From Personal Experience What You Can Expect Travelling to France?

On September 1998 I went to France Find hotels in this city / area with my wife. We don’t like arranged travels and we prefer to travel on our own, because we think is the only way you can get in touch with the real country and its people. This way of travelling is harder and more expensive than others, but also more pleasant, relaxing and, that’s the best, gives you a different point of view on the culture and way of life.

After my experience here you have my advice if you plan to travel on your own to France. You have to understand that this is MY PERSONAL POINT OF VIEW and that it is not my intention to criticize the people or culture of France. You also must take into account that these observations are from year 1998. Things might have changed (either in the right or in the wrong way) since then.

(Click on the icons to find hotels in that city or area)

If you are thinking of enjoying the marvellous french Riviera, change your mind. The well known “cote d’azur” is little more than about 80 Kms of overcrowded cost, and Saint Tropez Find hotels in this city / area, Saint Raphael Find hotels in this city / area, and Cannes Find hotels in this city / area are just another touristic resort.
Anyway, if you persist in the idea of visiting the area by car, avoid doing it on a weekend in Summer (as I stupidly did !). You will spent the whole day in a never-ending car bottleneck.
In our first lunch in France we found out that lunch-time in this country is rather different that in Spain. Restaurants in general close at 1:30 PM and after that time you can only eat some sandwich or crepe in the stands by the street….so you have to get used to have lunch earlier…:-)
Fortunately, at the end we reached Monaco Find hotels in this city / area. Monaco is worth to stay one or two days (But no more). In that time you can visit almost everything in this “little” exponent of how it must be “good life”.
A “must” in Monaco is the Oceanographic Museum. Everything there, from the Aquarium and museum to the building itself (built right on the cliffs), is outstanding. You can spent the whole morning there and then have a lunch on the restaurant on the terrace…
If you want to have dinner at a good restaurant at a resonable price (as “resonable” as prices can be in Monaco, of course) you can try the “Maison du caviar”, near Beausolei. Don’t get confused by the name of the restaurant, they have many dishes apart from caviar.
Hotels in Monaco Find hotels in this city / area are extremely expensive. A good alternative is to stay at hotel Olympia, wich is in Beausolei (France), but only a few streets away from Monaco and at a short walk from the Casino of Montecarlo. It is a small and recomendable hotel at afordable prices.
Unless you have a Rolls or a Ferrari don’t drive near the Casino….otherwise you will feel very, very “little thing”…
From Monaco we went to Grenoble Find hotels in this city / area. This city maybe is not woth the travel itself but it can be a good choice to spent a day in your way to Paris. Don’t forget to spend an afternoon visiting the surrondings, there are plenty of secondary roads leading to the ski resorts in the near Alps, that give you an excellent an pleasant view of the environment.
In Grenoble, don’t waste your time going to the cathedral, it’s just another building (and not one of the best, by the way..). Instead you can take the telepheric to “la bastille” from where, if you are lucky with the weather, you will enjoy a great panoramic of the city with the Alps at the background.
If you visit the city on the first tuesday of the month, don’t run to the shelters when you hear the raid-alarm at 12:00…it is just sounding as a conmemoration for the workers…the city is not being attacked…:-)
A good hotel to stay there (always within my reduced budget) is the Hotel D’Angleterre. They also offer you an interesting discount in the public parking nearby and in the tickets for the telepheric to “la bastille”.
Another day of driving and we got to Paris. This is for sure one of the most beautiful cities in the world…and it is not a topic…it is true…At least once in your life you must visit Paris Find hotels in this city / area.
One of the problems of Paris is the dense, and somehow chaotic traffic. The best thing you can do if you go by car is to search a parking near the hotel and leave it inside as long as posible.
In Paris, get ready to pay for everything. Don’t expect to do anything apart from walking down the Boulevards and visiting churches without paying….even using the toilettes in the bar will cost you 2 francs.
The best way to move accross the city is of course the underground. You can buy a special ticket for visitors called “Paris Visite” that can be used for a certain number of days (1 to 5). Just remember that the day you buy it counts as a full day…I mean that if you buy a 2 day ticket at 23:00 it will be usable only for 25 hours….so you had better get it early in the morning…
Just a comment regarding the bars. While in Spain one of the cheapest thinks you can drink is a mineral water, it seems that in Paris water is for tycoons.

Be ready to pay 20 to 30 francs for a 1/4 L. bottle…..Coffe is about half that price…
I recomend you spend one day visiting Versalles….not the city of course, but the palace and the gardens…..you will understand then why the French revolution took place…
I you get to Versalles and find all the stores closed that is because it’s Monday….curiously, almost all the activity of the city is related to the visitors of the palace….and it can’t be visited on Mondays…
Well, you haven’t planned very well your visit and won’t be able to watch the marvels the palace hides inside,..sic….but be happy !!, you can still visit for free all the surroundings and walk the gardens down to the lake almost alone…something you can’t certainly do the rest of the week….Believe it or not, I HAVE taken some pictures of Versalles WITHOUT any person!!…very little tourists can say that…:-)
Another thing about Versalles…don’t forget to take with you some pieces of bread….otherwise you won’t have the chance to feed the big fishes (carps I think) which are used to take the food from the hands of the visitors, as if they were dogs…
If you are going to go up to the tower Eiffel you should know that you can do it for free, (by the stairs, of course…:-)…but you can also take the lift (a “little” more expensive, by the way)….If you are planning to go the “third” (highest) floor and when you get to the tower you see a banner announcing that the “third floor is closed”, don’t worry….it simply means that it’s closed at “that moment”…. they will posibly open it half an hour later or before….Just stay on the queue and buy your ticket for the “top floor”. The view from top of the tower is worth both, the wait and the price…
I am not going to recomend you to visit anything in special. There are great travel-guides of Paris and in fact EVERYTHING is worth being visited….(even the really nice church we had near the hotel, that was not even mentioned in any guide, and that could be considered as a cathedral in many other cities). Don’t plan to stay less than 5 days in Paris…in that time you will only have time to have a first look at the most outstanding places….
In spite of the fact that I loved Paris very much, I have to admit that I get fed up of big cities very soon, and we decided to have a few days rest before going back home. So we went to the central part of France, where many health resorts of thermal waters are famous, in the region of Auvergne.
To be more exact we spent two days in the small village of Mont Dore. The charm and beauty of the landscapes, together with the peace and silence of the villages make of this area one of the most remarkable places to rest.
A recommendable hotel in Mont Dore is Hotel Le Panorama….As its name indicates it has a nice view on the village and down the valley…it is extremely quiet and you can spend some of your time at the swimming pool, playing ping-pong or billiard, or just sitting at the hall smoking a cigar while watching the rain through the large windows. Although I liked very much the location and facilities of this hotel, I can’t say the same about the rooms and the staff….they both need to be “updated”.
If you get worn-out of all this I recommend you take your car and visit some of the pretty medieval villages of the surroundings, and enjoy their regional cheeses and sausages.
No far away there is also a small but curious farm of kangaroos and castors…You can take pictures, touch and feed the animals…something different from the usual zoos..isn’t it?. It’s cheap and you, your companion and the children can have a nice experience with these “wild” animals.
Also, in the hotel itself, there is the restaurant L’Oree du Bois where you can taste some of the marvelous local dishes before going back home.

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