|We live in strange political times. During
the past few years the entire travel and tourism industry is hurting and
those who have been traveling have been shunning France and spending our
travel dollars in other places.
The time has come for us to go about our daily lives and
enjoy all the sights our plant has to offer. New discoveries can be
rewarding. If you have never been to France, I’m suggesting that the time
has come for us to put politics aside, and treat yourself to an experience
of a lifetime.
You have no idea what you’re missing. Maybe I can paint a
picture that will persuade you. Besides, getting even with the French for
not joining the ‘coalition’ isn’t something President Bush and the coalition
members have called for; and simply put, it proves nothing. While I
disagree with France’s decision to NOT join the coalition, and do not wish
to justify their position, the simple fact is that countries change
alliances during and after conflicts all the time, and history has shown us
time and time again that diplomacy shifts back and forth.
Consumers rapping a country’s knuckles for what they did
or didn’t do politically does more harm than it does good. And while it may
make some particularly angry patriots feel better in the short term, in
reality, it does not serve the interests of the American consumer.
Many feel that American cannot and should not be burdened
with the troubles of all nations and be the world’s policeman and, and
regardless of how anyone feels – there are limits to even our formidable
resources. And let’s face it; in terms of defense and military resources,
we are arguably stretched to our limits. And consider this, who would have
thought, back in 1945 that we’d have the close and rewarding relationships
with Germany, Italy and Japan that we have today.
Dumping French wine and discarding their cheese is not
going to change anything. All you do is hurt farmers and winemakers who had
nothing to do with the decisions upsetting you and worse to hurt yourself,
and restaurants and retailers in the USA.
Of course the wine growers and cheese makers in America
might see a great opportunity here, but in the long term these kind of
artificial market forces do not best serve the consumer. Competition based
on price and quality are without question the best way to serve the consumer
and insure the consumer gets the lowest price, best quality, safe, and
reliable products possible, not politics and political score settling.
This situation is reminiscent of my youth when in the
schoolyard a boy would say to another, ‘if you don’t do that, I’ll never
speak to you again’. It really is a juvenile policy. I thought governments
were above that.
So, I suggest, it’s time we returned to France and picked
up where we left off. We should be promoting travel and tourism at home and
abroad and doing whatever we can to help get the industry back on its
feet. Think of what you are missing out of stubbornness or trying to prove
you are right and they are wrong. France has more to offer tourists than
most countries. I found that out over the years.
I first discovered France as a very young adult. I was
completely taken with this soft, gentle country of artists, gourmets and
lovely villages. I was captured by the joie de vivre, the joy of living, and
the pride of a proud and growing nation. I have not stopped visiting France
from day 1 nor did I stay away these past two years while many sunned the
country for reasons we all know. What I benefited from was the fact that
with fewer visitors I was able to see a less crowed France and a more open
group of people. But things are righting themselves again. Tourism is up and
the planes are full again. I want to tell you what there is in this amazing
country. I’m not talking of just Paris. From previous articles people know I
love Paris. But it’s the rest of the country from the Chateaus on the Loire
to the Dordogne Valley, the Perigord, Brittany, and of course the south.
There are so many places worth a holiday I hardly know where to begin. The
old idea of living in Canada during the summer and in France throughout the
winter is reappearing in my thoughts. France is my magnet. I never get tired
of the new villages I find. They give me energy.
Consider the great chateaus on the Loire Valley. They date
back 6-8 centuries, are open to the public and offer delightful architecture
and setting. The best, I think, are near Tours, the old capital. That way
you can see Versailles on your way out of Paris and the great Cathedral at
Chartres on your way south. It’s a perfect lunch stop.
You can see Chenenceau the next morning, Blois Chateau
during lunch as it’s in the city center and Amboise in the afternoon. It was
in Amboise that Da Vinci lived out his last years. His home alone is a good
reason to go there. Then, you can dine in a 19th century bistro in the
center of Tours or in the bustling Place Plumereau surrounded by
half-timbered buildings and a young and chic crowd. Even the prices are
The next day you can visit nearby Azzay-Le-Rideau to the
east and the voluptuous gardens at Villandry. No need to describe them in
detail. If you go, you will be rewarded. There are chateaus from the
Atlantic inland to Orleans, which will take you back to Paris. If you go
that way, be sure to visit the great hunting chateau at Chambord. Look for
the double spiral staircase. It was made for people going up to rendezvous
who didn’t want to be seen by people coming down. After you’ve seen Orleans,
drive north through Fontainbleau. This magnificent chateau and gardens was
once the home of Napoleon. The town has many good restaurants and a good
selection of hotels. You can make it easier on yourself by taking the small
train that takes you around the sprawling gardens for just a few dollars.
You see more and get less tired. Inside, there are rooms that will amaze
you. I return there every once in a while.
Considering the size of France, you hardly made a dent. If
you wanted to head south from Tours you can go through Poitiers on the River
Clain, where there’s a theme-park of the Future (Futuroscope), a
state-of-the-art view of futuristic environments. Then you can travel south
o to the great wine and cognac areas nearer to Bordeaux. A drive along the
coast to La Rochelle would be pleasant but once you get into that sea of
grapes between the two rivers you will understand why France supplies wine
and cognac to the world. The gentle sloping sun-filled countryside has
hundreds of vineyards. In the city of Cognac you can tour one of the many
distillers. I usually bring groups to Hennessey. Its modern and the tours,
on two sides of the Charante River, are conducted in English. It ends with a
delicious ‘tasting’. Just the smell of the simmering barrels is worth the
price of admission. There are some reasonable hotels in nearby Angouleme, a
city made famous by film animation studios. The dominant feature is the
Cathedral St-Pierre and the ramparts give you spectacular views over the
Then, it’s only a few hours to the heart of Bordeaux wine
country and the charming, medieval town of St Emilion. The interesting
monolithic church sits on chalky cliffs and the interesting winding streets
on the upper and lower town are a photographer’s delight. There are wine
shops everywhere and tasting is the thing to do. I eat lunch under the
umbrellas on the lower square. This town looks like one would expect to find
in France. It’s pure “Europe” with origins dating to the8th century.
From here you can drive east along the road to Bergerac
and along the Dordogne Valley to Sarlat. There is so much to say about this
market town with its medieval, Renaissance, and 17th century facades. It has
a section of narrow lanes with archways and ochre-colored stone town houses.
The town is protected from change and charms the visitor with its bustle
during the day and quiet at night. On Saturday the whole area from Place de
la Liberte along rue de La Republic is a market with everything you can
think of including regional pate de foie gras and walnut oil. I had no
trouble finding black truffles, mushrooms, cheeses, mushrooms, garlic and,
of course, local wines.
My great discovery here is Hotel de Selves. This modern
hotel built around a garden and heated pool, offers it all for a reasonable
price. With meeting rooms, a fireplace, patio and impeccable service it is
on my list of ‘Finds” in France.
There is no dining room except for breakfast but the staff
will make a reservation for you in the old town. I suggest Aux Delices de
Hotel de Selves at 93 av. De Selves, can be reached at 5
53 31 50 00 or by email at
You now have to choose. Do you continue south or do you
return to Paris along another route. The decision is based on how much time
you have. I will give you a route back to Paris and in my next article I’ll
steer you south and south east all the way to the Italian border.
You need time to see France and don’t be afraid to get off
the beaten track.
Near Sarlat the main highway goes north south. If you head
north you are facing Limoges that great city once famous for its china. They
are still available but not to the extent once seen. Just before Limoges,
the detour to Monignac and the famous prehistoric caves at Lascaux can be
Here the astonishing Paleolithic wall paintings will amaze
you. A guided tour can be done in under an hour year round except in
In nearby Montignac The Relais de Soleil d’Or on the main
street offers quiet rooms around a pool and an excellent dining room.
As you pass Limoges. I suggest another detour slightly
northwest to the tiny village of Oradour-sur-Glanne. Here in 1944 the
retreating German army, stopped long enough to annihilate the entire
population of over 650 people in a single afternoon. It was done as a
reprisal for the intense Resistance in the area. The town has been left, as
it was found and is now a moving shrine and memorial visited annually by
thousands. The visitor’s center is new and explains everything. It is a
moving stop, which you will never forget. Nearby is the new town that was
built after the war. Remember, when you walk through the ruins, you do it in
silence out of respect for those who died here.
The A 20 will take you back to Orleans mentioned earlier.
Don’t forget to stop at Fontainbleau and if there’s time head for Malsherbes,
the home of Josephine, after her divorce from Napoleon. It’s on the route
You will be approaching Paris from the south. When you get
settled, examine a map of France and see where you’ve been. What will amaze
you is that you just traveled through such different country and saw so many
unusual things. However, look at what you haven’t seen yet. I’ll set out a
route for your next trip.
Yes, you will be back. France is a country that draws one.
You can have a wonderful holiday no matter which route you take or how long
you spend. But the decision is yours. Enjoy what is there otherwise you’ll
be missing one of the easiest countries in the world to visit.
You can Contact Professor Arnie Greenberg at:
Over the past few years, Professor
Greenberg has traveled with groups to France, Italy, Spain, Greece,
Budapest, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague and both Sorrento and the Bay of
Naples plus most of Sicily. His tours traveled to the far reaches of the
globe including Italy and most of
China (Beijing -Hong Kong) and to Russia where his group cruised the waters
from St.Petersburg to Moscow.
"He took a group to Greece and another to northern
Russia. In Nov 07 he took a tour group to much of India and ended his tour
groups by revisiting France. He now travels with his wife and friends. They
winter in Argentina or San Miguel Mexico. His newly found spare time
is taken up with his painting and writing. "I must write every day." His
current work is a cautionary manual for would-be tour leaders.. "So
You Want To Be A Tour Leader."
Arnie now travels with friends. He continues writing
Travel articles about unusual places but often concentrates on novel
writing. Two books based on French Art will be published this year.
Keep reading his web for travel ideas. His next
novel HELLSTORM'S Folly,
will be available this fall. He now
lives in British Columbia.
www.top-travel-ideas.com or contact him directly at
(More about the writer.)