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Our location as of 10/2/2012

Madison, WI, USA
Last updated 10/2/2012
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Country Recap: France

While France might not have had the “wow” moments that other countries had, we still had a good time. We went straight up the country from the Catalan border with Spain to Belgium, stopping to take in the unforgettable sights of Paris and even have our own multi-stage tandem bike tour through the French countryside.

The food was delicious, yet simple: when in doubt, we just went to a bakery and bought a baguette. The French train system was equally simple, and public transport in cities was great in general. The language barrier posed a problem a couple times, as the French are very proud of their language and English isn’t generally spoken as much as in other countries. Still, after months and months of pantomime and pointing in Asia, we got by just fine.

Strangely, from here on out, the longest we’ll be in a country is five days! The trip really will be ending very soon!

Top three experiences?

Nikki:

  1. Paris
  2. Biking in the Loire Valley
  3. The bread! French bread is so good, I probably shouldn’t eat it because I know I’m going to crave it after I’m gone. I love how bread is such an important aspect of French life. There’s a bakery on almost every block. Each evening you see people coming home with their daily baguette. If a restaurant doesn’t give you free, fresh bread, you’re allowed to be scandalized. No wonder they stormed the Bastille when they didn’t have enough bread!

Brad:

  1. Biking the Loire Valley. We had a nice tandem to stroll through this great place.
  2. Paris. I really liked the Montmartre neighborhood where we stayed.
  3. Our picnic lunches. We’d get ham, Edam cheese, a baguette, apples, dessert, and a small bottle of wine and eat in a park. Looking back, buying freshly baked baguettes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner was awesome (and cheap).

Bottom three experiences?

Nikki:

  1. Trying to sleep during the heat wave in Toulousse.
  2. General lack of “wow moments.”
  3. Leaving Paris.

Brad:

  1. The heat in Toulouse! Actually it was hot everywhere, but in Toulouse we didn’t feel like doing anything.
  2. Nantes. It was nice, but for whatever reason we didn’t really enjoy it as much.
  3. We lost one of our days in La Rochelle because of rain. It was a really cool city and I wish we could have seen more of it that first day.

Best meal?

Nikki: The bucket of mussels I had in La Rochelle.

Brad: The omelet served with fries I had for lunch in Paris.

Worst meal?

Nikki: The flan I ordered for dessert in Nantes. Completely wrong texture.

Brad: We ate at a kebab place and I had a sandwich that had some strange sauce on it I didn’t like.

Favorite person we met?

Nikki: Francois, the retired Frenchman who hosted us in Amboise. No idea what he was saying, but I know he was hilarious and kind.

Brad: Christine and Francoise in Amboise. They were very nice and funny.

Worst disaster?

Nikki: Definitely our “kitchen moment” in La Rochelle. We were staying at a place on Airbnb, and I asked Eric, the husband, if we could cook in their kitchen. He said okay, but when Catherine, the wife, came home, we found out it was actually not okay at all. We just tried to finish eating as fast as we could while Catherine yelled at Eric in French. Awkward.

Brad: Figuring out what to do with our luggage while we were on our biking tour. The bike shop said they do luggage transfers from one city to the next, but when I emailed them they said they needed at least 10 business days to arrange. (!) In the end, we just left our bags in the bike shop and returned to where we started and taking a train to Blois, instead of just biking straight there. So it worked out, but it was a pain.

Favorite place we stayed?

Nikki: Our studio in Montmartre.

Brad: We used Airbnb a lot in this country, and the places were all really nice. My favorite was our place in Paris. It was tiny, but it was in a nice neighborhood and cozy.

Worst place we stayed?

Nikki: Etap in Blois.

Brad: In Toulouse, where it was boiling hot, we slept in a loft without a fan. It felt like our hostel in Florence.

Best thing we didn’t blog about?

Nikki: I really liked the city of Tours.

Brad: Our stay in Orleans. Although we didn’t do any touristy Joan of Arc museums, it was still a nice town to hang out for a day in.

Weirdest thing?

Nikki: The only weird thing I can think of is that, apparently, rabbit is a common meal. We never got a chance to try it, though.

Brad: All the gate jumping in the Paris subway. In our first half hour in the city, we saw four or five people climbing over the turnstyles and swinging doors behind them. And it wasn’t just homeless-looking people either. It appears to be a somewhat normal thing to do, and I only saw one person getting ticketed for doing it.

Statistics for France

  • Days in the country: 19
  • Places we stayed: 9
  • Rainy days: 1
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 4
  • Photos taken: 651
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 140, 22% of all photos taken
  • Geocaches found: 15
  • Hours traveling overland: 16

Statistics for the Trip

  • Countries visited: 20
  • Days on the road: 372
  • Days remaining: 26
  • Places we stayed: 154
  • Rainy days: 58
  • UNESCO World Heritage sites visited: 44
  • Photos taken: 16,463
  • Photos uploaded to SmugMug: 3,885, 24% of all photos taken
  • Geocaches found: 51
  • Hours traveling overland: 805

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