Every night as we go to sleep and remember the day, it amazes us that where we woke up this morning was really the same day. Each day feels like a week.
Orleans ended up being a cute little town bordering on a city. It was clean and full of shops and such, but we didn’t spend much time in it, eager as we were to hit the French countryside, which I’ve romanticized as full of people who look like Jean Luc Picard, ride bicycles with strapped on baguettes down birch-lined roads and full of cows and sheep that bleat in French. Fortunately, I merely underestimated how beautiful it is.
First though, some things we enjoyed about Orleans.
- We saw another green wall, which I take as a sign that I must see through my project and create one. It was actually just a green column set up in the square to demonstrate how vertical gardens can be created, but still. It included a solar-powered pump to circulate the water.
- I found more street art, created in the same style as that I saw in Paris: papered on to the wall and then painted over that. There were two pieces, both right across from the room we stayed in.
- The cathedral was just stunning. Huge, begun in the 1200’s and completed in the 1600’s, it absolutely left you in awe of its immensity and grandeur. It was completely open and unattended, so it felt very personal being able to wander through it.
Later than we’d hoped, we set sail for the French countryside. Oh, and a what a countryside it was!
The countryside itself is everything I’d imagined: pastoral scenes of rolling hills of vineyards and pastures, centuries old farmhouses and barns, trees and green. What sets it apart from Eastern Washington or New England, though, is that every 10 km or so, you roll through a village that has been there for centuries, mostly still the same old buildings. It quickly becomes passe to see turretted walls left over from feudal times, as an hours drive will bring you by a half dozen of these. Chateaux with moats, booooring. Ancient abbeys and cathedrals with bells ringing in the hours by the fistful.
The cool thing is that it seemingly never gets tired. Each one we went through, we’d oo and aah and jump out of the car and walk around and snap pictures and stop and have a snack and gander and gawk.
We spent last night in the hilltop town of Vezelay, pop. 491, and woke to a dense fog. Exploring the towns of the Loire, Burgundy and the Cote D’Or today in a gradually thinning fog was quite a treat. In some ways, of course, we wish we could have seen to the horizon, but the mist gave the whole day a timeless, otherwordly feeling.
We especially enjoyed Flavigny-sur-Ozerain (where Chocolat was filmed) another tiny, medieval hilltop town and Sully-sur-Loire, a fairy-tale like moated chateau. Mostly, though, we loved just watching the scenery flow by, and stopping every once in a while to walk around, eat some food (we did some grocery shopping) and be amazed.
The GPS has turned out to be a Godsend. We tell it where we want to go, and it gets us there. No futzing with maps or worrying if we’re going to miss turns. It’s pretty much dead-on in estimating time, too.
Tomorrow, we’re heading to Lyon and hopefully more couchsurfing.