What a beautiful trip! I was an exchange student in Poitiers, in the Loire Valley 33 years ago and despite multiple trips to Europe, this was my first time back. It was especially satisfying because I joined a French conversation class and French meet-up six months ago and regained much of my fluency from back in the day. A reminder to me that trips are particularly enjoyable when you can connect with language.
Day 1: SAN to CDG, rented a car and drove to Chartres. Seeing the light show on the Chartre Cathedral was worth the 30 hours awake to make it until 10:30 pm local time.
Day 2: Drove to Bayeux via a Camembert farm in Normandy. I like to find out-of-the-way destinations and set the NAV to local roads a few times per trip. As a result, we stumbled upon the beautiful and crumbling remains of L'Abbaye d'Ouche, an 11th century monastery in the middle of nowhere by a lake, where we had a fabulous picnic with no one else in sight. Saw the Bayeux tapestry that eve at the musuem.
Day 3: D-Day beaches tour with Bayeux Shuttle Company which was wonderful. My grandfather was a French interpreter with Patton's army at Battle of the Bugle and landed in France a few weeks after D-Day so particularly moving for me. Slept in Bayeux.
Day 4: Drove to Giverny. It was packed with people, but it didn't even matter. Everyone was drunk on the scent of roses and it was glorious! Big mistake trying to drop the rental car at Gare du Nord. I'd planned Gare de Lyon, but dh thought Gare du Nord closer. Ended up in horrible traffic...impossible to figure out how to actually get INTO the lot. Happy to have my French! First of 5 nights at our Cobblestones apartment in Le Marais. It was wonderful except for the HEAT. 100 degrees all five days. No A/C of course. New rule: only A/C for summer trips to Europe!
Day 5: Walking tour of Ile de la Cite (Paris Walks) which was wonderful. Jardin du Luxembourg was a fabulous oasis of shade after that. Wonderful Basque dinner (mostly locals) at Au Bascou in Le Marais. Highly recommended.
Day 6: Notre Dame and Orsay Musee. Quick visit to my favorite shop Simrane nearby, where my mom had brought me a bedspread a decade back. Got into trouble there...
Day 7: Rest day after 10 miles of walking and the heat. DH went to the Orangerie, Tuileries, and Sacre Coeur. Came home with major heat stroke. Picked up a picnic dinner (and lunch for the train the next day) on Rue Rambateau.
Day 8: DH still unwell but did make it out for a nice lunch at Fil Au Saison in the Marais that had A/C!! That evening we met up with a couple that we'd intended to do a home exchange with back in 2008. I had to cancel that trip because I was ill, but we decamped to my mom's so their trip wasn't affected even though we couldn't go. Such an enjoyable evening finally meeting them. After dinner, the heat finally cooled and we walked Ile de la Cite with them late in the evening, past all the lit up monuments and kids playing Petanque. (It's not an old man's game anymore apparently!) Best of all: She said we'd be welcome to return for a week in their Paris apartment and a week at their home in Provence since we never got our exchange. I won't have to be asked twice!
Day 9: Fast train to Avignon (two hours. Woah!). The heat had moved south so back to 100 degrees...but infinitely more bearable in our lovely air conditioned Airbnb in St Remy and hopping in and out of an air conditioned car. After checking in, drove to Ile sur La Sorgue for a riverside dinner since we couldn't coordinate for market day. It was nice, but a bit touristy I felt.
Day 10: Beautiful Luberon villages tour. Headed out early to see Abbe de Sennanc for the lavender...a bucket list item and the only reason we went in summer. Stunning. Fortunately, we were leaving just as the tourist buses were arriving.