My third trip was to France.  We started on March 5 in familiar territory: Nice.  Our group immediately split in two for the day, with some staying in Nice while the rest of us went to see Monaco again.  We got there in time to see the changing of the guard outside the palace gates, after which we went to the Oceanographic Institute to see the aquarium there.  On the way back from Monaco we stopped in Eze, this time to visit the Galimard perfumery.  This was much less interesting than the Fragonard one, as it turned out to be just a museum.  After dinner later that evening we watched the Mardi Gras parade in Nice.  I was too busy playing with silly string to take photos of that, however (I had also learned by that time that my camera was useless at night).

The next day featured a lot of traveling.  Leaving Nice, we first went to Aix-en-Provence.  The most notable thing there is a natural hot water spring.  That afternoon we headed to Baux, a town located in a western spur of the Alps.  From Baux we headed to the Pont du Gard, which carried the aqueduct that supplied Nimes with water in Roman times over the River Gardon, arriving there late in the afternoon.  After some time there, we continued to Nimes where our next hotel was.

March 7 started with a brief tour of Nimes, featuring the Roman ampitheater and a Roman temple that was later converted to a church.  We then went to Aigues Mortes, situated in the Rhone River delta.  The town was built in the 13th Century by Saint Louis, the king of France at the time, to be used as a port for launching his crusade to the Holy Land.  The town's outer wall is still intact.  We then went to Carcassonne, where we toured the medieval citadel.

All we did on March 8 was travel to Bordeaux, with a side trip to Lourdes.  The only things of note there are a cathedral and a spring whose waters supposedly have miraculous healing powers.  The rest of the town (at least what we saw) was completely dead except for a pair of overcrowded restaurants serving crappy food.  Lourdes has the dubious dinstinction of bein gthe only place in Europe I've been to that I don't want to visit again.

March 9 started with a tour of a winery near St. Emilion.  I was still somewhat queasy from a bout of diarrhea earlier that morning, so I stayed on the bus; naturally, I felt better two minutes after everyone else was out of sight.  After seeing some medieval ruins in the same area, we went to Lascaux II, a recreation of the cave at Lascaux and the prehistoric paintings inside them.

On March 10 we went on a tour of the Hennessy's distillery in Cognac.  The aging warehouses are filled with vapors that leak out of the quarter-million barrels of cognac stored in them, and smelled wonderful.  The workers have special licenses to explain to police why they smell like booze.  We also went through the coopery, where wooden barrels were in various stages of construction.  That afternoon we headed to Tours, where to my delight our hotel was located across from the train station.  After dinner I went over to see what trains were there.  It apparently is used for overnight layovers by many trains, including a few TGVs.

We went to Chateau Chambord the morning of March 11.  Chambord is in the general shape of a castle, with a keep and an outer wall that joins the keep on one side.  Most of the keep's roof is covered with spires, chimneys, and whatnot.  The inside has a unique double-spiral staircase in the center.  After lunch we visited Chateau Chenonceau, one part of which was built right across the River Cher.  Later on we visited a winery built inside a former subterranean limestone quarry.  Many buildings are built in caves in this region of France.

The next day we went to Mont St. Michel, which is perched on a small granite hill that rises up above the otherwise flat plain by the border of Normandy and Brittany.  A pleasant, largely medieval village lies along the main road as it climbs up the hill towards the abbey and cathedral on the summit.  After lunch we went to St. Malo, a town notorious in the past for being the home port of many French privateers. 

March 13 we went first to Omaha Beach, where the liberation of Europe from the Nazis began on June 6, 1944.  We visited an area that has been left untouched as a memorial to the soldiers who died that day.  Even the craters from bombs are still there.  We also visited the American Cemetary there.  Later, we did a bus tour of Caen before heading to Chartres to see the cathedral there.

The next three days we spent in Paris.  We saw Montmartre, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame Cathedral, Versailles, and the Louvre among other places.  Unfortunately someone decided we should visit the Eiffel Tower half an hour before it closed for the night, so I never got a chance to properly appreciate it.