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It’s a luxury to have a long lead time to plan our summer trip to France, but it also allows for me to get somewhat obsessive. When researching a country, I like to read about the history, read other blogs/travel sites, talk to people who have visited there and, for the first time, I’ve added Periscope to my information search tools. From now until the end of June, I will be a Francophile.

The essentials for my planning purposes are:
1) Map of France ~ I highly recommend getting a map of the location you’ll be visiting and a marker so you can circle all the interesting places you’ll want to see. My map already has my top “must visit” locations circled: Paris, Versailles (I’ve been but my husband and daughter have not), Mormant, Le Mont-St Michel, Rochefort, Les Cabannes and Beaune. I’ve also added Andorra. We’ll be so close when we’re in Les Cabannes, it would be a shame not to explore the sixth smallest country in Europe.

2) Skyscanner for the cheapest airfare
I check Skyscanner first for the lowest priced flights. Their site allows you to look at an entire month for the cheapest day to fly. Once I’ve narrowed it down to which carrier is the best price, I go to the airlines website to check on flight schedules and then book it.

3) Tripadvisor for hotel information
Tripadvisor is my first stop for hotels, Bed & Breakfasts and Vacation Apartments. I appreciate the personal reviews and read them within context. A few years ago, while researching places to stay in Inverness (Scotland), a B&B received a low score but it was due to the establishment not allowing children under age 5 to stay. The person giving the review never stayed there but gave it a “1.” I actually liked the policy since B&Bs are too small/thin walled for younger children. We ended up staying there and really enjoyed ourselves all thanks to a bad review.

4) Lonely Planet:France Guidebook (lots of useful info even if out of date)
We keep all our outdated Lonely Planet books because there is timeless information in them. Lots of background information, the history of the area, and safety tips which are always helpful. Our library carries the most current issues of most travel guidebooks but my old Lonely Planets can be highlighted and scribbled in.

5) Reading blogs is one of my favorite ways to get a locals perspective of a city or town. For France, I’ve been catching up with Les Photos de Suzanne & Pierre  ~ expats who wrote updates while living in Paris for two + years (it’s in French and English). If you have any suggestions on other ones, please let me know.

6) Periscope ~ I find Periscope to be fascinating but scary as well. It has the potential to get sketchy quickly. It’s a live streaming app that allows you to interact with the person scoping. So far, I’m only following a few “travel” periscopers and one friend. For my trip planning, I’ve found an amazing tour guide named Claire who uses Periscope. She’s been a wealth of information and makes me want to stay the whole time in Paris. Click here for more information about Claire and her tours. Once our dates are confirmed, I’m hoping to book an actual live tour with her. She’s lived in Paris for twenty years and speaks French and English fluently. Her love for Paris is very apparent and I really like her positive attitude.

Planning trips are a lot of fun and I’m thankful my fellow travelers (husband and daughter) trust me to make the right decisions for an intriguing adventure. I get very few complaints. Every once in awhile, they’ll go rogue and decide to do something completely and utterly touristy.

Please leave me a comment with any advice you might have for me ~ especially about a town or area we shouldn’t miss while on our explorations of France. We’ll be traveling the northwestern, west and southwest areas of France.

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It’s not quite Friday but I dug out this “Flashback Friday” from a few years ago. The recent snowfall in Virginia made me remember a magical snowy day in France many years ago…

Beaune and the Hotel Le Cep definitely rank as one of the most beautiful places we’ve ever spent Thanksgiving:

Beaune, Thanksgiving dinner

As we drove from Germany towards the Burgundy region in France,  it started to snow and by the time we arrived in Beaune, it was blanketed with a fresh dusting of snow ~ it looked magical. We splurged and stayed at the Hotel Le Cep which the Lonely Planet guidebook referred to asQuite simply, this is one of France’s very finest hotels.”  How could we pass up staying there after that kind of recommendation!?! We weren’t disappointed ~ the hotel was fabulous and the staff wonderful.

Originally, we were suppose to visit in early November but the riots were happening all over France and we didn’t want to take a chance since we were traveling with our young daughter. When I called to reschedule our reservations, the hotel was so accommodating and understanding about why we were changing our dates. Upon our arrival, we found they had upgraded us to one of their largest suites. It’s a great joy for me when I find I’ve been upgraded at a hotel.

Beaune, Logan at Hostel Dieu

Beaune, hostel-dien

One of the most interesting sights in Beaune is the Gothic Hotel-Dieu which was founded in 1443 and was considered a “celebrity rated” charity hospital. For its time, I’m sure it was state of the art but those blood letting instruments and the closeness of the hospital beds made me a little queasy.  There was also an 18th century pharmacy with flasks once filled with things such as vomit-nut powder.

Beaune, Wine Caves

Beaune in the caves

After touring the hospital, we made our way to the Marché aux Vins wine cellars and went underground to the dusty wine-bottle lined caves. We had a personal tour guide and, after a history lesson on the winery and about the region, we were given a flat, metal, shiny cup to taste the wines we encountered as we self-toured the caves. Marché aux Vins, established in 1239, is one of the larger wine cellars in Beaune and the caves are lined with thousands of wine  bottles.  As we navigated through the cave, we stopped at each of the 13 candle-lit wine barrels to taste the wine which was a open bottle ~ we could’ve drank the entire bottle if we wanted.  I love the whole French attitude towards wine, food and living life in beauty.

Beaune logan on carousel
Enjoying the carousel

Beaune Saturday market
Saturday Market

Beaune walking around
Walking around Beaune

Beaune, Logan guidebook
Our guide

Beaune Fireplace

Enjoying the cozy, warm fireplace which was so welcomed after our cold walks around town.

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