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13 April 2015

France Field Report 8 – Day 8

OHHHHHH I am in the lap of luxury!!!

We feel like a million bucks in a business hotel at the Lyon airport – our last night.  You should see this room, especially after the bed-in-a-box we had in Avignon!!

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The room is HUGE! there is a ton of place to put anything you want anywhere, a bunch of plugs so no matter where you want to settle in (bed, the desk, the couch by the window where I am currently sitting) you can effortlessly plug in what ever you want. King sized bed, lots of plush pillows, relaxing atmosphere, spa-like bathroom…. terrific.

I could not end my vacation without diving into a cheese plate one last time, so after we checked in (around 8PM) we went to the hotel resto and indulged for the last time. I purposely did not finish my 2nd glass of wine so that I could bring it up to the room with me and enjoy it while writing up my blog post. It’s so loungy!!!  If only I could afford this kind of hotel all the time.

So that’s it – vacation over… it was really great! No complaints or regrets. Fantastic weather: wall to wall blue skies and sunshine, a little cold on the first few days but toward the end we were looking for shade in the afternoons.

On our last day today, we explored corners of Lyon that we had not seen on Day 1 and 2.  I think after today I have to change my statement that 2 days is enough for Lyon – of course it always depends on what you want to do, but now I think 3 days is good.

We were on the go since we arrived from Avignon at 10AM, taking about 2 hours for lunch and about an hour total for 2 drink stops, then maybe another 30 minutes for public transportation rides meaning we are on out feet for over 6 hours.

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The highlight of today’s explorations was the Croix-Rousse district, a hilltop neighbourhood north of the city.  We went up to see one of the many impressive murals that can be found around Lyon and then walked back down – the views from up there are breathtaking.

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The mural (Mur des Canuts) was very impressive; we were staring right at it before we even realised what it was! Then once we caught on, we kept realizing how big it was!! The closer we got, the more amazed we were. From a distance, you don’t see at first how the crane, the store fronts, the advertisements and the background are in fact all part of the image!

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Here’s another one we saw earlier in the day that also took me a while to realize the entire thing was a mural – at first glance I thought it was only the main floor until I craned my neck upwards.  “La Fresque des Lyonnais” which features 25 local personalities.

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And so – that’s it!  Back to real life (AND A STRICT DIET) after a fantastic week!!  I’m not happy it’s over, but I suppose if I am honest I am ready to get back into a routine…  and of course, let’s not forget London awaits in a mere 2 weeks!

Adieu!

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France Field Report 7 – Day 7

Today we FINALY made it to the Pont du Gard. It was amazing.

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I have to say that getting there with public transportation is not that good. Your time options are very limited, and if you miss a bus you are screwed.  We would have loved to have lunch in the nice resto with a full on view of the Pont, but our bus back was at 1:20 which meant we safely had until 12:45 to eat yet the place only opened at 12. Nowhere near enough time to open a bottle of wine, order a nice meal, sit back and enjoy.  Had we decided to stay for lunch, it would have meant getting the bus back at 5:30 and there goes the day.

Will still had plenty of time to admire the monument, climb up to the look-out and down to the river bed, see the little movie in the reception hall, have a snack (sandwich) and visit the museum.

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We got back to Avignon by 2PM and just soaked in the city with no particular plans. We’ve seen it all before back in 2010 so this visit was all about just hanging out and enjoying. We crossed the river to admire the sites from the opposite bank, stopped in a café to have a drink & a bite to eat since lunch was a bust, then just wandered the city aimlessly.

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Dinner provided a little entertainment. We went to the Brasserie du Theatre…  very aptly named since a fight broke out between the staff and a drunken, belligerent customer.  I didn’t see what happened, but my husband did and was on his feet in moments to watch it all go down.  I hissed at him to sit down and not draw attention to himself and I swear if I was not there he would have taken pictures!  They finally called the cops to drag him away (the drunken patron, not my husband – ha!) and we said to ourselves that had this been in the states, he would have been tazed for sure!

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After dinner, we took a last stroll through the main square (where out hotel is) and decide to stop for desert.  BIG MISTAKE! we feel into a classic trap. Nice table + nice view = a fortune for shitty food.  My husband had a banana split with about a quarter of a banana.  I ordered a Grand Marnier and got a Cointreau instead.  Bah, whatever.  That’s life!

We pack up tonight, it’s back to Lyon tomorrow for our last full day.  Yesterday, I wondered if we’d sleep well here and we did! Very comfortable despite a second ant I found IN the bed and a mosquito that landed on my nose.  We also found the shutters to block out the light, it did not make sense that we only had sheers so we took a second look out the window and voila.

Good night!

11 April 2015

France Field Report 6 – Day 6

We changed hotels today, now based in Avignon. I feel like we went from one extreme to the other! From a nice apartment with kitchenette to an as-basic-as-it-gets box with a bed. There is nowhere to put anything so we have to live out of our bags, including toiletries, but it’s clean so that’s good… however I did see an ant in the bathroom just now…

I am not so sure we’ll get a good night’s sleep. There are no curtains to keep the light out (just sheers), we’re right next to the elevator in an echo-y hallway and although the location of the hotel is fantastic since we are right in the old town (in the corner of the square) the noise travels up!  Plus it’s the weekend so the locals will be out late too.  Ah well. Gotta take the good with the bad!

We love Avignon, it’s so beautiful! We saw most of it already in 2010 but it’s great to be back.  We did not spend the entire day here however, after arriving this morning around 10AM and checking into the hotel to dump our bags, we got back on the train and went to Arles. I have been pinning to see the Café Van Gogh for ages so I was very excited!

Holy crap it’s crazy yellow!  To me, in this picture my husband took it actually seems toned down! Did they paint it like that on purpose so that in would turn out nicer in pictures?  I wonder…

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We didn’t eat there, we ate at another resto a few steps away.

After lunch we just wandered around a for bit before heading back to Avignon around 5:30 for the rest of the evening. 

Here are a few pictures of Arles, I’ll work on Avignon tomorrow.

Good night!

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10 April 2015

France Field Report 5 – Day 5

It was a funny day today.

We went to Dijon and had a nice time, we liked the city (turns out the Mustard Capital of the Universe is quite charming) but neither one of us was in a really enthusiastic mood.

It was strange because we weren’t tired, we weren’t grumpy…  just blah. We walked around, took in all the sites, shot lots of pictures, yet somehow we felt uninspired all day.  It was not the city – Dijon is gorgeous – it was us.  In a way, I feel like we missed out a little.

To add insult to injury, we had a bad meal for lunch. Well, my husband said his was terrible but it gets worse with the retelling so I can’ be sure just how bad it was and mine was ok except for a disgusting sauce on the meat of my main meal.

So all in all, a somewhat downer of a day – but inexplicably so.

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Rubbing “La Chouette” (a well worn stone owl carved into the side of the church) for good luck.

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We got back to Lyon around 7:45 and it seemed a shame to just go back to the room… yet we weren’t hungry… so, being the pigs we are, we went out to eat anyway!

We went to a tartare bar and got into a conversation with the waiter and the owner (this a a frequent occurrence when people realize we are Québécois and they have been to Quebec) and it turns out he got the idea for his tartare resto after discovering one in Montreal! Small world. I’m looking forward to going. http://marche27.com/index.php?lang=fr (you have to go to Facebook if you want to see a picture of my meal since I still can’t upload my Iphone shots to my laptop)

Now tonight it’s time to pack up, we leave Lyon tomorrow morning and head down to Provence. Great city, perfect place to use a home base – the more we explored it, the more we liked it.  I still think that 2 full days are enough to explore the city as a tourist. (We’ll be back Monday for our last day).

Loved our hotel, Citadines is always great.  We took a studio with a sofa bed, and check out how neat this is! I have never seen a sofa bed with 2 separate mattresses!

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That’s it for today!  Good night!

9 April 2015

France Field Report 4 – Day 4

Yesterday, I said I solved the problem for where to go on our 3rd day trip.  I did not mention what city we settled on, but my friend Denis commented: “Let me guess: Annecy or Geneva”.

I am SO thankful he wrote that!!!  We had in fact decide to go to Geneva, but because he mentioned Annecy, it threw another possibility into the mix and we liked the prospects so much, we nixed Geneva at the last minute and went to Annecy.

The train ride to Annecy was only 15 minutes more than Geneva, and price-wise it was about 10€ less, so really a tie, but what motivated us was the fact that it was: 1- a new place 2- still in France so cheaper 3- my guidebook made it sound promising.  I also think that one of my colleagues might have mentioned this city to me… there is something familiar about the idea but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

NO REGRETS! it was terrific! We had a fantastic day. Beautiful old town – touristy in a good way (lots of restos and cafés), beautiful lake and walking paths around it (we took a one-hour boat cruise around the lake), views of the French Alps, a castle, 2 canals, lots of old buildings… just fantastic.

The pictures speak for themselves, there is not much more I can add!  (they may look a little hazy because we had to shoot towards the sun, but overall I still think they look great)

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Of course, as always, me with my nose deep in the guidebook!..  making sure I don’t miss a thing!

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8 April 2015

France Field Report 3 – Day 3

Today we went to Grenoble.

It was nice, but I can’t really say I’d recommend it as a day-trip city because there is not a whole heck of a lot to do!

We arrived around 9:30 and were less than impressed – EVERYTHING was closed! We stopped for a coffee and chance to warm up a little (mornings are freezing cold, temps close to 2, 3C but warm up to 17, 18C in the afternoon) and by the time we were done with that the city had come to life a little more and it became more enjoyable.

We explored the old town, and then made our way up to the “Fort de la Bastille”, the only really interesting thing to do.

The téléphérique was a little scary, just 4 bubbles carrying you over the highway and the river…

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But the views up there are worth the effort, especially since we had such clear skies! Beautiful view of the French Alps

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even a glimpse of Mont Blanc!  That’s it there, faintly visible in the “V” of the mountain ranges.

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After this, we set off on a mission for lunch. There is a VERY small window of time in the year when I actually like being outside in the sun, and today was one of those days…  unfortunately, we didn’t find anything temping with outdoor tables so we just settled on pizza. It was very good, despite the mess in front!

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We headed back to Lyon right after lunch – not enough to do to keep us in Grenoble. The train was late so we got back around 4, and so we just wandered the city and soaked up more of the same sights we saw over the last two days; it was nice.

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We also found a section of town that was full of bars and cafés… we walked by it previously but everything was closed then so we didn’t realize what a lively section of town it was. We had some drinks and the headed back to the area around our hotel for a “light” supper.  I have to stipulate that light = small in volume, not calories : I had a cheese plate and foie gras. DELICIOUS!

I took a few pictures to upload and that bring me to another problem I am having: my Instragram pictures are suddenly not appearing on my Facebook wall!!  WTF! I see the little images on the Instragram section of my page, but nothing on the wall… why??  So annoying! Something happened after lunch… I can’t figure out what!

We solved our problem about where to go for a third day-trip. Yesterday I mentioned Clermont-Ferrand but although it’s close on the map, it was something like 3 hours by train! forget it. On a whim, we checked Paris and that was 300€!!!  double forget it!  We eventually found a place that was acceptable both distance and price wise and we’re going tomorrow, pushing the trip to Dijon to Friday.

I won’t tell you where, you’ll just have to tune in to Facebook about 12 hours from now and see where we are!

Bye for now!