France, the Undiscovered Country
Updated: Sep 17, 2018
France has been a country that we've visited many times, mostly to Paris and few points beyond the city. This time we decided to expand our explorations to include places like Aix-en-Provence, Lyon, Champagne, Marseille, and points in-between with two friends. At the time a quote came to mind: “I have found out that there ain’t no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them than to travel with them.” — Mark Twain
No truer words have ever been spoken, and it turned out that my friends were a delight to travel with. Rather than have us hold their hands, they researched areas we were going to, and provided suggestions of places to go, and sights to see. This is a true travel group, where the onus is not just on one person or couple playing tour guides.
Now, first and foremost, my wife loves champagne. It's her absolute favorite drink and it was her dream was to drink champagne in Champagne, France! To do this, we went to Expedia, and found a tour that helped her to accomplish her dream. This is the Champagne Tour we selected from Viator. From Paris, we caught a train to Reims, the average travel time is approximately 90 minutes. Here is a link which explains how we booked our train. This tour delivered on its promise, and our guide was quite knowledgeable about the region and its history.
Pictures of the lavender fields near Aix-en-Provence, do not do it justice. You have to be there, to immerse yourself fully within those rows of lavender, which seem to stretch on forever. And the scent, c'est magnifique!
In Lyon, we only had a few hours to explore, so again, my wife had the most brilliant idea. She found a company that lets us rent for about a couple of hours, a mini vehicle, which seats two people in tandem. We are given a tablet, which is mounted on the windshield, which directs us in the direction we need to go. We did this tour in 2017, and I'm not sure if they are still offering this service. There are other companies offering a similar service, which can be found on either Viator or Expedia. Just an FYI, once you leave the train, there is a luggage locker at the station where you can store your luggage while you go out and explore.
While in Lyon, we had stopped to briefly look around and get our bearings. Our guide, who was with us for part of the trip, asked us if we'd seen the mural. I'm looking all around, and all I see are buildings. He has to point it out, and I am floored! The mural takes up the whole side of a building. The realism, the perspective, the coloring, all give the illusion that it is an actual building. To me, this was a highlight of the tour. I could have stayed longer just examining the minutiae of the artwork.
Both of these photos are of the mural in Lyon, France. It is a flat, 2-dimensional representation of buildings and people, but rendered in such a way that it brilliantly mimics a 3-dimensional structure. The attention to detail with the people, the stairs, vehicles, all are shown in perfect detail, depending on how far away they are supposed to be from the viewer.
The final leg of our journey was from Lyon to Marseilles. Marseilles is located in the south east corner of France. It terminates at the Mediterranean Sea. The journey by train took just a tad over 3 hours. Marseilles is the second largest city in France, whereas Paris is the largest city by population. There is quite a bit of cultural diversity here, as well as excellent dining opportunities.
We arrived in Marseilles in the evening, and we went exploring this port city. We were getting a bit famished, and happened upon the Restaurant Elyssa. They were about to close, but the owner's daughter said that she would seat us, and we're glad she did. The meal was superb!
Marseilles was the culmination of a wonderful exploration beyond just seeing Paris. Each place had its own unique vibe to it. The people, the food, the architecture, all were unique to each area that we experienced. Until next time, keep traveling.