France/Driving tour of France July 2016
Leaving soon for 2 week driving trip through France to visit mostly WWII historical sites and cemeteries. Came across your profile and wondered if you had any let minute recommendations for us.
Four of us are traveling, renting car from Charles De Gaulle Airport. Avoiding Paris we are traveling in the the following order: Dreux, Bayeux, Dieppe, Liege, Dortmund, Bacharach, Eqlosheim, Haguenau, Reims and back to CDG.
We have made reservations for all accommodations in advance and we plan to avoid tollways. We have GPS updated and set up for trip.
We would be interested in recommendations for local cheese and wine, with tips on eating out and pitfalls to avoid.
Hi, Mark in Neighboring Indiana!
Appreciate your excellent France questions and good luck with your upcoming "adventure"!!!
The Normandy World War II beach and cemetery are very moving and important. Lots to see and explore. Are you planning to do some major touring of Champagne Country in and around Reims? Time for Alsace?
While avoiding the French and German toll roads has its pluses, there are downsides to consider, too. Some of the routes on the two-lane roads can be a little slow and/or boring. Sorry to be so blunt and frank. Depends on where you are going and your personal priorities. There are good reasons for when the "time-efficiency" of the toll roads could be worth it to reach more quickly the "stars" in France.
Below are a number of my notes and ideas to consider for France.
Happy to share more, including lots of visual samples. Happy also to chat by phone, answer any added questions by phone if you let me know your e-mail.
Have been in Bacharach and explored along the scenic Rhine River, etc. Great areas!! Time for the Mosel River valley??
Reactions to these various ideas and options???? Look forward to hearing back from you with more details and specifics.
Does this start to help a little? What are your needs for added information? Be happy to provide additional info and answer other questions after learning more from you. Be sure to complete the evaluation section so that our "bosses" on this volunteer service know we are working hard to make inquiring minds as happy as possible. ENJOY! Merci Beaucoup!
Thanks. Terry Casey in Columbus, Ohio
The prime winery areas are east of the central city in Reims where the various and best champagne houses are located. To see these various caves about 60 feet deep in the ground is something special, plus most of the caves are carved out of chalk. Most of the better places have very interesting architecture and histories. After you see all it takes to craft Champagne, you better understand why it costs more to produce. With a car, you will be able to see the lovely rolling countryside and small villages around Reims, many of which have smaller Champagne places that produce their magic liquid that is almost as valuable as gold. From
you can get more detail info on the various locations, etc., in this area.
Among the top names for tours in Reims:
Lanson, G. H. Mumm, Piper Heidsieck, Pommery (which we visited in 2005, nice!), Taittinger and Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.
In Ludes: CANARD DUCHENE
In Tours sur Marne: LAURENT-PERRIER
Per TripAdvisor, they rate Brasserie du Boulingrin very highly. We had dinner there and loved its charming interior style, etc. They are at 48 rue de Mars, 51100 Reims, France, phone: 03.26.40.96.22 Website: www.boulingrin.fr It is considered an institution in the town since 1925. It is renowned for its Art Deco interior, cheerful atmosphere and wholesome cuisine made with fresh produce.
Then there is the town Epernay, south of Reims, smaller and very spectacular, with its many key name places with great buildings, tours, etc. Epernay has top tours at Moet & Chandon (with its statue of Dom Perignon), Perrier-Jouet, Pol Roger and Mercier. You can get more info from www.epernay.net.
Reims also has its super great Cathedral with its Chagall and Great Rose windows.
For tourism offices, you can contact people in Reims by going to this site and then clicking on the “contact us” section of their site:
For for the larger area, check:
Normandy: This is an area with many great potentials, including its 360-mile coastline, historic cities, beaches, lush farmlands, fine cheeses, nice ciders and many Gastronomic delights! This includes calvados, an apple brandy and Camembert cheese, a local specialty. It was part of ancient Gaul, conquered by Julius Caesar in the 1st century BC. The name of Normandy is derived from the settlement and conquest of the territory by Vikings ("Northmen") from the 9th century. Architecture in upper Normandy is typified by half-timbered buildings that also recall vernacular English architecture.
For the area, here’s more tourism info: www.normandie-tourisme.fr
In our one day-trip there, we did:
Giverny: This is a pilgrimage for art lovers in this picturesque village (just east of Vernon where the train from Paris took us and we got our car for our day-trip in this area). It is on the banks of the Seine and was the home of French impressionist painter Claude Monet. Visitors can wander through Monet's spacious house and the exuberant gardens. Near these garden is the famed pond and bridge, the inspiration of his famous water lily series.
Bayeux: This charming town is built around the magnificent Cathedral of Notre-Dame and is home to the 200-foot long Bayeux Tapestry. This is a world famous masterpiece whose cartoon-like scenes depict the epic tale of William the Conqueror's expedition conquering England in 1066 AD. We had a wonderful lunch at the Lion d’Or, a former coaching inn dating back to 1770. The town/area tourism website is: www.bessin-normandie.fr
World War II Landing Beaches: The largest military landing in history took place in Normandy on June 6, 1944 with 130,000 troops landing that day on the beaches. Monuments, museums and bunkers are a living commemoration to the Battle of Normandy. The American Cemetery is located near Colleville-sur-Mer on a cliff overlooking Omaha Beach (one of the landing beaches of the Normandy Invasion) and the English Channel. It covers 172 acres and contains the remains of 9,387 American military dead, most of whom were killed during the invasion of Normandy and ensuing military operations. The graves face westward, towards the United States. This cemetery is very moving and is maintained in an incredibly beautiful manner.
Mont-St-Michel (mohn-san-mee-shel) is a unique abbey perched precariously on a 264-foot high rocky islet connected to the mainland by a causeway. Surrounded by over half a mile of massive walls and reached by a steep climb up winding streets, it remains one of the greatest sightseeing attractions in Europe and the second only to the Eiffel Tower as the most visited place in France. Its fortifications enabled the islet to withstand repeated English assaults during the Hundred Years' War. The abbey served as a prison during Napoleon's reign. Restored after 1863, and connected to the mainland by a causeway in 1875), Mont-St.Michel is also known for its tides, the highest on the continent. For more tourist info/options: www.ot-montsaintmichel.com
We took the TGV Express train back from Rennes in Brittany at the end of our day-trip to this wonderful area with many great sites and sights!
There are also options at:
Rouen: A thriving industrial and commercial center and the third largest port in France, Rouen is steeped in history. Both William the Conqueror and Joan of Arc died in the town Victor Hugo called it "the city of a hundred spires". Rouen is home to many museums as well as its famed Gothic Cathedral of Notre-Dame, immortalized by Claude Monet’s paintings.
You can also check the tourism office for Rouen at:
Dieppe/Fecamp/Etretat: As the oldest seaside resort in France, Dieppe has its history retold in the castle museum. The Benedictine Palace & Museum, home of the famous Benedictine liqueur, is Fecamp's main fame, along with its picturesque marina. A short drive down the coast is the village of Etretat, nestled between striking white cliffs.
Deauville/Trouville: The glamorous resort town of Deauville, home to the rich and famous, is a thriving vacation spot of luxury hotels, casinos, race tracks, golf courses and polo grounds. Its twin city, Trouville, separated from Deauville by the Touques river, is a more sedate fishing village. Both towns boast wide sandy beaches. Another town named Honfleur is the birthplace of impressionist painting. Honfleur is a charming harbor village with narrow timbered houses. Monet and Baudelaire are two of the many artists who spend time in this 11TH century town.
ALSACE/EASTERN FRANCE: If you're a French Riesling fan or love other types of Alsace wines, you will both love a trip to the Alsace region. Or it can be great architecture, food, countrysides, etc. There are lots of charming and pretty towns, accommodation and many beautiful, great restaurants there to spend and create a very special time.
In 2005, we stayed in a super great village of only 1200 people called Riquewihr. It is one of the best of THE BEST!!! We saw why when we stayed there for two nights. Riquewihr has two different Michelin one-star restaurants. We dine on the first night there at Table du Gourmet under Chef Brendel and it was totally out of this world in setting, service and great food!!! What an enjoyable experience! WOW!!! We stayed at Hôtel De La Couronne, in the old town portion of this quaint, wood-timbered town in a building that dates back to 1550. Their e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
We also enjoyed driving along the Alsace Route du Vin, seeing the Vosges Mountains and visiting the town of Colmar. It is a well preserved city in Alsace with a population of 65,000. We had a prime evening dinner at Michelin three star rated restaurant, Auberge de l'Il, in nearby Illhaeusern. Auberge de l'Ill is one of only seventeen dining places in all of France and Paris to win this coveted and highest three stars from Michelin; it has won three stars continuously since 1967; only Paul Bocuse, just outside Lyon, has won that honor longer, since 1966!. That was a great place, but the one-star in Riquewihr was as good and even better in some ways. The town of Obernai is also great. Really enjoyed its architecture, charm and character. There is much to do and enjoy in this popular region.
For tourism info, check:
DINING: Assuming you're not looking for the high-end, pricy places, the great news is that most any place will be very good to great to excellent. It's hard to have a bad meal in France!! The secret is to do some asking where you are staying and/or of others you meet there for their local suggestions. Then apply the eyeball test! If it looks touristy and the people sitting there (or the staff) are bored and uninterested, then that place probably should be avoided. If it looks like there are locals there and/or they are enjoying it, then it will probably be very good. Or maybe even better!
Here's a good "balancing suggestion" for saving your dining budget. Grab your lunch at one of the many bakeries/boulangerie/patisserie shops. Most are very cute and wonderful. Great breads! Get a sandwich, pastry, drink. Maybe some cheese. Other nice fresh things. Maybe spend only $4-5-6 a person. Eat in a park area or bench in Paris or the country side. Like a little picnic! Saves money and time during a busy day. Allows a little more budget for dinner in the evening.
FINAL KEY POINT: Read up, in advance, with such books (maybe from your library) as Eyewitness France (great maps and pictures) . . . or the Michelin Green books . . . to help you target what you most want to see and enjoy to fit your needs and taste. Don't wait until you get there to decide what you want to do. And be flexible. There could be strikes, rain, etc. that will require you to be able to adjust quickly to take advantage of your best available options each day.