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  • Writer's pictureTina Hill

Fiona In France

Updated: Dec 18, 2023





Interview Guest Post with Fiona Hill and her ten day travels through France


Why did you decide to go to France in June of 2023?


France is an outdoor enthusiast's dream. There was so much on my list, and narrowing it down to just 10 days was a challenge. This country is rich in wine, art, architecture, history, and has a countryside I could write songs about. We decided on the Eastern region because this is where the majority of our interests were located. In addition, there were two events happening that were on our bucketlist. The first was the Paris Air Show, which is one of the largest in the world. Not only that, but it showcases some of the newest innovation in spacecraft technology. The second was experiencing the landscape, color, and fragrance of the iconic lavender fields in the Provence region, when they are in full bloom.


How did you start your planning process?


I started working on the destinations we wanted to visit and figuring out where they were on our priority list. Once picked, we navigated them by location and by making a route that made sense by car. We decided to drive instead of rail because it ended up being more cost effective. Also, there was no rail route to the Lavender fields, and that was a priority for me. The locations that became part of my itnerary included: Paris, Champagne region, Colmar, Chamonix, Annecy, Moustiers Sainte-Marie (Lavender Field Town), Nice, Eze, and then back to Paris for the airshow and our flight home.


Can you tell us a little bit about each location? Any fun facts? Tips? Regrets?


We started our trip in Paris for two nites and decided we would end there as well. Our journey started in the city of love for a quick visit, and we focused on seeing the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Versailles. We spent five hours alone at the Louvre, and we purchased our passes on Viator. I highly recommend buying passes way ahead of time if you are interested in this museum/attraction. The lines were very long, and I felt it was over rated. In hindsight, I wish we had purchased tickets to the Musée d'Orsay, which might have been less touristy/crowded. The Eiffel Tower was a photo opportunity only. We had tickets to go to the second level, but we were just too tired, so we bailed. Pics only! We purchased tickets for the Arc de Triomphe, which gave us great views of the city. On our second day in Paris, we made our way to Versailles and spent five hours there. We took the RER C Train because that is the best way to get there. Some of the highlights of Versailles were The Room of Mirrors, the Architecture and style of the rooms within the palace, and the property gardens were both massive and beautiful. Versailles was a trip favorite.


Tip: Purchase tix for Arc de Triomphe that coincides with the Eiffel Tower lighting up (on the hour) to make it even more special.


Louvre: People waited in a crazy long line to see the Mona Lisa....I viewed it from the side (no wait).


Eiffel Tower: We purchased our 2nd floor tix, but we were too tired to make the effort.


Hanging out on the Arc de Triomphe


Versailles and it's Gardens


Paris Notes:"I didn't make it to the Musee de Orsay, which was a regret"


**Hertz has a policy that offers customers under 25 years old pricing at it's regular rate. However, we learned that only applies in the states. We ended up paying a higher price for a our car through Hertz in France. So, in hindsight, we could have shopped for a cheaper car rental and saved some $$.


Reims became part of our itinerary because it was in the Champagne region. Going to Champagne was a must. Once there, we visited the Pommery Wine Cellar. One of many wine tours. I highly recommend reserving this guided tour, which is what we did. We spent one nite in Reims, enjoying a classic French dinner in town, and booked an airbnb with a view of the Reims Cathedral.



Pommery Wine Cellar



**Fun Fact: Reims Cathedral is where the kings of France were crowned. The cathedral hosted thirty-three sovereign coronations in just over 1000 years!

Striking a Pose in Colmar

Following Reims, we made our way to picturesque Colmar for a two hour pitstop. It was a good half way point to our next destination, and it's considered the Venice of France, as it has a large canal running through it's city. We walked around, shopped locally, and had lunch in town, enjoying flambeé.






Steve and I eating classic tarte flambée (French Pizza)


**Fun fact: Sculptor, August Bartholdi, creator of the Statue of Liberty in the United States is from Colmar, and they have a smaller size duplicate statue there.


We arrived in Chamonix around dinner time for a one nite stay and had a steak and fondue dinner at a fabulous restaurant. We stayed at Hôtel de l'Arive, a 3.5 star hotel, with great reviews. It overlooks the L'Arve river bank. On a budget, I would recommend this hotel. After a restful nite of sleep, we went on the Chamonix Cable Car (map below) in the morning, and in the afternoon, we took the Montenvers Mer de Glace Rail to see the Mer de Glace (Sea of Ice), the largest glacier in France. We had lunch in town, enjoying even more flambee and shopping at the local retail shops. Chamonix is a ski town, so it was pretty quiet. I really enjoyed the minimal crowds this time of year.


Chamonix



Chamonix - We loved our visit to the Mer de Glace (Ice Cave)


We took a cable car from town to get to the Aiguille du Midi summit, the cable car shares the same name. Unfortunately we were not able to go all the way to the Aguille du Midi summit due to high winds. We missed out on the fun tourist attractions and views from the summit. The rest stop at Aiguille du Midi has a coffee shop, gift shop, and amazing views of the glacier.

**Tip: Due to tempermental winds and skyline clarity, it's best to do the cable car excursion in the morning.


The first two pics are at the Plan De L'Aiguille stop. We made our way by rail to the The ice cave.


At the end of the day, we drove to Annecy, about an hour's drive from Chamonix, and spent the nite there. I was not expecting the wild nite life. I thought it was going to be a quiet, chill nite...oh no. It was loaded with college kids, street performers, people singing in the streets, and a fashion scene (which, up until this point, we did not expeience at our first few stops). Annecy has a river running through the town; it is a beautiful, scenic, and walkable...but wild!


Annecy

After breakfast, made our way to the Lavender fields and spent about 3 hours enjoying the landscape and shopping at local boutiques.


Our photo opp in Valensole lavender fields - picture perfect

At the end of the day, we spent the nite at a hotel in Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, which was 30 minutes away from the lavender fields. This ended up being one of my favorite stops. There were shops, restaurants, and gorgeous sightseeing. The village is quaint, beautiful, and nestled in between limestone cliffs. A spring flows out of the cliff, creating a waterfall that provides power to the village. I cannot recommend this stop enough, and I can't wait to go back.


http://le-relais-de-moustiers.leprovencehotels.com/en/ - 3 star hotel with great reviews & good pricing.


Moustiers-Sainte-Marie


Ten minutes away from Moustiers-Sainte-Marie is the gorgeous turquoise waters of the Gorges du Verdon. This is one of the largest canyons in Europe, and it offers a lot of activities including rockclimbing, kayaking, and paddleboarding...just to name a few. We rented a kayak for two hours, went swimming, and enjoyed the beauty that surrounded us. This is a must do and one of my favorite excursions.


Gorges du Verdon


Later in the afternoon, we got back in the car and headed to Nice. I thought it was going to be chill and quaint, but it was overwhelmingly busy, and it wasn't as nice as I thought. I was epecting a low key vibe, but it was very crowded. I wish I would have picked a different coastal town for our last stop in the South, but this is because I prefer more quiet and quaint destinations.


The following morning we made a slight hour round-trip detour to the medieval village Eze, home to one of the oldest perfumeries in France, Galimard, where they have a specialist work with you personally. We walked around and enjoyed a picnic lunch here before dropping our car rental off and departing on our flight to Paris.

**Regret: Skipping out on Le Jardin Exotique for views overlooking the coastline. There is no view of the ocean from Medieval Eze. Ocean views are only offered from the garden.


Eze



Paris

We were now on the last leg of our trip. We flew from Nice to Paris, instead of Rail because it was more cost effective. We had a late afternoon flight, so we checked into our airport hotel, had dinner at their restaurant, and settled in for the nite. The next morning we attended the The Paris Air Show, which was an all day event - and ended up being 95°. The air show had amazing demonstrations and the aviation technology blew us away. This is the largest air show and aerospace-industry exhibition event in the world. For my boyfriend, it was a huge highlight of our trip, since he specifically liked seeing the F-35 plane and is interested in the NGAD and FA-XX programs.


**Citizen M Hotel was right outside the airport and offered a bus stop and rail that connected to Le Bourget Airport, which is where the Paris Air Show was being held.


**Tip: The Paris Air Show allows you to bring in your own water bottles



Paris Air Show



I feel that I did a great job planning this vacation, even though there was little time for relaxation. We were on the go from the minute our plane landed. I experienced parts of France that made me grow an immense appreciation for the countryside, people, food, and culture. I am happy I chose this route, and I wouldn't change a thing. I cannot wait to return...and I would revisit quite a few.




Thank you Fiona for an amazing post!


If you have any questions about this itinerary or would like helping your own trip to France,

please reach out to me! thill2@aaanortheast.com - travel agent at AAA Northeast. Best, Tina





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