On today’s episode, I talk to Oliver Gee and his fiancée Lina Nordin from the podcast Earful Tower. They are planning a wonderful honeymoon in France and I bet many of you are doing just that too! They plan to go all around France, exploring a lot of the country as they go along. They are calling their adventures Amour de France, which is so cute and clever, I love it!
Discovering France on a Scooter
So, where do you go if you want to see a little bit of every part of France? You’ll find out today. And what if you want to do it with a small budget a nothing much in the way of luggage? That’s what Oliver and Lina go into with me today. I mean, they are traveling light, really really light! The song says all you need is love, doesn’t it?
This episode came about because Calee Spinney, listener and Patreon supporter who also appeared on Episode 155 to tell us about her experiences running the Paris Marathon, is a fan of both the Earful Tower and the Join Us in France Travel Podcast and she put us in touch, which was wonderful, thank you Calee!
If you’re interested about going on a road trip in France, you should also check out Episode 25, where my guest Laura K. Lawless talks about her visit to the 6 corners of the hexagon, the hexagon being the shape of France. She and her husband mostly camped and had great adventures too.
On today’s episode, I answer a listener’s question. Jacquline is from South Africa and she asks about the prices of common items in France because with the exchange rate, she’s not sure how far her money will stretch, so, let’s talk about food prices at French grocery stores.
Cook with French Ingredients!
If you’re going to be renting an apartment in France via AirB&B or any of the other apartment rental providers (see our episode on the Secrets to Finding an Apartment in Paris) and you’ll have access to a kitchen, you can definitely have great food at a great price!
Get a Cheap Quick Meal
And even if you’re going the hotel route, you probably don’t need a full sit-down meal 3 times a day, right? Why not pickup some ready-made food at a corner grocery store? It will be cheaper than a restaurant, and a lot fast too.
Grab Inexpensive Gifts from France
And, listen. If you’re looking for original and inexpensive gifts you can take back to your friends and family from France, you’ll get lots of suggestions here!
Want to get adventurous and try some of those unusual French foods we discussed on Episode 193, Cornucopia of Bizarre French Foods? You can buy many of them at a French grocery store and live dangerously in France!
On today’s episode, Annie and Elyse talk about the things they love about the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood in Paris. It’s actually surprising to see how long it took us to devote an entire episode to Saint Germain des Prés, and it only happened because we assumed that we had already done it!
Saint Germain des Prés is the area of Paris where both Annie and Elyse would love to live if they won the lottery. It’s never going to happen, but a girl can dream, right? Come along and dream with us, we tell you tales of the oldest church in Paris, wonderful cafés, great shopping, and the wonderful artists of the 1920s who hung out there.
[03:48] Saint Germain des Prés is beautiful and very expensive part of Paris. The prices went through the roof there 60 or 70 years ago.
[06:47] What do we mean when we say Saint Germain des Prés? What are the boundaries? The definition is a bit amorphous and it depends on who you ask, but it includes a lot of the 6th arrondissement.
[07:27] The word “prés” means meadow, which it used to be, this is an old area of Paris. The tower of the Church of Saint Germain des Prés was part of the oldest churches in Paris.
[09:04] The Merovingian Kings established the Saint Germain des Prés Abbey and it included a lot of land.
[10:10] Definition of Early Middle Ages (500 to 1000), High Middle Ages (1000 to 1400), Late Middle Ages (1400 to 1500s), then came the Renaissance.
[11:38] Merovingians made Christianity the official religion and funded Abbeys and Monasteries.
[11:58] In Roman times, many people were literate, but in this period of the early Middle Ages, few people in France were literate, so it was vital to have Monasteries to keep literacy alive.
[13:15] The Saint Germain des Prés Church becomes a Royal Abbey in 558 and the necropole for French French Kings before Saint Denis.
[14:04] They built the Saint Germain Church over the top of an old Roman Temple, which is something that happened a lot.
[15:03] The Saint Germain des Prés church is set a quarter to half mile away from the river in order to protect it from flooding.
[16:10] The vital importance of relics in the Middle Ages, and the worship of relics as a driver of economic growth.
[17:23] The Saint Germain area was raided and burned by the Vikings three times: in 845, 856, and 861.
[17:50] When they rebuilt the church, they added the Romanesque tower in 990, and that’s still the one we see today. This is also the time when it became a Benedictine Abbey.
[18:57] Benedictine Monks were always as the center of intellectual knowledge, and the area has retained its reputation of being the place for intellectuals.
[21:05] The Procope, one of the oldest cafés in Paris where people like Diderot and Voltaire used to go argue about ideas. This was the beginning of café culture in Paris and is mostly super touristy at this point.
[23:41] We’re not sure if they’d let you sit at a table at the Procope and write all day.
[24:21] The Procope is also where the people who fomented the French Revolution sur as Danton and Marat hung out.
[24:48] Rue Danton where Danton really lived is two streets away from the Procope. Back then the area was not fashionable or touristy.
[25:13] You just have to walk these streets. Most are small narrow streets except for Boulevard Saint Germain des Prés which has Haussmann buildings.
[26:48] Worth visiting, the Delacroix Museum where he had his studio.
[28:22] The Saint Germain des Prés area is famous for book stores. A couple that are famous today are L’Écume des Pages and La Hune.
[29:12] Several of the most prestigious French Publishing houses such as Gallimard and Seuil were also started in this area because it was always the book area.
[29:35] Saint Germain des Prés is the area where authors would hang out, lots of the famous ones you’ve heard of such as Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Simone de Beauvoir, etc. It must have been like in Midnight in Paris!
[32:05] Jazz clubs opened in Paris in the 20s and were popular with French people.
[32:34] The 1920 were paradoxical times: racism and prejudice were pervasive and yet there were vibrant communities of artists in Paris. Many had left their own countries to come to Paris where they could mingle.
[35:40] Brasserie Lipp is also an interesting place where filmmakers used to hang out.
[36:10] None of that is going on in Saint Germain today because it’s become too expensive. How the gentrification process worked in this neighborhood.
[38:25] The Beaux Arts school is on rue Bonaparte and has been there for a long time. It gave a lot of prestige to the area.
[41:19] Even rich French people mostly don’t patronize cafés like Deux Magots and Café de Flore because they know the prices are ridiculous. But the area has lots of little wonderful cafés that are more approachable and just as nice.
[42:52] Also explore the church of Saint Sulpice, technically in the Odeon neighborhood, but a must-see in this area.
[43:03] This is the church with the “gnomon” which can easily be missed if you’re not paying attention.
[44:21] Saint Sulpice also has free concerts every Sunday morning.
[44:52] Rue de Rennes is a big shopping street in this area, and so it rue Bonaparte.
[45:46] The Saint Germain neighborhood is a great place to go buy food for your picnic, then head down towards the river and enjoy it.
[48:34] At Saint Sulpice once a day you can go up to see the organ. Check their website to know what time.
[50:14] Annie has seen some tour guides come into Saint Sulpice and spend 2 minutes and leave. It’s like speed dating except that it’s speed tourism!
[53:42] This is a neighborhood where you will find unique clothes and things you won’t find in the big chain stores.
[54:01] Great shopping streets in the Saint Germain des Prés neighborhood: rue de Buci, rue de Rennes, rue Saint André des Arts. You could also visit the Bon Marché, the expensive department store.
[56:56] Great neighborhood for walking, great neighborhood for looking around.
[57:47] Despite what popular guide books recommend, both Annie and Elyse would much rather stay in the Saint Germain des Près or Latin Quarter area.
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