Don’t Visit France Until You Read This

Posted by on Nov 4, 2013 in Countries, France | 0 comments

Summary: France is a beautiful country to visit. Nevertheless, for different reasons it needs good planning. Below are six things to consider in order to not screw up your trip to France.

Although France is my native country, I’ve started looking at it with a traveler’s eye since I’ve been living abroad and traveling for quite a long time. Traveling has made me conscious of things about my own country I would never have thought about before. If you’re planning a trip in France, just like for any other country, there are several things you need to take into consideration to make your trip more pleasant and enjoyable.

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Rouen

Check the weather prior to traveling to France

After having experienced the weather in several parts of the world (such as North and South America, Asia and the Middle East), it appears to us that France and Europe in general have the most unstable weather ever! Even relatively tough parts of our planet (like Canada, for example, or the Andean Cordillera) are way more bearable than Europe. There are several reasons for this. First, in France, weather and specifically temperatures can change drastically from one day to another. Second, seasons are unpredictable. You can have a whole canalicular summer, and then it can rain three months non-stop the next summer.
Winters can be as cold as the Canadian ones, or cool without being too cold—both with and without snow. This is a kind of challenge for your body because it is harder to adapt. My Egyptian friends who traveled to France used to say that in France you can see the four seasons in one day.
Now, this may sound very inconvenient while traveling in the country, but the good thing is that this kind of weather is also the reason for our gorgeous landscapes and great diversity of enlightenment that will surely amaze you and then enhance your photography skills!

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Near Arzon, Brittany

Here are our thoughts about the weather in France:

  • If you don’t like cold, visit France in summer.
  • In summer, bring your bikini, but also pack for cold days.
  • Yes, in France it rains a lot all year. So be prepared and bring your raincoat.
  • If it’s a sunny day, get some sun block, as the sun can get really strong.
  • The north of France is humid and the south more dry but windy.

How are the people in France?

While traveling abroad I’ve noticed that in general people love France, or typically have a good reaction when you say that you’re French—but when you dig a little bit deeper you realize that French people don’t have such a good reputation in matters of behavior and interaction with others! As the Spanish say, “In France, everything is great but the French.” I have come to the conclusion that there is always that kind of paradox with the French—good and bad at the same time. The two bad characteristics that comes up the most when people mention the French are their arrogance and that they are grumpy people—which is mostly true.

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At the beach in Le Havre

So how are you going to deal with that?
First, many French (especially in big cities) are not 100% French, but come from different backgrounds, which makes them more pleasant.
Second, these grumpy attitudes might be a superficial way to judge the French. When you get to know people better they aren’t that bad.
Third, people in small towns and villages (like elsewhere in the world) are much more authentic and not so complicated or sophisticated.
The other thing you will have to take into consideration is the fact that most people don’t speak English. However, this isn’t any worse than elsewhere in non-Anglophone countries—and isn’t that part of traveling after all? People will try to help you most of the time.

What should you visit in France: the countryside or Paris?

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The Opera of Paris

Like many other places in the world, the capital is not very representative of the whole country. Although Paris is a great city and totally worth a visit, it won’t give you a complete picture of France. Mainly because of the huge number of different communities there (which makes it also very attractive), Paris is something apart. I always say that it was more difficult for me to live in Paris coming from the countryside than to live in Cairo coming from Paris. The countryside is different—it is more traditional, quieter, people think differently—that’s why it is where you will find the real French experience you’re looking for. On the other hand, in Paris you will find all you can find in any big city around the globe: international food, coffee shops, shopping malls, an active night life, great museums and monuments and so on. For me, Paris and the rest of France will always remain two very different things.

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The chapel on the top of the cliffs at Etretat

How to deal with the money in France

The changeover to the Euro in 1999 was a very big challenge for French people and for Europeans in general (and definitely for travelers!), as life suddenly became way more expensive. Since then, money has become something everyone thinks about before planning a trip in France. Nevertheless, it is possible to visit France without spending a fortune if you know how to avoid the things that cost the most. Here are a few areas where your money can easily disappear if you don’t pay attention:

  • Accommodation: Think different. There is CouchSurfing, vacation rentals and camping. This will save you hundreds of Euros.
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    A bus

  • Transportation: Trains, public transportation and even carpool is expensive in France. Usually buses are cheaper, but you’ll never get great deals as you do with Megabus $1 tickets in US/Canada for example! Booking ahead–weeks or months–can save you a lot of money.
  • Restaurants: If you take all your meals in restaurants, you will easily spend at least $40 a day. It is better to buy your food in supermarkets and bakeries. You will have a wider variety, and food is always delicious in France.

What about French food?

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A plate of desserts in a fancy restaurant

French cuisine is known to be some of the best in the world (though for me it is known above all as one of the most expensive judging by the prices we saw in French restaurant menus abroad!). Fortunately, you won’t have to go to expensive restaurants to taste most of the traditional dishes, as you’ll be able to find them in affordable restaurants (as a “plat du jour”), in markets or even in supermarkets. Here are a few of the more popular:

  • Cassoulet
  • Choucroute
  • Steak frites (French fries)
  • Pot-au-Feu
  • Quiche
  • Gratin dauphinois
  • Raclette
  • Sole meunière
  • Bouillabaisse
  • Magret de canard
  • Moules-frites (mussels and fries)—if you like seafood
Sole meuniere

Sole Meunière by Jaycross on Flickr

Those are some of the typical French dishes that very popular in France. We would recommend as well that you taste the famous French pancakes known as “crêpes,” which you can find in affordable restaurants called “Crêperies.” Bread and pastries are also what we like the most in France. While I’m writing this article I’m realizing that there are so many different kinds of food in France that it would be difficult to mention them all! Don’t miss the “café with croissants (which are not French, by the way)” at breakfast. And of course, don’t miss our many different kinds of cheeses. If you like cheese, then France is a paradise for you!

Where to go and what to visit?

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Saint-Ouen abbey in Rouen

Though France is a small country, there is a lot to do! You have to plan and list your priorities before traveling in order to budget your time. If you like monuments, museums and history, you will be happy in France. From the prehistoric Lascaux caves to the very modern Grande Arche de La Défense in Paris, all the epochs are represented. Indeed, officials are very good at making the preservation of French historical heritage a number one priority.

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Normandy coast view from plane

If you like nature, you will find a large diversity of landscapes, with both the Alps and the Pyrenees (for those who like mountains), beautiful Mediterranean beaches in the South, the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the channel in the north (for those who like the sea), and a lot of different countryside landscapes in the center of the country, along with many forests. In France, every region has its own specificities when it comes to food, architecture, and festivals, which makes the country a very attractive and diversified place to visit.
For all theses reasons, it is very important that you check first what you want to do in France and then prepare your itinerary.
So, that’s it. Now you know what you have to know and you can plan your trip to France.

What did you love or hate the most in France?

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