How France Surprised Me

Visiting France was weird. Somehow I’d avoided the country for years despite living in London. I’d visited Spain, Italy and Brussels but always skirted around the country- not for any real reason, it’s just how fate and trip plans worked out. So, although I still haven’t been to Paris (weird, I know) at least now I can say I’ve spent a week and a half in the lovely South of France.

People Were Nice

I’m terrible at people pictures so look at this instead.

It’s a little sad that this surprised me, but after years and years of hearing about the rudeness of French people, I was expecting the worst. After all, I can’t speak any french at all beyond “merci” and “oui.” I was essentially a linguistic idiot in a country that I’d heard did not tolerate that kindly.

Fortunately, I was wrong. In the South of France at least, I found people to be incredibly warm and helpful. Whether we were struggling to order dinner or badly in need of directions, someone always stepped up to help. It was a relief.

It Was Expensive (!)

Someday I’ll write a post about the most surprisingly expensive places I’ve visited (Australia and Argentina I’m looking at you!). France might be one of them. I did know France was expensive- it’s not known for being a bargain. But I was still bowled over by just how very expensive it is. Maybe I’ve just been out of Western Europe for too long.

In France we had a very difficult time eating out, despite our budget savvy knowledge- even the set menu lunches were 16 euros or more. Private rooms in hostels were prohibitively expensive and even dorms were 20 euros or more or a night. I’m told the prices are even steeper in Paris, so that’s fun.

Roman Ruins

Roman Ruins are something I’ve previously associated with Italy and Croatia, but there’s actually quite a few extensive sites in the South of France, in addition to the mega storybook castles. In Arles we visited a pristine Roman amphitheater that was almost a mini-Colosseum, dating all the way back to 90 AD (and still used today for bull fights!).

Amazing Gelato

When I travel I’m a bit of a gelato fanatic. A really good gelato should be creamy, yet flavorful. France totally delivered on this front- I had some of the best gelato ever, from pistachio and blackberry (above) to stratciatella to straight up chocolate. Couldn’t go wrong.

So is it better than Italy? No not quite. Well maybe. I think I’ll need to sample a lot more to make that judgement. You know, for science.

The Smell

The South of France smells amazing! All that lavender I suppose. Almost makes up for all the dog crap on the streets.

I Really Liked It

I don’t know why I thought I wouldn’t like France. Maybe because I’m a London girl, and there didn’t seem to be room to enjoy both France and England in most people’s minds. So while I hadn’t been actively avoiding going to France, I hadn’t made it a priority either.

I did really enjoy the South of France though- the warm people, the intense history and jaw dropping coastlines. I wish I could have seen more, more of the coast and more of the country in general. and for that reason I definitely won’t be waiting another 27 years to visit France again.

Special Thanks to Eurail.Com for sponsoring our train travel through France.

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31 thoughts on “How France Surprised Me”

  1. I am glad you liked France. As French native, I would add a few explanations… southern France (coastline) is definitely the most expensive part of France with Paris ! Restaurant, bars and shops know there is gonna be loads of visitors, that’s why ! However, I was born and raised in Toulouse, SW of France. If you’re looking to discover and find out what French culture is, come visit ! SW of France is certainly the most beautiful part of the country (and is not that expensive). You have easy access to Mediterranean sea, Atlantic ocean, Pyrénées mountains, Dordogne etc. I confirm that French are usually rude with tourists (something I realized when I left France for the UK. British are amazing people !). Although, southern France is more friendly, open-minded and warm. If you wish to visit France again, please make sure you get in touch ! I’d be happy to help 😉 Best wishes, Matt.

  2. People are rude only in Paris as I noticed (people from capital are always so, as from Moscow or from Rome))) I was shocked by waiters in Paris, they were so rude and aggressive…

  3. I love that you loved France. As a Dutch girl I used to spend almost all my summer holidays there, and had french lessons since I was four (sadly, about 95% of that is forgotten). It’s one of my favorite countries in the world, and I have never found the French to be rude. However, you’re right that it’s pricy, especially in the south.

    Now that I think of it: Would it be true everywhere that people in the south are friendlier than in the north ;)? Certainly the case for us Dutchies too..

  4. I’m always fascinated by what different people think of France. Expensive? A decent four-course lunch for €11 or €12, including a carafe of wine – not many places offer better value than that.

    We’ve always found the locals friendly here in the Loire valley – and we’re really rural and were absolute beginners with the language when we arrived.

    Speaking some French is obviously an advantage, but people are just people – you get friendly ones and rude ones wherever you go. I’m English, but I’ve lived in France for seven years now. Can’t imagine going back.

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