April 13, 2011

Now that the weather has warmed up, we’ve been exploring. Of course, it’s fun to get to know our new home, but we’re also trying to get our “Visitor Itinerary” figured out.

We adopted the idea of having a Visitor Itinerary when we lived in New York and had a million houseguests. We came up with a couple of different tried-and-true ways to spend a great day in Manhattan, and we had a list of spots in Westchester that we knew were guaranteed to please. The itinerary was always flexible, but it really helped me to relax and enjoy the company instead spending time struggling to come up with dinner recommendations or inexpensive entertainment.

If you come to see us in Normandy, here are two of the spots we might take you to visit:

chateau carrouges

While my mom was with us, we stopped at Chateau Carrouges. I mentioned this castle before, but the first time we visited, it was too cold to see much. This time, we could really walk around and see the grounds. I love this spot. It’s the perfect backdrop for a picnic or picturesque walk. And it’s so close! Only 15 minutes from our house.

The picture above is a building that you walk through to enter the grounds. This is the actual castle:

chateau carrouges

chateau carrouges

Something fun we discovered on this second visit: there’s a real live moat surrounding the whole castle. I think it’s the first moat I’ve seen!

chateau carrouges chateau carrouges chateau carrouges chateau carrouges

During business hours, you can pay an entry fee and go inside the castle. It wasn’t open during our visit, but it sounds like there’s a small museum and gift shop inside. To walk around the grounds is free. 

chateau carrouges

The whole castle is surrounded by open green space and orchards and gardens. Really lovely.

chateau carrouges

Last weekend, our friends at church recommended a visit to St. Ceneri le Gerei, about an hour’s drive from our house. It’s designated as “les Plus Beaux Villages de France“, which means it’s considered one of the prettiest villages in the whole country. And it does not disappoint! It’s definitely on our Visitor Itinerary.

St Ceneri le Gerei St Ceneri le Gerei

While we were there, a walking tour came through the village. There were about a hundred people (I heard German and French being spoken). The whole group was geared up with hats, packs and walking sticks. It made me happy to see them.

St Ceneri le Gerei St Ceneri le Gerei

One of the fun things about this village, is that there are a couple of places where you can be right by the water. I always love that.

St Ceneri le Gerei

The next spot we want to visit is Chateau D’O. It’s only 5 minutes from the house and it looks so picturesque. We drove by, but the grounds were locked up, so we snapped this picture through the gate.

chateau d'O

Have you ever lived somewhere that brought lots of visitors to your house? Have you ever planned a Visitor Itinerary?

P.S. — Can you tell from our clothes that we do lots of exploring after church on Sundays? Also, I keep forgetting to bring our camera when we head to church, so all these photos were taken with an iPhone. : )

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{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The New Diplomat's Wife April 13, 2011 at 4:56 am

We live abroad in Vienna so we always have visitor itinerarires on hand for the city, as well as for neighboring cities so that while people feel comfortable taking a day trip on their own if they wish. We also make little cards with “Please take me to…” and our address and phone number so that if a guest is out on their own and gets lost or tired, they just hand the card to a cab driver or passing pedestrian to find their way despite the language barrier.


2 Design Mom April 13, 2011 at 5:27 am

Oh! I love the “please take me to…” cards. Brilliant.


3 JourneyBeyondSurvival April 13, 2011 at 5:55 am

We live in Amish country. So, we have a circuit in which we take our guests on a route that lets them see the buggies in all their glory along with starting to appreciate their culture and teaching them not to gawk. After all, the Amish don’t like being a tourist attraction any more than we do.

We have a book that spells out the differences between Mennonite and Amish, as well as the layers of orthodox practices. I usually put it somewhere conspicuous in the guest room. For some reason, the favorite thing for visitors to see is the 20 horse stall at Wal-Mart. Makes me laugh.


4 Design Mom April 13, 2011 at 7:04 am

I want to see the horse stall too! : )


5 christy April 13, 2011 at 6:35 am

Wow, now I totally want to visit this part of France and visit all these place. So lovely! And I had no idea the pictures were taken after church, but I DID think to myself: my those kids sure do dress nicely!

I went to graduate school at the University of Florida, and I had a LOT of visitors. I did have a few hotspots: Bradenton Beach, Clearwater Beach, Disney, St. Augustine, and of course, my campus! :)


6 Design Mom April 13, 2011 at 7:05 am

I’m sure you were a wonderful hostess.


7 Ashlea Walter April 13, 2011 at 6:48 am

A castle with an ORANGE door? Now that’s my kind of place.

I wondered if Ben Blair always wore a tie when visiting castles…, so thanks for the after-church clarification!

P.S. Every summer we are (happily) bombarded with friends and family who want to get out of the steamy city & come “Up North” for a visit. We do have a list of must-do things with them and I always find myself grateful for a visitor because then WE get to play tourist too.


8 Design Mom April 13, 2011 at 7:06 am

I agree. Sometimes having guests is the perfect opportunity to visit a favorite spot.


9 Emily April 13, 2011 at 7:01 am

After our 5th or 6th visitor when we lived in Prague, I couldn’t make myself go to the castle one more time. We encouraged our visitors to do some of the usual things on their own, and tried to do something new with each guest. If we had done the same thing with each visitor, we wouldn’t have been able to explore as much as we did. Playing tour guide is fun but can be tiring too – good luck!


10 Design Mom April 13, 2011 at 7:08 am

You’re so right, Emily. Playing tour guide can definitely be tiring.


11 Heather April 13, 2011 at 7:06 am

This looks like so much fun! I’d love to hear about your Westchester itinerary. We live there, and are always looking for new, fun things to do w/ kids!
Avez vous un bon temps! (Did I get that right?)


12 Design Mom April 13, 2011 at 7:09 am

Westchester is wonderful! The place we went to most often and remember most fondly is called Rockwood Hall.


13 Crystal April 13, 2011 at 7:15 am

I do not have a visitor itenerary but feel like I need to start working on one after this post ;) What a great idea!


14 Lori April 13, 2011 at 7:15 am

We’ve visited siblings in NYC, LA and SF who had excellent Visitor Itineraries all ready to go when we got in town. It really made the trips great to not have to worry about pre-planning every detail, but be hosted by our knowledgeable and friendly guides. :)


15 Susan April 13, 2011 at 7:20 am

Beautiful…and a great idea to have set itineraries for visitors. Takes away so much stress! I think you and your children would really enjoy the mini-chateaux parc I blogged about yesterday, in Amboise. A little trip for you, but maybe you’ll be in the area sometime soon…www.fleurishingblog.com


16 Meridith April 13, 2011 at 7:24 am

Most of the time, our visitors have no idea what there is to see or what they want to do (we live near the Adirondacks so there’s a lot nearby). Plus, most of them are family and want to spend time with our kids. We usually take them to neat places that we’ve heard about but haven’t made time to go see. That way I don’t get sick of being the tour guide. It’s fun to try and find new places that we haven’t explored yet.


17 Sarah @ Knit York City April 13, 2011 at 7:26 am

This looks like a fairy tale!

I’d love to hear some of your plans for days in Manhattan. I live here but I never know where to take my out-of-town guests (on a budget). I’m tired of showing people Central Park and the museums so I’d love to hear about your favorite days in the city!


18 Danielle April 13, 2011 at 7:37 am

What a great idea! We don’t get many out of town guests, but creating a guide would likely remind/motivate us to explore the area we live in, especially all those places we’ve been meaning to get to!


19 bdaiss April 13, 2011 at 8:22 am

I think you need to stay in France more than a year. I’m trying to convince hubby to make a trip in 10/12 for our 10 year anniversary. I want you to be my tour guide! : )

We live in the Black Hills and I work at Mt. Rushmore – we have visitors often. We have a long list of attractions we love and love to share. Some are for families, some are for adults. It’s a great excuse to play “tourist” and rediscover some of the treasures of living here.


20 Maria Ortiz-Cintron April 13, 2011 at 8:41 am

WOW! Castles…with moats! How cool is that ! I love it….


21 AutumH April 13, 2011 at 8:55 am

Just wanted to say thank you for sharing such beautiful pictures. I’ve always wanted to travel and never really had the chance too but reading about the new discoveries and adventures you and your wonderful family take almost makes me feel like part of it. There is nothing more refreshing than seeing well taken pictures and delightful stories to describe them when you can’t actually go there yourself.


22 Kristina Doss April 13, 2011 at 9:14 am

My family just moved to Monterey, Calif. — a beautiful city that hugs the ocean. Needless to say, we now have a number of friends and family members considering a visit. So, we are starting to create a visitor itinerary of sorts. While there are some favorite spots we will definitely take them all to if weather and time permits, I always love to throw in a couple of places I have never been too. It helps inspire me to get out there and explore the city more….On another note, I can’t believe you took all those pictures on an iphone. They are gorgeous! France is quickly rising up the list of places I want to visit soon. :) Thanks!


23 Shelby Chamberlin April 13, 2011 at 9:14 am

Oh all of these places look so lovely! I’d love to hear more about going to church in France. Is the sermon in French? How did you decide on where to go?

I’m also curious about how you’re getting to all of these places? Have you been using the amazing trains and buses and do you have a car there? How different is the driving? How much effect does the language barrier have?

I love reading about your family’s adventures!


24 juliagblair April 13, 2011 at 9:23 am

Good morning! I am always excited to get up and going on week-days, because I can begin with “Design Mom!” It’s a precious and treasured visit with some of my favorite people in the whole universe! Many Thanks and much love!


25 Emily April 13, 2011 at 9:37 am

Although we moved only a couple of hours from both sides of our family, to northern UT, I created a google map with all of our favorites—I mean everything: favorite spot to get gas and a car wash, kid friendly restaurants, best pit stop along the route between here and there, place we service our cars, get our hair cut, favorite parks, cute B&B, hikes, fun window shopping, yearly events. I did it initially to tempt my less-than-adventurous family up, but it has begun to feel like a bit of family history that will evolve as my children grow, and works as an easy staycation list for me in the mean time.


26 charity April 13, 2011 at 9:58 am

How peaceful and dreamy it looks! Thanks for the pics.


27 Sarah April 13, 2011 at 10:35 am

while you’re there you HAVE to go to saint malo, in brittany. we went to saint malo and mont st michel on the same trip and loved saint malo waaaay more. it’s so charming.


28 aimee @ smilingmama April 13, 2011 at 11:12 am

My husband and I lived in Washington, DC (right on Capitol Hill! for years and now are just outside the city. Back in the day before we (or any of our friend visitors) had kids, my husband would put together a detailed itineary for visitors, including suggested clothing, shoes, etc. It was fabulous (and quite impressive!). We’d usually do a lot of walking during the day, come back to the apt. for a drink and quick bite then go out to a semi-fancy dinner. So, he’d say to wear comfortable shoes and not-too-large bags (because of all the security) during the day then give suggested dress based on the restaurant (jacket and tie or just jacket, etc.).


29 Bri (like the cheese) April 13, 2011 at 12:03 pm

I want to come visit you! What a wonderful experience you are giving your family. When we lived in TN, we had a few favorite places to bring visitors; mostly state parks that were particularly pretty and fun. Now we’re in Orlando, FL….no need to tell visitors what to do around here!


30 Shari April 13, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I want your NYC Visitor Itinerary!!!


31 Carrie April 13, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I would love to know what some of your NYC visitor itinerary included. My family is planning a visit the first week of June and we’ll have children ages 9 months to 7 years old coming along. Favorite spots other than the museums and central park?


32 Connie Z. April 13, 2011 at 2:23 pm

We live near DC and have a couple favorite spots for visitors.

+The DC monuments at night – the best time to see them!
+The National Cathedral gardens during the day.
+The HUGE jumbo slice of pizza from Adams Morgan for $3.75 can be a great picnic at the gardens for kids/teenagers.


33 Citrus April 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Looking at these pictures make me want to pack and head to Europe now :-)
Thanks for sharing these wonderful places with us.
I live in San Diego, CA, lots to do and our visitors always have a great time. I need to get myself organized and come up with my list of favorite places to see and eat though.
xoxo, Ana


34 Peggy April 13, 2011 at 5:38 pm

“If you come see us in Normandy”!……does that mean we are all invited!?……just kidding of course!……but I would love to visit!


35 Robin April 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm

Can’t wait to see all these lovely spots!


36 Sara April 13, 2011 at 6:12 pm

We definitely do the visitor itinerary, too…but somehow always end up with a restaurant dilemma anyway since we’ve moved to OH ;). Yours in France looks fantastic!!! I’m sure you will have many, many ecstatic visitors!


37 jennie April 13, 2011 at 7:14 pm

I adore your blog! I’m a French teacher in Utah and don’t get to France near as much as I’d like, so I really appreciate your great writing style and the way you make me feel like I’m right there with you. Thanks for sharing your adventures! I really enjoy hearing about your kids’ opinions of school- so interesting to imagine how things are for them . Great blog!


38 kelleyn April 13, 2011 at 8:31 pm

Oh yes! We do have a visitors quide of tried and true favorites. Stunning locations. I wonder if either of the castles offer a children’s program. I know some of the castles in Switzerland do where children can dress up in period costumes. Totally fun! Have you guys seen the Battlefields yet? We are hoping to take our boys there next year when we go to Europe for the summer.


39 Randi April 13, 2011 at 8:53 pm

Having a Visitor Itinerary is brilliant. I love to have company but it always seems that it’s hard to think of great ideas at the last minute. I love the idea of having it pre-planned.


40 Claire April 14, 2011 at 4:16 am

Wow, that’s so incredible. Both of those places look like they belong in a fairytale. I’m definitely pushing Normandy up on my ‘places I want to visit list’! Thanks for the tour :)


41 Pirates April 14, 2011 at 5:09 am

Interesting scenaries


42 Emily Vesely April 14, 2011 at 11:35 am

Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, we get a lot of family and friends visiting who want to hit all the tourist spots. We have a binder full of pamphlets, maps, etc. from all the different places that are fun to visit in the area. It’s separated into sections such as landmarks and sites, dining, kid activities, and shopping, so our guests can browse through it when they first arrive and decide what they’d like to do. I got the idea from a B&B we once visited.


43 heather m April 14, 2011 at 4:35 pm

Living just across the Potomac from Washington, DC, we’ve had many visitors over the years. We have multiple itineraries, from the drive all around town for the quickie visit, to the long weekend highlights, to the weeklong list of ideas for families. We’ve even got our mental list of places we’d like to visit that we’ve never been to, and we try to get to something on it with my parents whenever they come to visit. Or we do one with our kids once in a while. So much to do in this region, even for those of us that live here. Would LOVE to visit those chateaus by you. They are fabulous!


44 Damaris @Kitchen Corners April 15, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Do you really take house guests because I really want to come and visit.


45 Emily Z April 15, 2011 at 9:38 pm

You are taking my breath away with all of these pictures! AMAZING! I’m taken back to the history of all of these wonderful places. I can’t help but think of all the amazing stories each of these wonderful castles holds. You are truly blessed to have all of this right in your backyard. Thank you for sharing it with all of us!!


46 M April 16, 2011 at 3:17 pm

The group of people you saw go wandering by were most likely volksmarching. It’s like a walking club (anyone can do it) and they meet in different places to walk about 10K. It’s a nice way to get out, meet people and see different regions. It’s a social event. :D


47 FashAlina aka The Hyperbalist April 26, 2011 at 8:28 am

Any chance you would share your New York visitor’s guide? I am oh-so-curious and trust your picks completely. Would love to see it!


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