France, Jul '12

After four months of relative stability came our chance to be more normal tourists. If the locations visited here seem a little random that's because we managed to visit several stages of the Tour de France during this time... although each stage has it's own page (Stage 9, Stage 11, Stage 12, Stage 19 and Stage 20) due to the number of pictures there.

So, here's that stuff between tour stages and then some time spent in France after the finale in Paris.

The general route was... pre-tour: La Coquille (Dordogne), Murol (Puy-de-Dôme - where the cycling is very nice, definitely worth a look if you're passing by), Bourbon-Lancy (Saône-et-Loire). We visited Dole (Jura) & Aigueblanche (Savoie) to check out the first time trial stage and some mountains. Then veering away from the tour and on to Montmelard (Saône-et-Loire), Contres(Loir-et-Cher) before meeting back up again in Paris for the final stage.

It's nice to say that in pretty much every area we visit there was always something interesting to see and plenty of walking or cycling to be had... although in the Loire valley I really didn't enjoy the flat roads even though it's all good training.

After Paris it was back to Orleans then over to Brittany, on both occasions to catch up with family or friends then an overnight stay in Arras (Pas-de-Calais) before we say, "Au revoir France!" (after five months here) and head on North to Belgium.

17:45

More duck as dinner for me. Foie gras (as we are so close to Thiviers) & veal for Pratiwi. Plus huge deserts. Yum! tongue

09:45

This is Château de Jumilhac. Nice, but just took these pics in passing on the way to the next one. Spoilt for choice!

11:00

Very nice lunch at Auberge du Parc, Hautefort. Perch wrapped in some crispy pastry stuff and other goodies. Yum! tongue

12:00

Château de Hautefort: beautiful gardens and not so scary dungeons. The accommodation wasn't bad either wink

09:00

Morning visit to the lovely little village of Brantôme. Then lunch overlooking the river (for both us & the ducks) wink

12:25

Stumbled across aftermath of what we discovered was La Félibrée in Piégut Pluviers. Looks like it was some party!

17:10

Evening picnic by le Plan d'Eau de Mialet (Mialet dam). Took a random road in search of a quiet spot and voilà! smile

12:00

Beautiful spot for a picnic. Carrying your own food is the best way to guarantee finding lunch in countryside France!

13:00

Crossing Col de la Croix-Morand, looking East. Down there somewhere is Murol, where we'll spend a couple of nights.

13:20

Afternoon at Lac Chambon, then back again for dinner & walk after. Funny having raclette in summer, & with no heater.

04:40

Our hotel here is right by a small lake. Very pretty spot and very nice for an early morning stroll before breakfast.

08:20

Picking up some goodies for a picnic lunch in Bourbon-Lancy. Plus a last look around before we leave. Nice place.

10:35

When in France... in summer... it just had to be done. Messing about in a field of sunflowers of course!

10:50

Macro fun in a field of sunflowers. Very, very pleasing smile

12:00

These birds seem to be all over rural France. Here hunting mice spooked by tractor in a field next to our lunch stop.

17:45

Another quick look at the centre of Dole this eve. Don't know what all this water is about but it looks nice, non?

13:30

Wait a second... this isn't France! Passing through Geneva on the way to the Alps. smile

15:45

Lake Annecy. Very beautiful, but such a traffic snarl up & busy in town! Would like to stay a bit longer next time.

17:00

Views from today's double assault on Col de la Madeleine. Only one small patch of rain which was welcome to cool off!

18:55

Dinner at Montmelard. Lobster & quail & snails & the like. Best chocolate desert ever. Nice view of sunset too! grin

08:05

View from our hotel room in Montmelard. Seems like a beautiful area, shame we were only passing through.

12:05

Messing about in a field of wheat. With a camera. Without any girls this time... sorry wink

10:20

Château de Chambord. Staggering given the cool bits are 500 years old. Furnishings (lack thereof) needs work mind! wink

09:30

Easy to kill time by a pond if one has a macro lens. Or if you're a Mayfly it seems. Who's having most fun though? wink

08:30

Château de Cheverny. Not as big as it looks, but quality lawn & veggie patch. Nice furniture too which is a bonus wink

18:55

The very pleasant garden of our gîte in the Loire Valley. Great place just to relax, especially here at dusk.

07:50

In Blois for lunch supplies. Pretty standard aside from bizarre animatronic dragons coming out of one building!

12:00

By the Seine, Louvre & Jardin des Tuileries before & after some bike race on today. Think that explains the crowds wink

16:20

Quick drink in 'La Palette' & stroll nearby before dinner. Lucky we are going to eat - someone looks a bit hungry wink

20:00

After dinner walk by the the Seine. 10pm local time - gotta love the Northern summer, even if it is a little chilly!

10:30

Tiny selection of random sights along the Seine & by Place de la Concorde.

11:30

Lunch in Jardin des Tuileries. Best part (as seems to be the case with most places in Paris) was the large desert! tongue

12:40

Shoppers lost inside the Citroën showroom, Champs Elysées wink

13:00

Dodging traffic & tourists at the Arc de Triomphe. And don't forget to look up!

14:20

Walking past the Eiffel Tower. Look at those crowds though... think we'll skip a ride in the elevator!

15:25

Les Invalides: apparently devoted to French military history. We only dropped in because of the cool garden though!

17:25

Another Paris café moment. More duck, more Leffe but this time mixed with a burger. Yum! tongue

10:05

Notre Dame, about the only thing we queued (maybe 15 mins?) to get into. Pretty impressive though. Nice windows.

12:25

Church of Saint-Séverin. Thought the garish (70s) windows & columns (supposedly in the form of palms) a bit unusual.

19:15

Café dinner with @sparkyweston & family - sadly not shown here wink - after a big day walking around Paris.

11:00

Paris? Romantic? Pffft... wink

16:25

Bit of Orléans before dinner. The square is Place de Martroi. Nice enough, but something just doesn't look right sad

07:10

Early morning stroll in Orléans. Naturally took a look in the cathedral & visited a boulangerie to pick up breakie.

10:30

Pratiwi & the sunflowers... take two! grin

11:30

Sights from the bike ride today. Pretty cool. Can tell I've been in Paris eating cake the week so far though! sad wink

08:30

Messing about at Mont St-Michel. Hmmm... we like these goodies. Handy since they were dishing a lot out at the TdF tongue

15:30

Saturday in Aaras. Yes, that is a beach! wink Some cafes quite, some busy enjoying the late sunshine. Wedding debris.

18:50

Tunisian food for dinner in Arras. And lots of it! Very tasty too tongue

06:25

Early morning in Place des Héros, Arras. That's the town hall in case you wonder, not any sort of religious building.

09:35

What a green and pleasant place this is in summer. One can only imagine the horrors it sees come each spring! grin

09:55

Pffft... they said it would be crowded & cold. Doesn't seem that bad at all! Now, riders should be through any... wink