- Travel Topics
We spent 26 days in France. Here is a collection of our impressions, travel tips, and the cost break down.
We spent a good amount of time in Paris, though you could always spend more. In terms of our driving tour we were definitely rushed. It would have been better if we had double the time, or if we weren’t trying to cover so much ground in so little time. We spent a lot of time in the car but we loved everyplace we went so we don’t regret doing it the way we did but would recommend adding more time if trying to replicate our route. We really enjoyed the Normandy region and generally felt that each town stood out from the next. If we come back to France we will spend more time exploring some of the other regions in France.
We instantly fell in love with Paris and France in general. After spending 9 months in Asia landing in Western Europe was more than just a pleasant surprise. From the gorgeous and delicious pastries, to the architecture to the milder weather we were simply grinning from ear to ear. Even everyone we encountered was incredibly friendly and nice (breaking with the typical negative French stereotype). With Dave’s basic knowledge of French we were able to get around and people were always encouraging and appreciated his effort in communicating in French. We felt like the various cities and towns differed from each other and each place we went to offered something different. Overall I found France to just be so incredibly charming, almost overwhelmingly so, but not quite. I couldn’t help but stare into the windows of every bakery and pastry shop, marveling at the presentation of the food. Everything just seemed so neat and organized. The outdoor markets were all brimming with colors and every item on food is on display – as if you are eating it with your eyes and not your mouth. I couldn’t get enough of this. By the time our month in France was over, I wasn’t ready to leave and would have happily spent a few more months there, settling down in some small town, learning some French, getting to know the local butcher, baker, etc, you know, straight out of a Julia Child memoir.
How could I pick just one best food in France? I hate to be predictable but I’ll have to go with the croissants. Oh those flaky, buttery parcels of goodness. You simply forget all diets and calorie counting once you put a freshly baked French croissant in your mouth. You’ll never be able to buy croissants at the local grocery store again after that. For second and place I’ll have to go with the cheese. There is no shortage of cheese in France and 1 month was simply not enough time to sample all of them. The French have a deep rooted relationship with dairy products and it’s simply amazing what they can do with them.
France is where we got back to doing a lot of couchsurfing. We did do a bit of couchsurfing when we started our trip in Japan, South Korea and China but then mostly stuck to meetups in SE Asia instead of being hosted in people’s homes. In France we got to stay with several couchsurfers, one of whom had stayed with us in DC back in 2012 so that always brings things full circle. Everyone we stayed with was incredibly hospitable and friendly and it was great to see first hand how crucial of a role cheese plays in the French life. Almost all of our couchsurfers treated us to a cheese plate after dinner – as we have learned is the standard in France.
Biggest Rip Off:
The tolls on the highways in France are simply outrageous. The cost of gas is high as well, but we were more prepared for that than the toll prices. At one point we paid a 30 euro toll – $40. This really blew me away. If you have more time, avoid the highways and take the more scenic small roads.
We took a few local buses in the smaller towns and never had a problem as the stops are clearly labeled and you can always ask the bus driver if you need some help.
France has an efficient train system and we took a few trains throughout our stay. Naturally trains are not cheap between certain places there really is no other option. Tickets can be purchased in advance on the rail website and picked up at the train station. Buy your tickets in advance to get a discount.
We did not take any cabs in France as I imagine they are going to be fairly expensive.
We took a few long distance buses in Normandy and it was fairly easy to receive information about the routes and times. Tickets can be bought at the bus station.
We were able to get a few student discounts at museums to make sure to carry the student id with you!
You’ll find free public toilets in France in the cities.
We found France to feel safe.
There are various eating options in France from making your own picnic by buying baguettes, cheese, wine, cold cuts and dips separately to dining at expensive and fancy restaurants. At bakeries you can buy sandwiches for a few euros or a kebab from the kebab shops which you’ll see all over. If you want to go out for a traditional French meal but without splurging, go for the fixed course lunch menu where you can usually order a 2 or 3 course meal for under 15-20 euros.
Credit Cards And Money
We were able to use our credit cards sometimes, though we have cards without the chip so this gave us trouble sometimes.
Internet is widely available and cafes have free wifi.
In France we switched between couchsurfing and apartment rentals on airbnb. We enjoyed spending time with locals and learning about the French culture while couchsurfing but also enjoyed our privacy and have a full kitchen while we were renting apartments. For two people it is not that much more expensive to rent an apartment in Europe as opposed to staying in a hostel yet we find apartments to be much more comfortable.
We couchsurfed 4 times in France and were generally able to find couchsurfers pretty easily even on fairly short notice.
We kept track of every cost we had down to the purchase level and categorized it into 5 groupings:
So where did we end up?
$62 per person, per day.
Would we go back to France? YES!