Category Archives: Trip Report

France with Teenagers, Episode 159

France with Teenagers, Episode 159


France with Teenagers, Henry in his sister in front of Napoleon's tomb

Visiting France with your teenagers? On this episode Annie talks to Henry Calkins, a 13 year-old from Arizona who shares what he liked and didn’t like about his vacation in France. He’s got recommendations for your teens and what they can do to have a great time. His mother, Nancy Calkins also  talks about her favorite ice-cream place in Paris, just in time for the summer!

Places Mentioned in this Episode: Bayeux, Mont-Saint-Michel, Montrichard, Chenonceau, Cheverny, Paris, Senoble Ice Cream.

If you enjoyed this episode, also check out: Paris with Children, South-West of France with Children, Two Dads and a Child in Paris,  Visiting France with Children.

Would you like to tour France with Annie and Elyse? Visit Addicted to France to choose an upcoming tour.
What You Will Learn About in this Episode with Time-Stamps

4’20 What surprised you about France? It’s really clean and the architecture is amazing.

5’08 What all did you do on your trip to France? Landed in Paris and headed to Normandy first, then the Loire Valley, then Paris.

7’40 Of all of those things, what was your least favorite? Did you even like the museums? The Louvre wasn’t a favorite because it’s too big and takes too long. Loved the Orsay Museum.

9’22 Did you eat any strange foods in France? He loved the croissants, not a fan of osso-bucco. Didn’t get to try Orangina.

10’52 Did you see any strange-looking French people?  No, a few homeless people, but not too many. French kids are lucky because they have so many cool things to visit. Quality of life seems really good in France.

13’17 What is it like in Normandy for the D-Day celebrations?

14’32 Are there other parts of France you’d like to see? I’d like to see more of Paris and the South-West

15’20 Most people don’t think of Normandy as a place that’s cool for young people? How come you liked it so much?

16’38 What did you think of the Loire Valley?

18′ What advice would you give to kids and teens who come to France?  What are some good things to do before they come?

  • Read some history
  • Try some French food

20’15 Nancy’s favorite ice cream place in Paris: Senoble.

Conclusion

France is fun for people at every age. It was wonderful to talk to a young man who enjoys WWII history and made the most of his family vacation to broaden his horizons and quench his curiosity. Thanks for coming on the show Henry!

 

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Insider Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris, Episode 157

Insider Tips for Visiting Disneyland Paris


Disneyland Paris, Debbie's family in front of the Disneyland Castle

This episode is a trip report with Debbie Raises who shares her insider tips for visiting Disneyland Paris. Debbie and her family live “close to the magic” and hour away from the Walt Disney World in Florida. They have a long history with Disney, she and her husband went on a Disney honeymoon, her husband works for Disney, and they know the parks inside and out. For today’s show she has prepared a list of tips you won’t want to miss to make your next trip to Disneyland Paris as successful as hers. Debbie and her family were at the resort for 3 and a half days in June 2017.

Hotels recommended in this episode: the Sequoia Lodge and the Vienna House Dream Castle at Disneyland Paris (one of the few places in France where you can get a basic room with 2 queen beds).

You should also listen to Tips for Using Uber in Paris

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

 What You Will Learn About in this Episode

  • 2’45 Introduction
  • 4′ Why come to France? For Disneyland Paris!
  • 4’45 Should we stay at Disneyland Paris (DLP) the whole time or spend a few nights in the city of Paris? It’s a 45 minutes RER ride between DLP and Paris center, we recommend you choose a more central hotel in Paris.
  • 6:15 Is it easy to take the RER to Disneyland Paris? Yes, extremely!
  • 7′ Shall we take an Uber to go to Disneyland Paris? It’s a great choice if there are 3 or 4 of you.
  • 8′ Do you mostly travel to Disney? What other types of trips do you do?
  • 10′ The 4 days you spent in Paris, what did you visit?  They went to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Sainte-Chapelle, Notre Dame, and took a day trip to Versailles
  • 10’45 Sunset is late in France in the summer.
  • 11’30 What are similarities and differences between Disneyland Paris and other parks you’ve visited.
    • For the most part, it is the same.
    • The Disneyland Paris Fast-Pass system is different: the time window is shorter than in other parks.
    • Main Street USA is cobblestone, which is cool!
    • The Liberty Arcade is an area that runs along Main Street USA and it’s a good place to get out of the sun or rain or shop on your way out of the park.
  • 16′ Did most cast members speak good English? Yes, they knew how to talk about their area of expertise for sure, some knew a lot more. The maps are also in all sorts of languages, including English.
  • 18’20 Disneyland Paris feels really safe because everyone has to go through a metal detector and a bag check. Unlike the center of Paris, there are no pick-pockets, the premises are watched closely.
  • 20’16 Tell us about Disneyland village.
  • 20’33 The rides at Disneyland Paris are more thrill rides: Hyperspace Mountain goes upside down. The Indiana Jones ride also goes upside down. The Big Thunder ride is also more thrilling. That’s because Europeans like more of a thrill park. At Disney World there are thrill rides, but they are spread around four parks.
  • 22’40 Disneyland Paris is missing a couple of old attractions: no Tikkie Bird, no Jungle Cruise. There aren’t enough indoors attractions where it’s air-conditioned.
  • 24′ There is also a Studios park, it was a little bit disappointing to Debbie and her family. They have to Rock-and-Roller coaster, the Tower of Terror. The Crush coaster was great there, and the new Ratatouille ride. Ratatouille is a high tech ride that they don’t have yet in other parks.
  • 25’22 Description of the Ratatouille Ride. The whole area is themed like Paris. This ride is unique to France, so is Crush coaster.
  • 27′ Attendance in June was moderate, Debbie thought it would be quieter because French kids weren’t out of school yet, but it was busy.
  • 28′ How many days are enough at Disneyland Paris?
  • 28’50 Are there some things you wish you knew before you came?
    • Make sure you know what attractions are open and closed. There’s an App now that shows what’s under refurbishment. They were thinking of coming in March, but a lot of rides were closed in anticipation of the 25th Anniversary celebration.
    • Make sure you know if your hotel has AC, they often don’t in France, don’t assume!
    • There are a lot of quick serve restaurants with interesting themes. Some of them close at unexpected times. Toad Hall wasn’t open as much as they thought it should be, that will show on the App too.
  • 34’15 Are the restaurants different at Disneyland Paris? The themes are really well done in Paris.
  • 35’15 How did you like the food?
  • 34′ What’s a good daily budget for food? More or less 16€-20€ per person per meal.
  • 37’30 There were no problems paying with credit cards anywhere, no need to carry cash.
  • 38′ What sit-down restaurants did you try? They tried Bistro Chez Rémi. The Silver Spur smelled really good, but they didn’t get to try it. In the village they tried Buffalo Bill Wild West Show (a must-do for French people!), it’s a dinner show, very fun.   King Ludwig’s had German food and it was very good.
  • 41’20 They stayed at the Sequoia Lodge which has a pool and is 15 minutes walk to the park. It’s a mid-range price hotel. This is a Disneyland hotel.
  • 42’39 Annie stayed at an out-lying hotel called the Vienna House Dream Castle at Disneyland Paris which had 2 queen-sized beds in one room. The wait-time for the bus was sometimes a bit long.
  • 47′ What was your favorite thing that you did on this trip?
  • 48’30 What didn’t you like? They didn’t like the train because it takes forever as there is only one on the track, and there isn’t much to see along the route. The back lot tour was also a disappointment because it was boring.
  • 51’30 What are some tips you want to share with the listeners?
    • Don’t buy the photo pass because there are too few photographers out.
  • 55′ The night-time show projected on the castle was lovely!
  • 57′ If you need transportation to or from the airport, the Magical Shuttle is a really good option. You can schedule it in advance.

Conclusion

Disneyland Paris was really magical, Debbie, her husband and children all enjoyed it very much. By some measures, the Disneyland Paris park is the most visited attraction in France. It is especially perfect for families with children between ages 5 and 12 or 13.

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Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris, Episode 153

Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris, Episode 153


Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris, Phil Goldsmith with Eiffel Tower in the background

Introduction

Renting an apartment in Paris is a great option, especially if you’re planning on staying in Paris one week or longer. It is probably not ideal for first-time Paris visitors who don’t know the area yet, but even for them, it can be a good option if they are coming with children or extended family. In this episode Phil Goldsmith shares the secrets to finding an apartment in Paris and he breaks it down into simple steps that anybody can follow. If you’ve rented apartments in Paris and would like to share your own nuggets of wisdom, call the voice mail line 801-816-1015. Also stay tuned until after the interview with Phil to hear from Inaugural Tour Member Sue Walsh. Enjoy the show!

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

What You Will Learn about in Today’s Episode

40″ On today’s episode, Phil Goldsmith shares his tips and secrets for finding an apartment in Paris.

43″ Our next Paris Tour is scheduled for Oct 1 through Oct 7th 2017; we would love to have you join us in France, not only through the podcast but also in real life.

2’16 Interview with Phil Goldsmith starts

5’11 Why rent an apartment and stay at a hotel? An apartment gives you more of a chance of living like a local. Hotels are a lot more anonymous. Apartments are also more likely to be situated in a residential area rather than a business/commercial area. For instance there are few apartments for rent in the 2nd arrondissement, but there are lots of hotels there. When staying in an apartment you probably won’t get your breakfast at a café, but you may walk to the local bakery and get a chocolatine while observing real life.

7′ It is true that there is nobody living on the Ile de la Cité who is not either a millionaire or someone staying at a hotel.

7’34 Will renting an apartment save me money? We’ll come back to this question later in the episode also, but renting an apartment doesn’t so much save you money as it gets you better value for your money. Renting is cost effective for people who are staying for several weeks.

8’50 If you’re going for just a few days, just get a hotel. Finding the right apartment takes a long time. There is no standard rating system for apartments, each agency does things their own way, you have to spend time looking into the place you are considering renting.

9’54 You get more room in an apartment than in a hotel. Apartments are great for kids or extended families too. Apartments make it easy to accommodate bigger groups.

11′ Gite de France are made for families, they typically have mom and dad and two or three kids. Those are mostly in the countryside.

11’38 Because apartments are a little less expensive, you can leave the apartment for a few days and explore other areas nearby.

12’12 The disadvantages of renting an apartment:

  • You have to do a lot of research to find an apartment.
  • People sometimes wonder if this is a legitimate rental. You’re better off going through a reputable agency than Craig’s List!
  • 2-bedroom apartments are harder to find, but it can be done.
  • The apartment will be quirky or charming depending on how you want to look at this.

13’36 Some of the crazy places Phil has rented in the past: rickety tiny stairs and steep stairs without handrails or bathroom where you have to go out on the terrace to get to the bathroom.

15’30 Be prepared to deal with a security deposit. Different agencies handle this differently: some put a hold on your credit card, some what you to bring cash to give to the owner that you will get back when you check out. For some of the longer rentals there may be charges for cleaning and electrical bills. You know about this ahead of time if you read the website.

18′ What you need to know about rental agencies: there are countless numbers of them. They are either direct rental platforms like AirB&B or managed apartments. You may have heard of VBRO or HomeAway, AirB&B, Home to Go: those are the big ones. There are also a lot of local Paris-based agencies that are in the managed apartment business. They manage the apartments on behalf of the owner. They all seem to have the word Paris in their name: Paris Attitude, Paris Stay, Paris à la carte, Paris Perfect, Vacation in Paris, etc. They know the Paris market better and their websites are designed for the quirkiness of the area. Their apartment descriptions are usually more detailed.

21’`4 Some agencies will take the reservation with a credit card. Some will require an international wire transfer. Sometimes transferring money between the US and France is a pain, it can be done.

22’55 There will be some cancellation policy imposed by the agency. It’s not usually unreasonable, but you need to understand it. With a hotel room you normally only lose the first night, with a rental you may lose the whole thing.

24’30 Where do you want to stay in Paris? If it’s your first time in Paris you need to understand how the city is organized. Look at the map and learn what the arrondissements mean and why it matters. The Latin Quarter is close to everything you want to see. If it’s your first visit to Paris, stay as close as you can to Notre Dame.

28′ If you plan on taking the RER between the CDG Airport and the center of Paris, you have to know that it stops in the 5th arrondissement, so it’s an easy transfer. So long as you don’t have to change lines you should be OK.

29’35 The Ile de la Cité is a business area, in the day-time it is bustling. But at night it empties and you’re left with just tourists. It is the opposite on the Ile Saint Louis.

30’50 You can choose a busy street or a quieter side street. You will also have the choice of facing the courtyard or the busy street. Pay attention to that.

31’43 Ask yourself what goes on at night on that street. You may pick a quiet street next to a night-club and if you’re not used to city life you won’t enjoy it. Make that choice carefully.

32’30 None of these apartments have parking. Take a walk of the neighborhood using Google Street View before you rent.

35′ Once you’ve found an apartment you’re interested in, you need to decipher the listing. It’ll give you the number of square meters (multiply by 9 to get the square feet). A studio apartment might be around 35 square meters. By comparison, the average hotel room in the center of Paris is 8 square meters!

37’25 Most apartments are non-smoking and most do not allow pets. Many are not air conditioned. Some apartments can supply a crib if you wish.

38’15 It is important to Phil to know what sort of building you’re staying in. Is it a Haussmann building? Is it more recent? That makes a lot of difference in terms of ceiling height, decor, and light.

40’25 Some of the buildings will not be lit well because French people are obsessed with saving electricity. There will be timers in the halls. Use your cell phone as a flashlight in some of those older buildings with stingy occupants.

42′ The first floor in France is what Americans call the second floor. There may be some stairs involved even if the building has an elevator. If this matters to you, inquire about that.

43′ Passcode lock: most places nowadays have a passcode lock instead of a key. Some of the listings have floor plans, most only have photos. Look at the photos really carefully. AC is rare in France but WiFi is common these days.

French locks are very different from American locks. If you’re not used to a simple American lock and don’t live in a high security building, you will probably be surprised by what it takes to open a door in France. Most places have security locks.  Some places have locks where if you don’t move the door handle all the way up, it will not lock. You may have to have somebody show you how it’s done if it’s not immediately obvious. Make sure you have a number you can call if you run into a problem.

47′ From the photos, take a good look at the quality of the furnishings. If there are slip covers or a sheet on the sofa, it indicates that it’s not great.

48′ Many rental apartments will not have an oven. Some will not have a microwave. Take a close look at what’s there.

49′ Bed sizes in France. In the description you’ll often read that the bed is King, Queen or Double, but those descriptions are an indication of size, it will not be what you’re used to. Double beds are the most common size you’ll see. French size are 140 (double) or 160 (queen) or 180+ king. French people never have enough pillows in apartments.

51’40 Water closet is separate in France. The bathroom is where you’ll find a shower or bathtub + a sink. The toilet is separate. This is because French people think it’s filthy to go to the bathroom where you brush your teeth.

53’47 Take a look at the reviews, most people will say it was great, what’s even more important is that this place has been rented in the past.

55′ Checking in and out. There is no concierge or front desk, you need to make arrangements to meet someone. Allow enough time to get to the apartment from Charles de Gaulle airport (typically 90 to 120 minutes). Most apartment managers will ask you to call them when you are on your way.

56’44 Deposit in cash can be a problem because you’ll have to carry the cash, but then what do you do with the cash when they give it back to you at the end? Ask if you can pay your cash deposit if dollars, so at least when you get it back you don’t have to convert it back before you can use it.

58′ There is usually a house rules binder in the apartment that will explain how things work in the apartment. Avoid using the small home dryers, they are awful. Just wash and hang dry.

60′ There are very few American food items that you can’t find at French grocery stores. Chili powder is one, coffee creamer is another.

61′ When you checkout, set a time with the apartment manager. Some places will ask you to replace things that you finish. They may ask you to strip the beds and empty the garbage.

63′ In Provence rentals are very expensive April thru November and cheap thru the winter months.

64′ Annie’s arguments against renting an apartment:

  • If you’re going the apartment route, you may be tempted to stay somewhere longer than you need to. Some place won’t rent for less than one week and there are lots of places in France where the only way to make that work is if you rent a car and you use the apartment as a central point to go visit lots of things.
  • For people who already know that they know and like France, it’s good to stay a while, but if it’s all new to you, don’t stay too long in one place or you’ll get bored.

Conclusion

Phil likens the process of renting an apartment in Paris to the fast, good, or cheap paradigm. You need to decide if it’s most important to you to have your apartment with easy access to attractions (fast), how many amenities you want (good) or how much you’re willing to pay (cheap). You can have two of the three, but probably not all three at the same time. With this episode you’re now better equipped to decide which two matter most to you.

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