Frenzy of French favourites, food and fatigue…

It may not be warm in this European summer, but the days are still very long, a blessing and a trap for the newly arrived antipodean traveller.

Our plan was a four day road trip straight from Charles de Gaulle airport through Normandy, the Loire Valley, Chartres and back to Paris.

Planned from a million miles away, it has been successful with a degree of stress mainly around driving a back to front manual on the right hand side of the road (mostly…) as well as possibly a slightly ambitious schedule.

Our first night was at Bennecourt near Giverny in a beautiful bed and breakfast in a stone cottage built in 1789 with views of the Senne. It’s seen in a Monet painting the owner assures us – we bought the print.

We beat most of the crowds to Monet’s house and garden and pond before a rollicking day through Normandy which included (I can’t believe this) – a castle at Les Andelys, highlights at Rouen including the site where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake, a viewing on our own of the Bayeux Tapestry and a wander around this old town, a visit to a nearby coastal port for reflection while gazing across the DDay beaches and then driving to Mont Saint Michel – arriving at dusk, about 10.30pm in time to be stunned by its lit appearance like a floating city.

The downside of arriving so late was finding it almost impossible to navigate the new entry arrangements to the hotels and parking in the area. We only found the hotel we had booked the next morning but had found a room in another nearby which had 24 hour reception, someone who spoke English and a code for the boom gate.

We put this behind us (no charges from our missing hotel helped) and walked to and explored Mont Saint Michel, an amazing few hours – again beating the worst of the crowds.

We packed up the car and drove to Tours – learning our lesson and resisting the temptation of sights along the way, finding our hotel first go and arriving at about 6pm. We did encounter tolls for the first time, the worst being 18.80 euro…

A walk around the old city of Tours and its cathedral was followed by chateau viewing at Villandry, Chenoneauc and a few along the way.

We also took in Leonardo da Vinci’s last home in Amboise before driving along the Loire to our little hotel in ‘ancien’ Orleans. Whoops, a 9pm arrival but who knew, the sun had just come out…

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