Planning ahead: 2011 in the Valley of the Rhône

Written 17-18 March and 3 April 2011

Some years, the reservation process just seems to get out of hand. Even though we avoid "one night stands" in hotels these days, I still find myself, this year, making reservations at, are you ready?, 11 hotels and (yeesh!) 21 restaurants! But the internet makes it all much, much easier than is used to be (a) to find suitable places and (b) to check out their credentials. Still, I'll wind up calling a number of the restaurants (the ones that don't take e-mail reservations) and snail-mailing quite a few of them our credit-card info, which I don't like sending by e-mail. We're no longer confined to the (usually more expensive) hotels listed in the guidebooks. Just about every town in France has an "office de tourisme" with an elaborate website, and they all list local hotels that you can be pretty sure of, even if you don't check out their websites in turn. As a result, I was once again this year able to find a hotel for under (sometimes well under) 100 euros a night (for two) everywhere except in Paris and one other stay (in the "one other stay," I got close—102 euros/night; in Paris, try 160 euros/night).

Those who read my 2009 travel diary will know that, in working our way south through Burgundy, the furthest we got was Cluny. This year, we're picking up there and working our way south again, as far down the valley of the Rhône as time permits, although not actually in that order. We'll start by spending a few days in Lyon (because that's where the TGV, i.e., high-speed train, from Paris will take us), then rent a car and work our way north to Cluny, then loop back south past Lyon to Vienne, Serrières, and St. Etienne, then back up to Lyon for one night before turning in the car and flying home.

Those who read my 2007 travel diary will remember our young friend CJ, then fresh out of college. Now that she's been gainfully employed for a while (on the management ladder of a major bookseller), she's ready for another European foray, so she and her friend (and ours) Margaret plan to spend a week in London this year. We'll be arriving in France just as they're about to leave London for home, so we're taking advantage of the short overlap to meet for a couple of days in Paris! When David heard we'd all be together there on a Sunday and a Monday, his reaction was "Great. The two days when every restaurant in Paris is closed!" To which I riposted, "Ha! Only the ones run by Christians." CJ and I are kindred fans of couscous, so for Sunday night, we have reservations at a Moroccan restaurant.

Those who read my 1991 travel diary (and they are few and far between, as that diary predates the electronic age and until recently existed only in the form of my semilegible handwriting in a bulging, 2-lb. lab notebook, one of a series of which I used to lug the most recent with me on every trip) will remember that we also visited Lyon in that year. I have now transcribed my notes from that trip for comparison with those from this one, so you may run across excerpts interspersed with the pages that follow.

So here's the itinerary, not so easily represented as last year's, as we're zigzagging around rather than following a simple circuit. I've numbered our destinations in the order we'll visit them. In two cases, "Cluny/Igé" and "Anse/Bagnols" the lines point to two locations. We'll sleep and dine at Igé, but we'll be in the area mainly to visit Cluny. We'll sleep in Anse but dine in Bagnols, where the only accomodations—the hotel whose restaurant we'll visit twice—are way out of our price bracket.

For orientation and scale, note the location of Geneva (Genève) 107 km (68 miles) ENE of Lyon. Finally, for a larger view (which won't all fit on the screen at once but in which you can actually read the map), click on the image. If the resulting map isn't large enough to read try clicking on it.

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