Sometime in 1989, I came home from work and Susan told me she thought we should go to France, something she had wanted to do since she was a little girl. I was working for Unisys at the time, and was allowed three weeks vacation each year. For some reason, the vacation year started on April 1. By careful planning, I could take my three weeks for 1989 at the end of March 1990, and my three weeks for 1990 at the beginning of April. This circumstance allowed us to plan a six-week trip, from early March to late April.
Chris was almost 10 years old, in fifth grade, and we made arrangements for her to be out of school, with the understanding that she would do some kind of project to demonstrate the benefit of exposure to a foreign culture. She had been taking French lessons for some time.
At that time, it was possible to fly from the U.S. into Bordeaux and out of Nantes (now you must go through Paris). Susan researched the renting of gites (typically farmhouses converted to self-catering rentals). Allowing for a few days in Bordeaux and Nantes, we rented five gites to use as bases for day trips, in five regions of France. Susan also assembled a planning book to ensure we had something to see or somewhere to go every day of the trip. This sort of trip planning has since become something of a tradition in our family.
We also leased a car from Europcar, because it was cheaper than renting a car for that period. This meant that we had to buy the car ahead of time, pick it up at Bordeaux airport, and sell it at Nantes airport. Since the car was brand new, we also had to take it to a garage for scheduled maintenance.
I will describe the parts of the trip in separate posts, but (spoiler alert!) this was our first overseas trip, and was a resounding success. We all took journal books, and resolved to record something every day. None of us managed that goal, but we all wrote something occasionally.
About a year after the trip, I transcribed my journal into my computer, adding whatever memories the journal entries triggered. I found this a very pleasant and useful exercise, and would recommend everyone to try it. Unfortunately, I’ve never had the discipline to do so as extensively as I did on this trip.
In the posts that follow, I am relying primarily on the entries from my two journals, augmented by Chris’s and Susan’s. The posts are dated as the entries in my primary journal, and the sources of the content are identified in bold with the name of the journal: Mike1, Mike2, Chris (and Susan if possible). I’ve included the dates of the entries from my second journal in parentheses, also bold. To make it easier to navigate, I’ve included Previous/Next links in each of these posts. Here are links to the first and last stops, and each week of our journey.