August 18, 2023: The third trip for 2023 is… a France Encore! We will live la vie française in Collioure before exploring Marseille and the Alsace. And while we are in the area, we will see the Italian Piedmont and Geneva too!
The France Encore 2023
Why “The France Encore?” We so enjoyed The French Trip in 2022 that we decided we should return! We will revisit old favorites and explore some new places as well.
Tomorrow we start our “France Encore” with a short stop in Lyon before the long drive to Collioure, on the southwest coast near the Spanish border. In Collioure we will live like a local for a few weeks, swimming and going to the daily market. Then we are off to explore the Old Port of Marseille and the Verdon Gorge in France.
The last leg of the “French Encore” is all about wine! We will slip across the border to the Italian Piedmont for Barolo wine, then turn north. After a quick stop in expensive Geneva (we missed it in our 2022 “Swiss Trip“), we revisit French Colmar and the surrounding wine villages. We will finish in Dijon, in the French Burgundy region. Whew!
I’ve included a bit about each stop below.
Ah, Lyon, the real foodie capital of France. It is far lest touristed – and less expensive – than Paris. We have only an overnight stay this trip, We but hope to enjoy dinner at one of the wonderful little buchons.
We briefly visited the small French town of Collioure in 2022. It was wonderful: great Mediterranean swimming, good running, an extensive farmers’ market, and friendly locals. We quickly decided it was worth an extended stay this year.
Collioure is closer to Barcelona (~2.5 hours) than any sizable French city. Spanish and Catalan are spoken nearly as much as French in this little corner of the Mediterranean.
The Greeks founded Marseille in ~600 B.C., making it France’s oldest city. The Vieux Port (“Old Port”) is at the heart of the city; it has been an important trade hub for centuries. Marseille is also France’s second largest city, with a large immigrant population of Italians, North Africans, Turks, Romanian and Polish. This ethnic melting pot creates a unique culture (and cuisine), different than any other in France.
The Verdon Gorge
The Gorges du Verdon was created over hundreds of thousands of years as the Verdon River carved a deep channel through limestone cliffs to create one of the largest canyons in Europe. The Verdon River is a brilliant aquamarine due to mineral content. We are planning a hike and swim along the lower gorge.
The Italian Piedmont
The Piedmont (pronounced “Pee-ah-MON-tay” in Italian) produces Barolo and Barbaresco wines, famous for their complexity and flavor. Truffles are also found here; it is no wonder this is where the “slow food” movement started!
The city is the world’s center of international diplomacy. The original League of Nations was based here, and it is currently home to the Red Cross, WHO, UNICEF, WTO, CERN, Doctors without Borders, UNHCR, and nearly 30 other organizations.
Alsace is a rich agricultural area between the French Vosges Mountains and the Rhine River. The region has long been coveted by both the French and Germans. Germany, of course, considered the mountains the natural border, while the French saw the Rhine as the dividing line. Bloody conflicts have shifted that border many times over the last 1000 years.
Alsace produces excellent trocken (German for “dry”) Rieslings and fragrant Gewürztraminer wines. Nearly 30 small villages dot the Alsace Wine Route. We will bike to at least a few from our stay in Colmar!
We will wrap “The France Encore” in Dijon. During the 14th and 15th centuries, Dijon was the seat for the Dukes of Burgundy, who controlled much of what is now northeaster France, western Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. Dijon’s old town, with it’s medieval architecture, is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The city is famous, of course, for Dijon mustard! It is also the heart of Burgundy wine region, home to world-class reds (Pinot Noir) and whites (chardonnay). No surprise then that the most renowned dish is beef bourguignon (beef in red wine).
Below is our planned route, which you can view and add as a layer in your own Google Maps. We will again lease a car in France – its cheaper and better insured than a rental! Thanks to Rick Steves for this tip.
If you are considering a similar trip, the Itinerary PDF below provides details, including history and sights for each stop.
I will post Travel Bytes when I get a breather!