I’m not going to mention too much about the Loire Valley because we didn’t do much besides visit some awesome castles. Also, I’m already out of Besançon and in the south of France, and my vacation was about a month ago. We had about 30 people in our group, with one or two who didn’t come from the CLA.
The first day in the Loire Valley (Saturday)
We spent the first day pretty much just traveling by bus. It was a longgg ride – 8 hours. Luckily, we stopped three times (breakfast, lunch and bathroom). We arrived in Tours, and we were wiped. My friends and I ate dinner together, and then we went right back to the “Auberge de Jeunesse”(hostel for young people).
The second day (Sunday)
We got back in the bus and headed to the first castle – Château de Chenonceau. Wow it was beautiful! Everyone went in to see the bedrooms and all the other rooms. The castle is basically surrounded by water (a river I think) except for the entry bridge and the small gardens.
After Chenonceau, we got back in the bus (boring), slept, and arrived at the second castle – Château de Chambord. It was four times bigger than the first castle. From the exterior (and the interior too), it is extremely impressive. We took some photos of the group (obviously except for whoever photographed it from our group). I didn’t want to go into all the rooms because it’s fairly boring (for me) to do that. So, I walked around the courtyard of the castle to see the tours and everywhere around the castle. Afterwards, we slept at a second “Auberge de Jeunesse” near Orléans.
The third day (Monday)
Finally: the last day in the Loire Valley. We went to Orléans (the birth city of Joan of Arc). We stayed there between 10:00 and 14:00. After 14h, the bus left for Besançon, and Brittany and I took the train to Bordeaux (it arrived around 20:00). That night, we didn’t do anything because we were too tired.
The first day in Bordeaux (Tuesday)
On the “first day”, Tessa and Carrie came from Toulouse to spend the day (with us) in Bordeaux. We did a cool bus tour (about an hour and half duration). I saw the majority of the most important monuments of the centre ville. A bit later on, we visited a really cool wine museum. Inside, there are a few small cellars filled with some history of the wine trade. There were trade ship replicas, trader journals and tons of old bottles. The old labels and bottles are really cool. The design of wine bottles changed a lot since the beginning of “commercial” wine production. There were also a few enormous bottles in the cellar; there was one that can hold 18 L of wine! At the end, we tasted two wines (one red and one white). The white was really good, and the red was ok – nothing special (well, not to my under-developed wine tasting and judging abilities at least…)
After the museum, we walked around a bit to find a place to eat. There’s a restaurant called “Paul’s Place”(if I remember correctly). We ate there. The owner is a guy that is from England but who has lived in France for almost 15 years. Nonetheless, his French wasn’t too good (surprising) so we spoke in English. I had a fantastic salad with pearled onions, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella. As for my meal, I have no recollection of what I ate (as usual). After dinner, Carrie and Tessa went back to Toulouse and Brittany and I explored a bit more then went back to the hotel.
The second day (Wednesday)
On Wednesday, we went to Arcachon, a small town on the ocean. It looks just like some parts of California. There are a few small beaches there, which was a big change for us to see (hadn’t seen one since October 2010). We ate there and then took a boat over to Cape Ferret, a peninsula not more than thirty minutes from Arcachon. A real beach! It was beautiful, fairly warm, and just amazing. I called my mom while I was walking on the beach to rub it in a little; she was very envious (sorry Mom). While we were there, we explored a bit and then visited the lighthouse. There are amazing views from up there, as well as a very cool map of the peninsula. Afterwards, we walked throughout the residential areas. Finally, we (unfortunately) left around 18:30. The water level of the ocean raised an enormous amount between our arrival and our departure – I was really surprised (there are pictures of it below). Back in Arcachon, we had two delicious Stella Artois’s et then went back to Bordeaux.
The water level when we got there
The water level when we left
The third day (Thursday)
We didn’t do anything exciting because our train left around 14:00. Before the train, we walked around a bit to take in the beautiful views, the French people (and non-French people) and the huge river (La Garonne). Before leaving, we found a street full of antique shops. I bought a Harry Potter book, the first Lord of the Rings and a medical book (all in French of course) for only 5€ – that was pretty awesome, except for the fact that the medical book is way too heavy and I might have to leave it here because my suitcases are already much too heavy. After getting back to Besançon, I relaxed a bit and then took the train to Italy the next day.
– Matt Lipinski