Category Archives: Podcast Episodes

Visiting Normandy with Teenagers, Episode 165

Visiting Normandy with Teenagers


Normandy with teenagers, Nancy with her son and daughter

Bonjour everybody! On today’s show I talk with Nancy Caulkins about her trip to Normandy and the Loire Valley with her family in early June 2017. She makes outstanding recommendations for places to stay and gives us a tale of misfortune that so we don’t fall into the same trap.

Places Mentioned in this Episode

Arromanches, Lion-sur-Mer, Luc-sur-Mer, Beuvron-en-Auge, the Cider Route in Normandy, Gold Beach, Port Winston aka Mulberry harbour, Pointe-du-Hoc, Longues-sur-Mer

Recommended in this Episode: Gîte in Asnelles, Hotel on the Mont Saint-Michel,

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

Episode Highlights with Timestamps

[03:50] Knowing only basic French is not a hindrance to having a great time in France, so long as you know a few tricks.  More and more French people speak English anyway, particularly in Paris.

[05:00] They chose to visit Normandy because they are history buffs, WWII history in particular. It is easy to go from Paris to Normandy, then loop back to Paris through the Loire Valley.

[05:41] They happened to get there on D-Day, June 6th. They got to see some ceremonies in Arromanche, a few veterans, many people in uniform.

[06:59] They considered hiring a guide , but didn’t. Instead, they drove around a lot of charming towns along the coast, most of them are called Something-sur-Mer, such as Lion-sur-Mer, Luc-sur-Mer. These are great to see what how the people lived and what the towns were like. They also went to Beuvron-en-Auge, a town on the cider route, then to their gîte in Asnelles which they loved (on Gold Beach with a view on “Port Winston” aka Mulberry harbour). They had to get the key to the gîte at at tiny town called Crépon and that was a great little detour, the roads around there are very scenic.

[11:00] The next day D-Day which they spent in was Arromanches, they toured the American Cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer and there was a lot of active military that day paying respects and it was very moving.

[12:10] They went to Pointe-du-Hoc and the boys particularly enjoyed the German gun batteries at Longues-sur-Mer. They also thought the movie called Arromanches 360 was worth it, particularly for kids (in Arromanches). The Pointe-du-Hoc movie was at the Utah Beach Landing Museum which was a totally worth seeing.

[14:53] One of the problems with visiting Normandy is that there are so many museums and sites you could visit, it’s hard to narrow it down.  You also have to take the time to experience the scenery which is beautiful.

[15:55] The little car debacle. Nancy’s husband got confused by the colors of French gas pumps and put regular unleaded gasoline in a diesel car. In the US green = diesel and that works in most US states. But in France we don’t have the same color-coding. In France, diesel is usually yellow (not always!) and unleaded is usually green and it says gazole and not “diesel”. Pump nozzles are also all the same size in France, so if you make a mistake, the size of the nozzle will not stop you. Siphoning the gas out will not work, don’t even try it. “Têtu” means stubborn. The car rental company called them a taxi to take them to Mont Saint-Michel.

[19:03] They got to Mont Saint-Michel in a cab that got them there very late, 10 minutes before the last shuttle. You cannot drive yourself up, you must use the shuttles. This turned out to be a lovely way to do it because it is beautiful at night and there is not a soul around. They stayed at a hotel called Mouton Blanc at the Mont Saint-Michel. The hotel was a little bit run-down, but the view was great and the staff was fantastic to help them deal with the rental car situation.

[22:00] How to get the most of the Mont Saint-Michel: arrive early enough to check-in to your hotel and have a couple of hours to look around  before the golden hour. The golden hour is the time an hour before sunset and an hour after. It matters a lot to photographers, but it’s beautiful light for anybody. Then the next morning get up really early to get be in place for the sun-rise. If you can explore through the Mont Saint-Michel when all the tourists are gone, it is heaven. Check the opening hours for the Abbey and visit it as soon as it opens in the morning and then get out before the bus-loads of tourists trample you over!

[23:52] Next stop Loire Valley and a canoe ride under Chenonceau Château. The canoe trip under Chenonceau didn’t happen because of the car troubles.

[27:00] Cider farm in Beuvron-en-Auge called Manoir de Grandouet, self-guided tour with cider tasting.

[32:13] Advise for people who are considering going to Normandy. Spend 2 or 3 days for people with kids. She wishes they had more time in Bayeux, where they just saw the gift shop for the Tapestry museum.

[33:00] When you visit the Bayeux Tapestry, you are on a conveyor belt and your audio guide tells you about what you are looking at and it takes maximum 30 minutes.

[34:45] Learn as much as you can about the  history as you . Watch Band of Brothers and Saving Private Ryan where you can see where it all happened. See as many of the museums as you can. D-Day activities happen the entire month of June, you don’t have to be there on June 6th. There were military vehicles everywhere and that was fun to see.

[36:00] Most of the villages around Normandy have at least a little booth where you can go get information. There are activities you can add for kids, fishing or horse-back riding. There are options for that if you research it a little bit.

[37:30] Honfleur would have been a great place to go boating or spend time around the harbour. They talked about staying in Rouen and go along that route, but they chose the cider route instead.

[40:00] Personal Update. The capital cities and names of French regions I will use on the new version of this site (hopefully to be launched before the end of the year):

  1. Ajaccio, Corsica (in French we say Corse)
  2. Bordeaux, New Aquitaine (in French we say Nouvelle Aquitaine)
  3. Dijon, Burgundy-Franche-Comté (in French we say Bourgogne-Franche-Comté)
  4. Lille, Upper France (in French we say Hauts-de-France)
  5. Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alps (the names are very close in both languages)
  6. Marseille, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (it’s the same in French)
  7. Nantes, Loire Valley (in French we say Pays de Loire)
  8. Orléans, Centre-Val-de-Loire
  9. Paris, Île-de-France
  10. Rennes, Brittany (Bretagne)
  11. Rouen, Normandy (Normandie)
  12. Strasbourg, Eastern France (Grand Est)
  13. Toulouse, Occitania (Occitanie)

The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is supported in part by Patreon donors.


RSS | iTunes | Android | Stitcher Radio | TuneIn Radio

Conclusion

Nancy and her family managed to squeeze a lot of wonderful discovery of France into a short amount of time and she shares some gems that made their time in Normandy very special. We hope you can do the same with your family!

Save

Save

Save

First Time in Paris and Running the Paris Marathon, Episode 164

First Time in Paris and Running the Paris Marathon


First Time in Paris and Running the Paris Marathon, Mike and his wife at the Louvre

On today’s show you’ll hear from Mike Sheppard, his Paris Marathon experience and what it’s like to be in Paris for the first time. Mike is a seasoned runner, but this was his first time in Paris, so he noticed some important details that can help you make your own Paris Marathon experience a success!

Annie also goes on a mini rant about how some travel bloggers send unsuspecting visitors on silly wild goose chases, and she gives so me suggestions about what you can do for the Journées du Patrimoine happening Sept 16 and 17, 2017 all over France.

Recommended in this Episode

French Tip of the Week

“J’aime la France et j’aime penser à mon prochain voyage en France” (I love France and I love to think about my next trip to France).

Check out our upcoming Tours on Addicted to France.
What You Will Learn About in this Episode with Time-Stamps

[05:00] This was Mike Sheppard’s 10th Marathon, but he’s been involved in 150+ races. This was his first Marathon outside of the US.

[06:53] How much time did you spend in planning for this Marathon? About 1 year. It was Mike’s first time in France.

[07:44] Anything surprised you about the Marathon that you wish you knew before? It is a great race for first-time marathon runners because it is a great course. It is a first Marathon for 37% of the Paris Marathon runners.

[09:30] It’s a great 42+ kilometers tour of Paris. You see all the major sights and attractions of Paris: Eiffel Towers, you start on the Champs Elysées and Arc de Triomphe.

[10:45] When you first sign-up to do the race they ask you how long you think it’ll take you to complete the race and based on that they put you in different starting times, in different corrals. In Paris, the first starters get going at 8 AM whereas in the US it’s typically 6 AM.

[13:28] When do you start your race if you announce you’ll finish in 8 hours or something? You start in the way way back!

[13:59] The Paris Marathon also includes people who need adaptive technology, for instance a blind runner with a human guide or wheelchairs, etc. They start before the elite start.

[14:35] How the Paris Marathon Expo works. The Expo takes place at Porte de Versailles, Parc des Expositions. The RATP buses drop you off right in front of the expo. There are a lot of companies there selling clothing and nutrition items. There are a lot of Paris Marathon merchandise there. In Paris you don’t get the “free” Paris Marathon finisher shirt that you can only get after you pass the finish line.

[16:20] You MUST have the medical certificate filled out by your physician. If you don’t have it, you’re going to be out. Your doctor in the US will probably give you a whole physical. They will also ask for your passport. Bring as much photo ID as you can so you can get your bib to start the race. The Expo opens 3 days before race day.

[18:15] The porter-potty situation at the Paris Marathon. In the US, there are lots of porter-potties before you get into the corral. In Paris they put the porter potties inside the corral. This is great because there are fewer people inside the corral than outside.

[19:05] Everybody’s bib has their name and country. 70% of the runners are French, 3% from the USA. You will see more bibs from Germany and UK, etc. The ambiance is great, it’s a happy and fun time.

[21:20] How was security? Security seemed tight, but not so much that Mike felt worried. This happens at most big races.

[22:10] How was it as far as grabbing water or treats for sugar? There were things, but at a Marathon you don’t want to try something you’ve not tried before. There were sugar cubes, fruit, Vitel water. Drink the water before the marathon because it’s good to not be surprised. You may want to bring the stuff you’re used to. There are a lot of food and water stops.

[24:44] There are a lot of spectators for this race, 250,000 people come out to cheer you on. There are organizations along the sides in support of various causes and countries. They had one American section, people from Chicago. There is music everywhere. Drum groups, jazz groups, rock groups. There is music all along the course.

[26:20] Be aware that toilets are not as easy to find at the Paris Marathon as they are at other marathons. When you do see a toilet, use it because you may not see another one for a lot of miles. In some parts of the course there is forest and there were a lot of people, both men and women, relieving themselves in the forest.

[27:60] During the course there are photographers, sometimes there is a sign saying there is a photographer up ahead, remember to look up, pose, do whatever you want to do. Careful not to miss too many of them and put a little distance between you and other runners especially at the finish line.

[30:26] The shirts were a good deal at the Expo, around 25-30€ and if you got 2 you got one free.

[31:14] Tell us about the Finish Line! Going through the finish line is always wonderful. You get the Paris Marathon finisher medal. You’ll see various signs with different shirt sizes, you go to the size you want and you get the shirt. The drinks and food are after the shirts. This area was really congested. You finish at the Arc de Triomphe also, not far from where you started.

[33:20] The metro and buses in Paris are the best he’s ever seen. Efficient, clean (they’re not all like that!) It’s easy to use the Metro.

[34:00] What are some differences between this marathon and others you’ve run? The lack of toilets along the route was a negative, but having so many people from so many countries was great. You may not get your best marathon time because you won’t have a lot of space where you can take-off because there are so many people. It’s a crowded marathon.

[36:00] Tell us about some favorite things you enjoyed in Paris. Mike and his wife didn’t want to leave. The podcast helped (glad to hear that!) It’s important to get tickets that let you skip the line, the lines can be super long otherwise!

[38:50] Get your tickets before you come to France. It’s sometimes intimidating needing to decide what day and what time you want to go do something, but it’ll save you so much time once you’re there! Schedule 2 things for the day, the rest will fill up with coffee breaks and meals and shopping here and there.

[40:40] Bloggers and websites will make all sorts of recommendations for specific bakeries and restaurants, etc. Annie cautions against going a long distance just to go to a specific bakery. Guess what? In Paris there are fantastic bakeries everywhere! You don’t need to go to that one café where somebody famous was spotted! As you walk around Paris you will find good food everywhere! Asking where you can get the best yogurt in Paris is asking the wrong question because there is good yogurt in France period!

[45:35] Was it difficult for you to find food suitable to an athlete’s diet in Paris? No, it’s easy to find an Italian place and go have some pasta. Mike recommends the dinner cruise on Bâteaux Parisiens because the food was great there. Sometimes there weren’t sure what they were ordering, but it always worked out.

[48:30] Everybody was really friendly even though Mike and his wife don’t speak French. Saying “bonjour” goes a long way! Bonjour is the magic word in France. We say “bonjour” to bus drivers and everyone.

[49:41] If you say “hello” in the US the same way you do in France, people will wonder what you’re up to! In America you don’t say hello when you enter into an elevator, but in France you do!

[50:56] Hiring a private photographer in Paris was really nice. The photographer follows you around for 3 hours and they give you the SD card. The photographer does no editing, which saves them a lot of time. This was between 200 € and 300 € for the whole time.

[53:09] In Paris, it’s fun just looking at the cars that are going around. You see a lot of Smart cars and Citroën and Peugeot.

[54:35] The Paris Marathon a great for first-tme marathon runners. The average age is 41. Don’t be intimidated by the size of it. French people enjoy the ambiance at sports events. It’s fun to see everybody getting along.

[60:50] JeFile, the App you need to install to get a spot to walk up the Notre Dame Towers.

[63:15] List of new events on the occasion of the Journées du Patrimoine Sept 16 and 17, 2017. First time opening to the public this year are:

  • The Cour de Cassation near the Sainte Chapelle
  • The Paris Catholic Institute
  • The residence of the Mexican Ambassador in Paris as well as the Mexican Embassy
  • Maison Lancel
  • The Movie Studio called Porte des Lilas Cinema

Conclusion

As Mike points out so well in the episode, the Paris Marathon attracts a lot of runners, but it is a great choice for first-time marathon runners because the scenery is so beautiful, the ambiance is great, and it is appropriate for both competitive and “laid-back” marathon runners. Mike also says some really nice things both about the show and Paris in general, so it was a pleasure talking to him!

Support the show on Patreon.


RSS | iTunes | Android | Stitcher Radio | TuneIn Radio

First Time in Paris and Running the Paris Marathon, view from La Concorde

 

Save

Save

Save

Narbonne, City at the Crossroads, Episode 163

Narbonne, City at the Crossroads

Narbonne City at the Crossroads

Narbonne is a city at the crossroads due to its geographical location in France.  But we think it’s a great place to visit, especially if you are looking for a lovely beach city at a reasonable cost.

If you’re interested in Narbonne, you should also listen to Episode 117, a Detour into Catalonia and Episode 105 about nearby Montpellier, and Episode 107 about The Best of Sète, also a favorite in this wonderful area of my region: Occitanie.
French Tip of the Week [62:45] Ma carte ne marche pas, je ne sais pas pourquoi. My credit card isn’t working, I don’t know why.
Places Mentioned in this Episode: Narbonne, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Canal de la Robine, Via Domitia, Narbonne Horreum, the Archbishop’s Palace, Abbey de Fontfroide, le Pont des Marchands, the unfortunate Cathedral of Beauvais, Massif de la Clape, Gruissan, Port-la-Nouvelle, Baltar-style covered markets.
Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.

[00:00] About this podcast, host, and how you can participate.

[03:00] In today’s episode, I bring you a conversation with Elyse about Narbonne, a city that doesn’t get a lot of love, yet has been at the crossroads since ancient times. If you’ve ever crossed France north to south, chances are you at least drove past Narbonne. And that’s the problem with this city: most people pass by and don’t stop. But maybe they should, as explained by Elyse on today’s episode.

[04:00] Narbonne is a place that a lot of people go through (major train station and freeway hub), but rarely stop. Other cities nearby get a lot more tourism, for instance Nîmes,  Béziers, Pézenas, or especially Carcassonne.

[06:30] We think we need to talk about Narbonne because it’s a major historical center. There are 52,000 people there today and the old city center is very interesting to visit, and of course it’s a beach town.

[07:30] Narbonne is one of the sunniest cities in France and well off the beaten track. Narbonne has not been able to turn itself into a destination but has remained a pass-through city. The beaches nearby are a destination especially for French vacationers. No mistral wind here but rather the tramontane wind.

[08:40] The population of Narbonne has been growing because a lot of retirees want more sunshine and there’s plenty of it there. Also, and this is going to sound counter-intuitive to people who don’t live in France, but people who live in Paris can’t wait to get out of Paris.

[10:40] Narbonne is a city at the crossroads, many people have heard of it, but most would be hard-pressed to tell you what’s there.

  • Great city center with Roman and Medieval history
  • Canal de la Robine (a section of the Canal du Midi)

[12:12] Narbonne is the first city the Romans established in Gaul with all the commerce that goes along with that. The 10th Roman Legion was established in Narbonne, so it was also an important military city. Then in 22 BC Narbonne becomes the capital of Gaul. The port of Narbonne was the second biggest port of the Roman empire 2000 years ago.

[18:16] After the 400s, just like the rest of France, there are a number of crazy groups that come through and take over, including the Visigoths  who stayed a little longer than most. Visigoths were pushed out by the Franks who stayed.

[20:22] In the 700s, the Moors from Andalusia take over Narbonne for 40 years. When the Moors took over, they did not force people to convert to Islam, they simply taxed non-Muslims. Narbonne became a place of great intellectual and philosophical activity. The Troubadours were really important in Narbonne.

[22:48] Vikings also got to Narbonne in 859 and they pillaged the area and left. Then we get into the bulk of the Middle Ages, the age of Monasteries and Churches. There are still a few Roman ruins that you can see in the center of Narbonne (some of the Via Domitia in front of the Archbishop’s Palace for instance), but most of what you see there is left from the Middle Ages.

[24:12] You can see a piece of well-preserved Via Domitia in Narbonne.  You can see the ruts for the wheels of the wagons and the rise which makes the curb and the walkway for pedestrians. This is the way Romans made their roads everywhere. You can also see some digs where they are working on excavating some Roman ruins.

[26:12] The horrea or horreum in Narbonne. Those are underground galleries and storage, experts speculate that they were probably used as public storage. There are several buildings that still have this horreum. It was both underground storage and a way to get places under ground.

[28:00] At one point Narbonne had all the buildings you would find in a major Roman city: Forum, Coliseum, Circus, Theaters, etc. All of those are gone today. Arles has a lot of that left, Nîmes has some, cities like Toulouse and Paris have almost nothing left. Stones were re-used to make new buildings.

[30:00] Around the year 1000 they build a monastery 12 km away from Narbonne, and that is one of the major things to see if you spend a day in the area, it is called the Abbey de Fontfroide. It is a Cistercian Abbey and Church. This is a Mediterranean climate where it smells and feels like Provence even though technically it is not. Very much worth a visit!

[32:09] The Cathedral of Narbonne is called Saint-Just Saint Pasteur (Elyse mis-spoke and called it Saint-Just Saint-Paul, she got the wrong saint!). It is a large Cathedral (4th largest in France) and what is unusual is that you can go up the tower and stand outside on the parapets. You can see out towards the sea and get lovely views.

[33:38] The story of the Cathedral of Beauvais which collapsed 3 times when they tried to make it too tall. As a result, the Cathedral of Beauvais is half of a Cathedral!

[35:04] Narbonne is 41 meters tall and still standing! And it is gorgeous and impressive. You can see the cloister, there are many buildings attached to it, some of which have been turned into museums. The only Cathedral that has the Bishop’s Palace right up against the Cathedral (it’s that way in Avignon too) and you can visit some of that too.

[36:54] Other Churches you can visit in Narbonne. The city center of Narbonne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so it is getting taken care of very well. It is not a very large city center. There are a few lovely pedestrian streets. There is the Canal. There are pagan times remnants as well.

[38:20] If you walk around Narbonne, you have a couple of old buildings like a 1600s or 1700s Synagogue and others that may be of interest to you.

[38:53] Narbonne went into decline after the Wars of Religions (XVI Century) because it’s an area that mostly produced low quality wines and you can’t make a fortune on that.

[39:40] Recap of what you can see in Narbonne:

  • Horreum or underground tunels
  • Via Domitia
  • The Cathedral and the Bishop’s Palace
  • Le Pont des Marchands on the Rabine, the only bridge left in France that has actual houses on it
  • Narbonne is a great place to stop for lunch, either near the Cathedral or near the Canal
  • You can take a ride on the Canal
  • Go to Fontfroide and there are often concerts there, especially in the summer

[42:16] Cistercian monasteries were not painted to keep them austere and they have wonderful acoustics.

[43:12] From Narbonne you can go east to the Massif de la Clape. It’s a lovely place for bike riding and hiking, this is also where you’ll find the Gouffre de l’Œil Doux a sink hole with turquoise water.

[45:29] The beaches around the Massif de la Clape are not high-end beaches. It has been kept natural for the most part with some campgrounds, a few vendors, including wine vendors.

[47:07] The AOC Languedoc-la-clape wine is a good wine, similar to Corbières or Minervoix, full-bodied.

[47:42] Other places you could go nearby are Gruissan Plage with houses built on stilts. You could also get to Port-la-Nouvelle, a bigger  and more modern town.

[48:30] Narbonne also has two Baltar-style markets (like the old Halles de Paris which were destroyed) with beautiful glass and iron work. One of those markets in Narbonne (Les Halles Centrales) is a great place to have lunch, there are restaurants.

[49:12] Narbonne food specialties: food, grilled fish, sausage, seafood dishes, and oysters. There are oysters and muscle beds nearby.

Conclusion

The Romans put Narbonne, city at the crossroads on the map. It’s not super famous but it’s a lovely place to visit if you’re in the area and want to explore the Languedoc and parts of the Mediterranean that are lovely and not too expensive. Narbonne is the closest beach to Toulouse, so it’s a place where Toulouse teens like to go. There are flamingos in the lagoon too!

Support the show on Patreon.


RSS | iTunes | Android | Stitcher Radio | TuneIn Radio

 

Save

Save

Save