Category: First Time in Paris
Discussed in this Episode
- Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
- Le Marais
- Saint Germain des Prés
- Le Champ des Oliviers B&B
- TGV between Paris and Marseille
- Oppède le Vieux
- La Ciotat (a good alternative to Cassis)
- Le Castellet (Bandole wine)
- La route des Crêtes between La Ciotat and Cassis
[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 399. Trois cent quatre-vingt dix neuf.
[00:00:23] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent and Join Us in France is the podcast where we talk about France, everyday life in France, great places to visit in France, French culture, history, gastronomy, and news related to travel to France.
[00:00:41] Today on the podcast
[00:00:41] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Megan McKay about the things she did to introduce her partner to France. She’s a francophile, but this was his first visit to France and she wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be the last . What was her strategy, and did it work? She’s going to tell us.
[00:01:05] Podcast support
[00:01:05] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my itinerary consult service and my GPS self-guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app. And you can browse all of that at my boutique, joinusinfrance.com/boutique.
[00:01:25] The France bootcamp
[00:01:25] Annie Sargent: If you’re interested in the France bootcamp, May 21st until May 27th, 2023 be sure to sign up for the newsletter at joinusinfrance.com/newsletter. More news about that in September.
[00:01:44] On vacation for the next 3 weeks
[00:01:44] I’m going to be on vacation for the next three weeks, but I’ve arranged everything so that a new episode of the podcast continues to be released every Sunday at 6:00 PM, France time.
[00:01:57] I’m not sure that you need to know this, but I would like to explain it anyway. I record trip reports several weeks before you hear them, but the intro and outro are recorded two or three days before they are released. That way, I can thank new patrons and donors and discuss travel questions that are time-sensitive. But since I’m going to be on vacation, there won’t be an outro for episodes 400, 401 and 402. And then we’ll go back to our regular format.
[00:02:28] Annie Sargent: Patrons can continue to ping me on Patreon if they have a quick question, but I’ll otherwise be busy swimming in the Mediterranean and enjoying tapas and wonderful Catalonia.
[00:02:41] Annie Sargent: And if we’ve been discussing recording an episode together, don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear from me, you know, within the next three weeks. I am French and I do what French people do. Number one, I work a lot and number two, I take a long summer break. There you go. And I hope you do too. It’s good for the soul.
[00:03:10] Main interview
[00:03:10] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Megan McKay and welcome to Join Us in France.
[00:03:15] Megan McKay: Annie, thank you for having me.
[00:03:17] Annie Sargent: It’s lovely to have you today. We have decided to talk about something that we haven’t really tackled before on the podcast, which is introducing France to your partner. Because you have had a long-term relationship with France, but your partner hasn’t. So tell us a little bit about how that happened.
[00:03:39] Megan’s first time in France
[00:03:39] Megan McKay: Sure. Yeah, I was really fortunate to come to France the first time when I was young on a business trip that my dad sent me on. And then had an exchange student a few years later and was able to come and visit her, and then come back again for her wedding. So I’ve been to France three times and kind of always jokingly say that I’m going to retire to the South of France, even though I hadn’t actually been to the South of France. And, so brian and I were talking about taking trips and trying to find a place to go, somewhere that we would both enjoy, and being a good partner he said, you always talk about going back to France and it’s been seven years, let’s just do that.
[00:04:16] Then I started to kind of feel the pressure of what if he doesn’t like it? He’s not always a city person, and I really wanted to see the South of France, and so we kind of did a whirlwind, you know, quick tour of Paris and then went South to see what we could find and find things that were attractive to both of us.
[00:04:30] Annie Sargent: Oh, okay. So how did it go in Paris as a not city person? How did he put up with it?
[00:04:37] Megan McKay: You know, he loved it. I think Paris is just so, we walked everywhere. It was a really whirlwind tour, I’m not sure I would suggest doing that for everyone, but he wanted to see the Champs-Élysées where the Tour de France ends because we met bicycling. And you know, he really enjoyed I think, that whole culture of the cafe culture, like that’s not something that’s normal to him. We’re both goers and doers, and so to just sit and have a cup of coffee and watch the world go by and, you know, feel that bistro, it was, I think surprisingly, extremely relaxing for him, even though we were in a city.
[00:05:13] Annie Sargent: So you didn’t try to drag him to all the museums and show him everything.
[00:05:20] Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
[00:05:20] Megan McKay: Well, I would say the first day when we flew in, we walked, I think 11 miles, which is nuts. But it was great. We just did kind of the walk by tours of everything. And then the second day,I feel like you have to go to at least one museum. And so we went to the, I won’t pronounce this very well, but the Musée de la Chasse et Nature, The Museum of Hunting and Nature.
[00:05:42] Yes. Musée de la Chasse et Nature.
[00:05:44] Megan McKay: So he is a hunter, he has a hunting farm. And I was really attracted that it had a lot of nice art and I really wanted to go into that neighborhood as well, and so that was a perfect museum for us to visit together.
[00:05:57] Annie Sargent: Absolutely, that’s exactly right. Like if he likes hunting, absolutely, perfect choice. Smart woman!
[00:06:04] Megan McKay: Hey, I try.
[00:06:07] Annie Sargent: And so how long did you spend in Paris? Was it just a quick?
[00:06:11] We spent two nights. So we flew in early on Saturday morning, and we took a taxi to the hotel as suggested by the podcast. I’d never done that before. That was really a nice way to just get there. We walked all around and ended up with dinner near the Eiffel Tower. And then the next day we also went to Deyrolle, where is the taxidermy store that we had seen on a show?
[00:06:37] Annie Sargent: Yes, an excellent place also for nature, hunters and oh yeah.
[00:06:42] Megan McKay: It was beautiful. Everything from really large animals down to all the little insects and just extremely well displayed. We’d seen that on the show, Escape to the Chateau, the couple that moved from England, and bought a chateau up in the North of France. And so that was kind of fun to see something that we’d seen on TV and then go visit it in person.
[00:07:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I recommend this for anybody. My Saint Germain des Prés tour ends there, because I really want people to see it. It’s so different. It’s a store that has cabinets of curiosity. And they’ve been doing this for a long time and they are so good at it. And also if you’re visiting Paris with kids, they also make really good like nature books for kids, with activities around insects and horses and things like that. It’s excellent.
[00:07:34] Megan McKay: Yeah, it really was. I just can’t even describe, I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. And I think they also do a lot of scientific drawings and things too, that are sent off to different academic institutions and those sorts of things. So just a really academic and scientific place, but then really beautiful as well, so that was awesome. And then we went to the museum that afternoon and headed over to Place des Vosges. Had a nice dinner and then the next morning we headed off to Marseille on the train.
[00:08:05] How long was the whole trip?
[00:08:05] Annie Sargent: Okay. So then you spent the rest of your time, which was, how long did you spend total?
[00:08:11] It was just eight days total with travel.
[00:08:14] Train to Marseille
[00:08:14] Annie Sargent: Yeah, very short. So you took the TGV to Marseille?
[00:08:18] Megan McKay: We did, and again, you know, I kind of planned this trip fairly quickly. I got the plane tickets, which we got a great deal on. And then I was worried about train tickets, so I just wasn’t sure where we were going to go in the South, but I figured if we got to Marseille, then we could figure it out from there.
[00:08:32] The village of Oppède (zip code 84580)
[00:08:32] And I ended up booking a little Bed and Breakfast kind of place, up in where was that? Oppede O P P E D E. It was called the Champs de Olivier so it was an old olive farm that they turned into like a four bedroom, small hotel.
[00:08:49] Annie Sargent: Oh, cool.
[00:08:50] Megan McKay: I love olives. And so that was just kind of heaven to go stay somewhere where they were growing olives and be in the countryside.
[00:08:57] So that was a little bit of a drive. We ended up….
[00:09:00] Annie Sargent: Oh, you drove.
[00:09:01] From Marseille we ended up driving up to the hotel and then we drove around some of the villages in Provence.
[00:09:07] Annie Sargent: Okay. But you took the train to Marseille, right?
[00:09:10] Megan McKay: Train to Marseille.
[00:09:11] Annie Sargent: OK, and how was that?
[00:09:12] Megan McKay: Rented a car there.
[00:09:13] How was the train trip?
[00:09:13] Annie Sargent: What did he think of the train?
[00:09:15] Megan McKay: I love the train, and Brian loved the train.If we were to do it again, we would just take the train the whole time, but to get up into the little villages where we wanted to go for a couple days, that really wasn’t a possibility. So, the TGV was great to get down to the South, really comfortable, really easy.
[00:09:33] And after, you know, a couple of really hectic days in Paris, it was nice to just have a couple, three hours to relax and read a book and watch the countryside.
[00:09:41] Yeah, the train is fantastic. Especially a destination like Marseille where it’s fast speeds the whole time. So you just sit there and you’re in this bullet train and you get there within three, three and a half hours. I haven’t looked at the time to Marseille, but between Paris and Marseille on the TGV is not that long, surprisingly. And also you don’t have to wait in line at the airport and do all the airport security and all that. For train it’s much faster, much easier.
[00:10:13] Megan McKay: Yeah, I would highly recommend. That was a great part of our trip, both ways.
[00:10:17] Getting to the B&B with a stop in Lourmarin
[00:10:17] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm, excellent. So then you found a little B&B off in the countryside. Was it a long drive to your B&B?
[00:10:25] I would say, I mean, we kind of took our time, so we got in around one o’clock, got our rental car, we ended up in Lourmarin.
[00:10:36] Annie Sargent: Yeah
[00:10:37] Megan McKay: And had lunch and just immediately knew we were in the right place. That was a beautiful little village. We ended up going through Bonnieux, which we got stuck kind of going up the windy roads and had to backtrack a little bit.
[00:10:50] Megan McKay: We didn’t really care because we were just exploring. And then our host at the hotel, I had messaged her ahead of time because I assumed, we’re also from a small town and I know a lot of things are closed on Sundays and Mondays. So I had messaged her ahead of time and she set up dinner for us at a little restaurant in town.
[00:11:06] Megan McKay: So we got into the hotel, they showed us around, we refreshed for a little bit and then ran into town for dinner, which was perfect.
[00:11:15] Did he like French food?
[00:11:15] Annie Sargent: Did he like French food overall?
[00:11:17] Megan McKay: Yes, it was amazing. You know, I think it’s just, and this is what I’ve always noticed about French food, everything is a little fresher. The flavors are a little more intense. I don’t know if intense is the right word, but just, there’s just more to it. I think because everything seems to be more right from the farm or right, you know, not processed if you will.
[00:11:38] Yes. We spend more time cooking and if you make it yourself, obviously you don’t have to package it and you don’t have to make sure it keeps, it’s good after being frozen or whatever, you can just make it. It’s good.
[00:11:53] Megan McKay: Yeah. And Brian is very, you know, he loves to eat all kinds of different meats and try lots of different things. I’m probably more of a vegetable person. So I was happy he was really adventurous about trying anything and everything, which was great. But yeah, we didn’t have a bad meal while we were there, for sure.
[00:12:09] That’s great. Yeah.
[00:12:11] Not everything can be arranged through a website
[00:12:11] Annie Sargent: And it was also very smart of you to ask the B&B person to help you find a local place because, you know, Americans are so used to relying on websites because in America, you have to have a good website that gives accurate information, and it’s been that way for a long time.
[00:12:31] Annie Sargent: In France, a lot of places are barely considering perhaps having a website, and the idea of keeping it up to date is like, what, no, we don’t need to do that. You know? Like, so if you want the real deal, you have to call people or talk to them, email them, we do email just fine. It’s the updating website that Mmm, a lot of people haven’t integrated that part of business in France.
[00:13:02] Which is also kind of charming, I mean, I think it keeps it very personal and you’re a little more intimate with people, you can talk to them instead of just doing transactions over electronic communication. It’s nice.
[00:13:14] Most places have someone who speaks English
[00:13:14] Megan McKay: My problem, I don’t speak French yet. I want to learn, but it was really nice because Claire, at our hotel, she spoke really great English. And so I knew she could kind of help broker the deal for dinner, which was really nice.
[00:13:26] Annie Sargent: Yeah. I mean, people who work in hospitality, be it restaurants or hotels and B&Bs and so forth, usually they have at least one person who can do English fairly well. And if you call to make a reservation, it’s the same with restaurants. If you try to reserve online, it’s probably not going to work, but if you call, even if you don’t speak French, and I know it’s difficult because I don’t speak Spanish, and if you tell me to call someone in Spain, I will freeze. Okay? But sometimes you just have to, because especially if you’re calling someone in a hospitality business, probably they can do English fairly well.
[00:14:11] Megan McKay: Do a little bit. Yeah. And I would say the restaurant that night, again, it was a really small town, the proprietor, she really didn’t speak English or didn’t really want to, and we didn’t push it. You know, we just kind of fumbled our way through some basic words and phrases and, you know, pointed when we couldn’t really say something.
[00:14:29] There was another table of locals next to us who spoke Spanish. So we figured out we could speak a little Spanish to each other and then they could help us translate back and forth to French. So that was really fun.
[00:14:39] A year in Provence in two days
[00:14:39] Annie Sargent: Excellent. That was great. All right. So one of the titles you used in your outline is “A year in Provence in two days”, which I like that.
[00:14:49] Annie Sargent: Why did you put it that way?
[00:14:51] I had read Peter Mayle’s book A year in Provence several years ago and just really fell in love. You know, also felt like maybe that was kind of a cliché but it just so happened accidentally that the hotel that I chose ended up being very close to Minerve, which is where Peter Mayle was based. And then all of the little villages that he kind of talked about in it.
[00:15:12] Megan McKay: And so then it was like, well, this is perfect, we’ll just go hit a few of those during the day. So after kind of a relaxing day on Sunday, on Monday we really kind of pushed it. Our host at the hotel suggested going up to Oppède le Vieux, so it’s like the old village up on hill and you could park in a parking lot and walk up.
[00:15:33] Megan McKay: And there was a hilltop church that just looked over the whole valley. It was a gorgeous, tiny little village. Nothing was open, but it was just a magical way to start the day. It was a beautiful walk, beautiful greenery and scenery and old buildings. And so that was just a perfect start to the day.
[00:15:50] When did they visit France?
[00:15:50] Annie Sargent: What time of year was this?
[00:15:52] Annie Sargent: Sorry, I didn’t ask you at thebeginning.
[00:15:54] We went in October, late October, October 22nd through I think November 2nd or first. Which kind of fit in our schedule. I was a little worried it would be too cold or we would kind of miss any of the fall color, but I would say we were fine. It was a little chilly some days, but it was really quite lovely and things were pretty quiet, which was nice for us.
[00:16:15] Yeah, these villages get really quiet outside of the high season, where all the visitors are around, you know.
[00:16:23] Annie Sargent: Very quickly late October through probably March. It’s going to be pretty quiet.
[00:16:31] Megan McKay: Yeah, which we really liked. The first one we went to was Gordes, which was beautiful, but you could tell instantly that that one was going to be a little touristy, especially in the high season, I could see where that would be a little overwhelming maybe. But that was really beautiful.
[00:16:46] Megan McKay: We went over to Ru, and you know, checked out the Ocre Hills the beautiful colors in the rocks. Had a nice little lunch at a terraced restaurant and some pizza and dessert. So that was really nice.
[00:17:00] Megan McKay: We ended up from there going to Lacoste.
[00:17:03] Megan McKay: Lacoste
[00:17:05] Annie Sargent: Spell that one.
[00:17:06] Megan McKay: L A C O S T E
[00:17:09] Annie Sargent: Okay. Lacoste. Yup.
[00:17:11] Megan McKay: They were all little villages, but they all had their own distinct personality for sure. We learned that the Chateau there was purchased by Pierre Carden and apparently a little bit of controversy about him kind of taking that over. Kind of looked around the SCAD, The Savannah College of Art and Design has a joint campus there. So it was kind of cool to see some of the displays in the buildings.
[00:17:31] Annie Sargent: Oh, yeah.
[00:17:32] Megan McKay: And just poked around. There wasn’t an awful lot open per se, but like I said, we were kind of just on the quick overview tour anyway. I think we could spend more time there someday, or now we know we’ve seen it, maybe we won’t, but enjoyed it.
[00:17:45] Megan McKay: And then we finished the day in Minerve, which was also quite beautiful. Enjoyed walking around there and looking at the citadel that was at the top of the hill for the protected village.
[00:17:57] Fell in love with Rosé
[00:17:57] I think that was where we really cemented the idea that we should have some Rosé in the afternoon every day and relax.
[00:18:05] Megan McKay: So that got to be a really nice, nice little daily thing. So that was good.
[00:18:09] Annie Sargent: When in France, do as the French do right?
[00:18:12] Megan McKay: Yeah. And I think, you know, we don’t really do this in the United States, but we loved, you could buy a little pitcher of wine. So just whatever the house rosé was, you know, if you didn’t want a full bottle, you could get a quarter or a half or whatever, a little pitcher, and that was just perfect.
[00:18:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Un quart de vin, that’s about maybe four small glasses. So you’ll have, not the big ginormous American wine glasses, you know? Not that, but like a normal French wine glass, not quite full to the top. And you can probably do that four of those with un quart de vin.
[00:18:50] Megan McKay: Yeah
[00:18:51] Annie Sargent: So not bad, you know?
[00:18:52] Megan McKay: No. Yeah, it was really nice. We really enjoyed that day. I think we packed a lot in, but that was where we were kind of laughing that we kind of did the whole year in Provence book in like a day. I won’t say we got real deep anywhere, but it gave us a good sense of, you know, is this somewhere we’d want to come back to and look at spending a longer amount of time, and I think we were both really impressed.
[00:19:13] Grocery Stores and markets
[00:19:13] Megan McKay: And then, instead of going out for dinner, because we’d been running around, we decided to kind of try and find a little grocery store, and just have a little picnic back at the Airbnb or the Bed & Breakfast. We had a little challenge finding a grocery store.
[00:19:24] Megan McKay: We kind of were asking people and they would point us in a different direction. And finally, we kind of gave up and right before we got back to the Airbnb in the little village where we were staying, there was a little kind of corner store that had some meat and cheese and wine and olives. So it was there all along right in front of us.
[00:19:41] Megan McKay: Worked out well.
[00:19:42] Small villages don’t have a lot of grocery stores
[00:19:42] Annie Sargent: You know, this is often a problem when you’re visiting rural France is there’s not a lot of grocery stores because French people will do a weekly run in a car to the grocery store in the nearest big-ish city where the grocery stores stay open till 7 or 7:30 at night. Or they will stop there on the way home from work or whatever, and so villages don’t have a lot of groceries, you know?
[00:20:12] Megan McKay: No. And we had hoped to hit markets. That was kind of the plan was, oh, you know, I wanted him to experience a French market and buy some things but also, we were there on a Sunday and Monday, and those are not good market days.
[00:20:26] Annie Sargent: Exactly.
[00:20:27] Megan McKay: Timing was a little off on that.
[00:20:29] Megan McKay: We did end up hitting the market on Tuesday morning on our way from Oppède to La Ciotat.
[00:20:36] We ended up going to Cucuron, which was phenomenal. It was just the most beautiful little village square, has a beautiful spring-fed pool in the middle and trees all the way around and, was the perfect market. So that was great.
[00:20:50] Annie Sargent: So that’s Cucuron, right?
[00:20:53] Megan McKay: C U C U R O N
[00:20:56] Annie Sargent: That’s a funny name.
[00:20:57] Megan McKay: It is a funny name, but it made it fun.
[00:21:00] Annie Sargent: Yes right by Lourmarin. Yes. Sure. It is.
[00:21:04] And I should mention, I mean, the breakfast at our Bed & Breakfast were, you know, the amazing full French breakfast with a little omlet and a smoothie and lovely pastries and fruit and yogurt. We had that outside both mornings. And so we weren’t really hungry by the time we got to the market, but we stocked up on a few things for lunch and snacks for later. The really great thing, Brian, you know, I’m a scarf person, I wear scarves all the time and I was looking at scarves and the shopkeeper in the market stall came over and she kind of started, you know, showing him scarves and put one on him and taught him how to tie it.
[00:21:37] Megan McKay: So he ended up buying one, which was great. So he feels very French now.
[00:21:40] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s great.
[00:21:42] Megan McKay: Just, you know, it’s just such a good atmosphere. And I don’t know. I think people are friendly and fun and you can learn a lot about different. We bought nougat. I’d never had nougat like big chunks of it and, oh, it was amazing.
[00:21:57] Annie Sargent: Yes, that is delicious. That is quite the treat.
[00:22:00] The road to La Ciotat
[00:22:00] So then you went to La Ciotat right?
[00:22:03] Megan McKay: We did, so from Cucuron we drove to Le Castellet, which I heard about on your podcast. You and Elyse talked about that one day, I believe. And that was a great stop. It’s in the Bandol wine region. It was kind of a nice high spot. You could look out over again, the valley and we ended up kind of walking through one of the openings and sat on a big terrace and had our little picnic lunch.
[00:22:27] Megan McKay: It was a little more bustling community. And then we ended up going to La Ciotat and into the port city. Again, we heard about that on your podcast as well, which was a great alternative, I think to Cassis. Just a little quieter, a little more down to earth, so that was perfect.
[00:22:44] Not quite so many millionaires.
[00:22:46] Megan McKay: Yeah. We were very comfortable with the non-millionaires, that was good.
[00:22:50] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:22:51] Le Castellet
[00:22:51] Annie Sargent: So at Le Castellet, what did you do?
[00:22:53] Megan McKay: We basically just parked and then walked up into the little village. We did some shopping. There was a really beautiful little art store. She was making her own earrings, so I brought home a couple of pairs of earrings from there. We had a little picnic in a little opening spot there and we looked over the land. I mean, it just, it felt very royal to kind of stand up on the hill and eat lunch and look out over the little lands. And it was a really nice town, a little more, you know, bustling and touristy, but not overwhelming by any means. That wasa great transition from the villages into kind of the port town of La Ciotat.
[00:23:28] La Ciotat
[00:23:28] Annie Sargent: Cool. Very good. And then you went to La Ciotat. What did you think of that?
[00:23:33] Megan McKay: We loved it. I think that was our favorite. We stayed in an Airbnb, so we kind of did, you know, a hotel in Paris. We did the Bed and Breakfast in Provence and we did an Airbnb. I found one that was, it actually looked over the old port. So we looked right onto the bay and it was just a nice, you know, small little Airbnb.
[00:23:53] It actually had a skeleton key to get in. So it was, you could tell it was a really old building, you know, it’s kind of fun. Like we don’t really have skeleton keys here in the US anymore so, that was, you felt like they were really trusting you with a piece of history when they gave you that to check in.
[00:24:08] Harder to park in La Ciotat
[00:24:08] Megan McKay: I would say La Ciotat, you know, it would’ve been great to not have a car. Parking was tough. We did have a parking spot with our Airbnb, but it was a few blocks away and it was kind of hard to figure out where to go. And of course, I hadn’t downloaded all the instructions to check in, and so I was missing about half of them. So we ended up, you know, again, something I kind of learned from your podcast, was to find the tourist office. So we went down there and found some wifi. I was able to get back on the internet and download the rest of the instructions. And then that was really helpful.
[00:24:37] Megan McKay: So that was no problem.
[00:24:39] And then we got checked in and put the car away and we wandered around just a little bit and stopped it a little pub and had some wine and just kind of relaxed for the night.
[00:24:50] 14 Degree Cave
[00:24:50] Megan McKay: And we ended up finding dinner, because we went there both nights, a place called 14 Degree Cave. It was a little wine shop that also did, you know, wine by the glass, or you could buy a bottle and have it with dinner. And then they had just a small dinner menu. And it was, we just had the best night there. Brian being a hunter, he ordered the duck, and there’s just one chef, one waitress, and that was it. And then the manager kind of was running around, you know, helping people as he needed to, with to-go wine and that sort of thing. And so it was just really intimate and small. Brian ended up going back to talk to the chef and showing him pictures of his duck hunting escapades. so they just connected.
[00:25:30] And it, you know, it was just really fun. It was like being in your hometown and you’re having conversations, and you know, we muddled through the French-English back and forth and, just had a really lovely evening.
[00:25:40] Connect with people even though you don’t know the language
[00:25:40] Sometimes the fact that you don’t speak French takes you places that are actually pretty good, as far as human relations are concerned. Because you had to make an effort to chat with this person and showing pictures and whatever. You couldn’t, I mean you would not do that in a restaurant in America where you speak the language, you know all the codes, you know, you don’t like pull out, well, maybe some people do, but I don’t pull out my phone when I go to the Olive Garden, you know.
[00:26:11] Megan McKay: Right.
[00:26:12] Annie Sargent: It’s not the same kind of experience, whereas you’re in France, you’re a little lost, you’re struggling with words, you want to talk, maybe you’ve had a little wine or something and it helps you relax and you just want to be chatty.
[00:26:28] Annie Sargent: And it’s hard to be chatty when you don’t speak the language, but in a way it forces you to really connect with people. It’s just the human connection. It’s not that you made perfect sentences. It’s just that, you know, you connected, it’s great.
[00:26:42] Megan McKay: Yeah. Yeah, you can do a lot with, you know, just expressions and body language and, I don’t know, you can figure a lot of things out. So we really enjoyed it by the end of the night, Chef Steph was coming out and writing down recipes for me to take home, to make the potatoes gratin and how to do the veg tray.
[00:27:00] Megan McKay: And so that was, we just really had a great time and ended up with a nice cognac at the end of the meal and some desserts. Went ahead, made reservations for the next night because we had such a good time.
[00:27:10] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s great.
[00:27:12] Megan McKay: Yeah. They’re like old friends now, so…
[00:27:16] Annie Sargent: Great.
[00:27:17] Is he going to want to come back?
[00:27:17] Annie Sargent: And so overall, do you think he’s going to be very happy to come back?
[00:27:22] Megan McKay: Yeah, I think so. I think he would be interested in exploring some other European countries. He’d like to go to Italy, but I think he would come back, no problem.We found the people to be really friendly and once you kind of made an effort, they’re really helpful and you could really talk about.
[00:27:41] Food is a good culture-connector
[00:27:41] Megan McKay: I think food is just such a culture connector. You can always have a conversation around food or around the landscape and those sorts of things. So yeah, I think we will come back for sure.
[00:27:49] Annie Sargent: That’s great.
[00:27:51] Megan McKay: La Ciotat was so wonderful because we had the kind of the city, you know, the old port area and back in all the little streets, but then we were able to take like a 15 minute walk and go over one of the calanque.
[00:28:02] Annie Sargent: CALANQUES Yeah.
[00:28:03] Megan McKay: So we grabbed a crepe for lunch the next day. We went to look the Eden Theater, which was the first cinema apparently in the world. And that was, you know, good to see, and then we took that walk and it was like we were out in a forest in nature and you could hike up in the tall hills and look over the Mediterranean. It was just really beautiful.
[00:28:19] Megan McKay: So that was a lot of fun and nice to be out in nature a little bit.
[00:28:23] Megan McKay:
[00:28:23] Megan McKay: We really enjoyed La Ciotat just because it had kind of a variety of different activities.
[00:28:27] Oh yeah, it’s beautiful. The landscape up there is beautiful, the Calanques are beautiful. There’s plenty of wilderness. Also plenty of city, you know, you mentioned at the beginning, that parking is a problem and it really is.
[00:28:42] Annie Sargent: Some of the people that I talk to, I don’t think they realize quite what I mean when I say it’s a problem, just that everything is so narrow. Even if you find a parking spot, it’s going to be so narrow that it’s not like you’ve been practicing your whole life parking into narrow spots because the spots in America are never that small.
[00:29:03] Caught out when parking
[00:29:03] Megan McKay: Right. And then, we had one really kind of bad experience. I mean, it’s really funny now, and I heard you talk about this recently on another podcast, the little columns that come up for the streets so that people can’t drive into the city center or the old town.
[00:29:17] Those were up when we dropped off to drop our luggage for the Airbnb.
[00:29:21] Megan McKay: And then we went to get the car when we were leaving, and Brian kind of pulled in there and this time the columns were down and cars came behind him so he couldn’t back out. He had to just go in and he ended up going through these little tiny one-way streets and ended up in a kind of cafe area with the car and couldn’t get turned around and had to back out all the way. That was really frustrating for him, as you can imagine, but it’s just like, you don’t really know where to go and that was a little confusing. So like I said, if we could have just had the car for Provence and then maybe given it back when we got to La Ciotat and just taken the train from there back to Marseille, and then back to Paris that would’ve been ideal.
[00:30:03] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s what I advise people to do when I do itinerary reviews with them. Just as soon as you get to the French Riviera, turn in the car, you’re not going to need it. And you’re going to be happy you don’t have it.
[00:30:18] Annie Sargent: Take the train. The regional trains are very good and I mean, you need to make sure that there is a train station, but most of these places have one.
[00:30:26] La Route de Cretes
[00:30:26] Megan McKay: I will say the drive, the last day there back to Marseille, we took kind of the long way up over the hills on the Route de Cretes.
[00:30:37] Annie Sargent: Yeah, La Route de Cretes.
[00:30:38] Megan McKay: Which goes between Marseille or between La Ciotat and Cassis. That was phenomenal, kind of, it wiped away all of the frustration of getting stuck in the little port.
[00:30:50] Annie Sargent: Yeah
[00:30:50] Gas Stations and Foreign Cards
[00:30:50] Megan McKay: And then, yeah, Marseille was tough when we got back into Marseille, that was a little hard too. We had to find a gas station, and so of course, they don’t take our American cards very well. We did find a second one that would take cash or would take my card inside and we got that figured out. But yeah, that was a little challenging, but not too bad.
[00:31:09] Megan McKay: Then we were back on the train and back to Paris.
[00:31:11] So, yes. If you can find a gas station that has an attendant, typically the attendant can run any card. It’s just the machines that are not set up to take any card.
[00:31:22] Annie Sargent: That’s why I recommend people get gas on the freeway, because on the freeways there’s always an attendant, unless it’s the middle of the night or something. But normally they have somebody, and that avoids a lot of complications, the machines are not set up right for all of the cards. It can happen.
[00:31:41] Back to Paris
[00:31:41] Annie Sargent: And so then you took your TGV back to Paris City, or back to CDG, to the airport directly?
[00:31:49] We took it back to the city. We stayed in the same hotel that we stayed in when we first came, just so we were, it was easy, we were familiar with the neighborhood a little bit already. So we stayed in, uh, Saint-Germain, at the Belloy Hotel, and that was then an easy Metro ride from the train station to the hotel.
[00:32:07] Megan McKay: And then we kind of went out for dinner that last night, had a little trinket shopping. And then we we searched out the RER train to get back to the airport in the morning.
[00:32:18] Annie Sargent: Yeah, not very far from the Belloy.
[00:32:21] Megan McKay: Yeah.
[00:32:21] Megan McKay: So we were feeling really comfortable with that and got our tickets ahead of time, so we were ready in the morning and we just took the RER back to the airport, to CDG.
[00:32:30] Taking the train back to the airport
[00:32:30] Annie Sargent: So you did it both ways. On the way into Paris you took the taxi and on the way back to the airport, you took the RER.
[00:32:36] Annie Sargent: Both were okay?
[00:32:39] Megan McKay: Both were okay. We had a fairly early, I don’t know, we left around 7:30, I think, in the morning to get to the airport. I just figured if we were going out on the train, it might not be as busy as people trying to come in to go to work. And that was true, it was really not a problem.
[00:32:56] Megan McKay: And we did carry on bags, we didn’t have a lot of luggage. So we packed really light and it was easy to get around.
[00:33:03] Annie Sargent: Yeah, because getting through the gates at the Saint Michel station where you took RER, those gates are nasty.
[00:33:14] Megan McKay: Yeah, I could see that.
[00:33:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:33:17] Megan McKay: And we just, I didn’t want to take the train when we first got to Paris because I didn’t want Brian’s first impression to be like, oh, this is a hassle and this is hard. I’ve always taken the train and I’ve never found it to be a problem, really, except once there was a strike and that was kind of hard, but I like to take the train, it’s not an issue, the Metro.
[00:33:35] Megan McKay: But I just thought for his first trip, I didn’t want him to show up and then be frustrated and not start the trip off poorly. So we did the taxi, but on the way back, we took the train, the Metro, and we both felt really good with it. No problem.
[00:33:46] Say Bonjour
[00:33:46] Annie Sargent: Cool. Very cool. Okay. So you have some last thoughts that you wanted to share and I want to get to them because they sound good.
[00:33:55] Megan McKay: Oh, gosh, yes. I wrote you an email about that. So now I have to look them up again.
[00:33:59] Megan McKay: I think, one of them I know was, as you’ve said a million times, is say bonjour. I can’t stress that enough, and I think even from the first time I was in France, I went with a group of insurance agents and a bunch of people from the Midwest, and you could tell that people were much friendlier if you could greet them and say Bonjour and at least try to fit in with what they were doing. So that was helpful.
[00:34:25] Flying in and out of Paris
[00:34:25] Flying in and out of Paris, that was great for us to start and end in Paris. We kind of did a whirlwind and it was great to have the same hotel at both ends. So we didn’t have to learn a new neighborhood, we didn’t have to learn where the Metro stations were.
[00:34:37] Megan McKay: We kind of had already scoped out some dinner places and it was just really comfortable.
[00:34:41] Annie Sargent: Now for people who want to do this, you can take the train between Marseille and CDG, but you have to time it right. So you have to take a super early train, so you get to CDG early enough, to then have three hours to get to your plane. Because you’re going to have to go through security and passport and yada yada.
[00:35:06] Annie Sargent: And so it’s going to take a long time. So, but that’s also doable.
[00:35:11] Megan McKay: Yeah. And with the complications of COVID, we just didn’t really want to risk that. So that was the other reason we decided to have one last night in Paris, plus we really packed a lot in, so it was nice to just have a night to decompress before we got on the plane.
[00:35:26] Traveling light
[00:35:26] Carry on luggage, we only did carry on luggage, which was wonderful. Really easy to travel around. It meant a little less shopping, we didn’t bring home wine or anything like that. So that was a little disappointing, but it made for really easy traveling.
[00:35:38] Familiarize yourself with the GPS
[00:35:38] Megan McKay: I think we just didn’t really try very hard, but our car had GPS, and we didn’t really figure that out or how to use it until the last day. And then we were able to use that to find the gas stations and those sorts of things. So do take a few minutes and familiarize yourself with GPS on your car if you’re able. Especially because you know, the other thing was, our phone service didn’t really work when we were there, and again, I was on vacation, I was trying to disconnect from work. So I wasn’t really worried about trying to figure that out. But I would say, make sure you download your instructions and all those things when you’re on wifi so you have them when you’re off and away and not able to access the internet.
[00:36:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah, definitely. And the GPS in the car is like, you have to have it, you know, either on your phone or in the car.
[00:36:22] Megan McKay: Yeah. And it’s funny, you know, like Google Maps, I think, you know, this is again kind of one of those clichés everybody laughs about, but it took me down some little tiny roads that were basically farm roads where you could touch trees on both sides. Andwe had a great laugh about it, it felt like home, it was fun, but I think some people that might be
[00:36:39] Megan McKay: stressful. We have no problem getting lost and then finding our way again, that makes for a fun trip.
[00:36:44] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:36:44] The car, you know, we were really comfortable drivers, and we enjoyed having a car for Provence and even just some of the travel in between La Ciotat and Marseille, but in the city you don’t need one for sure.
[00:36:56] Researching area before your travel
[00:36:56] Megan McKay: I like to travel where I researched areas, so that you kind of have an idea of what to do.
[00:37:01] Megan McKay: And I think for me, a big part of the fun of travel is researching the trip before. So it was fun to kind of know all the options and things that were available to us, or at least have several options. And then, once we got there, if our mood was different or something really piqued our interest, we could be really flexible about changing or going on detours for something that caught our eye. So that made it really, it felt spontaneous, even though we were packing a lot into the trip.
[00:37:29] Rosé and Cognac: New Favorites
[00:37:29] Rosé is like our new favorite, which I never thought I would say that, but the Southern France rosés, you know, they’re not sweet and just what a great way about four o’clock in the afternoon to kind of stop your day and talk about what you’ve done and then get ready for dinner and get refreshed. And then also, you know, cognac, I just hadn’t had a lot of cognac before and that got to be also a new after-dinner drink that was really a favorite for us. Again, just a nice way to kind of put a bow on your experience.
[00:37:59] Annie Sargent: Wonderful.
[00:37:59] Megan McKay: That was fun.
[00:38:00] French language
[00:38:00] Megan McKay: French, we didn’t know a lot of French. I tried to learn a few small phrases and just make sure that we could say Bonjour or ask for a few things. And then I think the podcasts that we listened to on culture and food were amazing.
[00:38:15] Megan McKay: You know, even though we didn’t know a lot of French words and things, at least we kind of understood how to behave and how to act and you know, what the normal culture aesthetics would be. So that was a lot of fun. And then the cafe culture in France, I think I kind of mentioned this at some point, but Brian had tended to vacation, he was more of kind of a go to the Caribbean or, you know, go on a business trip that his company had put on, and so it was just kind of go to a resort and sit there. I’ve always liked to travel more where you just kind of go and explore and learn new things and not stay in one spot. And so I think the cafe culture made it feel really relaxed, kind of like that resort feeling.
[00:38:51] Megan McKay: But yet we were still kind of walking around and learning and doing new things. So it felt like a perfect mix for us.
[00:38:58] Annie Sargent: No, it’s very nice. I agree.
[00:39:00] Ready to come back?
[00:39:00] Megan McKay: We’re ready to come back.
[00:39:01] Annie Sargent: See, that’s what I was going to ask. Do you think you convinced him and that you did a good job introducing France to your partner and that he’s going to want to be back?
[00:39:11] Megan McKay: Yeah, I think so. So we’ve kind of been on, he’s been thinking about Italy, so we’ve been watching this Stanley Tucci Searching for Italy show. And I think just the whole European mindset is just so different, and I think he’s really embraced that and gets it. And, you know, we want to do that some more.
[00:39:29] Megan McKay: I’ve kind of jokingly said, my goal is for my 50th birthday next year to come and spend a month in France and he’s very supportive and maybe he could come for a week or two and then, you know, I’d stay on for a little bit.
[00:39:39] Megan McKay: So yeah, we’ll continue to figure it out, maybe that retirement in the South of France, we could make it happen.
[00:39:45] Annie Sargent: You never know, it might happen.
[00:39:47] Megan McKay: Never know.
[00:39:49] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much, Megan. That was wonderful.
[00:39:52] Megan McKay: Thank you, Annie. Again, thank you and Elyse and all of the other podcast listeners who have contributed, it’s just a great resource and community.
[00:39:59] Megan McKay: So thank you for all you do.
[00:40:01] Annie Sargent: Thank you. Merci, au revoir!
[00:40:03] Megan McKay: Merci, au revoir.
[00:40:05] Thank you, patrons
[00:40:05] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing so. You can see them at PATREON.COM/JOINUS. That’s P A T R E O N, JOINUS, no spaces or dashes. Thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for many years now. You are wonderful.
[00:40:37] New patrons
[00:40:37] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons, Lindsay Wulff, Alice Morris, Renee Price, and Alisha Avril. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible. And thank you, Dr. Carol Levantrosser for editing your pledge up.
[00:40:59] Annie Sargent: My thanks also to Steven Fishner for sending in a generous one time donation by using the green button on any page on joinusinfrance.com that says, Tip your guide. Merci beaucoup, Steven.
[00:41:13] Preparing to visit France?
[00:41:13] Annie Sargent: If you’re preparing a trip to France and listening to as many episodes as you can to get ready, keep listening to the podcast because that’s a great way to do it. But if you’d like a little extra help, you can talk to me about your next visit to France, purchase the service on joinusinfrance.com/boutique, then I send you a document, so you tell me what you have in mind. We make a phone appointment and we chat for, you know, about an hour, and then I send you a document with the plan that we discussed and that we decided was best for you.
[00:41:48] Annie Sargent: The itinerary is always quite detailed because I want you to be able to make very informed choices and not to forget. I know you hear a lot of things on the podcast, but we forget. We forget the best tips. And so these tips are written down, so you don’t forget them. Now my time is always booked up several weeks in advance. You’ll see the date for my next appointment availability at the boutique, because it changes all the time.
[00:42:18] Self-guided tours
[00:42:18] Annie Sargent: And if you can’t talk to me because I’m all booked up, well, you can still take me in your pocket by getting my GPS self-guided tour on the VoiceMap app. I’ve produced five tours and they are designed to show you around different wonderful neighborhoods of Paris.
[00:42:36] Great review of the self-guided tours
[00:42:36] Annie Sargent: Theresa Fallon sent me a lovely email about those tours and I wanted to read just an interesting tidbit about it.
[00:42:42] Annie Sargent: This was her first time in France, by the way.
[00:42:45] Annie Sargent: ” Regarding your walking tours, I bought all four of them.”
[00:42:49] Annie Sargent: Actually, there’s five of them, but that’s okay.
[00:42:51] Annie Sargent: “And I’m glad I have them so next time I go back, I will be ready to explore a new area. We chose the Latin Quarter tour to begin our trip and it was perfect. We stopped and got the recommended pastry, as well as learned so much about Paris and what we were walking past. Without your tour, we would’ve walked right past so many interesting sites. For example, the Roman Bathhouse was fascinating. We listened to your tour for two days on and off, and it was amazing.”
[00:43:24] Why the VoiceMap tours are great
[00:43:24] Annie Sargent: So this is one thing that I love about those tours is that they give you total freedom. You can do them in two hours, or you can do the same tour in two days, because I talk about so many things and I take you to all of these wonderful places, and I tell you why they’re important. And it’s up to you, you can stop the tour and go enjoy that, or you can keep going. So it just depends on how much time you have, and it’s total freedom to do things on your own schedule. And that’s why I really love those VoiceMap tours.
[00:43:57] Travel question of the week
[00:43:57] Annie Sargent: We’ve had high temperatures for the last couple of weeks in France. Now those high temperatures also included parts of France where it normally never gets that hot, such as Brittany and Normandy.
[00:44:10] Annie Sargent: And if it never gets that hot, guess what? People don’t have air conditioning, I’m sure. I wonder, do people have air conditioning in like Montana or Michigan? Maybe they do, but I don’t know, I’ve never lived in those places. But anyway, in France, in Brittany and Normandy, people don’t have air conditioning. Why would they? They never need it.
[00:44:28] Annie Sargent: Well, this year they needed it, and for two weeks almost. And that’s really, really brutal. And I know I sound like a broken record, but if you’re coming to France in June, July, or August, you have to book accommodations with air conditioning, no matter where you’re going. Even if it’s an old chateau with thick walls, you will be dying. It’s really, really uncomfortable. All of France can get these high temperatures, and this time it went on for a long time. And so just be prepared.
[00:44:58] Annie Sargent: We’ve also had terrible fires in Teste de Buch area, which includes Dune du Pilat. This is the general area of Bordeaux. They have big pine forests in this area and quite a bit of that pine forest burned. And one day we should do an episode about the history of that pine forest, because it’s really fascinating and it has to do with the Napoleons. So these fires are under control in Teste de Buch, nobody died, thank goodness, but it was very scary and it made news all over the world. Some people saw the flames on news reports and they asked me, is Paris OK? Is Bordeaux OK? You know, is the Bordeaux wine production going up in flames? No, no, no, no. Those fires were really bad, but they were localized.
[00:45:42] Annie Sargent: And people also wonder if they can go visit the surrounding areas like Arcachon, Andernos, Cap Feret. Yes, all of those are open because they did not burn, and the smoke is clearing up fast.
[00:45:57] Annie Sargent: Provence and Corsica have had big fires in the past. So far so good this year, but they are closing risky areas as a precaution. So if you’re interested in hiking, the Calanques between Marseille and Cassis, be aware that they are often closed to the public in the summer, because people are idiots and it doesn’t take many idiots to cause terrible devastation when it comes to fire.
[00:46:21] Annie Sargent: And these are not the only places closed as a precaution. Please take those closures in stride. If you show up and they tell you, sorry, it’s closed, you can’t go in. It’s really important that we preserve our natural parks, so there you go. If you’re coming in the summer, that’s just par for the course.
[00:46:39] French people in general are starting to connect the dots between the CO2 we emit and climate change. Here’s the thing, electricity can be produced with renewable energy, so it’s important that we go electric.
[00:46:54] Annie Sargent: There’s lots of room to produce clean energy in all sorts of ways. You know, solar wind, tides. We need to make electricity anywhere we can and cleanly. We need to stop burning things, be they wood, coal, gas, petroleum of any sort. Stop burning things.
[00:47:13] Annie Sargent: And you know, some of these things that need to change, they are countrywide and even continent-wide decisions.
[00:47:20] But you know, I could have solar panels on my roof and we don’t. So I’ve made an appointment to talk to somebody about that after the vacation, we’ll see. It’s really expensive, you know. So if we can, we might, but that’s the thing too. I mean, those things cost money and I don’t expect everybody to do these things, but if we can, we should really, I think.
[00:47:42] Annie Sargent: At my house, our heating and cooling is all electric because we have heat pumps, also called splits, and they work incredibly well for us. And get this, we use less power in the year than we used to with our old inefficient heaters. And now we both cool and heat, and it’s still about a third less yearly than just heating with the old crappy heaters.
[00:48:10] Our water heater is also electric and it has a heat pump. Heat pumps are really cool. If you don’t know about them, look into them. They’re really, really good, and I love my new electric car, and I definitely won’t miss you know, every time I had to go fill up with diesel, it was a hundred euros.
[00:48:27] Annie Sargent: That’s a lot of money and you know, I don’t miss that. I’m never going to miss that. And I don’t even miss my gas stove, because induction is so much better. Induction cooktops have come a long way, they are wonderful, you can set timers on them. Imagine, you can set a timer for everything. You never have to burn anything again, not that I don’t forget to set the timer, but that’s a different question.
[00:48:54] Annie Sargent: I’ve told you before, I know full well that I cannot fix everything. It’s all beyond me, but I can have a tiny impact and it’s still worth doing. And I really look forward to driving my very comfortable, lovely, electric car to Spain tomorrow. It’ll be our first long trip. We’re going to go through the mountains on the way down to Spain, and coming back, I’ll take the freeway along the coast. Just to try it both ways to see what it’s like with an electric car and where I can, you know, charge up. And while I’m charging up, have a meal and a nice break and everything. So it’ll be all new. We’ll see how it goes. And I just, I want to be at the beach so bad, like, oh, the beach it’s so good.
[00:49:44] Show notes
[00:49:44] Annie Sargent: Show notes and a full transcript for this episode are on joinusinfrance.com/399. The numeral, trois cent quatre-vingt dix neuf, in numbers. Transcripts make the website really easy to search. I hope you use them. And you can help your francophile friends plan their visit to France. Go to joinusinfrance.com, click on the Share buttons on the left side and tag your friend. They will thank you.
[00:50:13] Next week on the podcast
[00:50:13] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, our 400th episode with Elyse Rivin, my good friend, Elyse Rivin who is also herself in Brittany this week, about L’Isle sur la Sorgue in Provence. Amazing place and a dream come true for folks who love antiques.
[00:50:33] Annie Sargent: The next three episodes are going to be a little shorter. They won’t have the outro that I’m. So this is the outro, right? You get this. But they’ll come out and you know, I’m happy to continue putting out episodes every week because there are so many of you who are wonderful and want to share your stories, and I’m always happy having you on the podcast.
[00:50:57] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir.
[00:51:09] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and copyright 2022, by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, Attribution. Non-commercial, No derivatives license.
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Category: First Time in Paris