eSSENTIALS OF radiology conference
loire valley, francE
MAY 12-18, 2019








Van Support

The role of our trip vans is to provide support and security. There are usually 5 vans on the trip. Although you'll feel like you are alone in the quiet countryside, we won't ever be far away and we will always be reachable on our portable phones. Despite the fact that we feel the best way to get the most out of the beautiful scenery we’re travelling through is by bike or on foot, we will never hesitate to give a lift upon request. Needless to say the van will always be stocked with fresh bottled water, soft drinks and snacks. The only things you'll have to carry are your camera, suntan lotion, sunglasses, etc.

Getting Ready

The Loire offers great biking and walking for every level of fitness. Nonetheless, if you haven't been doing any exercise for quite awhile, please remember that biking and walking are forms of physical activity. You should start thinking about preparing for the trip. Activities that involve aerobic conditioning such as swimming, biking, jogging, squash, and tennis are great overall conditioners. Stationary exercise machines are good also. One hour of aerobic activity three times a week is a good benchmark. Go out for some hikes or walks, work out at the club, take a bike ride, play some tennis, whatever suits your fancy. The better your fitness level the more you’ll get out of the active part of the trip.

Walking Attire

In general terms, choose light-weight clothing that breathes well and can be layered. Shorts are generally preferable to pants because they don't bind the knees. Some people prefer loose shorts while others enjoy the feel of spandex. It’s entirely up to you. T-shirts, sweatshirts, and GoreTex rain gear is advisable.

For walking shoes, it can be your trusty pair of runners or you may decide to treat yourself to a pair of light-weight ultra-comfortable walking shoes or boot. Brooks, Nike, Reebok, Rockport, Avia, Asahi, and Mephisto are just a few of the brand names. If you are keen walkers and are going to be walking hard and fast, then make sure you’ve got a good pair of boots that can give you adequate ankle support. The most important thing is to make sure that whatever you have on your feet is WELL BROKEN IN!!

The Biking

For some, biking clothes will mean a chance to haul out the old shorts and T-shirts, while for others, it will mean an opportunity to model the vast array of flashy (yet practical) clothing that now exists in the bicycle industry. The choice is yours but the suggested possibilities are laid out below. Frankly, the price and selection of biking accessories is much better in North America than in Europe so take a trip to your local store and ask for advice.


Let's start with the most important piece of equipment in any cyclist's wardrobe - a good helmet. Our routes will avoid traffic but this is no reason not to have a helmet. There are a million reasons to temporarily lose your balance on a bike and, as a friend of ours says, “When you really need that protection, there just doesn't seem to be the time to put it on”. Bottom line - please wear a helmet.

There are many different styles now available, so visit a bike shop to check out the selection. It should fit well and comfortably so that you'll wear it and it must carry the ANSI/SNELL approved sticker.

We will have extra on hand for those that choose not to bring their own helmets.


Cycling shorts come in two basic styles. The first looks and wears very much like a regular walking/hiking short. The best are made from cotton or cotton blends and have a padded seat, plenty of pockets and allow for a good range of movement. The second style of short is the spandex short which has caught on as a fashion item both on and off the saddle. Although originally worn only by cycling aficionados, they are practical for all types of cyclists. Look for shorts that are well padded, well sewn and fit snugly but not too tight. There is an endless range of colours and designs to choose from.

It's probably also a good idea to bring a pair of spandex tights, sweat pants or warm-up pants along. They'll be handy on a cool day or for the mornings before things warm up. Again, if you want to go flashy, there are all kinds of good stretchy cycling tights that come in a variety of weights for different weather.

Don’t hesitate to bring along a colourful cycling jersey or two. Layering is the way to go with the upper body. We also recommend bringing short and long sleeve T-shirts and at least one sweatshirt, turtleneck and light jacket.


A good stiff sole is important to spread the pedal pressure out over your whole foot. Your footwear should be light-weight and breathe well. If you don’t have cycling shoes a good pair of hard-soled tennis shoes will work well.

If you're a more serious cyclist then you may own a pair of biking shoes (or may want to purchase a pair). The touring/mountain bike shoe is very practical because you can bike efficiently and walk comfortably when off the bike. If you have a pair of click-in pedals (Shimano, Look, Time, etc) then make sure to bring them along with you. We can install the pedals on your bike without any problem.

Rain Gear

If it rains, it's most likely to be a light shower rather than an entire day of rain. Still, you'll be more comfortable if you stay dry. Windproof and waterproof rain gear made of materials such as GoreTex are your best bet. A jacket or shell is the most important item to keep your torso warm and dry. You can bring along pants but they are not strictly necessary. Do not buy a poncho unless you just plan on using it for walking.


Biking gloves (actually half-gloves) are padded to protect your hands from vibration, thus eliminating that "numbing" sensation that some riders experience in their palms and fingers.

Bike and Accessories

Your 21-speed hybrid bike will be fully equipped and ready to ride when you begin your trip. It will have a lock, rear carrier, your own personal water bottle, pump, repair kit, and front handlebar bag.


There are so many great places to eat in Paris but, like all cities of the world, it is very easy to go wrong. Some spots are too touristy, some have bad service, and some, worst sin of all, actually serve poor food. So with only a limited time to spend there, you'll want to make sure you don't waste even one meal.

Listed below are a few places where we like to eat. The list is by no means exhaustive so if you've been given a hot tip by someone you trust, go with it. If you've got the time, walk over, have a look at the menu and even poke your head in the door to see if the ambience agrees with your mood. We've organized our picks into various categories that we hope are helpful for you and included websites, e-mails and fax numbers when they exist.

Grand Restaurants

Nowhere in the world are so many wonderful grand restaurants brought together than in Paris. These hallowed halls produce "dining experiences" not just great meals. Everything, from the moment you walk in the door to the moment you leave must be flawless or they are letting you down. That means welcome, service, food, wine, advice, special requests, cutlery, glasses, napkins, plates, everything.

Dress up for the occasion, set the whole evening aside and be prepared to spend lots of money. Perhaps most importantly, if you want to be assured of a table in this top category, reserve well in advance of the trip. Remember, when calling from North America, put 011-33 in front of all numbers listed here and to remove the first 0.

At the time of writing, there are 10 Michelin 3-star restaurants in Paris. We are giving you our favourite top two. Best to not show up before 8:00 or even 8:30 pm.

Pierre Gagnaire
6, rue Balzac
75008, Paris
Tel. 01 58 36 12 50
Fax 01 58 36 12 51

Indescribably wonderful. Pierre Gagnaire was the Chef of the Year in 1995 with his magnificent restaurant in St Etienne which was, quite frankly, in the middle of nowhere. At the end of 1996, he set up shop in Paris and has been booked solid ever since. On our last visit, we simple told him “No brains, no wines from Burgundy since we live there and desserts are secondary” then turned him loose. Closed Saturday and Sunday lunch.

Guy Savoy
18, rue Troyon
75017, Paris
Tel. 01 43 80 40 61
Fax 0146 22 43 09

For years Guy Savoy “languished” at 2 Michelin stars and no one but no one could figure out why. Suddenly, for no reason, he was promoted 10 years ago and each time we go it seems to just get better. He is ALWAYS here and always visible. Just a magical place. Closed Saturday lunch, Sunday and Monday.

Great Bistros

You don't have to go the 3-star Michelin, 19/20 Gault Millau route in order to eat extraordinarily well in Paris. In fact, at all the spots below the food will be great but the atmosphere will be more relaxed. You might splurge on a Grand Restaurant once every six months but these are weekly affairs. Notice how most aren’t open on weekends. These are not for tourists.

“Chez Georges” – Le Jeu du Mail
1, rue du Mail
75002, Paris
Tel. 01 42 60 07 11

One long, friendly string of tables with bustling waitresses (only female here!) and a handwritten menu. Classic Parisian bistro, right from an old movie. Great food and atmosphere. The wine list is basic but honest. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

A La Tour de Montlhéry - “Chez Denise”
5, rue des Prouvaires
75001, Paris
Tel. 01 42 36 21 82
Fax 01 45 08 81 99

A veritable institution near the old market area, open day and night until 6 am! An authentic bistro with good simple food on the blackboard, excellent wine and friendly service. Closed Saturday and Sunday.

Le Willi’s Wine Bar
13, rue des Petits Champs
75001, Paris
Tel. 01 42 61 05 09
Fax 01 47 03 36 93

Run by a Brit but one who is as French as the locals. Excellent food and one of the most stunning wine lists in Paris. We sometimes drop in just for a great glass or two before heading elsewhere to eat and that’s really the best way to play it. But don’t hesitate to spend the whole evening here. Closed Sunday.

La Fontaine de Mars
129, rue St-Dominique
75007, Paris
Tel. 01 47 05 46 44
Fax 01 47 05 11 13

Excellent food, nice terrace, lots of action. Open every day.

The Best Brasseries

Perhaps the most French of all French eating establishments is the brasserie and one of your meals should fall into this category. At the best of them, the menu never gets too fancy and the wines never too pretentious. The waiters are dressed in white shirt, black vest, bow tie, and long apron. The portions are large, the service is fast and friendly, the clientele is interesting and diverse, and the ambience is lively. If you can stave off your hunger, perhaps with a cafe snack or a sidewalk crêpe, don't go too early. Tourists will be eating there at 7:00 pm but by 10:00 pm it will all be locals.

49, rue des Ecoles
75005, Paris
Tel. 01 43 54 13 67

A small classic brasserie that serves up some of the best roast chicken and frites we've ever tasted. The soup arrives in huge silver tureens and, if you're lucky, the nightly special may be cassoulet. A long narrow waiting area looks out onto the street so that you can watch the world go by with a glass in hand while the table is cleared. Unfortunately, it has been written up recently in quite a few American journals but if you can hold off and go for dinner after 9:00 pm, you’ll have a better experience. If you feel like dropping in at 11:00 pm, then it will be even better.

16, rue du Faubourg St-Dénis,
75010, Paris.
Tel. 01 47 70 12 06
Fax 01 42 47 00 65

In this slightly disreputable neighborhood sits a Parisian institution and one of the most popular of the city's evening haunts. The immense mahogany bar is impressive, the Art Nouveau decor is stunning, and the place is a lot of fun. It has been discovered and can be touristy but it’s still an experience.

Brasserie Flo
7, cour des Petites-Ecuries,
75010, Paris.
Tel. 01 47 70 13 59
Fax 01 42 47 00 80

An authentic Alsatian brasserie that specializes in seafood, especially the huge platters of shellfish that go well with the crisp and reasonable wines of the Loire. A bit of a formula but it works.

La Coupole
102, bd Montparnasse,
75014, Paris.
Tel. 01 43 20 14 20

An enormous and chaotic brasserie from the 1920s. You'll see every type of person in Paris here from government ministers to street musicians. It can be great fun to go alone and sit in the long row of small tables at the back that they reserve for singles. Your chair back is against the wall and the whole restaurant is your viewing area.


We know that life is busy for all of you. For that reason, we have selected, out of the countless thousands possible, only a few. If you want to read more, it might be worth tapping in your reading preference with Indigo or Amazon to see what they suggest.

As a general introduction to all things French, a very enjoyable book is Theodore Zeldin's "The French". Why they are who they are, why they do what they do - Zeldin seems to be able to explain even the passion the French have for their language in his famous and oh so true line "The French don't seem to care what they do, as long as they pronounce it properly". His other chapters delve into such weighty issues as "How to distinguish a manager from an aristocrat" and "How to deal with a grandmother". It can be read in 15 minute bursts and will certainly entertain and inform.

Along the same lines, if you truly want to dig deep into the French psyche, try "French or Foe"? Strangely enough, it is written by Polly Platt - an American! Maybe that’s not strange at all since, when all is said and done, what race, group or for that matter individual can look straight into the mirror and see the truth. This witty little paperback provides a non-judgmental (or at the very least judgmental from both sides of all questions) vision of French families, schools, meals, businesses and just about everything else that makes up a French day.

Another country's history is always confusing and you're better than we are if you can read the Penguin History of Europe and stay awake. What to do? Well, if you're having trouble separating Louis from François and the student riots of '68 from the French Revolution, we have just the book. The "Cultural Atlas of France" by John Ardagh with Colin Jones is a learned coffee table book that came out in 1991. It explores the cultural development from Prehistoric times to the present day, examines France's role in The War, discusses the conflict between change and tradition, and tries to put the Belle Epoque, The Bonapartes, Joan of Arc, and even the Tour de France into perspective. The book is very informative, never overly pedantic, and the pictures keep our tiny brains interested late at night.

"The Traveller’s History of Paris" and "The Traveller’s History of France" are both wonderful. Well, perhaps wonderful is too strong a word but they are concise, authoritative and interesting in their voyage from ancient times to the present regarding both subjects. Timelines drop into perspective, issues connect and cause and effect take shape.

We love guidebooks, probably because of all the years we have spent in the travel business. We always find their symbols, ratings, and prejudices extremely interesting - both before and after we’ve visited what they are critiquing. The all-encompassing master series of guide books for France is Michelin. It is terrible for Italy and disastrous for England but at home in France, all their criteria and therefore most of their decisions are pretty well on the mark.

For a comprehensive look at hotels and restaurants, especially if you'll be travelling within France before or after the trip, the Michelin Red Guide is a must. Not only does it rank places to stay and eat right down to the elevator, indoor parking, and air conditioning, it also gives you altitudes, populations, local tourist board locations, the availability of skating rinks, and garages offering 24 hour breakdown service.

If you want something much more general but with colour pictures, maps, and a lot more life, we recommend DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. You could either opt for the general book on France or choose the more specific book that deals with the Loire Valley separately. In our opinion they are easier-going than the Michelin Green Guides although their edition entitled "Chateaux of the Loire", (Jul 2015) is comprehensive for culture, history, architecture and a vast array of cultural sites.

A wonderful food book is Waverly Root’s "The Food of France". It is a classic and the yardstick by which any French food book must be measured. He deals with all of France under the general divisions of “Butter, Lard and Oil”, devoting many pages to each French region. It was first published in 1958 and our copy, published in 1978 was its sixth printing. An appetizing read.

A very recent and controversial book which we highly recommend is France "On the Brink" by Jonathan Fenby. In it, a British journalist examines contemporary France and attempts to explain why the country isn't what it used to be.