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Why I Love French Tours, As Told By a Tour Manager

From the magic of Monet’s garden to the delightful essence of ‘Douceur de Vivre’, Tour Manager, Evelyn Malcolm shares her favourite parts of France and why she loves hosting Riviera escorted tours there.

Honfleur

Normandy
What springs to mind is the rich food: Courtesy of the contented Normandy cows in their bright green ‘paturages’, cream, butter, cheese, camembert and so many others; from the maritime side, fish and seafood, also cider, apples… Steak with camembert sauce, anybody?  Rouen, so many restaurants to choose from. 

Honfleur, the market on Saturday, the cockles, the tall slaty houses reflecting in the water of the basin, painters’ delight, Boudin, Monet, so many more…

History ranging from William the Conqueror, Joan of Arc and World War II.  The whole region sacrificed so that the Western World could be free, but despite this they love the English. 

Rouen

The Loire Valley
Where do I start?  Feeling so privileged to see Monet’s garden at different times of the season.  The house, inspiring, different pastel colours on door jambs, doors and staircase, bright yellow of the dining-room and blue and white of the kitchen. 

Monet’s garden

Clos Luce, where Leonardo da Vinci lived the last 5 years of his life. In true French style, the maximum was wrung out of it.  Every year saw improvements to the domain, recreating the atmosphere of the 16c and bringing to life the illustrious occupant of this beautiful mellow manor house.  Enchanted garden with soft music, banners hanging from tree, small streams, reconstructions of his inventions dotted around the place, his tank invention, did it inspire Doctor Who? 

Tours, Place Plumereau, lined with exquisite medieval houses, chairs and tables covering the central space, happy atmosphere, the students all chat and laugh, time to have your aperitif. At night, blue lighting picks up the architecture details of the old medieval buildings, tall houses with pointy roofs, corbels.  Just behind the place, through an archway you find yourself confronted by a gaping hole, gallo-romans remains and bits and bobs from the 6th, the 9th & the 12th century all around this little quiet space. Plus, the drive alongside the Loire to Amboise, shifting sand banks, herons flitting about, beautiful light.

Place Plumereau

Beautiful meandering drive from Chinon to Villandry, villages all made in Tuffeau, stunning very pale yellow coloured stones cut in immaculate blocks, reflecting the sun, stopping to take a photo of the Sleeping Beauty Castle with its dark green forested back-ground. 

Villandry, the most beautiful 16c garden, all the vegetables lined up, not a leaf out of place. Chinon and its open-air lift, you are literally lifted to the most magnificent view of the Vienne river and the beautiful old town. 

The crisp wines. Everything grows in the mild climate, they talk about the ‘Douceur de Vivre’, French is beautifully spoken, the locals are laid back and it deserves its appellation of Garden of France.  

The history, 16c French history very colourful, Catherine de Medici, Francis I, love, intrigues, treachery, eccentricity, violence, blood.  Various personages appearing as if on a stage, chateaux like a dotted line linking it all.  

The Roque Gageac

Dordogne and Carcassone 
They know how to live, in a robust manner. Everything cooked in geese fat, potatoes a la Sarladaise will make anybody forget about their diet. Fresh walnuts in September, no comparison with our usual dried version. 

Sarlat medieval town, market in a disused church. Meandering roads through forested landscapes. Beautiful houses built of thick stones.  Our first hotel near Sarlat, La Moussidiere, looks more like a private manor than a hotel, inside the owners have decorated it with various finds from Afghanistan, India & the Middle East, wooden doors and panels with intricate carvings.  After dinner, digestif near the gigantic fireplace.  Patrick, impeccable English, full of bonhomie and wit is an asset. 

Beynac Castle in the early morning mist, Rocamadour, carved out of the rocks. Albi, the pink brick city and its Cathedral, awe-inspiring, all in bricks, sober, contrast with the exuberance of the superbly well-conserved decorations inside. 

Carcassone, the first stop before getting to the town, our first magic view of the majestic fortified city from high above, takes our breath away.