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France Wrap Up $62 per day

We spent 26 days in France. Here is a collection of our impressions, travel tips, and the cost break down.

Schedule

montmatre-paris

  • Paris 9 days
    • Paris is simply a magical city with no shortage of things to do. To get ourselves acquainted we started with a bike tour and a cooking class and from there explored the various different neighborhoods, museums, cafes, and quaint streets. Our favorite neighborhoods are the Montmatre and the Marais – both must sees.

castle-in-saumur

  • Saumur and La Rochelle 1 1/2 days

    • We started our driving tour in Paris with my mom and made an afternoon stop in Saumur where we visited the castle and the small town. From there we arrived in La Rochelle in the evening and spent the following afternoon exploring the port town.

bordeaux

  • Bordeaux  1 day

    • From La Rochelle we drove to Bordeaux and spent the night and following afternoon exploring the charming city. Unfortunately we did not have a chance to visit the vineyards in the surrounding areas, but this didn’t stop us from buying and sample the local Bordeaux wines.

carcassone

  • Carcassonne 1/2 day

    • From Bordeaux we made a pit stop in Carcassonne on our way to Marseille. This small town has an incredible castle which is highly worth a visit if you are in the area.

marseille

  • Marseille 2 days

    • We rented an apartment for a few days in Marseille and this gave us a chance to slow down our driving tour for a bit. We spent a couple days exploring the various neighborhoods in the city center and marveling at the gorgeous sunsets right outside our apartment by a small ancient port.

beaches-in-nice

  • Nice and Cannes 1 day 
    • Though a long drive from Marseille, we were short on time, so we visited both Nice and Cannes in one day and returned to Marseille for the night. The beaches are not that nice – with pebbles instead of sand, but we couldn’t pass up the chance to see the famous French Riviera. The towns are lined with quaint sea side cafes and restaurants. Well worth the trip, though overnighting here would been more comfortable.

roussillon

  • Roussillon and Lyon 2 days 
    • On our way to Lyon we stopped in Roussillon for a few hours and it is a gorgeous French village with red sand buildings. Highly recommend exploring the town after lunch. In Lyon we spent the night and the next afternoon and enjoyed the old town center. From there we made our way back to Paris to finish off our road trip.

rouen

  • Rouen 1 day
    • After our driving tour we spent a few more days in Paris before taking the train to Rouen in the Normandy region. Luckily our visit coincided with the once in 4 years Armada Festival so we walked through to get a look at the boats and explored the town, admiring the unique architecture.

etretat-cliffs

  • Le Havre and Etretat 1 day
    • The town of Le Havre doesn’t have too much to offer as it was almost entirely destroyed by the war and quickly rebuilt in a more cement/concrete style look, but it is a great place to base yourself for other trips in the area. In the evening our couchsurfer took us to Etretat where the gorgeous cliffs will blow you away. There are hiking opportunities here so if you are feeling active you can walk all the way back to Le Havre (though it might take all day).

Honfleur

  • Honfleur 1 day
    • We came here on a day trip from Le Havre and it is an adorable small port town. We enjoyed ourselves by simply wandering the streets and getting lost.

American Cemetery

  • Caen 6 days
    • We rented an apartment here for a few days to get some work done but also spent a day visiting the thorough and well organized Caen Memorial, which tells the story of World War II with a large exhibit about the Battle of Normandy. As a day trip we went to the Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery which is also highly worth a visit.

 

Would we do it the same way?

 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.

Our Route

Our Impressions

Paris

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.

Bests And Worsts

Best food:

croissants

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.

 

Best experience:

with our Rouen couchsurfers

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.

Bucket List Activities: NONE

Tips For Traveling

Transportation

Local Buses

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.

Trains

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.

Cabs

We did not take any cabs in France as I imagine they are going to be fairly expensive.

Long Distance Buses

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.

Student IDs

We were able to get a few student discounts at museums to make sure to carry the student id with you!

Public Facilities

You’ll find free public toilets in France in the cities.

Safety

We found France to feel safe.

Food and Restaurants

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

Internet is widely available  and cafes have free wifi.

Accommodations ( 1 euro = ~1.3 USD)

Marseille apartment

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.

  1. Paris – we couchsurfed and stayed with friends for a few days, spent a couple nights at this apartment https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/885578 which was incredibly overpriced at $75 a night, without wifi and simply one of the worst places we’ve ever stayed at
  2.  La Rochelle – we spent one night here http://www.privilege-hr.com/portail/
  3.  Bordeaux – we stayed for one night at this apartment http://www.wimdu.com/offers/9Z0YS5AM?temp_token=qGKMXSJ0AwMIO6I3l6B0 and loved it
  4.  Marseille – we stayed for 4 nights at this apartment http://www.wimdu.com/offers/6ZT3M7I8?temp_token=qGKMXSJ0AwMIO6I3l6B0 and it was very nice with a location right by a beautiful old port
  5.  Lyon – we stayed for one night at a hotel http://www.hotel-mercure-lyon.com/
  6.  Rouen – we couchsurfed here
  7. Le Havre – we couchsurfed here
  8. Caen – we stayed for 6 nights at this apartment https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1185101 and absolutely loved it here

Finding Couchsurfers

We couchsurfed 4 times in France and were generally able to find couchsurfers pretty easily even on fairly short notice.

Cost Break Down

We kept track of every cost we had down to the purchase level and categorized it into 5 groupings:

  • Entertainment – Mostly sightseeing.
  • Food and Water – Breakfast, lunch, and dinner, as well as snacks (little things we bought in the middle of the day, chips, ice cream, etc).
  • Gifts – For couchsurfers, usually a bottle of wine or some chocolates, sometimes treated to dinner.
  • Transportation – all forms but not including any flights in and out of the country.
  • Utilities – Things like lockers for bags, pay phones, small purchases like detergent.
  • Accommodation – All hotel/hostel/guesthouse stays
  • Car – gas, tolls, 

So where did we end up?

$62 per person, per day. 

france wrap up

Would we go back to France? YES!

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8 Responses to France Wrap Up $62 per day

  1. I loved France so much! It’s such a charming and beautiful country. I too found the French people to be really nice. I’d love to go back and maybe do something similar to what you did. Live like a local at times and maybe do some couch surfing. I think it’d be an even better way to see the country. It’s really nice to know that you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars a day on trips.

    And that croissant looks amazing. After France, I never had the urge to buy croissants at home because, it wouldn’t be the same haha!

    Mallory August 29, 2013 at 10:23 PM Reply
    • Yes France is truly amazing! Living like a local there would be really interesting and is definitely something we are interested in in the future. Know exactly what you mean about croissants — store bought ones just won’t compare!

      Vicky September 2, 2013 at 4:26 PM Reply
  2. Thank you for this very helpufl and providing for any traveller many informations. I also recommend visiting Alsace and their wine route and villages, Nancy – but Paris “it’s not a city, it’s a world”. 🙂

    Marta August 30, 2013 at 3:47 AM Reply
    • We had heard about Alsace from some friends and would have loved to visit the region but simply did not have enough time to see as much of France as we would have liked. Definitely on the top of the list for our next trip to France! Well said about Paris – couldn’t agree more!

      Vicky September 2, 2013 at 4:25 PM Reply
  3. Thanks, that’s not as bad as I thought! Loved the pictures, they took me back to my childhood, we spent our summers touring France in a caravan. I always say Europe doesn’t interest me, but the closer we get to our old home (UK) the more I’m hoping to get ourselves over to the continent and show the kids what I know so well. After Christmas in Wales we’re either heading to the US or Europe, still planning!

    Alyson August 30, 2013 at 7:02 PM Reply
    • When we started our trip we were more excited about Asia, but we truly loved our 3 months in Europe and really loved France in particular. Would love to go back and spend more time there!

      Vicky September 2, 2013 at 4:24 PM Reply
  4. Looks like you two covered a lot of ground in 26 days! My wife and I are going to be in France in April during our RTW trip and we’re thinking of renting a car and road tripping through Provence any suggestions on where to go that’s off the radar?

    Eric September 2, 2013 at 11:12 PM Reply
    • In Provence we only got to Marseille, Cannes and Nice which are all nice but not exactly off the beaten path. I had read good things about Arles, Aix en Provence, Avignon, Cassis, St Tropez, Eze and Grasse (where the perfumeries are). Unfortunately we simply did not have the time to get to all of these places. Enjoy your trip though!

      Vicky September 2, 2013 at 11:53 PM Reply

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