Category Archives: Podcast Episodes

Brittany with Kids Trip Report, Episode 166

Brittany with Kids Trip Report


Matt and his daughters. Brittany with Kids Trip Report

“Big picture of why we like to tour France with our children is because I love the span of history in France. The history that you can get by traveling through France is tremendous: you can go back 20,000 years when you go see cave art paintings, then you’ve got the Romans, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, WWI, WWII, pretty much anything you want to see history-wise is in France.”

Recommended in this Episode: La Rocheline in La Chevalerie in La-Croix-en-Tourraine, Gîte in Dinan.

Places Mentioned in this Episode: TGV train station at CDG, Tours, Amboise, Chenonceau, Chambord, Mushroom Cave, Dinan, Monterfil, Mont Saint-Michel, Cancale, Fort la Latte, Saint-Malo, Sculpted Rocks in Saint-Malo, Gulf of Morbihan

Introduction

Brittany was always a place Matt wanted to visit, so he made sure to include it on his last visit to France in June/July 2017.  And since the Loire Valley is right between Paris and Brittany, they decided to make a stop in Tours and visit two Loire Valley Châteaux too. We also talk about dealing with a severe food allergy in France, driving in France, and how, if you do it right, a trip to France is like going into a time machine. This trip took Matt and his family to a lot of places that are lovely and completely off the beaten track for most visitors, some where they never heard a word of English. They planned to go both to both famous attractions and places that nobody ever goes to. I think they did made great choices, what do you think?

If you’re interested in this episode, you should also listen to: Driving in France and Gulf of Morbihan in Brittany

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

 Episode Highlights with Timestamps

The Itinerary for this Trip to France

[03:36] This was Matt’s 4th time in France, and his second big trip with the kids. This time they spent 2 days in the Loire, 6 days in Brittany, a week in the Dordogne, a week on the Mediterranean and Catalonia  part of France and one day passing through Paris.

Driving in France: Watch Out for Speeding Tickets!

[04:46] You drove all the way across France, north-west to south-west, from Brittany to Perpignan. Driving was great, safe, orderly, not that much traffic (Matt is used to Boston traffic) and Episode 16 on Driving in France was very helpful. They took the highways (we call them “autoroute” France and they are toll-roads). They went through Nantes and Bordeaux. When you drive in France, be mindful of your speed, because they will catch you and they will mail you the ticket all the way to your home in America or Canada or Australia because your car-rental company will forward your information to the authorities.

Visiting France Is Like Time Travel

[07:00] Why they like coming to France with their children and why they chose this route: 1. Matt gets by OK in French. 2. Every region of France is its own country. 3. The span of history you encounter on a trip like that in France is tremendous. 4. Matt’s daughter Nora is severely allergic to eggs and in France they can handle that without taking too much risk.

How to deal with a Food Allergy in France

[08:26] Dealing with a severe allergy in France: hand your waiter a printed card that says what you’re allergic to in French. Everyone was super accommodating.

The Kids Love the Beach and the Mediterranean!

[09:11] For this trip they wanted to keep what was successful about their previous trips and build off it. They like to rent a house so they can do their own cooking, and they like to have a swimming option or a more engaging option that the kids will enjoy at each place. The kids wanted to go to the beach and Matt decided on Collioure (see next episode) on the Mediterranean.

French Regions Have their Own Culture

[11:16] French regions have a strong local culture. Brittany is very different from Perpignan and the Catalan country! As soon as you get out of Paris you will see that France is made up of a patchwork of cultures. The two most pronounced cultural identities that you will find in France are Brittany and Basque Country. Next are Alsace, Provence, Occitania.

The TGV Train Station at CDG

[12:15] The flew into Charles de Gaule (CDG) and got on the TGV right there to go to Tours. You don’t need to go to Paris first, the TGV train station is located beneath Terminal 2 of CDG.  This is where they took the TGV to Tours, it’s a quick and inexpensive ride and much easier than battling Paris traffic.

Great Place to Stay near Amboise

[13:17] Their Bed & Breakfast near Amboise was one where they had stayed before. It is called La Rocheline in La Chevalerie in La-Croix-en-Tourraine. It’s a beautiful place on a farm. Everyone says they want to feel like a local, and going back to a place you’ve been before that you enjoyed is a great way to feel like you’re going home!

How to Burn Off Jet-Lag

[14:16] It takes Matt and his family 2 days to burn off jet-lag (that’s FAST!) When they arrived around noon they did some grocery shopping, then went on a walk along the Cher River. They saw Chenonceau from the outside, their point was to spend time outside and keep moving. It’s brutal when you land in France at 8 AM and you haven’t slept all night. You need to keep moving, preferably in the sun. The worst thing you can do is stay in your hotel room!

French Cheese!

[15:39] Matt loves French cheese, and the first thing they bought was his favorite on this trip. The way you find the gems is you go to a cheese shop (fromagerie) and ask for a great local cheese. The person will suggest something you’ve probably never heard of, but it’ll be tasty and it’ll be local! It’s great to ask for people’s opinions on what cheese they recommend because then you get to talk too, which is always fun.

A Visit to Chambord

[17:30] The next day they went to Chambord, the drive was easy and lovely, they ate a picnic lunch. Chambord is one of the largest Loire Castles with the famous stair-case. Parking is easy, it’s inexpensive and lovely.

First Off the Beaten Track Place:  the Mushroom Cave

[18:43] From Chambord they went to their first “off the beaten track” place. They like to go to places everybody goes to and others where nobody seems to go as well. They stopped at a mushroom cave called Cave des Roches. It’s a cave you can visit. It used to be a limestone quarry, but now the space is used to grow different varieties of mushrooms that they sell to restaurants and visitors. The tour was nice, but they also carved a mini city into the limestone, complete dogs and cats, doors, lamp-posts and trees. It’s bizarre but really cool. The tour was in French, but the tour guide explained some things to them in English as they walked from place to place.

Second Off the Beaten Track Place: Breton Festival

[20:59] They rented a house in Dinan, but en route they stopped at a village called Monterfil for a Breton Traditional Festival. It was about 4 hours between the Loire Valley and Brittany. The festival was Breton music and dancing and impromptu bar and grill and a pig-roast. They were the only foreign tourists there, there was no English spoken at all. They only sold Breton sodas there, Breton pride at its best! They ate sausages wrapped in a galette, which is very Breton thing to eat.

Visiting Dinan

[25:33] They rented a house near the port. Dinan is great for a home-base. It’s a pretty medieval town, has everything you could need, it’s very Breton, you can easily find Kouign-amann. Lovely town, nice house rental. It’s sometimes difficult to find a great place to rent with lots of positive reviews that doesn’t have a 7 day minimum, and this one had a 4 day minimum, which was perfect.

Public Swimming Pools and “Proper Bathing Attire”in France

[28:13] They went to the public swimming pool and when they walked in they noticed a big vending machine where the only thing they sold was bathing suits, which they thought was strange. They soon found out why: at a public pool in France you have to wear a tight-fitting bathing suit. At a spa with pools they’ll usually be more lenient, but not necessarily.

French People Hold on to Customs

[30:20] French People Hold on to Customs, sometimes for no good reason at all. That can be irritating, but that’s also what makes up keep our regional and national identity alive. French people like to do things a certain way and don’t like to change. This makes French people come across as stubborn. It’s both a blessing and a curse.

Tips for Visiting the Mont Saint-Michel

[32:15] Mont Saint-Michel is one of the biggest sites they saw on this trip. This was an A-level tourist site and it didn’t disappoint. They arrived around 4 PM so as they arrived there were people leaving and it wasn’t very crowded. You want to arrive when day visitors are going, which happens late afternoon. It’s also wonderful to spend the night on the Mont Saint-Michel, but the least you should do is get there after the tourists leave. And if you go around the back at low-tide, you’ll see some of the most peaceful scenery you’ve ever seen.

Quick Stop at Cancale

[35:24] Cancale is along the coast, they ate oysters right there along the beach for 5€ per dozen and they’ll open them for you and they’re the best ones Matt’s ever had!

Fort la Latte

[36:12] Change of plan because of heavy rain. They went to a castle right on the cliff edge right on the ocean, a place called Fort la Latte. They’ve filmed a lot of movies there (although not Game of Thrones yet!) because it’s very Viking, barbarian, very picturesque. Photographers must stop there!

Saint-Malo

[38:01] We talked about Saint-Malo on a previous episode on Saint-Malo and the book All the Light You Cannot See. Matt feels like it was a nice place but doesn’t have much to add to what we already said.  They went to the Sculptured Rocks, only about 10 minutes away from Saint-Malo. A monk spent most of his life carving it and it’s wild and amazing.

Gulf of Morbihan

[40:00] They had a 2 night Bed & Breakfast on the Gulf of Morbihan and saw some Celtic sites. The saw the stones at Carnac (10,000 BC), but it was rainy, and the experience was really standing in the rain looking at rocks, so the kids weren’t impressed. The next day they went to burial tombs at Locmariaquer and Gavrinis. They are tombs but they were designed by the engineers of the day to have the light hit them just so at a certain time on Dec 21 and the light would shine on the back wall. This is 7000 years before the Pyramids were built. Elyse talked about this the Gulf of Morbihan on Episode 123

Crêpries in Brittany

[44:00] Crêperies in Brittany are mostly family-run, they work hard, and they put a lot of creativity into it. Mostly at a crêperie you order one savory crêpe and one sweet crêpe and they are big enough that it’s a full meal. The hard cider is fantastic too. They call the savory crêpe a “galette”. Crêpe Normandie is a dessert crêpe with Calvados lit on fire. Calvados is an apple brandy, very dry is very strong. It was a little bit like pouring a shot of whisky on a pancake! Calvados is a super strong liquor, but it’s definitely local and you should try it if inclined.

French Tip of the Week

[52:00] Je suis heureuse d’aller à Paris la semaine prochaine, j’espère qu’il y fera beau !

Conclusion

It turns out that choosing to see both world-famous attractions and places no English speakers ever go is a wonderful way to discover France! And it’s wonderful that Matt shares his itinerary so we can go directly to the ones we like the best.

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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)

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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!

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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!

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

 

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