August                2009
VOL. 13               NO. 3
  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter

  The Impossible Dream

The Impossible Dream
  ~ A 370-mile cycle ride in France
  by Sean Hosking

Paris Enigmas

Ici et Là

Time Doesn't Wait
  ~ Learning How to Let Go of 
            Time  Management
  by Jill Butler

Tuck Harvey: 
  Painting Provence

The Bookshelf: 
  ~Paris Movie Walks - Ten Guided
           Tours through the City of
               Lights! Camera! Action!

Shopping Chic in Paris - Part Two
  by Maxine Schur

Troglodyte dwelling Loire - Photo © 2009 Sean Hosking.  All rights reserved
      Cycling past a Troglodyte dwelling 
              near Saumur in the Loire

Update on France:
  ~  French Healthcare:  How does it work 
      and  what does it offer?
  French Lifestyle: Data from the latest 

FEATURING:  Haute Normandie

Fêtes & Festivals in  Provence
  by Barbara Beaumont

Living the Dream in Narbonne
  ~  Part Two in the New Series
  by Marlane O'Neill

  A 370-mile cycle ride from St Malo, Brittany to Confolens in the Charente
                                                                                                                    by Sean Hosking

Discontent with escalating living costs, crowded roads and terrible weather my father sold his Devonshire house, packed up his belongings and headed off to live in the idyll of rural France.
Ten years on, although the romance has diminished slightly due to practicalities and routine, he's still there ~ his only reflection of life in the UK is with disdain ~ so I don't think he'll be moving back.

Sean and Hugh along the Rance Canal - Photo © 2009 Sean Hosking.  All rights reservedAs a frequent visitor to his Charentais home, I became bored of the plane, train and car and formed a flight of fancy to cycle from the northern port of St Malo through France down to his home near Confolens.  It remained a pipe dream for a few years, then in March I had a '‘mid-life crisis' with the thought that "if I don't do it now then I'll never do it".  I broached the idea with my good friend Hugh and his partner Kim.  They seemed keen, so, before they had chance to change their minds, I booked us on the ferry across the English Channel (with bikes) for June.

None of us is particularly athletic and, although we do a few miles cycling on a lazy Sunday afternoon, none of us has tried to cycle 370 miles in a week.  Thankfully, we had three months to train and arrange the logistics, bikes and kit. The first job was to get Kim a bike!  Before we knew it, it was time to go.  Slightly unprepared and not as fit as we would have liked, we set off for the ferry to France.  We nearly missed the sailing as the first puncture was had before we had even left the garage!

The one thing I had well prepared was a route itinerary, and I had also booked accommodation for us at various chambres d'hôtes and inns along the way.  So, every day we knew our destination and exactly how many miles we had to cover (assuming we didn't get lost).  Once we were on the French roads and as our wheels went 'round, we felt ourselves mellow and our cares slide away. 

Rance Canal - Photo © 2009 Sean Hosking.  All rights reservedRance Canal -Photo © 2009 Sean Hosking.  All rights reservedLock Keeper's House - Photo © 2009 Sean Hosking.  All rights reserved
Biking along the Rance Canal and the Lock Keeper's House

Our route took in Brittany, through the Loire Valley and then to join the river Vienne and follow it all the way down to Confolens in the Charente.  Brittany, similar to my home county of Cornwall, is a beautifully green and pleasant land; we followed the Rance canal to the city of Rennes.  This region is famous for it's crêpes and cider which we enjoyed very much.

As we entered the Loire Valley the landscape dramatically opened up to a drier terrain and the breadth of the River Loire.  We followed it's course through the pretty villages and vineyards, spending some quality time in the towns of Saumur and Chinon.

Cycling is certainly a great way to see the countryside; the pace allows one to take in details of the sights and the smells, say  "bonjour" to everyone you pass, and it's easy to stop when see something of interest or sample something from the local  patisserie or relax over a café au lait.  We had little to care about while in the saddle: simply to ponder what we fancied to eat next and to wonder what our next port of call would be like.
                                                                                      continued on page 2

Look inside

to join us on a second visit to Narbonne with Marlane O'Neill.  Notes on Narbonne will become a regular part of our newsletter to take you to all the fascinating sights in the city and its surrounding region. This time, join Marlane at the Tour de France!


>  to continue your shopping spree in Paris with Maxine Schur ...learn the little tricks to dressing 'French' to make it appear that you are not a tourist after all!


> to see a national healthcare system that works ~ one judged by the World Health Organization as the best there is ~ read our French Healthcare article.


> because if you are a French movie fanatic, we have the book for youLearn where a memorable Parisian scene of your favorite French film was shot so you can walk in the footsteps of the actors who made it come to life!


to welcome Jill Butler back with her explanation of how one lives on French time...certainly a  relaxed and enjoyable method of NOT watching the clock!

  PARIS ENIGMAS . . . A Quiz on Your Knowledge of Historic Paris
                                                                                                                         by Arthur Gillette

Question from the last issue:  Quite young, Frantz Liszt was brought by his parents from Hungary ca. 1813 to pursue his musical training at the Paris Conservatory. He was, however, refused admission.  Why?

Answer:  Because foreigners were not admitted to that prestigious institution, directed 
at the time by one Luigi Cherubini, who happened to be… Italian. 

Our new question:   Why is the elegant Place des Vosges, in Paris' aristocratic Marais neighborhood, so named?

Contact Arthur Gillette, and take advantage of his amazing knowledge of Paris
by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages Strolls.
We're going to enjoy the Mouffetard Stroll with him in October!

[See the answer to this edition's question revealed in our November 2009 issue.]

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 If you don't have a rental car in France, you can still visit all the wonderful sights from
Paris to Provence and all the regions of l'Hexagone - economically and comfortably.
Simply consider Ze Bus!  Visit their web site by clicking on the banner above
for information about their itineraries, prices and schedules to see Ze Real France!

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