Here is our first email with news from our Bonjour France 2018 tour.
Week 1 went really well, although we did not have the best weather.
Our travellers arrived at Charles de Gaulle airport, tired but well. We picked up our van and drove straight to Versailles. There, we had rooms at a lovely hotel a few steps away from the entrance to the palace.
We arrived under heavy rain and laughed a lot at trying to find techniques to get the luggage in the hotel without getting too wet. We failed miserably.
After a hot shower, we went out to a nearby seafood restaurant for dinner. Our travellers enjoyed the waiting staff filleting the fish at the table, they also enjoyed fresh prawns and freshly smocked salmon.
After a much needed sleep, our crew headed out for a traditional bakery breakfast - black coffee and croissants - at a local bakery.
After a walk through the bi-weekly outdoor market and the daily indoor market (les Halles), discovering fresh produce of the best quality, we headed to Versailles Palace where we picked up out "cut-the-line" tickets for a tour of the Palace - kings' and princesses' quarters.
We enjoyed a delightful lunch at chef Alain Ducasse's "Ore" restaurant in the Palace, 2 courses with wine and coffee.
After lunch, we headed towards the gardens for a fountain show.
By the end of the afternoon, we picked up the car again and headed to our next destination - the beautiful castle of Emalleville with its lovely owners and staff.
The castle is located a stone throw away from Evreux, a beautiful city as well. There we had themed rooms, a commun room and a pool (which none of us had the strength to enjoy after big days).
We had a beautiful dinner in a restaurant nearby, where we were welcomed with open arms by the owners who spoke no English.
After a beautiful breakfast of bread, pastries, cheese, ham and more, we headed to Giverny where we had a guided tour of Monet's gardens and house. We truly enjoyed the history of the place as well as the many smells, views and colours.
After lunch, we walked through the streets of Giverny, discovering art galleries, antique shops and touring the Impressionisms museum.
The sun appeared at the end of the afternoon and we decided to stay at a café's terrasse for an end of afternoon French style chat under the plane trees. Our travellers discovered farmhouse apple cider from nearby Normandy.
We headed to the highs of Vernon at apéritif time, for a view and drinks before a wonderful dinner of delicately smoked salmon steaks, duck 3 ways terrine, porc mignon and apple tarts for dessert.
We had an early drive to Paris and drove though the city before lunch to check into our hotel. Our travellers had a wander through Saint Georges district for lunch while Gwen struggled to find fuel to return the car (who said French farmers are on strike often?).
We then had a walk through Le Marais and Hôtel de Ville districts with drinks on Place des Vosges before dinner with a view at the George restaurant.
After a great breakfast of ham, cheese, crepes and more, we headed out to tour the Luxembourg gardens and Saint Germain des Prés - rive gauche.
After a long walk, including some Roman ruins, we headed towards the Eiffel Tower for lunch at the first floor restaurant, which was delicious with a view over Paris.
In the afternoon our travellers had a bit of a wonder through the city and did some shopping, before heading out to a very special restaurant for Gwen - the Ethiopian restaurant of Saint George district. We had a delightful evening.
On day we headed early to Montmartre and discovered Pigalle and Moulin Rouge on a Saturday morning. Some people were walking out after a big night out, we were walking by all caffeined up after a good night of sleep - quite a contrast and a sight!
We walked up the small streets and stairs of Montmartre, through the back streets, imagining what life had been like during the bohème period.
We had a look at the Sacré Coeur and took in the amazing view of Paris while the cafés and shops are setting up. It is quite a privilege to have Montmartre to yourself and witness the daily life, before it's assaulted by tourists.
We walked back to Place du Tertre and were the first clients of the day at the original La Mère Catherine. We met one of the painters - his daughter married an Australian, they live in Brisbane and his son in law is a pretty good swimmer at national level. He was so happy to find Queenslanders...
We walked back down the hill and everyone went for a bit of shopping - shoes, French fabric, souvenirs, fancy new frames for glasses, etc.
Our pre-lunch walk took us through the districts at the feet of Montmartre, back to Saint Georges, where we watched the France-Australia world cup soccer game from a traditional Parisian brasserie terrasse with the waiting staff.
Finally it was time to pack and head towards Gare du Nord, where we waited in style at Brasserie l'Etoile du Nord for our high speed train (TGV) to take us to Lille on a very smooth journey.
In the next post to come: Week 2 - Lille, Dunkerque, Les Deux Caps, Eperlecques, Reims and Champagne.
A bientôt !
Bonjour Toowoomba Travel - #BonjourFrance2018