We evaded part of Adelaide's 2014 winter by spending all of June in France with 3 nights in Dubai as a stopover.
Dubai: 30 May - 2 June
Highlights - a very, very expensive and indulgent lunch at Al Mahara (seafood restaurant within an aquariam) at Burj al Arab; 1 hour privately chartered water taxi tour of Dubai Creek.
Lowlight - 4wd Desert Safari trip (OMG/WTF to quote the kids).
Paris: 2 - 6 June
Stayed in lovely B&B 'Un Ciel a Paris' near Les Gobelins metro station, with Adelaide friends Vic and Rob.
Highlights - Segway tour of Paris; concert at Notre Dame cathedral; Musée d'Art Moderne & Contemporaine de Ville; dinner in theatre restaurant 'La Vieux Belleville' - a must do! Canal Saint-Martin boat tour.
Lowlight - none!
Nantes: (the afternoon of 6 June) to visit Les Machines de L'Île
TGV Atlantique train from Paris Gare Montparnesse - no air conditioning possibly due to striking SNCF workers, or it could have just been that way.
Les Machine de L'Île - a must see for parents with pre-teen boys. Beth was a little bored by it. Nantes looked lovely though!
La Rochelle: 6 - 9 June
Afternoon Coral Intercites train from Nantes.
Stayed at luxury B&B 'Entre Hôtes' with wonderful hosts and 'love-me' dog 'Happy.'
Highlights - A lovely, charming sea-side city, very attractive!; hiring bicycles for an afternoon pedal out of town - very bike friendly; lots of fun, good cafes to eat at; wonderful gelati that had people queuing for 15+ minutes to buy.
Lowlights - an impatient waitress who didn't have time for a foreigner trying to speak French; my lack of understanding that doing an international wire transfer from Oz to France would incur a 20 Euro fee for a 150 Euro transaction (read the small print!)
Bordeaux: 9 - 13 June
11:02am Coral Intercites train from Nantes delayed then again no air-conditioning once on board - lots of French people fanning themselves with stoic faces.
Stayed in B&B 'La Grenadine' a recently converted warehouse into B&B rooms, ours was an attic room with separate sitting room. Wonderful, thoughtful hostess Camille, very comfortable room (with air-conditioning!)
Highlights - Bordovino mini-van tour of Chateau Cantenac Brown, and Chateau du Taillon - excellent guide and experience; Segway tour #2 (see a lot of the city in a short period of time - beginning to feel cocky riding one...); easy to get around old city area on trams. Wonderful Miroir d'Eau, the world's largest reflecting water feature and so, so popular with kids and others to walk through.
Lowlight - CAPC Musée d'Art Contemporain was quite weird..
Toulouse: 13 - 18 June
Our Coral Teoz train from Bordeaux was cancelled due to the SNCF strike but we were able to take one 2 hours later. Later SCNF workers picketed a government building down the road from our B&B but peaceful again.
Stayed at B&B in old Toulouse 'Côte Carmes' a lovely experience, wonderful, helpful hosts.
Highlights - seeing various exhibitions during the Toulouse International Art Fair especially Swiss artist Frank Gertsch's enormous paintings and prints at Musée des Augustines; hamburger restaurant A L'exces with wonderful, helpful, friendly owner; free Rio Lobo outdoor concert because the workers were on strike and didn't collect admission fees;
Lowlights - 'Let's Visit Airbus A380' tour - while trying to find the factory others advised us, 'set your expectations low and you won't be disappointed' they were right; Rick crashing off a Segway halfway into the 2.5 hour tour, kilometers from anywhere! Well enough to remount the Segway and get back to base then hobble back to waiting Beth. Masses of scrapes and bruises including very swollen leg. Got too cocky. Note, the French say 'chute' for crash.
Carcassonne: 18 - 21 June
Some nervousness while waiting on the train station platform for its imminent arrival
when flare-carrying SCNF strikers walked across the tracks (but they
kept on walking). Train from Toulouse to Carcassonne then short taxi ride from the Gare to the medieval walled city. We stayed in funky B&B 'Chambre Le Grand Puits' in the Orange room (and it was!) Very convenient and inexpensive accommodation.
Highlights - getting lost in the tiny walled city; lots of cafes to chose from; tour of the castle within the city (wow!). Watching France play in World Cup on big screen tv across from our B&B.
Lowlights - Having lunch in a pizza restaurant (Cafe Latin) that didn't actually serve pizza? Two hour 45 minute canal boat tour of Canal du Midi which would have been fun except for the unpadded wooden seats that had everyone squirming.
Aix-en-Provence: 21 - 28 June
Train from Carcassonne to Aix via Marseille. Stayed in rented house with Melbourne friends Gary and Sandy, and Sandy's brother and sis-in-law Mark and Wendy from Perth.
Highlights - Spending time with old friends, meeting new ones; half day trip to Marseille, red bus tour with half hour stop at La Virge, and 'Visages' (Picasso, Magritte, Warhol) exhibition at Vieille Charité former nunnery; guided walking tour of Aix 'The Old City' with knowledgeable guide (beware, pickpockets target tour groups); Jean Planque collection at Granet XXe Musée - knockout!; cooking class with Chef Ronald for dinner at our rented home; seeing impatient American woman rush into automatic toilet and getting locked inside during the cleaning cycle ('Halp! John, I'm drowning!!!' bahahaha!); half day escorted tour to Cassis & 3 Calanques; visit to Les Baux to see Croiseres Luminiéres projection show in underground quarry.
Lowlights - none.
Dijon: 28 - 30 June
Early morning TGV train from Aix to Dijon - don't forget there are two Gares in Aix, and the TGV station is about 20 minutes by car from downtown.
Stayed at Mercure Dijon Centre Clémenceau, somewhat tired hotel that doesn't deserve 4 stars. Less than helpful staff during our stay. Easy to get into the city by tram.
Highlights - walking tour of the city from the Tourism office; Musée des Beaux-Arts medieval and renaissance collection in renovated section of the museum - quite a knock-out and puts the modern and contemporary section of the museum to shame (but it is scheduled for an upgrade); takeaway food and wine for dinner in our room; more World Cup on tv.
Lowlights - none.
Paris to Dubai to Adelaide: 30 June arriving 2 July
TGV train from Gare Dijon Ville to Paris Gare du Lyon, then RER D train from Gare du Lyon to Gare du Nord, and RER C train to Charles de Gaulle terminal 2. Don't forget that your metro tickets aren't accepted for the RER trains. RER ticket cost 19.50 Euro, beware the scam artists at the CDG RER exit charging underticketed travellers 100 Euro to get into the airport.