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Working my way through the alphabet, one country at a time


When I decided to go to France, I determined to see some “charming” villages.  I may have been influenced by Pinterest and the following lists: 15 of the Most Beautiful and Charming Small Towns in France; the 25 Most Beautiful Villages to Holiday in France; 13 Most Charming Small Towns in France, etc.  You get the idea.  One night I couldn’t sleep so I stayed up until 4:00 a.m. locating these towns on my map!

I’ve always loved old things and to be in a country where everything is so old inspires me.  My visits to these small towns has been hindered because the buses don’t run after tourist season.  Luckily, I had an accommodation in Gargilesse and the proprietors gave me clear instructions on how to get there.

Gargilesse is situated in the valley of the River Creuse. Of course, there’s a castle and a church, cobblestone streets, shuttered windows, and autumn colors.  Not a single shop or service was open, but the food at Hotel Des Artistes was excellent.  I spent my days hiking,  through forest and woods by gentle streams, then out into open acres of verdant pasture land.  The livestock seemed anxious to receive guests, as several of the bulls got to their feet when I approached!

The first day I hiked to Dampierre–another village on the list–that has a single cafe that remains open through the year.  I had a hot chocolate and enjoyed visiting with the locals.

Then I stumbled onto an enclave of buildings that were clearly inhabited by an artist–there was an open studio housing a large sculpture and a grouping of statues outside.  I met the artist, a potter by trade, and was able to buy a couple of his pieces.

On the return trip I noticed a plaque in honor of two brothers who died in World War I.  I wondered why it was placed so randomly and then realized I was standing by the remains of a home, completely overgrown.  They must have lived in that beautiful spot, and sadly, never returned.

Rhonda Sarantis

Rhonda Sarantis

"She's crazy and loud but she loves you!" That's what they tell my infant granddaughter to prepare her for my visit, so I thought it would be a great way to prepare you. And while I may not always be crazy or loud, one thing is always true: I LOVE people. That's at the heart of my passion for travel. I love getting to know people from different cultures who speak different languages, eat different food, have different ideas and opinions. I'm endlessly curious and make a point of reading about the countries I visit. Instead of saying "that's not how WE do it," I enjoy identifying strengths in diverse cultures, and learning about their way of life. I LOVE road trips! I have great memories of monthlong vacations growing up. Dad always had a van--before they were popular--and invited anybody who wanted to join us. My road trips within the United States will be featured in "The Lower Case Travelogs." Be sure to buckle your seat belt. I execute illegal u-turns if a bakery or estate sale is spotted!

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, France

Salon de Provence

Puycelsi, France

The Cliffs of Etretat

Mont Saint Michele

PARIS: One Big Museum


  • Chelsea

    I love following your travels! It looks like the perfect time of year there! So beautiful.

    October 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm
  • Ali

    Well I’m charmed! I am also intrigued by how sleepy the villages are in the off season. The idea of having the whole charming village to yourself appeals to me. Would you return in the off season? Or has it been too frustrating to find transportation, food, etc.?

    October 29, 2016 at 3:38 pm
    • Rhonda Sarantis
      Rhonda Sarantis

      I would TOTALLY return in the off season because much of the literature talks about fighting crowds. BUT I would definitely get a car. Then you can easily go to so many places. I was really constricted by using the bus and train, but I love seeing the countryside and was afraid I’d run off the road driving by myself!

      October 29, 2016 at 5:25 pm
  • Anonymous

    I want to hike there. I loved this post. What a wonderful experience. Stumbling on to the pottery bonanza had to have been a high light. Enjoy. There are many more wonderful surprises that await in the time you have remaining. I will be anxious to hear/read more.

    October 29, 2016 at 3:57 pm
    • Ami

      It’d be a great way to go… driving off the road in France.

      October 29, 2016 at 10:28 pm
  • Sandy Buffett

    What an awesome idea Rhonda! I can live vicariously through you!

    Happy travels, may the road always rise to meet your feet!

    October 29, 2016 at 5:53 pm
  • Amy Bell

    Your photos make this visit so real for me! I love that you found an artist! What a treat!

    October 29, 2016 at 6:35 pm
  • Your name

    POTTERY?! I wish I were there… But I’ve said that already!!

    October 29, 2016 at 10:20 pm
  • Ami

    Pottery?! I wish I were there! But I’ve already said that…

    October 29, 2016 at 10:25 pm
  • Stephanie Mayes

    You have found charming indeed! What a lovely way to immerse yourself in the non tourist culture of any country. . .off season and off the beaten path.

    October 30, 2016 at 3:37 am