Several weeks ago some friends shared some valuable information with me: there are apparently cities in France with ‘Tracy’ in the name. This was surprising on many levels:
- ‘Tracy’ is definitely not a French name
- ‘Tracy’ is rarely spelled this way, but rather ‘Tracey’
After learning about two cities, Tracy-sur-Mer (in northwestern France) and Tracy-sur-Loire (in central France), I began doing some research. Of course, neither of these towns were within what I would consider close proximity. At the same time, I wasn’t ready to give up. I continued my research about these two towns, and in the process I discovered that there are actually three other towns with ‘Tracy’ in their name. In grand total, there are five towns/villages is ‘Tracy’ in their name. After finding the exact location of all five, I decided that the most do-able one was going to be Tracy-sur-Loire. However, because of the exact location, taking a train was not the best option. The best option was actually going to be renting a car. I’ve rented cars several times in France and have no problem driving around the country, however, I had never driven alone in France. I’ve always had a friend with me, which was crucial in terms of navigation.
Finding a time to go on a day-trip can be a bit challenging, especially when factoring in the schedules of others. I toyed around with this idea and tried to rationalize through the process of renting a car, simply for the sake of visiting a town that had my first name in its name. After some more research I finally decided that this crazy adventure had to happen, or I would regret not taking this opportunity while I had it. Normally, when I get an idea like this my friends have one of two reactions: they look at me like I’m crazy or they think it’s so crazy that it just might work. Since arriving in France I’ve made many new friends (which is incredibly surprising, given my shy personality). I don’t talk to many of the other English assistants, but there is one assistant with whom I’ve begun talking and hanging out. I mentioned this trip I wanted to take to Trevor, thinking that he would have the first reaction (that I’m crazy), but he did not. He seemed very interested and excited about the possibility of a mini road trip. I continued my research, now with a specific date in mind, and found a day that worked for both of us. I reserved the car and could not wait to visit my town!
Yesterday was the day of my grand adventure to Tracy-sur-Loire. I had picked up the rental car (a Fiat Panda) the night before, and made sure that I had all of my essentials for a road trip: audio cord, charger for phone, cameras (with charged/extra batteries), my umbrella, and of course, my phone (for navigation purposes. It was almost 200km each way, with a total of three hours of driving, if we didn’t stop anywhere along the way (which is not what happened). I used to be a very Type A, obsessive traveler who wanted everything planned out to the minute. In recent years, I’ve become a much more relaxed traveler. I still do extensive research, but rather than an itemized itinerary, I make a list of places I want to visit and things I want to see/do. Also, I used to get up at ungodly hours to begin my adventures, but again have become a little more relaxed. The plan was to leave at 8am, but we didn’t end up leaving until a little after 9am.
When I travel in France I prefer to take the national roads, as you are able to discover cute villages along the way that you had no idea existed (and they are also free). When using the national roads the distance is a little bit shorter, but because you are driving through towns and villages, the actual travel time is slightly longer. Roads in France are significantly smaller than roads in America, which normally isn’t a problem, as I’ve rarely encountered many other cars on the road. I oftentimes have difficulty determining if a road on a oneway or a two-way road, as all of the roads look jut wide enough for one car (maybe). Almost always, the roads are actually two-way roads. I’m always very nervous for the first thirty minutes or so of driving, but then I realize that everything will be fine, that I do know how to drive a car, and that I have a solid understanding of the laws in France.
The drive was relatively calm for the first hour, but then we came to a standstill and saw dozens of flashing lights and police officers. At first, we thought there was an accident of some sort, and not knowing the area and being in the middle of the French countryside, we really had no choice but to sit and wait until we could continue down the road. Eventually, we made it to the roundabout and discovered that there were people protesting (or using our made up word ‘manifestating’) about something with the local schools. It was quite and interesting experience, and so typically French. A bit later we stopped in this adorable village for croissants and to just take in the French atmosphere. It was quintessentially French–church in the middle of town, a butcher shop, a bakery, and adorable old French men riding bikes with baskets while wearing berets. We explored the church, which had the tiniest door (perfectly sized for me). After our breakfast we continued on our way, but discovered many charming villages en route to Tracy-sur-Loire.
As we approached my municipality, we discovered a train station for ‘Tracy Sancerre’ which was a great photo opportunity, because how often does on see their name on signs. We continued on our way to my village, which was significantly smaller than I had imagined. We stopped to take pictures with the signs and then drove around for a bit (a very short bit) trying to figure out exactly where we were and where we needed to be. We ended up parking the car at the church (which was closed so we couldn’t go in). We also went to the Château de Tracy, which is both a castle and a winery. The castle itself is privately owned, so we couldn’t go on a tour. However, Trevor didn’t seem to want to accept this as an answer, so he proceeded to approach the castle, with the dog barking at him the entire time. I am a rule follower, so I stayed back waiting for the owner to come out and yell at us. The owner didn’t end up coming out of the castle, thankfully.
The wine tasting room was closed for lunch, so we wandered around my village for a bit. To summarize, there is a church, a castle, and maybe eight houses in my village. We walked the entire village trying to figure out what we were doing wrong. There was a little hut with a map, which highlighted a downtown area, which we couldn’t seem to find. Map reading is not one of my strengths, as I am extremely directionally challenged, but Trevor seemed confident that he had figured it out. We decided to drive to find downtown (which was a great decision, as we missed it the first time around). Of course, being a small village, everything was closes, as it was Saturday and lunch time. We were both hungry, so we decided that finding lunch was going to be our next mission. Unfortunately, there was nowhere to eat in Tracy-sur-Loire, so we headed back toward Sancerre, where we had passed some restaurants. In the neighboring town there were three restaurants and a bakery. Being a vegetarian in France is difficult enough, being a vegetarian in a small village in France is impossible. We ended up going to the bakery and getting some savory pastries and goat cheese.
Because the weather was being temperamental, we could not have a picnic outside, so we ate in the car. After ‘lunch’ I started to get really tired and not feel very well, so we took a mini nap in the Panda. After about 15 minutes we were both reenergized and ready to go do some wine tasting. I decided to be brave and nice and let Trevor drive for the rest of the day. (He drove very well, except that he likes to shift at the last possible moment.) We made it back to the castle and did some wine tasting. It was a great experience, but unfortunately on white wine is made here. The wine was good, but only something I would drink on a hot day while sitting outside. We tasted all four wines, and I bought two of the four (the other two were much more expensive and too sweet for my liking).
While Tracy-sur-Loire was smaller than I was expecting, I am so glad that I was able to visit it and that I went with someone who is equally ridiculous and easily entertained. Once I felt like I had taken an adequate number of photos with things that had my name on them, we began the next part of our adventure. Trevor has some friends who lived in this part of France and he asked for suggestions on interesting places to visit. Our first stop was Briare, an adorable town that is known for its canal. By this point, the weather had cleared up completely and it was perfect to walk the length of the canal. After walking down the canal we stopped in an adorable café for coffee and a snack (a Paris-Brest to be specific). I had never had this pastry before, but Trevor had mentioned it before and said it was delicious. After walking through a mini-festival near the canal we got in the car and continued our adventure. Along the way, we found a bridge that was too cute to pass by without taking a picture. We pulled over and walked over to take some pictures. At this time there was a boat that was going down the canal, where there were locks. I was super excited about being able to see the locks in action. Of course, being the French countryside, there were charming houses lining the canal, and one of the houses of chickens.
Our next destination was Gien. While this town was cute, I think I preferred Briare for its charm. We walked around for a bit and took some pictures. The bridge in the town was beautiful and the flowers were in bloom. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to discover some of the lesser known villages/towns in France. We decided to leave Gien with a little bit of daylight left, so that we could stop in more cute places along the way. We found one final town to stop in, where there was a beautiful bridge and trees. It was our final stop along the way and I was sad that the day was coming to an end. We made it back to Tours around 11pm, and we were both exhausted. Overall, it was one of the best days I’ve ever had and unforgettable in many ways. I’m eager to visit the other towns/villages with my name this summer.