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PART 1 of 7

We are a couple who traveled in France for 4 weeks from Aug 24 to Sep 20, 2021, visiting parts we had missed previously. This trip report is in 7 parts, connected as replies to this Part 1. The towns we stayed in are listed below; we visited many others:

  • THE LOIREAMBOISE: 3 nights (Part 2)
  • UZERCHE: 1 night (Part 2)
  • DORDOGNE: 6 nights (Part 3)
  • LYON: 2 nights (Part 5)
  • BURGUNDYMEURSAULT: 6 nights (Part 6)
  • NORMANDYHONFLEUR: 2 nights (Part 7)

We rented a car when we left Amboise, returning it in Carcassonne; we rented another car when we left Lyon, returning it at CDG Airport. Travel from CDG to the Loire and from Carcassonne to Lyon was via TGV.

Initially we planned to spend half our time in Spain. Due to COVID, a few months before departure we decided to restrict the trip to France. The timing was fortuitous as regards COVID infection rates and restrictions: when we departed the US, the US infection rate was rising and above that of the falling French rate; in addition, France had eased travel restrictions. Given these conditions and not knowing what 2022 will bring, we chose to NOT postpone our trip.

This trip to France was wonderful, exceeding expectations. There was a dearth of tourists from non-EU countries. We felt welcome, and came to appreciate the COVID-related controls on entry to museums, restaurants, etc.


  • Viewing Prehistoric Cave Art at La Grotte de Font-de-Gaume and Lascaux IV
  • Canoeing the Dordogne River
  • Driving the vertiginous Gorges de Galamus
  • Visiting Château de Chenonceau in The Loire
  • Visiting the Cathar fortresses Château de Peyrepertuse and Château de Quéribus
  • Visiting the memorial village Oradour-sur-Glane
  • Relaxing overnight in the village of Puycelsi
  • Viewing lightning over the floodlit walls of La Cité in Carcassonne
  • Doing a day trip from Burgundy to MuséoParc Alésia and Abbaye de Fontenay
  • Enjoying a wine-tasting meal at Domaine Comte Senard in Aloxe-Corton, Burgundy
  • Visiting Monet’s House and Gardens in Giverny


  • With tourist numbers reduced due to COVID, most places we visited were uncrowded. Most tourists we encountered were from EU countries.
  • Passe Sanitaire: For us the system worked well, providing reasonable confidence that adults around us in museums, restaurants, etc., were either vaccinated or had recently tested negatively.
  • We purchased airline tickets 3 months before departure. The price of our flights varied wildly in the three months leading up to our departure. I changed tickets several times (for the same flights), finishing in a higher class at a lower price than our original tickets.
  • Flight to France: I posted our experience with COVID documents on the RS forum:
  • Return to US: I posted our experience with COVID test and documents on the RS forum:
  • Train tickets. We used the mobile app to purchase our INOUI TGV tickets while in the US and used the sncf mobile app to purchase TER tickets while in France. Both apps worked well, and we never used a paper ticket.
  • We found that due to COVID, restaurants in France were sometimes short-staffed, with some reducing the number of customers served and/or hours of operation.
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PART 2: Aug 24, Tue - Aug 27, Fri THE LOIREAMBOISE 3 nights; UZERCHE 1 night


  • Visiting Château de Chenonceau
  • Visiting Château du Clos-Lucé and Leonardo da Vince Park
  • Visiting the memorial village Oradour-sur-Glane


  • Les Arpents in Amboise (dinner)
  • L’Auberge du Bon Laboureur in the village of Chenonceau (lunch)
  • L’Horloge - Bakery in Amboise selling excellent bread (served in Les Arpents), sandwiches, etc.

Arrived at AMBOISE via train on Aug 24 (Tue) at 12:40pm after an 8:10am landing at CDG. Stayed 3 nights in a centuries-old building directly across from Château Royal d’Amboise. Wednesday was spent in Amboise, and Thursday visiting châteaux outside Amboise.

Amboise sites visited:

  • Château Royal d’Amboise. Interesting to self-tour with the provided electronic tablets: the many rooms and buildings were richly explained. Beautiful view over the Loire River.
  • Château du Clos-Lucé and Leonardo da Vinci Park. We had lunch at the Creperie located on the grounds before touring the building and park. Indoor and outdoor models of many of da Vinci’s creations. Highlight: when we walked through da Vinci’s former bedroom, there was a live cat sleeping on his bed. I thought it was a toy until it yawned.

Châteaux visited outside Amboise: we had reserved a mini-bus tour, but the operator cancelled Aug tours due to insufficient demand caused by COVID. We therefore opted for a personalized tour with another firm.

  • Château de Chenonceau. Exceeded expectations. We arrived shortly after opening when there were few visitors, and thus were able to go right in. When we left, arriving visitors were being stopped before entry and formed into large groups; after enough people were assembled a security guard gave them a COVID protocols speech before allowing them to enter the château.
  • Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire. Fairly interesting building and gardens. Most interesting aspect was the relationship between the two powerful women, Catherine de Medici and Diane de Poiters, who alternately lived here and at the Château de Chenonceau.

On Friday morning we left the Loire River valley in an AVIS rental car – an already scratched Hyundai Tucson that would prove to be a tight fit on the many narrow streets – from the Saint-Pierre-des-Corps train station. On our way to Dordogne, we visited the memorial village of Oradour-sur-Glane and walked the hushed streets of this town left undisturbed since 1944. We then checked into our hotel in the village of UZERCHE in the department of Corrèze. Designated a “plus beaux détour", this small and ancient hill village located on an oxbow of the Vézère River was an attractive place to spend one night before our visit to Lascaux IV.

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PART 3: Aug 28, Sat - Sep 2, Thu DORDOGNE 6 nights


  • Viewing Prehistoric Cave Art at La Grotte de Font-de-Gaume and Lascaux IV
  • Visiting Château de Castelnaud and Château de Beynac
  • Canoeing the Dordogne River
  • Visits to St. Cyprien, Cenac, and Sarlat markets. Arrived early before crowds.

Aug 28, Sat. Before departing Uzerche we bought warm pastries at the bakery Laurent Saute, and breakfasted on them on a bench at the small Saturday market along the river.

We arrived at Lascaux IV for the morning English tour and were the only Americans among the 30-odd participants. The reproductions of prehistoric cave art with explanations were fascinating, complementing our visit to Font-de-Gaume three days hence. After Lascaux we did a walking tour of the adjoining village of Montignac; the highlight was witnessing the end of a large wedding in Place Carnot, accompanied by the pealing of church bells. Afterwards we drove to our lodging for the next six nights, a converted traditional farm building next to the Dordogne River in VITRAC, near Domme.

Aug 29, Sun. We went early to the St. Cyprien Sunday market and bought fresh produce, returning to our lodging for an outdoor lunch. In the afternoon we walked to a riverside restaurant, Le Chalet, for beers under the sun as canoes drifted down the river beside us.

Aug 30, Mon. In the morning, we walked 3 minutes to Périgord-Aventures et Loisirs and canoed the Dordogne River from Vitrac to Beynac. For the first half-hour we were alone as we drifted down a portion of the river lined with trees, spying several herons. Other paddlers appeared as we approached the gorgeous sights of La Roque-Gageac, Castelnaud (perched beautifully high above an arched bridge), and Beynac. Shortly past noon after 3 hours of easy paddling we pulled into Beynac. This was an easy, enjoyable voyage, even for us rusty older canoeists, and we were happy to be on the river before the afternoon heat. After a picnic lunch we visited the Château de Beynac with its fantastic views.

Aug 31, Tue. We drove 4 minutes to the small Cenac Tuesday market, procuring dinner ingredients. Later we went to the difficult-to-get-tickets-to La Grotte de Font-de-Gaume for the 11am English tour. EXCELLENT prehistoric polychrome cave paintings. NOTE: SINCE JULY TICKETS SOLD ON-LINE [10/24 edit: ]. We were the lone Americans on the tour; the other 8 participants were a group of German women. They were a joy to enter the cave and view the artwork with; they seemed to be there for spiritual reasons. Afterwards we visited the impressive cliffside fortifications at La Roque-Gageac. Our final stop was Château de Castelnaud with its stunning view of the river valley. Castelnaud’s interior displays include weapons, kitchen utensils, and an interactive scale-model of a battle that occurred here during the Hundred-Years’ War; the exterior grounds display reproductions of catapults and other large siege weapons.

Sep 1, Wed. We arrived early at the Sarlat Wednesday market and procured fresh lunch and dinner goods. In the afternoon we visited the Jardins de Marqueyssac. Though the gardens were ok with a nice view of the river valley, we found it much less attractive than the other sites we had visited in the area.

Sep 2, Thu. We did the Eastern Dordognes Driving Tour described in Rick Steves’ guidebook, which included squeezing our Hyundai Tucson across a very narrow one-lane suspension bridge. We stopped in Martel, passed by Château de Castelnau-Bretenoux, stopped in Loubressac, and then reached Racomadour in mid-afternoon. There we walked the tourist strip, up to the Cité Religieuse, and then up to the parking lot via the “Way of the Cross” switchback trail; the view of the gorge of the Alzou River was smashing.

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PART 4: Sep 3, Fri - Sep 8, Wed LANGUEDOC-ROUSSILLON 6 nights:



  • Spending a night in the village of Puycelsi
  • Visiting the Cathar fortresses Château de Peyrepertuse and Château de Quéribus
  • Driving the vertiginous Gorges de Galamus
  • Viewing lightning over the floodlit walls of La Cité in Carcassonne
  • Visiting the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum in Albi

Sep 3, Fri. We left Dordognes for Languedoc-Roussillon. En route we stopped at St-Cirq-Lapopie to walk its lanes and enjoy beautiful views of the Lot River. The next stop was Cahors to visit Pont Valentré, an imposing medieval bridge. At 4:30pm we reached our final destination: the dreamy hill village of PUYCELSI, where we stayed the night in the “Hirondelles” room of the gorgeous L’Ancienne Auberge. Dinner was at Le Jardin des Lys on a terrace overlooking the countryside.

Sep 4, Sat. Following a first-rate breakfast at L’Ancienne Auberge we checked out and drove to the village of Brunquel to find an artist’s (permanently closed) workshop. From there we drove to Albi and visited the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum and the fortress-like Ste. Cécile Cathedral. Departure from Albi was briefly delayed by a peaceful anti-Passe-Sanitaire demonstration. In late afternoon we reached our lodging for the night, l’Hôtel d’Alibert in CAUNES-MINERVOIS.

Sep 5-7 (Sun-Tue). After breakfast in the hotel’s pleasant medieval courtyard, we checked out and drove backroads to the ruins of two Cathar castles perched on towering cliffs. The first was Château de Peyrepertuse. Paragliders were riding updrafts from the valley far below to float beside and above the ruins. Across the valley we could see Château de Quéribus, which we visited next. Though we couldn’t see the snow-capped Pyrénées due to haze, the view was nonetheless breath-taking. After leaving the châteaux we drove to the day’s final destination, COLLIOURE.

We stayed three nights in Collioure, a Mediterranean resort town near the Spanish border crowded with tourists. We savored the excellent fresh seafood, especially at the restaurants La Comptoir and Chez Simone. One morning two rubber rafts of fatigue-clad French Commandos paddled in from the sea; they landed in the old town in front of photo-snapping tourists. Another day we drove the scenic coast toward Spain, first stopping at L'Anse de Paulliles, a beach at a former Alfred Nobel dynamite factory, and then at a photo memorial on the border commemorating 1939 Spanish Republican refugees.

Sep 8, Wed. Leaving Collioure after 3 nights, we headed to the jaw-dropping Gorges de Galamus. After viewing the abandoned hermitage in the steep gorge, we drove slowly down the twisty one-lane road carved out of the side of the canyon, replete with blind curves. A sheer cliff dropped over a low stone wall on one side and a rock cliff encroached on the other, often arching down low over our car. Luck was with us as we encountered no vehicles coming from the opposite direction, and thus were not forced to experience the terror of backing up on this narrow balcony road.

We reached CARCASSONNE at 3pm, checked into Hotel Montmorency next to La Cité, found a gas station to fill the tank, and reached the SNCF station at 3:24 to return the car before the AVIS office closed at 3:30. Later we walked 5 minutes from our hotel through the Narbonne gate and explored La Cité, ending at Le Chaudron where we had a nice dinner. After dinner we walked back to our hotel through the near-empty streets, including through an enchanted stretch between the floodlit inner and outer walls of La Cité. Our hotel room’s balcony faced the lighted walls of the castle, and we closed the day sipping wine in the warm weather as lightning flashed over La Cité.

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PART 5: Sep 9, Thu - Sep 10, Fri LYON 2 nights


  • Visiting the Deportation and Resistance Museum

Sep 9-10 (Thu-Fri). Our TGV train departed rainy Carcassonne at 8:26am, arriving at the Part-Dieu train station in overcast LYON at 11:50am. After confirming our upcoming Sep 11 rental car reservation at the station’s AVIS office, we picked up our 48-hour Lyon City Cards at the reception desk in the Part-Dieu Shopping Center. There were three guards at the main entrance of the shopping center checking passe sanitaire of folks wanting to enter; the person in front of us was refused entry.

We rode the metro using our Lyon City Cards and checked into Hôtel des Célestins near Place Bellecour just after 1pm. This boutique hotel has an excellent location, helpful service, good-quality amenities, and an elevator.

Some notes about Lyon:

  • The helpful people of Lyon: during our two days four people kindly offered us unsolicited assistance.
  • The Lyon City Cards were a great value and made it simple to use mass transit while providing entry to all museums we visited.
  • Vieux Lyon and its traboules, as well as the Lyon History Museum located there, were fun.
  • The Deportation and Resistance Museum was very good.
  • A gaily-dressed man invited us inside the Brochier Soieries shop in Vieux Lyon and explained the history of silk-making in Lyon and in French design. The dearth of tourists due to COVID had destroyed sales the previous year, forcing producers to suspend production; they were looking forward to a recovery in demand.
  • The Roman Theaters and a walk through La Croix-Rousse were interesting diversions.
  • The Lumière Museum was mildly interesting, though English-language resources were limited.
  • We had dinner at two well-regarded bouchons. Service was fine, but our expectations regarding the cuisine were set too high. The food was good, but not great. [10/5 NOTE: Have since had feedback that for a really great meal we should have gone more upscale. Next time!]

On Saturday morning we checked out of the hotel and took the metro to Part-Dieu train station to pick up a rental car from AVIS.

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PART 6: Sep 11, Sat - Sep 16, Thu BURGUNDYMEURSAULT 6 nights


  • Wine-tasting meal at Domaine Comte Senard in Aloxe-Corton
  • Burgundy wine class at Vin Sensation in Beaune
  • Day trip to MuséoParc Alésia and Abbaye de Fontenay
  • Four-hour hike though the vineyards and woods above Meursault
  • Visits to Chagny and Beaune markets. Arrived early before crowds


  • L’Épisode in Meursault
  • Le Chevreuil in Meursault

Sep 11 (Sat). After picking up a rental car we headed for Burgundy. En route we stopped in the small village of Chapaize for a dreamy outside lunch at Le Saint Martin restaurant: excellent food, warm sun, friendly service, and a view of 11th century Église Saint-Martin directly across the lane. Afterwards was a stop at Brançion to view the countryside from the castle keep, a view worth the entry fee. In late afternoon we reached our lodging in MEURSAULT, where we would spend the next six nights. The location and facilities were outstanding; a review is posted on the RS forum:

Sep 12 (Sun). In the morning we drove to the Chagny Sunday market (where even live chickens were for sale) and stocked up. After lunch we walked to a tasting room in Meursault where the unsmiling young host gave a rapid-fire complex explanation on how to ship wine overseas (though we hadn’t asked), and then mentioned how life in Burgundy is relaxed and moves slowly.

Sep 13 (Mon). We went to Beaune for our 11am The Essentials class on Burgundy wines at Sensation Vin. We were the only two “students”, and the 90-minute class exceeded expectations. We learned how to read Burgundy wine labels and about wine-tasting; this was followed by a blind tasting of eight wines – including 2 Grand Crus. My wife was correct more than me: every time. After a picnic lunch we toured Hôtel Dieu des Hospices de Beaune. One room was being used by the town for COVID testing / vaccination.

Sep 14 (Tue). After a scenic drive through the vineyards, we arrived at Domaine Comte Senard in Aloxe-Corton for our 12:30 wine-tasting meal reservation. Due to COVID, we were the only 2 customers for the whole day. The hostess gave us a tour of the grounds, first to see the nearby monopole Grand Cru field and then the 13th century cellars. These cellars had been lost for centuries until the 1850’s after the town was burned down by resident Benedictine monks to eradicate the Black Plague. The two-hour lunch accompanied by 6 wines – including 3 Grand Crus – was excellent.

Sep 15 (Wed). We did a day trip to visit two major sights. One quick stop on the way was to view where the Burgundy Canal enters a long tunnel. The two major sights:

  • MuséoParc Alésia at Alise-Ste-Reine. A good museum is located on the site of the battle where Julius Caesar defeated a Gallic army led by Vercingétorix in 52 BC. The museum provides the history of the Gauls, a lively description of the battle, a depiction of Gallic life before and during the Roman occupation, and a description of myths about the Gauls that were exploited in French advertising as well as in WW2 Vichy gov't propaganda. The entry fee includes admission to a nearby Gallo-Roman archeological site.

  • Abbaye de Fontenay. A well-preserved former Cistercian abbey located in a rather remote and tranquil wooded valley.

Sep 16 (Thu). For our last full day in Burgundy we did a four-hour hike on a loop trail into the vineyards and woods above Meursault, bringing a picnic lunch. The vendange was just beginning and the vines were heavy with grapes. Despite getting caught in a shower, we had a good time. The day ended with a fun, excellent dinner in the small, intimate eleven-seat restaurant in Meursault named L’Épisode.

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PART 7: Sep 17, Fri - Sep 19, Sun NORMANDYHONFLEUR 2 nights; CDG 1 night


  • Visiting Monet’s House and Gardens in Giverny
  • Visiting the Eugène-Boudin Museum, a good stop for fans of Impressionism as it shows the work of mentors and predecessors of Claude Monet
  • Seeing and hiking the cliffs at Etrétat


  • La Tortue in Honfleur

Sep 17-19 (Fri-Sun). On Friday we drove away from Burgundy at 9:15am, direction HONFLEUR. At 1:30pm we made a stop in Giverny to visit Monet’s House and Gardens. Uncrowded, with just two people in line when we walked up. As beautiful as expected.

At 6pm we reached our lodging in Honfleur, the B&B La Cour Sainte Catherine, with its pleasant inner courtyard and very good included breakfast. Before our arrival the helpful staff found a pharmacy in Honfleur where we could be tested for COVID the next day, necessary for our US return. The B&B was full of customers, but the mix was reportedly different from pre-COVID. The generally longer-staying Americans had been replaced mainly by Belgians and Dutch who tended to stay one or two nights. In addition, we heard from shop owners that British visitors were also down, due to BREXIT.

On Saturday we walked to the pharmacy, arriving at 10am. COVID antigen testing and receiving the results took just 20 minutes. Details are posted on the RS forum:

The rest of the day was spent visiting the Honfleur Saturday market, sightseeing, visiting museums, and shopping. The vendors were happy to see a couple of Americans as they were just beginning to recover from the COVID-induced sales drop. The day ended with an excellent dinner on the second floor of La Tortue.

On Sunday we visited scenic Etrétat during our drive from Honfleur to CDG Airport. Worthwhile.

Sep 20 (Mon). We flew out of CDG on an 8:40am flight for Seattle via Amsterdam. The AMS to SEA leg was about 65% occupied.

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374 posts

Thank you for a very helpful report. Our June 2020 Dordogne trip was cancelled. I’m revising the plan for 2022 and hope to add Lyon. I appreciate seeing what you were able to do each day.

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2158 posts

Bookmarked your report, I want to see southern France. So glad you enjoyed your vacation!
Favorite part of your report is how you added bullets for your overall favorite activities. Great organizing principle making it easier for your readers. I’m going to remember this for my next trip report.

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3489 posts

WOW! What a well organized trip & report! It brought back memories of the Loire, Dordogne,
Oradur-sur-Glane, Sarlat, Carcassonne, etc. Thanks for the helpful bullet points, & bold print. Well done!! So glad it exceeded your expectations! Bookmarked for future reference.

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2165 posts

Great report, great formatting! Wow - looks awesome!! Thanks for posting!

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1148 posts

Thanks for posting! I’m waiting to board to go home now, but we enjoyed much of the same things in the first half of your trip on ours. Uzerche was an unscheduled stop and we loved it.

We also had a fabulous time and found it wonderfully uncrowded, the pass sanitaire gave us some peace of mind, and we are so glad we came. Loved reading your report!

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301 posts

A a former resident of Lyon, Burgogne, and now Normandie, I'm familiar with many of the places you visited.

Regarding your dining in Lyon, bouchons are fine if you want plain, somewhat heavy and meat-centric food. But there are far, far better restaurants in Lyon than the bouchons. Too bad you decided to eat at one twice.

And -- most restaurants in France are short-staffed. In my opinion, it's an outcome of the country's labor laws and the status of restaurant service as a profession. The stereotypical jokes one hears about brusque waiters in French restaurants originate from them working very hard and not having time to linger or chat it up as so-often happens in American restaurants, which rely on turning tables to make money.

Nice trip report, though - my only suggestion would be to provide links to some of the places you've mentioned. Oh, and also: you've misspelled your accent on Vercingétorix. Easy to do, though. It's a heck of a name.

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EXCELLENT trip report! Ive bookmarked it for my 2022 trip. I wonder if there were any places you saw you wished you had time for. Also of the places you stayed would you recommend other than the ones already mentioned? Thank you for taking the time to post.

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192 posts

@Sammy: I have corrected the spelling of the name of Vercingétorix. And added an edit regarding bouchon. Thanks for feedback.

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- The one place we would have most liked to stay another day was Puycelsi (taking a day from Collioure).
- In addition to the places mentioned in report, we really liked the VRBO we stayed at next to the Dordogne River. I am happy to share info on it in a personal message.

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4233 posts

Thank you for your excellent report! It is giving me trip ideas, so many places I haven't been to or even heard of, even though it is my own country.

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382 posts

What a trip! Thank you for the awesome trip report. Bookmarking.

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8515 posts

This is a wonderful trip report, complete, descriptive, and very, very well written. You've used embedded phrases and descriptive vocabulary in such a way that allows the report to be extensive but concise at the same time. And now you even have your accent pointing in the right direction, thanks to Sammy's vigilant eye. However, my husband says the Roman transcription of the Gaulois didn't have an accent, so you could be given a pass, at least in Latin class.

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8890 posts

Thank you for your fantastic trip report. We will be going to many of these places in spring and fall of 2022 and this is so helpful. I am bookmarking it to refer to when doing my trip planning.

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234 posts

Thank you for this terrific report of your wonderful trip. We will be heading to the Loire/Chenonceaux and the south for about 10 days next summer before making our way to Paris (going to try taking the TGV direct to Avignon from CDG when we land) and your detailed descriptions have fired our imagination as we begin planning. All the best to you for future fun and safe travels. Thanks for sharing.

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4793 posts

Wow! Sure sounds like you had a fantastic trip, thanks for sharing all the wonderful details!

You definitely covered a ton of ground visiting various regions of beautiful France!

Of all the places you visited I think I would skip the drive to the Gorges de Galamus after reading your description of that twisty one lane road!

Where did you stay in Vitrac? Was that
“converted traditional farm building next to the Dordogne River” an apartment or a B&B?

Canoeing down the Dordogne River sounds like such a peaceful experience.
I presume you get a ride back to Vitrac after your river voyage?

I’m so intrigued... How did you find all these beautiful places?
What guidebooks, besides Rick Steves’, did you read, and what websites were particularly helpful as well?

Thanks again!

Definitely bookmarking for future reference!

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@Priscilla, the farmhouse in Vitrac was a VRBO.
Yes, the ride back from Beynac was a free shuttle from the canoe provider.