We particularly enjoy traveling on the exceptional rail network in France and in Europe, in general. When we spent the summer in France, we planned well in advance and secured a Rail Europe pass for multiple days of travel as well as a long-term rental/purchase plan with Auto Europe.
Though we mainly traveled in France, we purchased a rail pass that allowed travel in three countries. We knew we would travel in France and Italy to visit my husband’s aunt and uncle in Florence. By adding “Benelux” as our “third country”, we were able to travel to Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg; as Rail Europe treats the three as one. Though a whirlwind kind of scoop through the three countries, it was nonetheless a great experience to set foot in these extraordinary cities.
Though we only briefly touched down in these delightful cities, we enjoyed expanding our experience beyond France. So – worth noting – if you choose to purchase a multi-country Rail Europe Pass, by all means considered adding Benelux to your itinerary.
You will find complete (and even entertaining!) travel information on Rail Europe’s excellent web site. For savings and peace of mind, it is well worth your time to plan ahead for your rail adventures. Learn about reservations, surcharges, classes of travel and levels of service.
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Don’t be afraid to rent a car to explore France; but as daring as we can be, we definitely skipped driving in Paris. Rent a bike. Walk. Take the Metro or a bus.
You need only look at the photo of Paris’ most famous roundabout – The Etoile at the head of Champs-Elysées (and Place Concorde at the foot of said boulevard is every bit as ‘interesting’!) Need we say more?
When driving in France, roundabouts (rond-points) provide mystique, madness and mirth. These efficient traffic control designs become less so, unless you understand the rules. You must employ rapid reflexes to flip from gas to brake, and you must have a clear fix on direction.
Generally, one gives absolute priority to the right at each and every intersection, where it is remotely possible for a vehicle to turn into your path from a side highway, street, lane or drive. No excuses allowed, my friends. Any collision with a vehicle arriving from your right is indisputably your fault.
Except. The French love exceptions to the rule. That brings us to priorities in the roundabout. Forget the first rule. The Anglo might reason that if you are on the outside of the circle of traffic, you would have the priority to exit. Wrong. The guy in the 30-year-old Citroen, decorated with the dents of old traffic wars, has the right to cross in front of you from the center of the circle. To be perfectly clear, watch out and be prepared to brake or give it the gas, should one of these inner circle demons race suddenly across your path.
Finally, the design and signage of roundabouts require either careful advance study of your directions or immeasurable patience. We are not the only ones in the world to go around two or three times, before discovering which exit to take. Direction Marseille or Paris? What? I’m going to Rouen. No difference.
The signs will show either the next small village or the grand city some 500 kilometers to the North. Add to your confusion the speed and aggression of the roundabout drivers; and you will understand the suggestion to either prepare or relax and circle as often as needed, until you figure it out.
Stay tuned, as we soon will offer excellent information about Auto Europe and buy-back programs.
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Just one of the benefits we try to offer through LuxeEuro is locating and evaluating helpful travel resources. We recently encountered a new website that focuses on Bed and Breakfast accommodations in France.
After spending way too much time combing through Samedi Midi – The Best Bed and Breakfast France, we think it has some very nice attributes to assist your lodging hunt.
At the top of the list are the well-organized categories. Many, like us, seek different travel experiences, mixing up city sojourns with lazy, out-of-the-way ‘lost weekends’. We often scale back the budget in one location to help underwrite a more lavish encounter in the next.
Samedi serves two purposes quite well – offering a central promotional site for bed and breakfast and guest houses and an informational resource for travelers in search of unique accommodations. Since 1982, the organization has organized lodgings into 14 themed paperback guidebooks, sorted by French regions, by lifestyle choices, by city and village, by luxury and gastronomy – you name it, and you have a host of choices to meet your particular desire.
From Provence to the Pyrénées and from Brittany to Burgundy, Samedi Midi has pulled together some exceptional lodging selections. We’ll leave it to you to wander through their site, but here is just one example that appealed to us – from Bed and Breakfasts in the Most Beautiful Villages in France.
Tucked away in the small village of Prades in the South of France, Castell Rose is one of those ideal ‘home away from home’ choices. Pleasant hospitality combines with very comfortable room selections and exceptional views. For the traveler on the go, the well-equipped laundry and notebook computer are welcome amenities. Though the lovely garden setting allows genuine tranquility, the town of Prades is an easy, ten-minute walk; and four of the regions “Most Beautiful Villages” are within a few kilometers.
You can mix a day of poolside lounging or reading a book under the lime tree with a day of exploration – horseback riding around the Pyrénées near the Canigou, sacred mountain of the Catalans, or discovering churches and priories like the stunning Romanesque Marcevol. Another day you might visit the beautiful village of Mosset, that is reminiscent of Gordes, poised on a hilltop overlooking the valley. All of those lovely mountain and village experiences are just 25 minutes from Perpignan.
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