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My Way Tour France 2019 June 25th – July 8th

I chose the My Way tour because as a solo traveler, I am pretty independent and like to set my own agenda. I also liked the younger crowd and families often on these tours. I found the tour easy to customize and added Mont St Michel and Giverny as day trips from Paris.
Day 1
I started my tour by arriving a few days early to get past the jetlag and also do a few day trips from Paris. I was lucky enough to be able to check into my hotel, the Lenox Montparnasse right after my arrival in Paris. I asked the front desk for a recommendation for lunch and after freshening up I had a lovely entrée plus dessert at the Le Petit Broc. The roasted chicken with new potatoes, mushrooms and thyme in a Dijon sauce was delicious accompanied by the house rose. Dessert was a delightful peach soup. The menu is in both French and English. After a nice nap I shopped at the local market and enjoyed a picnic in my room. I find this is not only delicious but a great way to save money! It’s great fun to shop in local places!

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Day 2
I visited the Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal in Paris. This chapel is where the Madonna appeared to Saint Catherine Labouré in 1830 and requested the creation of the medal which came to be known as the Miraculous Medal. The energy of the chapel was quite beautiful and who could resist visiting the site where the Sacred Feminine appeared to a common girl with hope and love. After visiting the chapel, I spent time in the very peaceful Jardin Catherine Laboure enjoying watching local moms and children running and playing and seniors sitting on benches chatting together. The Cluny Museum was next on my agenda. The last time I was in Paris this museum was closed so I was very happy to be able to visit on this trip! This location is one of the oldest places in Paris having been built on Roman bath ruins. The famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries did not disappoint. There is something magical about them and the information included was most interesting. Apparently, each tapestry represents one of the five senses and perhaps a sixth. In ancient and medieval times, the senses were studied by philosophers and correlated to the elements earth/touch, water/taste, air/smell and hearing, fire/sight. The five senses were considered gateways to the human soul, granting access to knowledge or gnosis. Some researchers maintain that the sixth sense/tapestry relates to the heart and the energy of love. I like this idea and I bet John Lennon would have too! I also particularly liked the statue of Ariane, a legendary Cretan princess rescued by Bacchus the God of wine! Now who could say no to a God of wine? Lunch was amazing at the Bistro du Dome with sea bass topped with ratatouille and mille feuille with a raspberry sauce for dessert and accompanied by rose of course! I enjoyed chatting with the waiter about American politics and our mutual love of France.

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Day 3
I used a separate tour company for a day trip to a magical place that has been on my bucket list for a long time, Mont St Michel! Despite the drizzle I was so excited to catch the first glimpse of this amazing cathedral through the mist as a backdrop to emerald green pastures of grazing sheep. I caught the shuttle that takes you down the long causeway built over the sands sometimes covered by rising tides. I like looking for ancient pagan symbols in cathedrals like the green man and dragons! I also find all of the Leylines and Earth energy line research done by dowsers to be fascinating. There are two Earth energy lines (dragon lines) that cross here, the Michael and the Mary lines. Typically, cathedrals are built so that the alter is at the crossing of these two yin/yang energy lines. It feels very electric sitting in the first row of the church! With 350 steps and in the rain at that, I was glad to have my trusty walking stick! I can’t wait to go again! Lunch was a sandwich and beverage at a local shop there and picnic in my room again as I was pretty pooped!

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Day 4
This was the beginning of the My Way tour so I had a light agenda as I did not want to be late for our meeting at 5pm. On my last tour in France, Loire and the South of France, our tour guide took us to an incredible sound and light show in a quarry in Les Baux, so when I saw a similar presentation in Paris, I booked ahead for tickets to Van Gogh at the Atelier Lumieres. The projections of Van Gogh paintings with such moving music gave me goose bumps and an incredible natural high for the rest of the day! When I booked the My Way tour, I did not think I would have a tour guide but instead I had two! Hilbren Buys and Veronique Savoye were our tour directors and both were really great! I now follow Veronique’s blog, French Girl in Seattle Takes France which can help with understanding the French culture and keeps me feeling like I am still in France! Our tour group really got along well and I have new FB friends now. Dinner was a lovely crepe with rose and a mango sorbet at Café Noisette. I really enjoyed chatting with one of the owners about politics and her insights on the fall in tourism. So nice to get to chat with local folk. The French are really nice!

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Day 5
I took a half day trip to Monet’s home, Giverny. This was another bucket list item and the gardens were ethereal with fairy like flowers and their sweet scents that the butterflies could not resist. The bridge over the lily pond and the arches of roses were just as I had imagined them. The house itself was charming with a yellow dining room I would love to copy and a blue and white kitchen decorated with copper pans. Back at my hotel I was happy to discover that my friend and Rick Steves tour guide, Sarah Murdoch happened to be in Paris! We met near the Eiffel Tower for a lovely dinner and rose after stopping by the local street market for some pink tinged apricots. Sarah was my tour guide when I took the Best of Italy Tour in 2016. I follow Sarah’s blog, Adventures with Sarah for advice on just about everything to do with travel. I especially like her articles on solo budget travel for woman and she makes me laugh!

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Thank you Jan A. I was wondering whether to go to the Cluny in Oct when I am in Paris staying near there. I understand they are still under renovation, so happy to hear there were still the beautiful tapestries on display. Loved the restaurant suggestions, too. I, too, loved the blue and white kitchen at Giverney.

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Thanks for taking the time to post your trip report. It's always nice to hear from folks who have taken and recommend the My Way tours, and get an idea of the activities they like to plan for themselves. I sounds as if you are having a good time and had meals in some wonderful restaurants.

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Thanks for taking the time to post this and I hope you will continue with the tour days. I am taking the MyWay Italy tour this year as a solo traveler and if I enjoy it half as much as I think I will, I plan on doing this one in the next few years. After several fully guided tours with RS, I have really enjoyed planning my own agenda. Sounds like you found lots of great places to eat and picnics from the grocery store are always fun. Thanks again.

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I will post additional days in the future. Thanks for all the great feedback!
Jan

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Jan A, I was glad to see this thread. I've been thinking about another France tour, and was curious about how the My Way worked. I'm looking forward to the rest of your report. Thank you.

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Day 6
We departed Paris for the Loire Valley and a visit to Château de Chambord. This is pretty ginormous for a hunting lodge to say the least. I especially liked the double helix staircase that was most likely designed by Leonardo Da Vinci. King François I brought him to France in his last days and gave him Chateau du Clos Luce. Salamanders are everywhere, the symbol of Francois I, in fact there are 300 depicted in the chateau! Lunch was a sandwich and a glass of champagne onsite. Santé! We arrived in Blois pronounce blwah for the next two nights. The heat wave had begun and it made walking about in the afternoon sweltering. I am a capsule wardrobe kind of gal which makes it easier to pack light when everything goes with everything else. However, when it’s this hot, items can’t be worn more than once! Ugh! The Mona Lisa staircase was unique and the village quaint with some half-timbered houses. Dinner was at Poivre et Sel and was delicious! Three courses with a goat cheese appetizer, pasta with prawns, rose and for dessert lemon sorbet with a shot of vodka!

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Day 7
The a/c in the hotel Mecure Blois did not work and sleeping was difficult with the heat. I have come to look forward to the hotels on RS tours as they are usually charming and frequently unusual which I delight in! However, this hotel was not like that. I hope that they re-evaluate this hotel for future tours. Today we visit the beautiful Chateau de Chenonceau. Having been before I concentrated on the beautiful gardens, the labyrinth, the river and the WWII history of the chateau and the WWII museum onsite. Apparently, the other side of the river was free France and the chateau owners would hide folk and spirit them across the long hallway to the other side of the river to freedom! On to Amboise! Having visited Chateau du Clos Luce before and the amazing replicas of Da Vinci’s inventions I focused on the Château d'Amboise, visiting the grave of Leonardo Da Vinci in a small chapel on the grounds. Lunch was a goat cheese and walnut buckwheat crepe, small salad and rose. Back in Blois, dinner was at Les 3 Clés with poisson with lemon and a zucchini gratin with rose. Alas another sleepless night with no a/c but soldiering on!

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Day 8
We arrive in Lyon and our Mecure Replublique hotel accommodations. I actually liked this hotel and the a/c was working well! We did our walking tour of the city and Lyon is really quite spectacular sitting between 2 rivers with a magnificent cathedral and basilica to explore along with some underground passageways used by the French during WWII. Dinner was a pretty formal affair at the Le Centre by Georges Blanc. This was the best meal of the trip with a deviled egg with asparagus spear- amuse bouche, foie gras appetizer, Boef with a wine sauce and rose. Dessert was a decedent chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice cream. So definitely a meal you dream about in France!

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We're looking for a France escape in 2021; this tour might work. Jan A, are all these meals (except for breakfast) on your own? Do the tour managers recommend places? You mention a walking tour in Lyon; was that with the tour managers, or did you do it on your own or with another local tour guide?

I'm loving your report. Can't wait to get back to France.

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Hi Jan,

Thanks for your report. I've booked this My Way trip for next May and so looking forward to it.

I'm planning on 10 days in/around Paris prior to the tour, and a few days after. I'll actually return to Paris for some Rolland Garros tennis championships. I haven't had a tour with Sarah Murdoch but have followed her for a few years. Also just learned about and began following French Frye and French Girl in Seattle TP. I'd love to have her as my guide next year, but likely won't be that lucky. Will see. I'm looking forward to the rest of your report!

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Jane,

All meals are on your own except breakfasts yes. The tour managers have 'office hours' in the mornings at breakfast and sometimes on the bus. They were both wonderful and helpful about recommending places to see and orienting you on walks at each location. They would also give options like staying at a location and finding your way back on your own by train. In Annecy which I will get to, we had the option of staying in Annecy or going to Mont Blanc and Chamonix. I really liked the freedom on this tour and I think I got the best of both worlds with Veronique as a tour manager. She is a great guide!

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Day 9
A lovely breakfast starts the day and I fed a small sparrow by hand at my table outside the hotel. It’s our secret so don’t tell the hotel staff! If you know me you will know I have a thing for cathedrals and visit them in each location. Most old cathedrals are built on pagan/Earth energy sites and I like the electric vibe you get. The Templars revered John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene so I like to look for signs and symbols that suggest the Templars were involved in the building of the cathedral. I am a geek like that. Our first stop was the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière on the top of the hill. We rode the fernicular up to the top. The cathedral was magnificent with it’s beautiful frescos inside the church and the golden statue of Mary on the top. We were able to catch part of the service and the choir was lovely. The view is also just breath taking! Next stop was the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon, which was undergoing some renovation so not as beautiful as it could have been but still quite lovely. There is a nice statue of John the Baptist in front of the cathedral. We popped into a local gelato shop for a snack and were able to go through a few of the Traboules. These secret passage ways were originally constructed by silk traders who wanted to protect their silk from the rain while transporting through the city of Lyon. They were also used during WW II by the resistance against the Nazis. Here is a fun link : Traboules info
The rest of the day included laundry and a picnic in my room. I was too late for lunch but was able to order my new fav lemon sorbet with vodka shot while waiting for the laundry to finish. Not bad!

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Day 10
We drive to Annecy today and what an enchanting city it is! After checking into our hotel Veronique leads us on a walking tour of the city. Annecy sits at the base of snowy peaks and a beautiful clear, blue lake! Some of the tour group grabbed sandwiches and hopped on a water tour. A few of us decided on Crêperie du Thiou next to one of the many beautiful canals and pastel colored buildings. They don’t call it the Venice of France for nothing! We tried the local digestive, génépy with our desserts. Definitely a sipping liqueur! The hotel Allobroges Park Annecy is charming and one I would highly recommend. There is a Monoprix very nearby which I took advantage of for a picnic in my room.

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Day 11
Breakfast and then Chamonix and Mont Blanc are on the agenda today! The French Alps are breathtakingly beautiful and definitely not to be missed! After arriving on our bus, we took the train up to Mont Blanc. We toured the crystal museum there and you can take a cable car to the top. It was clear for us that day and for those who aren’t afraid of heights, a real experience. Alas that is not me so I enjoyed a beer and some quiche while sitting admiring the lovely mountain peaks all around me. Lunch was back in Chamonix with raclette and fondue at L’impossible! Dinner was back in Annecy at Crêperie du Thiou again. It was that good, what can I say?

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Day 12
Today we spend our afternoon wading under the Pont du Gard and enjoying a picnic lunch after stopping at a CarreFour on the way! The river kept our wine nice and cool on this very hot day! Amazing to think this aqueduct was built by the Romans in the first century AD to supply water to Nimes! Back on the bus on the way to Avignon, Veronique gave us a scarf tying lesson so now I can say I learned the proper French way to tie a scarf! Sweet! Our hotel Hotel Bristol Avignon is quite nice and my room has a nice view of the old city. I like waking up and opening my windows to the fresh morning air and bird song. We do our usual walking tour of the city and have an amazing dinner in the plaza in front of the Papal Palace. I have been to Avignon previously with my daughter and so I have good memories but also some things I want to experience that I was not able to fit in the last time.

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Day 13
Some tour members spent the day in Arles but I stayed in Avignon. I toured the Cathedrale Notre-Dame des Doms first. This is an old church dating back to the 12th century. There are lovely statues of the Magdalene and her alabaster jar and Martha. Next I toured the Musée du Petit Palais with some amazing Botticelli paintings and other medieval art works. I highly recommend this museum. I walked to the Jardin des Doms and had lunch next to the duck pond under the umbrellas. I love this garden and the grotto and spring with the calming sound of the fountains. There is a great view of the famous bridge, Pont D’Avignon, the Rhone river and a curious monument with astrology signs! Apparently, there has been settlements here on this hill as far back as Neolithic times. Dinner was a sandwich in my room as the cold I caught decided to be a challenge. I went to a pharmacy and they gave me little glass ampules of silver to gargle with. This seemed to really do the trick!
Day 14
On to Nice today and we say good bye to our bus driver Gunter who has been so kind and friendly. We take our group photo and arrive in Nice at our hotel, Mercure Nice Centre Notre Dame. This is a nice hotel but far from the Old Town. We take the tram to the Old Town and do our walking tour. Some new friends and I visit the nearby Monoprix. We eat while sitting on the chairs overlooking the water. We eat some delicious seafood and pasta at Le Hussard for dinner and afterwards enjoy the sunset while sitting on the beach.
Day 15
Today after breakfast my new friends and I rent a lounge chair on the beach to enjoy some R and R. This is a highlight of the trip. I love the ocean and swimming in this amazing blue Mediterranean water and having someone bring us food and wine is a true luxury! The high salt content makes it impossible to sink and there is no need for any flotation device. The rocks make exit and entry into the water a challenge and it’s hilarious watching people navigate the rocks. Water shoes sure make things easier. Our adventure at Castle Park on top of the hill included the lift inside the tunnels dug for submarines by the Nazis and the beautiful waterfall and ancient ruins on top with the best view of Nice you can get! We had our ending tour dinner which was delicious and said good bye to all of our new friends at breakfast the next day. I stayed on for two more nights in an Airbnb in Old Town and had the time of my life on this tour! Book it and go yourselves! You won't regret it!

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Thanks for the information about the Traboules in Lyon, they are definitely on my to-do list. Along with the rest of your report I'm now more than ever excited for my trip. I appreciate your taking the time to write up a fun and informative report.