5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

Here’s a look at a bit of a getaway weekend we just wrapped up, which, didn’t quite start off on the right foot.

1) Got stuck in an elevator

I had just finished picking up our rental car for the weekend, an activity that in and of itself was already a multi-hour failboat with our original rental car place deciding to simply close early for the weekend – leaving us without reserved car.  Thanks Hertz.

So, I turned to my man over at a nearby Avis, and he hooked us up for the last minute vehicle.  The only problem was I had to get across town to yet another location to pickup the car.  So by time things were done, I took about a 3hour delay of game.

We had just finished packing the car when I realized that I forgot my coat upstairs.  So I quickly ran back inside and jumped in the elevator up.  We live on the 5th floor.  But that’s euro-style 5th, which really means the 6th floor.  So, an elevator seemed appropriate.

I jumped back into the house, grabbed my coat and got back to the elevator in under the 60-seconds required before it automatically goes back down to the ground floor.  However, one of our neighbors happened to walk out at the same time, so naturally I held the elevator a few seconds so she could get in going down as well.

And all was just fine and dandy…for about 8 seconds.

And then it stopped…in a way that you knew you weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.  In fact, this is what the scene looked like for the next hour:


First there were the calls for help, then the assurance that a person would be there shortly.  Then the reality that the person wasn’t going to be there shortly.  Then the whole process repeating.

Of course, you might remember this entire thing played out just last weekend as well with out friends getting stuck too.

Eventually the man came with some tool that got the elevator doors opened half-way between floors and then got us out.  There is no ceiling panel on this elevator – so you’re either going out the door or you’re not going out.

Suffice to say, the elevator is not my friend right now.

2) Stayed the weekend at a château

After getting unstuck from said elevator, I was able to re-join our rental car waiting downstairs and get a move on.  We had about a two hour drive south into the Loire Valley.  For better or worse, due to the elevator delay, we hit no traffic.

As we neared the location the GPS turned us off onto a long climbing road with picturesque old school lantern lights hanging above the tree-dense road.  However, nothing quite prepared us for what we saw once we broke out of the clearing:


Yup, seriously.  That be our pad for the weekend:  Château d’Artigny

Or rather, one room of it anyway is our pad.

It was astoundingly cheap – about 120€ a night, for a Friday/Saturday night stay.  Especially given they had some big event going on.

Of course, the reality is that there are hundreds (perhaps thousands?) such château in France.  In just the Loire Valley alone there are well over a hundred tourist-friendly buildings.  So you kinda get your pick.  The easiest way we usually search for them is that if you go on Trip Advisor and search for the top ranked hotels in a given region in France, you’ll generally find a château available.  From there, we head over to either Booking.com or Hotels.com to find the best rates.  Usually Booking.com is cheaper, but this time Hotels.com was.

In any case, here’s what it looks like in the day time:


And, from the air:


In case you were wondering, I shot the above using the GoPro Hero3 along with the quadcopter I picked up a month or so ago. I was kicking myself though for not taking the shots on Saturday when it was beautiful sunny out, versus Sunday when it was overcast.  I didn’t fly too long and kinda stayed very nearby where I was.  Here’s a short video clip of a couple of other random shots starting with the hotel, and then just beyond the fence-line of another château.   Very short video.

Back to the hotel, the rooms were nice and clean, but perhaps a bit worn in some cases.  The interior was generally quite impressive – kinda what you might expect such a place to look like:


The grounds were massive.  I had asked for an option to run, and they gave me a route fully on the grounds.  I’m guessing you could easily do a 5-8K route in there without repeating.  But, for my 30K route…uhh…that’d be  a lot of loops on trails.


Here’s some of the grounds that we walked on Sunday.  Just really pretty:


The place also has an outdoor pool, but it doesn’t open for another few weeks.  Interestingly, they have a conference center that you can see in the aerial shot above.  Probably make for a pretty sweet tri camp venue, since there’s an outdoor 50m pool the next town over, and a few ponds/lakes we saw that are probably swimmable with some local knowledge.

Overall, we’d definitely go back there again, especially given how easy it was to get around the rest of the area there.

3) Visiting other châteaux

We spent time on both Saturday and Sunday in the nearby area checking out all sorts of other places.  This time of year is awesome, because there’s pretty much no tourists around.  It’s a touch bit too early for most people’s spring breaks, and far too soon for summer.  The reason above that we booked at the last minute was actually because we wanted nice weather.  And, we got it.  The temps were about 70°F.


The above château – Château d’Ussé – was awesome.  And it might rank as one of our favorites in terms of being able to see more than just pretty rooms.  You were able to go up into the rafters, and down into the cellar areas below the structure.  Really cool.


They also had caves and stables as well.  The caves used to be used for wine production and storage.


And the gardens were impressive, especially for March.  They had massive piles of bulbs out that they had sorted, that were likely headed into the ground any day now.  I suspect it’s even more impressive in a few months.



We later headed down into Chinon, another area about a 20-30 minute drive away.  It’s there we grabbed a bunch of fresh goat cheese, prosciutto, and still hot fresh baguettes and sat along the river and ate sandwiches.


4) Ran a quick 20 miles in the valley

After wandering around all day checking out various other châteaux south of the river, we headed back to ‘our’ château.  It was about 5PM by time we got back, and I made the fastest turnaround ever, quickly back out the door in just about 3-4 minutes ready for my long run.  I left the gardens behind and dropped down along the river for what would be a relatively simple 10-mile out, 10-mile back affair.

Every couple of kilometers I’d run through small towns that sat on the river.


Some of the run was on little side paths like this, and some of it on the roadway.  During the entire run, I only saw one other runner.


I did however see what looked like remnants of a running or cycling race.  I suspect cycling, since they had crossed off potholes, and usually they don’t bother doing that for runners.


The Loire Valley is world renowned for the cycling (touring mostly), with signs pointing every which way for bike routes.  The Girl and her Dad did a weeklong trip back last year around this time in this area.  I meanwhile simply followed the signs for my running route.



In my packing haste, I sorta forgot to pack nutrition.  So, while picking up baguettes for lunch, I searched and found something similar.  Sorta.  Gummy bear crocodiles.  It did the trick.


My run was solid, averaging 7:15 across the board, with all miles +/- about 15 seconds (minus the last partial chunk up the steep drive to the hotel).


And 2:30 later I arrived back at the front of the hotel.  Well, actually, arrived there at 2:28, and thus did two loops around the gardens to finish out my required 2:30, putting me at 20.8 miles.  Not too shabby.


5) Night-ride around the city at midnight


While I had planned to bike down in the Loire Valley on Sunday the weather was never really terribly awesome.  So, I ended up riding much later at night, finishing up a bit after midnight actually.  But really – that’s one of the best times of day to ride in Paris.  Well, that and very early Sunday morning.  Neither have many cars.  I was able to keep pretty high rates of speed with very little traffic.

Plus, the temperature was warm and it was clear of rain (or wet pavement).  A perfect way to finish off the weekend!

Thanks for reading!


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  1. Samuel

    The girl looks very french on this picture, it was a very quick transformation :) well done on the week-end

  2. falconeye

    It seems you have some serious vignetting in you video shots from your hero3. I am using the Hero 3+ black together with the same Phantom as yours and had never such problems.But nevertheless nice video!

    • I had applied a little vignette in GoPro Studio, but then upon export it looked way darker than it did within the preview. Kinda annoying. Given it was late, I sorta gave up on it.

    • falconeye

      Ah ok, so your vignette is more or less intentional. I never used GoPro Studio, so I have no clue if this behavior is normal. For airphotos shot with the Gopro I use a special template in Lightroom 5. This works quite well with normal motives.

  3. hollyoak

    Nice week-end, Ussé happens to be Sleeping Beauty’s castle ;-)

    What Camelback are you using? I really need to get a good one now that it’s getting hotter…

    • Nathan

      It is the camelbak marathoner. I bought one after seeing ray mentioned it in a recent post and it is brilliant. Ray complained about lack of secure storage but the new model has a zippered pocket under the reservoir flap. Highly recommended but make sure you buy the latest model.

    • hollyoak

      Thanks, will see if I can track it down!

    • Yup, Nathan is correct on all accounts. I’m really liking it, though, still not happy about the whole no water-protected storage on my model, so definitely ensure to get the latest one. I’ve been sticking my phone in the mesh pockets and just hoping it doesn’t rain.

    • Mario

      Is this your camelback? Or Is this the new model you’re talking?
      I’m looking for a camelback with water proof storage.

      link to shop.camelbak.com

      Thanks, love your blog!

    • That looks like the older version, but I can’t quite tell because they don’t show the front – which is the important part.

    • Nathan Simpson

      Yes, that is the latest. The other model is marked as discontinued.

  4. Tosin

    Is the Hertz the one in that weird mall? Almost like a strip mall with a really small office? If it was, the one time I went in there, I had booked a 5 seater car for my drive to Versailles and Giverny, and they ended up trying to give me a small Renault 4 seater with NO OPTION of a 5th seat in the middle. Real small. Ended up yelling at them, and they promptly gave a “really big car” which was a 2009 Passat Wagon. Thus started my love of wagons and diesels….at the same time.

  5. AdamAnt

    I had to laugh when I read the fourth thing you did, “A quick 20 miles in the valley.” I also did 20 this weekend but it took me exactly an hour longer. Nothing quick about it. Bravo Zulu on another fun filled weekend.

  6. BillM

    Your livin the dream Ray, livin the dream.

  7. Remco Verdoold

    I would say take the stairs, but yes I also know the heights of those rooms. But being stuck in an elevator is still better then spending the same time in hospital as I did waiting for my leg to be stitched after crashing my brompton bike with failing steering bolt. There goes my training schedule for the next two weeks.
    We are going for france in a few weeks time, must check some of those Palace/castle hotels near Colmar. Thanks for the idea.
    OH yes Haribo nom nom :)

  8. Rey, that is a very nice place to stay at a very good price point. I wish i knew about this when i was travelling around France

  9. Seb

    The website with all the long bike routes in France:
    link to francevelotourisme.com

    including the one following la Loire, Paris-London (starting from Notre-Dame), the Channel tour, Paris-Strasbourg, Tour de Bourgogne,…

    All the routes are not yet documented but the website is quite nice.
    Continue your very interesting blog !!!
    Thanks for reading !

  10. A quick 20?! Haha, boo, I ain’t never ever had 20 miles that has been quick. Steady? Yes! Not quick though.

  11. Alfie

    Another great post and that looks like a great place to stay! I greatly enjoy these posts as well as your run arounds!

    I know on a recent marathon I ran they did mark manhole covers and potholes with either orange or a cone if it was really dangerous! They were doing road construction on part of the route so I imagine the event organizers wanted to avoid any potential lawsuits.

  12. ken

    3-4 minute turn around. Do you stretch?

    • Most sport scientists these days note it’s actually a bad idea to stretch before warming up. Just Google: stretching before running myth

      Tons of information there.

  13. Eric Guinard

    Ray, for a French guy who’s been living in China, I’m OK with the castle but talks of goat cheese with fresh baguette… I’ve got to go back… Thanks for the nice week-end escape fro Paris story !

  14. John Connolly

    Stayed in the same Château thirty years ago. Showed it to my wife and she said “Oh the perfume one”. A little research and she was right–Coty. Your adventures are always interesting but the ones in France are special because they remind us of our few years there.

  15. Arlene

    That looks like an awesome weekend. Brings back memories of living in Germany for me. I remember doing a 20K volksmarch every week – they have them through a different village and region every weekend. Most people walk but you can run them too. They have them in France also I believe. If you like a fun distance challenge you might consider Nijmegen Four Days’ Marches in July. It’s 40 or 50 KM a day – walking/ruckmarching only though for 4 days. Here’s a link: link to imlwalking.org

  16. Lin

    Which Garmin were you wearing for that run? I ask because of the temperature fields in the screenshot.

  17. praveen

    I am trying to catch up on all your blogs, nicely written/photographed, as they say pictures are worth 1000 words, very motivating for me. Like your sense of humor. couple of quick q’s: Do you map out your run before you go out or you just go out and run? Also, at 7.00ish pace, how do you manage to take nice pictures?