Tours, Paris, and south to the Ardeche and Provence...
We really enjoyed our two days in Tours after dropping the bikes off...we found a little apartment on AirB&B that was centrally located so very easy to get around on the tram. Tours is a pretty city with lots of green space (what we saw anyway) and the old city has some cool architecture.
Then it was time to head back toward Paris for a few more days, to camp at Maison Lafitte. We surprised the girls by booking into a treehouse accommodation. It is the trip of stairs so we were 28 steps up and had a wonderful view of the river. The house itself was well done, with a couple of decks, and a tent below with fridge, stove, microwave and more beds if you felt uneasy sleeping aloft. It was a big change from our typical camping style on this trip....for most of the time we have found ourselves envying the amenities other campers had....small things like chairs, tables, etc. We have been basically sitting on the ground, mainly eating picnic style if not eating out. Now, though, we have it all over everyone else in the tree house, literally looking down on the other campers...ha! The Tour de France was wrapping up while we were there...lots of fans were staying at the campground and trekked into the city to see the final sprint stage; not being so into it we just watched it on TV at the campground restaurant and the fighter jets flew by a few times as they waited to do their thing at the end.
Then we rented a car and drove to L'Ardeche region...a long 9 hour day from Paris (with some tense times finding our way out of the city), even with driving on their fast highways. Once we got there it was great though. A mountainous area with lots of karst. We stayed in a small, quiet town (only 2 families live there) in an old silk mill converted to a B&B. Very nice people and the owners daughter-in-law was a Canadian from Edmonton so we had a good visit with her. The area is a very beautiful with lots ot take in...wish we had more time here. We spent one afternoon paddling and swimming a stretch of the Ardeche River....very busy with all of Europe on summer holidays so as Stu said, we went paddling with a million of our closest friends, often bumping into one another. I counted more than 30 outfitters in the area renting sit-on-top kayaks and other watercraft. Lots of fun on a hot day. The next day we cooled off with a tour of one of France's largest caverns, Aven d'Orgnac, going underground over a hundred meters into three large galleries, with ceiling heights of over 50 metres and amazing stalagmites and stalagtites....check out the youtube video.
(Un drône filme l'Aven d'Orgnac sous un angle... nouveau - YouTube
https://www.youtube.com › watch)
After a couple days in that area we left for Provence and did a little reminiscing, driving past a few places we visited on a bike holiday when we were first married. After seeing Isle Sur La Sorgue, Lagnes (the restaurant is still there, Richard and Linda!) and Gordes, we camped in Rousillon and had a wonderful couple days there...great food and views, and one of the prettiest hill top towns we've seen. Nice people too...Stu went for a run one hot afternoon and an older gentleman pulled alongside in his car and tried to hand him a hat!
We concluded the France and rental car portion of our trip in Nice and Stu was relieved to hand in the keys....accident free! We both developed a love/hate relationship with the GPS as it works well but sometimes it takes you exactly where you don't want to go... like into the heart of a small, mountain-top town with too-narrow streets crowded with markets and tourists (damn tourists!). The cars we had were a little different too....all standard, with some strange features like the engine automatically cutting out when you're stopped at a light and in neutral - a little strange the first few times that happens (found out the engine automatically starts again if you engage the clutch or turn the steering wheel). Is this normal? now? And French drivers are pretty aggressive, so its safer to be a little aggressive in return just to keep up, but it can be pretty intense on the freeways. Oh yeah, if you're being tailgated at 140 and the guy has his signal on, that means you're slowing him down so get out of the way!
We were only in Nice for one night...on the surface things looked relatively normal...we went to see the ocean and beaches and so saw the Promenade...lots of people around doing normal everyday things; but then again lots of security and military around too, and the day after we left there was a memorial planned on the Promenade. So of course all is not normal at all.
Next post from Italy!