Just a few notes before I hit the bed after a tiresome 700km drive which brought us home. The trip in France has been great, and I will sorely miss quite a few places. Keeping with bullet-point style travel notes, here is what comes to mind:

  • (some) photos are here (Picasa seems to have much better bandwith then Flickr these days, I might even organize them sooner or later). Note to self: photo lenses are supposed to be cleansed from time to time!
  • Normandie, and Calvados to be precise, is now ranking very high in my personal “I want to retire there” list. Where else can you find this sitting right next to this (and this), plus great cheese and fish?
  • French hotels are great. In Italy, everything below three stars means you have a good chance of being stabbed while sleeping, while France has an impressive quality even in two stars (and I wish I could try a B&B as I’ve been told wonders). What impressed me most is that every single hotel but one had real room keys, not a stupid card. I think there is a message behind it: if you have a real key, you’re supposed to leave it at the desk, which means that someone is going to take care of you. “Care” is the key when thinking about French hospitality.
  • French routes are not so great. Today we had to travel for some 180km on single lane roads while getting home from Bourges to Macon. If you’re traveling in the North-South direction, it’s all nice and dandy, but don’t even think you will have a nice time while east/westbound (well, except from the scenery of course).
  • I think I will pretty soon receive quite a hefty bill from the french police given it took me a few days to realize that there are a lot of speed traps, and they are all actually working.
  • Speaking of which, parking in Paris made me learn a new french word: “timbre-amende”. Actually 11€ as a parking ticket is quite a bargain…
  • After shopping for carbonated water in supermarkets, I now understand why every restaurant is serving the italian “San Pellegrino” bottles. There are so many great things in France, but the “eau pétillante” isn’t among them.
  • French cheese… a one of a kind experience. That is unless you happen to drive through Pont l’Eveque and step by a local shop selling farm cheese. Yes, Livarot is great but a very nice way to get a divorce for free is letting it sit in your car overnight and have your wife almost being knocked out by the smell.
  • “Moules frites” doesn’t mean “fried mussels” as I’ve been thinking for a few days. And they taste real good, expecially in beautiful Saint Malo.
  • If you happen to be in the Loire region, don’t miss the Villandry castle, with one of the most amazing and colorful gardens I’ve ever seen.
  • Places I would like to see again: Paris, of course, then all of Normandy and a few bits of Bretagne. Oh, and Auxerre as well.
  • Places I would avoid in future trips: Brest (really sucks, nothing there but a port and a castle) and Nantes (it’s like Frankfurt, without the old town part).

A final note before I go to sleep: thanks Stéphane for the great tip about Poilane. A very interesting and tasteful experience indeed!



1 thought on “Back”

  1. There is actually a *a lot* of different sparkling waters available on the French market. Badoit and San Pellegrino fighting on the restaurant market. As for the supermarket (hypermarket), it’s not unlimited but pretty much.

    Each of them as more or less a unique taste depending on its concentration of calcium, sodium and magnesium. Taste will be stronger if it is not cold. Some waters are more indicated for certain types of diet or mineral deficiencies.

    Also Badoit and Perrier are fighting hard on the market. Perrier is traditionnally more for occassional drinks than during meals due to its large bubbles, while Badoit is the opposite. Recently Perrier launched ‘Eau de Perrier’ which is very much like Badoit (small bubbles) while Badoit launched ‘Perrier Rouge’ which is like Perrier. :)

    For speed traps, it might be a good idea to check the itinerary on or, speed traps (on highways at least) are normally indicated.

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