Ok~ I’ve been to several places so far–Japan (countless times), Korea, Hong Kong (2 times), Italy, France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Singapore, U.S.A (actually grew up there), Bali (Indonesia), and Mexico (for only 1 day, ha…), however, none of these were planned as extraneously as this 2nd time going to France. The 1st time I went to France, I only stayed in Paris, and of course I went to places that almost everybody who went to Paris would: Louvre, Versailles, Printemps department store, etc. After reading several books/magazines and watching several movies about France, I loathed for other places in France like the boundless grape farms in Provence and dreamy castles in Loire Valley. Last year, I talked to my good friend about going to France, but too bad that our time never agreed. Until this April, I started to plan casually and toy with the idea of going to Europe–either France or Austria. Due to the gas price shooting up like crazy, inflation and increase in prices are unavoidable. Another thing that held me back was that Euro dollar has been increasing value for the past years. However, after some contemplation and struggling in mind, I finally decided–just do it! And I settled my plan on France. (Ok, so, I’m going to France but I don’t speak a word of French, nor can I make any sense of the peculiar spelling and try the even-more peculiar pronunciation. In order not to do something too embarassing in France, I dug out a book and try my luck, but only can barely utter "please thanks sorry good morning good night and good bye…")
Of course, "saying is much easier than processing," and indeed it’s a chain of none-stopping planning, modifying, planning, modifying… I almost gave up and just thought: it’s just a vacation…why not pick somewhere easier? Then my friend told me: in that case, you’ll never be able to go, and you’ll end up going to Japan again and again and again and again…Heh! That really gave me a lift! Another problem–I was very greedy; I wanted to visit many places, but I only got 2 weeks off~~~
At first, I listed the places I wanted to go:
Nice, Monaco, Grasse, Aix-en-Provence, Avignon, Loire Valley region, Normandie region, and Paris.
As for Loire Valley, where hundreds of castles lay around the river Loire, I picked several unique ones that represented the most characteristic and showed the essense of castles built for different functions. And for Normandie region, I wanted to go to Giverny–where Claude Monet’s house is and in which the garden was always painted by the painter himself in several famous works. Etretat–the background of one of the "Arsene Lupin" series called "L’Aiguille Creuse"–I didn’t even know the place was for real! And also Mont Saint-Michel, the very mystical and dreamily beautiful fortress and abbey built in middle age, where it becomes an island during high tide.
Nice–>Monaco–>Grasse–>Aix-en-Provence–>Avignon–>Tours–>Blois–>Chartres–>Giverny–>Etretat–>Mont Saint Michel–>Rennes–>Paris
I categorized the places in 4 regions:(I put Chartres and Rennes to "Normandie area." Chartres is usually perceived as Paris suburbs area, and Rennes is actually in Bretagne region, but since Rennes was only set to be the place to return the rented car and take TGV train to Paris, I’d just put it into Normandie area) (P.S. "Normandy" is Normandie in English, and "Brittany" is Bretagne in English.)
I will take plane to stop by Hong Kong and fly to Paris. From Paris, I’ll take another flight to Nice, rent a car in Nice and drive to Monaco, Grasse, Aix-en-Provence, and Avignon, and return the car in Avignon TGV station, then take TGV train to Tours. From Tours, I will rent another car to visit castles and go toward Blois, and drive north to Chartres, Giverny, and go west to Etretat and south to Mont Saint-Michel, and return the car in Rennes, and take TGV train to Paris. In Paris, I will take trains to Versailles and Fontainebleau, and use metro to go around Paris city.
Of course, I shouldn’t take all the credit for planning–people who answered my questions on backpacker.com.tw, my friends who helped a lot, travel books about France, Eslite bookstore, TomTom GPS system, and all-mighty Google . Without them, I couldn’t have completed the trip~ BIG thanks to you all!