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. It’s sooooo good to know that my gf and I weren’t’ the only ones who primarily ate baguette, cheese, and pate during our time in France!

  2. I’m not sure why the french often have this reputation of being cold and unfriendly (specially to foreigners)… they’re actually fun loving, nice people! I’m glad you liked it 🙂

  3. I’m so glad you liked France on your first visit! The southerners do tend to be friendlier than the Northerners but I find that to be typical of most countries I’ve visited. I also spent time in southern France this past summer–about 2 weeks and I loved every minute of it.

    I’ve visited France more than the average seasoned traveler can ever claim–the first time I went I was only 3 months old so I can’t remember liking it. But out of any country I’ve visited, it will always be my favorite since my father is from there and all my French relatives still live there.

  4. This sounds fab, Steph! I’m considering going around the south of France for a couple of weeks next year (around September) and this post is pushing me in that direction. I was surprised with all the Roman ruins I was reading about when researching the area, and I’m glad that the folk in the south aren’t too harsh on those that don’t speak flawless French (I’ve forgotten a lot of the stuff I spent seven years in school learning!)

    Also, I fully support your decision to research which country has better gelato – France or Italy? Maybe you could apply for a research grant for it? You know…because it’s all about the science.

  5. I don’t get why some people think France would be cheaper than the UK. Contrary to what some English and American people think we are not a third world country…

    And if you really think Argentina is expensive then you should try Switzerland, just for the thrill.

  6. Yay! Glad you liked France it’s a wonderful country with an unfair reputation for rudeness. I’ve never found this to be true. I agree French ice cream is amazing but my all time favourite French food is crepes. You’re right that it can be expensive especially in the tourist areas but off the beaten track food gets a bit cheaper. You should definitely go back to explore the other regions such as Burgundy, Brittany and Alsace. All beautiful.

  7. We also found the people were really nice as well. It was extremely expensive. We are now in Asia wondering why we didn’t just come here first when we had money to spend. 🙂 Now we are living poor in Asia.

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