I promised the kids a break from castles and I have lived up to that promise. In order to avoid more towers and moats and ramparts and winding staircases and royal gardens, we have traveled further back in time. About 2,000 years to be exact. When the Roman Empire extended into Gaul, or what is now current-day France.
I can finally say with a great deal of confidence that we have finished the castle-touring portion of our trip. We’ve seen furnished castles, partially completed castles, enormous castles, tiny castles and castles in ruins. Gallo-Roman castles, medieval castles, Cathar castles, Renaissance castles and strange neo-Gothic castles.
Here’s the deal. If you love medieval art and architecture, or just love really old things, you’d love this trip. If not, you might still love the landscape, the wine and the food. And then, there’s always chocolate. Tons of it, literally. Like in the store below (yes, those are huge slabs of chocolate).
Medieval. Medieval. Medieval. Everywhere we go we are surrounded by very old stuff. I love it. It makes me happy. I’ve dragged my husband and the girls all over the southwest region of France in order to soak in these small pearls of art and architecture and there’s still so much more to see! I am driving them nuts, but it’s worth the insanity to see these beautiful sights.
After two weeks of visiting castles and the sea, we made our way to Toulouse in the southwest of France. Toulouse is the country’s fourth largest city and the center of France’s aeronautic industry. And if you’re an art history lover like me, the region is a treasure trove of medieval masterpieces.
Yesterday afternoon I abandoned Papa and the girls at the beach so I could enjoy part of the afternoon at a café overlooking the sea. Before leaving them to bother their dad and fight with each other, however, I witnessed Chloe and Sophie jump off the harbor pier into the ocean, fervently hoping that (1) they wouldn’t get hurt and (2) we wouldn’t get yelled at for doing it. Fortunately, they both survived and we didn’t get arrested.
We made Sophie miserable yesterday. Not intentionally, of course. We meant well.
After a morning at the small town square where there is a modest daily market during the summer (with a beautiful produce stand nonetheless) and a lunch consisting of some of the food we had such a hard time choosing at the hypermarket, we set out on an adventure with the bikes we’ve rented for our stay on Île-de-Ré.
We left the land of castles and kings, and arrived on Île-de-Ré this afternoon for a week of bicycle-riding, ocean-going and relaxation. And although the drive itself was quick and uneventful, getting to our final destination, however, was a little more stressful than expected.
We had to overcome a huge challenge these last two days while on our castle marathon. France is very expensive. Meals at restaurants, even for lunch, cost at least $50-$60 for a family of four and that’s without alcohol. So we’ve tried very hard to mitigate the damage to our travel budget by taking advantage of the beautiful weather and gorgeous scenery to enjoy picnic lunches where we can.
The castles are everywhere. Like weeds, they crop up along the Loire River every few miles. Each one more spectacular than the last because successive kings had to outdo their predecessors, their queens had to outdo their predecessors and in some cases, the kings’ mistresses had to outdo their queens.