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Planning a Trip to France: how to See My Country (Even If It's Your very First Time)

Be honest: half the fun of a trip is in the planning, isn't it?

And if not, well, it's still got to be done.

This section is all about the nitty-gritty, the practical information you'll need to plan your trip to France. While this is a site about France's offbeat destinations,  you still have to get here, find your way around once you are here, and do the things one must – sleep, eat, sightsee, shop, meet, explore, understand, connect.

planning the perfect trip to france

So here, some solid advice.

But here's a bonus: don't plan too much!

France is a country best discovered a bite at a time, its veils lifted slowly, unexpectedly.

There are few greater pleasures than wandering around a city or driving around the countryside, getting lost, and then getting found again.

How to decide where to go in France

This may be the hardest part because you want to see it ALL, right? But there are some logical places to start...

What to pack for France

You've heard about the vaunted 'French style and elegance' and you're wondering whether you'll look like the odd person out... No, you won't.

While we do like to dress well, the days of looking like a diva just to go to the corner boulangerie for a baguette are long gone. We too have fallen prey to yoga pants and Nikes. But — few of us would dare wear them to a proper restaurant.

I'm working on a packing list for you but meantime, let me suggest two essential items: good walking shoes, and an anti-theft purse (here's the one I use).

How to get around France

Once you're here, you'll want to see the country (please tell me you're not going to plop yourself in Paris for two weeks and ignore the rest?)

Think about this:

  • France has a marvellous public transportation system (when it's not on strike)
  • Trains are often faster than planes and (usually) deliver you into the center of town rather than to a distant airport
  • You can easily rent a car here (but first, here are a few driving tips!)

How to eat in France

Yes, of course you know HOW to eat but this is about how WE eat. You can start with our culinary history and what we eat (along with what you might consider a few of our less appetising specialties).

At some point I'll teach you about our strange table manners, about how to decipher a French menu, how to reserve and, very important, how to tip (not too much, just round it up). But give me a bit of time...

How to communicate with the French

You DO want to talk to us? Yes, I know we are particular about how we communicate.

First, do not even think of starting a conversation without saying Bonjour to me. I'll just stand there and wonder which planet you're from.

Once past that, I'll try to haul out my very rusty English (not mine, I'm pretending here), poorly taught to me for a few years in a school I barely remember — IF I'm sure I won't make any mistakes because in school, we are not allowed to make mistakes.

That said, I will roll over with gratitude if you've made the effort to learn a few words of French. Of course I'll make sure to correct you if you mispronounce them, and I'll answer in rapid-fire French you won't be able to understand, not because I want to confuse you, but because I'm so excited at your word or two!

Bottom line, the French will make extraordinary efforts to communicate with you if you speak any French at all, either in French or in English.

There's also a difference depending on age groups and location. Older people will speak English less easily than the younger generation, and people in cities may have more English knowledge than their rural counterparts.

So learn a few words, and then relax and let go.

Or use an app... or carry a phrasebook.

How to stay safe and avoid pickpockets

Ah yes, petty theft. The good news is that there is very little violent crime in most areas of France. The bad news is that there is plenty of petty theft. We like to blame foreigners but deep down, we know that petty crime knows no borders. I'll give you some powerful safety tips for avoiding this kind of unpleasantness.

On strike, did you say?

Sadly, this is one of those things. The French are never satisfied, and you could give us the moon but we would want two. So whatever happens, at some point, we will go on strike. Mind you, some sectors ARE justified, where work hours are long and salaries incredibly low. But even if your working conditions are passable, there's nothing a French person likes more than marching down the street, often with family in tow, holding up a large hand-painted banner of rebellion. We seem to have revolution in our blood.

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This site is still new and I'm working like mad to get you all the information you need. Meantime, here are some great reads about myths and stereotypes about the French (and what you should and should not believe!) 

And if you want to know what's new on the site, click here!