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France

Sometimes called the hexagon due to its somewhat hexagonal shape, France is the largest country in Western Europe and one of the most visited.  French is the second most common language in Western Europe.  France has been inhabited by human-like species for hundreds of thousands of years.  Neanderthal habitation has been found as far back as 200,000 years ago. About 40,000 years ago, a species of human beings called Cro-Magnon started living in the area. Later in 3rd century BC, France became part of a settlement of the Celtic people. In the 1st century BC, the Romans led by Julius Caesar, conquered this area and called it Gaul.  In the 5th century AD, France was again conquered, this time by a Germanic tribe called the Franks, who eventually gave France it's present day name.

Annecy and Dijon

Annecy 

Known as "Little Venice of the Alps", those turquoise waters has been luring me in since I saw a picture a few years ago. Annecy has many waterways, turquoise in color in both the lake and the main canal. There were many shops lining the canals, many with colorful flowering pots upfront.  There is a beach on the west side of the Lake Annecy. We noticed there were a few other beaches along the westside as we drove along towards Albertville. We spotted some white swans swimming in the lake. It looked like there was a pedal boat rental area too.

Loire Valley

Chateau de Chenonceau looks different from all the others. A castle that spans the width of the River Cher, it became a must-see for me after learning that it belonged to the mistress of King Henri, Diane de Portier. I was a fan of the TV show, Reign, which was part non-fiction, based on the royal family of King Henri in the 1500’s. His favorite mistress (and he had many), Diane de Portier, has been a source of intrigue for many because she was both married to another man and twenty years the king's senior. Though many years older, she looked amazingly youthful, thanks to her regimen of mercury and swimming in the cold River Cher. After Henri’s death, his queen, Catherine de Medici, took back this much coveted property from Diane, calling it her own, and was eventually passed down to her son's dowager queen to spend her mourning years in.

Brittany (Walled Cities and Ancient Rock Alignments) and Mont Saint Michel

Dinan, my favorite of the three walled cities we visited in Bretagne, is a walled city that people actually live in.  It's city walls date back to the 13th century and has survived many attacks since then. Many of its half-timbered homes also date back to the 13th and 14th centuries. Dinan also has a fortified chateau. More on all that Dinan has to offer in the website at the end of this section.

Giverny (Monet's home and garden), France

After Dijon, we drove 4 hours to Giverny, to a house where a Monsieur Claude Monet spent a few decades of his life living.  Mr. Monet lived his life in a somewhat rural town with a beautiful lily pond across the street. We had lunch on a bench where his wife and (step) daughters sat to knit, walked into the tunnel to cross under the (now busy) country road to visit the now famous lily pond, and enjoyed a quick (and crowded) tour of his house.  The garden was beautiful, with lavender and many other colorful flowers.