Well, after a rather long count down, our trip is finally here. We try to travel to France at least once a year and we are spending almost five weeks there this time. This will be our longest stint ever in France – and I just can’t wait to get there.
I’ve got to tell you though, whenever I’ve been telling folks that we are spending more time in France I’ve been getting stacks of questions about France.
These queries are many and varied. And I thought you might be interested if I shared my answers to all these questions with you here on the blog. So let’s go.
I fell in love with France long before I ever visited. In fact, I knew I was a francophile before I even contemplated travelling to France.
I remember being at work one day years and years ago and hearing a little voice inside my head tell me that I was going to be a francophile. I was young at the time and anything but worldly. Apart from being concerned about hearing voices (I wasn’t very in tune with my intuition back then) I promise you that I had to look up ‘francophile’ in the dictionary (yep, this was before the time of on-line dictionaries).
Research completed, I made up my mind to become a francophile.
When we finally got around to booking the flights that allowed us to spend three and a half weeks in France way back in 2008, friends were very concerned that I’d feel let down. Or disappointed. That France – and Paris in particular – wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
They needn’t have worried.
I remember a jet-lagged me waking up early (actually it was the middle of the night) on our first full day in Paris and sitting by our apartment window with a blanket wrapped around me. I was waiting for the dawn to break. Eventually it did, and I continued to sit, mesmerised as I watched the pale golden light play on the rooftops. I was smitten from that very moment, and every subsequent adventure has just cemented my adoration for France and all things French.
Didn’t you go there last year?
Yep, we sure did. And the year before that too.
In fact, when we returned from that first trip Scott and I made a deal that we would visit France at least annually. So far – except for one rather disappointing 12 month period – we’ve managed one or two trips a year since 2008.
Over that time, we’ve learned a lot about France and how to make travelling there easy and super enjoyable. Of course, most of those lessons were learned from the mistakes we made. We’ve made many, many errors when it comes to packing, planning, budgeting, booking and moving around. And then there are the numerous ways we’ve butchered the language….
And I’ve not even mentioned some of the fashion faux pas’ I’ve made. Seriously, I can’t even describe how bad my sartorial choices were on our first trip. The memory makes me shiver, it’s that frightening.
So, safe to say that if you can name the blunder, we’ve made it. But the good news is that you don’t have to make the same mistakes we have. Many of the tips and hints I share on Distant Francophile come as a direct result of our experiences. I’m more than happy to share my pain simply so you can avoid it!
What’s to love about France?
The short answer is everything.
The longer answer involves me delving into things like the architecture, the colours and the light, food, wine, fashion, style and history. I also love the fact that there is something new to become enamoured with every time we visit.
If I had to pick just one thing, I’d call out the people. I don’t why the French have such a bad reputation for being rude. In all the years we’ve been travelling to France, we’ve found everyone we’ve encountered – including waiters – to be friendly and helpful.
I’ll never forget a waiter taking the time to tell us all the ‘kid friendly’ things we should do in Paris, way back when our son was a boy rather than a man. Or the stern looking man who winked at me, before switching to English after I’d done my very best to book train tickets in French (seriously, my French must have been horrendous). And then there was the taxi driver who took great pleasure in pointing out the all the highlights on our trip between Cosne-sur-Loire and Sancerre. The vision of Sancerre perched upon its hilltop is etched in my memory forever thanks to her.
Yes, I know I’m showing my bias, but to my mind the French are kind and generous, as long as you remember to be polite.
Do you have family there?
Sadly, no. I wish we did, but both sides of our family have long histories in Australia and only limited links to France.
If any family members would like to consider moving to France, we’d be very grateful. We also promise to visit you very regularly. Whether you would like us to or not.
Do you only visit Paris?
I’ve been surprising people this time round when I tell them that we are only spending one night in Paris.
We always try to explore different parts of France when we travel. While Paris is beautiful and easily my favourite city on the planet, all parts of France are remarkable in their own way.
Travelling outside Paris gives you a more balanced feel for the French and their culture. And the further we get off the tourist trails, the more insights we receive.
I would encourage anyone visiting Paris to also try to include one or two regions of France beyond the capital. I promise you it will expand your understanding of this fabulous destination.
I’d love to hear how your francophile journey started. Were you instantly in love with France? Or did the country grow on you over time? Perhaps you are still waiting to visit. No matter which category you fall into we’d love for you to share your story in the comments section below.
And until next time – au revoir.
P.S. The next time you hear from me, I’ll be writing from either the UK or France. I apologise in advance if you don’t hear from me for a few days. I promise I’ll be back soon with all the highlights of our trip.