Viva la France! Road-trip Foolishness Pt. 4: Tours, Cher River, & Auvergne

If you are ever crazy enough to take a road-trip through France, a good place to stop is Tours. It’s known for the Loire River Valley, which a lot of people stop through to see all kinds of fantastic castles. For us, Tours was a stop between traveling from Mont Saint Michel to Marseilles.

We got in to Tours from MSM at about 7PM, where we found our AirBnB and crashed for the night. The next day we decided to go exploring, walking around and getting lost. We stopped in some small mall to look for a swimsuit and some tennis shoes, and we found the Cathedrale Saint-Gatien, which was one of the most beautiful churches I have been in.

My group and I wanted to see some sort of castle, but we weren’t too keen on doing a castle tour. I looked into our options and I found the perfect thing– kayaking around Chateau de Chenonceau. We booked in advance with Canoe Company. Now, they don’t really have online booking, but if you are traveling internationally and email in advance, they will reserve a spot for you and you can pay on arrival.

We really had a magical kayaking trip down the Cher River. We arrived at around 4PM and the four of us were split into two canoes. The trip towards the chateau was really funny, as we were shit-talking each other and kinda racing. I say kinda because we were actually a hot-mess, trying to coordinate our paddling to move forward. One of the highlights was when we got up to the chateau and were able to kayak underneath it and back. IT WAS SO BALLER.

On our way back, we noticed a field of sunflowers on the shore. We dragged our canoes up the bank and spent a good amount of time frolicking, taking lots of pictures and avoiding bumble bees. The sun was beginning to set so the light was perfect. To top it all off, hot-air balloons were inflating in the distance. It was one of those afternoons where things just got better and better, where everything felt like a dream and my non-stop smile made my face ache in a pleasant way.

Once we docked, we headed back to our AirBnB where pasta was made, laundry was finished, and sleeping commenced. We woke up very early the next morning for our 9-hour drive to the south coast of France and to the gorgeous city of Marseilles– but before we get there, I have to tell you all about a little place off of the beaten path in Auvergne.

Our half-way marker was at the Jonas Caves in Saint-Pierre-Colamine. The caves, also known as Grottes de Jonas, were an ancient troglodyte village back in the 14th century. It was a bit of a drive up the mountains to get to it, but it was so neat to get out of the car, stretch our legs, and explore caves that people used to sleep, eat, bake their bread, and die of the plague in. There were stairs and doorways and windows and lots of picture opportunities. Additionally, there were faux animals along the mountainside, so if you’re into kitsch, 10/10 highly recommend.

If you decide to visit, know that there is a chance no one will speak English. When my group and I went, the lady at the tour office spoke only French, and the signs on the pathway were also in French. It was fine for my group, since 3/4 of us spoke the language. However, it’s very easy to mime wanting a ticket (which was like 3 euros.) Even though you may not be able to understand the signs, it is still a really cool experience and if you’re like me and crazy about photo ops, there are plenty to be had.

So that is the half-way point of our road trip across France. Keep an eye out for our adventures in Marseilles, Chamonix, and finally Lyon.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!

 

Viva la France! Roadtrip Foolishness Pt. 3: Mont Saint Michel

After a long, thoughtful, and educational day at the D-Day Beaches, my crew and I drove the two hours to Mont Saint Michel. We arrived at our AirBnB outside of the actual Mont, in a small sleepy town. We chose to stay outside of the area to cut on costs, and honestly, it was an excellent choice because we met our outstanding host, Christophe.

Christophe was incredibly kind and showed us his garden, let us play with his cats, drank beer with us, and showed us fantastic sunset views of the area. We were sitting on the back patio, drinking beer and listening to his record player and commenting on how lovely it must be to live in such a beautiful area, when he offered to drive us around and show us an incredible sunset view.

We’re adventurous types, so we all agreed and Christophe drove us to the top of a hill where we saw the sun setting behind the distant Mont St. Michel Abbey. I could not get a good photo and I admittedly did not try very hard, because it was one of those views that I wanted to hold dear to my heart and experience without a camera in my face (I know, SHOCKING.)

Christophe also drove us to an old windmill where we appreciated the rest of the sunset and I ran about a quarter mile down the road to get a good shot (see? I’m still crazy about photography.) It was one of the most perfect evenings I have ever had.

The next morning we woke up bright and early to drive to the Mont Saint Michel visitor center/large parking lot. There is a free shuttle that will take you to the abbey, and it is also one of the only ways to get there since cars are not allowed. You can also take a horse-and-carriage, but that’s not free so the crew and I did not even consider it (plus, SLOW.)

We arrived around 9AM during low tide, so we went straight to the surrounding bay and took obnoxious tourist pictures. We then walked the entire circumference of the Mont, taking pictures, shit-talking each other, and climbing over rocks. Later we found out that when people used to make the pilgrimage to the Mont, they would walk around its entirety, like we had done. So that was a pretty cool coincidence!

After our pilgrimage we entered the Mont, ate breakfast at one of the little cafes, and hiked up to the Abbey. It was, expectedly, very crowded, with souvenir shops lining the narrow streets. I LOVED it. I understand some people turn their nose up to “touristy” destinations, but my view of it is obviously a unique place like Mont St. Michel is going to be packed, so instead of getting irritated by the crowds I let myself get swept away and enjoyed the experience. I was in a place I had dreamed of traveling to, and nothing was going to bring me down from it.

We arrived at the abbey and bought our tickets and got to exploring. The abbey itself was gorgeous, ancient, and had spectacular views. We were able to reach the top in time for high-tide and it was so cool watching the water rush in. I think we spent about 30 minutes just watching the water merge and swirl and rise. The inside of the abbey was dark and cool and had many places to sit and soak in the memory of the place.

When it was time to go, I was a bit sad. Visiting Mont Saint Michel is something I’ve been longing to do for years and it was everything I hoped it would be. I know that should the opportunity arise, I will be back.

Safe Travels and Happy Shooting!