Transcript for Episode 418: First Visit to France as a Solo Traveler

Table of Contents for this Episode

Category: Solo in France

Discussed in this Episode

  • Dinner Cruise on Le Calife
  • Audio Tour at the Orangerie
  • Petit Palais
  • Sacré Coeur

[00:00:00] Intro


[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 418.

[00:00:20] 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.

[00:00:35] Today on the podcast

[00:00:35] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a conversation with Casey Armistead about her first time in France and as a solo traveler as well. She visited Paris, the lavender fields in Provence, Cassis, also in Provence, then up to the Alsace area and Colmar. She drove, she took the train, she was fearless, and I think she’ll inspire many of you to go for it, whether you travel by yourself or in a group.

[00:01:05] Podcast supporters

[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. You can browse all of that at my boutique

[00:01:23] News update

[00:01:23] Annie Sargent: For the news update, let’s talk about the French baguette getting listed as a World Heritage Gem. What’s not to love about that?

[00:01:32] Annie Sargent: I’ll also share a French perspective on Emmanuel Macron’s state visit in the US taking place this week.

[00:01:40] Annie Sargent: And of great interest to those of you who might want to relocate to France, I will give you the list of the 10 most affordable cities in France. The newspaper Le Parisien commissioned this study and it’s really interesting to see where you can get the most bang for your buck.


[00:02:06] First Visit to France as a Solo Traveler

[00:02:06] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Casey Armistead and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:02:11] Casey Armistead : Bonjour, so nice to hear your voice.

[00:02:14] Solo traveling

[00:02:14] Annie Sargent: Nice to talk to you, Casey. You had such an amazing trip through France and you did this as a solo traveler. It was your first time in France, do you often go by yourself to all these places you’ve never seen before?

[00:02:29] Casey Armistead : Well, I have traveled by myself, I have taken a lot of work trips over the last few years, and sometimes I will put a solo travel trip as part of the work trip. So it’s not unusual for me to go somewhere, even though going to Europe where I don’t really speak the language, was a bit to take on.

[00:02:51] Annie Sargent: Well, it was an adventure and you did a lot, you took the train, you rented a car, you looked through a lot of France. How many days did you spend?

[00:03:00] I think I was in France maybe 13 days, but at the end I was in Germany, so my entire time in Europe wasmaybe 15 or 16 days.

[00:03:12] And this was in June 2022.

[00:03:14] Casey Armistead : That’s correct.


[00:03:15] Annie Sargent: So you had to deal with the heat as well.

[00:03:18] Casey Armistead : Yes. So, actually where I live in Alabama, South Alabama, we have a lot of heat and humidity. So the day I landed in Paris, I think the high that day was a hundred degrees, which is pretty hot for France, but it wasn’t unusual for me, so it didn’t deter me at all.

[00:03:39] Annie Sargent: Lucky you. That’s good. Because I’m sure a lot of people from, I don’t know, Chicago, they would be like, Oh, I’m dying.

[00:03:47] Casey Armistead : I had also read or listened to podcasts where they say that, you know, it gets hot over there in August, and if you need an air conditioner, make sure your hotel has an air conditioner.

[00:03:58] Annie Sargent: Right. And did you rent hotels with air conditioners for the most part?

[00:04:03] Annie Sargent: Oh, you went to B&Bs. You went to a lot of B&Bs.

[00:04:05] Casey Armistead : I did, yes. I did a little of both to tell you the truth.

[00:04:09] Casey Armistead : Everywhere I stayed had an air conditioner. Sometimes I used it, sometimes I didn’t.

[00:04:14] Okay. Very nice. So you can take a lot of heat. That’s good for you.

[00:04:21] Begining the trip in Paris

[00:04:21] Annie Sargent: All right, so you landed in Paris and you saw a few things in Paris. You want to tell me about that?

[00:04:27] Casey Armistead : Yes. So I knew that I only had a short time to stay in Paris, so I knew that I just wanted to kind of get some highlights of Paris that I wasn’t going to really, I wasn’t going to be able to do a six hour tour of the Louvre, things like that. Each one of my flights was delayed, but I still got to Paris on that Saturday right before lunch.

[00:04:48] Casey Armistead : So I was, I believe I was at my hotel by noon. And so I just kind of stored my bags, changed my shirt, and then hit the streets that first day.

[00:04:58] Petite Beloy Hotel

[00:04:58] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and you were staying at the Petit Belloy, which is one where I’ve stayed and that I’ve recommended. Tell us what you thought about the hotel.

[00:05:06] Casey Armistead : Oh, it was perfect for me, you know, it wasn’t extravagant. I think it just has, when you walk in, it just has like a small foyer. It doesn’t have a lobby, but I mean, it was perfect for me. I just needed somewhere nice to sleep and to take a shower and it was great. I had a little balcony out over the street. It was perfect for me.

[00:05:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It’s very basic, but it’s comfortable, is what I have found. Yeah.

[00:05:32] Casey Armistead : That’s right. That’s right. Everyone was so nice and accommodating and so it was great.

[00:05:39] Walking for hours in Paris

[00:05:39] What are some things that you really enjoyed in Paris?

[00:05:42] Casey Armistead : So the first thing I did was walk towards the Luxembourg Gardens, and I spent a couple hours walking through the gardens. It was beautiful, flowers were blooming and there were people out enjoying the sunshine. Then I had a little bit of a late lunch at a cafe that I enjoyed. It was called, it was just off the park called, Bread and Roses, and the sign or whatever painted on the window was in English. So in retrospect, I’m like, well, are they, were they targeting tourists? But it was really good. It was really good, and I saw a lot of locals visiting there, so…

[00:06:18] Annie Sargent: You can’t really tell if the sign is in English, if that means that they want to cater to visitors or if it’s just people who just like that name in English, you know?

[00:06:30] Casey Armistead : Right, right. Well, they had a lovely peach iced tea that was just perfect for that hot afternoon. That was delightful.

[00:06:40] Annie Sargent: Well, that’s high praise from somebody from Alabama. Whoa, nice. That’s great.

[00:06:48] Casey Armistead : So, then I left there and walked back through the gardens and then headed towards St Sulpice.

[00:06:55] Annie Sargent: Yeah. The church.

[00:06:56] Casey Armistead : So in front of the church, in the little courtyard there, they were having like an antique sale. Like, they had tents with various vendors selling different antiques,

[00:07:07] Casey Armistead : paintings and plates and china and things like that.

[00:07:10] Casey Armistead : So I kind of walked around that. That was really interesting. Then I went through the church, lit some candles and said some prayers for some friends that were going through some medical problems. Then I walked toward, what is the other church there in Saint-Germain?

[00:07:28] Annie Sargent: Well there are several churches, but the two big ones are Saint-Germain-des-Pres and St Sulpice. Yes.

[00:07:34] Casey Armistead : Okay. So this Saint-Germain-des-Pres is, I walked towards thereand walked around the church and walked inside the church. There was going to be a concert that night in the church, which of course, I would’ve loved to have gone to, but I already had dinner reservations, so I had to not think about doing that.

[00:07:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah, in Paris, you run into a lot of things like that, just you weren’t planning on because there’s always something happening in Paris. So even if you don’t have much on your calendar, you’re going to find things to do for sure.

[00:08:08] Latin Quarter walking tour

[00:08:08] Casey Armistead : Exactly, exactly. So then I went back to my hotel. By that time I could check in and freshen up, recharge my phone because my phone’s battery’s getting low. And then I struck out again for my hotel and did parts of the Latin Quarter walking tour. I had listened to all of your Paris Walking Tours, you know, a month or so before I had gone on this trip, so I kind of felt like I had an overview of the neighborhood. So I did parts of the walking tour up towards the Pantheon. And then from Pantheon, I walked back towards the river, across the bridge and there to Notre Dame.

[00:08:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:08:49] Casey Armistead : And I walked around Notre Dame and while I was on the island, I actually did your walking tour kind of in reverse.

[00:08:57] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s not easy, is it?

[00:09:00] Casey Armistead : Well, so I had to just keep touching the different dots to listen to each point of the walking tour. But I did that because I had a dinner cruise reservationthere at the…

[00:09:10] Annie Sargent: Le Calife Yeah, and that’s right at the beginning of my walking tour, as a matter of fact.

[00:09:16] Casey Armistead : That’s exactly right. So that’s why I was doing the walking tour in reverse. But anyway, it worked out.

[00:09:22] Annie Sargent: Yeah, because like you said, you can just look at the map and you can just set off the points when you’re, I mean, you can see your blue dot arriving next to a red thingy, and so you can just tap on the thing and I’ll start talking.

[00:09:37] Dinner Cruise on Le Calife

[00:09:37] Casey Armistead : Right, right, right. So that’s how I did that. And the dinner cruise, I just loved it because that day, when I finally got back to my hotel room, my phone, my little phone thing said I had walked nine miles just that afternoon. Yeah. So the dinner cruise was perfect because I was ready to sit.

[00:09:56] Annie Sargent: Yes, I bet you were. The food was good and it is kind of a, I guess a small boat compared to other boats there on the river. So, in June in Paris, the sun doesn’t set until 10 o’clock.

[00:10:10] Casey Armistead : And so the boat starts out and it goes, is that down river, it goes past Notre Dame and then it turns around, and then it goes on the other side of the island, and then it goes down past the Eiffel Tower, and then it goes and turns around and comes back.

[00:10:28] Casey Armistead : So, as we were approaching the Eiffel Tower, is when the lights first came on, and it was just perfect. It was perfect.

[00:10:37] Casey Armistead : I got some really good pictures from the boat of the Eiffel Tower.

[00:10:41] I just want to mention that Le Calife is a small company. It’s a privately owned, small dinner kind of cruise, and it’s supposed to be a lot nicer than the much bigger boats. And they all try to arrive at the Eiffel Tower when it sparkles.

[00:10:59] Annie Sargent: They take different paths. Like you said, you know, they first went around Notre Dame. They don’t always do that. It just depends on the time and if they’re going to hit the sparkle.

[00:11:08] Casey Armistead : I see. Well, so actually I don’t think the Eiffel Tower did the sparkle at 10 o’clock because it wasn’t fully dark. It first did it at 11 o’clock.

[00:11:18] Annie Sargent: Yeah. It’s really late, it’s really late. And right now, the Eiffel Tower in an effort to conserve energy, they stop sparkling at 11. But that’s because we’re heading into the winter months. I think as we get back into the summer months, they’ll just do the sparkle.

[00:11:35] Annie Sargent: They’ll start later and end later, you know?

[00:11:38] Casey Armistead : All right. Good to know.

[00:11:39] Annie Sargent: Also, another thing I want to mention is, you have to make sure that you take a little battery pack to charge your phone.

[00:11:47] Casey Armistead : Yeah, you had recommended that when we did my trip prep conversation, and I have several of them here at my house, but just didn’t think I was going to need it. But that was a big mistake.

[00:11:59] Annie Sargent: Yes, because you know, when you start using Google Maps and VoiceMap and all of these apps, they will suck your phone dry in half of the day, like even a phone that has a really good battery, it will just be dead half of the day.

[00:12:12] Casey Armistead : And I was very dependent on Google Maps because I did a lot of walking and driving around, so I was very dependent on Google Maps and it worked really good for me.

[00:12:22] Casey Armistead : But yeah, you have to keep your phone charged.

[00:12:25] Tulleries, Orangerie, Petite Palace


[00:12:25] Casey Armistead : So the next morning, was Sunday morning, and when I woke up it was just kind of drizzling rain, which was good because it kind of cut the heat.

[00:12:34] Annie Sargent: Right, right.

[00:12:35] Casey Armistead : So, I started out that morning walking towards the Louvre and I grabbed a pain au chocolat at a bakery. It was great.

[00:12:44] Audio Tour at the Orangerie

[00:12:44] Casey Armistead : Andwalked through the Tulleries and I had a 10 o’clockreservation for the Orangerie.

[00:12:50] Annie Sargent: Okay. There were very few people in the Tulleries gardens that morning. It was great. Anyway, so I did the Orangerie and really liked that, did the audio tour, which I recommend the audio tour. It added a lot to understanding and appreciating the museum.

[00:13:05] And then I walkedacross the Place de la Concorde

[00:13:10] Petit Palais

[00:13:10] Casey Armistead : to the Petite Palace.

[00:13:11] Casey Armistead : I had heard on another podcast that there is a really nice cafe in the middle of Petite Palace in the little garden. So I aimed there for lunch and it was good.

[00:13:22] Casey Armistead : It was, and it was beautiful garden in there. The Petite Palace is free, no admission, so that was another reason why I wanted to go there.

[00:13:31] Rodin Museum

[00:13:31] Casey Armistead : So Idid that. And then I wanted to see the gardens of the Rodin Museum. So I walked across the Ponte Alexandra Bridge, which is of course beautiful. So I walked all the way to the Rodin and they had at least half of the gardens fenced off because I think they were getting ready for a concert or some event.

[00:13:53] Casey Armistead : So the gardens, most of the gardens were fenced off, which was of disappointing, but anyway.

[00:13:57] Annie Sargent: But that happens a lot. At the Rodin Museum, they often have events, so you can pretty much plan on some part of the garden being fenced off, but it’s always usually the backside of the museum where there aren’t as many statues and things.

[00:14:14] Sacré Coeur

[00:14:14] Casey Armistead : Right, right. So at this point, when I walked out of the garden, there were some of those bicycles for rent nearby, and I should have rented one of those, but I didn’t. From there I aimed to get to Sacre-Coeur, yeah, on foot.

[00:14:31] Annie Sargent: Oh, that was not a good idea.

[00:14:34] Casey Armistead : Well, I got to see a lot of Paris. I walked back across the river, back through the Tulleries, and then I went along the Louvre and to Palace Royal, is that correct there?So then I walked through those gardens, which, you know, people were out enjoying the weather, children and stuff. And then I walked through several of the covered galleries.

[00:14:58] Annie Sargent: They’re all in, well, a lot of them are in that area.

[00:15:01] Casey Armistead : Right. So I had already kind of mapped my way up through those prior, so I walked through several of those. And then I finally got to the foot of Sacre-Coeur and I grabbed a crêpe, which I love.

[00:15:15] Casey Armistead : And there were lots of people there on Sunday afternoon, enjoying the beautiful weather. So I walked up, you know, about halfway and sat on the grass with all the people, a lot of young people. Andhad my crêpes and took a break, and then I walked on up to the church.

[00:15:31] Casey Armistead : And I think I had heard you say before that the parishioners of the Sacre-Coeur don’t really care for all the visitors coming in the church, butthat was the busiest church. I went to at least a dozen different churches on my trip, and that was the one that was the fullest.

[00:15:50] Annie Sargent: Right. They don’t want people talking and being, like taking a lot of photos and things like that. They might shush you, whatever.

[00:16:00] Casey Armistead : Well, of course I wasn’t talking, but my favorite part was when I came out of the church, it was about a quarter till six in the afternoon and the bells were ringing. I don’t know if that’s a call to prayer, but they were like ringing for like 20 minutes.

[00:16:14] Montmartre

[00:16:14] Yeah, I have a video of it because that was just, I love that, the bells ringing. So there, of course it was still plenty of daylight left in the day, so I kind of did the walk through the neighborhood there. And I wanted to go to the little park where all the artists were, and so I finally found that. And again, my battery on my phone was getting low,I was trying to conserve my battery, but I loved watching the artists, they were sketching a lot of children this afternoon, which I really liked that.

[00:16:45] I have to ask you, why didn’t you take a metro up to Montmartre? Because surely, when you asked your phone to walk you there, you could tell that it was far away, right?

[00:16:55] Lots of walking!

[00:16:55] Casey Armistead : Well, for one thing, I kind of wanted to avoid the metroon this trip because I just didn’t feel confident with it. And I had heard that’s where a lot of pick pockets were. And plus, I like to walk. Even at home, I like to walk and I just thought that’s where I was going to sea the most of the city in my short time there.

[00:17:16] Annie Sargent: Well, that is true. You do see a lot more when you walk than when you take the metro, there’s no question about that, but it’s a bit far. Yeah, so by the end of the day, my phone told me that I had walked a little over 15 miles. Before my trip I had scoped out a restaurant where I wanted to have some seafood, but when I found the restaurant, it was closed.

[00:17:33] Annie Sargent: Ah.

[00:17:34] Walking to the Opera House

[00:17:34] Casey Armistead : So,anyway, I stopped somewhere else and got something to eat. I wouldn’t say it was spectacular, it fit the trick that afternoon and then I walked back bythe Opera House, and there were, on Sunday afternoon there seems to me that there’s a lot of places that have like, I don’t know, places where they practice samba and dances and things like that.

[00:17:56] Casey Armistead : So it seemed like they were doing that on the steps of the Opera House, which was fun.

[00:18:00] Casey Armistead : And then, so as I was walking back towards the river, there was a thunderstorm trying to roll into Paris, and I was just like, oh, please don’t let me get soaking wet. So I found a great little cafe to stop at and charge my phone. As the little thunderstorm rolled over, I was under the awning.

[00:18:18] Annie Sargent: Good for you. You’re resourceful. That’s good.

[00:18:21] Casey Armistead : Well, I felt like I had a little guardian angel watching over me the whole time.

[00:18:25] Casey Armistead : So then I made it back to the river and one of the bridges just did right before 11 o’clock so I could get a good video of the Eiffel Tower doing the little sparkling show.

[00:18:37] At 11 o’clock on a Sunday night, Paris streets are pretty quiet, soI walked back to the hotel and that was the end of that day. It was a full day but I certainly enjoyed it.

[00:18:47] Annie Sargent: Very full.

[00:18:48] Safe as a solo traveler on the streets of Paris

[00:18:48] Annie Sargent: So did you feel safe as a solo traveler in Paris?

[00:18:52] Casey Armistead : Absolutely. I did. I did.

[00:18:54] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Paris is not scary, especially the areas where you were.

[00:18:58] Casey Armistead : Well, yeah, there you go. And I was, I had listened to your podcast about there are certain areas, you know, if someone approaches you to sign a petition or whatever, walk away that those are probably pick pockets. So I was very mindful of all of that, while I was out walking.

[00:19:13] Annie Sargent: Very good.

[00:19:14] Tips on taking the train in France

[00:19:14] Casey Armistead : So the next morning, checked out of the hotel and I used the app G7 I think it is, to get a taxi to the train station. I was a little intimidated about getting on the train because I was like, Oh, am I going to know what platform to be on and such forth? And so I was a little bit nervous about all that, but it worked out fine.

[00:19:35] Casey Armistead : It was easy to find my platform. The thing is, wish I had known this beforehand, is they only give you like 20 minutes, to know what platform you’re train is going to be on.

[00:19:44] Annie Sargent: They only announce where your train is departing about 20 to 30 minutes before it’s time to go.

[00:19:51] Casey Armistead : Right. Which was plenty of time, but you know, before all that, I was a bit nervous. But the only mistake I made on this is that my ticket, I had bought first class seats and my ticket said that I was in car two and seat whatever. So anyway, I walked up to the train and the first car I walk up to has a big two on the side of it.

[00:20:11] Casey Armistead : So, Oh, well this is car two. Well, that wasn’t car two. That right, that meant it was second class. Okay, so the number of your train is actually, on the TGV it’s usually a little TV kind of display on the side of the train.

[00:20:26] Casey Armistead : I learned that the other day, about five days later, when I got on the next train, that’s what I figured out because it was a smaller train station and I was less nervous at the smaller train station than there in Paris. But I mean, I got where I needed to go.

[00:20:42] Annie Sargent: Right, right.

[00:20:43] Annie Sargent: So did you stay in second class? you stay in the wrong seat the whole time?

[00:20:48] I did, I mean, nobody came by and checked my ticket and if they had, they would’ve probably said, Hey, you know, you’re in the wrong seat. But nobody came and checked my ticket and nobody asked me to move, so…

[00:20:59] Annie Sargent: You were fine.

[00:21:00] Casey Armistead : It was fine. It was fine.

[00:21:03] Annie Sargent: So not too scary, so the first train experience was fine, a few surprises, but nothing scary.

[00:21:09] Yeah, exactly.

[00:21:10] Annie Sargent: If you take your time, you know, if you don’t show up at the last minute, it helps too.

[00:21:14] Casey Armistead : Well, there you go. I made sure that I wasn’t showing up at the last minute.

[00:21:18] So I took the train down to Aix-en-Provence which that train station,you already know, this is quite a ways out from the city, actually.

[00:21:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah. There’s two train stations in Aix. Yes. There’s the TGV train station and the city center train station.

[00:21:34] Renting a car at the Aix train station

[00:21:34] Casey Armistead : Right. So I guess I had done the TGV and because originally, two years ago, prior to Covid, when I was planning this trip, I was not going to rent a car, I was just going to walk from the train station into Aix, but Ooh, that would not have worked.

[00:21:49] Casey Armistead : I would’ve had to gotten a taxi, but on this trip I had reserved a car there at the train station.

[00:21:55] The only issue with the car, and I had listened to someone else’s trip report to say that when they returned their car that they had a bit of an issue that the folks at the car rental place had said that there were little tiny dings on the car. So anyway, I made sure I took the car insurance, so that wouldn’t be an issue.

[00:22:15] Anyway, the car when I found it, it was parked like within inches of a chainlink fence up on the side of a curb in the parking lot.

[00:22:25] Casey Armistead : Yeah, so I was like, Oh my gosh, I’m going to scratch this car up just getting it out of the parking lot. But it was fine, I was able, I had rented, reserved an automatic and I was able to get it off the curb and away from the fence without, you know, messing it up. So anyway.

[00:22:40] Driving through Aix-en-Provence

[00:22:40] Casey Armistead : So using Google Maps, I picked out a parking spot near the heart of Aix-en-Provence so I could do the little walking tour. So driving there was fine, got on the freeway, got off and then the directions started taking me through narrow one-way streets, and I realized, I was in the heart of the, it looked like the heart of the old city, and I was like, cars not supposed to be driving where I was driving, this is walking area.

[00:23:11] Casey Armistead : So I started freaking out and it kept directing me to these streets that had these pilons in the middle of them because I was like, I think if cars are not supposed to be driving here, so it took me a little while to realize if you drive up to those pilons, that they will sink into the ground and you can drive over them. So that kind of freaked me out a little bit, that while I was driving through the Old City, I drove by some young police officers and they didn’t flag me down. So I thought, well, I can’t be doing too bad because they didn’t flag me down.

[00:23:43] Annie Sargent: Yeah, No.

[00:23:44] Casey Armistead : So,I finally figured that out and I finally found a different parking spot to get into.

[00:23:49] Casey Armistead : And so it was a short walk to the visitor center. I picked up a map from the visitor center and did the Cézanne Walking Tour around the Old City. And that was beautiful.


[00:24:01] Casey Armistead : I was of course walking through some of the places that I had driven through before.

[00:24:05] Annie Sargent: Right. Yeah. You have to avoid driving through city centers if you can, you know, if you look at a map of the city and you see if there’s a parking lot not too far from the city center and just park there, you know, and then walk.

[00:24:18] Casey Armistead : Yes. So even though it kind of stressed me out a little bit, no harm done. And I enjoyed walking through the city and I picked up some picnic kind of stuff from a store. And I had heard already that the produce in Provence is just remarkable. And so I picked up a peach and some other things, and the peach was just really juicy and flavorful.

[00:24:42] So I was like, yeah. So when I was done walking through Aix-en-Provence, got back to the car. Where I was staying that night was just outside of Avignon. So I MapQuested my way there, but I had picked out an Italian kind of pizza place that I was going to eat dinner at. The drive was fine, beautiful driving through there and my route took me right just there at the foot of the Palace of the Popes, right there in Avignon. So drove over the river, located pizza place. However, it was closed.

[00:25:17] Annie Sargent: Ah, you keep picking things that look good, but… closed.

[00:25:21] Casey Armistead : I know. Well, so there was a restaurant just kind of across the street that some other people were walking to that I saw. I said, Well, I will just go over here. And it was great. All of the restaurant was basically out in a garden, and of course the weather was beautiful. And it was an Italian place too, because they had a lot of, they had a lot of pastas and pizzas and such as that. So it was fine.

[00:25:46] La Maison de Marie B&B

[00:25:46] Casey Armistead : So then after dinner I got back to my car to say, Okay, I’m very near my Bed and Breakfast that I’m going to be staying at tonight, and so I started looking through all my paperwork and I said, Well, I don’t have an address to this house.

[00:26:00] Casey Armistead : So I called the number and this lady answers and she’s speaking French, and of course, I don’t understand French, but I gathered enough that she said to call the other number, there was a second number, so I called the second number, which was apparently her next door neighbor who did speak some English.

[00:26:18] Annie Sargent: Good.

[00:26:19] Casey Armistead : So she was able to send me on my phone the address to the Airbnb, which is just like 15 minutes drive.

[00:26:26] Casey Armistead : So, I found it and it was fab. It was just great for me. It was this lady’s home. It was a large home that she just rents out rooms and her backyard was just beautiful.

[00:26:38] Annie Sargent: She had a pool that you could swim in. It wasn’t warm enough for me to swim in, but it was beautiful. Andshe had a nice lawn and her backyard looked off over a valley. I believe it was vineyards because I know there was a vineyard like all around. There was one right next door to her place over, and it kind of looked off towards Nimes. At night you could see the lights of Nimes, even though I think it was, you know, like 30 miles or 50 miles away. She had a couple of three apricot trees that were just laden with ripe apricots that, you know, she said, help yourself to the apricots. So anyway, I was relieved to get there that night and it was very tranquil. It was just a little community. It wasn’t even a city. It was just like a little community. Yeah. So I’ll put the references to these places that you enjoyed, will be in the show notes for this episode.

[00:27:32] Casey Armistead : Okay.

[00:27:34] So I stayed at this lady’s house for two nights and it seems there was only one other guest there, and she was a lady younger than me. She was solo as well, but she was French that, and she spoke some English, so we could have a little bit of a conversation. So each morning, her breakfast spread was just really remarkable, which included apricot preserves, which I’m sure were from her trees.

[00:28:02] Casey Armistead : It was just… so, I don’t drink coffee, so each morning she had me like a tin of cocoa and a little container of sugar dispenser. And she brought me a little pitcher of warm milk for me to make hot chocolate, and she cut up these little strawberries. They were so good.

[00:28:22] Casey Armistead : The strawberries that we have in the United States are these big strawberries, but they’re like white in the center. I heard y’all call them plastic strawberries when they’re like that. But these strawberries were small and they were so good. I was just like, ugh,this produce is just super.

[00:28:40] Kayak experience from Collias in the Gard

[00:28:40] Casey Armistead : So the next morning I kind of chilled a little bit, just reading a book in this lady’s backyard. And then about mid-morning, I made my way towards the kayak place there. I think it was part of your, one of your recommendations. I cannot remember the name of the kayak place to float down the Gardon River and underneath the Pont de Gard.

[00:29:04] I loved this day because it was most of my trip I was just by myself on the river and it was so tranquil and the weather was beautiful. Every once in a while, I would meet up with a group of children like, I guess preteens and teenagers. I think they were like on a school trip together. Anyway, they were fun because they were laughing and singing and they were just having a good time. And right there around Pont de Gard they were jumping off some of the cliffs into the water. So anyway, they were entertaining, even though I didn’t really understand what they were saying. I understood that they were very happy. I would definitely do the kayak trip down that river again, that was great.

[00:29:45] Annie Sargent: Can’t remember the name of the town where it starts from, but I’ll put it in the show notes because, yes, I’ve recommended this a million times and it’s lovely. Now you have to be careful because some later on in the year, this was June, so they still had water, but later on in the year that river dries out and you can’t paddle anymore, it’s dry.

[00:30:03] Casey Armistead : Yes, I had read that could be an issue, but it wasn’t an issue there in June on this particular year. So after I got off the river, I took a leisurely kind of drive back to my Airbnb. I stopped somewhere and got a kind of a picnic kind of lunch thing.

[00:30:18] Got to the Airbnb and took a shower and so this was I think, June the 23rd.

[00:30:26] Annie Sargent: No 21st.

[00:30:28] Free music concerts for Fête de la Musique on June 21

[00:30:28] Casey Armistead : 21st. Okay. So whatever day it was, all over France, on this day, they were going to have a music festival. So all over France, they were going to have a lot of free concerts. And so I had looked at this beforehand and in Avignon, they were going to be like maybe a dozen different small concerts around the city. So I had looked, scoped out all the different concerts and I found one that was going to be a jazz concert. So I said, well, I’m going to go and listen to this.

[00:30:58] Avignon

[00:30:58] Casey Armistead : So Idrove back to Avignon and found easy parking in this garage. It was actually probably underneath Palace of the Popes because it was this, I mean, I drove into it, but it was like a garage, underground.

[00:31:12] I got on the elevator and when I came out of the parking garage, I was there in the, I walked up the steps and it was there, the big courtyard at the Palace of the Popes. The church right next to Palace at the Popes, they were ringing their bells because I guess it was a quarter till six again. So I’ve got another video cause I just love those church bells ringing. So then I walked up to the highest point there in Avignon and there’s a little park andthey have like a water feature, there’s actually a little cafe up there.

[00:31:42] Casey Armistead : So then I walked the backside down to all the stairs, and then I walked into the Old City and walked around the Old City a little bit and grabbed a Croque Monsieur and something to drink. And so there were already some of those concerts going on. Like, I walked by one in the Old City that it was like African drums or some kind of drum concert, but I walked by it. So then I was like, Okay, it’s getting closer to seven o’clock.

[00:32:09] Casey Armistead : I got to find this little park where this concert is going to be. So actually, the concert was back up to that high park up there at the very top. So I was like, oh, so I made my way, yes, a different way up to back up to the park. So it was at seven o’clock at night and so, it was getting cooler. They were actually, I didn’t realize that little cafe was serving food and drinks and wine and beer and it was the crowd that was there, it was a small crowd, but they were like older. I’m 52 and most of them were older than me, but that was the best concert. It was, I would say it was gypsy jazz and it lasted about an hour and 40 minutes. I just loved it. It was just great.

[00:32:52] Annie Sargent: You enjoyed it. That’s great.

[00:32:54] Casey Armistead : So it, it was a super way to end, a really lovely day. Then I went back to the Airbnb. So the next morning, the lady who owns that Airbnb, she doesn’t speak any French. Now, she and I communicated a little bit through Google Translate.

[00:33:11] When I went to leave, because I had asked her, I said, have I paid up? Because some of the places I stayed at, I paid for it before I left. And some of the places, you know, pay for it when I checked out. So anyway, come to find out I had not paid and so I handed her my credit card and she doesn’t take credit cards. So just by chance, I had enough euros to pay for my two nights there.

[00:33:34] Casey Armistead : But yeah, so anyway, just FYI…

[00:33:39] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Have some euros.

[00:33:40] Lavender fields in Sault

[00:33:40] Casey Armistead : Yeah, indeed. So then I left out from there and I drove back through the outskirts of Avignon and so my aim there that day was to get to Sault by lunchtime to see some of the lavender fields, is what I was aiming for.

[00:33:57] Casey Armistead : That was a beautiful drive. So I tried to choose the options of not taking the freeway and takingthe smaller roads and that was just a beautiful drive.

[00:34:07] Casey Armistead : And I got to Sault about maybe 45 minutes before, they were having their market day on that day. So I was there for maybe about 45 minutes for their market day.

[00:34:19] Casey Armistead : And just close to noon, a thunderstorm started coming rolling through. So they were packing up all their wares pretty quick. So I had wanted to rent a bicycle in Sault to do some biking, but the thunderstorm kind of made me, you know, decide not to do that. Plus, I was kind of running short on time. Because I had booked a horseback riding trip somewhere else in Provence that afternoon, and I was like, well, I need to get there and do that.

[00:34:46] Buying gas in France

[00:34:46] Casey Armistead : So, I grabbed a little sandwich for lunch. Found a gas station, because by this time I needed some diesel. Figured all that out and my credit card worked fine at the gas pump at the petrol station. And so meandered my way through the lavender fields and you know, found some beautiful pictures to take of the lavender, which was, in some places it wasn’t quite blooming yet, and some places it was in full bloom. So that was beautiful.

[00:35:13] Horse back riding tour

[00:35:13] Casey Armistead : So the horseback riding tour that I was supposed to do that afternoon was at four o’clock just outside of a little town called Forcalquier. So I got to the stable just right before four o’clock. And so I drove up into the yard and I didn’t see anybody around. So I called the guy and he was like, Oh, I’m sorry I sent you an email to say because of the thunderstorms, I had canceled this afternoon’s ride.

[00:35:41] Casey Armistead : And of course, I wasn’t looking at my emails. And by this time, the weather was beautiful.

[00:35:46] It’s all good. he gave me a refund and it was all good. So I drove on into Forcalquier where my next Airbnb was.

[00:35:56] Forcalquier

[00:35:56] Casey Armistead : So that afternoon, after checking in to the Airbnb, I did a walking tour. The Airbnb, the folks at there gave me a map of the little town that had a walking tour.

[00:36:08] Casey Armistead : So Forcalquier, it was once a walled medieval city and so there’s lots of things to see there, statues, a church, and at the very top of the town, there’s a church up there, they called it the Citadel. And it was not open. There was the one church down in the city, you could walk in it, but the Citadel, you could look inside the glass windows, but you couldn’t go in. Anyway, that was beautiful. I walked up there to the top of the hill and it had great views of all the farmland all around, so that was beautiful. And then I walked back down the hill a different way and had dinner at a restaurant. One of my favorite restaurants I over there, Blanco something…

[00:36:54] Annie Sargent: L’Aigo Blanco is what you wrote.

[00:36:56] Casey Armistead : Yes. Yeah. So, I mean, it certainly wasn’t a Michelin star restaurant, but I just loved it. It was, you know, of course, outdoor seating. The food was really good and nice music, so anyway.

[00:37:08] And then I ended up that night, I sat on the patio of our Airbnb. You could see the Citadel, the lights of the city, you could see it up there. And of course, the church bells ringing, it was great.

[00:37:24] Annie Sargent: Well, we’ve been talking a long time and I’m afraid we’re going to have to end soon. I’m just going to say after this, you went to Cassis. And you went to Colmar, you went all the way to the Alsace area. But if people want to read about that, they’re going to have to look at what you wrote, which you wrote a very good write up about this.

[00:37:44] Tips for other solo visitors and first time visitors to France

[00:37:44] Annie Sargent: But before we end, I want to ask you, do you have some specific tips for people visiting France for the first time, or perhaps solo? Is there something that you were like, ah, I got this. You don’t worry about this.

[00:37:56] Well, don’t worry about not speaking the language. Always use your polite words, Bonjour and Merci. I kind of spent a couple of days with another guy from California. He was an older guy who according to him, he had spent a lot of time in France, but he didn’t use his polite words, I mean, he wasn’t a rude person, but he would start speaking to someone in France, like at the train station, and he wouldn’t say Bonjour.

[00:38:21] Casey Armistead : He would just start asking a question and I thought, that is so rude. So I always made sure that I said Bonjour first. Everybody was so polite. And one thing that I really, and particularly, really was delighted with, is everybody in France seems to speak kind of softly. Even, I rented a bicycle in Colmar and even that guy, big old, bulky guy, he even spoke softly.

[00:38:44] I just love that because I guess, we Americans are so loud over here. But and just don’t be afraid. I really depended on Google Maps a lot, particularly the day in and around Alsace. I rented a bicycle and I bicycled all around the vineyards and stuff. That was fabulous.

[00:39:03] Don’t be afraid and be willing to change your plans. If your restaurant is closed, there’s going to be a good one next door to.

[00:39:09] Yeah. People sweat the small stuff like that. And you know, you’re not going to the middle of the Kalahari Desert. This is France. There’s going to be food like, you know, don’t worry about it. Yeah. You’ll find something. I mean you might not be a favorite meal of the trip, but you’ll find something.

[00:39:24] Annie Sargent: Well, you have been just delightful to listen to. I think listeners are going to be like, Oh, love her accent. She’s gorgeous. She’s fantastic, fantastic.

[00:39:33] Casey Armistead : Well, so I will tell you this. I know I only had a day and a half in Paris, but you know what? I knew I was just getting an overview and as it turns out, I came back. I loved it so much that my mother who turns 80 in November and my aunt who turns 84 in November, and my sister and her husband, we’re going back for a whole week in Paris the week of Thanksgiving.

[00:39:54] Casey Armistead : So I’m going to see the city.

[00:39:57] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. And this time you will not forget your extra battery pack.

[00:40:01] Casey Armistead : That’s exactly right.

[00:40:03] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much Casey. It’s been a delight having you on the podcast. And we also did a itinerary review together, so we have talked a couple of times already. And really, I’m so glad that you had a wonderful time.

[00:40:15] Annie Sargent: You had a few surprises, but really nothing major. It worked out really great.

[00:40:19] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.


[00:40:29] Outro[00:40:29] Thank you, patrons

[00:40:29] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get lots of exclusive rewards for doing that, there’s a lot of them stacked up for you to enjoy. You can see them at Thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for a long time, you are wonderful.

[00:40:49] New patrons

[00:40:49] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patrons, Brad Meseck, Carol Levantrosser and Lauren O. McHale. Thank you so much for becoming patrons and making this podcast possible.

[00:41:04] Garlic soup

[00:41:04] Annie Sargent: This week I shared my recipe of the famous Soupe à l’ail rose de Lautrec, as promised in last week’s episode of the podcast, which was about Lautrec. Garlic soup is not something most of us eat on a regular basis, even if we live an hour away from Lautrec as I do, but it’s a treat and you should try it once. It’s a great tidbit for your cocktail conversation, you know, have you ever tried garlic soup? Ha ha.

[00:41:33] Preparing a trip to France?

[00:41:33] 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 wonderful way to do it. You can also hire me to be your itinerary consultant. Here’s how it works, you purchase the service on, then you fill out a document to tell me what you have in mind. We make a phone appointment and we chat for about an hour. And then I send you a document with the plan we discussed.

[00:42:03] Annie Sargent: Remember, my time is always booked up several weeks in advance. You can see the date for my next appointment availability on the boutique page, the only place where you can buy this service. So please pay attention to that.

[00:42:16] Annie Sargent: Right now, it would be great to book an itinerary planning service for those of you traveling in the Spring next year.

[00:42:25] Self-guided tours

[00:42:25] Annie Sargent: And if you cannot talk to me because I’m all booked up, you can still take me in your pocket by getting my GPS self-guided tour on the VoiceMap app. I’ve produced five tours of Paris, they are designed to show you around different iconic neighborhoods of Paris. And I’m working on details for three more tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app because I’m totally sold on this technology, both as a creator and as a visitor.

[00:42:52] Annie Sargent: I always look to see if there’s a GPS self-guided tour of the place I visit because it’s so much easier than bumbling around on your own.

[00:43:02] The French baguette

[00:43:02] Annie Sargent: The French baguette is now listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage. We often talk about bread and how good it is in France. I’ve even had people tell me that they can’t eat bread where they live or it makes them sick or something, but in France it’s no problem. I believe them, but I have no idea how that works.

[00:43:23] Annie Sargent: I did a whole episode about bread in France. It was episode 324, and it’s well worth a listen if you want to better understand how France became so enamored with its bread products.

[00:43:36] Annie Sargent: What the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage recognized, is artisanal know-how and the culture of the baguette bread. And it is true that there’s a whole culture of making delicious bread in France. Remember, during the pandemic, when everyone started making sourdough bread at home, there were books about how easy it was to make bread at home. Did you try doing that? Did you turn out to be a masterful breadmaker in just about a few days? Well, I bet not, even if you meant well and if you tried very hard. The only way to learn this stuff is to train with a master who will train you, not just once, but over a long time. You need to make bread hundreds of times before you get proficient at it.

[00:44:26] Annie Sargent: At least French baguette, that’s how it works. You need to be trained with a proper baker before you can do it. And training takes a couple of years. So, yeah, it’s not something quick that you can do with a book.

[00:44:38] Annie Sargent: We are very lucky to have such a culture of bread in France and we’re very happy to share bread with everyone who visits.

[00:44:46] Annie Sargent: So this was great news to me, and a bit of a Cocorico. That means national pride, by the way. Yes, we are very proud of our bakers and very happy to support them. You know, my husband appreciates our local breadmaker so much. He would rather walk there to buy the bread than get it at the grocery store when I do my shopping, my weekly shopping.

[00:45:09] Annie Sargent: So yes, we are very lucky to have that near us.

[00:45:13] Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the US

[00:45:13] Annie Sargent: Emmanuel Macron is on a state visit to the US this week. He took a whole delegation of outstanding French people, including several ministers, ministers of foreign affairs, higher education, economy, army, a representative from the French House, another from the French Senate. Bernard Arnault you know, the millionaire, the CEO of EDF, so that’s the French power company. The French tech guy who started Deezer. For a visit to NASA he will go with Sophie Adenot, the young lady who was just selected as Europe’s newest astronaut and is impressive as hell. Thomas Pesquet, the current astronaut who’s been on the Space Station for a very long time. The president of the CNES, that’s the space and satellite guy, and astrophysicist named Fatoumata Kébé, an amazing black woman whose parents were born in Mali. And she was born in France near Paris and has had an impressive long studies and career. She’s wonderful.

[00:46:17] Annie Sargent: He’s also bringing a choreographer, a filmmaker, an author, the lady who runs the Louvre and other cultural icons. They’re going to talk about all sorts of things.

[00:46:27] Annie Sargent: Now, we have a problem in France. We are a tiny country. We have lots of talents, our economy is doing well as it can, given the difficulties of the time, you know, inflation, energy prices, the crazy Russian neighbor that invaded Ukraine. You know, Macron thinks on a European scale, but he represents a very small country. And French people, you know, regular people that I talk to, they say the Inflation Reduction Act, they don’t know what it’s called, but that’s what they, that’s what they’re complaining about. The Inflation Reduction Act that president Biden put in, you know, several months ago. They say it goes against the rules of global trade and that it’s not right. But Americans don’t care. They’re huge. They can do that.

[00:47:15] Electric cars conundrum

[00:47:15] Annie Sargent: French people, you know,the stuff I read most about is that only American-made electric cars will be able to get the $7,000 rebate.

[00:47:25] Annie Sargent: Now, when I bought my electric car in France, I got 6,000 Euros rebate, even though my car was made in China. Now, there was no rebate up until now in America, and now that there’s going to be one, it’s going to be, you know, only if you buy a car that has enough, well, it has to be made in America or have enough American bits in it to qualify. We don’t have that in France.

[00:47:52] Annie Sargent: So obviously, France could put in similar measures and stop so many Chinese cars from entering. But that would annoy people like me who enjoy a good deal, and also they would have to agree on what rules they’re going to implement.

[00:48:11] Annie Sargent: Obviously, we should twist arms if we can, you know, get the Chinese and Korean car makers to produce more of their stuff in Europe. Isn’t it funny how a lot of the globalization seems to be turning back into itself? Like, a lot of stuff that we were very happy to make somewhere else because it was cheaper, since the pandemic, everybody’s like, oh, oh, oh, we need to make stuff at home now. And it’s taking a long time to turn that around, but I think it’s turned around by now.

[00:48:41] Annie Sargent: Now, if I hadn’t been able to get my 6,000 Euro discount off the car, I would’ve taken a longer look at French and German cars. But honestly, I picked the one I picked because it was available quickly and the French and German cars were not, or a Korean car for that matter. There was just nothing. I knew my car was going to die and it did. I was right, so I needed something else.

[00:49:05] Annie Sargent: Chinese car makers are making great electric cars. You know, they were far behind 10 years ago, but they caught up. They make really good cars, like, they’re as well equipped as a Mercedes or BMW and a lot less. OK, my sister drives a BMW. My brother drives a Mercedes. When they got into my Chinese car and they were like, you know, doing all the things that you can do in this car, they thought, oh wow, it’s a nice car. They were surprised.

[00:49:31] Europe is very disparate

[00:49:31] Annie Sargent: And the problem is that we’re a disparate bunch in Europe. What helps France hurts Germany and what helps Italy, hurts Greece and so on and so forth. It’s very difficult for Europeans to present a united front because we’re not the United States of Europe.

[00:49:46] Annie Sargent: We are the separate states of Europe that are trying. Sometimes, they try hard, but sometimes they don’t even try very hard. So perhaps seeing Macron showing off at the side of President Biden and Vice President Harris, will show the Germans and the rest of Europe that it’s in our interest to speak with one voice, and that we can get things done if we stick together.

[00:50:11] Annie Sargent: Time will tell.

[00:50:13] Great places to live in France

[00:50:13] Annie Sargent: Now let’s talk about great places to live in France. Now to get the full experience for this, I recommend that you listen to this again when you’re near a computer and you can see where these places are on the map. Because you might not have the map of France in your head. The transcript of this episode is going to help you do that because all the names will be written out, it’ll make your life easy. And by the way, those of you who subscribe to the show on YouTube, you should know that you can do closed captions on YouTube.

[00:50:44] Annie Sargent: And for the last 10, perhaps more episodes, I have been replacing the automatic closed captions with the edited transcripts of the podcast. I’ll try and go back and do it for all of them, but that means that if you subscribe to the show on YouTube, you can see the text scrolling and everything is spelled correctly and all that.

[00:51:06] By comparison, the automatic transcripts are just a disgrace. And you can also see the transcripts if you go to the episode page for this episode, the numeral, you can scroll to the blue button that says transcript, and then you can see the whole thing written out there.

[00:51:23] Annie Sargent: But back to my best place in France to live. As with most things, finding the best depends on what your priorities are. Do you want the city with the most sun, the city with the most affordable rents, the cities with the most job offers. Do you want it all? Well, all might be difficult, forget all, it’s not going to work. Especially when it comes to weather. I mean, France is great, but the weather is not the same everywhere.

[00:51:48] Annie Sargent: So let’s talk about this list. There are more lists and if you want to talk to me about this and, you know, compare all the different lists, book an itinerary planning session and I can help you make some choices.

[00:52:00] Annie Sargent: But this is the list as published by Le Parisien newspaper, the most affordable cities in France. Overall, medium-sized cities do better than bigger cities. Number 10 is Rodez in Occitanie. It’s a fabulous little city. it’s in the, weather not sunny all the time, a bit cold in the winter, but you get a great bang for your buck and lots to see around that area. Beautiful, beautiful area.

[00:52:32] Annie Sargent: Number 9 is Saint-Etienne. Now, Saint-Etienne, it’s not far from Lyon and it’s not a place where most people think to go because it doesn’t have a lot of charming historical things. But it is really a city that’s working very hard to make life good for the people who live there.

[00:52:51] You can get between Paris and Saint-Etienne in as little as three hours on the TGV. So you know, if that’s important to you, that’s something to consider.

[00:53:01] Annie Sargent: Number 8 is Saint-Brieuc. That’s in Brittany. It’s two hours and 15 minutes to Paris. It’s right on the coast and a bit rainy for my taste, but a beautiful, beautiful town.

[00:53:14] Annie Sargent: Number 7 is Epinal. That’s East, and it’s 2 hours and 30 minutes to Paris, so that’s pretty close and a great bang for your buck.

[00:53:25] Annie Sargent: Chaumont is another town in the Grand Est. 2 hours, 15 minutes on a TER to Paris. So yeah, if they ever get a TGV that’s going to be even faster. Chaumont is not a town I know very much about, so interesting to look at that.

[00:53:41] Annie Sargent: Belfor is number 5, it’s not far from Colmar. It’s four hours to Paris. That might be a bit too far for expats who want to be able to go to Paris easily for day trip.

[00:53:53] But I mean, French people don’t need to go to Paris for a day trip very much. That’s not something that French people consider as much as expats.

[00:54:01] Annie Sargent: Number 4, Nevers. That’s between Beaune and Bourges. So it’s like if you look at Paris, south and a little East. I don’t remember Nevers, I remember going as a kid, but honestly, I don’t remember anything about Nevers. But apparently, it’s a very good bang for your buck if you’re thinking of relocating, because it’s number four on this list. It’s great.

[00:54:23] Annie Sargent: Number three is Laval. That’s between Le Mans and Rennes, it’s an hour and 15 minutes to Paris on a direct TGV. That’s very close to Paris, really, and not super expensive. It’s number three on this list. I think if proximity to Paris and affordability are something that you care about then Laval would be a good choice.

[00:54:47] Annie Sargent: Number two is Chateauroux. That’s in the Indre department, it’s between Poitiers and Bourges Two hours to Paris on an Intercité train. So that’s really close, OK? And it’s not one that we talk about a whole lot, but an interesting town to move to if you would like proximity to Paris.

[00:55:08] Annie Sargent: And number one on this list is Niort. That’s in the department of the Deux-Sèvres, it’s the French capital of insurance companies. It’s got to number one because it has free transportation, a dynamic job market, purchase under 2000 euros per square meter, which is much cheaper than Paris. I mean, by comparison, Paris is around 11,000 euros per square meter. So it’s much, much cheaper than Paris. And it’s less than an hour away from the Atlantic, which if you like taking quick trips to the beach on the weekend, that’s great. And it’s two hours and 10 minutes to Paris on the TGV. So that’s also totally doable.

[00:55:54] Annie Sargent: So, look at these towns, if you’re thinking of moving to France and you are thinking of bang for the buck, those are definitely great medium-sized cities, which France is full of great medium-sized cities. I think the sweet spot is between 5,000 and 50,000. If you go below 5,000, you’re not going to get a lot of services.

[00:56:17] There won’t be a hospital in a place that’s under 5,000. There might be a small hospital if you’re around 5,000. But the bigger it gets, the more services you’re going to get just because of the numbers, the population.

[00:56:31] Personal update

[00:56:31] Annie Sargent: For my personal update this week, well, I’m going to need to try a lot of restaurants around Toulouse because with the bootcamp group coming up, I’m sure they’ll want restaurant recommendations.

[00:56:42] Annie Sargent: I’m going to need to book a few restaurants for the group, so my husband and I will test at least one restaurant a week in Toulouse. I know it’s a hardship. We already tested one with Jennifer, actually and it was great, but it was too small, way too small. So that one, out. But I’ll try a bunch of them. We’re going somewhere tonight, somebody’s got to do it right?

[00:57:09] Annie Sargent: I’m also making reservations in Strasbourg where we’ll go between Christmas and New Year. I’ll also try most of the recommended restaurants that I talk about in my itinerary service. I’ll also tell you what I think here on the podcast.

[00:57:23] Show notes and transcript

[00:57:23] Annie Sargent: Show notes in a full transcript for this episode are on Transcripts are great. Like I mentioned before, use them. They make the search, you know, they make it possible to search it. They’re wonderful.

[00:57:37] Annie Sargent: And if you particularly enjoy this episode, go to the Join Us in France page on Facebook. I’ll pin that episode to the top of the page for a week, and you can share it from there. You can tag a friend who’s always talking about visiting France but is worried about going alone, you know, hopefully they will listen and it will, it would help them. But you have to go to the Join Us in France page for that, not the group. Because you cannot share anything from a private group.

[00:58:07] Next week on the podcast

[00:58:07] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast an episode about Lavaur, also very close to Toulouse, with Elyse Rivin of Toulouse Guided Walks. Elyse and I went together a few weeks ago and we really loved it, we wanted to tell you all about it because it’s a hidden gem. It doesn’t get mentioned in anything. Like the New York Times travel section, forget it. I didn’t search, but I’m pretty sure they never talked about it. It’s a great small place as you will hear.

[00:58:31] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to

[00:58:35] Annie Sargent: Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir!

[00:58:43] 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: Solo in France