I’ve written a lot of separate posts about my time in France but I thought I would give a nice overview of everything I did, with my France itinerary, some recommendations, and some nice information.

Where to?

France, for 5 weeks, in order to study abroad. Almost my entire trip was funded by my university in order for me to earn 6 credit towards my French minor.

What Places Did I Visit?

I started off in Paris, and had a two day stop in my favorite place in France, Blois. I then moved to my primary location of Orléans in order to study French at Orléans Université. On the second weekend I visited Cognac to see a concert performed by one of my favorite singers, LP. On the third weekend, which coincided with Bastille Day (4 Day Weekend!), I took a trip to Rome. Finally, at the conclusion of my program I took the Eurostar train from Paris to London to visit my friend before leaving to go back home!

 

What Did I Think?

Honestly? France was a tiny bit disappointing to me. While I loved Blois, I found Paris to very much be a city for couples or groups of friends. Orléans was alright but still not something I fell in love with. The weather was horrible, nobody told me it would be 95f (35c) degrees one day and something like 50 (10c) the next! I also think my London friend is right, it does rain more in France in my experience, and it’s more grey too. The people were not nearly as friendly in Paris, which I kindof expected but the seemingly constant frustration with my poor accent was annoying. I was saying all the right words, and they could clearly understand me, it was my bad accent (when I’m nervous my accent disappears). Now, I don’t want to pass judgement on every Parisian but really…

Honesty my whole experience besides Blois and the Cognac concert made me dislike France a tad. Now I’m recovered and I really want to give it a second go. I want to experience Paris a little more organically with other people, so I’m hoping to soon join the Tumbleweed program at the Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris.

The Series of French Adventures

Five Interesting Days in Paris

Rigoletto and High Tea: Activities in Paris (includes River boat)

Visiting Blois – Perfect for a Daytrip or Longer!

Study French in Orléans, for Cheap!

Orléans, France

Summer Music Festival in Cognac, France for a Weekend

Three Idyllic Days in Rome on a Backpacker’s Budget

A Few Days in London

 

The Specifics And Helpful Tips

Language

It is French in most of the areas you’re likely to visit. I’d say the average Parisian speaks English – whether they choose to come down to your level is a toss up. There are a few other languages you could possibly come into contact with. I very much want to visit Carnac, which is a neolithic area in the Brittany Region. In this area you might encounter the languages of Breton and Gallo. Breton is a Celtic language seeing some revival and currently around 200,000 people speak the language, whereas Gallo (a cross between French with some Celtic influences) is seen as less illustrious and has no revival plan and only around 30,000 speakers.

For learning French, my main recommendations are a combination of Duolingo and Memrise. These are my favorite language learning websites overall. I’d also recommend picking up a Harry Potter book in French as those are fairly easy to read if you’re at the intermediate level. My favorite French singers are Stromae, Alizée, and Indila. If you can set yourself the goal of translating a song a week, I think you’ll see good results. I personally don’t watch a lot of French movies or television as I find them to either be ridiculously depressing or slapstick, neither of which I care for.  Hopefully this will help you!

Money

France uses the Euro, so no need to exchange if you’re coming from another country in the EU. I highly recommend getting yourself a Visa or Mastercard debit or credit card with no foreign transaction fees or ATM fees. Cards like Discover are pretty much non-existent outside the US, and while Amex cards are now more accepted, I’d still save yourself the trouble and use a Visa or Mastercard. Just be prepared to sign every. single. time, so make sure the back of your card is signed or you’ll have to show ID. I once had to resort to signing mine in eyeliner because I couldn’t get a single pen to stick.

Accommodations

As always, I recommend Airbnb. I personally did not try any hostels while on this trip, so I cannot offer any recommendations for those. In my separate posts for each city I’ve given details on which Airbnb I stayed in. If you haven’t used Airbnb before, it would be great if you signed up using my link! You’ll get $40 off and I’ll get $20 😀 It’s a win-win.

Public Transport

Use the metro! It’s great and it’s cheap! It’s not terribly hard to learn to use, you pay for the amount of tickets you want at the various kiosk stations. I highly recommend you purchase as many metro tickets as you’ll need for any tourist locations ahead of time. The lines for the kiosks will be ridiculous. Parisians are very industrious, and you’ll often see people selling water bottles or prepaid tickets for double the price – and you’ll buy them to save yourself the agony. Just don’t lose all your little paper tickets and never throw away your ticket after you get on, only once you’ve completed your entire journey. If you’re caught without it, it’s something like a 50 euro fine. Yikes!

For navigating the metro it’s pretty easy. Look up your destination on Google Maps, take a screen shot of the public transport instructions Google has, and head off. If you just follow the step by step instructions you shouldn’t have a problem finding things, I did it without a SIM card in Paris and was fine.

Outside of Paris your public transport is going to be trains or buses, I only used the trains. I would consider buying your tickets well ahead of time as it’s often a huge price difference. I would also look at the sncf website in French on an incognito window. Often, the prices seemed to be slightly better in French (Which you can always translate) without my cache interfering.

 

Packing

France is where I finally learned the hard way that I should start packing light. Don’t be me. If you plan on using the metro or staying in Airbnbs or apartments, do yourself a favor and don’t pack a lot. I had to carry my 60lbs suitcase down 6 flights of stairs, across a bridge, down more flights of stairs, up three flights of stairs…you get the point. It was awful, learn from me. Most of the metro stations don’t have convenient elevators or escalators so you have to carry everything.

My Favorite Photos

A red saucer with a matching teacup with a teabag on the side reading Ladurée

Tea bought from Ladurée, surprisingly my favorite tea bought in Paris (I prefer Chéri to the one in this cup though)

 

View down an alleyway of old French buildings

This was more of the residential area of Blois and was much less tourist-y as a result but so pretty to look at.

Notre Dame with a large tree on the right

I didn’t go inside but Notre Dame looks lovely from the outside!

The Eiffel Tower from underneath, geometric squares within squares

The Eiffel Tower from underneath

 

French gardens in Versailles carefully laid out around ponds

I went on a Monday to see Versailles so entrance was free but you could only see the gardens.

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