Many visits, many tales.
11.11.2005 5 °C
France... What to say about France. Without being trite.
My first trip to France was way back in 2002 when I visited Paris with a good friend who'd been before and was eager to show me as much as possible and to experience all that the city had to offer the meagre tourist with her undefined explorers taste.
While I was the meagre party - Paris was not in anyway. We visited absolutely everything - The Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coure (sp? apologies for any glaring spelling mistakes), The Eiffel Tower, Arc d'Triumphe, the Latin Quater, the Moulin Rouge and on and on. We rollerbladed, tasted and sampled and trekked all over just having a ball. On my second visit to the city only Napoleans tomb was new to me thats how much ground we covered that first visit.
After Paris I visited Strasbourg (which is a border city and has been both german and french many times in its history but I believe for now it rests on officially french soil). A disappointing city that really only offers moderately good shopping (a fantastic array of warm winter jackets at excellent prices if you go at the right time of year) and a fascinating ancient quarter and some impressive architecture. The rest of the city is not worth the money you'd spend on getting there. (Oh - the trams are quite neat but only because its supposed to be some sort of European hub City so I discount them as merely for show.) Basically the weather was cold and so were the people. They all speak Dutch German and French - until a foreigner asks them a question in one of those languages and suddenly they don't understand you... I don't wish to start a one woman campaign against Strasbourg but I will not be recommending it any time soon.
I have also had the delight to visit Beane (Pncd 'Bone'), Avignon (gorgeous!) the Beaujolias wine region, The Bordeaux wine region, Cannes, Cann, Oistreham (by default of this being the harbour our ferry landed at), Nice, Fontainebleau, the French Riviera (in particular Biot where we stayed), Calais of course (see comment for Oistreham), Nimes, Le Grande Mott, Sete, Montpellier... the list just gets longer.
I can highly recommend the south of France. The sun shines, there are beautiful beaches and people and the food is to die for. The closer to Catalonia you get the more you begin to feel like you are in Barcelona and as you head in the opposite direction you can really feel the glitz and glamour of Monacco filtering down along the coast. I can honestly say I think of heavenly blue skies, hot days and basking on the beach when I think of the south of France.
What I have noticed:
- the food is almost always good. Without a doubt the subtlty and variety of the flavours will always catch you off guard.
- People watching is a valid tourist past time. Anywhere. At any time of day. Even watching other tourists is valid.
- The further north you go the more you need to make an effort to speak french.
- Lace is the local speciality of far too many places in France.
- Eating every new food you come across will make you fat in a few days in France. In fact anywhere in Europe. Pace yourself. Even if you have eaten a local version of a french meal where you come from you have not really tried it until you eat it in France. And that immediately leads to sampling everything - whether you are hungry or not. It takes a huge amount of will power at first to just say no. And to realise that you can always try it another time. As I said Pace yourself.
- France has a better range of souvenirs than most other european countries (well - the ones I have visited anyway). Buy souvenirs in France. That said Italy does a whole different range - but that is for another blog!
I hope that proves useful to you one day. Visit France.