rest of this entry

Florence, Italy in 5 days

Florence from across the Arno River

Our neighbor loves Italy and was delighted to know that we were going to be visiting one of her favorite destinations (in February, before the virus, thank you). She describes Milan, where we stopped over for 2 days in October 2018, as a city with some beautiful buildings and one especially well known artwork, da Vinci’s The Last Supper. On the other hand, she assured us that in Florence we would be treated to buildings that stand out as masterpieces themselves on every corner and sumptuous works of art on display inside each one of them. Wow, that was some recommendation and we did our best to plan out an itinerary that would prove her right. This seemed like a perfect winter vacation where we could spend hours inside art galleries and museums and hope that the chilly outdoor temperatures would encourage some of the 13 million tourists to come back at a warmer time of year. Read the rest of this entry

Bruges in a week

Bonifacius bridge

It was 15 years ago when Bill and I went to Bruges, Belgium and that was for less than 24 hours. At the time we were staying in Paris which is only 2 ½ hours away by train and in those days we tried to pack in as much as possible to our annual two-week vacations. On that same trip we had already spent the week in a Loire Valley castle making driving excursions into the surrounding areas to see at least one other chateau every day, so why not visit another country too? All I can remember from back then is the chocolate, the beer, and the lace. On our recent return to the city we had the luxury of being there an entire week but we also had to sneak in a day trip to Ghent, only 30 minutes down the train tracks. Old habits die hard. Read the rest of this entry

Be prepared

Taking the direct route from Marseille to Carcassonne

It’s been a long time since either Bill or I were actively involved with anything to do with the Boy Scouts but their motto has stuck with both of us and it follows us, especially on our travels. On our most recent train trip coming home from Marseille, an online mapping program showed our route as going on/over/through the Mediterranean Sea rather than on the tracks that hug the shoreline going through Nimes, Montpellier, and other cities you can see on the screen shot here. Luckily we kept our heads above water by consulting the paper itinerary we had printed out earlier to confirm the stops and the times we would be at each one. I like to do the same for city maps that come to the rescue when the mapping app on the phone displays, “Can’t find a way there.” Read the rest of this entry

Two, two, two trips in one

Ax-les-Thermes in the Pyrenees

Bill will readily admit that he’s not an early riser unless, as our friend Pete says, there’s a treat at the end. When you combine our favorite form of transportation, the train, with bargain fares of one euro per person, and the chance to visit two cities along scenic rail routes, that’s one big treat. It was enough to coax him out of bed at 5 AM three weeks before we wanted to travel to snag those cheap tickets as soon as they went on sale. Where were we headed? It might seem strange that during a summer with record-breaking high temperatures we would visit a town known for its hot springs, but we wanted to see this area in the Pyrenees before its other attraction arrived: snow. Read the rest of this entry

Monze day trip

Monze across the vineyards

When our friends with a car, Sally and Larry, asked us if we’d like to go with them to the village of Monze, the first thing I had to do was look up its location. That’s when the good news started. First off, it was only going to be about a 20-minute ride and then I looked closely at the map to see some of the street names: rue du Cabernet, rue du Merlot, rue du Chardonnay…. Sounds like our kind of place! Sally went on to say that the restaurant she thought we’d enjoy featured wine from the local area and there were 3 vineyards in the vicinity offering tastings. Naturally we said, “yes, thank you” and we were off on another nearby adventure. Read the rest of this entry

Toulouse day trip

Pink mansion on rue de l’Echarpe

If we hadn’t already been to Albi, the birthplace of painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, I would have spent a lot of time during our visit to this city bearing a part of his last name trying to find his connection to the Ville Rose (Pink City because of the color of the bricks). As it turns out, the name meant that he was born into an aristocratic family with roots in the area rather than, as the museum in Albi dedicated to his works can confirm, being from there. All the better for us since we now had that much more opportunity to explore the museums, squares, medieval buildings, cafés, and 2000 or so restaurants in a city less than an hour by train from Carcassonne. Read the rest of this entry