FAQs about my last solo road trip in France; this travel blog and Marc le Penn

Questions about this travel blog

Questions about Marc le Penn

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Follow @lostpeony on social media and submit your questions using #asklostpeony I will add them here. You could also ask your question by leaving a comment below.

faqs, solo road trip, france, road trip itinerary, travel blog
FAQs about my solo road trip to France – itinerary, driving, food/drink and anything else you need to know. Photo: Marc le Penn.

QUESTIONS ABOUT MY LAST SOLO ROAD TRIP IN FRANCE

What was the itinerary of your road trip?

The theme of this colossal road trip was French Chateaux and new places. I wanted to take my car and drive to as many new places in France as I could in two weeks. That’s exactly what I did and here’s my itinerary:

I spent at least a couple of days exploring each region, creating new memories and savouring every minute of this incredible experience.

Why did you go on such a long solo road trip?

The real reason for going on this solo road trip in France was an event which happened a little over three years prior to it.

If you are one of the first “Lost Peonies”, you know that I lost my long-term partner in March 2014. The last thing my partner did, a few hours before that fatal heart attack, was the itinerary for our holiday to France later that year.

I had to cancel the holiday because I was in no state to do anything, let alone go to France on my own. As you can imagine, I never stopped thinking about it and promised to go as soon as I was “ready”. So, that’s why I went on such a long road trip on my own.

What did you learn about yourself on this trip?

You learn a lot about yourself when you are on your own in a foreign country. I learnt that I am perfectly capable to deal with any challenges and do whatever it takes to get to my destination. I also learnt that I know the direction I want to take and that I have the confidence, determination and set of skills to get there.

This road trip also showed me that I am comfortable on my own and that I don’t need anyone else to make me happy and enjoy life. It would be nice but it’s not a must, not at this point of my life, anyway.

All these and other discoveries about myself came together to highlight the fact that I can adapt, survive and strive in any environment. This was something that I needed and wanted to find out!

What was your favourite place?

All of the places on my itinerary were places I wanted to visit. So, from that point of view, they were all my favourites. It’s difficult to pick just one of them but if I had to, then it has to be Château de Chambord.

Rooftops, chimney, Château de Chambord, travel blog
Rooftops and chimneys at Château de Chambord. Photo: @marclepenn

It was the first “proper” French château I wanted to visit and I was very excited about it. So excited, that when I saw a glimpse of it from the car, I squealed. I really did!

What was your favourite food/drink?

I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and that included tasting foods that I normally avoid. My rule of thumb was to order the most local dish on the menu or the most expensive one if I didn’t know what I was ordering. That meant eating plenty of goat’s cheese, foie gras, liver and duck.

My favourite dish includes all of them mentioned above and I had it on my way to Sarlat. I had it like the locals do and I enjoyed it, particularly the duck which I normally avoid eating. It was deep fried and it was very tender.

al fresco lunch, sarlat, foie gras, goats cheese, duck, salad, travel blog
Al fresco lunch on my way way to Sarlat. Photo: @marclepenn

I had salad and foie gras every day and I really enjoyed that too 🙂

What was your favourite experience/thing you did?

Again, I enjoyed all of the things I did and experienced but the one that stands out was meeting the lady who owns the gite we used to rent for our holidays. It was important for me to do that.

We had a nice chat over coffee and plenty of her delicious walnut cake, remembering the old times and my partner.

What’s the funniest story/moment from your trip?

There were a few funny moments which weren’t so funny at the time. They all have one thing in common: my SatNav which was on a mission to take me through the centre of every village, town and city along my way. It even diverted me from ring roads to take me through the centre of places.

As if that wasn’t frustrating enough, the SatNav also had a thing about taking me on roads which I could only describe as dirt tracks.

One evening as I was driving back to the hotel, the SatNav took me off the main road and onto a dirt track. It felt wrong but I went along with it. Drove for a good couple of miles up a hill until I reached someone’s house. At that point, the dirt track became a driveway but the SatNav insisted that I keep on driving. I did and as soon as I went past the house, I was stopped by a rope which acted as a barrier across the road/dirt track/driveway. I couldn’t go any further because beyond that rope was a vineyard!! I had to reverse all the way down to the main road because that first track was so narrow that I couldn’t turn around. Of course, all I could hear from the SatNav on my way back was to make a U-turn 🙂

What are the best and worst things about driving in France?

As soon as I was on French ground, I set my SatNav to avoid motorways and toll roads because I wanted to see as much of the countryside as possible. That took me away from the busy main roads and put me in the middle of some of the most beautiful and picturesque drives that I have ever experienced.

french château, vineyards, champagne, travel blog
Living in a French château with vineyards in Champagne. Photo: @marclepenn

The best thing about driving in France, at least for me, is the scenery along the roads. The beauty of driving on minor roads is that there’s hardly any traffic on them which allows you to take your time and enjoy your surroundings. You can also stop at lay-bys and viewing points to take pictures and enjoy your experience.

The not-so-good part of driving in France are the speed cameras that they have installed. That, combined with confusing speed-limits can take the pleasure out of driving.

How long did it take you to plan your trip?

Although I’ve been getting ready for this particular road trip for over three years, the actual planning of it didn’t take me as long as you might think. I booked the ferry a couple of weeks before I was due to leave and that left me with only two weeks to research, plan and book.

I didn’t spend that much time planning the trip and I only had my first hotel booked in advance. The rest of the hotels, I found and booked on the go. That certainly adds to the adventure but it is a risky strategy and I don’t recommend it. Not especially for your first solo road trip in a foreign country.

This article illustrates the pitfalls of my “last minute” strategy.

What car did you drive?

I drove my own car which is a Mercedes-Benz A180 diesel. It’s cheap to run, fast and small enough to cope with the narrow streets of some of the places I visited.

Le Manoir Saint Thomas, Amboise, Loire Valley, France, hotel review, travel blog
Le Manoir Saint Thomas in Amboise (Loire Valley, France) – an honest hotel review. Photo: @marclepenn

It’s plenty big enough for one and I had plenty of room for my suitcases and gadgets. The SatNav was a bit of a let-down but that made for some funny memories 🙂

To where is your next solo road trip?


I’d like to do the North Coast 500 which is named one of the top coastal road trips in the world and Scotland’s answer to Route 66. It certainly looks like an amazing trip which takes you through some of Scotland’s finest countryside. It’s very tempting indeed.

Also, I am quite tempted by the idea of doing a solo road trip in the French Alps in the winter. I would need a bigger car though, ideally a 4×4 in case I get stuck in the snow. So, watch this space.

QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS TRAVEL BLOG

Why Lost Peony?

Lost Peony started out as a grief blog. I created it so that I can share my thoughts with others who were grieving the loss of a spouse or a partner. That original website and blog, inspired the eBook about grief which I published on Amazon and which went to the No1 spot of its category and inspired the paperback version of my grief memoir Me, my grief and I.

The entire name of the website has a very personal meaning to me. The peony is the 12 wedding anniversary flower and it symbolises the number of years my partner and I were together, even though we weren’t officially married. It’s “lost” because I lost my peony and I felt lost on my own.

When did you start Lost Peony?


The Lost Peony as you know it today, began to emerge in the lead up to my solo road trip in France – May 2017. The official switch to travel blog for solo road trips in France and England happened in November 2017.

What’s the purpose of Lost Peony?

Lost Peony is a travel blog which specialises in solo road trips in France and England. It aims to attract a more mature readership and its content reflects that.

If you are a middle-aged man or a woman and planning a solo road trip in France or England, Lost Peony is a good starting point. The blog features information about different destinations and places of interest, itineraries and a road trip diary about my experiences in these places.

There are hotel reviews and plenty of photos to give you a better idea of what to expect on your trip.

QUESTIONS ABOUT MARC LE PENN

marc le penn, journalist, author, grief memoir, me my grief and i
Marc le Penn – journalist and author of the grief memoir Me, my grief and I. Photo: @marclepenn

Who is Marc le Penn?

That would be me – the founder of Lost Peony. I am a journalist and an author writing about travel and lifestyle in general.

Marc le Penn is not my real name, it’s a nom de plume. I use it to sign my articles and the second edition of my grief memoir.

You can read a fun interview with me on marclepenn.com or find out more in the About page. My social media handle is @marclepenn

 

Why do you use a nom de plume?

My own name is quite common and it’s already used by other established authors and artists. That makes it difficult to know who is who when you search for people and books on Google and Amazon. It is confusing on social media too.

A nom de plume comes handy in confirming that I am the author of my book and articles. It also helps you to identify me and my work when you search for it.

DO YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?

Follow @lostpeony on social media and submit your questions using #asklostpeony I will add them here. You can also ask your question by leaving a comment below.