Discussed in this Episode
- Check out the town of Blere
- Biking in the Loire Valley
- One-way bike rentals with OuiBike
- Stop at train crossings
- Don't speed at all or you'll get a ticket
- Eat at French meal times
[00:00:00] Annie Sargent:
[00:00:16] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 424 – quatre cent vingt-quatre.
[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.
[00:00:39] Today on the podcast
[00:00:39] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Nicole Morin Scribner, who lives in Maine and has French Canadian relatives.
[00:00:48] Annie Sargent: Because of her origins, Nicole has been dreaming about visiting France well, forever. And you know, when you dream about doing something forever, sometimes you’re disappointed. Not Nicole. She made it work. She retraced the steps of her ancestors and had a fantastic time.
[00:01:09] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the episode, after the interview, I’ll give you an update on French politics and why you can expect strikes until possibly June. I don’t know, that’s me reading the tea leaves, but better warn you that things are happening. And I will also update you on where I’m going.
[00:01:31] Podcast supporters
[00:01:31] 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 or on the VoiceMap app.
[00:01:52] Annie Sargent: Somebody took my Montmartre tour this week and left this review, I don’t know who this was obviously, because this is a review through the app: ” Nothing comes close to this. Gives you interesting facts that would otherwise be missed and provides you with the right amount of information. By far, the most entertaining walking tour I’ve experienced.”
[00:02:14] Annie Sargent: Well, that’s really flattering. Thank you. I do put a lot of work into my tours. I take great pride in them. So I’m glad somebody’s noticing.
[00:02:23] Annie Sargent: There is a newsletter to go along with this podcast. I don’t email very often, perhaps once a month if that, but when I email, it’s always that there’s something interesting that I want to share with you that will help you next time you visit France.
[00:02:39] Annie Sargent: And you can sign up for that at JoinUsinFrance.com/newsletter.
[00:02:54] Dream to Reality
[00:02:54] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Nicole Morin Scribner, and welcome to Join us in France.
[00:03:00] Nicole Morin Scribner: Bonjour Annie.
[00:03:01] Annie Sargent: How are you?
[00:03:02] Nicole Morin Scribner: Oh, it’s a beautiful day in Maine in the fall, so it’s a great day.
[00:03:08] I had a laugh because you told me that your full name, because before we speak I always ask people what their name is, right, what I should call them. And you said your full name was Marie Nicole Valeda Morin Scribner. You are French indeed.
[00:03:22] Annie Sargent: Oh yes, for sure.
[00:03:24] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. Okay. Well, today we’re going to talk about finding your roots in France and biking in the Loire Valley and Paris. I can’t wait to hear about this because I have been following some French Canadian groups on Facebook and there’s even a very good podcast, I can’t remember the name of the podcast. Oh, but it’s about French Canadian, I’ll try and find it and put it in the show notes because it’s a fantastic podcast.
[00:03:50] Annie Sargent: Anyway, welcome to the podcast. I want to hear all about your trip. So why don’t you take it away?
[00:03:56] Finding your roots in France
[00:03:56] Nicole Morin Scribner: Okay. Well, a little bit of background that connects exactly with what you were saying is, I was born in Quebec and my family was probably part of one of the last waves of French Canadians from that area who immigrated to the New England states, because we were mostly in agricultural areas and there was lack of work. So my father came first and settled in Bedford, Maine.
[00:04:27] Annie Sargent: mm-hmm.
[00:04:28] Nicole Morin Scribner: My parents intentionally moved when I was six years old so that I could start school in the United States. A little funny anecdote that I would add to that is when I was six, my grandfather in Quebec had tried to convince me that now that I was moving to the United States, I’d have to flip my tongue to the other side in order to speak English.
[00:04:51] Nicole Morin Scribner: And I was trying to figure out how I was going to do that. But yes, I grew up in a very Franco-American community in Bedford. We always kept a very, very close connection to our relatives in Quebec. I come from a very, very large family. And that was essentially one of the reasons why I wanted to make the trip to France.
[00:05:17] Tracing the ancestors
[00:05:17] I’m very fortunate in that someone had done all the research in terms of the genealogy, and I actually had the information about my original Morin ancestor who made the trip when he was 16 years old, in the early 1630s,to come to Bedford. His namewas Noel Morin.
[00:05:41] Nicole Morin Scribner: And when we were looking to go to France, we were looking at the town where he was from, and it’s Brie-Comte-Robert, which is only about 30 miles from the Paris Airport and we’re like, well, if we’re going to go, we absolutely have to go to that area.
[00:06:00] Annie Sargent: Right. There’s a lot Brie places in that part of Paris, so Queue-en-Brie, whatever, there’s ridiculous names that make us laugh, so yes, I’m not surprised.
[00:06:13] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yeah. And the other thing that had happened is somewhere along the line in the early 2000s, there was this big article in Le Soleil, which is a major newspaper in Quebec where there were some Morins that had traced their roots and they had gone to Brie-Comte-Robert. And there was actually a picture, and it said under the picture of this house and the people visiting it, that this was a home where Noel Morin lived back in the 1630s. And I’d always kept that picture thinking, wow, wouldn’t it be cool to go visit it in person?
[00:06:50] Nicole Morin Scribner: So when we started planning this trip, I’m like, okay, I got a picture of the house, I have no clue where it is. So I emailed the mayor’s office in Brie-Comte-Robert and sent them a picture and this woman named Sandrinne, who works in that office, emailed me back and she says, yeah, I know exactly where that is because my grandparents lived in the house right next to it. Here’s the address.
[00:07:18] Annie Sargent: That’s great.
[00:07:20] Visiting the ancestors’ house
[00:07:20] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yeah, how convenient. So my daughter and I, that’s where we went first. We rented a car from the airport and drove there. And so we’re standing in front of that house and we’re taking pictures and this woman comes out and she’s like, hello, can I help you?
[00:07:43] Nicole Morin Scribner: And we told her the story and she says, well, come on in.
[00:07:50] Annie Sargent: Wow.
[00:07:51] Nicole Morin Scribner: And she invited us in and was showing us the inside of the house and she said, of course we’ve made some renovations, but like that beam in the kitchen is from the original house.
[00:08:04] Annie Sargent: Wow.
[00:08:05] Nicole Morin Scribner: So, I thought that was pretty special.
[00:08:08] Annie Sargent: That is fantastic.
[00:08:10] Bringing the aunts along[00:08:10] Bringing the elderly aunts along
[00:08:10] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yeah. The other thing that we had done that was kind of fun is so, I said we were from a big family, my father was one of 13 children Morin, and he had two sisters that never married, that lived in the Quebec region. And they were like the keepers of the family. They took care of my grandparents, but had all the memorabilia, you know, the pictures and the stories of our family. And so one of the things that we did, they have since passed. One of my aunts actually was only a month and a half away from being a hundred, and then Covid took her. So I had taken a picture of them and laminated it, and so we brought, we call them “the matantes” in good um, franglais
[00:09:02] Annie Sargent: I love it.
[00:09:03] Nicole Morin Scribner: The Matantes and so we brought them with us. So the keepers of the Morin family story, we brought them to visit the home of the ancestor Noel Morin.
[00:09:17] Immigrating to Canada
[00:09:17] Nicole Morin Scribner: And in addition to walking around the little village, which was really cool, is, I had seen that he was from the Saint Etienne parish and that church is still there. It’s been there since the 1200s. And it was very, very moving to be in that church and to think that this young man took such a brave step. And here I am, 400 years later, 10 generations later, I can go back and say, thank you for taking that voyage.
[00:09:51] Annie Sargent: You know those people who left for Canada were truly just so brave, because the conditions were not great. I mean, it was really, really rough what they did and it was really admirable. And I’m sure like most immigrants, they did it because they were poor and they needed to find a better place, a better life,but still, it was extremely brave what they did.
[00:10:17] The French Canadian Podcast
[00:10:17] Annie Sargent: And before you get going again, I mentioned a podcast about this and it’s called, The Maple Stars and Stripes, Your French Canadian Genealogy Research podcast. I listened to her on and off for years and we kind of connected with her, she’s a wonderful host, anyway, so if you’re interested in that, do listen to Maple Stars and Stripes.
[00:10:38] Nicole Morin Scribner: That does sound very interesting. I know my daughter, my adult daughter and I, this was a mother-daughter trip, we were, you know, at one point complaining, because of course, you know, the flight over was a red eye and we didn’t get any sleep and we were so tired. And we’re like, yeah, well that’s pretty easy compared to I’m sure what Noel Morin went through.
[00:10:59] Annie Sargent: Oh, definitely. Yes. We have it very cushy. And I’m sure when you got here, you probably walked around for a bit and then you went to a nice cushy hotel, you know? They weren’t able to do that, so…
[00:11:10] Nicole Morin Scribner: Right.
[00:11:11] What else did they do on the trip?
[00:11:11] Annie Sargent: So how did this trip go? Was that the only part of the genealogy trip, or did you continue looking for other ancestors as you went along?
[00:11:19] No, no, I didn’t continue looking for other ancestors, I know where they were from, but they were from different places. But you know, part of what we did, from the connection part is, I think I just mentioned about my two aunts and the big family. So all of the places that we went, we kind of included them in the trip.
[00:11:42] Nicole Morin Scribner: And so that part was fun.
[00:11:44] Nicole Morin Scribner: The other thing that we wanted to do is, my daughter and I are both very passionate about biking. We really enjoy biking. When we did our research on where to go, that was one of the reasons why we had decided to pick the Loire Valley. And based on the research and a lot of the information that we got from your podcast is we decided that Amboise would be a really good place to do that from.
[00:12:13] When was the trip?
[00:12:13] Annie Sargent: So what year did you take this trip? I didn’t ask you when this trip took place.
[00:12:17] It took place at the end of August, first week of September.
[00:12:21] Annie Sargent: 2022.
[00:12:22] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yeah.
[00:12:22] Okay. Very good.
[00:12:23] Car rental
[00:12:23] So one of the things that, in trying to coordinate this, I discovered some things about doing one-way rental. Whereas we could have taken a train normally from the airport to Amboise, where we wanted to go to Brie-Comte-Robert, we needed to rent a car and then drive to Amboise afterwards, which was about a two and a half hour drive.
[00:12:47] In trying to find a rental car, I found out it wasn’t all that easy because there was no place to return the car in Amboise. And I found that the closest place that I could return a car was in Blois, which would be going about another 30 miles, yeah, 25 miles or 40 kilometers, you know, driving back, back north, after we were in Amboise because we spent our first night, we were staying at an Airbnb in Amboise.
[00:13:17] Annie Sargent: So what we did is we decided that we wanted to visit Chambord, which was not that far from Loire. And again, recommendations are to go there early, so that worked out well. So we planned on being in Chambord at nine o’clock because the car rental place closed.
[00:13:38] Annie Sargent: So we arrived on a Friday and then we would be returning the car on a Saturday, but the car rental place closed at 12:30 on a Saturday and they were closed on Sunday. So we went to visit Chambord and make sure that we could get back to the car rental place for 12:30.
[00:13:58] Renting a bike
[00:13:58] Annie Sargent: And then we wanted to rent a bike to be able to bike from Blois back to Amboise and we wanted to bike the following day. So I contacted about a half a dozen bike places to find out if I could pick up a bike in Blois and then return it the following day in Amboise. And that turned out to be not that easy either.
[00:14:25] A bunch of them said, you have to rent them for four days, or they said, you can do that as long as you leave your bike if you stay at a hotel or one of the B&Bs that we have a relationship with. And then I did find a company called OuiBike, O U I B I K E, that said, no problem.
[00:14:50] Annie Sargent: And I was emailing them back and forth, and one of their representatives, his name Mustafa, was most helpful, he kept answering my questions. And I’m like, okay, we’ll see how this works. So on Saturday, yep, we drop off the car and I’m like, okay, now we need the bikes to show up or else we get a long walk. And there, you know, right on time, here comes the van with the bikes.
[00:15:18] Annie Sargent: And when I saw Mustafa, it was like meeting a friend.
[00:15:22] Annie Sargent: Of course. Yeah. Oh, that’s great.
[00:15:24] Nicole Morin Scribner: So that worked out, that worked out really, really well.
[00:15:28] Car rental places are not open on weekends generally
[00:15:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so this is a common problem with car rental places. They often are not open very much on weekends. Some places you can do that at train stations. But you know, even in Paris, if you rent a car from a, because Paris has little car rental places all over the city, you don’t see them very much because they are underground, for the most part, they’re in parking garages, but they’re there. And these places, they don’t have anybody on the weekend. So the only place you can return a car in Paris or pick up a car is usually at a major train station, or the airport, obviously. But otherwise, you’re stuck, you know.
[00:16:08] OuiBike is national bike rental company
[00:16:08] Annie Sargent: And OuiBike, I have heard of them, I have actually recommended them to people when they do itinerary planning with them because they will deliver bikes anywhere you are, it’s a national company, so they don’t really care where you drop off the bike, they just need to know where you pick it up and where you drop it off and you’re fine.
[00:16:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So they were good to work with?
[00:16:30] Nicole Morin Scribner: Oh, they were, and they were right on time, and actually, you know, they were flexible. And like I said, the representative himself was, like I said, it was more like a friend, than it was, you know, you’re being a pain. So that was a really good experience.
[00:16:46] Annie Sargent: Were you doing all this in French?
[00:16:48] Well, you know, it’s interesting that you bring that up because I was thinking.
[00:16:53] Annie Sargent: I.
[00:16:55] Nicole Morin Scribner: And just about everywhere we went, the minute they heard my daughter and I speaking English, they would speak in English. So I actually didn’t have a chance to speak French that much, but I did, you know, either or whenever I had a chance. But yeah, even with stuff from OuiBike spoke English as well.
[00:17:14] Parisian French and Canadian French
[00:17:14] Yeah, it happens a lot. And you know, French people are not always all that easy on Canadian accents. I mean, I’ve had French people tell me they don’t understand Canadians, French Canadians. I’m like, just open your ears, would you, it’s not that difficult. You do have to pay more attention.
[00:17:32] Nicole Morin Scribner: You bring up something quite interesting because the whole, you know, speaking French is even an issue that I’ve been dealing with my entire life, because even here, when I went to school in Maine, people are like, oh, you know, you don’t speak the real French, it’s not Parisian French.
[00:17:51] Annie Sargent: Yeah, but it’s French anyway.
[00:17:53] Nicole Morin Scribner: Right. Or, you know, it wasn’t until I went to college that a professor said, well, when’s the last time somebody expected someone in English to speak London English? So, your language is your language, and I have this saying of, you know, Le Francais je le parle par coeur.
[00:18:13] Nicole Morin Scribner: I speak it from the heart. It’s my language. Andit’s something that I’m, I’m very proud of. And even though I moved away from a French speaking country, I have made an effort my entire life to keep my French because I think that it’s very valuable.
[00:18:32] Returning to France
[00:18:32] Nicole Morin Scribner: Of course. Thank you. You know, one of the reasons why I moved home to France, there was many things going on, but you know, most French people, when they emigrate to America, they don’t ever come back, I mean, they come back for vacations, but they don’t move back. And I did. And one of the reasons was because my daughter was not learning French over there. It was so hard teach her French. And also my mother was getting sick and my sister told me, you know, if, because I had always said, I’ll come back. And she said, well, if you’re not going to come back soon, she might be gone.
[00:19:05] Nicole Morin Scribner: And so we did. And I haven’t regretted it for a minute.
[00:19:09] Nicole Morin Scribner: The language that your home, I mean, your native tongue, you’re attached to it, right? Like, of course anybody it’s not just French speakers that do that. All speakers do that.
[00:19:20] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yeah. So, I’m really glad. It’s coming handy, and it’s something that I find very valuable.
[00:19:25] Annie Sargent: But unfortunately, french people don’t make enough effort, like, especially the monolingual ones. It’s like their ears are closed. Like, they can’t understand anything else. They’re just used to certain sounds and then if it’s different, they can’t get it, you know? And it’s kind of sad because to me, your French is just as good as mine.
[00:19:46] Annie Sargent: It’s just that you have an accent. Well, so do I. I have a Toulouse accent, so what? You know, it’s fine.
[00:19:52] Biking around Loire Valley
[00:19:52] Annie Sargent: So what did you think of the Loire Valley once you got biking around?
[00:19:56] Nicole Morin Scribner: Oh, I loved it. Biking in the Loire Valley was just, just amazing. You know, you’re along the rivers, all these little villages, you know, there were swans, there were farms, there were vineyards.
[00:20:15] Nicole Morin Scribner: The established biking trails are amazing. One of the recommendations that I would have is, I did go to the Tourist Information Office in Amboise and I got to give them credit, we were rushing to get there. We got there like about 15 minutes before closing, but they were very, very good. And you know, when I was looking at biking, I did the Google Maps thing and I was going to go and it’s probably the quickest, but she recommended, the person at the Tourist Information Office, to take the actual bike trail.
[00:20:50] Nicole Morin Scribner: And, you know, those are so well marked, just beautiful, and I would recommend that you do that. As I said, we biked from Blois to Amboise, which was about 40 kilometers or 25 miles. I must say, near the end of it, I was doing the “Are we almost there yet”?
[00:21:10] Annie Sargent: But did you have your stuff? Did you have suitcases and backpacks and stuff?
[00:21:14] Nicole Morin Scribner: Oh, no, no, no, no, no. We had gone to our Airbnb the night before and then we picked up the bikes in Blois to Amboise to our Airbnb. No, it was just a bike. And then, the following day did get back on the bike. And the bike trip from Amboise to Chenonceau, which is about 28 kilometers or 20 miles round trip, was just phenomenal. That piece of the bike trip was pretty much except for right when you start is pretty flat, and you know, some highlights were like we, between Amboise and Chenonceau, we were biking by this really neat little village called Blere, and we’re like, oh man, we’ve got to come back here.
[00:22:02] Check restaurant schedules
[00:22:02] Nicole Morin Scribner: And sure enough, on the way back we’re like, oh, let’s stop here and have lunch. Well, one of the things that I would recommend to people is, you need to really check schedules. Because like this was on a Sunday and when we were coming back through, it was around two o’clock. Well guess what?
[00:22:23] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:22:23] Nicole Morin Scribner: Everything was shut down, but we were really lucky, we got to this nice little restaurant with outside seating called La Charbonette. I think they had pity on us, it was like 5 or 10 after 2 at that point. And they did let us order something and I’m so grateful. But you know, again, biking in that area was just wonderful.
[00:22:50] Be careful at train crossings
[00:22:50] Another caution that I would give is, be really careful at train crossings. Because we were biking along and like, over here, if there’s a train crossing, you know, you hear the signal and you know, a couple of minutes, three minutes later, the train will come by and it’s very slow. Over there, it was like there was a signal and there goes the train, and it is moving. That’s a caution that I would say to people, whether you’re biking or driving or walking, those train crossings in those little villages, when you hear those bells, watch out. It’s coming. Get out of the way.
[00:23:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. yeah. That’s a great point because we do have a lot of trains and some of them are very fast. And you know, they don’t change the distance, all these signals, they’re all automatic, so when the train reaches a certain point, it pushes on a piece of metal that makes the signal go. Well, if it’s a choo-choo train that’s going like a little touristy train going slow, well, you have time, but if it’s a fast regional train or heaven forbid, a TGV, you know, you really have to be very quick. You have to be out of there.
[00:23:58] Follow the speed limits
[00:23:58] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yeah, and speaking of going fast, I know that we had seen the cautions about this, but when driving, be very, very, very careful about following the speed limits. And we were paying close attention to that. And when we were driving between Blois and over to visit Chambord, there was a place that was not particularly distinct and I guess that the, you know, speed limit quickly went down and we saw a flash. And sure enough, we got an email not too long afterwards with a speeding ticket, but the good news was that the fine was 25 euros.
[00:24:41] Annie Sargent: Oh, so you must have been barely over.
[00:24:43] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yeah, well, so, but in any case it’s like, yep, we got warned and it happend.
[00:24:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah, on my way home on Monday, my sister called me and I was talking on the phone with her, you know, and while I was driving and I think I saw a flash too. I wasn’t going particularly fast, but I was paying attention to my conversation with my sister and not to the signs, and perhaps I was going a little too fast, so we’ll see.
[00:25:11] Annie Sargent: Well, I’ll know very quickly within two, three days, well, for people who live in France it’s very quick. For people who live abroad, I don’t know, they emailed you in your case, huh?
[00:25:20] Yeah. Well, the thing is we had a rental car and they automatically charged the credit card on the rental car.
[00:25:25] Annie Sargent: There you go. It happens. It happens.
[00:25:27] Eat at meal times
[00:25:27] And your caution about showing up to eat at French meal times is very important. There’s hardly any place in France where, besides Paris, where you can eat around the clock. Because they just, I mean the chef goes home at around, again, this weekend I was on a trip and we were in Aigues-Mortes. We were trying to get some lunch and it was 1:40 and several places turned us away because they said, well, the chef has already gone home, because it wasn’t a very busy day. There were still people sitting, finishing their dessert or whatever, but everything had been served and the chef went home. And we found a place that was more like a bakery slash place that served little quiche and salads and stuff like, and she served us. But you know, it’s really hard to find a place to eat if you are not eating within meal times. I can’t say that enough. I think we said it on hundreds of podcasts, but it bears repeating. It’s true.
[00:26:30] Getting the train
[00:26:30] Nicole Morin Scribner: The other thing that we were talking about trains, something that I would share with people is I was trying to decide, then we took a train from Blois to Paris.
[00:26:39] Nicole Morin Scribner: And I didn’t know when I was buying tickets whether I should get the standard or get the first class. And we ended up getting standard and that worked out fine for us because we were traveling midday on a Monday. But I would just let some people know, of course one of the differences between standard and first class, at first class you have reserved seating. And yeah, talk about moving fast, yeah, getting on and getting off, you better be ready because those trains don’t hang around for a long time. But I noticed that they must sell more tickets on the standard than they have seats for because I saw some people who ended up standing. And depending on how long your trip is, that could be, you know, not as good of an experience.
[00:27:21] That’s just something that I observed.
[00:27:24] Trains sell out fast in France, especially around holidays
[00:27:24] Annie Sargent: Yeah, trains are very popular in France. They get filled up quite, you know, quite well. Like, I know they opened up tickets, so SNCF Connect emailed all their customers, I think it was yesterday, saying you can now buy your tickets for over the Christmas vacation and I heard one of the top managers at SNCF, he said they were filling eight trains worth every minute.
[00:27:51] That’s how many reservations they were making that day, because the email goes out at 6:00 AM and if you want the cheap tickets to go visit grandma for Christmas, I don’t know, maybe you’re going to Bordeaux or you’re going to Lyon or someplace like that, that a lot of people have family and you’re doing Paris to Lyon for example.
[00:28:10] Annie Sargent: Well, those tickets, if you buy them immediately, it’s going to be 20 euro, even for Christmas day or the day before Christmas. But if you buy them as you get closer, it’s going to be hundreds of euros. And so people jump on those. And the trains do fill up, they were planning on selling 9 million tickets just over the Christmas vacation.
[00:28:30] Nicole Morin Scribner: Wow.
[00:28:31] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So trains are big business in France.
[00:28:34] Seeing the Eiffel Tower
[00:28:34] Nicole Morin Scribner: Something else that I learned from the podcast that we found very helpful is, so we arrived in Paris about midday on a Monday. And so what we ended up doing is, you know, walking around the city and we decided that on the first tee thing that we were there, that we would do the Bateau Mouches. And just like the recommendation, you know, try to go around sunset and do it on the half hour because the Eiffel Tower does the light show on the hour.
[00:29:07] Nicole Morin Scribner: So we did that and you know, we were walking along the Seine, on the same side of Bateau Mouches, which takes you, we ended up walking to Trocadero which is a beautiful place, amazing place to see the Eiffel Tower.
[00:29:23] Nicole Morin Scribner: And what we had done, because at that point, you know, was around dinner time, but there were these long lines at the restaurants over there.
[00:29:33] Nicole Morin Scribner: So I just did a takeout sandwich when my daughter went looking for a bottle of wine. What we might have done, if we’d have known ahead of time, is maybe had bought a sandwich someplace else or something to eat someplace else, and a bottle of wine because she also got, came close to being stuck with the stores about ready to close.
[00:29:58] Nicole Morin Scribner: But here we were, at Trocadero having something to eat, and then of course I got this, you know, really great pastry, and our bottle of wine, and then we went on the Bateau Mouches. We were sipping our wine as we were cruising, and we got the benefit of seeing things while it was still daylight, and then we got to see it over this beautiful sunset. And when we came swung back around, we were still quite a distance from the Eiffel Tower when it actually did the light show. But you know what, where we ended up getting off the boat on the half hour, we knew that in, like at the top of the hour that they would be doing the light show already, and here we were right near Trocadero. So we had this beautiful, unobstructed, full view of the Eiffel Tower.
[00:30:53] Nicole Morin Scribner: We did the light show. So that whole approach worked out extremely, extremely well, and I would recommend it to other.
[00:31:01] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes. All the boat companies want to be near the Eiffel Tower when it sparkles and so they will take a different route, they will also speed up or slow down, depending on, you know, because everybody wants to be near the Eiffel Tower and they all try to do that.
[00:31:17] Annie Sargent: So it doesn’t matter if you take your tickets with Bateau Mouches or Vedette or any of them, they all do pretty much the same thing. If it’s possible, they will have you close to the Eiffel Tower when it does the sparkle, which is on the hour, every hour, and it used to be until one in the morning. Now they’ve shortened it to 11:00 PM. It’s a question of saving energy. I think hopefully when this war in the Ukraine stops, we will go back to normal, you know everything, well, let’s hope.
[00:31:48] Visiting the museums
[00:31:48] And then the other thing that we learned, that I found was really helpful is in visiting the museums. And we ended up going to see Orsay and l’Orangerie. We went at one o’clock and what that did is they gave us the ability to kind of sleep in the morning and then, you know, gradually walk over to those museums. And it wasn’t as busy at around one o’clock and so that worked out really well.
[00:32:18] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. French people will all go to lunch, so there you go, it’s ingrained in us. You eat lunch between 12:30 and 1:30 and that’s it, you know? And on that point, the other thing that we did that was a little different is, you know, I talked aboutat the beginning. So as I mentioned, I had a laminated picture of them and I brought them on our adventures so that when I got back, we actually have a Facebook page of this very extended Morin family.
[00:32:48] You know, I’ve got cousins I don’t even know, but we’ve got like 50 people on this website. And so I was able to show, because my aunts are like a common connecting point. So they really enjoyed, you know, I did like this five day installment of, here are the matantes biking, but then they got tired, so, you know, I’ve got a picture of them sitting in my daughter’s backpack on the bike. And then when we visited,you know, the museum, well my aunt, you know, didn’t have much education, they lived on a farm most of their life and they don’t really know the impressionist painters and artists and whatever.
[00:33:26] Nicole Morin Scribner: But here I am going, you know, in one of the museums and there’s a picture, there’s a painting of a woman hanging out the laundry on a clothes line. And I was able to take a picture of my aunts looking at this painting and they, oh yeah, we can appreciate this.
[00:33:42] Yeah, that we know. That’s great.
[00:33:46] Nicole Morin Scribner: Then when we went to Montmartre, my aunts are very religious, so I had a picture of them in the church. So anyways, in terms of the, you know, going back to that theme of the whole family connection, this trip and by bringing them along, I was able to, it was a common connecting point for the family to celebrate our heritage.
[00:34:08] Nicole Morin Scribner: And even though the others couldn’t go to where our common Morin ancestor came from, you know, they were able to appreciate that. And I’m guessing that my aunts up there got a big kick out of that.
[00:34:20] Annie Sargent: Of course, of course. Yeah. That’s wonderful that you were able to do it and share it with them. You know, there’s a lot of things to be said about Facebook that it’s not good for this and for that, but for keeping in touch with family, even family members apparently, that you’ve never met, it’s wonderful.
[00:34:34] Getting around Paris
[00:34:34] Annie Sargent: So, yeah, that’s an excellent point. So how did you get around Paris? Did you mostly walk or did you get more bikes?
[00:34:42] Nicole Morin Scribner: We are very much into walking, so we did a lot of walking. And we were in the Marais area, which we loved. However it does, you know, we were a distance from a number of places that we wanted to go to. And so I live in Maine, there is not a subway in the entire state. So going on a subway is not my comfort zone. However, we did take one and I would say it was a very good experience. One thing that we did learn, we didn’t get the whole book because we knew of, you know, tickets ahead of time because we knew we probably wouldn’t be using it that much. And so one of the things that I learned is sometimes the place to buy the tickets is in the station that’s across from where you happen to be. But no, it was a good experience. I also used an e-bike for the first time. Yeah, biked everywhere in Paris. I was like, be careful about the train crossings, not only the cars, but the bikes as well, but that worked out very well.
[00:35:45] Annie Sargent: Did you like the E-bike?
[00:35:47] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yeah, an e-bike. Yeah, it was my first time and we were on a kind of a secluded street, which was a good thing when I first tried it, because when you start on a regular bike, the first thing you do is you know, step down on the pedal to get the momentum. Well, when you step down on the pedal on an e-bike, the next thing you know you’re flying off and you’re going, whoa. Once I got that it was good.
[00:36:10] What she didn’t like about Paris
[00:36:10] Annie Sargent: That’s good. That’s good. So are there some things that surprised you about Paris that you perhaps you didn’t like so much?
[00:36:16] Big ads over buildings in Paris
[00:36:16] Nicole Morin Scribner: Well, what I didn’t like are those huge banners. I mean you have these beautiful architectural buildings and you’ve got this big advertisement thing that takes over the whole side of the building. And I’m like, I didn’t care for that, that much, I thought that, you know, it took away from it.
[00:36:36] Annie Sargent: But do you know why? Do you know why they do that?
[00:36:40] Nicole Morin Scribner: They make a lot of money for that?
[00:36:41] Annie Sargent: Well, it is because they are renovating the building and they would have to cover it up anyway, and the companies that put up the advertising do participate a lot in the renovation. So, they would be, if they’re covered with a billboard like that, they would be covered with something ugly anyway, because they are doing renovations and so you might as well advertise, it’s just a money thing, but yeah.
[00:37:06] Nicole Morin Scribner: Well, well, thank you for sharing that, because that does give me a different perspective on it. I was just like, they’re trying to turn this into Times Square. I didn’t come here to go see Times Square.
[00:37:17] Good point, good point.
[00:37:19] Anything else you didn’t like so much?
[00:37:20] Well, I wasn’t that crazy you had to be careful in the Montmartre area that, you know, it looks like the, you know, there’s some hustlers there, although I didn’t feel unsafe at all, and I also did not care for the area around the Moulin Rouge.You know, they’re really clear about what’s going on in that particular neighborhood. And it’s like, you know, Bourbon Street on steroids. So yeah, I wasn’t that crazy, I wasn’t that crazy about that.
[00:37:49] Where are the people in the villages?
[00:37:49] Nicole Morin Scribner: And I had a question for you, where are the people in the villages? You go down streets and all you see are walls and hedges and fences, is that intentional?
[00:38:00] Annie Sargent: So do you mean in villages, like you don’t see people? What do you mean?
[00:38:05] Nicole Morin Scribner: Well, it’s just the look of the street. You know? It’s like everyone has these tall hedges and fences.
[00:38:13] Annie Sargent: Oh, yes, yes, yes. French people don’t, that’s called a vis-a-vis, so they don’t want to have a vis-a-vis with the neighbors. They don’t want the neighbors to be able to see into their windows. Yes, most French people will put up a fence or a big hedge or something so the neighbors can’t look into their windows. That’s a cultural thing. It’s very different. In the US, your front lawn is wide open, but not here.
[00:38:36] Nicole Morin Scribner: Of course. Yeah. But those villages are, I just, I just loved it. It was beautiful.
[00:38:43] Nicole Morin Scribner: What a great trip.
[00:38:44] What else did she enjoy?
[00:38:44] Annie Sargent: So what was your, I mean, other than the family thing that you had a big reason why you were there, is there something else that surprised you or that you particularly enjoyed?
[00:38:55] Oh, I really enjoyed all of it, you know, and especially the two different opportunities, you know, like a smaller town like Blois. I enjoyed visiting the castles. We didn’t have a chance to go inside Chenonceau because, you know, we were biking and we wanted to get back.
[00:39:13] Nicole Morin Scribner: I think if I were to do it differently, I would’ve found a way to bike to Chenonceau, go inside Chenonceau and then come back. Again at Blois, it was very relaxing, there was a place called Le Shaker which was sitting right along the river overlooking a completely lit up Chateau d’Amboise which was just amazing.
[00:39:38] Nicole Morin Scribner: That was a really great experience. It’s an excellent trip.
[00:39:42] Book recommendation
[00:39:42] Annie Sargent: So on your notes, I see that you recommended a few books: Sixty Million Frenchmen Can’t Be Wrong
[00:39:51] Nicole Morin Scribner: Yes. Yeah, that was, it’s a couple from Quebec, Jean Benoit Nadeau and Julie Barlow, who moved from Quebec to France and talked about their experience. And that gave me some interesting insights even about this whole language thing, which helped me to see that even in France, people are very, know the precision of language. And the insight that I picked up from it is at one point, you know, France was all a number of different regions with their own dialects and languages and customs.
[00:40:24] Nicole Morin Scribner: And after the Revolution, they’re there, okay, we’re all going to be one country. And one of the things that they did was built systems so that everyone you know, was paying really close attention to the language. And I also learned things, so you know you often hear, oh, French people are rude. Well, I heard things that you wouldn’t expect, like, you know, we’re so big about asking for people’s names and identifying who you are and what you do for work, and that’s not really as welcome in France.
[00:40:53] Nicole Morin Scribner: So that was really helpful. Another book that I read was Leonardo DaVinci by Walter Isaacson. Everybody knows, you know, Leonardo DaVinci is this really great man. But that book just really provided a lot of the background and every time, every page that I turned, I’m like, wow, you know, just really get a good appreciation for him.
[00:41:20] Annie Sargent: Right. And of course, Amboise is where Leonardo DaVinci died, and so you can visit his chateau there.
[00:41:25] Annie Sargent: Well, we’re going to have to stop our conversation, but this has been fantastic. And you know, I’m going to put up your wonderful notes about your trip.
[00:41:36] Annie Sargent: You didn’t get to discuss everything, but you got to a lot. People can look back and see what you wrote. But I’m delighted to have talked to you, I love your accent. it’s so good to hear French in different flavors. I really enjoy that. That’s a wonderful thing, so thank you. Merci beaucoup.
[00:41:57] Annie Sargent: And Nicole merci beaucoup andwell, come back to France.
[00:42:04] Nicole Morin Scribner: And, you know, your closed Facebook group, I keep taking an eyelooking at that because, there’s so much helpful information or pictures and it helps me to relive part of it, so that’s really cool too.
[00:42:18] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s wonderful. Merci beaucoup Nicole.
[00:42:21] Nicole Morin Scribner: Okay, Bonjour Annie.
[00:42:31] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for supporting the show and giving back. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for doing that. You can see them at Patreon.com/joinus. There’s a long list of Patreon rewards that you can get access to immediately if you sign up today.
[00:42:53] Annie Sargent: Thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for a long time. I love you all.
[00:42:58] New patrons
[00:42:58] Annie Sargent: And a shout out this week to new patron, Suzanne Krause. Thank you so much for becoming a patron and making this podcast possible.
[00:43:07] Preparing a trip to France?
[00:43:07] 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. You can also hire me to be your itinerary consultant. Here’s how it works. You purchase the service on JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique, then you fill out a document to tell me what you have in mind.
[00:43:30] Annie Sargent: We make a phone appointment and we chat for about an hour. And then I send you a document with the plan we discussed. This week I got to do an itinerary planning session all in French because the person who booked it wanted to practice her French, and it was lovely, but I also do it in English. Mostly I do them in English.
[00:43:49] Annie Sargent: Remember that my time is always booked up several weeks in advance. You can see the date for my next availability on the only page where you can buy this service at the JoinUsinFrance/Boutique.
[00:44:02] Self-guided tours
[00:44:02] 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.
[00:44:11] Annie Sargent: I’ve produced five tours and they are designed to show you around different iconic neighborhoods of Paris, Ile de la Cité, le Marais, Montmartre, Saint Germain des Prés and the Latin Quarter.
[00:44:25] Annie Sargent: I’m working on my VoiceMap tour number six. It’ll be an exploration of the Eiffel Tower neighborhood, beautiful, beautiful neighborhood. I’m hoping for a February release. I’ll let you know how it’s progressing soon. Take a look at these tours, JoinUsinFrance/Boutique.
[00:44:43] Expect strikes in early 2023 and how to deal with them
[00:44:43] Annie Sargent: This week in French news, the Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne and her government have put forward legislation to modify the rules that pertain to retirement in France. This is a sacred cow and there will be strikes. Emmanuel Macron got reelected last June, not as easily as he was elected five years before that. He has a really slim majority in the French Parliament, so it’s been a fight.
[00:45:12] Annie Sargent: Strikes have already been announced for January 19th, and I think we may have strikes on and off for several weeks. French unions are not allowed to supplement salaries during strikes, so every day of strike cuts into the salaries of the strikers. But as you’ve seen, if you follow French life, that’s never stopped people who really want to strike from doing that.
[00:45:38] Annie Sargent: However, it means that they are not as likely to strike for days on end the way they do in North America when strikes happen very, very rarely.
[00:45:49] Annie Sargent: For the most part, strikes in France are just a few hours in a day or a day in the week or a day here and there. You know, they spread it out. That way they still earn most of their salary.
[00:46:04] Annie Sargent: Expect strikes in transportation, especially if you’re booking train tickets. Do it with an app like SNCF Connect so you can get live notifications and also consider booking refundable tickets. They cost a little more to begin with, but makes your life easier. If you’re hesitating between taking the train and driving because either one are perfectly fine, you might want to rent a car, honestly, because it is going to heat up, I think. I could be wrong. It’s possible that this will fizzle out. But given what’s at stake, I don’t think so.
[00:46:41] Annie Sargent: By the way, French people can claim full retirement at age 62. That’s for people who’ve had a normal career. Okay? Not me, because I haven’t had a normal career.
[00:46:51] Annie Sargent: But your regular French person who just entered the workforce soon after college and worked in France, their whole lives, that’s what happens. Now, just next door in the Netherlands, retirement age is 67. Now, SNCF people, train people, the ones that retire today can do so at age 50. They have special privileges grandfathered in from the time a hundred plus years ago when shoveling coal into an engine was really deadly work.
[00:47:24] And they’ve managed to keep all of those privileges, which explains why they go on strike so much. It’s kind of, they kept the privileges because they strike and they strike because they want to keep the privileges. That’s how it works.
[00:47:36] Annie Sargent: With this new system, someone starting at SNCF today would have to work until they are age 54. They’re not going to go along with it, even though if you think about it, that’s still a really sweet deal, but I digress.
[00:47:51] Annie Sargent: If there is a strike announced when you visit, don’t freak out. Understand that they never cancel all the trains. It’ll be a train out of two, a train out of three, or a train out of five.
[00:48:03] Annie Sargent: Even people who get caught in a strike, I usually, they’re delayed for a few hours, but it’s no worse than that. So if you kept your plans reasonably flexible and haven’t overscheduled your time in France, you’ll have a great time anyway. And that’s one of the reasons why VoiceMap tours are great, by the way, because you can take them anytime.
[00:48:24] Annie Sargent: You don’t have to be there at a specific time, there’s nothing to book, nothing to cancel. You just download the tour and that’s it. You’re done. You could take it even at home.
[00:48:34] Annie Sargent: Now it’s possible that it’ll be teachers striking or some other sector of the economy, but generally it’s trains and buses.
[00:48:43] Personal update
[00:48:43] For my personal update this week, I’ll be driving to Paris on Monday, and I’m going to stay with my friend Patricia, who is the best hostess. It’s fantastique. This time she invited me to bring my dog, Opie. Because I’m driving to her and so I can take the dog, I guess. I’ve never done that before. And that’s really, really sweet because, you know, life is better with a dog anyway.
[00:49:06] Annie Sargent: And she’s even offered to walk Opie on days when I’m too busy working on the tour. This will be my longest drive in the electrical car yet. It’s 665 kilometers between my house and hers. So it’ll be a full driving day, 10 hours, when you count the charging stops. But just in case, I found a couple of hotels along the way where I could stop and charge and spend the night and have my dog with me. Just in case there are any delays, but I think I can do it in one day. I will tell you next week.
[00:49:42] Annie Sargent: In Paris, I’ll visit a few places that I haven’t seen yet. Well, there’s a lot of places I haven’t seen yet in Paris. I’ll try some new restaurants because I like to try all the good restaurants and I’ll write and produce a tour about the Eiffel Tower. Now this tour is not going to take you, it’s not going to be a ticket that lets you get into the Eiffel Tower. Okay? It’ll be a tour where you walk through security, which is free, and you look around and I’ll tell you a lot about it and I’ll tell you about the neighborhood and things like that. But it won’t be your ticket to go up the Eiffel Tower, I want to make that very, very clear.
[00:50:20] Annie Sargent: Anyway, I’ll spend some time with Patricia as well, she had some adventures last summer, I want to hear all about that.
[00:50:26] Annie Sargent: Show notes and a full transcript for this episode are on JoinUsinFrance.com/424, the numeral. And this is very important, thank you for staying with me till the end.
[00:50:39] If you love this podcast share the new trailer on your own timeline!
[00:50:39] Annie Sargent: I am often told that people wish that they had found the podcast sooner. By the time they search for a podcast about France, they’ve already made a lot of decisions. They start listening to all the great trip reports and they wish someone had told them about this sooner.
[00:50:56] Annie Sargent: Here’s what I would really love you to do. Go to JoinUsinFrance.com/trailer and share this trailer on your own Facebook timeline. I’m sure that among all the people that you’re friends with, someone is thinking about a trip to France, but they haven’t told you yet because maybe their plans are not, you know, it’s several months away, they’re just thinking about it. Share the trailer, it might catch their interest. Facebook knows that they’re interested in France because Facebook knows all. And they will thank you if they find out about this podcast through you.
[00:51:35] Annie Sargent: Go to JoinUsinFrance.com/trailer, I recorded a brand new trailer, it’s a lot shorter and a lot better than the old one. I think everyone will like it. It’s just a minute, well the talking bit is a minute, there’s a bit of music, few seconds of music on either end. But it’s really short.
[00:51:52] Next week on the podcast
[00:51:52] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode with Elyse about Vauban, the man who built fortifications all over France. I’m sure you’ve seen his name everywhere. What was he all about? I think he was a fascinating man. So that’s for next week.
[00:52:08] Annie Sargent: Send questions or feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.
[00:52:12] 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.
[00:52:21] 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.