The Peach and the Pit: Tour de France in Numbers and Superlatives

There many reasons why I love my sister. (Yes, she’s technically Michael’s sister, but I believe when you luck out with great in-laws, you can just freely claim them as your own family.) One reason is that she shares the same enthusiasm I have at the end of a trip for reflecting back on the ups and downs. After an adventure with Dawn, we sit down over a meal and rehash the “peach and the pit” of the vacation. Each time we realize at some point that this exercise is really called the “peak and the pit,” but we inevitably decide that the peach and the pit sounds cuter anyway. We continue mentally narrowing down the experiences until each person arrives at one highlight and one lowlight of the trip that s/he shares with the group.

Last week, I began to recap our month-long road trip around France as seen through our various accommodations. This week is a different way of stepping back and taking a sweeping survey of the trip as a whole before examining each stop in sharp focus. (I warned you, I love reflection time!) Whether you’re more math-oriented like my hubby or a lover of language like me, I think both approaches give a sense of how this journey through France was an emotional release as we ran around the country with open arms, trying to embrace all that we could in our last month before moving back to the US.

Ready for the big picture of our Tour de France? 

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Exploring France's Hidden Gem: Franche-Comté

Today I'm excited to introduce you to Elena of Elena's Travelgram! I really enjoy reading her insight on living in France as an Ukrainian expat on her blog. Here's her expert advice on what to see in her slice of France:

When you think of visiting France, which places come to your mind first?

Bet #1 is Paris! With Lyon, Nice, Marseille, and the Loire Valley coming shortly afterwards. Next you may be daydreaming of gorgeous Provence lavender fields and the rocky allure of the Normandy coast. 

Wine-lovers won’t miss a trip out and around Bordeaux wine routes and charming Alsatian villages in search for the best white wines. 

Corsica recently became a hype summer destination, though it still has a lot of amazing, absolutely deserted beaches, hidden in lovely bays. 

Blissful Biarritz is another fantastic beach destination overlooking the Atlantic and, of course, you’ll discover even more amazing wine routes around Burgundy, along with amazing local cuisine and cheese.

Ran out of ideas for your next trip to France? 

Well, how about visiting Franche-Comté

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Countryside Drive

With the use of a car and the better part of the afternoon, we had all we needed to explore Bourgogne a little more on our way back to Paris. I often rely on my Rick Steves’ guide books to get a general lay of the land of an area I am visiting. These two sights were listed on his suggested route back. Although neither of these sights are “must-sees” in my opinion, the charm of this journey for those who have time is getting to soak in the French countryside. 

Anyway, who doesn't love a good road trip? (Especially for me, who wasn't driving.) A little while in we discovered a club-mix version of Pirates of the Caribbean that pervaded numerous French radio stations. What better soundtrack than for a countryside adventure through winding roads and open fields? Go ahead, you know you want to listen to it now to set the mood. And someone please educate me in pop culture that I’m lacking - is this from the Lego Movie

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The Loire Valley in a Weekend

My husband handmade a scrapbook to propose to me. There was dinner, dessert, flowers, a limo, the works. But the fact that he took a hobby of mine that I loved and created a scrapbook really touched me. Especially when I realized later that it had involved many evenings of scrapbooking, not exactly a popular college senior male pastime. (His friends graciously marathon-ed through some TV series so he could craft and still participate.)

That’s exactly the way I was touched this past weekend. Not only did my brother and his girlfriend choose to visit us on the precious little vacation time they had, but after the big surprise of their presence in Paris, they announced that that was only the beginning. Michael and David had planned a weekend to the Loire Valley for us four, completely on their own. I love travel planning but I well know all the work, time, and effort that goes into it. Needless to say, I was sincerely moved by their gift to me.

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Surprise Weekend

Bon lundi!

I was going to meet my husband for a quick lunch at his office on Friday. Not thinking anything of it, I arrived, he took me to drop my bag off at a table, and that's when it happened. Sitting with their backs to me were my brother, David, and his girlfriend, Carissa. Who had apparently flown in from New York City that morning to surprise me.

Given how I screamed when Michael threw me a surprise party last year, I tried not to make a scene in his workplace. (I somewhat succeeded.) I never imagined David could take off time from work again to visit me in Paris. Yet here he was, telling me that the four of us had plans to go on a weekend trip to the Loire Valley that had been completely orchestrated without me knowing a thing. Someone learned a few things from Simply Sara!

More details on our trip to follow, but here's a quick look at what the chateaus of the Loire look like during springtime.

Château de Cheverny

Château de Chaumont-sur-Loire

On a related note...anyone have recommendations for a short girls' trip to London?? 

Uncorking Bordeaux

You know that sound of the pop of the cork, followed by gurgling and a splash hitting the glass? I thought planning a trip to Bordeaux would be that easy, as simple as opening a bottle of wine and making the first pour. Wine flows freely in France so I assumed it would not be hard to figure out where to do some tastings in perhaps the most well-known wine region in the country, Bordeaux. 

The decision to select Bordeaux as a destination for some of the wine enthusiasts coming to visit me was the easy part. I planned a long weekend with friends there last March, and then a quick overnight stop-off on en route to Dordogne with my parents. Beyond that though, figuring out where exactly to go took much more time. 

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Park it in Paris: Parc de Boulogne-Edmond de Rothschild

In the "Park it in Paris" series, I write about the city's parks - some of the best spots to relax, people-watch, and mingle with the locals.

It's only the second post of this series and already the title is a slight misnomer. Today's featured park is located just over the border in the suburb of Boulogne-Billancourt. But I say close enough - after all, you can still get to the park via the metro (line 10).

A friend mentioned that he read about a park in Paris that featured an abandoned Rothschild mansion on its grounds (check out the article on blog Messy Nessy Chic.) A ghost of the presence of the Rothschild family intrigued me and I had to head out to explore last weekend.

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La Belle France

Paris gave us quite a few canvas-worthy moments in 2013. But then there is the rest of France to consider beyond its capital. 

2013 was a great year for us to discover more of La Belle France. We took short trips to Bordeaux, Normandy, Brittany, Provence, Côte d'Azur (the French Riviera), and Dordogne. We found great food and beautiful sights every step of the way, and have a few exceptional photos to capture those memories:

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Five Highlights of Dordogne

Foie gras. Walnuts. Prehistoric caves. Canoes. Cepe mushrooms. Cobblestones. Castles. Medieval villages.

This is Dordogne. About a five hour drive south from Paris, this lovely region of France is one where the eating is good and some of the best activities just require bringing your heart rate down and enjoying the moment. This region seems to be often overlooked to more popular areas of France like Normandy and the Riviera so here's a peek at what Dordogne has to offer:

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