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4350 km in France: Loire Valley, Brittany, Normandy

Time travel: 

Airport:

Route:Paris - Blois - Chateau de Chenonceaux - Chateau de Villandry - Angers - Chateau de Serrant - Nantes - Vannes - Rochefort-en- Terre (Roshefort-en-Terre) - Vannes (Vannes) - Bono (Bono) - Locmariaquer (Locmariaquer) - Karnak (Carnac) - Peninsula Quiberon (Quiberon) - Auray (Auray) - Vannes - Broceliande Forest (Pampon, Forret de Paimpont ) - Rennes (Rennes) - Montagu farm (La Ferme de Montaigu) - Mont-Saint-Michel (Le Mont-St-Michel) - Cancale (Cancale) - Saint-Malo (St-Malo) - Saint-Mer-Eglise ( Sainte-Mere-Eglise) - Valognes - Barfleur - Cherbourg - Ranville - Ouistrham - Arromanches - Bayeux - Saint-Laurent - Pont-du-Hok - Norman Switzerland (Suisse Normande) - Etretat - Honfleur - Dol-de-Bretagne - Dinan - Dinard (Dinar) - Saint-Malo-Rennes (Rennes) - Mont-Saint-Michel - Deauville (Deauville) - Trouville (Trouv ille) - Cabourg - Caen - Vire - Rouen - Giverny - Paris. 

Automobile:

MERCEDES-BENZ A180

Travel map:

map

Preparations for the capture of the castles of the Loire and the landing in Normandy.

   For the first time we went on our next vacation trip in the very close family circle. Usually we shared the joys and hardships of the journey with at least four, but here everything fell on the two of us with Rozka. It so happened that all our usual travel companions, for various reasons, could not keep us company. On the one hand, this is good - you don’t have to adapt to anyone, but, on the other hand, you have to solve all problems yourself, including the problems of communicating with natives, driving a car on unfamiliar roads, and finally, financial problems. At some point, the thought even slipped through to postpone the vacation until better times, but all the hesitation was overcome and we, albeit with some anxiety, set off.
  Now that the journey is over, without a shadow of false modesty, we can say that we coped brilliantly, that 16 days flew by in one breath and that together we can also travel and even very well.
  However, first things first.
  Vacation time is usual for recent years: the last week of August - the first week of September.
  Before building the route, we identified the so-called route-forming points, that is, those places or sights for which we, in fact, conceived this trip: Brittany, Normandy, Mont-Saint-Michel, Carnac, Loire castles, Rouen.
  The route was not original. So many travel around France, but this did not make it less interesting.
  Route plan: we fly to Paris, take a car at the airport and drive for a few days to the Loire Valley. Then through Nantes we rush to the southern coast of Brittany, then we move north closer to Mont Saint-Michel, where we rent a rural house for ten days and from there we make radial trips into the depths of Brittany and Normandy. In conclusion, we go to Rouen, then to Paris, rent a car and fly home.
  As usual, in March-April, organizational issues began to be resolved: air tickets, search and booking of hotels and a ten-day base (rural house or something similar), car rental.
  There were unforeseen problems with air tickets, despite the fact that we started to worry about them quite early - five months before the flight date. It's all about the prices: they, like the airliners themselves, rushed up. Usually we prefer regular flights of the Israeli company El Al. Here, prices are usually a little higher, but the level of service is always at the level, not to mention flight safety.
  But this year the price of a direct flight to Paris started at $900. With this price, we "flew" far beyond our vacation budget. They began to consider alternative options: a charter, other airlines, a flight to airports neighboring France (London, Brussels, Geneva, etc.), and finally, a flight to Paris with an intermediate stop. As a result, we fly to Paris with an intermediate stop in Frankfurt, but for 625 dollars and with the German Lufthansa.
  With hotels, on the contrary, everything was decided simply and quickly. First of all, they began to look for a base for ten days near Mont Saint-Michel on the border between Brittany and Normandy. We settled on one of the first options: a rural house on a Montagu farm near the town of Montaigu-les-Bois for 49 euros per day, including breakfast. Through Western Union Bank transferred to the owners of puzzles - 25% of the total cost.
  Then, following the route, we need two hotels in the Loire Valley (we decided to stay in Blois and Angers), each for one night, hotels on the south coast of Brittany (Vannes) and in Rouen, each for two nights.
  Our choice fell on B&B Hotels. Several factors played in favor of this network. Firstly, these hotels are designed specifically for car tourists (but they are NOT motels). They are located, as a rule, near motorways, i.e. have convenient access roads. Secondly, which is also important for car tourists, they have their own closed and free parking. Thirdly, these hotels can operate in automatic mode, which makes it possible to get a room at any time of the day and without the help or any participation of the attendants. Finally, these hotels have a good price / quality ratio: at a room rate of 40-50 euros, including buffet breakfast (NOT continental), you get a quite comfortable room corresponding to at least 2 *. In addition, this network has an excellent online reservation system, does not require prepayment (but you need to present a credit card) and allows you to cancel your order without penalty until 19:00 on the day of arrival.
  There were no problems with renting a car either. For our own convenience, we ordered a car with an automatic transmission. The VW Golf ordered from Europcar for 16 days cost us 719 euros, including full insurance, including the cancellation of personal participation, and given that we actually received a Mercedes A180 with a diesel engine, our choice was justified by more than 100%.
  In the few months preceding the vacation, we calmly, without haste, were engaged in a detailed study of the route and logistics. So, in view of the predicted unstable weather in Brittany and Normandy, they got raincoat jackets (umbrellas are useless in rain with wind). They did not forget about the faithful assistant and the third member of the crew - the GPS-navigator, who was called Vovka during last year's trip to Italy.
  Provided him with a fresh map of France and several electronic dictionaries and translators. In addition, we purchased several travel guides for France and maps of travel areas. As for the maps, the choice fell on the maps of Brittany, Normandy and the Loire Valley from the AA Touring Map France series. These maps have a slightly larger scale than, for example, Michelin maps: 1:180000 instead of 1:200000. In addition, the maps of the AA series show interesting sights for tourists.
  And, finally, I was now the happy owner of a Sony digital video camera, received so timely as a gift from my relatives.

Loire Valley

August 22 - Ben Gurion Airport - Frankfurt Airport - Charles de Gaulle Airport - Blois (B&B Hotel Blois). 

   The first day of the trip, as expected, was tiring and uneventful, but with pleasant surprises. Flight Lufthansa Ben Gurion - Frankfurt took off at 5 am, so, as expected, we were at the airport at 2 am already. In recent years, we have been flying quite a lot - at least once a year, and sometimes several times a year. They even got biometric identification cards that allow them to pass border control without standing in line: they swiped a magnetic card, put five fingers into the device and ... goodbye country, hello abroad! We ran through the duty-free points, loaded up with perfumes and alcohol (of course, we left everything at the airport until we returned) and, without hurrying, went to the landing. 
  We flew with a relatively new Airbus A-340-600. Even in the economy class, the seats are quite spacious, each seat is equipped not just with a screen, but with a computer that allows you to choose entertainment yourself: movies, music, or just watch information about the flight. Fed and watered quite tasty. In short, four and a half hours of night flight did not tire us very much. This was the first pleasant surprise.
  We arrived in Frankfurt, three hours before flying to Paris (we received boarding passes back in Ben Gurion). But the airport is huge (one of the largest in Europe). We flew to sector A, and we are flying to Paris from sector B. The transition from sector to sector took at least half an hour. But there was enough time for border control (by the way, there was no such thing in Paris anymore - the delights of a united Europe!), And for local duty free, by the way, I bought an original high-capacity battery for a digital video camera.
  Just before the flight to Paris, we noticed a strange activity at our boarding gate, expressed in numerous announcements in German, English and French. Just in case, we also went to the counter and presented our boarding cards, but, apart from OK, no explanation followed. And so they flew off in unpleasant ignorance.
  Fortunately, the flight to Paris is less than an hour. But they calmed down only after receiving the luggage. We considered this the second pleasant surprise.
  The next program number was to receive the car.
  The Europcar counter turned out to be the farthest in an endless line of car rental companies. There was no queue, but we had to wait a little while a young African-Frenchman with a white-toothed smile (as in the commercial) had a nice conversation with the client, apparently who had already received the car. Finally, we were at the counter, presented our voucher, both of our plastic driver's licenses and a credit card. A guy with the same white-toothed smile casually takes one of the many envelopes from which keys fall out with, as it seemed to me at first, a keychain with a three-pointed Mercedes star. The guy fills out the forms and gives me to sign. 
I am looking for the ordered VW Golf in the form, instead I see a Mercedes A180. I take the keys and only now I see that the key fob with the Mercedes star is a key with a built-in chip. So we got the third pleasant surprise. 
  We went to the parking lot, where we quickly found our sparkling new black Mercy. Judging by the traces on the inside of the windshield from the navigators and the speedometer readings (less than 6000), we were probably only the third owners of this car. We load luggage. Surprisingly, everything fits perfectly into a seemingly small trunk. Rozka takes the driver's seat, I, as usual, the navigator. I mount the GPS-navigator on my side close to the right pillar of the windshield. We adjust the seats, mirrors, deal with the fancy control panel. Finally, the diesel engine purred, we slowly begin to get out of the parking lot. 
  Vovka is still silent, but even without him we can easily navigate by signs. Finally, when we had already jumped onto the expressway, Vovka raised his voice. I set the address of the first B&B in Blois. According to the original plan, on the way to Blois, they thought to call in Orleans (Orleans) or Chartres (Chartres), but the weather makes adjustments: it rains, sometimes intensifying to a downpour. In addition, sleepless nights still affect. So we decide to go straight to the hotel. According to Vovka's calculations, it is more than 200 km to the hotel, and even on a high-speed (toll) road it will take about 2.5 hours. 
On the way, an hour and a half later, we moved out to one of the many recreation areas. Each such zone is identified by a blue road sign starting with the word Aire followed by the name of the zone, and includes a toilet, water, tables with benches, a public telephone in the minimum version, and a gas station, mini market, car wash, cafes and, sometimes, restaurants in the extended version. For example, this area was called Aire de Blois, although Blois was still far away. Here we also had lunch in a self-service cafe, coffee from the machine cheered up a little (by the way, very decent coffee with a large selection). 
We arrived at the hotel before dark. It is located in the suburb of Blois with the unpronounceable name Vineuil. Settled, as they say, live. Everything worked. Got a room number and access code. We got into the room without any problems. We decided to put ourselves in order, have a little rest and then go to the city of Blois. But again, the accumulated fatigue and the still unrelieved tension, characteristic of the first trip, had an effect. So they lay down, as it were, for a short time, and woke up already in the morning.

August 23 - Blois - Chenonceaux castle (Сhateau de Chenonceaux) - Villandry castle (Chateau de Villandry) - Angers (B&B Angers (1)).

map

  In the morning we got up early enough for the holiday regime - at 8 o'clock. Fatigue disappeared as if by hand, and there was no tension anymore. After all, everything is going well.
  Went down to the buffet to have breakfast. Breakfast is plentiful: omelet with bacon, different yoghurts, cereals with milk, bread, rolls, butter, croissants, juices, coffee and tea of several kinds. Enough for lunch.
  We loaded our Mercy again, left the hospitable B&B and finally moved to carry out our program.
  And today we have Loire castles in our program. Even when preparing the route in relation to castles, we decided to take not quantity, but quality. Indeed, on the map of the Loire Valley and in various guidebooks, I found about 70 castles and each of them is interesting in its own way. We included only two castles in the minimum program: the castle-bridge of Chenonceau and the castle-park of Villandry. 
On the way from the hotel to the castle of Chenonceau, we drove a little through Blois. At least one of the symbols of this masterpiece of medieval urban planning - the Gabriel Bridge across the Loire (11 arches, smoothly rising to the center) - we saw and moved from one side of the river to the other. Even from afar, the city looks very tempting and probably deserves to devote more time to it (by the way, in the 16th century Blois was the actual capital of France, and the castle is on the Loire castle hit parade).

 

Blois_Loire_Panorama_-_July_2011.jpg

   But again the weather interferes with us, everything is also overcast, it is drizzling. Therefore, we decide to go to Chenonceau and in the hope that the weather will improve.
  We drove along the Loire for quite a long time, then Vovka ordered a left turn onto the bridge, crossed to the other side and already along the country road through the forests and fields moved away from the Loire. The castle of Chenonceau does not stand on the Loire, but on the Cher River. For about half an hour Vovka drove us along the picturesque country roads, but he definitely led us to the parking lot in front of the entrance to the castle grounds.
  We bought entrance tickets (like everyone else in Europe, tickets have risen in price: instead of the 7.5 euros indicated in the guide, they paid 11.5 euros for a ticket). Along with the tickets, we received a small brochure in Russian - this is still a rarity for French attractions.
  A magnificent shady alley leads from the entrance to the castle grounds.
  there are a lot of materials about this castle in guidebooks and on the Internet, I won’t say anything new. I will just share our experience.
  First of all, the history of the castle is interesting. Otherwise, it is called the Ladies' Castle, since it was mainly inhabited by female royalty or close to them. Suffice it to name Catherine de Medici, Diane de Poitiers, Mary Stuart.
  At the entrance to the territory of the castle, the gardens bordering it on both sides are immediately visible. To the left is the Garden of Diane de Poitiers, protected from rising waters in the Cher by raised terraces, from which a beautiful view of the flower gardens and the castle itself opens up. It is from here that you can see the castle-bridge with its five arches over the river in all its glory.

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    Right Catherine de Medici Garden, more intimate, with a central pond.
  The interior of the castle is rich and interesting. In addition to the many halls, salons, bedrooms, a gallery over the river and a huge kitchen with utensils of those times make a special impression.

    In short, the castle made the expected impression, worth the few hours given to it, but nothing more.

 We moved on along the Cher River and after a short journey along the still picturesque road, rounding the Tours, we parked at the castle-park of Villandry.
  And again, instead of the 7 euros promised in the guide, we pay 9 for a ticket. And again, along with the tickets, we get a brochure in Russian, signed by the current owner of the castle, Henri Carvallo.
  From the very beginning, the castle impressed with some kind of pleasant lively atmosphere. Everywhere you felt a home and as if you were not on an excursion, but came to visit the hospitable hosts.
  Villandry Castle was built in 1536 by Jean Le Breton, Minister of Finance under King Francis I. This is the last of the most significant castles built on the banks of the Loire during the Renaissance.
  The uniqueness of Villandry is that the center of attraction here is not a castle, but a park. Canals, bridges and the castle itself are nothing more than decorations for the park.
  The park, with an area of more than five hectares, includes: an ornamental garden, a water garden, a medicinal herb garden, a vegetable garden. The panorama of the park is best seen from the terrace of the castle or from the belvedere, located on the left side of the park. And only from here you can see the drawings of the flower beds of the ornamental garden. Then, walking in the park, you can enjoy this work of French aesthetics close up, which we did with great pleasure.

   

  Having had lunch in one of the restaurants near the castle (by the way, surprisingly tasty and inexpensive), we moved on. We returned to the right bank of the Loire and took the expressway to Angers.

  As usual, we decided to first go to the hotel, and then to the city. At the entrance to Angers we saw the hotel logo - a brown circle with white letters B & B, and a few minutes later we drove into the hotel parking lot.

  Received the number again in live mode. After a short rest, we went to Angers.

  Vovka accurately led to the city center right to the wall of the Angers castle Fulkyu (Chateau de Folques). There is also ample parking.

  Fulkue Castle is a unique phenomenon on the Loire and in general in France. He is absolutely unlike the others. As figuratively noted in one of the guidebooks, he is like a bear in a ballet adagio. Imagine 17 powerful cylinder towers built from local stone, forming an amazing striped pattern. The battlements of the towers and the walls connecting them, looking menacing from the side, are equipped with only a few small holes in the upper part.

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    We didn’t go to the castle itself - it’s already late, although there is something to see there, for example, the world’s largest tapestry of the Revelation of St. John (Apocalypse of St. John). We went around the castle and past the half-timbered houses of the 16th-18th centuries we went to the Cathedral of Saint Maurice.

  The cathedral faces the Loire River (not the Loire!). A very picturesque pedestrian street-staircase (Montee Saint Maurice) descends from the cathedral to the river. We went down this street to the river. Here we saw another sight of the city - Verdun Bridge (Pont Verdun).

We returned to the cathedral, walked along the half-timbered streets, then went to the hotel.

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