I’m supposed to be traveling around France right now, but because of the pandemic, it’s been postponed. But lucky for you, I still have some awesome France content for you!
I was planning my trip to France because one of my brothers was studying abroad in Nantes, and I was going to visit him when he finished his semester so we could travel around. The rest of my family visited him earlier in the semester before the pandemic happened, so they’re sharing their awesome trip with you guys! This guest post on one week in France visiting places from Paris to La Rochelle was written by my younger sister Elena with photos by my mom, who you might remember teamed up for a post on a week in Bavaria! So enjoy this post from Elena and my family’s itinerary for one week in France 🙂
One week in France
First days in Paris
This past February, before the pandemic, we were able to travel to France to visit my brother who was studying abroad in Nantes, about 2 hours west of Paris. Since we flew in and out of Paris, we spent some time there when we first arrived. Unfortunately, our trip was off to a rough start when my dad’s wallet was stolen at the airport, and our hotel was overbooked and had to move us. But we tried to make the most of it and brighten our day with some sightseeing around Paris!
We enjoyed a breakfast with croissants, café au lait, crepes, fruit and eggs before walking to the train station for our trip to Versailles. Along the way we saw the Eiffel Tower. The train ride was about a half an hour. We walked to Versailles and the weather was kind of gloomy. This happened to be a day of free admission to the palace, so we tried to get an early start and miss the crowd. There was a long line, but it moved rather quickly.
The palace was enormous, gilded in gold with very extravagant décor! Mom loved some of the doorknobs. Of course, we took several pictures of the ornate rooms and infamous Hall of Mirrors. To me, it was a little disappointing and not quite as beautiful as I was expecting. The gardens were not flourishing with blooms since the weather was still cold, but we did see a few swans in the fountains and spotted a few tulips and daffodils coming up.
We headed out just as the rain started and the line was much longer at that point. After boarding the train we began to get a little hungry. We decided to walk back to the hotel and find something along the way. We found a great panini place, Au Petit Grain de Sel, with café au lait, which made our day! Mom and I split a ham and pesto sandwich and a coffee that was delicious!
We wanted to walk to Sacre Coeur, but the weather was wet and cold, with a strong gusty wind. We had to change socks, pants and shoes since we were already so wet! Even though we took the subway, we still had a lot of walking to do to reach the church.
We walked up hundreds of spiraling stairs in the subway station, not realizing that there was an elevator option. Then we had to walk up hundreds more stairs to reach Sacre Coeur. There was a concert going on inside which made it very peaceful and relaxing to sit and enjoy the beauty. The church is beautiful and set upon a hill that overlooks Paris. A definite must see!
We went back outside to take some pictures when we saw some snowflakes mixed in with the rain. Our umbrellas turned inside out from the gusts of wind. After the ride back to the hotel on the subway we stopped and got some dinner at La Truffe Noire, a local bakery- a sandwich, dessert and drink for only 6.70 euros!
Around 6:30 am we were up to get ready for our train ride to Nantes and needed to grab breakfast along the way. The hotel ended up giving us free food before we walked about 20 minutes with all of our luggage to the train station. We waited for our train to arrive and boarded.
We walked through the streets of Nantes with all of our luggage to our Airbnb. Antoine met us there to let us in and gave us many brochures and maps to help us explore Nantes.
We found a kebab place, The Kral Kebab, near the Airbnb which was really good! Next stop was the tower, which happened to be closed on Mondays. We explored the cathedrals, castle and finally made it to the Enterprise. Our car was not ready, and of course, it took a lot longer to get the car than we were told, so we were all waiting in their small lobby for a long time. Finally we headed out in a Peugot “seven seater” SUV.
A day at Mont Saint-Michel
We left by 7:15 for Mont Saint-Michel, a two and a half hour drive from Nantes. Just before we arrived we stopped for some coffee(everyone fell asleep in the car), souvenirs, and a bathroom. We parked in the lot and headed to the island when we noticed a free shuttle. It was a very cloudy cool day.
At the entrance of the monastery there were lots of shops and restaurants. We walked up hill all of the steps to reach the entrance to the monastery where we took a tour. There were amazing views along the way! The architecture was amazing and the views of the beach lovely. Mont Saint-Michel dates back to the 700s. Some of the stained glass was so colorful! Over the years it has served as a monastery, prison under Napoleon, and the Nazis also occupied the island during WWII. They conduct church services still today.
Mom spotted a restaurant on the way up, The Bar Restaurant, so we ate lunch after the tour, which was very good. We stopped into several shops to get some gifts and souvenirs. When we headed out the skies had cleared for a beautiful picture of the magical island!
Exploring La Rochelle and Nantes
Alarms went off at 6:30 am again as we set out in the rain for La Rochelle. We did a mostly driving tour of La Rochelle. It rained the entire time, just drizzling. We drove up to two “castles,” Chateau du Buzay and Chateau d’Orbigny. Our grandmother’s relatives came from La Rochelle in the 1600’s because of religious persecution. We also found out that my mom’s family was related to King Henry II who built a castle in La Rochelle, Vauclair, in the 12th century.
We stopped periodically for photo ops, and found the downtown area near the water to be picturesque. My mom wants to go back in nicer weather!
We headed back to Nantes and grabbed some lunch at the kebab place and walked to the Bretagne Tower for an awesome view of Nantes. From there we walked to St. Clemente and stopped in some little shops along the way. Dad picked us up in the car and we drove back to the Airbnb. I walked to L’ile de Versailles where we met up with my brother Dominic. The park closed shortly after we arrived, so we went to Les Anneaux de Buren where the rings light up at night along the river.
Last few days in Paris
For our last few days during our week in France, we took the train back to Paris to explore a bit more. The train ride was uneventful, more crossword puzzles and looking out the window to see the countryside of France. There were some restaurants near our hotel, so we walked to a French bistro, Le Bistrot de Paris. I had a salad and Mom had a chicken dish that she really liked.
The next day we arranged through our hotel for a driver to take our party of seven around Paris so that we could see all of the sites more efficiently. Ali took us to the bottom of Sacre Coeur so that Mom and I could take pictures. Next we drove to the Arc De Triumphe, where we all got out to take photos. We also stopped at Tiffany’s on the Champs Elysee. It was three stories tall with beautiful décor. Next up was our reservation at the Eiffel Tower at 12:30!
We took a few pictures outside first ~ and after we three separate security checks, we rode the elevator to the top. We took pictures from the view up top and made our way back down for more pictures, but not without a stop in the souvenir shop first!
After piling back into the car we headed to the Musee d’Orsay. We all enjoyed the walk through the museum, which is an old train station. It was filled with Renoir, Monet and Degas works of art, just what we most enjoy! It was a small enough venue to not feel overwhelmed.
Julia had told us about the Stohrer Boulangerie, which is the oldest bakery in Paris. We had to stop in for a little something since we were all getting hungry! It was on a very narrow busy cobblestone street and did not disappoint! Mom and I got an amazing chocolate croissant which we happily ate as Ali drove us to see Sainte Chapelle. Along the way we saw sad Notre Dame which is still being repaired from the first damage.
Our last stop was a tour of Saint Chapelle which was magnificent! Over half of the wall was covered in ornate colorful stained glass windows. It is no longer used as a place of worship, but is a museum instead. It was truly spectacular!
On the drive back to our hotel the driver made sure that we saw the Pantheon and Jardin de Luxemburg.
After our last few days in Paris, we headed home! Our one week in France was packed with awesome (if not a bit rainy) sights, and we can’t wait to go back when the weather is a little nicer! 🙂