Reflections of Our Trip to France

It’s been awhile since we traveled to France. We won a fabulous trip to France back in 2001 and took the trip in 2002. We won it through a sweepstakes I entered from Forbes magazine as part of my sweepstakes hobby. This hobby has afforded us many things – free food, a truck, fabulous trips, Smartphones and tablets, new furniture and appliances, and lots more. We win at least once a week. The trips are the best by far because the memories go on and on.

The trip to France had to be the icing on the cake for this hobby and now since my friend Zippy is in France it made me think how much I loved that trip and how much I would like to go back. So today I sat reflecting on what we experienced while in France.

Thinking of Zippy sitting in a bistro in the Marais, window shopping on the Champs Elysees, or trying on dresses at Galeries Lafayette or Printemps, brought back great memories for sure.

Here are some of the most vivid memories from that fabulous trip to France.

The trip to France included all of these things for FREE – business class travel, BMW rental car, a stay in a castle – Chateau de Balleroy in Normandy (owned by the Forbes family), a stay in Paris, and $6,500 in cash. It is the only way to travel – Free everything! We even had our own cook in the chateau.

The chateau is not available for the public to stay in. Since it is owned (or was owned, I’m not sure now) by the Forbes family, it was a family home and they would use it for corporate events and family gatherings only. The public could pay to tour the castle but that’s it. This trip gave us an opportunity to do something even money couldn’t buy.

Man I looked young here!

france trip

What a beautiful site. The clouds were amazing.

clouds from airplane

When we arrived in France we picked up our BMW at the airport and from there we drove to Normandy. I think it was about a 3 hour drive. I don’t remember so much because I was taking in the beautiful countryside and then we spotted about 7 Porches coming up behind us. Let’s follow them I thought, so I told Greg to “step on it!” He got the car up to about 100 mph and then we lost them. We like driving fast in America but I am not sure we are ready to chase Porches at stop speed. It was fun though.

This is our actual speedometer while he was chasing those cars. They calculate it in kilometers so I guess we were going about 111 mph. Sweet huh!

bmw top speed

Once we arrived at the Chateau I couldn’t believe my eyes. We’re staying in that? We drove up to the front of it and said, this must be a mistake. Where is the hotel or the tiny building we are staying in? We went to the front door – the door that was like 40 feet up and knocked. It had one of those huge door knockers you think of when you watch the Adams Family. You expect to see Herman Munster coming to greet you.

This is what we saw when we drove up.

chateau de balleroy castle france

This is the back of the castle.

chateau de balleroy castle france

Just to prove that we actually stayed in this castle I had Greg take a picture of me waving from our bedroom.

chateau de balleroy castle normandy france

Here is the actual skeleton key they gave us to open this giant 40-foot front door each night.

chateau de balleroy france

Little did we know but we had the ENTIRE castle to ourselves and we would be treated like royalty with someone cooking for us twice a day. She even gave us a complete tour of the castle and showed us the secret tunnels underneath. This chateau was 400 years old and was a part of a tour so in the morning we would hear people being led around and the guide giving them the history.

chateau de balleroy castle normandy france tunnels

We stayed on the top floor and had to climb 72 marbles steps – with luggage – to our room. No elevators in this house.

Look at these beautiful marble steps. Greg took this looking down from the top.

chateau de balleroy castle normandy france

At night we would eat in a small dining room. We feasted on Salmon crepes, fresh salad, and a selection of French cheeses each night. The food was amazing. The last night we had French champagne.

france french champagne

Some other memorable things we did on this trip to France was to visit the beaches of Normandy. This land is rich with history and you can feel what it was like during the battles on the beaches.

normandy beaches france bunkers

normandy museum france

One day we visited Honfleur. I caught someone painting the scene and had to snap his picture. We sat in an outside cafe sipping coffee once again and taking in the view.

honfleur france

We also took an afternoon to go to Monte Saint Michel. It is basically a village on an island. When the tide goes out you’re stuck on the island but not to worry because there are pubs, cafes, shops, and hotels up and through the winding cobblestones streets. At the top is a monastery and you can look out for miles.

mont saint michel

Did I mention we love to eat and drink coffee?

mont saint michel cafe france

After our stay was over in Normandy we stayed in Paris for 3 days where we walked the streets of Paris, saw the Eiffel tower and drank coffee in French street cafes. We decided to get a better look at France that we should sign up for a tour. The concierge at our hotel was super and helped us find one that was perfect. It did cost a lot but it was worth it. A tour gives you the opportunity to try things you wouldn’t find on your own.

france eiffel tower

The tour we picked included a dinner at La Coppola. We met a couple, Peter and Sue, who came with us on the entire tour and they dined with us at the restaurant. We also took a boat ride down the River Seine and our last stop was a night at the Moulin Rouge.

france la coppola restaurant

This is not your average Las Vegas show. It was high class all the way. We sat at little tables and drank champagne. The front row of ladies were topless and the back row were not. It was like you had to work your way up the ladder to get topless, not the other way around. The costumes were over the top and fabulous and so was the dancing and entertainment (think NY Rockettes just without tops). By tour tickets got us into the Moulin Rouge and if we hadn’t been a part of the tour they say you would never have gotten tickets because they are always sold out. Just another reason to be a part of a tour.

The tables and people were packed in like sardines, but everywhere you go in France it is the same. They pull the table out, seat you, and push it back in. Americans like their space and don’t want anyone in it but when in France you need to be ready to rub elbows with someone next to you that you don’t know. Just say Bonjour and you’re all set.

Okay, I admit it, I’m a crazy person. Yes, I ran out in traffic and stood in the middle of the Champs Elysees, Paris’ more prestigious and busiest Avenue (we would call it highway – think New York City). I had to be in the middle to take this picture.

Avenue des Champs Elysees

There was so much more I didn’t include. It’s hard to fit it all into words. The memories are there in my mind though. This was me just walking down memory lane and a reminder why we enter sweepstakes. For me it is to create lasting memories from trips I would never be able to afford and couldn’t even buy if I had the money.

Happy Sweeping!

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  1. I absolutely love this story! What a wonderful prize. And to think you won it from a magazine where the odds aren’t that’s wonderful! Thanks for sharing! btw, you still look just as young now!

  2. Wow! Awesome trip! You really need to show me how you get to win all this cool prizes. You’re probably one of the luckiest people I have ever met! Thx for sharing your beautiful trip!

  3. Alita Alexander says:

    That looks so fun! Congrats and thanks for sharing it with us! Do you speak French?

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