Tag Archives: France

The Château-Going Begins

Chateau de la Roche Courbon, France

We couldn’t resist.

We had resolved that our château-going wouldn’t begin until we reached the Loire Valley, where we planned to unleash our energy, enthusiasm, and admission dollars. In that enchanted land of lavish castles, we had old favorites to return to and a lengthy list of new places to seek out.

And yet there we were, heading through the countryside in France’s Poitou-Charentes region a few hours south of the Loire Valley. All it took was a recommendation from an area resident and a glance at a glossy brochure flaunting a large, exquisite-looking castle accented with round, turreted towers and a sprawling formal garden at its feet. We were in the car faster than you can say magnifique.

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Basilica of St. Nazaire Gargoyle

Basilica of St. Nazaire Gargoyle, Carcassonne, France

Carcassonne: Thank God it’s Touristy

Carcassonne, France

“No one goes there any more. It’s too crowded.” –Yogi Berra

When did tourism become such a bad word, especially among – you know – tourists? I always find it a little strange to hear tourists complain that a place is too touristy. It sounds a bit like golfers complaining that the fairway is unnatural.

Of course it’s touristy, you’re here to tour the place aren’t you?

It’s also hard to miss the underlying snobbery that implies “things were so much better before all of THESE people arrived.” The delicious irony is that those people are thinking the same thing about us. While we may see ourselves as sophisticated travelers, to everyone else we’re just another lowly tourist taking up space. 

That’s not to say there aren’t legitimate complaints. Mass tourism does have the capacity to homogenize a place. And none of us enjoy fighting our way through crowds. Certainly we’d all prefer to have the world’s most amazing destinations to ourselves. But that begs a somewhat philosophical question: if nobody visited these popular places, would they still exist?

Sometimes the answer is no.

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Why France is better than Texas

A seven hour drive across the windswept nothingness of West Texas got me thinking. Not so much about Texas, but about a far away place that always leaves me a bit awestruck: France.

Long ago, on our very first trip overseas, we spent two weeks in France; moving from Paris, to Burgundy to the Loire Valley. I left that trip convinced I could spend another two years traveling the country without ever needing to visit the same place twice. There’s Normandy in the North, the Rivera in the South, Bordeaux in the West and Strasbourg in the East. Normally that would be enough for any area to claim tourism bragging rights, but in the middle of all that greatness France layers in castles, quaint towns, beautiful cities, historic vineyards, and majestic mountains. The diversity of the country is overwhelming.

Then there is Texas. Read More…

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