[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 452 – quatre cent cinquante-deux.
[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.
Today on the podcast
[00:00:37] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Terri Brault about Canadian World War II sites in Normandy.
[00:00:45] Annie Sargent: I recorded this with Terri before I met her in real life at the France Bootcamp in May 2023, and I consider her a friend now. So listen to my friend Terri, she’s visited those Canadian World War II sites, and it’s great that we’re focusing on that in this episode.
[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.
[00:01:18] Annie Sargent: And you can browse all of that on my boutique JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique. And if you just want to read the details about the tours and read reviews, go to JoinUsinFrance.com/Annietours.
Bonjour Itinerary Service
[00:01:32] Annie Sargent: I have introduced a new itinerary service that I call the Bonjour Service, and with the Bonjour Service we talk about your trip for about an hour, and you get to ask me all your questions, and I help you iron out some of the things that you’re not sure about.
[00:01:48] Annie Sargent: I tell you about things that you hadn’t thought of, I do everything that I can to make your experience better. For me, the advantage is that I get to talk to more of you because I don’t have to follow the conversation with a long written document. And for you, the advantage is that it’s a little bit cheaper and you can get in sooner typically.
[00:02:08] Annie Sargent: But for some of you the VIP service is still the right choice, so you’ll continue to have to decide which one you want to get. Take a look at the VIP and Bonjour service at JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique.
The Magazine part of the podcast
[00:02:23] Annie Sargent: I’ll keep the magazine part of the podcast short today because I’m recording two introductions in a row, since Anne and Cristian Cotovan who put together, they stitched together these episodes for me, they are taking some well-deserved time off this summer. So I’ll talk about what’s making the rounds in French news about the Paris Olympics.
[00:02:45] Annie Sargent: Today, why the decision not to install AC in the Olympic Village was a terrible decision, in my opinion, and I will explain why I think that.
Canadian Heroes of Normandy with Terri Brault
[00:03:05] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, Terri Brault and welcome to Join Us in France!
[00:03:09] Terri Brault: Bonjour Annie, it’s so great to talk to you today.
[00:03:11] Annie Sargent: Wonderful to talk to you about your trip to Normandy in the footsteps of your father I think, who was involved with D-Day.
[00:03:21] Terri Brault: Yes, he was actually my father-in-law. It was my husband’s father. Yes, he had unfortunately passed away, I never had a chance to meet him. During pandemic, my husband spent quite a bit of time researching his experiences during the war and realized that he had spent quite a bit of time in Normandy.
[00:03:40] Terri Brault: And so, we made that the focus of our next trip to France.
[00:03:45] Annie Sargent: And you guys are from Canada, right?
[00:03:47] Terri Brault: Correct. That’s right.
[00:03:48] Annie Sargent: Okay. So, you kind of emphasized the Canadian side, the Canadian sites in your visit, I assume.
[00:03:55] Terri Brault: Yes, exactly. In fact, I’m sad to say I didn’t even make it to the American sites, so we need to go back to Normandy because I really regretted missing that. There’s so much to do in Normandy, but we made the Canadian and British D-Day sites our main focus.
[00:04:12] Annie Sargent: Fantastic. That way we can, I mean, we haven’t talked about those so much on this podcast, so this is wonderful. Okay.
[00:04:18] Annie Sargent: As always, I’ll ask you to list your favorite things. So let’s start from number one and let’s see how far we can go into your list.
[00:04:27] Terri Brault: Sounds good.
[00:04:28] Annie Sargent: All right.
Seeing the Water Lilies at The Musee d’Orangerie
[00:04:29] Terri Brault: So the first thing, I don’t have my list in front of me and I remember thinking that it’s really hard to rank these, so they were all wonderful and difficult to put one above the other. But we started in Paris and one of the favorite things that we did in Paris was d’Orangerie. Because we were going into Normandy, and we planned to go to Giverny. And so we wanted to go see Monet, The Water Lilies. And that was really cool that the day that we went, it was sort of a sunny, cloudy day and with the skylights, the clouds kept moving over. And so even,we had that chance to see how the art really changed color as with the different light. It was just spectacular.
[00:05:12] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s beautiful. That was wonderful.
[00:05:14] Annie Sargent: That’s cool.
[00:05:15] Annie Sargent: Really like that.
[00:05:16] Annie Sargent: And so then from, I mean, you spent a whole week in Paris, and we’re not going to go through that because we talk about Paris way too much on this podcast.
[00:05:24] Terri Brault: Yes.
[00:05:26] Annie Sargent: So from there you made your way to Giverny,Monet’s Garden in Giverny, and then on to D-Day. How did you like Giverny?
[00:05:35] Terri Brault: Oh, loved it, especially having spent a few days in Paris. And we went pretty much right after we had been to see the Water Lilies, so it was really kind of a cool way to go see the art. And then the next day there we were, and we could see it in person, and even though there were still, this was September, so it was still fairly busy, but it didn’t seem crowded at all, and it was just so peaceful and beautiful. And we spent a bit of time around the pond and went in the house and just had a really nice time. We had packed a picnic lunch, so we ate our lunch there. It was just a really, really, oh, I was just overblown by how beautiful it was.
[00:06:12] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and in September, the flowers are very, very nice. You didn’t run into any trouble renting a car or driving there or anything like that, did you?
[00:06:19] Terri Brault: No, I’m not sure if you remember from our itinerary review, but I was a little apprehensive about renting a car and driving. I don’t even really like driving in my own town, so I didn’t, I would’ve loved to have just done everything by train, but we knew that just was not going to work in Normandy. We had a really, kind of personal specific thing we wanted to do with lots of visits to small towns, and we needed that flexibility.
No speeding tickets
[00:06:45] Terri Brault: So we were really glad we took your advice and rented the car. And it really, it wasn’t any problem at all. We had no speeding tickets, the tolls were fine.
[00:06:56] Annie Sargent: No speeding tickets,you get a medal! Most people I talk to get at least one. Well done! Well done!
[00:07:03] Terri Brault: One of the funny things was we realized we could sync our iPhones to the car screen. And so Apple Maps actually told us when the speed limit was changing and it was pretty accurate. So if we happened to miss a sign, we could always look and say, oh my goodness, we are now back up to 90, or, oh, we’re back down to 30.
[00:07:23] Terri Brault: And,I’m sort of attributing that to why we didn’t get any speeding tickets.
[00:07:27] Annie Sargent: Yes, and Waze, if you use Waze in France anyway, I’m sure it’s the same in the US, there’s an option in the settings to have it show you the speed limit and even ding at you when you’re over. So you know, I mean, no excuse, okay? It’s just that Canadian, I’m not sure how Canadians are, but Americans are so used to driving at least five over the speed limit and sometimes quite a bit more.
[00:07:52] Annie Sargent: Do they do that in Canada as well?
[00:07:53] Terri Brault: They do. Yes, they do.
[00:07:56] Annie Sargent: Don’t do that in France. You will get a ticket for sure. They will catch you.
[00:08:00] Terri Brault: We were careful.
[00:08:02] Annie Sargent: Good for you. Good for you. All right.
[00:08:04] Annie Sargent: So you enjoyed Giverny and got to, where was your first stop in Normandy?
[00:08:10] Terri Brault: Our first stop was Rouen.
[00:08:13] Annie Sargent: And so we had planned three nights there, and partly because we wanted to do a day trip to Honfleur so part of our time in Rouen, we took one day out and we did a whole day in Honfleur. But Rouen, we wanted to see the cathedral, which of course has that Monet connection.
[00:08:29] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm. Yes. He painted it a million times.
[00:08:31] Terri Brault: Yeah. Yeah. And it’s spectacular. And Paul, my husband had also become intrigued by some earlier French history and with the Vikings and King Rollo. And so we wanted to go see the tomb of King Rollo in the cathedral. So that was really, that was cool. And it’s a nice sized city. It’s easy to walk around andit’s beautiful.
[00:08:52] Terri Brault: There’s one of those sound and light shows on the cathedral, which was really, really spectacular.
Going too cheap on the hotel
[00:08:58] Terri Brault: We had a little problem in Rouen with our hotel that we had booked. I had regretted not taking your advice and the advice of others on the Facebook group, we had booked a hotel that was extremely affordable and that really should have been a red flag for me.
[00:09:13] Annie Sargent: You went too cheap, did you?
[00:09:14] Terri Brault: I went too cheap. It was 112 Euros for the whole thing, like one night and parking and a fabulous breakfast. And really the hotel, I would still recommend it for people who want budget accommodation. It was clean and it was very old, it was very central, it was just way too basic and the bed was uncomfortable.
[00:09:36] Terri Brault: Even though we had planned this full day in Rouen, we lost a bit of time because we decided to check out of that hotel and go somewhere else. And so, whenever you do that, it eats into your exploring day.
[00:09:48] Annie Sargent: It does. It does. Yeah.
[00:09:50] Annie Sargent: So you went to Rouen, and then you went to Bayeux, as well, you had a side trip to Honfleur, then you went to Bayeux next.
[00:09:57] Terri Brault: We did go to Bayeux next, so we didn’t stay in Honfleur, although I’m not sure I included anything about Honfleur in my favorite things, but it’s really special for French Canadians, it’s the harbor where Samuel de Champlain sailed out of, on his many voyages to new France. And so we wanted to go there and see the old harbor.
[00:10:16] Terri Brault: And there’s a really old, I think it’s the oldest wooden church in France. It was built by boat builders in the 15th century. When you look up to the ceiling, it looks like you’re under an upside down boat. And so Honfleur was just a really great day. We really liked it there.
[00:10:33] Annie Sargent: A gorgeous, a gorgeous town as well. I mean, that’s just a beautiful place.
D-Day Sites, Longues-sur-Mer
[00:10:38] Annie Sargent: All right, let’s talk about those D-day sites that you visited. You started at, let’s see, Longues-sur-Mer?
[00:10:46] Terri Brault: We did, we probably, in total, it was about three and a half days of doing D-Day sites. And in fact, the first thing we did for D-Day was go to the museum on the Battle of Normandy in Bayeux, which was really good. It’s got this day by day account of D-Day and lots of really good information and we spent quite a bit of time there.
[00:11:05] Terri Brault: So that took up a chunk of our touring. But the next day we did, we started in Longues-sur-Mer and we went up the coast quite a bit. So at Longues-sur-Mer, it’s the remnants of the gun, the German gun batteries, which was really cool to see. And I think a good place to sort of start our day.
[00:11:23] Terri Brault: Then we drove down to Arronmanches where the remains of the artificial harbor are, and it was low tide, which was really cool. So we could walk out on the beach and you could actually get right out to those remnants.
[00:11:37] Annie Sargent: Really? Oh wow. Because I’ve been there only at high tide. I didn’t realize that the tide went back, because they’re kind of far away, aren’t they?
[00:11:45] Annie Sargent: So, yeah. Oh wow. Cool.
[00:11:49] Terri Brault: And when you stand on the beach and look at them, the people who have walked up to them are tiny, tiny, so really gives you an idea of how far out they are and how far the soldiers would’ve needed to kind of come in from, yeah, it was pretty cool. There’s a museum there and it was still under construction and I’m not sure it was even open.
[00:12:09] Terri Brault: So we passed on that.
Juno Beach, Courseulles-sur-Mer
[00:12:10] Terri Brault: We had a nice lunch and looked around and then we continued onto Juno Beach, which was the main Canadian beach. And Juno Beach is about 80 kilometers long. It’s in between Sword and Gold Beaches.
[00:12:24] Annie Sargent: And Juno Beach is at, I’m probably not going to pronounce this properly, it’s Courseulles-sur-Mer.
[00:12:31] Annie Sargent: Okay. Probably Courseulles. Okay, you were close.
[00:12:35] Terri Brault: Thank you. And that’s where the main Canadian Museum is, it’s called Juno Beach Center.
[00:12:41] Terri Brault: Andit’s not at all big, but it has a lot of really great information about the Canadian contribution to D-Day and the Battle of Normandy. And it’s where veterans and dignitaries go for all the major celebrations.
[00:12:55] Terri Brault: So we’ve often seen it on televisions and it was really special to go in person.
[00:13:00] Terri Brault: Yeah.
[00:13:01] Annie Sargent: Sorry, I looked up the word, the name of the town, it’s Courseulles-sur-Mer. Yes. I had forgotten that name. Okay. Sorry. Carry on.
[00:13:13] Terri Brault: That’s okay. I also just mentioned that there’s another German bunker there, and it’s almost buried in the dunes, but you can go with one of the guides. Juno Beach Center is staffed with Canadian students. And so they are all through the center and they’ll guide you and answer any questions you have, and then they’ll take you down into this German bunker, which still has rooms and a bit of a small exhibit, which was quite cool.
[00:13:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s great.
Canada House, Bernières-sur-Mer
[00:13:39] Terri Brault: And then we ended that day at Bernières-sur-Mer, which is where there’s a place called ‘Canada House’ and I’m using air quotes around it, although I think it is now a real house, but it was a summer house and it’s right on the beach. But on D-Day it was held by the Germans and when the Canadians landed, there’s footage, film footage, and a lot of pictures of coming ashore and the house is right there.
[00:14:05] Annie Sargent: And it was also the site of quite a battle. Oh yeah.
[00:14:09] Terri Brault: It’s quite famous in Canada. And I read an account that said it’s still held by the same family and they had no idea that it was famous among Canadians until I think the 40th anniversary and a whole bunch of veterans showed up and told them about their experiences.
[00:14:27] Terri Brault: So they since turned part of the house into a small museum and a lot of veterans from Canada have donated money to restore the house. So that was a great way to end that day.
[00:14:38] Annie Sargent: Of course this being called Bernières-sur-Mer, it’s right on the beach, right? I mean, this is right where they landed.
[00:14:44] Terri Brault: Exactly. Exactly. Yeah. Yeah. It’s very cool.
[00:14:50] Annie Sargent: And so then you went to Beny-sur-Mer, that’s a cemetery.
[00:14:54] Terri Brault: Yeah. It’s the Canadian War Cemetery. It’s probably the biggest one that’s focused on Canadian. So most of the Canadians who are buried there were those who fell during D-Day and also the battle for Caen. And so I think there’s over 2000 Canadians who are buried there. There’s a few other, I think there’s some Polish soldiers and I think even one French and one of the pilots from my father-in-law, his squadron was buried there.
[00:15:25] Terri Brault: So we also wanted to go and find that grave and kind of pay homage to him a little bit. Luckily, my father-in-law survived the war, so we weren’t going there to see his burial site, but it was meaningful.
[00:15:38] Annie Sargent: So where was he during World War II? Are these places where he fought?
[00:15:44] Terri Brault: No, he was actually an armorer with the Royal Canadian Air Force. And so his job was to arm a plane called the Typhoon, which was a bomber. And so he was in, he was actually in England during D-Day. But a few days after D-Day, they moved over to France and they were stationed at a new airstrip that had just been constructed outside of Bayeux.
[00:16:09] Terri Brault: So, that was another reason we chose Bayeux, it was only 12 kilometers away, I think. And my husband had found the exact location where this airstrip had been, and there’s a small memorial there. So, he spent and really throughout, they stayed there for the rest of the Battle of Normandy. So they weren’t there just for a little while and moved on.
[00:16:31] Terri Brault: They were there until almost the end of August, so he spent quite a bit of time.
[00:16:36] Annie Sargent: That’s very nice. And there are little memorials like that all over Normandy, for things that were very important. But of course, there were so many things that happened during that battle that the big memorials are for the ones that everybody knows about. But there’s a ton of smaller memorials for things that we might not remember, but really, were really important at the time.
[00:16:57] Terri Brault: Yes, exactly. My husband was able to find the location just using historical records and Google Maps, and so he managed to pinpoint exactly where it was and when we realized how close it was to Bayuex, we thought, well, we must go, we have to go there and see it.
[00:17:13] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:17:13] Annie Sargent: And so you also went to the Abbaye D’Ardenne.
[00:17:16] Terri Brault: Yes. And we were so glad. Thank you for recommending that on our itinerary review. I’m almost ashamed to say I had forgotten about it, even though I had been taught in school about what had happened there.
[00:17:28] Terri Brault: And it’s actually really tragic, it was a group of Canadians were there just after D-Day and they were executed by the SS. And their bodies weren’t discovered until almost this, I think it was the spring of 45. And so it took quite a while. And partly that’s because the family that lived there weren’t there during D-Day. apparently, they were all very active in the resistance and none of them were there. They found out about it later on and they actually went to look for the bodies. They dug and found the Canadians who had been executed there.
[00:18:08] Terri Brault: And I guess apparently the family to this day still maintains this really beautiful memorial, there’s lots of information about the Canadians who had been executed, who they were in their lives, and a really nice memorial with some flowers.
[00:18:21] Terri Brault: That was really special. It was a great way to end our day.
Chateau de Cruelly
[00:18:24] Annie Sargent: So the airstrip where your father-in-law was based is called Cruelly, and so there’s a chateau in this town. Oh, okay. I don’t know, I don’t think I’ve ever seen this chateau, but it must be pretty nice because you say Churchill and King George went there.
[00:18:40] Terri Brault: Yes, because when the British came ashore, they looked for a headquarters for General Montgomery and they found the Chateau de Cruelly, which I won’t pronounce properly, but thank you. So because that’s where he was,yeah, Churchill and King George and even De Gaulle came to meet with him at the Chateau.
[00:19:01] Annie Sargent: It was also where a lot of the allied journalists were based and they would broadcast to England and even to North America from this chateau. And there’s still an antenna that you can see on one of the towers, so that was kind of cool. Very cool. Very cool.All right.
Battle of Normandy museums in Bayeux, Caen, and Juno Beach Centre.
[00:19:18] Annie Sargent: So then you list as your third favorite, you list the Battle of Normandy museums that you visited, that you enjoyed, Bayeux, Caen, and Juno Beach Centre. And you mentioned that the Memorial Museum in Caen should not be missed, and I really feel the same way. Why don’t you tell us a little bit more about that?
[00:19:37] Terri Brault: Oh yeah, that, that museum was amazing and it had a lifesize replica of the Typhoon plane that my father-in-law was the armourer on. And this was one of the planes from the Second World War that when the war ended, that the planes were all destroyed. And there isn’t any working models left, and it’s quite beloved by people.
[00:20:00] Terri Brault: In fact, there’s a group of people who are trying to restore one, to get it back in the air again. But the museum in Caen has a lifesize replica that we really wanted to see. And when we walked into the lobby there, it was right over the ticket booth. So that was really neat. But the whole museum is just so amazing.
[00:20:18] Terri Brault: And we had sort of had a plan about how we would spend our time there and of course immediately got distracted by all the great stuff that was there. We spent almost the whole day, in fact, we didn’t leave, we just had lunch right there at the museum and made our way through a lot of the museum.
[00:20:36] Terri Brault: And even then we didn’t get through everything. But I really appreciated that the museum focused on really, it’s about peace, it’s not about glorifying war at all.
[00:20:47] Terri Brault: It was, yeah, really good messages.
[00:20:49] Annie Sargent: The museum itself is really well done. I haven’t seen it in several years, but I’m sure they’ve even gotten better. But the techniques that they use to put the message across are very good. And I don’t think we spent the whole day, but we must have spent a good three hours there.
[00:21:07] Annie Sargent: So it’s good to know that, this is one that really caught your attention. Because it’s got so much. Because there are a ton of little museums in Normandy. Like there, some of them, you pay five bucks and you go in and there’s a dozen things, but these are not museum professionals.
[00:21:21] Annie Sargent: Whereas thatmuseum in Caen is just stunning.
[00:21:26] Terri Brault: It is, and I think for us coming from North America or from London, any of the people who are really there to see the Ally perspective, in our case we want to see the Canadian sites, and we really focus on D-Day. And the Caen Museum doesn’t do that, because they really talk about the Battle of Normandy, which of course was much more than just D-Day.
[00:21:47] Terri Brault: And they focus on the impact on the people of Normandy. So it’s not just about how many soldiers were killed or how many troops were there, it’s really how impactful this was for the people who lived there. So that was really good, we didn’t really get that sense from any of the other museums we were in.
[00:22:07] Annie Sargent: Yeah,yeah.
[00:22:07] Annie Sargent: Then you mentioned that you really enjoyed Bayeux as a city, you went to see the Bayeux tapestry, of course.
[00:22:14] Terri Brault: We did. And that was really great. And the first day that we tried to go was thePatrimoine Day.
[00:22:20] Terri Brault: Journées du Patrimoine.
[00:22:23] Terri Brault: Yeah, so we went to the Tapestry, but we didn’t have a hope of getting in, the lineups were really long.
[00:22:28] Annie Sargent: Because it was free that day.
[00:22:30] Terri Brault: It was free that day and we thought, well, we have more time in Bayeux,we’ll go another day. And we did, and it was not to be missed.
[00:22:36] Terri Brault: And I didn’tknow that there was another exhibit above it until we got there. And it was a David Hockney art exhibit,who’s a British artist and quite famous. And he had spent pandemic in Normandy and he did this amazing series of paintings that’s the same length as the Tapestry.
[00:22:56] Annie Sargent: Wow. Wow.
[00:22:57] Terri Brault: It’s a year in Normandy, and so he shows the changing of the seasons. And, so that was a bonus. I mean, the tapestry itself is very cool to see. But that was also very cool.
[00:23:08] Annie Sargent: Wow. Wow.
Mont St. Michel
[00:23:10] Annie Sargent: You also made it to Mont St. Michel on that trip, what did you like?
[00:23:15] Terri Brault: Mont St. Michel was great and we were really lucky, same as Arronmanches, when we got there it was low tide, really low tide. And I had read that you could do these tours where the guides will take you out into the bay at low tide and you can kind of enjoy being out in the mud. And I thought, I thought, oh, I don’t think I really need to do that, we’ll just spend our time on the mount itself. And we had taken your recommendation and had a, we’ve got a VoiceMap tour. It’s not one of yours, so of course it’s not as good. Butit was quite good. And it was pouring rain that day, it was the only day that we didn’t have really good weather.
[00:23:51] Terri Brault: So it was the perfect day to spend inside the abbey. But when I saw the low tide, I really was struck by how amazing that bay is and how far out the tides go. And I regretted that I didn’t do that.
[00:24:05] Annie Sargent:
[00:24:05] Terri Brault: That walkout.
[00:24:06] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:24:07] Annie Sargent: So the VoiceMap tour goes inside the abbey?
[00:24:10] Terri Brault: It was really good, and as you wander through each of the rooms,giving instructions and luckily because it was very hard to get a cell phone signal, that deep into the abbey, so I had downloaded it and it still worked well as we were going from room to room, but it really gave you a sense of abbey life, which was, it was really interesting.
[00:24:30] Annie Sargent: Cool. Yeah. That’s cool.
[00:24:32] Annie Sargent: Very good. And then, okay, then you went from the Mont St. Michel to Chartres and you stopped in Ducey.
[00:24:39] Annie Sargent: Tell me about this.
[00:24:41] Terri Brault: That was unexpected. We did the road trip because of course we had the car. So we were driving from Mont St. Michel to Chartres and we stopped in Ducey to get gas and we also had a picnic lunch. So we thought, well, we’ll just spend a bit of time here. But it was a really neat town.
[00:24:55] Terri Brault: It was just on the outskirts of Mont St. Michel, so it wasn’t far at all. And it felt kind of silly that we got on this big road trip and then we stopped right away. But it had a, it was on the pilgrimage to Mont St. Michel and it had this really old, beautiful bridge. There was a romanesque cathedral and then this Chateau des Montgommery.
[00:25:15] Terri Brault: We didn’t go in, because we thought this is crazy, we’re never going to get to Chartres if we keep stopping and looking at everything, But the town itself was really nice.
Don’t pack too much into your trip
[00:25:23] Annie Sargent: This is really important. People sometimes worry that they will run out of things to do, so that’s why they want to pack on so much. This is an important public service announcement, there are things to do everywhere in France, there are things to see everywhere in France, so don’t worry about packing too much in. Sometimes you can just say, Hey, today we’re just going to drive from A to B and we’ll stop along the way, wherever you know, we feel like it and I guarantee you will have a good time.
[00:25:53] Terri Brault: I agree. If we were researching, we may not have necessarily thought about this town. It just happened to be a convenient place to get gas and we ended up spending probably at least an hour and a half, if not two hours there, which was ridiculous because we really did have to get on our way.
[00:26:10] Annie Sargent: Right, right.
[00:26:11] Terri Brault: It meant we didn’t get to Chartres until dark, which was a problem.
[00:26:15] Terri Brault: It was lovely, we did make it. And the rest of the drive was also really beautiful. The countryside was beautiful and we really enjoyed that drive. That was really fun. I would probably plan more road trips in France now having had that experience.
[00:26:29] Annie Sargent: Road trips are fun. That’s why I try to do one every weekend now, because I’m like, now that I have a nice car, yeah, just go look at something. It’s great. It’s great.
[00:26:38] Terri Brault: Exactly.
[00:26:40] Annie Sargent: Very nice. Okay. So now we’re getting down to the last few of your favorites and we’re not going to go through them because I want you to talk about some general advice that you have.
[00:26:52] Annie Sargent: But of course, there’s going to be guest notes with this episode as I usually do, and so you can look at them.
Hotel des Arènes, on Rue Monge,
[00:26:59] Annie Sargent: You stayed at Hotel des Arènes, on Rue Monge, which you say was great, affordable, good location. Do you want to tell us just tiny bit about that?
[00:27:07] Terri Brault: Oh yeah, we had stayed in the Latin Quarter in Paris before, so we knew aboutthe arena. And when we saw that this hotel backed onto the arena, we decided to book there for our Paris stay, for the beginning of our Paris stay. And the best thing about it is we requested a room that looked over the arena.
[00:27:25] Terri Brault: And that was the best. That was the best. It was really, it was quiet at night because they, of course, closed. They close it. So it meant we had a perfectly quiet sleep, which was wonderful when you’re jet lagged. But during the day there were, we would go and have our picnic dinners there sometimes and you could see people playingfootball and Boules and things like that.
[00:27:48] Terri Brault: It was just really, it’s such a neighborhood gathering, it was really fun for us to be there.
[00:27:53] Annie Sargent: When the weather is good there’s lots of people in the arena. That’s the old Roman arena.
Walking some of Annie’s VoiceMap tours
[00:27:58] Annie Sargent: You mentioned also that you did some of my VoiceMap tours, which ones did you do? You did Latin Quarter?
[00:28:04] Terri Brault: We did the Latin Quarter. We did IIle de la Cite.
[00:28:10] Terri Brault: Thank you. And St. Germain des Pres.
[00:28:14] Annie Sargent: Very good.
[00:28:14] Terri Brault: They were all excellent and I look forward to doing more of them.
[00:28:18] Annie Sargent: Did you have a favorite?
[00:28:19] Terri Brault: Oh gosh, well, Annie, you always make us pick favorites and it’s always so hard. I probably will say Latin Quarter only because it’s my favorite neighborhood in Paris.
[00:28:31] Terri Brault: But I also really like the St. Germain des Pres. I hadn’t actually spent a ton of time there, and so when we returned to Paris, we got a different hotel and stayed in that neighborhood. And it was great to be able to just wander around and your VoiceMap tour was excellent. In fact, I went back and did, looked a little more closely at some of the other things one of the days.
[00:28:51] Terri Brault: That was awesome.
[00:28:53] Annie Sargent: Okay. So then you recommend a bunch of hotels in Chartres, Mont St. Michel. Oh, you stayed at the Mercure Mont St. Michel. That was good, right?
[00:29:02] Terri Brault: Oh, it was. Yeah. It’s a great location. The shuttle goes right there.The staff were good. The room was good. For some reason, only one of us could get Wifi. I don’t know what was happening there, but it was, we was only there one night, so it was not a problem.
[00:29:18] Annie Sargent: Hotel Wifi is usually fun to try, huh?
[00:29:21] Terri Brault: Yeah. Hit and miss.
[00:29:23] Annie Sargent: All right. So you also list your favorite restaurants, but we’re not going to go into that.
What she learned about France: Do and Don’t Do
[00:29:29] Annie Sargent: So I want to know what you learned about France on this trip, because you did a nice writeup, but I’m interested to know what you learned about France, if you made any mistakes, things that you recommend other people do or don’t do.
[00:29:41] Terri Brault: Well, because we were focused on D-Day and my husband had done specific research into his father’s experiences, we just learned so much more about the Battle of Normandy and what that really entailed. And there’s so much more to it than just D-Day. It really sort of put a lot of context into what we were seeing.
[00:30:00] Terri Brault: And so doing our research ahead of time, before going to the sites just really made it more meaningful and impactful on us. So that was really good.
[00:30:11] Annie Sargent: And I really recommend that if you’re a reader, gets some of the books, if you are somebody who likes movies, watch some of the movies. It really helps if you have a little bit of understanding of the history. Yeah.
[00:30:24] Terri Brault: Yeah, exactly. And I had mentioned my husband also became really intrigued by the Vikings and some of that earlier history. So that was also a different part of French history that we hadn’t really learned. And again, because he had been kind of interested in doing some reading and thengoing to see Rollo’s tomb in Rouen was quite cool.
[00:30:45] Terri Brault: And so, yeah, I guess we are one of the people who we plan ahead, mostly because it’s just enjoyable for us. We love learning about France and we like planning trips to France so it was a great kind of thing to do, but I also plan because I’m a big believer in not overscheduling. So I plan because I want to pick my priorities and the things that are really important to me.
[00:31:08] Terri Brault: And I need to know what I’m going to miss.
[00:31:11] Annie Sargent: And then I’m making an informed choice about what I’m not going to have time to do.We have the luxury of knowing we’ll keep going back to France, and so I also don’t panic when I realize, oh, I just won’t have time to do that. It’s okay, I’ll go back and I’ll see some of these other things.
[00:31:28] Terri Brault: I totally believe your public service announcement, don’t do too much, and leave some time just to wander and explore. Leave some time for a day that you know, maybe you won’t feel well and you don’t want to spend 12 hours touring. And some of the best experiences we had were spontaneous.
[00:31:47] Terri Brault: And so it’s great to sort of leave some time for spontaneity as well.
[00:31:50] Annie Sargent: Definitely. Yeah. And you can spend so much time just picking a hotel, picking a restaurant that you neglect learning about the history of a place. And to me, look, there’s food in France. Okay? You will eat something. It might not be the best like thing you’ve ever eaten, but you’re not going to go hungry.
[00:32:10] Annie Sargent: So don’t waste too much time researching restaurants, because to me it’s, , unimportant. And I do love food, but still, I think it’s more important if you can spend some of your time learning about the history of a place, because then you show up and you’re like, ah, that’s why we have this statue here.
[00:32:28] Annie Sargent: That’s why we have this building here, or whatever. To me, that’s what really enhances a trip, is learning a little bit about the history. Even if all you do is read the Wikipedia page. It’s really quite rewarding because at least you, like, you see the names, you’ve mentioned King Rollo, I’m sure there’s cafes and stuff called King Rollo or Rollo this and that, and people who don’t know anything about him go, oh, what? Who is this Rollo guy? And so, just learn a little bit about history and then you’ll recognize stuff around you and it’ll make it a lot more meaningful.
[00:33:05] Annie Sargent: Are there things that you wish, that you want to warn others, against? Like mistakes that you made perhaps?
[00:33:12] Terri Brault: Well, the budget hotel in Rouen was definitely a mistake. And I now know a hundred percent confident that we’re not budget travelers anymore. We need a comfortable bed. So that was a lesson for me. And again, I wouldn’t, I’m not saying anything against the hotel, it absolutely was what it described.
[00:33:34] Terri Brault: It was clean, it was fine, Madame was not so happy that we were checking out early, but she was very gracious about it. But I know now to just not risk it and go to a higher level hotel that’s going to meet my expectations. Yeah.
[00:33:52] Terri Brault: Otherwise you lose a lot of time finding another place to stay and you don’t have a lot of options.
[00:33:58] Terri Brault: We went to the Mercure in Rouen, because there were really only two places we could have gone. And so it was quite pricey, it was amazing, loved it. So glad we moved, but we did miss out on probably a half a day in Rouen that I would’ve liked to have just been wandering around having a look.
[00:34:16] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And if you don’t want to spend too much time researching hotels, typically you can, I mean, if you know a little bit about French hotel chains, just like in America, you have hotel chains and if you’re going to Marriott, I mean, Marriott has a million different properties, right? But depending on the name of the property, you know what it’s going to be like more or less, right?
[00:34:38] Annie Sargent: Well, it’s the same in France. You have the Ibis Budget, which is the cheapest stuff. And then from there, in the same chain of hotels, you have Ibis, the normal Ibis styles, which is a little bit better, usually you have softer beds and nicer pillows and whatever, and then you have Mercure.
[00:34:57] Annie Sargent: And then what else? What’s the one above? Ah, this I’m not remembering. But anyway, so you go up in the food chain and the higher up you go the more kind of pleasantries you have. Now these are not like boutique hotels with quaint furniture and things like that.
[00:35:15] Annie Sargent: We’re talking about standard hotels with a nice, comfortable bed and nice standard bathroom and things like that. If you are after the quaint stuff, then perhaps outside of Paris, it might be best to look at BnB because the Bed and Breakfast is all about the quaint. Like some of them you pay 150, 200 a night, but then you have a themed room. So typically these are people who have bought this expensive house that’s way too big for them, and they will renovate it, and they will theme the rooms with the leopard room, and the birdcage room, and the this and that room, and whatever. And they get very fancy. And that’s because a lot of French smaller towns don’t have a boutique hotel the way Paris does. So if you want that, then it’s the BnB that you need to look at.
[00:36:07] Annie Sargent: But yeah, the price point also matters, okay? If it’s 80 bucks a night, it’s not the same as 150 bucks a night, obviously.
[00:36:15] Terri Brault: Yeah, and pay attention to your own expectations. I don’t blame the hotel in Rouen at all. It was my own expectations that I didn’t listen to.
[00:36:24] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. No, that’s really wise of you. And you said you’ve made the discovery that you’re not a budget traveler anymore. Well, I’ve decided I’m not a economy class traveler anymore. Enough, I’ve done this my whole life. Now I need to move up a bit. Yeah, if I’m going to travel for hours, I need at least like, not quite business, but you know, in between economy and business, they usually have something in the middle that’s a little more room and a little better. Which I, you got to know these things about yourself, you know?
[00:36:57] Annie Sargent: That’s how it goes.
Why Normandy in September?
[00:36:59] Annie Sargent: All right. So you really like going to Normandy in September. Do you want to explain why?
[00:37:05] Terri Brault: Well, I don’t know if our trip was different in any way, but I loved it because the weather was perfect. It was not too hot. I did travel in Franceduring a heatwave one summer, and it was awful. And so I really don’t want to plan any more summer trips, but September was fantastic.
[00:37:25] Terri Brault: It’s still considered high season, so everything’s open, including things like the sound and light shows that they do on the cathedrals in Rouen and in Chartres. Those still happen. But the crowds are a little thinner. And it’s, I can’t imagine seeing some of those historic sites and being in some of those smaller towns when there’s so many crowds.
[00:37:46] Terri Brault: So I preferred September even though D-Day is June, and I know that’s a really important time for some people to be in Normandy, but I just can’t imagine going when there’s all those people. So the weather was fantastic, the crowds were reasonable and everything was open.
[00:38:03] Annie Sargent: Yeah, going at D-Day, for the D-Day celebrations, is quite a different experience. You need to be prepared for the crowds and all of that.
Annie’s itinerary review service
[00:38:13] Annie Sargent: Then you talk about, oh, the itinerary review service. Well, you got to say a little bit about that.
[00:38:19] Terri Brault: Oh, yes, it was fantastic. I’m so glad we did it. And we had traveled in France before, this wasn’t our first trip. And my husband is French Canadian, he’s bilingual, so we weren’t too worried about the language or anything like that. But when I found out you offered the service,particularly because we were considering driving, I really wanted your advice on kind of the sequencing of where we should go, what your advice was around renting the car and you were bang on.
[00:38:48] Annie Sargent: So where we took your advice, it worked out really well. Where we didn’t take your advice, maybe not so well. Well, I’m sure you did fine.
[00:38:55] Terri Brault: And I really appreciated that you had reminded us about the Ardenne Abbaye, because that was, that ended up being one of my highlights for where we toured in Normandy.
[00:39:05] Terri Brault: So yeah, I would recommend to anybody, use the itinerary service. I know it’s very popular, so I was glad we had booked ahead and we were able to touch base with you and get the benefit of all your advice before we firmed up all of our plans.
[00:39:19] Annie Sargent: Well very kind of you to say. And yes, it’s booked up ahead, like it’s at least six weeks, lead time before between the time you purchase the service and the time you can talk to me, right now. But it can be more than that. So take a look if you’re interested, take a look and do that ahead of time.
[00:39:34] Annie Sargent: And then of course after we chat, you can always send me an email and say, oh, I have another question, which is fine. I answer all of those. But yeah,it takes a while.
Orange travel sim cards
[00:39:45] Annie Sargent: I see that you use the Orange Travel sim cards. Tell us about that a little bit.
[00:39:50] Terri Brault: Yeah, this may not apply so much to a lot of your American listeners, but Canadian cell phone providers are famous for charging outrageous amounts for international travel. So I wouldn’t even consider using my own package in France. And I really liked the idea, we had done a travel sim for a previous visit and it worked really well, but I found out with Orange SIM, if you keep topping it up with 20 euros here, 20 euros there, you can keep the number. And since, since we plan on returning to France, I really liked that idea of having a French number. I could give it to hotels ahead of time. This trip, because we didn’t have it yet, I would give my Canadian number and then I sort of updated with all the hotels with my French number once we had it, in case something goes wrong with the…
[00:40:38] Terri Brault: they need to get a hold.
[00:40:39] Annie Sargent: They do like to call you. This last time I was in Paris, I even had a restaurant call me and say, are you still coming at 11,at noon today? And I’m like, yes. So surprised to have a restaurant call me. But it’s sometimes, they’re so full that they want to know, so they, it’s good if you have a way to be reached. That’s very important. And so this is the kind where you just pop out your own SIM card and then you put a different one in, right?
[00:41:04] Terri Brault: Yes, apparently there is an e-SIM, but I didn’t choose that and we actually weren’t super organized. If I was to do it differently, I’d pick one up at the airport, as it was the day that we arrived, we got to our hotel and then we went to the Orange store to get one. We stupidly forgot our passports, which you do need.
[00:41:24] Terri Brault: And so we had to go back to the hotel and get our passports. And then when we got to the store, it was closed and the next day was Sunday and they weren’t open. So we did go a few days without the SIM, and it took three trips to the Orange store to get it. But once it was so worth having and that’s another reason I’m just going to keep the number when I get to France next time.
[00:41:45] Terri Brault: You’re exactly right. Pop out your SIM, put in the Orange one and you’re good to go.
[00:41:50] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So the next recommendation is don’t over schedule your trip. We already talked about that. And then plan ahead.
Travel journal before leaving
[00:41:57] Annie Sargent: Oh, you did a travel journal before you left, tell me about this.
[00:42:02] Terri Brault: I did. It’s kind of a strange idea, normally. I don’t know how many of your listeners keep a travel journal when you’re on your trip, and that’s sort of a common thing to do, but this time, because we had time, I started thinking about creating a journal before we go. And I had pictures and bits of information and it really helped me with thinking about my priorities and what were the things I really wanted to see and do.
[00:42:26] Terri Brault: And so even for museums, I would note specific artifacts or exhibits, because some museums are so huge, there’s no way you can see it all. And then after each kind of journal entry, let’s call it, I left a blank page so that then I could keep my reflections after the fact. And that turned out to be really fun.
[00:42:45] Terri Brault: I had things like, I found quotes from Monet about, he talks about ‘painting the air’. And so then you can kind of have that quote in your mind as you’re wandering around and think about what his experience was when he was living there and painting. And when we got to Cruelly and the airstrip, I had pictures of my father-in-law at that spot, and what it was like when it was an airstrip. And so those kinds of things that, that made it really fun. I think if I have time before each trip I would probably make another one because it was really special. And now I have this wonderful memory book of the trip.
[00:43:22] Annie Sargent: And, you know, in general, I’m a recent convert to the notebook. I’ve had people give me notebooks before and I write a little bit in them and then I drop them. But this last few months, I decided I lose too many pieces of paper, or I create a file to note something that’s important that I want to remember and then I don’t know where I put it. So now I just put everything and anything in the same notebook. And let me tell you, it’s pretty good because you can always turn the pages. It’s pretty quick. You just go, okay, I know I made a note about this, just look through. And it works really well. And for a trip it’s really good too because if you find out something that you want to try or a restaurant name that you want to try or something, a place that you want to look at, write it down because it’ll be easier for you to find if it’s in a notebook, than if it’s just something that you like on Facebook or whatever. Those things disappear immediately, you’ll never find it again.
[00:44:20] Terri Brault: Yeah, absolutely. I agree a hundred percent. And there’s something tactile about a notebook. I’m a little old fashioned. Yeah, it’s great to sort of have something in your hand and flip a page and find what you want.
[00:44:32] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And this is really a weird thing about me, but I have so many of these nice leatherbound books and I’m always afraid of damaging them. So I don’t buy those anymore. I just get the cheapest notebook I can get, because then I don’t mind doing anything to it.
[00:44:48] Annie Sargent: Like I’ll just, what do I’ll draw in it. I’ll turn the page. I’ll rip a page. I don’t mind. It doesn’t matter. But if I have a nice, leatherbound book, I’m like, oh, well it’s a pretty thing, I don’t want to damage it. So I just put it away and never look at it again, which, that’s not the point, is it?
[00:45:05] Terri Brault: Exactly.
[00:45:06] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s fantastic. And you know, you have been listening to the podcast a lot and when you listen to the podcast and you listen to people like Terri, she probably mentioned things that are interesting to you. Write it down in your notebook. You could have a specific notebook for a trip, but you could have your general life notebook as well.
[00:45:26] Annie Sargent: That’s really good advice.
[00:45:28] Annie Sargent: Well, Terri, it has been lovely talking to you. There’s going to be more stuff in your guest notes because we didn’t have time to talk about everything you mentioned, but it sounds like you had a wonderful trip, and I’m going to see you at the bootcamp as well.
[00:45:43] Annie Sargent: So I look forward to meeting you in person. Of course, this episode is going to come out way after the bootcamp because I have many episodes in the queue, but I do look forward to meeting you, Terri.
[00:45:55] Terri Brault: I as well, Annie. I’m very happy that I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m one of the lucky boot campers, so look forward to meeting you then.
[00:46:02] Annie Sargent: All right.
[00:46:03] Terri Brault: Merci beaucoup, Terri.
[00:46:05] Terri Brault: Merci Annie. Au revoir.
Thank you, patrons
[00:46:12] 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.
[00:46:31] Annie Sargent: I am in the process of changing those Patreon rewards. I know exactly what I want to do, but time is of the essence, and I don’t have enough of it in my life.
[00:46:42] Annie Sargent: I don’t know about you, but me, it’s always like, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, got to get onto the next thing.
[00:46:46] Annie Sargent: Anyway, thank you all for supporting the show. Some of you have been doing it for a long time, you are fantastic. And a shout out this week to new patron Mary L. Thank you so much for becoming a patron and making this podcast possible, Mary.
[00:47:02] Annie Sargent: Patrons, I would like to encourage you to install the Patreon app on your phone, it’ll help you enjoy your rewards while on the go, including audio and video rewards.
Getting ready for a trip to France
[00:47:12] Annie Sargent: Let me remind you that if you’re gearing up for a trip to France and listening to as many episodes as possible to prepare, you can keep doing that, it works, it helps, but you can also take advantage of my expertise as your personal itinerary consultant. Now you get to choose between VIP and the Bonjour Service. Read the details at JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique.
[00:47:36] Annie Sargent: And if your time in Paris is limited and you like to go straight to all the iconic places you’ve heard about, you can take me along in your pocket with my GPS self-guided tours available on the VoiceMap app. You can choose from Eiffel Tower, Ile de la Cité, Le Marais, Montmartre, Saint Germain des Prés or the Latin Quarter.
[00:47:58] Annie Sargent: And you can access my tours directly from the VoiceMap app. But if you purchase tour codes from JoinUsinFrance.com/boutique, you’ll get a special listener discount. But that is a manual process, if you need the codes immediately get them from the VoiceMap app.
The Olympic Village
[00:48:17] Annie Sargent: Now let me talk briefly about the Olympic Village and the decision not to install air conditioning in most of these units. I think that’s a terrible decision because July and August can be extremely hot in France and even in Paris. Now, Paris is not as hot as the South of France, but you know what?
[00:48:39] Annie Sargent: Last summer, so far not this summer, but last summer, they had a really hard summer with long periods of really hot temperatures, including times when temperatures don’t go below 25 degrees C in the night, and that is really hard to take. And when you are a high-performing athlete, I suppose it’s a little easier than if you’re a little old lady, but still.
[00:49:07] Annie Sargent: It’s important to keep those athletes and the staff comfortable. I think they should have put in heat pumps. Heat pumps are the best way to heat and cool any building and I really don’t understand what the hangup, well, no, I know it, they’re cheap. They’re just cheap, okay? It’s more expensive to do something than to do nothing.
[00:49:28] Annie Sargent: But the problem is they’re then going to convert these buildings into long-term residences for locals. And honestly, I would not buy a place in France that doesn’t have AC at this point, because we are getting recurring episodes of really hot weather, and I think it’s really important that we’re prepared to deal with it.
[00:49:51] Annie Sargent: So at my house, what I’ve done is I’ve installed AC everywhere. But I’m also growing trees, okay? I’m growing trees all around my house to help shield the house from direct sun as much as possible. Most of my neighbors, they don’t have AC, but their thinking is, well, we have a pool, so if it gets too hot, we’ll just hop in the pool, which is all in good, but you know what? Having private pools is not ecological either. French people say all the time, oh, AC is not the solution. Well, yeah, perhaps it’s not, but having a pool is not either. So since most people who have sufficient income do one or the other, I think you’re better off with heat pumps to keep your house at a reasonable level.
[00:50:39] Annie Sargent: And I have found out because I also have AC in my apartment in Spain that if you keep the temperature high enough, like, you know, 25 or 26 degrees, the heat pumps don’t run that hard. Really, it’s pretty easy. And we’re very lucky that in France, a basic heat pump will do the job. Where I used to live in Utah, because it gets so cold in the winter, you’d need special heat pumps that are made for the cold and for the extreme heat as well.
[00:51:09] Annie Sargent: In the South of France it doesn’t get that cold in the winter, so we can have just, run-of-the-mill, not so expensive heat pumps. And I think it would be better for everyone to go in that direction for new buildings, obviously.
[00:51:24] Annie Sargent: And comfort is important, you need this stuff. That’s my opinion anyway.
Next week on the podcast
[00:51:28] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, an episode with Elyse about why is awful in France. I promised you we’d get it here. It’s coming next week. I’ll bet you’ll be surprised. But it’s important that you are aware of the downside of living in France because there are some things and the lack of AC is one of them I think, although it can be easily fixed.
[00:51:52] Annie Sargent: Thank you for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together. Au revoir.
[00:51:59] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France Travel Podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2023 by Addicted to France. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.