Well, this is the final post for our blog! We arrived back in Australia on Saturday morning so, sadly, our adventure in France is officially over. Our life in Alice Springs resumes on January 17th and it won’t be long before we’re back at work and in our usual routine. We’ve had such a fantastic 23 weeks it’s not going to be easy settling down again. We drove nearly 20,000km around France, visiting some amazing and beautiful places and, along with living at La Villatte du Bas, having Montlucon as our local town, going to watercolour painting lessons, French lessons and Country Dance classes, we have lots of great times to look back on and wonderful memories of things we’ve seen and done. It certainly has been an unforgettable, rewarding experience!
To finish off, we thought we’d share some useful information and a few tips for those intending to travel in France:
10 Quirky Things You Should Know About France (in no particular order),
1. If travelling on a Monday or between 12 and 2 on other days, take a cut lunch – you won’t find any shops open, not even the ones that cater for lunch!
2. If you see a decent toilet while out and about, use it even if you don’t need to – you can be assured that in your time of need, you won’t find one. Oh, and always BYO toilet paper!
3. Be prepared for anything and everything on French roads – cattle, hunting dogs, deer, rain, sleet, snow, snow ploughs, trucks, farmers in vans, farmers on tractors, farmers on the wrong side of the road, farmers with guns, Audi drivers…
4. Don’t ask a French person for directions if you don’t want to be led astray – use a GPS!
5. If you want coffee and cake, you’ll have to go to two different shops. France and the café culture have not yet met.
6. Following a deviation on the road means you may never reach your destination unless you have a sixth sense on where the next deviation sign should be.
7. You probably won’t see road signs leading to the town you’re heading for but if you follow the ‘Toutes Directions’ signs, you’ll end up somewhere.
8. Every French town has a Centre Ville – it might just take you a while to find it. If in doubt and in an emergency, go to McDonald’s.
9. ‘Exceptionellement fermé’ means we’re not open (no particular reason), we might be open tomorrow, or maybe next week.
10. The French are not rude, they just know the right way to do everything.
10 Excellent Things You Should Know About France (again, in no particular order)
1. Oh, the food! Try everything, particularly the regional specialities – it’s all delicious (well, maybe not the snails…)
2. Rural France is beautiful and well worth exploring. Get off the beaten track – you’ll certainly be rewarded if you take the road less travelled.
3. France has an amazing history so take time to visit its castles (not just those in the Loire), cathedrals and anything built by the Romans.
4. The sensational Strasbourg Christmas Markets are a must – the whole town is alive, decorated, lit up and smells of spicy mulled wine.
5. Paris is gorgeous day and night – put aside a week and walk.
6. If you have time and opportunity, try to meet some local French people – they really are hospitable, interesting and entertaining.
7. The French Alps in winter are stunning and a trip in the cable car 3500m up to Aiguille de Midi is an unforgettable experience.
8. Visit the Somme – Lest We Forget…
9. 45 minutes before the sun goes down, especially in autumn, the countryside is bathed in a soft orange light – great for lovely photos.
10. Country trains are clean, reliable, economical and relaxing – perfect for stress-free travel (and to avoid everything in point 3 ‘Ten Quirky Things…’)
A Few Tips
• If you’re going to be in France for a while and using the toll roads, get an electronic pass (available at most ‘Aires’/roadside shops). Makes for very easy access onto and off the toll roads – otherwise you need cash as only French credit cards are accepted
• If driving, buy fuel from supermarket outlets (eg. Carrefour) – it’s cheaper than elsewhere (especially the toll roads) and most have 24 hour access to fuel (and accept other countries’ credit cards)
• Leasing a car is far cheaper than hiring, if you’re going to be in Europe for the required minimum time
• Ibis Styles Hotels are good value, comfortable, have tea and coffee-making facilities (rare in French hotels) and breakfast is included
• Gluten-free products and Soy are pretty well impossible to find in restaurants/cafes etc. but can be bought in most supermarkets
• A cheap mobile phone and sim card from Leclerc (a supermarket chain) gives good coverage and rates for use in France
• Contrary to popular belief, apart from in Paris, French people don’t speak English so learning a few key words and phrases will make your visit easier and more enjoyable.
• Housecarers.com gives access to a wide range of house-sitting opportunities all over the world – we found our house-sit through this site and wouldn’t hesitate to use it again.
Our photos this week are of our last couple of days in London and some of our previously-posted favourites – the ones that, in our eyes, epitomise France.
We’ve really enjoyed writing the blog and say thank you to all who have followed it or read any part of it. We’ve had, to date, 4640 views, by people from 62 different countries! For us, it’ll be an invaluable record of our time in France.
Until our next adventure…
Chris & David