Vacationing in France: Day Trips to Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Burgundy & More

Sep 20, 2012 Avatar Suzanne Allswang Suzanne Allswang

Our wonderful trip began in New York, such an exciting city for theatre, restaurants, museums or simply roaming on the streets. We loved staying at the Plaza; our room was very spacious, the Palm Court restaurant at the hotel was beautiful for breakfast, lunch or tea and the entire hotel was lovely.

We then flew to Europe via OPEN SKIES. They have reconfigured their planes into 3 classes: Economy, Premium Plus, with lots of legroom and the seats reclining quite a bit, and then the flat beds in Business class.

The service is efficient and friendly, though more attentive in the smaller business class cabin. They also fly into Orly airport, which is closer to the center of Paris and much more convenient.

Our first leg on the France tour was Bordeaux, the gateway to France on the Atlantic coast, where they were having their yearly wine festival “Bordeaux Fete le Vin”. It was so much fun to walk the quay of the Garonne River and sample the wines.

From Bordeaux we traveled up to Ile de Re, 2 hours north, where we would make our home for a week, which was really fun. We were joined by our children and grandchildren. Ile de Re is a small island across from La Rochelle. There are several tiny villages here.

We took day trips around the area, and were sad that it went by so quickly. Living in a house, one is able to sample many local foods. I love going to local outdoor markets and to the supermarkets. There is such an enormous selection of foods. Also, you do not always have to cook from scratch here since there are so many take out items available.

My husband and I fell in love with La Rochelle, an ancient port dating to the 11th century, and decided to explore it more. We especially enjoyed the “Musee des Automates” & the “Musee des Modeles Reduits” and the old city.

I would highly recommend all of these if you are in the area.

Our next stop was Burgundy. For the first time in many years we did not make a firm itinerary for this trip, nor did we pre reserve accommodations with the exception of the last stop in Paris.

As a result, we had a wide array of options when it came to selecting where we would stay, and we chose the charming Domaine du Chatelard on the outskirts of Angouleme. It sits in a quiet wooded area on its own lake and it was absolutely lovely. Later we discovered that the chef had recently won a Michelin star. Let me tell you, the first night’s dinner was amazing!

Comic book fans will definitely want to visit Musee de la Bande Dessinee (historical data on comic strips) in Angouleme. We visited various abbeys, cathedrals and basilicas along our journey. We also spent one night in Tournus, and visited its wonderful abbey.

Onward to Vezelay, a small and hilly town. Here we visited the local abbey and were privileged to hear some lovely concerts.

We really enjoyed our stay here as well, which was at the Hotel de la Poste et du Lion d’Or, where the hostess Christine welcomed us and was most helpful.

We then continued on to Auxerre, on the banks of the Ionne, with its charming old world streets.

On our last night there, while walking after dinner and admiring a pretty house with shutters, those shutters suddenly opened and we began chatting with the owners, who invited us in. This is one of the secrets and most rewarding things about traveling, the spontaneous events where you really feel a part of the country you are visiting.

It was so pleasant to chat with the local residents. These are moments that one remembers forever.

Our trip ended with Paris. Paris is such a beautiful city, and one can return here countless times and always discover something new. Le Crillon, where we had chosen to stay, is truly a magnificent place.

The rooms are elegant, large, and very tastefully decorated including marble bathrooms with heated floors. The service is discreet and exceptional and the food excellent. Les Ambassadeurs, the formal restaurant which is also where breakfast is served, is very elegant and palatial. The winter garden is nice for a late afternoon drink and this is where we chose to entertain some visiting friends.

One cannot say enough about our wonderful time there.

We flew back from Newark in premium economy on United; and that was nicer and roomier than economy going to New York. The aircraft and its configuration do make a difference.

If you’re looking to plan a trip to any of these wonderful French regions I’d love to share even more tidbits, secret local hideaways and amazing experiences with you, so please contact me!