Imagining the vacation
France was always on my short list of a destination for vacation. I have read so much literature (including historiography), seen movies, and art from that country that I regard myself as well familiarized with it. After 20+ years since our last visit there, it was time to go back again.
Choosing the time of year to visit is often the result of balancing between budget, availability for a longer break from work, and opportunities to book in advance for accommodation and transportation. As we like to travel light as luggage size can save us cost and wait time at the conveyor belt in airports, we prefer to pack all in individual carry-ons not heavier that 15 kilos per person. For that reason and not only, end of August was the target timeframe for the trip.
For an itinerary, I wanted to experience France in three regional variations. The country is very large, and it has a lot to present to tourists. However, time for vacation is limited, so I had to focus on only those that I felt important to see this time.
Paris was a must see for us. We have visited that city before but not seen all that was to be experienced. I thought that allocating three days to it, counting also the half day from arrival, would be enough to visit a few museums, and the Versailles, the Trianon Palaces with gardens. I remembered that I was to Paris last time about 30 years ago and curious to see the changes in the city and its population.
The southern region of Provence has a few interesting cities and landmarks to see. I have read before about the Roman past as reflected in the wealth of ruins in the region, as well as about the religious schism which motivated the Papacy (or rather the Anti Papacy) to relocated at the city of Avignon during the 14th century. I also knew about Cezanne, Van Gogh, and other painters of the Impressionist and Post Impressionist movement that lived and worked in there. For that reason, I included the region to my list to visit during this trip.
I was always curious to learn the reason the French Royalty of the past choose the Loire valley to build sumptuous residences and exquisite gardens. Besides, I had read of the older years of Leonardo Da Vinci and his friendship with King Francis I of France. Lots of people, including relatives had recommended me to visit those Castles. Finally, I thought the prospect of renting a Chateau in a village of that region for accommodation would give an extra note of fun to the trip that would incentivize my fiends to join me.
I had to present a proposal for vacation so that my friends and fellow traveler would buy into. It is often simpler to plan for a single family because one knows what works and not for each member. People vary in preferences and often don't consider limitations such as the pace of the trip, duration of visiting various attractions etc. It is good to start with an optimistic set of achievements though in order to be convincing. So in the initial stages almost 1 year prior to departure, I presented the case for vacation by highlighting a few important landmarks to see pointing out the flexibility to join the group later or depart earlier, depending whether all or some of the three sections are interesting to them.