Week 23 The adventure comes to an end

Hi all

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

6 thoughts on “Week 23 The adventure comes to an end

  1. Audrey Fittall says:

    aaaawwww all over….What wonderful memories you’ll have to look back on! 🙂

    • Sure do have some great memories – lots of photos too! I’m glad we have the blog as a written record – it’ll be great to re-read from time-to-time. Thanks for being a faithful weekly reader and commenter!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Welcome back

  3. langhm says:

    Hi Chris and David, I happened to discover your wonderful blog by very good chance. What a wonderful 5 1/2 month adventure you had in my favourite country, you saw so many beautiful places (but France is beautiful everywhere). I joined up so I could write a comment, my name is Helen, but that user name was taken! I have not read all your blog entries yet, but I wanted to write and say thank you so much for sharing your adventure. You have been home for a while now, but I know part of your heart would still be in France. I have visited many of the places you have with my French friend, Gilles who lives in the Charente Maritime. I love the Pyrenees and the Dordogne and the Atlantic Islands, especially the Ile d’Oleron. Chris you are very lucky to be able to speak French, sadly I cannot but fortunately my friend speaks fluent English. Gilles is a Protestant and attends church regularly (as I do here in Australia). I am spending 2 weeks with him and am arriving in Paris on December 27th and going to Strasbourg and Colmar to see the Christmas Markets, this is a dream of mine for many years. Then we are taking the train to Mirambeau where Gilles lives. I would love to chat any time about France, but I am not sure how to give you my email address if you would like to write to me. Thanks again for sharing your wonderful adventure, Helen

    • Hi Helen, thanks for your comment – we’re glad you’ve been enjoying our blog. We had an amazing time in France and it was really hard coming back in January and getting back into work. There isn’t a day goes by that we don’t think about some aspect of our trip, even if just fleetingly – France certainly made a huge impression on us! We hope to go back one day. I might end up taking some of my students to Paris and a couple of other places next September which will be great. It sounds like you’ve travelled a lot in France as well and it would be great having a French guide! The Christmas markets are amazing! The towns have a wonderful atmosphere around Christmas time – a lot nicer I think than here in Australia.
      Your email address is included with your comment so I can email you if you like – would be good to compare notes! All the best, Christine.

      • langhm says:

        Hi Christine, thank you so much for your reply and I would be very pleased to ‘compare notes’ via my email address. I look forward to hearing from you. Many thanks, Helen

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