Please sign in to post.

Trip Report 9/21-10/24 – Paris, Road Scholar tour of SW France, Paris (lol)

This is long with some detail so if that bothers you it’s better to move on to the next thread, lol!

Basic Trip Outline: I’d signed up for a Road Scholar tour of SW France and the Perigord last winter. I was biting my nails as to whether the tour would run or not, particularly since Rick decided not to run his tours this year. I made my final payment in July so was committed. I always add time in Paris before and after any French trip so this time had about 2 weeks before the tour in Paris, one week with a friend and one week on my own, plus 4 nights afterward. That turned out great because it gave me the right amount of time to get my Covid test to return to the US. Early on I had considered adding in UK but decided it would be better to keep things to one country and I think this was a wise decision. I “only” had to keep track of one set of Covid rules. My thought over the next year is that fewer countries is probably the way to go.

Traveling in the time of Covid: Well, I caused myself a lot of anxiety over whether I should or should not travel and how to handle things once I was there. This is a decision each person has to make themselves. I had input from good friends here on the forum giving me trustworthy info on France’s statistics/stance on vax/etc. but I was still worried. As one person said to me….we’ve all experienced trauma over the last year and although I had not identified that in myself she was 100% correct. I live in Idaho, land of Covid deniers. I’ve been masking and very cautious the whole time and it threw me for a loop to see unmasked crowds outdoors in Paris. The difference of course is they are at 80% or more vaxxed (sorry did not look this up) while Idaho is still under 50% and hospitals remain under Crisis Standards of Care. Since March 2020 I’ve eaten out about 4 times, all well distanced from others. In France, there is no distancing in cafes now either inside or outside and everyone has their masks off. Of course they have the Pass Sanitaire which I found was checked maybe 60% of the time in Paris (and almost ALL the time in SW France). In retrospect going was a wonderful adventure and a good brain break. I did wind up spending a bit more time in my hotel room, especially in the afternoons…just needed to get my mask off.

Masks/Masking: I took 34 N95 masks with me even though I knew they were available in France. I wore them inside and outside every day. I only had them off in my hotel room or when eating. On the tour bus we were supposed to wear them but many did not, either not at all or with mouth or nose exposed. The guide and driver wore them religiously. Most of the locals were wearing the blue, black or pink paper masks. A few were wearing KN95 and very few were wearing the N95.

Social Distancing: There are signs everywhere on distancing but there is no way this can be observed. When I was on my own I took the Metro quite a bit and it was crowded. Like shoulder to shoulder rush hour crowds even when it was not rush hour. To me Line 1 was the worst but I was only on it between Concorde and St Paul although over several different occasions. I had different experiences in different museums. The Orsay was nearly empty when I visited (except for the special exhibition related to early Cinema) and the first Louvre visit it was not crowded. I goofed and went the 2nd time on a Sunday and it was really crowded (including the special exhibition) then the last time was last Friday and it was not crowded. Musee Jacquemart-Andre was very crowded and the Botticelli exhibition was shoulder to shoulder and uncomfortably so. We did eat at the lovely café where I think we were the only Americans there for Sunday lunch. Orangerie was not terribly crowded until we got downstairs to the Soutine-Kooning exhibition which was crowded.

Posted by
9675 posts

Pass Sanitaire/CDC card: I’d applied for it the old way then applied the day after the new method came out. I finally got it before I traveled but I know the system is overwhelmed. I’m suspecting they had no idea how much pent up demand there would be for visiting France, lol! I’d say 60% of the restaurants in Paris checked the Pass while nearly all did in the SW area either with the tour or on my own. In Paris with friend Darcy from the forum here, we realized that they were not asking us for our passes especially if it was a restaurant we’d been in before and wondered if they recognized us. We saw them scanning others’ codes. I was somehow able to download the QR code to my Apple watch and this worked really well. Darcy and I were not asked for it on the train out to Chartres for a day trip but I don’t believe at the time the TER trains were requiring it. I was “banded” with an aqua wristband in Gare Montparnasse after they scanned my code before I took the TGV out to Bordeaux. On the way back from Toulouse on the TGV no one asked for the QR code. On the tour after the first few days, only about maybe 1/3 had the QR code and the others used the CDC vax card with no problem.

Antigen test for return: This was extremely easy. I’d checked out the pharmacies in the neighborhood of my hotel in the 2 weeks before I left Paris for my tour. When I returned from my tour on a Wednesday I went to the closest small pharmacy and asked in my horrible French whether I needed a reservation time. The pharmacist said no…we do them all day. So I went in the next AM at 930 or so and she took me right away then told me to go walk around for 15 minutes and come back. She even printed out the test results without me asking her to do so. It was a wonderful experience and I felt compelled to do some shopping there to give them some business. She charged me 25E which I thought was lower than it should have been but I made up for it shopping for some small Christmas presents for folks. The test results were checked by the Delta check in desk person at CDG and then not asked for again. I used Global Entry at Seattle. The Attestation form was collected at the gate when boarding the flight leaving Paris.

Covid Closures: One of my go-to restaurants near my regular hotels didn’t make it thru Covid. I also noticed that Café Constant, which a number of people on the forum recommend also is apparently permanently closed (white paper up on the windows). There were numbers of shops/restaurants with the white paper up in Paris, Bordeaux and Toulouse. On the other hand, most of the restaurants that are open are busy as can be with filled terraces and indoor spaces.

Posted by
9675 posts

Packing/Capsule wardrobe: OH MY WORD! I apparently forgot everything I knew about packing and packing light. It took me forever to get myself together. I did a complete pack starting about 2 weeks ahead and still had a time getting things into the suitcase. Couldn’t get stuff folded right for the packing cubes, decided all my OTC meds were probably expired so got new at the last minute, made myself zip it up and put it by the front door 2 days before I left. I didn’t like the way my personal item packed so changed that from a LeSportsac Tote to a small day pack at the last minute. Good Grief. My recommendation is to go back to some recreational packing over the winter so you sharpen your skills, lol! I read a blog post by Cameron Hewitt a couple of days before I left and he recommended taking a thermometer and Pulse Oximeter in case you do get sick that you can monitor yourself. So…went out at 6A one morning looking for a pulse oximeter which were hard to find here in CdA as we were in the middle of a covid spike. I never used them except the pulse ox also has a relaxation biofeedback program along with so I did use that.

I essentially took the same capsule wardrobe I’d used the last time I traveled which was October 2019. I took 4 Land’s End cotton modal SS tee shirts (black, white, cobalt, aqua), 1 LS cotton modal shirt (aqua), 2 Dri-fit LS quarter zip shirts, 2 pr jeans (dark navy and a black print – Gloria Vanderbilt Amanda from Costco), 1 pr light travel pants (remember those Kirkland brand travel pants from several years ago) and at the last minute threw in a pr of cotton knit pants (Costco again) in case I tested positive and had to wait out a quarantine. I took a waterproof rain jacket, a puffy vest (Costco 32 degree brand from several years ago), Smartwool glove liners, wore waterproof shoes (Altra Lone Peak) and took a non-waterproof pr of athletic shoes (Altra Lone Peak’s as well). I also had unders and this time just took my regular Fruit of the loom moisture wicking undies instead of the Ex Officio ones which always feels like my nether region is wrapped in Saran Wrap (is that TMI?). Also had 4 pr of socks, a nightie and wore compression socks on the plane. I had 2 scarves and shock of shocks….did not buy another one! I wore everything except the lounge pants and the LS shirt. It was warm in Bordeaux so I wore the SS shirts all the time there. The caves we visited were cold so did wear the puffy vest and the gloves a couple of times. The gloves weren’t strictly necessary but the rails were wet and sticky and I was glad to have a layer on (yes the gloves are in the washing machine even as we speak). There was a lot of rain in Paris including a drenching rain when Darcy, her husband and I were trying to get to a meet-up with friends and all taxis were taken.

Posted by
9675 posts

Smartphone and Apps: I live in Idaho so have never used Uber or any kind of taxi app. I downloaded the G7 app this time and we used it a few times. I found it easy to use and handy EXCEPT for when we were trying to get a taxi in the pouring rain. Even the hotel said we needed to go stand on the street and flag one down. I have regular cell service thru Verizon so I got the $10/day international plan as I wasn’t sure how often I would need it. I only had 5 days where I used the international plan so I felt that was a good investment. I basically left the phone in airplane mode which allowed me to access WIFI in the hotel (and museums) and then only went out of airplane mode when I needed to use the G7 app. On the Road Scholar tour there were a number of people who don’t routinely use smart phones and had no idea how to access their email. This was a huge issue especially for them to get the results of their Covid tests for return to the US. Seemingly everyone uses smartphones for everything in France. If you are not up to date on your smartphone skills, start using it now to check email, surf the internet, use the search features, etc. Also carry a cheat sheet with your passwords on it.

Screenshots: This really goes with Smartphone but thought I’d mention it separately. Be sure you understand how to do screen shots. Then screen shot every timed entry, train ticket and airline boarding pass. The 2nd time I went to the Louvre I bought the ticket that AM and thought I had it saved to the “notes” function. Well, I didn’t. Then when it came time for me to get into one of the wings I couldn’t get the Louvre WIFI to work (probably too many people?) and I couldn’t get my Verizon service. I had a few minutes of bewilderment and then finally got a wifi connection so I could access the email with the ticket. I immediately remembered the advice here to take a screen shot so was covered for any of the other wing entries I needed. Ditto on my departure from CDG. There is a Security guy who won’t let you into the terminal unless you can show a boarding pass or ticketing information. I’d been able to partially check in the day before (which surprised me) and had a boarding pass so I’d done a screen shot and it was easy to access in the dark outside the terminal.

Wheelchair assist: I traveled to France with a friend who needed a wheelchair assist in the airports for the distances. Spokane was good, Seattle was good, Paris CDG was excellent. We exited from the plane and were asked to wait in a small room then zipped thru a side door to the outside, into a van, thru the bowels of CDG to Immigration, met with a WC there and zip/zap/thru the Immigration line that the airline staff use with one person ahead of us, then on to baggage claim and out to the taxi rank before we could blink. I think we were from the plane to the taxi rank in half an hour, most of that waiting for baggage. Most of the big museums have wheelchairs and the staff at the Louvre was particularly nice even though that place is so awkward to navigate especially with trying to find elevators that go where you want them to go.

Posted by
9675 posts

Airport wait times: I got to Spokane at 445A for a 710 flight. Stood in line for 45 minutes for check in and the lines for security were very long. The line for TSA pre-check was very short and with my friend in a wheelchair we sailed thru. Remember to put any food/snack items in a ziplock and take it out of your carry-on along with your liquids. I’d add extra time if you are starting your flight from Spokane. I was concerned about crowds at CDG for my departure as they are not the most efficient. I left my hotel in the 7th at 545, got to CDG at 6:20 even after hitting every single red light on the way out of Paris. There was a security guy on the door of Terminal 2E that wanted to see my boarding pass before letting me enter so at least take a picture of your airline itinerary to show them. The Delta gate agents don’t start work until 7A so stood in a line there for 30 minutes waiting on them. Once opened, I was processed quickly then headed for outbound Immigration (no line) and security (only a few people ahead of me). They must have decided to get their quota of examining personal items the first hour of the day because everyone’s was being kicked out. The lady ahead of me had a beige wool coat and they dabbed at that thing 3 different times before deciding it was OK. She and I were chatting and she said she’ll never bring that coat again. Lol. There were long lines at the food stands in Terminal 2E, K gates. The Exki kiosk had a 20 minute line. I recommend their tea with fresh mint. Very good to travel on!

Road Scholar Southwest France and the Perigord tour: Over the last few travel years, I’ve picked either Rick Steves or Road Scholar tours based solely on their itineraries. I’ve looked at this 13-night tour for a couple of years because it visits 3 pre-history caves plus Carcassonne. I signed up, then had anxiety over it, then went with it when they did not cancel. Road Scholar started back with tours to Europe the end of August. I did not have a high level of confidence in their Covid outlook planning although they have an office in France. They were not informative about the Pass Sanitaire and in fact another forum member (who was on the tour the week before me) and I both emailed the office to tell them they needed to be more forthcoming with information. It turns out when I got on the tour another tour member had done the same as she was keeping up with Pass Sanitaire requirements as well and had emailed them with her concerns. There were 21 people on this departure and the guide, Laurent Guariglia, is a Parisian and is excellent. His lecture on Alienor of Aquitaine prompted me to go back to the Louvre to find the vase she gave Louis VII for a wedding present. Laurent’s just started guiding for Road Scholar after having worked for Viking for many years and works as a private guide in/around Paris too. This was the 2nd time he’d led this itinerary. We also had a number of local guides – the caves, city tours, the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in Albi, and every single one thanked us for coming to France. They were so happy to see us. Some of their presentations were a little rough as they’d mostly not worked for 18 months, especially with English presentations. All were enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

Hotels: We spent 4 nights in Bordeaux, although I went 2 nights ahead and the extra time was worth it, plus you can never tell about train strikes in France! We also spent 3 nights in Sarlat, 2 in Rocamadour and 3 in Toulouse. Road Scholar provides most meals although we had 3 dinners on our own. They usually use chain hotels in the city center – Best Western or Mercure’s usually. All were nice, had elevators, were right in the middle of things and had lovely staff.

Posted by
9675 posts

Sights: We had 2 days of wine tastings, one day in Saint-Emilion with a tour of that town as well and then another day on the Medoc Peninsula where we visited 2 wineries. We visited 3 caves, Rouffignac (Mammoth drawings), Lascaux IV (reconstruction) and Pech Merle (spotted horses). I connected the most with Pech Merle, and it was a Wow-de-wow-wow for me. We also visited the Gouffre de Padirac (essentially a sinkhole with an underground river) and this is not for anyone who is the least bit claustrophobic. Yikes. The prehistory caves did not bother me at all but this one did. We also visited the Prehistory Museum in Les Eyzies (excellent), some of the smaller villages in the area, Domme (a bastide town), Albi (for the Toulouse-Lautrec museum) and Carcassonne.

Time of year: My tour started Oct 8 and ended Oct 20. I’d say for this area probably Oct 15 is as late as you’d want to go. There were a number of restaurants the tour used that stayed open just for us and were closing immediately after. There were a number of locations we visited that were right at the end of their season as well. I don’t know what it was like in non-Covid years but there was definitely a lack of tourists in Rocamadour and Carcassonne as well. Good for us but worth knowing if you are planning to visit next Fall. If the French locals on the forum have a different take on dates, certainly go with their advice.

Tourists in France: In general, even in Paris, people were happy to see tourists. Even the guy in the Metro booth was extremely talkative when I needed to add a carnet onto my Navigo Easy card! I had to laugh because I’ve never really seen those guys be so chatty. I saw no other American tour groups. I saw/heard few American tourists. I did see a few buses of German tourists and saw a bus of Hungarian tourists at one of the caves. In Saint-Emilion our group was right behind an Italian tour group and we were followed by a French group.

On being vegan: I’ve never had much problem getting vegan food in France. This year, however, I felt like a lot of restaurants I’ve visited before had tightened up their menus and were offering fewer options. I saw no veggie burgers listed even in restaurants where I’d eaten them before. One restaurant that had previously had 3-4 options for me was down to 2. On the tour the guide was able to get me vegan options for every meal which was nice although I always have back up snacks with me. There were a number of restaurants that did not have menus and only had QR codes on the tables especially in Bordeaux. I am kind of a dunce when it comes to that modality so need to figure it out before next time, lol.

In Conclusion: I’m glad I went even though I stressed myself out over it. It was absolutely wonderful to be back in France, to enjoy eating out and meeting up with friends for a drink! What a treat! Traveling now is a really personal decision and if you don’t think you will be able to tolerate the various hoops you’ll need to jump thru plus the not knowing until 3 days out if you’ll test negative to return home you’ll probably want to defer. Otherwise, the French people were very welcoming and excited to have tourism starting up again.

Posted by
2160 posts

Wow, great, detailed report Pam! After reading Valerie’s report and yours, I am putting this tour on my list!

Posted by
8763 posts

Thank you for your excellent detailed trip report. I’m so sorry to hear Cafe Constant didn’t survive the pandemic. Our apartment in April is around the corner from it and we were looking forward to going there.

Posted by
3105 posts

Thanks for the great trip report and I’m so glad you got to have this experience even in the midst of your uncertainty about going initially! LOL, I think we’ve all forgotten a little bit about packing efficiently in the past year and a half…

Posted by
7579 posts

Just FYI, Christian Constant sold his Café Constant to Cyril Lignac a few weeks ago . . . (it didn't have anything to do with the pandemic)

https://www.bfmtv.com/cuisine/le-chef-christian-constant-prend-sa-retraite-et-cede-son-cafe-a-cyril-lignac_AN-202109200092.html

He basically said he didn't want to be like "one of those old chefs who goes into the restaurant every day but doesn't actually do anything." He said he will continue teaching and consulting.

Apparently for the last few days they were open in September, he served menus that went back to the hallmarks of when he was the head chef at the Hotel Crillon some years ago.

Posted by
9675 posts

@Tammy - I think you'd enjoy it. I've been enjoying the Road Scholar tours that concentrate on a smaller area of a country.

@Andrea - I was thinking you were one that enjoyed Cafe Constant. No worries...there are many restaurants that DID survive so you'll have plenty of choices. The place Darcy and I enjoyed going for 5PM wine before dinner was one of the ones that didn't make it. I also thought of you when the guide said a number of times "This restaurant is only staying open for us....they are closing tomorrow". Even in the Gouffre de Padirac one of the boat guides said they were down to about 7 boats working instead of their usual 24 or so boats so they were down to the very end of season. Also on the small boat tour we took at La-Roche-Gageac it was their last day. That boatman said nearly everything in town closes for the winter and there are only about 40 year around residents. So...if you and Jim are planning to go next Fall, definitely finish this area by mid-Oct. The big cities like Bordeaux and Toulouse are likely not affected. If Bets or one of the other France-based forum members has a different take, go with their advice, lol.

@Mona - It was fun to get back to traveling and seeing interesting things even with the stress I caused myself.

@Kim - Thank you! I did not realize that. There was something on the door about Cafe Lignac but it was in French and my French is terrible, lol. Overt. Ferme. I can do those but anything more, I'm lost!

Posted by
401 posts

Great trip report as always, Pam. Hope to see you on the 6th in CDA and her some more about your adventures.

Posted by
7579 posts

Pam -- more broadly, thank you for this wonderful report! You clearly had a wonderful time and really made the most of it. Laurent sounds like a superb guide. I am glad you were able to come - indeed, it has to be safe here with regard to Covid than it is in Idaho (same for me and home in Oklahoma)!

I loved your notes about packing difficulties -- I felt the same way when packing to go home to the States in May - and a little bit when packing for Norway in August. Rusty !!!!

Posted by
9675 posts

@Leslie...yes! Planning to be there and to bore everyone with gushing over my trip, lol!!

@Kim - sorry we didn't get to connect this trip! We missed you! And I'm so glad I'm not alone on the packing thing. I pack mentally all the time, lol, but it was the physical part of getting it in the suitcase that was tough. I thought I was going to have to expand my 22" rollaboard on the outward bound journey but managed to get it zipped. I did have to expand on the way home even with having used down all my masks, lol. And you are so right.....much safer in France than ID or OK.

Posted by
2133 posts

Pam - Thank you for posting all of this! It gives a bit of insight into the Road Scholar tour, which, as you know, I found to be fabulous! It sounds like you had a great guide as well. This was my first Road Scholar tour, but I would definitely travel with them again.

Posted by
8763 posts

Thank you so much for letting me know that Sarlat/Dordogne would not be ideal too late in October. The schedule I’ve worked out would have us there October 19-23 and Bordeaux from October 24-26. Maybe after leaving London we should fly south and work our way up, as opposed to taking the Eurostar to Lille and then working our way south. Something to consider.

I’m learning so much from your report. Thanks so much.

Posted by
2018 posts

Pam, thank you for another excellent trip report! Reading this, I realized at some point you and Valerie were on the same (other!) RS tour at different time. As a result of both your reports for this tour, it is now on my list as well. I’m going on the Eastern France tour next May and I really appreciate the wealth of information you have provided here. You do write wonderfully comprehensive summaries of everything I would want to know so again, thank you. I can tell you had another truly successful and terrific trip

Posted by
4978 posts

Pam, thanks for this great report. I laughed out loud at your unders comment.

I so love your travel attitude; I like to think that Stan and I approach travel the same way, or at least we aspire to.

Posted by
87 posts

Pam, thanks so much for the great tour report and for all the info about how France is handling Covid. It's very encouraging for people like me who haven't been out of the US since the pandemic began. Sounds like single-country travel is fairly do-able again, Hooray!

Posted by
2907 posts

Thanks, Pam. I always like your insights, and especially your packing systems.

Posted by
9675 posts

@Valerie - I'm so glad you had fun as well. Even the same itinerary can be slightly different with a different guide and happy you had a wonderful leader as well. Rick's tours are my go-to but if he doesn't offer an itinerary in an area I'm interested in traveling to Road Scholar is my back up.

@Andrea - I think Bordeaux itself would be fine those days but I think the Sarlat/Dordogne area would be better a week earlier. I don't remember what you planned to do in the Lille area so not sure if that area also kind of closes tourism down in mid-October as well.

@Andi - You would enjoy this tour itinerary. It was varied and interesting and the countryside was lovely! I'm planning on Alsace area another time so you can scout out stuff for me!

@Jane - I'm glad you laughed! My goal was for someone to laugh enough they spilled their coffee.

@Kathy - My Buddy! You would enjoy the sights on this tour but LOTS of stairs!

@Wray - I always think of you when deciding how many pants to pack, lol. I was going with 2 then remembered your story so went with 3 then added another, lol.

Posted by
7579 posts

Pam, I was sorry to miss you all too. Hated that my work thing was the VERY DAY I wanted to leave a little early.

But I am NOT sorry that I missed a slog through the rain!

And good on you and a fellow tour member for advising Road Scholar on the importance of the Pass Sanitaire!! They should pay you a commission for saving their butts with everyone on your tour! Very good points too on getting familiar with various smartphone capabilities ahead of time.

Posted by
2933 posts

Pam, great trip report! I have really enjoyed reading it. Loved all the details!
What a fabulous tour!
I would love to do that tour. My favorite sights would probably be the 3 caves, Rouffignac, Lascaux IV reconstruction, and Pech Merle,
plus Toulouse-Lautrec museum in Albi, and Carcassonne.
Thanks for taking the time to write such a fascinating trip report and for sharing your tour experiences with us.

Posted by
1789 posts

Thanks for the report! So glad you gathered your resolve and went! And that you had a great time!

Posted by
203 posts

Pam, thanks so much! So informative (we need to visit France!) and just love your sense of humor! Sorry we’ll miss your stories at the November meeting…we’ll be out of town.

Posted by
8763 posts

@ Kim, thanks for the explanation about Cafe Constant. I believe that Pam will be in Paris the same time as I am, the third week of April. Sharyn from the forum will be there as well. Maybe we can all get together? Of course with anyone else who wants to join in.

Pam, after considering the timing in the Dordogne I am rethinking our schedule. We were only going to Lille, from London, to pick up a car and head to Normandy. Now I’m thinking about flying from London to Bordeaux and working our way north, ending the trip in Paris. My original plan had us ending in Portugal, which may have to wait for another trip. With this new itinerary we would be in the Dordogne from Oct 5-10. Does it sound like that slight adjustment would be any better? We weren’t planning on Paris since we will be there for a week in April, but of course Paris is never a bad idea.

Posted by
8386 posts

Thanks Pam. This was a great read. I think you and Valerie went on one of the best itineraries available. Pêche Merle is my favorite, too. France misses you already.
Today's update: 86.5 over age 12 fully vaccinated, 6,528 new cases yesterday, ICU occupancy 18%. Your timing was perfect.

Close downs: cities won't close but tourist attractions will have shorter hours. Cities remain vibrant. In some touristic places, such as Uzès (pop. 8,000) where we were last year, outdoor restaurants on the plazas close November 1st until April. The lockdowns juggled the dates a tad, but that's the normal schedule. So the exact date depends on the area. When we were in Cassis, many shops and restaurants reopened April 1st. Just a few stayed open during the winter when everything was calm. Cafés stay open. This is why traveling in Provence, the Dordogne, or the Loire is a limited experience from November to the end of March.

Posted by
9675 posts

@Kim - we indeed all missed the opportunity to meet up! It was so kind of Bets to organize. The rain was a mess. Darcy and I will catch you next time whether you like it or not!

@Rebecca, yes, indeedy, you would enjoy this tour. The first morning when he started with a lecture on Alienor d'Aquitaine my first thought was....ooooohhhh, I wish Rebecca was here for this! Then the guide said - of course we have no real idea what she looked like so we'll just go with this and popped up a slide of Kathryn Hepburn as Alienor in Lion in Winter. That will always stick in my mind! I admit to being a bit disappointed in Carcassonne...in my mind I didn't realize the new town was so close to the walls, lol!

@TravelMom - me too! You are a role model for me and travel though!

@Cathy - well darn. Will miss seeing you then but I will always be ready to talk travel. People have a difficult time shutting me up, lol.

@Andrea - I think those dates will work better. If Valerie sees this she was on the tour the week before and we can see if she had any intel about any of the sights closing. I just remembered that one site, the Jean Lurçat tapestry Museum had already closed. We were to do that activity on Friday Oct 15 and it had closed, I think, after the previous weekend. Our guide found out a few days ahead and was able to sub in a different activity which frankly, I thought was more fun.

@Bets - Thank you for working so hard to make me feel a comfort level in France! And yes, you were the one that said we'd all experienced trauma and you were right.

@Aimee - I feel OK when I go over to Trader Joes, lol but everyone in there has been masked. Have not gone since I've been back though. Keep an eye out for the CdA area meet up - Jean coordinates and puts up an announcement in the Meet up forum.

Thanks to all for the kind comments!

Posted by
2133 posts

@Pam - Yes, the Jean Lurcat museum had closed the week before our tour. We did the boat ride and visit to St Cirq La Popie instead and that was a fabulous day.

I, like Pam, highly recommend this tour. It’s got nice pacing with 3 nights in most places, it’s got out-of-the-way sites that I’d never get to on my own, plus the caves, the rivers, and the hill towns. It’s really a great tour.

Posted by
2288 posts

Wow-de-wow-wow for me

Love that phrase. We should start a post listing our most Wow-de-wow-wow moments. Beats the heck out of the RS tour survey asking for our Wow moment.

Posted by
9675 posts

@Tammy - I'm sure you would enjoy this one! Lots of variety although not QUITE up to the variety you experienced on your Egypt trip.

@Valerie - OH! Didn't realize that museum was closed for you all too. Must have closed the 1st of Oct or thereabouts.

@Allan - Well, truth be told it was in response to a Rick End-of-trip survey asking about the wow moment when I had to actually give my wow-de-wow-wow moment, lol. I think it might have been going up the Schilthorn and "wow" just didn't cover it.

Posted by
1143 posts

Hi Pam, and thanks for your excellent and informative trip report.
You have me intrigued with your particular Road Scholar trip.
I'm packing this weekend for three weeks in Paris, flying out on Monday, and I'm also trying to remember how to do this!
Luckily we had a lot of rain last week so at least I know where my rain coat is... ;-)
And thanks also to all of you who contributed questions and answers on this thread.
I admit to some anxiety over traveling now, not about Covid per se but more about managing all the bits of extra paperwork and verification.
I know that I will be so happy once I am on the plane!

Posted by
957 posts

Loved the report Pam, and I'm so glad you went ahead with it and enjoyed yourself!

Posted by
9675 posts

@SharYn : "I know that I will be so happy once I am on the plane!"

Yes, that helped but it really took me a week or so in Paris to unwind. Once you get back you'll see it feels pretty "normal" and things pretty much look the same and feel the same - and the Fall light is lovely as always. I am glad you are going and I think some of the Christmas decorations will be up! Woohoo!! Sorry you weren't there when we were!

@Nance: Yes, I'm glad I went. You and DH would have had a wonderful time!

Posted by
1143 posts

Thanks Pam -- and I would definitely be up to get together in April!

Posted by
2095 posts

Pam,
Thanks for an excellent report. So happy you had a great time. Kudos to you for wearing the N-95 masks, that is dedication. We wore the KN-95 masks on our flights but surgical masks while we were in Venice. For some situations, we wore cloth masks when a place was lightly crowded.
I can’t wait to see Paris and London again!

Posted by
9675 posts

@SharYn, will get your dates closer to the time!

@JudyB - well, I had changed back to a N95 mask in the summer when the Delta variant had started taking hold here in unvaccinated N. Idaho. I was anxious about testing negative (not about getting sick) and decided for myself an N95 would make me feel safest. Honestly, the ones I got (3M Aura) were pretty comfortable although I do have to mouth breathe with it on. I carried extras with me because a week or so before I left I had one of the bands snap on me when I was heading into the grocery store (had been used several times). In my "mask kit" I had a couple of N95s, about 3 of the blue paper ones and some of the polyester ones. I did give a blue one to a tour member who'd misplaced his and we were headed into a museum, all of which required them.

BTW, I used a lightweight 3 tier bag (like those from that Colorado company that went out of business?? Why can't I think of the name? I got mine at my AAA store and it's from rockflowerpaper but I don't see any on their website at present) - so clean masks in the biggest section, used ones in the center section and a few plastic gloves in a ziplock in the smallest section. I never used the gloves and I tried to just throw the mask away at the end of the day and stage a new one for the next. Still I had plenty of clean ones and some back ups available.

Posted by
3797 posts

Travelling as a vegan in SW France is brave, glad it went well for you! As a non-meat eater myself (so not even remotely vegan), I dread trips to non-coastal French countryside because of the lack of options...

Posted by
9675 posts

"Travelling as a vegan in SW France is brave,"

Balso...well, either brave or dumb, lol!! I always have back up food in case the restaurants are unable to come up with something. This time it was usually a big salad or grilled veggies, both of which worked for me. The very best meal was in a restaurant in Sarlat with saffron rice and grilled and lightly fried veggies. The guide was talking with the owner who indicated the chef was a family member and that she was Indian. Really delicious!

The hard thing is that both the guide and the restaurants seemed to expect that you will eat dessert. This time it was always fruit salad and TBH even though I love fruit and eat it every day, fruit salad gets tiring so I started trying to say no thanks, I'm full, etc and it kind of threw everyone for a loop.

I did have a hilarious experience in a troglodyte restaurant near Rouffignac. They served a composed salad with delicious white beans. As we were leaving I saw the guide paying. It wasn't busy and he was chatting with the owners so I went in to ask him to say the white beans were delicious. They were pleased so I asked for the recipe. The owner started out with the list of ingredients and I caught the words for chicken broth. The guide was translating and kind of stopped when he got there so I laughed and said chicken broth, right? He looked kind of worried and I said no problem (because really most restaurants do the best they can). He translated to the owner who looked at me and said "That's why it tasted so good!". We both laughed heartily. I'd not purposely eat chicken broth but sometimes you just don't know.

I also tasted some of the cassoulet beans at our Carcassonne lunch (traded a bite for some salad, lol). It was cooked with a duck leg and I think duck sausage so I knew it was in meat juice and I have to say those beans were delicious as well!

It's always an adventure!

Posted by
1068 posts

@Pam, those are great stories!

My husband is making Tarbais of Lodi heirloom beans today with vegetable broth. We bought them from Amazon. Trying to add some international foods to our diet!

Posted by
9675 posts

@Vandabrud....I was not familiar with that bean. I googled and think I will order, lol! I'd looked on my "regular" bean site (Rancho Gordo) and they did not specifically have flageolet beans and these look good. I see this company is out of a number of beans as well so I should go ahead and get some. Their flageolet recipe looks very good as well. Thanks and I'm sure your dinner will be delish! Thanks for the tip!

Posted by
4433 posts

Pam, loved your travel report! I am so excited to hear more about it this Saturday, too. I’m wondering if our group should also plan a travel shopping day sometime in CdA - Costco, TJ Maxx, etc. LOL! ; )

I heartily agree about being out of practice packing! A friend invited me to travel to Mexico a month ago. I began trial packing and whew! Glad I could pull out my travel checklist because there were a couple of items I would have forgotten.

Thanks for the great trip report!

Posted by
9675 posts

Jean! We should talk about packing at the meet-up on Saturday. Plus packing lists.

I'd added the thermometer and pulse oximeter plus a ton of masks plus Airborne because I thought it might help with my immune system. It would be interesting to know what you added to your packing list as well.

And yes, we should shop. Remember the old "Progressive Dinner" think where you went from house to house for appetizer, dinner, dessert? Maybe we should have a Progressive shopping meet up, lolol! Let's add in AAA because they have a few interesting things in that small shop too, hahaha.

Posted by
10052 posts

Great details, Pam! I think I lost my packing skills a bit, too. I felt weirdly disorganized every time I packed.

Just down the street from Cafe Constant is Les Cocottes where we've eaten twice now. Excellent menu, decent prices, and great service.

Posted by
71 posts

Great trip report, Pam! Thank you for all the details. I'm so glad you got to go! Boy can I relate to being rusty on the packing. We were traveling at about the same time (Croatia and Slovenia Sept 25- Oct 25) and I felt the same way. And I still haven't written out my trip report and lessons learned.

Posted by
9675 posts

@ Laurel - Yes! It is that general sense of feeling disorganized whether you are or not, lol....

@Rena - LOVED following your trip on FB while I was on mine, lol. We were posting in about the same time zones so it worked out well! Your pictures were wonderful and yes, get cracking on that TR. You all saw marvelous things and ate and drank SO well!

Posted by
9675 posts

Oh Tammy, they are so cool! A troglodyte is a cave dwelling or now in this instance, a restaurant. In this area they are kind of fronted over rock shelters but in the Amboise area I visited one that was actually carved out of the Tufa Rock.

Here is a link to the restaurant where we ate. As it scrolls thru the pictures you can see how they fronted over the area that had been carved into the rock by natural forces. We actually ate on the terrace as it was a beautiful day but I went into the restaurant part to talk to them, lol.

http://www.laugerie-basse.com/

The Amboise one I visited was on a Rick Steves Paris and Heart of France tour. As the guide, Rebecca (a tall, striking blond!), was walking with those who were interested in going to the home of Leonardo da Vinci, she was pointing out the cave homes that are carved into the rock there. A guy actually hailed her from one of them (she'd talked to him on a previous trip, lol) and invited all of us in to his home to look around. He just lived there in the summer and we decided it was truly his "man cave" as he had model trains, WWII books, a lot of random stuff there. Very serendipitous side event that sometimes happens on a Rick tour, lol.

Posted by
64 posts

Loved your trip report, Pam!
Re: your “unders” comment —-
I agree about the Ex Oficios! I can recommend some from Duluth Trading Co. They’re called ‘Buck Naked’ (seriously!). They dry just as fast as the Ex Oficios after washing in the sink, and I think they are much more breathable:)

Posted by
8386 posts

About the troglodytes, about 90% of the population in the Anjou region lived in underground houses until about 1900. There are several that serve as museums today, including a farm. The beauty of the light tufa rock is that if you needed another room, you just started digging.
You can also visit the most unique chateau I've ever seen, the underground chateau de Brézé https://www.chateaudebreze.com/castle-france-loire-saumur.html
with a chapel, banquet hall, stables, galleries to escape invaders and more.

Posted by
8386 posts

About the troglodytes, about 90% of the population in the Anjou region lived in underground houses until about 1900. There are several that serve as museums today, including a farm. The beauty of the light tufa rock is that if you needed another room, you just started digging.
You can also visit the most unique chateau I've ever seen, the underground chateau de Brézé https://www.chateaudebreze.com/castle-france-loire-saumur.html
with a chapel, banquet hall, stables, galleries to escape invaders and more. It has a Renaissance chateau built on top, but it's the Medieval galleries that are fascinating.

Posted by
9675 posts

Barbara, good to know about the Duluth Trading Post unders. There is a store in nearby Spokane. And I DID get a ribbing from my fellow forum members at our recent meet up, lol.

Bets, that is so interesting. Nice little short film clip on the Chateau website as well!

Posted by
724 posts

Pam, which Best Western hotel in Bordeaux? I have reserved BW Grand Hotel Francais and it looks to be within walking distance of many of the sites we plan to visit. It is also an 8 min walk from the meeting place for the wine tour we plan on doing. Any restaurants recommendations in Bordeaux? Museums or sites not to be missed? We don’t have the special health pass so I’m hoping having our CDC card will suffice. We only have 2 days in Bordeaux then will take the train to Bayonne to start our Basque tour.

Posted by
9675 posts

Kathy!! I stayed at the Best Western Etche-Ona and was in the annex building on Rue Mautrec.

I really liked the Museum of the Aquitaine which had some really interesting stuff as well as the Cathedral which was where, in 1137, Alienor d’Aquitaine married her first husband who became Louis VII. I went to the Musee des Beaux Arts which is in 3 buildings and it was just OK. With 2 days I’d not make it a priority.

I loved walking along the Garonne River…very nice river walk area. Interesting statue of a slave woman, Modeste Testas, along the promenade. Bordeaux became rich off slaving. This statue is of a woman who’s grandson became a President of Haiti.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modeste_Testas

There are tons of restaurants in the pedestrian area. This is definitely an eating town!! Let me think of where we ate. When I was on my own this was one location where I found many restaurants had a QR code on the table you scanned to see the menu.

You should be able to get one of the pharmacies to convert your CDC pass to the Pass Vaccinal.

I did have to show my QR code at Gare Montparnasse before boarding but I think the CDC will work for that.

What a fun time you’ll have!

Posted by
9675 posts

Kathy, I managed to remember the name of one of the restaurants the tour ate at. You know I'm vegan so take that for what it is worth! My food was delicious but I do not remember what others had! (I think I posted a picture on my FB page for that meal.). I don't have the name of the other restaurant where we ate written down...sorry.

https://www.bordeaux-tourism.co.uk/restaurant/belle-epoque.html#infos

On my own I also had a meal at one of the restaurant terraces across from the Cathedral. The food was good but the people watching was even better, lol!!

Posted by
8386 posts

My husband and I had an excellent dinner at La Belle Époque in Bordeaux, too, a few years ago.

Posted by
9675 posts

Bets, that is interesting! Lovely interior and neat location if you happen to be by a window.

Posted by
9675 posts

Thanks Andrea! You mean Jepoyo doesn’t mean that I’m a dear? Darn it!!

Posted by
2065 posts

Oh, Pam! You ARE a dear! Don't let anyone tell you differently.

Posted by
9675 posts

Haha Darcy!! Thank you!!