Women’s Adventure to France

Have you ever heard a friend say "I want a vacation" and your gut reaction was to say "lets go!"? 

Here's a quick example of what "Let's Go!" can look like...

A friend wanted desperately to go to France and specifically to Biarritz for a city-wide Roaring 20’s Fete.  Her husband didn’t want to go…  

It’s not the LATEST trend, but something we see occasionally.  Some men over the age of 50 are reluctant to travel 50+ miles from their home, while their wives dream of distant shores.  

I’m one of the latter, and so was my friend, Mel.  She had heard of this city-wide Roaring 20’s Fete held every few years on the West coast of France in Biarritz.  Fascinated, I jumped at the chance to go with her, but insisted that we open the aperture a bit, visiting Paris, Normandy, Bordeaux and Bayonne, as well.

Following a flurry of flight arrangements, hotel reservations, train ticket purchases, packing strategies (we limited ourselves to one wheeled carry-on bag that we could manage for the 9 days), and loving kisses with our spouses at the airport, we set off.

Day 1: Ah, Paris.  The architecture, cacophony of sounds and smells, the LIGHT in May are all compelling.

 

We drank strong French coffee to combat jet lag, dropped our bags at our first hotel, then headed to Sainte Chappelle, the beautiful chapel on the Isle de la Cite, in the very center of Paris.

The stained glass windows didn’t disappoint… Imagine having a chapel built on top of another chapel, both stunning!

Another coffee at a cafe overlooking the Seine River.  THIS is living.

Day 2: We headed to Versailles (I had never been).  It IS one of the most astounding palaces, and needs to be seen at least once in a lifetime.  

After a tour of the private rooms, the Hall of Mirrors and the Salon of War and Salon of Peace (how even-handed!), we headed outside into the warm sunshine.  The formal gardens, with fountains synchronized to classical music, are spectacular.  

We purchased some macarons in the gift shop (Laduree, of course) and ate them sitting on a small bench looking at the stunning Apollo fountain.  

Day 3: We hopped a train to Normandy.  A bit of a history buff, I wanted to see the beaches of D-Day.  

Before that history, we went back a bit further, as we opted to see La Tapisserie de Bayeux, famous for capturing the story of William the Conqueror and the Battle of Hastings (think 11th century).  The handmade tapestry is about 200 feet (yes, feet) long, and illustrates the story graphically over several years.

We were hungry and thirsty after seeing the tapestry, so opted to go to for an early dinner to a restaurant that previously was a mill.  Beautiful setting and great pate!

Day 4: The D-Day beaches.  This was quite the history lesson for all of us on our small 8 person tour.  Imagine MILES of wide beaches and cliffs overlooking them.  The movies never did this landscape justice.

The secrecy around this June 6, 1944 insertion of US, British, Canadian ships, troops, paratroopers was incredible. General Patton was used as a decoy for the real plan, as the Germans were sure he would lead the battle. 

After the D-Day Beaches, we stopped at the American Cemetery.  Seeing THOUSANDS of crosses (and the occasional Star of David) on the beautiful seaside land that France has deeded to the United States permanently, spoke to the human toll.

Operation Overlord (the battle codename) resulted in more than 9,000 allied soldiers being killed or injured in the first 24 hours.  It was a solemn day, but one we will never forget.

Day 5:  We toured historic Mont Saint Michel, an Abbey built on a small spit of land surrounded by excellent sheep land and fickle tides that strand people on the island from time to time.

Let’s just say STUNNING…

It was time now to move on to our ultimate destination, the beautiful seaside city of Biarritz.

Remember that the plan was to attend the fete!  We had our flapper outfits and were so excited to see some of the old cars… 

They were teasing us!  The fete was cancelled!!  NO!!  But what should we do?  Well, have a fete (dinner) at the beautiful Hotel du Palais overlooking the sea, of course!  And yes, we wore our dresses!!

We took two days trips from Biarritz, one to Bordeaux - stunning cathedral and a great citywide farmers market where you could purchase antiques, etc - 

and the other to Bayonne - the birthplace of chocolate, where we had hot chocolate and toast, a traditional breakfast there.  Very rich and delicious!  

We flew out the next day, exhausted and exuberant!  

Summary:  France is NOT to be missed and can be done with a reasonable budget.  

Two women, 9 days, roundtrip air, shared hotel rooms (twin beds), tours, trains…. A budget of $4,000 per person is possible.  Worth EVERY penny!


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