Part 2 France trip report: I’m a guest on Join Us in France!

France trip part 2

Our France trip starts – Bordeaux

Our France trip started in the city of Bordeaux. I had heard good things about Bordeaux, but never visited there.

We rented a car in Bordeaux – a little Toyota Aygo – and headed out towards our townhouse. As soon as we got on the road, Zbyszek asked “So, how comfortable are you driving in France?” I’m pretty comfortable, but of course there is an adjustment period with any new car. We found our townhouse and then had to figure out where the reserved parking was. It was kind of tricky as the space was super small, but I had him back the car into the garage and then we decided that we would not be driving in Bordeaux! The car was mostly for travel between cities, since we prefer to walk and use public transport when possible.

Our first day in France was spent recovering from travel and replacing things from our last luggage. We filled out the report for the lost luggage but since we could see from the AirTag that both of our bags were still in Amsterdam and not making any progress towards reaching us, we had to get some clothing to last us at least a couple of days. We ended up getting things at Decathlon and C&A.

As a plus-size woman, it can be VERY difficult to find clothing in France, but there was a clothing shop nearby that was super helpful and I was able to get a couple of cute things as well. When booking our lodging, I had only picked places with washers, so we could get buy wearing the same things over and over!

We walked around the city and visited the cathedral, which was right around the corner from our townhouse. It was a really neat place to stay and there were several grocery stores and a market within just a few minutes’ walk. My husband got to start enjoying France as a non-tourist group visitor for the first time. This was his first time trying carrottes râpées and he decided that he loved them, and we ate them quite a few times during our trip.

While exploring we stopped in for crêpes at a tiny place hidden away on a side street. They were delicious, and the cidre to accompany them was some of the best I’ve tried. One of the best things about our France trip was the chance to try a lot of the local foods and drinks, and we made a point of eating well but not so much that we felt awful.

Sadly, our bags were still in Amsterdam when we left Bordeaux. I updated the delivery address on the KLM website and hoped they would find us in our next stop along our France trip.

Cerizay

Our next stay in our France trip was at a little town called Cerizay. I chose it because it was close to Puy du Fou, a history-themed amusement park. I had seen ads for the park many times on YouTube and thought it would be a great place to spend a day – and one that not too many Americans know about or visit! Zbyszek and I both enjoy history so it was interesting for both of us.

On our way up the autoroute to Cerizay, we stopped for lunch and a bit of exploration in La Rochelle. It’s a beautiful seaside town not far from Fort Boyard, the home of the game show. We walked around a bit, enjoying the ocean views and trying some seafood for lunch. It was a pleasant place to visit and a great place to feel the French way of life. I was getting used to driving our rental car, and we were both more relaxed.

We enjoyed the park, it was quite a hike from the parking lot field to the park but the weather was great. I won’t say too much about it here as I wrote about it in its own blog post. It was an enjoyable day and we felt it was well-spent. We headed to Cerizay where we had booked a guest house. It was quite rural and there were horses and other animals nearby – I got to see the flock of geese waddling around the yard and it was a very peaceful place to spend the evening.

While we were in Cerizay, the riots over the shooting death of a teen were starting up. We spent part of the evening watching the news to see what was happening. Zbyszek has been working on his French and he was very happy to find that he could understand quite a bit of the reports! From the village where we were staying, it seemed so far away – there was nothing happening anywhere near where we were, although I did get a concerned text from a friend in the US asking if we were OK. I sent him a photo of the horses and geese and told him that the geese were by far the biggest threat.

Before leaving Cerizay to continue on our France trip, I checked on our bags. Great news – they were now in a different part of the Amsterdam airport, so maybe they would be joining us in France soon!

Part 2 France trip report: I'm a guest on Join Us in France!

Vannes

In Vannes, our apartment was again a block away from the parking garage. Our host was able to help us find the correct parking place and we planned to leave the car there and just walk during our stay. After dropping off the car and getting our things moved into the apartment, we headed downstairs for kebab. There’s a nice little place downstairs and the food was exactly what we wanted – quick, cheap and delicious! Our France trip was full of discoveries of little places that won’t ever make the big tourist guidebooks but were pleasant and tasty.

We didn’t really have any plans for things in Vannes, it was just a convenient place to stay and enjoy a bit of a larger town/small city in Bretagne. We walked around the city and saw the end of a triathlon, and we stopped at the grocery store to restock our supplies. This is where Zbyszek discovered a new favorite thing – Breizh cola. He made a point of trying local foods and beverages, and this is pretty local. He drank it throughout the rest of our trip – or at least until we couldn’t find it anymore!

I stopped at a bakery that evening to pick up some pastries, including a Kouigh Aman. This led to a bit of a disaster – while eating the pastry, Zbyszek managed to pull out a crown from his molar. He didn’t notice it until it was too late and now his tooth was hurting a bit. The next morning we went looking for a dentist who could put a temporary crown on his tooth. The closest one had no openings, and told us to go to the ER at the hospital. We went there and were told…”c’est compliqué…” and that we should go back to the local dentist.

In the end, nobody was able to help him with his crown. He said it wasn’t really bothering him that much, and he would try to get the temp crown kit at the pharmacy. The pharmacy in Vannes didn’t have anything like that, so we just crossed our fingers that it wouldn’t get worse. I was worried that along with the luggage issue, a hurting tooth could really ruin the rest of our France trip.

Before leaving Vannes, I checked on the bags. Hurray – they were on the move! But so were we, so I updated the address for delivery again. The next stop on our France trip was going to be a tiny village, but we were staying in a castle!

Vay

There was really only one reason we went to Vay during our France trip: the castle! I ran across a castle on AirBNB and thought that this would be probably the coolest possible place to stay. We’ve visited many castles, but never stayed in one! It wasn’t too far from Nantes, so it’s a decent home base for visiting there.

We stopped along the way at the castle of Suscinio. It’s not so well known, definitely not as well known as the Loire Valley castles! We had visited those before, but Suscinio was new. It had been renovated and was right on the coast so a good place to visit for an afternoon. The castle itself is quite nice, and they have done a great job of blending the latest technology with the old building. One of the most interesting parts of the castle was the room where you can try on old costumes that make you look like you belong at the castle!

We arrived at Vay and met our hosts. They gave us a quick tour of our section of the castle and the yard and told us about the nearby town. It was a pretty small town – just a library, a couple of stores, and some houses. We had stopped at a hypermarché on our way to Vay, so no need to go into town that evening. We made our dinner – a very simple selection of cheeses, baguette, jam, fruit and carrot salad – and enjoyed a late evening outside. Zbyszek was thrilled to find that there was a history of the castle in our room, so he spent the evening reading about it.

The next morning we took a walk into the town. There’s a beautiful path through the forest that led to the town and we enjoyed it – I know our dog Bigos would have loved walking in the area! We saw mushrooms along the way and there was a little bit of drizzle. It stopped by the time we reached the town 15 minutes later. We found a tiny book library and saw some sheep in the yard of one of the houses – and this is when Zbyszek learned that sheep have long tails naturally.

We got on the road to take a day trip to Nantes. I wanted to see the big elephant. As we got on the autoroute, it started to pour. This was the first real rainstorm of our entire France trip! Luckily it started to let up after we arrived in Nantes, but it was wet enough that the elephant wasn’t walking around that day.

We walked around the city, enjoyed the river view, and visited the machines. The elephant is bigger than you think! Nantes is much bigger than Vannes, but much smaller than Paris.

The next morning we got a tour of the rest of the castle, and the owner shared some of the history. It was quite interesting and there are so many cool things to see! The family is very well-informed about the history of the people who lived in the castle in the past, and there are some journals that were kept by the owners. It was absolutely worth staying there just to be able to say that we spent the night in a castle.

There were even some dog pawprints in the tiles of the room we stayed in! There is no record of the particular dog(s) who left the pawprints, but I like to think that they were very good boys and girls who were loved and who kept their castle safe.

Before we left Vay, time to check the bags again. They were now in Bordeaux, at the airport! But would they catch up with us? Find out in part 3. Their France trip wasn’t nearly as exciting as ours, but as I had been in contact with the airport several times, it didn’t seem like there was much I could do to get them moving.

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