Travel

Travel Series: On Driving Through France

After our week in Italy, we had two nights in Nice which we used to do absolutely nothing.  These were vital days in our itinerary, and although it meant sacrificing some sightseeing around the Cote d’Azur (which we will revisit another time), we needed the down-time more.  We did boring things like laundry, grocery shopping for the next few days and repacking the suitcases.  We also spent lots of time relaxing in the rooftop pool which had a pretty amazing view over Nice.

Rested and relaxed, we picked up the hire car from downtown Nice and began our road trip journey.  We opted not to get a GPS and instead, purchased a France Road Map (Atlas Routier & Touristique) and together with more specific Google maps directions we had printed, we were set.  Adam loved being the driver and I loved being the navigator.  If time allowed, we would take tiny little country roads instead of the highway to get to each destination.  One day we spent the whole day ‘getting lost’ in Burgundy.  It felt like a real adventure, discovering each village as we came across it.  Having our own car was brilliant as it meant we had the freedom to travel where we wanted, when we wanted and to stop for a roadside picnic whenever we felt the urge.

I’ll talk about these destinations in more details next week, but our driving itinerary was:
Nice -> Moustiers Sainte Marie -> Chamonix Mont Blanc -> Beaune -> Vezelay -> (via Versailles to) Honfleur -> Villers Bretonneaux -> Amiens

Nice, France | brownpaperbelle.comNice, France | brownpaperbelle.comDriving Through France |brownpaperbelle.comRoad Trip Through France With Toddler | brownpaperbelle.comDriving Through France | brownpaperbelle.comDriving Through France | brownpaperbelle.comDriving Through France | brownpaperbelle.comRoadside Picnic France | brownpaperbelle.comDriving Through France | brownpaperbelle.comDriving Through France | brownpaperbelle.comDriving Through France | brownpaperbelle.comRoadside Picnic, Normandy | brownpaperbelle.com

Travel Series: Cinque Terre

Before we left for our holiday, I was a little nervous that our itinerary was too ambitious and we might not have a chance to experience each destination as we would be too exhausted upon arrival.  I had managed to squeeze in just one night staying in Cinque Terre, at the beautiful Hotel Pasquale, in Monterosso al Mare, the most northern of the five seaside towns.  I’m happy to say that my hesitation was unfounded, even with only 24 hours in this incredible corner of the earth, we were able to make the most of our time – taking in the landscapes, the ocean and the character of each of the towns.  Unfortunately the walks between each town are still out of action due to the terrible flooding and subsequent landslides the region experienced in 2011, but we were able to make the most of the {very convenient} rail system.

24 Hours in Cinque Terre:
*Catching the train to each of the seaside towns {Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore} and hopping off each time for a wander and an explore.
*Stopping in Venazza for a picnic lunch of pizza, peroni and red wine {from Bar Merengoni Simona Baia Saraceno} looking out onto the sparkling mediterranean and basking in the sun.
*The most amazing hazlenut chocolate gelato from Gelateria Vernazza.
*A dinner of incredibly fresh seafood {including a fish soup that was completely mind blowing} at Trattoria Locanda Il Porticciolo in Manarola.  Also where Jack ordered a big boy meal for the very first time.
*A gorgeous moonlit walk home along the boardwalk to our hotel.
*A sneaky red wine on our terrace once Jack had gone to sleep, making the most of the full moon and the sea air.

{For more posts detailing our Italian / French adventure, make your way to the Travel menu}

Hotel Pasquale, Monterosso | brownpaperbelle.comMonterosso al Mare | brownpaperbelle.comMonterosso al Mare | brownpaperbelle.comVernazza | brownpaperbelle.comVernazza | brownpaperbelle.comGelateria Vernazza | brownpaperbelle.comMediterranean Sea | brownpaperbelle.comCinque Terre | brownpaperbelle.comManarola | brownpaperbelle.comMixed Seafood Grill | brownpaperbelle.comThe Best Zuppa de Pesce You'll Find | brownpaperbelle.comMonterosso al Mare | brownpaperbelle.comCinque Terra | brownpaperbelle.com

Travel Series: On Travelling With A Toddler

Since we are at the end of our travel series, I thought I would include a few things we found handy while travelling with a toddler.

Plan to fly at night time – this is something I read before we left, but didn’t understand why until we had a daytime 13 hour flight.  13 hours is a LONG time to entertain an awake 18 month old.  If you are flying at night, it is more likely that they will sleep for at least a portion of the time {in theory}.

We found having a roll of duct tape on the plane very handy for taping up a cloth to shield sleeping baby’s eyes from bright lights or very friendly flight attendants playing peek-a-boo while Jack was trying to get to sleep.

I found it helpful to plan ahead with Jack’s food.  Maybe {ok probably} I am crazy, but I packed enough Weetbix {Jack’s cereal of choice} to last our month away.  I also packed around 40 fruit squeezies to have on hand just in case.  The less you have to worry about what your baby is going to eat for the day, the better.

Be flexible with what you do for the day.  And try to think of activities that are going to be fun for all of you.  Picnics are a winner.  In more ways than one.

Most importantly, while there will undoubtably be times that are like this:

Travelling with a Toddler | brownpaperbelle.com

The times you remember will be like this:
Travelling with a Toddler | brownpaperbelle.comHere are the things we couldn’t live without on our travels:

Babyzen Yoyo Stroller – So beyond good to have a stroller that fits into overhead luggage on a plane.  Really compact.  Great recline and a good sized sun shield.  So easy to flick up and fold down {see this video} Expensive, but in my opinion, totally worth it  {add the price into the cost of the holiday and it doesn’t seem as bad.

Baby Bjorn Travel Cot – Really handy travel cot.  Comfy and super easy to put up/pack down {see this video}.  It’s also quite light so we were able to strap it onto the front of our suitcase {with these straps} which meant one less thing we had to carry.

Bambinoz Travel High Chair – This foldable fabric chair was great as I would throw it in my {enormous} handbag if we were heading out for the day / evening as we found not many restaurants had high chairs in Europe.   Also good for hotel rooms with a tired and irritable baby that needs to eat dinner quickly and go to bed.

Phil & Teds Metro {8 – 18 months} – We didn’t use this on our most recent holiday, but found it to be great previously when Jack was a little smaller, and a little lighter.  We took this instead of a stroller and it was great for the tube and train travel and Jack would easily fall asleep in it.

Travelling with a Toddler | brownpaperbelle.comTravelling with a Toddler | brownpaperbelle.comBabyzen yoyo review | brownpaperbelle.comBabyzen yoyo review | brownpaperbelle.comBabyzen yoyo review | brownpaperbelle.comTravelling with a Toddler | brownpaperbelle.comTravelling with a Toddler | brownpaperbelle.com

Travel Series: Paris {is always a good idea}

The final stop on our European adventure, was Paris.  And I have an admission to make.  Last time I was in Paris, I was younger.  My parents and I had a long list of attractions to see, places to go, museums to visit.  Don’t get me wrong, I loved being there, and we had a wonderful time being introduced to the city of light.  But this time, it felt like we were returning to an old friend.  We didn’t place pressure on ourselves and we sort of let the days unfold naturally, depending on any number of things.  This time, wandering the streets and sitting by the Seine and browsing market stalls in a slow and even pace, was magical.  This time…the city truly stole my heart.

We stayed in this central and perfectly equipped apartment in the heart of Le Marais {via air bnb}.  Whilst the majority of meals were eaten from food we had gathered at the markets {our favourites being Rue Mouffetard and Rue Montorgueill} we also had some great experiences at these places:

L’Auberge Aveyronnaise – If you’re in search of a casual, family friendly bistro style restaurant with hearty and tasty food – look no further.  Incredibly friendly and helpful waiters made our experience memorable.

Blend Burgers – Actually the best burger I have ever eaten.  Take-away and have a picnic somewhere nearby if you’re not in the mood to wait over an hour for a table {although I have to say it would be worth the wait}.

Le Bistro Le Verre Vole – Upon recommendation from a friend of a friend, we had a great Saturday night at this tiny wine shop that doubles as a restaurant.  A bonus for us was that Mum & Dad babysat Jack for the night so we were baby free.

La Conserverie – An uber cool bar with delicious and inventive cocktails and very friendly staff.  Another sans baby affair for us!

Ladurée – Needs no introduction I know, but this store is beyond perfection.  And the macaroons aren’t bad either.

It is difficult to narrow down, but the absolute highlights beyond highlights of our week in Paris were:
*The food & the wine.  Shopping at the markets {using our most basic French} and returning to our apartment where Dad would cook up a storm.  Incredible cheeses and meats and fresh produce.  Although the Andouilette sausage would have to be the anti-highlight of the trip.  And if it’s ok with you, I’d rather not talk about it {but if you’re intrigued, you can read about it here}.
*Spending the morning browsing the forgotten treasures at the Place d’Aligre Flea Market {which I’ve written about before, here}
*A picnic of takeaway pizza and red wine with the most incredible view of the Eiffel Tower {Inspired by this post from Oh Happy Day!}
*Meandering through the covered ‘secret’ passageways of Paris on a drizzly Sunday afternoon and peering through the glass of the stores as all of them were closed
*Catching up with very dear friends {who we miss SO much} who made their way over on the train from London for the weekend.  A treasured reunion.

Paris | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.comParis | brownpaperbelle.com

Travel Series: Anzac Dawn Service, Villers-Bretonneux

When we were in the early stages of planning our holiday and realised we would be away on Anzac day, we decided to work our itinerary to include our attendance at the dawn service at Villers-Bretonneux, in the heart of the Somme where much of the World War I action took place.  I’ve spoken about it before (here), but I’ve always felt compelled to attend the Anzac Dawn service on April 25th – as a very small and personal mark of respect for those men and woman who have lost their lives in battle.  Departing our shuttle bus in the dark, walking the road in silence with over 4,000 other pilgrams, to arrive at the Australian War Memorial in Villers-Bretonneux was a solemn and humbling experience and one not easily forgotten.

Afterwards, following a {much needed} mid-morning nap, we meandered our way through the surrounding countryside – stopping at each of the different armies’ memorials, each with their rows of graves nestled between farmers’ fields.  We visited a {very informative} museum which had been built into the underground tunnels of the town of Albert – and displayed incredibly lifelike scenes of life in the trenches.  Because of these experiences – the service, the memorials, reading the headstones of the unknown soldiers, the museums – I now hold a much more in depth understanding of world war one and the immeasurable loss of life that occurred.  All of those sons, husbands, fathers, brothers – young, strong, men in the prime of their lives .  I’m not sure I’ll ever fully understand the reasons for war, or comprehend the value of these battles, but my respect for those lost, those wounded and those left behind has grown stronger still.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.  Lest We Forget.”

Villers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.comVillers Bretonneux, France | brownpaperbelle.com

Travel Series: Honfleur, Normandy

I was very happy when I worked out that we would be able to squeeze in a short visit to the Palace of Versailles on our drive from Vezelay to Honfleur.  We had a grizzly, teething toddler and were ourselves the kind of hungry that puts you in a mood where everything seems like a challenge – so we opted not to do the Palace or Garden tour.  But I’m glad we stopped in, as it was a sort-of preview for the day we {hopefully} return and make the time to take a tour of the Palace and the grounds.  Opulence at its finest.

Before too long, we were back en route to Honfleur, Normandy.  We drove into the town, a tiny sea port in the North of France which is centred around a beautiful harbour.  With its tall, slate tiled buildings housed on three sides – and the gilded carousel shimmering in the afternoon light – it was a sight to behold.  After getting lost and having to ask some {very friendly} local teens for directions and a slight miscommunication with our accommodation regarding our check in time, we were very pleased to arrive at Armonui’s Cottage – a warm and cosy and very well appointed apartment in the centre of town and with a great English speaking host who lived in the apartment upstairs and was able to answer any number of questions about local history, restaurants and attractions.  Very handy indeed.   We loved wandering around the cobblestone streets, peering into brocante stores and seeing their wares.  We visited the church, The Church of Saint Catherine, built by the sailors who returned from sea, which resulted in a ceiling that resembles that of an upturned ship hull.  Quite spectacular.  There were art and clothing boutiques and seafood restaurants that seemed to be hidden in every winding street.  An enchanting town to explore and one of the surprise highlights of the trip.

Versailles | brownpaperbelle.comVersailles | brownpaperbelle.comVersailles | brownpaperbelle.comHonfleur, Normandy | brownpaperbelle.comHonfleur, Normandy | brownpaperbelle.comHonfleur, Normandy | brownpaperbelle.comHonfleur, Normandy | brownpaperbelle.comHonfleur, Normandy | brownpaperbelle.comHonfleur, Normandy | brownpaperbelle.comHonfleur, Normandy | brownpaperbelle.comNormandy | brownpaperbelle.com

Travel Series: Beaune

After leaving Chamonix, we had a long and drizzly {but beautiful} drive to the deep-burgundy town of Beaune.  Referred to as the ‘wine capital’ of the Burgundy region, when a waiter greeted us at our table she asked if we would like still or sparkling water with dinner and then laughed saying ‘In Beaune we drink no water, only wine’.  And we tried some delicious wines, mostly Pinot Noir.  Next time we visit, we will stay in L’Hotel – it looked absolutely gorgeous – we drove in by accident thinking it was where we had booked and the staff were so helpful directing us to our {not nearly as glamorous} accommodation.  The Saturday morning fine food markets in Beaune were something quite special to experience.  The regional cheeses, meats and produce all on show and displayed beautifully in their stalls.  With my very limited French, I was able to gesture my way through ordering a little bit of this and that, with the stall owners and I laughing at the fact we had no idea what each other were saying.  I could have spent hours people watching – seeing the locals ask questions and then tasting, prodding and testing the produce, before they were satisfied in making their purchase.

Beaune | brownpaperbelle.com
Beaune, France | brownpaperbelle.com
Beaune | brownpaperbelle.com
Flowers of Beaune, France | brownpaperbelle.com
Oh My Creme Brûlée | brownpaperbelle.com
Sausage Heaven, Beaune | brownpaperbelle.com

Saturday Food Markets, Beaune, France | brownpaperbelle.com