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Published: July 29th 2013
Start of a Long Road Trip
Today we would spend no time on long boring highways. The closest we got to that was this 4 lane road leaving Guerande. All day long we were blessed with very little traffic. Unlike Americans, Europeans don't go out joyriding on a Sunday. Instead they like to take long walks. (Note that my GPS was still not working. I could only charge it in my hotel room. The cigarette lighter in our rental car was kaput).
Since checking into this wonderful little hotel the very attentive hosts had asked us on numerous occasions whether we wanted to take breakfast in the morning (for an extra charge). We kept telling them "no, merci", but they just smiled and said we could change our mind in the morning. We didn't. At this point in our journey I had decided we were getting maybe a little too crazy with our money. Close to $40 for breakfast seemed a little insane at this juncture. Right around the corner was the Carrefours mini-market where we were able to assemble our own moveable feast for less than $20.
Loading the car was once again a puzzle worthy of its own TV reality series. No longer was I concerned about damaging items in the suitcases when I slammed the rear hatch. Now I feared I'd pop out the whole rear window. Next time we rent a camper for the 4 of us.
Out on the open road we ate as we drove through a rather unique ground-hugging fog. Looking up the skies were totally clear and blue, but straight ahead of us was a soupy mist. As we drove further inland that
Pretty Obvious Why a Town Grew Here
Our in-car GPS indicated we were nearing our first village on our list: Sainte-Suzanne. We were powering-up my dashboard Garmin for just a few minutes at a time in order to see the extensive itinerary I had drawn-up in advance. By doing that we could note exactly where we needed to go next and program that into the in-car unit that was functioning properly. Coming around the bend from a lackluster half farm/half industrial town we saw this promontory ahead of us. In an area of flat farmland the town of Sainte-Suzanne rose high on an easily defendable hilltop. No doubt the local baron took this land for his castle while his serfs labored in the fields below.
quickly dissipated. Our route was toward the highly recommended touristic region labeled "Les Beaux Villages de France" (http://tinyurl.com/lohpufs
). This was another late addition to the itinerary. The travelogues I had read online praising this area of France was geared primarily toward summer travel with vivid descriptions of the lovely flowers, smells from the apple orchards and the glorious sunsets, but I figured we could still make this route work for us. As it turned out we probably chose the worst time of the year and worst day of the week to explore this fascinating region. Everything, and I mean everything
, was closed. Had it actually been in season here we could've spent a whole week just looking around at all the old fortresses, castles, chateaus and rolling landscapes. Not to mention all the shopping we might have done (there's always a positive). This area has now been officially added to the "We-Gotta-Come-Back-Again list". Actually, our retirement Grand Tour of Europe may require close to a month to see all the stuff I need to really reconnoitre in Western France. Because of everything being shuttered for the off-season there were no other tourists out on the road to impede our progress.
Castle Walls Defending an Important Crossroads
The road signs indicate that Sainte-Suzanne was right in the center of the road linking Normandy and Brittany. Those high walls of the castle have an interesting history: this town was the only village in western France to successfully ward off attacks from William the Conqueror. After conquering England he returned to Normandy and proceeded to add to his holdings on the Continent. For four years he built a huge military camp on the site of earlier Roman fortifications. But try as he might he was unable to take the town.
We ended-up doing 235 miles simply cruising through beautiful country on twisting, thrilling rural roads. For the first time we had sunshine all day. However, the temperature seemed to drop toward more Winter-like conditions the further inland we drove.
Our hotel for the night: http://www.hotel-lecanter.fr/
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