Original post 5/18/2014
After our brief four days in Paris, we picked up our rental car there at the airport and prepared for our nearly three week road trip through France and Italy. Goal #1: Get out of Paris. This is much easier said than done. I think we made four loops around the airport before even getting on the highways, and then somehow ended up in an underground parking lot to a shopping center that we had to pay 4 euros to get out of before finally getting to some open road. Once bypassing Paris, it was smooth sailing to our first stop, the Loire Valley.
The drive south was beautiful and the landscape was spotted with massive fields of yellow flowers. I found out later that they are canola oil plants. Who knew they looked like that?
|Nearly the whole drive through France looks like this.|
The Loire is an area of France known for castles. Like, castle castles. Big ones. Ones that have been around since, like, the 11th century. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the sheer oldness (is oldness a word?) of some of the structures in Europe. We only had a day and 1/2 in this area so had to pick and choose which castles to see. We wanted to see three, but only made it to two: Chambord and Villandry. Chambord is impossibly huge and was Francois I’s HUNTING LODGE. That’s right. Hunting lodge. Villandry is known for its gardens and has quite a Beauty and the Beast facade.
|This “little” guy was just sitting in the middle of a town. No big deal. #europe|
|Castles have gift shops|
|The outside of Chambord Castle|
|Naw (they were doing restoration there on the top boo)|
|See? Very Beauty and the Beast|
|Try getting your car down there (they do, honestly)|
We wandered around this little town for a while and I admired how European-y everything looks. I wanted to go down every single teensy alleyway and take pictures of the ancient windows and doors.
|If I’m going to be in traffic, this view is okay with me.|
We spent the night in Nice and the next day drove into Monaco. Yes, Monaco is it’s own independent country, but it’s basically the size of Jane Lew. Monaco (capital Monte Carlo) is a playground for the rich. For a country so small, it is overflowing with wealth and affluence. Everywhere I look are $100,000 cars, upscale shopping and the marina has nothing but yachts floating in the water. We circled the entire country a few times (literally) looking for a place to park and walk around, but it turns out the Monte Carlo Rolex Masters tennis tournament was going on. I could actually hear the grunts from the players as we drove by the courts. Perhaps it was Rafael Nadal I heard. Al saw Novak Djokovic riding on his bike but was too afraid to say anything to him. (Don’t worry, I didn’t know who he was either. Apparently he’s the #1 tennis player in the world. Shurg.) He saw him and looked at me and was like, “That was Novak Djokovic!!!” and I’m all….who??? But he was super excited about it.
After spending a short while running around Monaco only in the car for lack of parking, we continued due east and with, seemingly no border control, crossed into Italy.