The second part of my glorious trip to France was spent in the regions of Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley, and even though initially I thought I would be ready to move to Paris, this section of the trip ended up being my favorite. I like the quaintness, quietness and comfort of these smaller areas.
Our first stop outside of Paris was Honfleur, this cute little fishing town right off of the English Channel. We arrived there around lunch time, and we stopped in at a little sandwich shop to eat. I instantly fell in love with the idea that all the shops closed at lunch time for the families to get together for lunch- so special! So, while we were waiting for the shops to open back up we went into Saint-Catherine’s Church. It was plainer churches that we went into, but it had its own charm to it. It was built with wood and made the perfect church for a seaside town- I couldn’t have pictured a more perfect church for that area. I cannot wait to go back and spend some more time wandering the quay, and going in and out of all of the pastel colored shops.
Our next stop was the Normandie Beaches. That was genuinely one of the most humbling moments of my life. We went to the memorial and the cemetery first and even though you learn about wars in school, and hear about them on tv, it’s so much different when you see their toll in front of you. Everywhere you looked around you, in every direction you couldn’t see anything but graves. Then you walk out to the wall of the missing and it just adds to the loss; names after names of people that they never even found. Then you walk out onto the beaches (there’s a convenient, paved walkway from the top of the cliffs down to the beach) and you think about how beautiful it is, but you get to see what these men had to get across, and then up to fight in the D-Day Battles. After we spent some time on that beach looking around at the memorials and gravestones we moved on to Omaha Beach. This was also really eye opening because there are still the remains of bunkers that you can go down into and touch, also, there are these giant craters where we bombed the German troops. I climbed down into one, and it was crazy how deep it was. I really liked this part of the Normandie Beaches because it is more interactive and you can really get a feel for their struggle.
The next stop we made was just a 45 minute little stop in Fougeres. I can’t really say much about the town or people but they have this absolutely stunning cathedral- Cathedral du Saint-Leonard. It’s not only structurally amazing, but then there are amazing scarlet details on the front of it. So pretty. With my 45 minutes in Fougeres I went to the gardens to the side of the church and down the path to this tiny park that overlooked these amazing castle remains and the walls of the old town; it was so fantastic! I talked to a few of the kids playing in the park with my pathetic French, but I enjoyed every minute of it, just taking it all in.
The next day we went to two chateaus in the Loire Valley: Amboise and Chenonceau. Our first stop was Cahteau d’Amboise. The chateau was really beautiful and overlooked the town of Amboise. We did the whole tour of it which was kinda neat, but it was a lot of beds and tapestries. My favorite part of the chateau itself was walking up on top of the roof. You could look down at the town, you were really close to gargoyles, and I just felt awesome standing at the top of a castle. After we went in the castle we got to roam around the grounds, and I apparently roamed a little too far. I ended up in some of the back gardens which I didn’t notice had a do not enter sign until I was coming back out of them, whoops! They were really pretty though and there was this amazing little footbridge in this one part, and it was totally worth the stern look form my tour guide. On the grounds is also this chapel: Chapel du Saint-Hubert. There is some amazing stained glass, and an awesome ceiling for this being such a tiny little chapel; plus, Leonardo da Vinci was buried here, so that was really cool to see the final resting place of such and influential man.
The next chateau we visited was the beautiful Chateau de Chenonceau. This was my favorite of the two chateaus for many reasons. The walk up to it was so amazing. There is a path cut through this thicket and you can just barely see this magical looking place; you feel like you’re lost in a fairy tale. Then you finally get up to this chateau, walking through gardens, and you think eh, this is pretty, and then you look to the side of it and see that it spans the Cher river and you think, oh my god, this is gorgeous! The tour inside was really interesting. The kitchen was down at the bottom, where there’s a little secret door under one of the arches where a boat could be taken right out of the kitchen onto the river. The inside of this Chateau was just really beautiful, there was even a gorgeous little chapel in there. It was just all around a beautiful place. Then we went into the town and we went to this little pottery shop and bought gorgeous vases and jewelry. After a little shopping we went to this tiny little cafe and I had my first experience with escargots! I was a little terrified at first, and immediately wondered if I had made a mistake. They showed me how to hold the shell and use the fork, and I gave it a shot. Holy cow, I loved escargots! It has a bit os a strange texture- very rubbery, but it tasted like amazing garlic and butter! So good!
The next and last day we went to Mont Saint-Michel! It’s this really awesome land mass that when there’s high tide it becomes and island! It’s wonderful! There’s a little village at the bottom and we had an awesome omelet; which is apparently one of their specialties. We also got some chocolates that were fantastic! (They were Mere Poulard- so great). Then after some time in the shops we went to the abby at the top of the hill. This was quite the trek up about 900 stairs, but it’s very worth it. You get a really nice view, plus the inside of the abbey and the courtyard are beautiful. I strongly suggest the tour of the abby because it has a very unique history and it’s very interesting.
My trip to France was very memorable, but as with anywhere you travel, there are always a ton of things you miss out on. I personally am very interested in the smaller towns and spending more time talking with locals. I’d love to hear about other people’s travels here and what you did or wish you would’ve done differently.