Planning ahead

Written 23 June 2016

Right. Like I had any time for planning this year.

Nevertheless, if we wanted to eat in France at the level to which we aspire, those reservations had to get made, so somewhere in there, between trips to Houston (TX), Rockville (MD), Conway/Myrtle Beach (SC), New York City, Portland (ME), Northampton (MA), Rockville again, and San Diego (CA), plus moving into a new house and executing a relative's will, David got out our most recent Gault-Millau guide (2014), planned a route, and selected restaurants so that I could chose hotels near the restaurants and make reservations at all of the above.

We had long planned to go to Heraklion, Crete (part of Greece), for the week-long triennial Meiofauna Congress, so we tacked a couple of weeks in France onto the end of that to round out our usual three-week trip.

The initial concept was to retrace the route Napoleon took from Juan les Pins (on the Mediterranean coast near Antibes) to Grenoble after escaping from Elba. Unfortunately, although history is thick on the ground along his path, highly rated restaurants are not, so the route got modified—we'll be sort of zigzagging back and forth across it, from restaurant to restaurant as usual.

Restaurant reservations went fairly well, but of the establishments David had chosen, two had closed permanently, and a third had moved out of the town we were visiting on its account. When I explored other possibilities in that town (Courchevel), not only did I not find other restaurants as appealing, but the cost of lodging was astronomical! So the route got modified again. We replaced Courchevel with Le Bourget-du-Lac, where the original target restaurant had been reestablished, and I was able to find rather more moderate lodging there.

Still, lodging is not cheap this time around. We'll be visiting mostly towns too small to have the big chain hotels and too exclusive for mom-and-pop type places. They're mostly ski resorts (driving around Le Bourget, down on the lake shore, should be way easier than around Courchevel, perched on its mountain top). I still have to do some research to find out what you do at French ski resorts in July—hiking is my impression; not that many art museums.

We'll have a night in Aix-en-Provence, though, which we have not used up; a couple of nights in Lyon, where I definitely want to go back and spend more time at the Museum of Miniatures and Film Sets; and a couple of nights in Grenoble, which I haven't explored much yet. One thing I know about it is that the three world-class magnet labs are in Grenoble, Lausanne, and Tallahassee, so there's a higher chance than you'd think that we'll run into somebody we know there. Certainly, enough French people come to Tallahassee to visit the one here.

So the reservations did get made, and I only had to phone France about three times—on-line restaurant reservations get slicker and slicker. The French equivalent of Open Table is "La Fourchette," the fork.

map Here's the route map, showing our stops in France numbered in order. For orientation, Marseille is on the Mediterranean coast, and "Genève" near the top, right of center, is Geneva; the yellow-shaded Swiss border juts onto the map in several places at the right-hand side.

At the top left corner, you can see Mâcon, Bourg-en-Bresse, Lyon, and Vienne, which formed part of our 2011 itinerary. At the bottom left, are Orange, Avignon, Les Baux, Arles, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille, which we visited in 2013. A couple of hundred kilometers east of Marseille is Nice, near where we spent a large part of David's 2005 sabbatical. Finally, near the edge of the map, just above the section of pencil line between the circled "5" and the edge of the map, is Courchevel, where we would have gone if the restaurant "Le Bâteau Ivre" hadn't moved to Le Bourget-du-Lac.

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