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France, 2012

In April–May 2012 my wife and I went on a 10th anniversary trip to France. It was a lovely trip, even though it rained every day we were in Paris. Most of these photos are from a side trip to the Loire valley, where it was wonderfully sunny. As soon as we returned to Paris it started raining again, but I managed to get a few photos nevertheless.

These photos were taken with my latest camera, an Olympus E-PL2. Lovely little camera, tiny and light but very high quality. I like it much better than my previous camera, a Panasonic DMC-FZ50.

The "original" photos linked to in this set are reduced size, in fact, so contact me if you want a true original.
We rented a car in the Loire and drove around to chateaux and wineries and such. The first chateau we visited was Chambord, which was really cool architecturally but was a bit thin in the interior decor department. There was a huge flea market going on outside the chateau, seen in the first photo. These photos don't do justice to how gorgeous the exterior is.
Driving to Amboise
River and countryside views on the way to the town where we stayed the night, Amboise (final photo). We didn't spend much time exploring Amboise; it seemed perfectly nice, but we had bigger fish to fry. Those yellow flowers were in full bloom absolutely everywhere; the countryside was a golden tapestry.
After we checked in to our lodging in Amboise, we drove to the meet-up spot for an evening balloon ride. This was the first balloon ride for both of us; it was absolutely amazing, and great fun. We will do it again some day! At the end we celebrated with the traditional champagne (some people had orange juice, inexplicably).
The next morning we zipped off to Chenonceau, bright and early to beat the crowd (with moderate success, but it was still a mob scene). This was by far our favorite chateau; astounding exterior, astounding interior, well-maintained and well-run, gorgeous and extensive grounds. If you see only one chateau in the Loire, make it this one.
Driving to Chinon
After Chenonceau we drove to Chinon, where we stayed our second night. We had spent so much time at Chenonceau that it was already mid-afternoon, and after stopping at some wineries along the way, and taking scenic roads around the countryside, it was getting late when we arrived. We walked around on side streets winding up onto the hillside, but it was too late in the day to get into the castle.
The next morning we drove to a third chateau, d'Azay-le-Rideau. The first three photos are walking from where we parked the car to the chateau; it was a lovely little town. The chateau was very beautiful from the outside, with well-kept gardens in front and a big reflecting pool around the back. The interior was unimpressive, however. Still, it was a nice way to finish up. After this we returned the rental car and took the train back to rainy Paris.
The end of our visit had the only days when it wasn't absolutely pouring in Paris, so I stole a few overcast and not-very-good photos of the usual tourist spots. Near the end are two photos from our dinner at Jules Verne, inside the Eiffel tower; quite expensive, but excellent, and you can't beat the view. Then we finished up with a final stroll through the city, with night shots of the tower and Notre Dame.

These images copyright © 2012 Ben Haller. All rights reserved.