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Curious what backpackers do in France? Discover travel destinations all over the world of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day46

    A cycling epic. Thanks to Eric & Karen for getting us all there. A fairly steep and relentless climb, but easier than Hotham. Tracey left about half an hour before Pat & Eric. Eric went flying past and then Pat caught Tracey at corner 9. They rode together to the top and joined Eric, who'd been patiently waiting, for lunch - omelettes and gallettes. The descent is relentless. There are no flats or slight uphills at all. Pat & Tracey stopped twice to allow our wheels and brakes to cool off (at the insistence of the nervous rider).
    Alpe D'Huez has 21 major hairpins, numbered 21 to 0 and each named in honour of a rider. Number 21 is at the bottom and it's great to count them down as you ride.
    The famous 21 bends of the road up to Alpe d’Huez provide one of the most challenging stages of the Tour de France. Over a distance of 14km, cyclists climb 3670ft - 1119 metres, on an average 8.1% incline. Each day in the summer an average of 1000 cyclists climb the 21 bends.
    After a rest, we all wandered into town. Eric purchased a commemorative jersey and the rest of us picked up various mementoes, including extremely tasty ice creams- choc, pistache, marron, yum!
    Back to camp for a celebratory dinner.
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  • Day18

    We checked out of our hotel, purchased some supplies for breakfast and lunch then said au revoir to Lourdes. Turns out that Lourdes is one of the top three pilgrimage sites in the world, and has the second highest number of hotels per square meter- second only to Paris! Who knew?!
    Our plan was to watch one of the sprint sections of day 13 of the tour. We needed to get to Saix which was approximately two hours away but we anticipated road closures so we weren't entirely sure how long the drive would be. We set off with me assigned once again as navigator. Not my ideal way to spend the day. My stomach was in knots and my eyes were glued to the little blue dot on google maps. Tom suggested I turn the phone off until we needed it to preserve the battery, but I didn't want to risk it. Plus it was more comforting watching the phone than watching tom drive at 150 km p/h in a little ford escort.
    As we drew nearer to Saix there were signs warning of road closures, so we made the decision to turn off the main road and take an alternate route. Immediately we were uncertain of our decision. The road deteriorated rapidly and felt like we were driving on someone's driveway. Not only were they gravel, they were narrow, bendy and hilly making it difficult to see if another car was coming.
    I was quiet nervous, and we contemplated turning back many times, but then the road would deceive us and improve momentarily and we would push on. And yes there were moments of panic. Like when Tom dove through a closed road in a little town, or when the side of the road was a cliff edge with no barrier or fence.
    For the most part the drive was spectacular, and we stopped at one point to stretch our legs (or Adalia's "old, sore back") and heard cow bells ringing!
    Suddenly the road opened up and we were in Saix. We saw people with show bags so I jumped out of the car and left Tom to park, eager to get one of the free tour show bags from the caravan that drives through two hours before the riders. I must have just missed it which was disappointing.
    Saix had a great festival feeling, and there were lots of people enjoying the atmosphere, so it made the wait less painful. We found our vantage point, which unfortunately wasn't in view of the TV cameras and ate our lunch-best quiche in the world again.
    More and more people lined the streets, squeezing in for a better view. One lady literally sat in my foot and looked cranky when my hand hit her fhead. She didn't move, and chain smoked the entire wait! We tried to get sammy to stand his ground but he was intimidated by some men that came and stood in his spot. And Adalia passed the pine by poking the tree which was shading us with a stick.
    Without warning three riders sped past before anyone was ready.
    We were slightly more prepared for the peleton, but it all happens so quickly. I'm not sure I could be a dedicated tour follower, so much waiting for seconds of "reward".
    As people piled into their cars, we stopped for a coke and contemplated the journey to Touluse. We did not want to take the scenic route again. It added at least an extra hour to our trip. Thankfully we took a side road that ran parallel to the main road so we could see when it opened. We discovered that our mornings detour that took an hour, only took 15 minutes on the main road!!! But didn't have the scenery, so we weren't too upset.
    The kids were getting tired of being in the car, they had been so good up until now. So out came the devices. Adalia fell asleep to the sweet sounds of Peppa pig while Sammy enjoyed games on my phone.
    The next challenge was getting the car to Toulouse airport. I was not looking forward to this. I suggested we follow the road signage that had aeroplanes on them, but tom wanted me to know where we were going on the map too.
    Let me just say that I did an excellent job! I was all over it, in fact I was so good that we forgot to stay on the main highway so that we could get petrol at a petrol station just past the airport. Now we had to work out how to get back on, but then head in the right direction instead of back into the city. I was so annoyed, all of my great navigating and now I was forced to do more.
    Finally we were done with the car, in a taxi and going to our hotel.
    We checked in and then went to dinner at "Winter City". It was really good. I had salmon and chips and everything was delicious! Tom had duck and enjoyed his too. Unfortunately we decided not to have dessert at the restaurant but to find gelato instead. This proved to be a fruitless search as everything seems to close when the restaurants open- including supermarkets which was a shame as we needed breakfast stuff foe the next morning.
    We found a small supermarket, bought cornflakes and milk and hurried home to put the kids to bed. We needn't have hurried, they were still up at 10pm, but when it's light until 9:30 who wants to sleep?!
    Tom and I stayed awake for the Bastille day fireworks but our room was on the wrong side of the hotel. We could hear the bangs but that was all.
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  • Day40

    Well, we certainly weren't disappointed. The advice had been to get there early as it is apparently the 2nd most visited tourist attraction in France, and so looking at 50k drive we left about 9am. The forecast had been for a fine day of 27 degrees but when we left it was a very foggy 19. It is quite well organised - you arrive at a large car park with visitors centre and can walk the 2.5k's to the Mont or take a bus type thing or horse and cart. We walked. All the better to take some absolutely stunning photos. We arrived at low tide so got the full vista of the Mont surrounded by sand. And it really is everything I expected it to be. Once you get there it is quite small, all narrow winding cobbled streets leading to a very steep straight up hill walk to the abbey which has had pride of place at the top of the rock since about the 12th century. There is some outstanding art work in quirky places throughout the abbey - I particularly liked the big gold dragons foot gripping the top of one of the battlements, and the large eagle trapped in a stone cloister. There is not much village to speak of, what was there is now a conglomerate of very touristy shops and some food places. Roge spied a lovely looking restaurant on our way in and very fortuitously booked us a table for later. Who would have thought it would get so crazy busy?? It was a good thing we were ready to leave when the crowds were at there worst. The fog had cleared and it had got quite hot by the time we had to walk back to the car - we got a whole different set of pic's on the return trip.Read more

  • Day39

    We left Amiens in plenty of time to have a nicely paced drive to Dinan to meet the host at our cottage between 2.30 and 3.30. What we got was an absolutely bloody nightmare of a drive, not realising that with Bastille Day on Friday everyone, and I mean everyone, in France had decided to hit the road for a long weekend and they all heading in the same direction as us. Every other autobahn and autostrada we have driven on have a very modern and efficient approach to collecting tolls - you either buy a toll pass and stick it on your windscreen and get zapped as you through under a camera or, as in Germany they're free. Not so in France. Apparently, and i don't know how true this is, the different departments in France couldn't agree on a national system as they were all fearful of loosing money so there are tolls booths at the beginning and end of small stretches of autostrada. You have to pay, or get a ticket for the next stretch at each of these points. An extra two hours was added to our trip. We finally arrived in Dinan and after a bit of confusion (sometimes the GPS is really bloody unreliable) we found the cottage and it is delightful. Right by the edge of the river and close to the Port of Dinan. There is quite a bit of history to this town and we made the decision to sleep in and just explore Dinan on our first full day. Dinan was originally a trade village and an important strategic and defensive post back in the 1500's. It is known for its half timbered houses, well preserved castle wall and castle and keep, abbey and medieval town. It is quite steep (very) leading up from the port through narrow little cobbled streets. It is also very heavily tourist -y here, most from over the water in England. Man they can whinge, but enough of that, I could go for ages on conversations I've overheard and then I'd start to sound whingey. We walked up to the castle, walked the wall, went into the castle, and were lucky enough to be here for the annual Harp Festival. I can see why it never really took off as an instrument. I'm pretty sure there wouldn't have been much heading banging or mosh pits going on back in the day. Had a great lunch at a restaurant serving sea food given we're only about 10k's from the coast just about everyone serves moules (mussels) at the least. Tomorrow we are off to the second most visited attraction in France - the Mont St Michel. We have been advised to get there early to avoid the hordes. Can't wait - this is on my bucket list.Read more

  • Day41

    St Malo is a very large fortified town about 30k's down the coast from where we are at Dinan. Dinan is on the river Rance and this used to be a major thoroughfare for transporting fresh goods to St Malo. At our end it is quite small, at the St Malo end, the exact opposite. St Malo is a modern day thriving commercial port, and this sits quite comfortably with the historic part of town. The fortified wall is impressive, dates from the 14thC and is largely still intact, particularly on the seaward side. We had a lazy start to the day, leaving Dinan about 9.30am. It was already quite hot and 31 degrees by the time we arrived in St Malo. This is the hottest day we've had since leaving Lake Como. And, as was the case there, it seems every hot day has to finish in a thunderstorm. It arrived a whole lot earlier though. We were watching it build most of the day and just got tickets for a water taxi to take us across the inlet to another town, Dinard. It was starting to look pretty serious so we made the decision to skip the ride and go onto a Chateau that we had planned to see. Half way there we revised again and went straight home, driving most of the way through it. Luckily for us we managed to see a fair bit of old St Malo - a town now high on my list of great towns. Roge hasn't seemed to mind the early return home - he gets a whole afternoon to watch Le Tour!Read more

  • Day17

    Surrounded by sunflower fields, had a 5 hour drive cross country to get here, me as pilot. Stressful for is all but amazing to get here and can't wait to get in the river tomorrow, hire a boat and jump off is the plan. So busy compared to our last few places.

  • Day93

    How's things? We are suffering from the heat reached 41 today and breeze died off completely. I hope everyone is well and enjoying summer. So to recap on our travels on the 13th we went to St Gilles Croix de Vie and stayed 3nights was only going to be 2 but John got man flu. 13th was Thursday, day we arrived, ferries don't slow down just because there are boats using the entrance am glad we are big and heavy. We had a wander around and did some more supermarket shopping and drank coffee as you do in france. Friday we did a little more wandering but John very rough so not much. The wandering was to buy drugs. that said we were sat in centre of town eating ice-cream, good for colds and sore throats apparently, when we were interrupted by Chris and Lesley and their 2sons. About 6years ago they worked over in Herm while John was there but then upped sticks and moved to France. When we met them they were on there way home to Roch sur Yon from a short vacation at St Jean de Mont. We had a chat then John crashed out i walked to Grand Plage to check out options for the Bastille Day fireworks later on. That reminds me marina gives you croissants in the mornings, cant be bad. Sadly John so rough he went to bed so I watched fireworks on my own😥, they were stunning. On Saturday John stayed in bed, I did a run in morning, and went to market for fruit. Then in afternoon went to shopping mall to waste time, took a bike ride to get there, and bought clothes I didn't really need. Then I baked, yes that's how bored I got, I made rolls, cookies, panna cotta and even hard boiled some eggs. John was feeling better when the cookies came out the oven and decided they were very good.
    On Sunday we returned to ile d'yeu and anchored at Port meule we wasted 2days doing very little as just too hot. We had already cycled around island so had seen the sights I did some swimming John had a dip on Monday. Anchor light bulb has blown so that is now on the to do list.
    Attached is night photo from our mooring in St Gilles, if you know the place we were a little way down river of the bridge and carousel opposite the funfair hence the lights, also photos of harbour as we left and of Port Meule anchorage.
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  • Day36

    Well what a stunning day! Only 48 hours from swimming in the Mediterranean we were up in the snow. We left camp at 7am and headed for the base of the Skyway gondola just a 20 minute drive away to glide our way up Mont Blanc. We started at Courmayeur which is 1300m above sea level and got into a large rotating gondola with the carrying capacity of about 50 people. As it was early we had only about 25 on board and most of them were moutaineers with all their gear. It took just 10minutes to get to the Pavillion du Mont Fréty at 2173m which was the first stop. Mandy and Charlie stayed there for a while but we decided to go higher in case the weather turned before stopping so headed up to Punta Helbronner at 3466m.

    This stop was 400m less that the top of Mt Cook and we certainly noticed the lack of oxygen as we walked up the steps to the viewing platform at the top. What an amazing view. Mandy and Charlie arrived later and we looked through Charlies binoculars and were staggered at the numbers of climbers we could see on all the peaks and rocks around. There must have been hundreds of people climbing in the basin and ridges and valleys we passed through and over but as it was so vast without binoculars you could only pick up those walking on the snow in the open and they looked liked like ants on the snow. It was a glorious day with full sun and no wind - stunning.

    There is a cafe and interesting videos to watch and a crystal hall showing the amazing crystals that have been found up there under the glaciers. We also took the opportunity to go down three stories by lift and walk down the long corridor that the mountaineers use to access to mountain so that we could step outside on the rocks beside the glacier. As it looked like the weather may change in the afternoon we were eager to push on over to the French side of the mountain and then down to Chamonix on the French side of the border.

    We had to buy tickets for the French part of the trip up there and the very nice lady suggested we might qualify for the over 65 year discount which we accepted- we later learned that Mandy was offered the same deal!

    From here we took the smaller gondolas (just 4 seats) in an absolutely amazing journey across several glaciers. It was a slow trip which was wonderful as you could really take in the breathtaking views. We watched mountaineers below us crossing the ice as they headed to the next pinnacle. We ended up at Aiguille du Midi at a staggering 3842m which is higher than Mt Cook which stands at 3724m. We got got breathless, light headed and slightly nauseous there and there was an information board on hypoxia which informed us that we had only 60% of usable oxygen in the air we were breathing. If we were on Everest there would only be 30% oxygen!

    As it was difficult to climb stairs and our hearts were racing we decided to head back down to Chamonix for lunch where we could function better before heading back through the tunnel to our camper vans waiting for us in Italy. It was a very fast descent taking only 5 or so minutes and our ears popped as we rushed downward and then out and over a ridge which made us catch our breath. It was great fun and a wonderful morning as it was just before midday when we reached the ground. But we were unaware of what was to come.

    We thought we would book the bus back through to Italy before having lunch so we knew we had a seat but were horrified to be told by a rather officious lady that we couldn't get on the bus without passports or some ID (drivers licence wasn't accepted). As we had crossed the border previously from France to Italy with no border control it never crossed our minds we may need some ID. There was no notification about it on the gondola blurb either. She told us we had to either go back over the mountain (we were still going to be crossing the border!!) or find a taxi prepared to take the risk of taking us across the border with no ID (€1500 fine per person he was taking with no ID). We then realised we had entered the country illegally via the gondola lifts.

    We decided to ask at the Police Station so a couple of nice policemen tried to help by ringing a taxi for us and asking if the driver would be willing to take 4 New Zealanders with no passports over the border! He agreed and said he would be there in 20 minutes driving a black Mercedes for the cost of €150.

    We hurriedly grabbed a pizza for a quick bite to eat while watching for every black Mercedes that passed but after an hour we decided he had changed his mind. I wandered back to town and.asked at the information centre if we could get some help. The lovely girl there also suggested we go back over the top but when she worked out the price she understood that we wanted to try a taxi. Also the weather had closed in and it would not have been nice up the top. She found a taxi willing to take us as he said mostly they never check the border and so we enjoyed a €160 trip back through the 11.6km tunnel and never saw a border control officer! - just part of the adventure I guess!!
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  • Day11

    Big day today with 140 km. So far nine days on the bike and 1,088 km clocked.

    The past two days have been sweltering with today reaching 36 °C. Doesn't help much starting early as you still on the bike in the midday heat. I knew my "Rehydrate" would come in handy at some stage.

    Found a bike shop on route to carry out some much needed repairs which cost me about two hours.

    Somewhere today I crossed the border into France.Read more

  • Day42

    Started the day with a nice little trip to the station to book our tickets from Nantes to Paris for Friday. Seemed like it'd be much easier this way and we'd be guaranteed a seat. We have to drive to Nantes, about 2 hours away to leave the car. Hoping it all goes like clock work....buying the tickets did, Roge is a bloody expert at this kind of thing. Back down to the Port of Dinan for a boat ride up the river Rance. An hour and half later we had been through a lock, had seen a really nice little village called Lehon that we plan on visiting and learned some interesting history about the river and this area. Roger had found an interesting looking village only a short way from us (the one we wanted to visited the day of the storm) and so we decided to go there, and then onto a chateau in a nearby town. The village, Dol de Bretagne, is known for its massive and very old Cathedral. I have to say I've seen a lot, inside and out, and this one has to be one of my favourites. I'm not much interested in the activities that go on inside, but the architecture. This one was something else. Originally from Roman times, burnt down in 1203, and rebuilt 3 centuries ago in gothic style, it has two impressive towers. Well, one is impressive. The other tower was never completed as the story goes that the devil dismantled overnight whatever construction work had been done during the day. Interestingly, this Cathedral was also part of the towns defences and has crenelated canon walls. We walked around the town, the usual very old medieval houses, some half timbered. Just lovely.
    Onto the Chateau. I have to say, I was surprised. Didn't find out until we leaving that the Chateau is the Arthurian legendary castle of Lancelot, it rests in Merlin the Wizard's magical forest of Broceliande and guards the mystical lake of the sorceress and fairy Queen Viviane the lady of the lake. And what a Chateau it was. It was built in the 11th and 12th century and had a connection with the Cathedral we had just been too. The Chateau is also famous for being the childhood home of Francois-Rene de Chateaubriand. It was completely trashed during the revolution and left unattended for one hundred years. It remains under private ownership of descendants of the original family and is only open by escorted tour. I had forgotten how boring those tours are when they're all in French. Nonetheless, a very interesting and remarkable Chateau, with a few interesting stories. Apparently back in the day it was the "thing" to include a black cat in the walls of any new section of construction (a living one) to chase out bad spirits. When undertaking some recent reno's they uncovered the mummified body of one poor kitty. The believed some weird shit back in medieval days. The Chateau is in 62 acres of parkland with a magnificent tree lined driveway- I imagine it was heavily forested back then. Would have looked fantastic.
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You might also know this place by the following names:

Republic of France, Frankreich, France, Frankryk, Frɛnkyeman, ፈረንሳይ, Franzia, Francland, فرنسا, ܦܪܢܣܐ, ফ্ৰান্স, Francia, Fransa, Францыя, Франция, Faransi, ফ্রান্স, ཕ་རཱན་སི།, Frañs, Francuska, França, Huák-guók, Pransiya, Francie, Francëjô, Франци, Ffrainc, Frankrig, ފަރަންސޭސިވިލާތް, ཕརཱནསི, Frans nutome, Γαλλία, Francujo, Prantsusmaa, Frantzia, فرانسه, Farayse, Ranska, Frakland, An Fhrainc, An Fhraing, ફ્રાંસ, Yn Rank, Faransa, צרפת, फ़्रांस, Francoska, Frans, Franciaország, Ֆրանսիա, Prancis, ꃔꇩ, Frakkland, フランス共和国, fasygu'e, საფრანგეთი, Ubaranja, Frankrigi, បារាំង, ಫ್ರಾನ್ಸ್, 프랑스, फ्रांस, Frankrish, فەڕەنسا, Pow Frenk, Francogallia, Fransia, Frankräich, Bufalansa, Frankriek, Francja, Falánsɛ, ຝລັ່ງ, Prancūzija, Nfalanse, Francija, Frantsa, Франција, ഫ്രാന്‍സ്, Франц, फ्रान्स, Perancis, Franza, ပြင်သစ်, Frankrike, Furansi, Frankrijk, ଫ୍ରାନ୍ସ, Fransya, Frantscha, Franchiya, Ubufaransa, Franța, Frantza, Fraunce, Frankriika, Farânzi, ප්‍රංශය, Francúzsko, Faransiis, Franca, Француска, Ufaransa, பிரான்ஸ், ఫ్రాన్స్‌, Фаронса, ประเทศฝรั่งเศส, Pransya, Falanisē, Pranis, Farāni, فرانسىيە, Франція, فرانس, Franzsa, Pháp, Vrankriek, Fransän, Orílẹ́ède Faranse, 法国, i-France

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