I’m behind on blogging as we settle into our year back in Paris. Still, I do want to write about our time in New Zealand (which included 2000 miles of driving!) before too much time slips by. So, first here’s a quick recap of the Princess repositioning cruise that got us there:
The Covid-19 pandemic canceled a three-week trip to New Zealand we’d planned to start in March 2020, within days of New Zealand shutting down. With the pandemic mostly behind us and New Zealand again opening, we were finally making the trip.read more
Corsica is a French island in the Mediterranean southeast of Nice and just north of Sardinia. It’s the birthplace of Napoleon I and a place of rugged beauty with a culture all its own. I wanted to visit Corsica for decades, but despite living in Paris on-and-off for years, I never made it. The time had finally arrived!
After finishing a house-and cat-sitting gig in little Thoiry, France, we flew EasyJet from Geneva to Ajaccio, Corsica, an 1h10m non-stop flight. We picked up a rent car at the Ajaccio airport and drove two and a half hours through rocky mountains to Bonifacio at the southern tip of the island, stopping a long the way to admire views and snap photos. We had nine nights in Corsica and I’d agonized over where exactly to spend our time. With all the winding roads, driving times in Corsica can be long and I didn’t want to fall into the trap of rushing around trying to see everything and being rushed everywhere. I settled on Bonifacio as one of two places to stay because it was just so dramatically beautiful. And given how many dramatically beautiful places there are in Corsica, that’s saying a lot. Wow, was I happy with my choice of Bonifacio!read more
I had to share a quick post about the charmingly pipe-happy town of Saint-Claude, France, and the nearby Trou de l’Abîme, an enchanting hiking spot in the Jura region of France. With the June weather getting a little too hot for us in the village of Thoiry where were spending a couple of weeks house-and cat-sitting, we were off for a day in the low Jura mountains searching for somewhere cool. The pipe-happy town of Saint-Claude and the nearby Trou de l’Abîme riverside hike were the perfect finds.read more
Decades ago, I was intrigued to learn it is possible to take a cable car over the Alps from Chamonix, France, to Italy. I’d wanted to make the trip ever since, but I learned that weather was a huge factor. The Aiguille du Midi (“Needle of the Midi”) is a 12,606ft mountain peak in the Mont Blanc massif. The Aiguille du Midi cable car is the highest cable car in France and the closest you can get to the summit of Mont Blanc without climbing. Weather can turn bad quickly at such high altitudes and the cable car can be halted without notice. Losing visibility is also a risk if clouds form on the mountain peaks. Even when living in Paris, a dash for the Chamonix cable car (a 6+ hour drive or multi-stage train trip) on a day forecast to be sunny just never made sense. With two summer weeks to spend house- and cat-sitting near Geneva, I realized we were only an hour and twenty minute drive away from Chamonix. My time might finally have come to visit the famous ski town and the Aiguille du Midi cable car!read more
Wanting to take full advantage of our time house- and cat-sitting in Thoiry, France, I avidly browsed local websites and scanned any tourist brochures I came across. I was excited when I discovered that Voltaire’s home-in-exile-from-Paris for 20+ years was in nearby Ferney-Voltaire, France, only 15 minutes away. I’m a fan of the famous, witty and irreverent French philospher and writer. We had to go!
Banished from Paris by Louix XV, Voltaire (né François-Marie Arouet) lived at Ferney (later Ferney-Voltaire) from 1758 to 1778. Among other well-known works, Voltaire wrote Candide at the château in Ferney in 1759.read more
I’ve known several people from Annecy, heard about it for years, but had never had the opportunity to visit. With Annecy just under an hour drive away from our house- and cat-sit in Thoiry, now was the perfect time.
The route took us over the Rhône River and through the Haute-Savoie region of France. We arrived on a warm, sunny June holiday (Lundi de Pentecôte) to find Annecy absolutely buzzing with people. Despite the hordes and lack of street parking, we found ample cheap parking in the château parking lot just a short walk up the hill from the city center. I was worried about the crowds at first, but the city absorbed them well and the atmosphere was festive rather than claustrophobic. For lunch, we surprisingly had no wait for an outdoor table in the shade at the café of our choice, Café Bichette. We enjoyed trying award-winning local beers – a blonde for me and a triple for David – from Brasseurs Savoyards.read more
It had been awhile since David and I did a pet- and housesitting gig for someone new, but we had a couple of weeks to fill between our latest cat-sit in Antwerp and the time I’d set aside for a long-wished-for trip to Corsica. On whim, I searched Trustedhousesitters.com for something that might work. (See my earlier posts on pet- and housesitting here and here.) I was intrigued to find a two-week cat- and housesit in Thoiry, France, a small village nestled against the Jura Mountains just outside of Geneva, Switzerland. I wrote the owner, Lydia, right away; we had a great video chat and it was a done deal. Her tomcat, Leo, turned out to be the easiest cat-sit ever. He roamed at night and came home in the morning for breakfast and to socialize and nap. He never even used his litterbox during our stay. Lydia’s home was cute, comfortable and modern and a breeze to maintain with techy touches including a robot lawn mower and big, retractable awning over the patio.read more
I haven’t blogged since last fall’s Belgium/Paris/Kenya/South Africa travels, but that’s not to say we haven’t traveled. David and I spent three months doing a transAtlantic cruise from Fort Lauderdale to Copenhagen, 5 weeks in Antwerp, 2 weeks near Geneva and a final stay in Corsica in the spring before heading home to Texas for a 4th of July family reunion and some summer pool time in the sun. Our spring travels were great, but I wasn’t sure I had much to add to the ever-swelling ocean of travel reviewers and bloggers. A dear friend disagrees, so I’m back at Wanderwiles just for you, Phyllis. I won’t detail it all (I’ve written a fair amount about our much-loved Antwerp already.), but there were some fun discoveries I’m happy to share.read more
The last hurrah of my big birthday trip was a two-flight return journey from Cape Town to Dallas via Doha on Qatar Airways Qsuites. I’d been wanting try Qsuites for awhile, but it just never worked into our plans. With American Airlines offering this pair of flights on partner Qatar Airways for a super-reasonable 70,000 miles, now was the time!
While the route might see ridiculously out-of-the-way on first glance, it was actually perfect and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. The first flight was overnight, Cape Town to Doha, so I chose two interior seats (Qsuites are in a 1-2-1 configuration) so that David and I could merge our seat cubicles. We shared dinner, then had our seats reconfigured to have a private double bed in the sky. We loved it!read more
Although the room we stayed in listed online at over $700/night, our stay at The Cellars-Hohenort was completely free thanks to Hyatt credit card “annual” certificates which David had accumulated over the pandemic as Hyatt and other hotel chains extended the validity of such certificates during the worldwide shut-down. (We used my three certificates for our stay at The Marine Hermanus.) The Cellars-Hohenort is part of the Liz McGrath collection of three 5-star hotels which, along with The Marine Hermanus, had just come under the Hyatt umbrella. We couldn’t have been happier with this use of the certificates!read more