I have a love-hate relationship with France although it veers more towards hate nowadays. Our third expat home didn’t last for long and with good reason! When Emma tried to sign up for yoga she was told she required an interview and when Richard tried to sign up for community football in October he was told he’d missed the sign up date and would have to wait until the next sign up date in September the following year. When Imogen signed up for gymnastics she was informed that she required a doctor’s note saying she was fit to attend.
France is a vast country with a huge amount of rural land. Famous for its ‘vin, pain et boursin‘ it is home to some beautiful countryside, vineyards, quaint villages as well as multiple coast lines.
Paris its capital city is like a different country though in comparison to the rest of France which remains traditional in terms of racism, sexism and ageism towards its younger generations and best not to get me started on its education system which remains in the dark ages.
I would go so far as to say that the people (unless under 30 years old, well travelled or living in an area with a high volume of expats) are generally not friendly or helpful. If you dare to butcher their precious language they will never forgive you and you may be met with exasperated sighs and extended periods of eye rolling.
Top Ten Cities
- Paris – 2.2m
- Marseille – 852,000
- Lyon – 484,344
- Toulouse – 441,802
- Nice – 343,304
- Nantes – 284,970
- Strasbourg – 271,782
- Bordeaux – 239,157
- Lille – 227,560
What to Know
The official language of France is French and is spoken by approximately 66 million people.
- France’s currency is the Euro €
- ATM’s can be found in cities and larger towns. Most shops/restaurants accept payment through bank card but there are still some that don’t.
- Contactless is discouraged but can be used for small payments less than €20.
- Europe has open borders and you can drive between France – Germany/Belgium/Switzerland/Spain/Italy without having your passport checked.
- If you land at an airport you may be subject to immigration.
- A bed in a hostel costs around €15-40 per night whereas private rooms in hostels might cost €70 per night. Free WiFi is usually included in hostel stays and some include breakfast.
- Budget motels start at around €60 per night and most include self-service breakfast.
- Airbnb (get $25 off your booking) is available in certain locations with prices generally between €40-150 per night.
- Booking.com offers a comprehensive list of hotels, hostels, guest rooms and private villas/houses. Hotels vary from €70 up to €400 per night depending on which type of hotel and how many rooms you have. Most hotels have interconnecting rooms or apartment style rooms.
- French restaurant food can be relatively cheap if you stick to fixed menus. A basic restaurant lunch meal will cost about €12 pp. If you eat ‘a la carte’ expect to start paying about €15-30 per course.
- Plant based food restaurants are not that easy to find in France. Paris has a large selection to offer but veganism is a sin in France and is slow to catch on.
- If you plan on buying and cooking your own food, fresh produce is easiest to buy at markets. Most towns hold weekly. A weekly family shop at a market will cost at least €100.
- Supermarkets can be found in all large towns and cities. The largest tend to be HyperU, Carrefour, Auchan, E.Leclerc as well as Lidls and Aldi. Smaller supermarkets are Casino and Monoprix. Expect to pay about €200 for a family week shop.
- Car hire is extensive throughout France. We tend to use rentalcars.com as we can browse prices and accumulate points. Just keep an eye out on the T&C’s for deposit amount.
- The TGV is the fast train which links cities. The trains which link smaller towns are run by SNCF. Pick up cheaper train tickets with trainline.eu
- FlixBus and Ouibus offer cheap coach travel around Europe.
Places of Interest
- Paris – I could hardly miss out the capital with the Eiffel tower, Musée de Louve, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Seine River. There’s just too much to list here because Paris is a big metropolitan city with a ton to do.
- Claude Monet’s House – These famous gardens of impressionist painter Claude Monet in Giverny showcase his love of colours and flowers. You can visit his house, water garden and flower garden.
- The Chenonceau Chateau – Probably the most well-known and visited chateau in the Loire Valley. It was built in the 16th century, spans the River Cher and has five passageways for boats at the bottom.
- Lyon’s old town – The old town has the largest Renaissance district in Lyon in Europe. Filled with narrow streets and picturesque buildings that now house museums and shops. Catch the funicular rail up to the chateau.
- Strasbourg – The Old Town is marked by narrow cobblestone streets flanked with timbered buildings. Walking along the canals is a popular activity.
- The gardens of Versailles – The most famous gardens in the world are an epic proportion and I’ve yet to meet anybody yet who hasn’t been amazed by them.
- St Emilion – The French wine town that’s even more beautiful than Bordeaux is about two thousand years old. Historical town with plenty of vineyards to visit.
Areas of natural beauty
- Lac D’annecy – Annecy lies in the Rhone Alps at the northern end of Lake Annecy near Switzerland. The medieval town is divided by small canals and streams which are a wonderful azure color. A top attraction is the Palais de l’Isle that sits in the middle of a canal.
- Le Puy-en-Velay – That massive mountain needle with a Cathedral on top. Down in the south of France and famous for three things: its cathedral, lentils and making lace. A shrine to the Virgin Mary atop Mons Anicius has attracted pilgrims from before the Middle Ages. Notre Dame Cathedral is the most popular tourist attraction. Try Verveine, a green liquor flavored with verbena.
- Bonifacio, Corsica – The nearby coast features chalk white limestone cliffs the ocean has carved into unusual shapes. Erosion has whittled away at the cliffs so that buildings appear to be almost hanging over the edge.
- Arcachon Bay – The Dune of Pyla is the tallest sand dune in Europe. It’s growing eastwards at about 4.5m a year – it has swallowed trees, a road junction and even a hotel. At the summit of the dune the view is spectacular with the Atlantic coast and the inlet of the bay on one side and a large pine forest on another.
- Calanque de Morgiou, Marseilles – A turquoise gorge near Marseille which offers France’s best diving spot.
- The Gorge du Verdon – Considered one of Europe’s most beautiful river canyons. It’s at its deepest (almost 2,300 feet or 700 meters deep) between Castellane and Moustiers-Sainte-Marie, an area that offers the best views.
- Provence – No trip to France is complete with a drive (or cycle) through the lavender fields of Provence.
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