My Vacation: Learning French in the Loire Valley
Margo Millure is the publisher and editor of The Travel Belles, an online magazine about travel for women. She lives in Myrtle Beach, S.C., with her husband and two teenage daughters. Last fall, she set out by herself to explore the Loire Valley region of France. She shared this report.
Best moment (above): I had stopped my rental car on a small road on the outskirts of Sancerre, France, to take some pictures. A random fighter jet flew overhead, breaking the silence. Without meaning to sound corny, it was the first time I felt the exhilarating touch of magic that can accompany traveling solo.
What I learned: How to speak French a little better at Coeur de France Ecole de Langues, a French immersion language school in the famous wine-producing town of Sancerre.
Best meal: Food wise, it's hard to say, but my most favorite meal was shared with my hosts at Le Clos de la Chesneraie, a small inn near Chenonceau. It was my last night, and they were very patient with my French, which had gotten a lot better but was still far, far from perfect.
Most fun: Touring the area around Sancerre by small plane at sunset with several other students and Gerard, one of the owners of the language school, who is also a pilot.
Best tip: Instead of feeling the need to visit as many of the chateaus as possible, pick two or three and spend more time exploring each one.
Other trip highlights:
Above: The Sunday morning market at Amboise is a feast for the eyes. I spent all morning wandering around taking pictures.
Above: I loved Le Clos de la Chesneraie, the small inn where I stayed on the last few days of my trip. Besides being close to the two chateaus I was planning to visit, the property itself felt quintessentially French, and the proprietors were charming.
Above: I went to Chateau de Chenonceau years ago and always knew I'd come back someday. I'd done some reading about it before my trip and ended up spending six whole hours there, imagining history coming to life.
Above: A ham and goat cheese salad seemed to be on every lunch menu in Sancerre. When I got home, I wished I had eaten more of them.
Above: By small plane, it was easy to appreciate Sancerre's high position next to the Loire River.