As you know from my last post, we have been on holidays for a week, seeing family in France.
This is the first time we have travelled by car, as we have felt Emma is old enough to cope with long journeys and fully capable of entertaining herself in the back seat.
Here are five tips we wish we had been given before starting on this long driving journey:
1. Allow for stops along the way.
There has been a hilarious incident on a French motorway involving an emergency lay-by and a little girl who was bursting to go to the toilet! Those lay-byes will forever be engraved in our memories as “pee pee spots” and needless to say, Alex has learned his lesson now and is unlikely to ever miss a filling station or services sign again :-)!
2. Allow for ample travelling time and enjoy the landmarks on the way.
As soon as we touched dry land in Cherbourg, Normandy, we wanted to explore. We took a little detour and visited Omaha beach and enjoyed telling Emma all about the history behind it.
We spent our first night in Caen and we found it absolutely charming. But we woke up late, had to organise lunch for the long drive ahead of us from the open air market and didn’t have the time to visit the old town. By the way, many thanks to the Moroccan lady who was selling the beautiful chicken stew, it was thoroughly enjoyed a few hours later as a picnic in the sun!
The good thing is that we now want to visit Caen again as we know there is still loads more to explore. But it would have been lovely to be able to spend another couple of hours there, taking pictures and making memories.
3. Choose your accommodation carefully.
We enjoyed a beautiful, family run B&B in Caen. It was Alex’s treat to us and we enjoyed nice, comfortable rooms, beautiful and carefully restored antique decor and a wonderful homemade breakfast of French pastries and “chocolat chaud.”
Alex attributed his golden find to Booking.com settings and the available option to choose according to customer ratings.
I was not as wise. I had the responsibility to choose our stay in Limoges and I went for Meadow View Gite, a “villa” located in a picturesque village, close to where my brother lives.
Or so the pictures promised.
The reality was disappointing.
After a whole day of travelling we found ourselves in an isolated village in the middle of nowhere, with no swimming pool in sight (it was actually behind the owners’ own residence), as promised in deceiving pictures and a large village house that was clearly not ready for guests. No heating, no hot water, two radiators dragged in from the garage after we arrived. No hosting efforts displayed and only greed as a motivation.
Which leads me to the next tip:
4. Don’t let a rotten egg spoil the tart, so to say 🙂
We decided to leave the freezing cold village house behind and after another hour’s drive found ourselves in a superior room in a more than decent hotel in Limoges.
At the same price as the “villa” but with heating, amenities next door (they had a small Carrefour next door, from where we purchased everything we needed for our stay) and a superb location(walking distance from Limoges’ old town and the famous Cafe Paul!), this was definitely a winner.
We ended up enjoying much more than we would have done had we stayed in the remote village I had initially and unwisely picked…
5. Take advantage of your location
After seeing family and visiting for a couple of days, we decided to make our way back to Cherbourg via Nantes.
We enjoyed a beautiful evening exploring the local parks and the town. The glorious, warm weather and the sun made everything look magical:
We rested in Orvault, in another excellent B&B, Château de la Garnison, with a lot of history and beautiful, carefully renovated, full of character rooms:
We enjoyed their Henry James room and the delightful and discreet company of our hosting family.
The following morning we decided to take Emma to a very special museum for children, Machines de l’Ile de Nantes.
“Born from the François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice’s imagination, it is at crossroads of Jules Verne’s “invented worlds”, of the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci, and of Nantes’ industrial history, on the exceptional site of the former shipyards.”
And it is a place we really wanted Emma to experience and enjoy, even for a morning!
We got to see the Grand Éléphant, in all its mechanical splendor, to Emma’s trepidation and delight, as well as the strange and ingenious bestiary of machines:
We had to be in Cherbourg for early evening but we found ourselves with enough time in our hands to visit Mont Saint Michel, as it was on the way! It was only a quick glance as the weather had turned torrid and the clock was ticking by now but we truly were glad for the opportunity to see such a beautiful place, even from afar:
We spent a delightful week in France and we feel enriched by the experience and ready to explore more of this beautiful country in a similar manner.
Hope you find our travelling tips useful.
For now, we bid you “au revoir”, France, and we will miss your pain au chocolat and your beautiful scenery.