Hiking Around Bordeaux, Episode 144


4 women Hiking around Bordeaux

Hiking Around Bordeaux, Episode 144

Who hasn’t daydreamed about hiking or biking through the French countryside? Stephanie, Dawn, Krista and Barb made it come true and in late September 2016 flew to France to do some hiking around Bordeaux. They used a tour company that sold them maps and arranged for accommodations, breakfast and dinner, as well as  arranged for their luggage to be transported to their next stop every day. They would rather not name the company, so we’ll keep that vague on purpose. All they had to do is walk. And get lost. But they had a fun time all the same and they explain all about their adventure in today’s episode.

This episode is for anyone who wants to have an active vacation in France, and if you like this episode, you should also listen to Episode 52, Cycling in France with Marion Clignet and Episode 40 on Saint-Émilion, Episode 44 on Bordeaux. For more information on the specifics of what Stephanie and Dawn did, please take a look at their travel blog.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

 Episode Highlights with Time Stamps

  • [9’47” ]  Start of hiking around Bordeaux interview
  • [11’50] You don’t need to be an athlete to do this, but you do need to prepare
  • [12′] Special equipment required: hiking boots
  • [13’30”] What’s the longest hike you did in one day?
  • [14’26”] How this trip got planned
  • [15’10”] How did your tour work? What was provided by the company?
  • [17′] Getting lost a lot!
  • [18’32”] Getting a ride from a stranger to get to the wine tasting
  • [22’20”] The types of terrain they hiked through
  • [23’11”] Dinners and accommodations were planed and luggage was transported from place to place
  •  [23’40”] Meeting a seasoned walking Scottish couple who knew about Randonnée Maps and kilometer counters
  • [26’30] GR stands for Grande Randonnée
  • [27’39] Doing this without GPS coordinates sounds crazy nowadays!
  • [28′] What did they enjoy the most and the least about their experience hiking around Bordeaux? Active vacation which is great when you’re eating French food.
  • [29’37”] There are different brokers all selling the same tours
  • [30′] Do you need to buy a tour? Couldn’t you organize this whole thing by yourself?
  • [30’52”] Other hiker gave them precious tips about when stores close etc., the tour company hadn’t warned them!
  • [33′] For people who want to do this by themselves, look for GR maps and IGN maps
  • [34’34”] Meeting people in tiny little towns, seeing how people live and enjoying the culture was great: you can’t do that from a tour bus!
  • [35’58”] No mosquitoes, really?
  • [38′] Dawn speaks French, the others do not. The French came in handy especially at restaurants
  • [39’45”] Outstanding accommodations and dinner at the Barsac Castle, Paul and Ginette were wonderful, the salt-water swimming pool was great too
  • [41′] All the places they stopped: Bordeaux, Saint-Émilion, Saint-Martin-de-Lerm, Caudrot, Saint Macaire (beautiful hike between Caudrot and Saint-Macaire), Sauterne and Barsac
  • [43’17”] Review of the Musée du Vin in Bordeaux
  • [44’58”] Review of L’Entrecôte restaurant in Bordeaux
  • [47’47”] Annie’s guess on what’s in the Entrecôte sauce
  • [49’32”] How to beat the crowd at L’Entrecôte (and many other French restaurants!)
  • [49’49”] Wine every day on this tour?
  • [51’52”] Most French villages will have a public restroom, usually where old men gather to play Pétanque
  • [52’55”] Luggage or carry-on?
  • [54’38”] Heated towel bars in France
  • [55’15”] What are packing cubes?
  • [56’27”] Did you feel safe doing this as women?
  • [59′] French Tip of the Week “Tu ne peux pas changer la tête avec laquelle tu es né(e), mais pas besoin de faire cette tête !”

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Top Attractions in Figeac, Episode 143

Top Attractions in Figeac, happy family in Figeac, France
Figeac, Place des Écritures, photo Manuel Alende Maceira.

Top Attractions in Figeac

Today, Elyse and Annie want you to meet someone amazing. Let’s see if you can guess who it is: He changed linguistics forever. He was an Egyptologist. He was born in Figeac, France, a small town in the Southwest.

Did you guess Jean-François Champollion? That’s correct! Champollion is the reason most people visit Figeac today. Either that or they have a job in aeronautics. Figeac is a small town in the middle of nowhere, completely off the beaten track, but we wanted to tell you about the top attractions in Figeac today because we happen to love it and we want to share. The Champollion Museum is also outstanding and we tell you why in the episode. Enjoy!

Join Us in France Book Group on Goodreads

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.
 Episode Highlights
  • [5’39”] Where is Figeac?
  • [6’39”] How big is it?
  • [7’10”] Figeac is in the Lot Department, 2 – 2.5 hrs drive North of Toulouse
  • [8’05”] One of the top attractions in Figeac is the home of Champollion
  • [8’40”] The meandering landscape of the Célé river
  • [9’08”] 8th century monastery founded by Pépin le Bref
  • [11’47”] The home to two major aerospace industry companies: Ratier Figeac and Figeac Aéro
  • [12’13”] Figeac during the War of Religions in France
  • [13’10”] Figeac during the French Resistance
  • [14′] Thriving town because of the aerospace industry
  • [16’52] Restored city center with lots of Medieval and Renaissance homes
  • [18’46”] Jean-François Champollion and his museum
  • [18’50”] One of the top attractions in Figeac is for linguistics nerds
  • [20’16”] A recap on the Rosetta Stone
  • [24’11”] The life of Jean-François Champollion
  • [27′] Champollion, the Egyptologist
  • [30’30”] Champollion and the Obelisk on Place de la Concorde in Paris
  • [31’30”] Champollion died young
  • [32’38”] What will you see inside the Champollion Museum?
  • [35’32”] Top attractions in Figeac for food and local specialties
  • [36’51”] Can you speak Ancient Egyptian?
  • [38′] Archaeology as a science didn’t start until Napoleon
  • [39′] We love travel because it helps us learn new things
  • [40′] Announcement on the new Join Us in France Book Group on Goodreads
  • [41’10”] “J’ai une mémoire de poisson rouge”

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Paris Metro or Paris Bus? Episode 142


Paris metro or Paris bus? Bus #86

Paris Metro or Paris Bus?

When in Paris, should you take the metro or should you take the bus? Is one better than the other?

This episode spells out all the differences between the Paris Metro and the Paris Bus, down to the small details that happen to matter a lot! This is all based on my recent personal experience getting around Paris without using my personal car or taxis.

When it comes to public transportation, Paris is cheaper than other capitals with similar transportation systems. A single ticket in Paris is 68% cheaper the same ticket in London, 79% cheaper than Berlin, and 36% cheaper than New York.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

How RER, Metro and Bus Work Together

Another train that you’ll see in Paris is the RER, I left it out of the equation because it is a commuter train used mostly to go longer distances. The RER doesn’t run as often as the metro and the distance between stops is greater, but sometimes hopping on to the RER is handy.

When you stay within zones 1 and 2, the price is the same no matter if you use the metro, the bus or the RER, so you might as well. But once you’ve used your ticket for the RER you can’t use it in the bus later.

Other Modes of Transportation in Paris

There are, of course, several other modes of transportation in Paris. Taxis, Uber, tourist buses  are also good options, but today let me concentrate comparing the Paris metro system with the Paris bus system, in other words, let’s concentrate on what the RATP (Régie Autonome des transports parisiens) a massive company that French people love to hate.

Annie’s Favorite Transportation Apps

At the end of the episode I will also recommend my favorite Apps to help you navigate Paris also:

  1. RATP App
  2. Citymapper App
  3. Par ici la sortie App
If you like this episode, you will also enjoy 10 Tips for Getting Around in Paris.

Episode Highlights with Timestamps

  • [10’15”] In Paris most people rely on public transportation because using private cars is not practical. Yes, even really posh and rich people use public transportation in Paris!
  • There are lots of public transportation options and all are safe and inexpensive. 
  • Public transportation gets a bad rap in North America, but put that out of your mind please. If you’ve taken the underground in New York you’ve seen it all. In Montreal the metro is so gentile, it’s a much smaller metro system too, but it’s great.
  • Both the metro system and the Paris bus system are great, but they are best at different things:
  • The Paris metro is better if you’re in a hurry and if you can take the stairs
  • The bus is better if you are looking for simplicity and/or going cheap
  • If you’re listening to this podcast, you’re into planning your vacation, so you will probably plan enough to avoir zooming around Paris too much. If you’re going to visit both the Eiffel Tower and the Quai Branly, do it in the same day, they are close to each other!
  • If you plan your days out well, you can save yourself some money by not getting a transportation pass but by getting a pack of 10 tickets instead. I never use more than 4 tickets in a day in Paris, that’s 6.4€ in transportation for the day. Any of the passes I could get cost more than that.
  • Buy a pack of 10 tickets (16€ currently), kids under 4 ride for free and there are discount tickets  for kids under 10. 
  • You can buy packs of 10 tickets at any metro station. Hotels often sell them too, and so do tobacco shops.
  • You can always buy single tickets from the bus driver, it costs 1.9€ and they like people to have exact change or as close to it as possible. 
  • [14’22”] Tickets for the bus and the metro are the same, you pay the same whether you take the metro or the bus.
  • The metro is usually a little faster than the bus, and it works well for people who don’t mind stairs. There are elevators and escalators in the Paris metro, but you can’t count on them always working.
  • Buses can get stuck in traffic, especially at intersections. But buses also have their own lanes and they trigger green lights when they approach. Sometimes the time difference between the metro and the bus is very small.
  • Your bus ticket is good no matter how far you ride, no zones to worry about. If you need to change bus, you don’t have to worry about what zone you’re in when you switch, transfers always work between buses.
  • The metro is a little more complicated: you can ride till the end of any line on one metro ticket, but you can’t always transfer anywhere. As soon as you enter zone 3 things get complicated with the metro and single tickets.
  • [17’57”] If you’re planning on mostly using the metro or in transferring between metro and bus, it’s probably best to get a pass, just to save yourself some hassles. You have to choose one of 3 passes:
    • Paris visite which has different prices depending on number of days, number of zones, and the age of the rider.
    • Mobilis Pass, it’s good for 1 day and you have to choose how many zones you’re going to use.
  • Navigo weekly, you can ride in any zone for a week for 22, 15€, but you need to pay 7,60 to get your account setup initially and you need to give them an ID photo
  • There are a few Paris City buses that cost more: Noctilien (runs between 00h31 and 5h30 AM), Orlybus, Roissybus, 221, 297, 299, 350 and 351. More on those later.
  • You can transfer between buses for 90 minutes from first validation. You can also transfer between bus and tram using the same ticket, also for 90 minutes. 
  • You cannot transfer between bus and metro with the same ticket, to go extra cheap, look for all-bus options when deciding on your route (I’ll talk about Apps later).
  • [22’28’] You cannot use the same ticket to ride on the same line more than once. If you get off to buy a sandwich you can’t get back on with the same ticket. If you ride to the end of the line and want to go back in the opposite direction, you’ll need a new ticket. 
  • [23’15”] Keep your ticket until you exit the bus or the metro, especially for the metro, you often need your ticket to open an exit gate.
  • To recap, why do I usually choose the bus rather than the metro? A. I can see the city B. I like the atmosphere better. C. No stairs. D. In the bus you don’t have to worry about zones. 
  • I can’t comment on hop-on/hop-off buses because I’ve never used any of them in Paris. They have their value for people who are only in Paris for a couple of days and don’t want to figure out the public transportation system.
  • [26’51”] Apps I recommend to get around Paris: the RATP App and Citymapper.
  • These Apps always puts the fastest route on top. It’s often faster to do metro+bus rather than stay on the same bus, but sometimes it’s only faster by a minute or two, so pay attention to the details!
  • Why I like Citymapper better than the RATP App: it’s not as prickly about needing the exact address, you can enter the name of a hotel or a venue for instance and it will find it. With the RATP App you need to enter the name of the bus stop or metro station.
  • Also consider an App called “Par ici la sortie” App that helps you find the best metro exit for where you are going.
  • [29’30”] One of the reasons why Paris cafés are always full and lively.
  • [30’35”] Make your life simpler and decide where you want to go in Paris, then group visits into geographical areas in order to save on transportation time.

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Paris on a Budget, Episode 141

Paris on a Budget


Paris on a budget, euro bills and coins

On today’s episode, Annie shares tips for visiting Paris on a budget. Maybe you’re financially challenged at the moment, maybe you’re bringing your kids and don’t need or want anything fancy. Maybe you’re just the kind of person, like me, who likes to feel like you got great value for your dollar, maybe this is a business trip and your boss is cheap.  No matter what your situation is, if you want to come to Paris without burning an irreparable hole into your bank account, this episode is for you!

What do I mean by Paris on a budget? 150€ per day for two people. It is possible to go even cheaper I’m sure, but I can’t help you there. You could hitch-hike and do couch surfing I suppose, not for moi!

Today I’m going to tell you how to come to Paris with your significant other, or a friend, or your kid, and only spend 150€ per day. I am excluding airfare, but am including hotel, transportation, food and entertainment. That’s the minimum for me to be comfortable and have a good time. I am not a fancy person, but I do like to be comfortable and safe, so stay tuned because I’m sure that matters to you too.

The airfare to come to Paris is expensive, but you know, sometimes you get lucky. One of my friend’s sons found an incredible fair to Paris and it was so good he booked it on the spot. If you can can find airfare under 500€ between continental US and France, it’s a great fair, grab it while you can. I can’t give you tips on how to do that other than setup airfare alerts and act fast.

If you enjoyed this episode, also listen to Episode 80 on Free Museums in Paris, and Episode 142 on Paris Metro or Bus?

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

 Episode Highlights

Annie’s secrets for enjoying Paris on a budget:

  1. Travel in Jan thru March or November thru mid-Dec
  2. Always check out hotel price before you book your flight
  3. Once in Paris, the most expensive ticket item is the hotel, then meals, then transportation, then entertainment
  4. Annie’s favorite budget hotel in Paris: Ibis in Charenton-le-Pont
  5. Annie’s food schedule: hotel breakfast, lunch out, snack and wine in the room at night. You can have a nice lunch in Paris for 14€-20€ per person, ask for a “une carafe d’eau s’il vous plaît” for tap water (which tastes fine and is totally safe in Paris and is what most people drink at lunch).
  6. Pack carefully (see packing list episode 137) a charging cable will run you 10€, and umbrella 25€, Advil is 6€ and Band-Aids aren’t cheap either!
  7. Budget hotels don’t supply much: no safe, no extra pillows, no soap, no wash-cloths
  8. Go to free museums (see Episode 80) and splurge on one or two that you’ve really wanted to see, maybe the Louvre or the Orsay
  9. Museum pass is expensive (78€ for 6 days, only worth it if you are sure to see 2 museums per day, not worth it just to skip the line
  10. You can reserve a timed entrance to the Louvre from home and that line is always much shorter than the other two
  11. Transportation pass not worth it , buy a pack of 10 tickets for 16€ and walk a lot
  12. Transfers between bus and metro not possible in Paris, choose  your route carefully using the RATP App
  13. You need phone data, buy that at home with your carrier
  14. Don’t get robbed or ripped off
    • Plan your pockets: you need a safe pocket for your phone and credit cards/cash, always put your stuff back in the same pocket
    • You don’t need a fancy travel pack with titanium lining, you simply need to remember to zip up your pockets!
    • Don’t talk to anyone with a clipboard and don’t fall for the “You don’t want to talk to me? What’s wrong? Isn’t Paris not treating you right?” routine
    • Big crowds and tight quarters: your phone and wallet need to be in your hands
    • Camera around your neck and a note about expensive camera equipment
    • Small backpacks/purses or you can’t get in venues

 

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All the Light We Cannot See and Saint-Malo, Episode 140


All the Light We Cannot See, photo of Sophie Moran

All the Light We Cannot See and Saint-Malo

If you loved the book All the Light We Cannot See by Anthoy Doerr and you are thinking of visiting the lovely city of Saint-Malo where a lot of the book takes place, this episode is exactly up your alley.

In this episode, Sophie Moran, an Australian native who recently moved to France for work, shares how she spent a week-end exploring the Saint-Malo area, especially as it relates to the book.

Warning, the episode spills the beans about what happens in the book. If you don’t want to hear the spoilers, skip between 4’50” and 17′.

Hotels recommended by Sophie in this episode: Château Hôtel du Colombier (her favorite), Grand Hotel des Thermes (also a Spa).

Recommended Crêperie: Le Corps de Garde, you must call to reserve a day or two before you go.

Here’s the PDF from the Saint-Malo Tourism office with maps and everything!

If you love our approach to travel and want to tour France with us, visit Addicted to France to look at upcoming tours.

If you enjoyed this episode, you should also listen to Normandy and WWII Trip Report, Episode 116;  Bayeux in Normandy, Episode 38; and Gulf of Morbihan, Episode 123.

Episode Highlights with Time Stamps

  • All the Light We Cannot See summary and map, CONTAINS SPOILERS! [4’50”] To skip the spoilers skip to 17′
  • Sophie Moran introduces herself and her experience moving to France from Australia [17’43”]
  • What makes Saint-Malo so special and why this novel is such a great book [21’40”]
  • [23’20”] The places in Saint-Malo that have to do with All the Light We Cannot See
  • Jacques Cartier, Bastion de la Hollande, and the European discovery of Canada [25′]
  • Pirate History in Saint-Malo, the difference between a pirate and a corsaire, and Surcouf  [26’40”]
  • A week-end in Saint-Malo and neighboring area [28′]
  • Review of the Château Hôtel du Colombier, Sophie found it to be a charming and intimate hotel with 15 rooms, also offered one of the best meals she’s had in France [28’20”]
  • Cycling on the beach starting at the Paramé neighborhood in Saint-Malo, aka plage de Rochebonne [30’30”]
  • Visit to Dinan, gorgeous medieval city with a beautiful château and sweeping views [32’30”]
  • Mont-Saint-Michel is only an hour or so from Saint-Malo, you can visit both in the same trip [32’30]
  • Review of the Grand Hotel des Thermes, large and popular Spa. More expensive than the previous hotel and not as homey [34′]
  • Visit to Dinard, a popular resort from the 20s. Their art deco style changing rooms on the beach and the lovely houses. Great cliff walks. [36’20]
  • One of the things that makes this area great is that there are so many wonderful things to do and see close to Saint-Malo [38′]
  • Great shopping in this area, especially in Dinan and Saint-Malo [38’45”]
  • Back to the novel, rue Vauborel. All the houses in Saint-Malo were rebuilt in a similar style, so you can imagine the novel anywhere you go [39′]
  • Hôtel des Abeilles, it is close to the Bastion de la Hollande [42′]
  • There are many grottos along the beach [445’52”]
  • The effect of tides in Saint-Malo [45’46”]
  • Sea-water swimming pool outside the ramparts [46’23”]
  • Bakery where Marie-Laure goes on rue de Dinan [47’12”]
  • Things you may want to visit in Saint-Malo even if you have no interest in the novel All the Light We Cannot See [48’45”]
    • Bastion de la Hollande is part of the ramparts, take an hour or so to walk around the ramparts, the Bastion itself is a park area.
    • You can visit the Pirate Museum, in French Demeure de Corsaire
    • Aquarium in Saint-Malo [53’53”]
    • Museum of the city of Saint-Malo,  Frégate Corsaire [54’05”]
    • Maison du Québec in Saint-Malo [55’03”]
    • Musée Jacques Cartier in Saint-Malo [55’17”]
  • Food in Saint-Malo: Galettes, sea food, hard cider [49’51”]
  • How cider is served: mugs, cider streams, brut vs doux  [52’24”]
  • Sophie also visited the Golfe du Morbihan after she heard our episode about it, she especially enjoyed Vannes.
  • Sophie compares life in France to life in Germany [59’31”]
  • In Brittany people all keep their houses in great shape [62′]
  • Weather in Saint-Malo, you may need a yellow “ciré” (rain-coat) [63′]

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Le Corbusier Architecture, Episode 139

Le Corbusier Architecture in France

Le Corbusier Architecture
Le Corbusier, photo JBonet

On today’s show, Elyse and Annie bring you musings on Le Corbusier Architecture, how he became one of the pillars of French architecture, and some of the criticisms levied against him. Was he a genius or a tyrant? Hint: it doesn’t have to  be one or the other, he could be like you and me: a complicated person.

If you like this episode you should also check out episode 103 about Le Corbusier and the Plan Voisin and how Le Corbusier planned to raze the Marais neighborhood to make room for something out of a authoritarian nightmare. And if you want to see what came after Le Corbusier Architecture, check out Episode 42 Centre Georges Pompidou.

« Là où naît l’ordre, naît le bien-être. » Le Corbusier

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.
 Episode Highlights
  • Le Corbusier Is a Nom de Plume
  • Le Cobrusier, a Father of Modernism
  • Le Corbusier’s Family Origins
  • Le Corbusier and Reinforced Concrete
  • Le Corbusier Architecture and the “Cité Jardin”
  • Towards a New Architecture
  • The Future Is Cities
  • Plan Cities Out or Let Them Grow Organically?
  • You can visit the Cité Internationale for University Students
  • Le Corbusier and Connections to the Vichy Regime
  • Le Corbusier Post WWII
  • La Cité Radieuse in Marseille
  • Chandigarh, India, an Example of Le Corbusier Architecture Outside of France
  • Chapelle Notre-Dame-du-Haut
  • Le Corbusier National Funeral in the Courtyard of the Louvre
  • Differences and similarities between Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright
  • The Desire to Live in a  Modern Affordable Home Is Universal

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