Table of Contents for this Episode
Discussed in this Episode
- Chartres and Bayeux Cathedrals
- Bayeux Tapestry
- Cluny Museum
- Unterlinden Museum
- Guedelon Castle
- Hospices de Beaune
- Rose Granite Coast
- Arbois home of Louis Pasteur and the great museum there
- Juras area part of France
- Eguisheim or Colmar?
- Bartholdi Museum in Colmar
- Europa Park (an easy drive into Germany)
- Renting bikes in France
- Spending Bastille Day in France
- Roissy Bus
[00:00:00] Annie Sargent:
[00:00:16] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 462, quatre cent soixante deux.
[00:00:23] 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 Matthew Gamache about visiting medieval, about visiting, um, about visiting medieval sites in France with teenagers.
[00:00:45] When Matthew first came on the podcast, his daughters were quite young, and they are now, you know, almost grown. How time flies!
[00:00:55] Well, this podcast is going to turn 10 next February, and I’ve been very lucky to have fans on the… and I’ve been very lucky to have fans uh, on the podcast uh, for that many years.
[00:01:06] Annie Sargent: This podcast is supported by donors and listeners who buy my tours and services, including my Itinerary Consult Service, my GPS self guided tours of Paris on the VoiceMap app, or take a day trip with me around the Southwest of France, in my electric car.
[00:01:25] You can browse all of that at my boutique joinusinfrance.com/boutique.
The magazine part of the podcast
[00:01:30] Annie Sargent: And for the magazine part of the podcast, after the interview with Matthew today, I’ll discuss pickpocketing at the Gare du Nord in Paris. The Gare du Nord is a hot mess, but you can do fine there if you are warned and prepared.
Interview with Matthew Gamache
[00:01:56] Annie Sargent: Bonjour Matthew Gamache and welcome back to Join Us in France. It’s lovely to have you again. You’ve been on the podcast four times already. It’s unbelievable. You have been one of the longest uh, uh, fans of the podcast and people who’ve given the most to the podcast. So thank you very much and it’s love. Lovely to have you again.
[00:02:16] Matthew Gamache: Thanks Annie. Um, yeah, I’m happy to be back. Uh, I really enjoy the podcast and I’ve gotten a lot out of it over the years as I’ve helped to plan these trips. And, um, uh, yeah, I really appreciate uh, all the work that you do.
[00:02:26] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. Okay. So, uh, Today we are going to talk about, well, the theme we are going to talk about is Medieval Touring with Kids, with Teens. Teens, because yeah, your kids, your kids were kids when we first talked about, about your visits, but now they’re teens. Time flies!
Previous episodes Matthew has been a guest on
[00:02:42] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Because the first time you were on the podcast was in 2015, that was episode 83. And then you came on episode 166 in 2017 and 174 in 2017, and this one is likely to be uh, released in uh, October, 2023. So, we go back a long time. It’s wonderful. Alright.
[00:03:01] Matthew Gamache: Yeah.
[00:03:02] Annie Sargent: Okay, so you had a tell me when your trip was and who was traveling with you?
[00:03:07] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, so it’s uh, it’s me, uh, my wife and, uh, Erica and my two kids, Alice and Nora. And they are 17 and 13 years old. Uh, And we traveled in uh, the late last week of June, first two weeks of July 2022.
[00:03:21] And for a little bit of background, uh, we kind of developed a little formula here where in .Uh, 2015, and 2017, and now 2022, uh, we’ve been able to take the last week of June and the first two weeks of July to travel around France and really focusing on spending around a week in a region. Uh, And getting a feel for what that region is all about and seeing all the, the sites in that region enjoying um, the re what the regions have to offer.
[00:03:43] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. And this time you were mostly in Brittany and Northern France, right?
[00:03:50] Matthew Gamache: That’s right. Yeah. So the previous trips, we kind of dipped into Southwestern France, the Alps, uh, those areas. Uh, And for this trip we were looking at you know, where haven’t we gone yet? And, And a combination of, combination of where, what regions haven’t we seen yet and what region do we want to go back and spend more time in.
[00:04:06] Uh, And you know, we wanted to go back to Brittany because we had spent uh, a few days there in 2017, uh, and we really liked it and we wanted to explore that more. Uh, And if, But in addition to that, we really want to see Alsace, which is on the complete opposite side of the country. Uh, So those were our two top priorities.
[00:04:21] And um, we said, okay, well if we start in one and end in the other, uh, can we piece a trip together? Um, That will be fun and and engaging and make sense? So that’s what we did.
[00:04:31] Annie Sargent: Right. So you went all the way across France West to East, uh, but mostly hugging the northern half of France this time.
France West to East
[00:04:41] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, I could give you a little bit more detailed itinerary. So, um, you know, the way, the way it came together is this, we, uh, uh, we flew Air Portugal, which meant we could fly into Orly Airport. And, um, from there we could get right into a rental car and we drove to Chartres, uh, for our first night there, um, because it was uh, less than an hour drive.
[00:04:58] And that’s pretty much my threshold for driving after landing from a overnight flight. Makes sense. Uh,
[00:05:03] Yeah. So a quick stop there and then onto uh, Uh, Dinan area of Brittany for um, six nights. And during that time we took a one night diversion over to Normandy to see some Normandy sites. Um, So that kind of wraps up that’s week one.
[00:05:17] And then for week two, we drove all the way across to Burgundy and spent uh, seven nights there. And then for week three, we spent five nights in Alsace. And then the final two nights, uh, after training back from Alsace to Paris, we spent the final two nights in Paris. So that’s kind of how we worked it.
[00:05:32] Um, you know, Kind of get all the way out to the west and then work our way back east.
[00:05:35] Annie Sargent: Wow. Yeah, that’s, that’s a wonderful, and it’s great that you spend three weeks, like you, you really get a feel for the country when you do it that way. And it seems to me that you always do that. Right?
[00:05:45] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, we’ve kind of fallen into this, uh, this formula really works for us. Um, Three weeks is really good. I feel like by the time, by the time you get like midway through the vacation, it’s feeling like you’ve kind of forgotten about home a little bit. Uh, It gives you a lot of time to bond with the family and, uh, and you can have different paces.
[00:05:59] I feel like in the first week, we kind of tend to go, go, go get a lot done because we have a lot of energy and maybe in the second week we slow down a little bit and then build up some speed as we get to the end. And, uh, We’ve gotten used to it. It’s our travel style and we’ve been very lucky to have um, have the opportunity to do this um, as much as we have.
[00:06:14] Annie Sargent: And you usually stay at, uh, you, you rent apartments, right?
[00:06:17] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, for the most part, um, you know, in Paris we stay in hotels, but um, in in this, the smaller regions, we’ve been able to find some, some pretty nice um, houses to stay in. Uh, And I think that’s part of what makes these trips um, work for us is that the, uh, you know, number one, we have a nice base to stay in so we can cook and, and make our own food.
[00:06:34] Because going out to eat every night for three weeks would be relentless. Um, And secondly, the costs are, are, are much more affordable when you’re out in uh, outside of Paris.
[00:06:43] Annie Sargent: Right. And one of your daughters has food allergies, right? If I remember correctly.
[00:06:48] Matthew Gamache: Yes. Uh, Good point. So, uh, that’s Nora, who’s uh, 13. So she has actually grown out of her egg allergy, which has made traveling much easier. So in the previous trips we had to avoid eggs and nuts. Um, and, uh, This trip we only had to avoid nuts, which is pretty easy to do uh, in Northern France. Uh, I think, you know, there’s walnuts in the south, but there’s not really much to worry about um, you know, where we went. So that getting rid of eggs is huge because it opens up all kinds of desserts and, and um, dinner options.
[00:07:16] Annie Sargent: That’s wonderful. Yeah. I bet she enjoyed that better.
[00:07:19] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, very much so. I mean, to get, have lots of crepes. The crepes was the number, number one addition to it, so…
How do you book your apartments?
[00:07:24] Annie Sargent: Yes. And, And how do you book your apartments? Do you do it through booking.com or uh, Airbnb?
[00:07:31] Matthew Gamache: I, um, so I start with vrbo and then see where that takes me. Um, I found, well for the, uh, for the three. Yeah. Let’s see. For the three places that we booked, one of them, uh, the one in Dinon, we got through vrbo and it was a place that we stayed in 2017, so that was easy. We knew all about it. Um, the, uh, The house that we stayed in, uh, in Burgundy was also through vrbo, but they were, that house is part of a bed and breakfast, so we could book directly with them through their bed and breakfast site.
[00:07:54] Um, And then again vrbo for uh, the place in Alsace.
[00:07:57] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah, and usually most of these apartment rentals will list their apartment in several places, so you’ll find the same apartments on vrbo and on Airbnb and on sometimes Gîtes de France. Sometimes they have their own websites. You know, you just need to look around a little bit. But, But yes, that’s, that’s a good way to do it.
[00:08:18] And you haven’t had any nasty surprises or anything like that, have you?
[00:08:21] Matthew Gamache: No, it’s been very good. And I think, um, you know, we’ve done this enough now that we have a feel for what we’re looking for and, and what kind of reviews we’re looking for and and, amenities. And I feel like because we start early, I usually start planning these trips about a year before.
[00:08:36] That’s really the first thing I, I, I look at, it’s like, okay, if we want to go to Alsace, let’s take a look at what the house options are and that will help us guide kind of where we want to stay.
[00:08:44] And then, you know, If you’re early, if you’re earlier than everyone else, you get kind of your, your pick of. of house. And that’s been a successful approach for us. And we’ve never stayed in a place that um, has been inconsistent with what was written on the, on the site.
[00:08:56] Annie Sargent: Yes. And, And honestly, I have the same attitude towards this. This year our family vacation included a week in Provence and I booked that, uh, so we went in July and I booked it in January. I. And in January we, I had so many choices that I could just say, you know, I want air conditioning, I want uh, this town, you know, I could have my my, selection.
[00:09:19] And as you get closer, there, you know, the good ones are gone. So it’s best if you can look early a year, perhaps if you are that planner, but at least eight months, you know, is, is good. It’s, it’s a good amount of time. So, okay, wonderful.
Driving in France
[00:09:35] Annie Sargent: And let’s briefly mention driving in France. You’ve done it lots, I assume, there were no surprises there either.
[00:09:42] Matthew Gamache: No surprises, no tickets.
[00:09:44] Annie Sargent: Aha. Bravo.
[00:09:47] Matthew Gamache: Yeah. I am very proud that after 10 weeks in the, in France, I have received no tickets.
[00:09:52] Annie Sargent: Ah.
[00:09:53] Matthew Gamache: You know, I live in, I live in Greater Boston and it’s like night and day. Anywhere I’ve driven in France has been a joy.
[00:09:59] Annie Sargent: Oh, really? It’s harder to drive in Boston?
[00:10:02] Matthew Gamache: Yeah. Much, Much more challenging, and um, in France I feel like uh, it’s, it’s just a lot more orderly and, uh, and I appreciate that.
[00:10:08] Um, And this was the only time that we really drove anywhere near Metro Paris. Uh, But the ride out of Orly was fine. I had no issues. Um, And uh, you know, generally we had zero issues the whole trip.
[00:10:18] Annie Sargent: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
[00:10:20] Matthew Gamache: but I, But I will say that um, going all the way across from Brittany to Burgundy is a long day. I’m not sure I would do that again.
[00:10:28] Annie Sargent: Yes. That’s a long drive. Yes. I wouldn’t do that. I would break it up in that, you know, at least one night. And did you go through Paris and down towards the Rhone Valley, or how did you do it?
[00:10:40] Matthew Gamache: For that drive? Um, It wasn’t, so we were going to Guedelon, which we can get into in a moment. So uh, Yeah, So we cut across and we didn’t go, you know, up through Paris because they said the, the fastest way to kind of go a little bit south of there. It was very long, the highway, there was a lot of highway and then you got off the highway for like two hours.
[00:10:58] So it was, it’s a bit of a commitment not only to get across the country, but also get to get, to Guedelon.
[00:11:04] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Okay. So, um, um, uh, I had a great thought that I lost, let’s see, I’ll probably cut this out of the recording. Um,
[00:11:06] Ah, yes. Uh,
Rental car in Orly
[00:11:06] Annie Sargent: Many people have reported that picking up a rental car in Orly and returning a rental car in Orly is much easier than it is at CDG. So I just wanted to put that out there if you have a choice, now the thing is Orly is usually mostly European flights or um, within France flights. There’s not that many international flights that land in Orly, but it is a much smaller airport and it’s easier to get around.
[00:11:36] Like it’s not as overwhelming.
[00:11:38] Matthew Gamache: Mm-hmm. Well, I’ve never picked up a, a car in CDG, but uh, the process in Orly was fine.
Favorite things to do
[00:11:43] Annie Sargent: Good. Alright, so now let’s talk about your favorite things that you did on this trip and you, you list some that I have not done myself, so I’m really interested to hear your thoughts about those.
[00:11:56] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, no problem. Before we get into that, I just wanted to note that, you know, one of the, kind of the real uh, nice things about this trip, kind of unintended nice thing about this trip is that when you go along Northern France as we did, you hit all of these medieval sites. Um, And I would say we are, our family is somewhat enthusiastic about medieval Europe. Um, and it, It was a nice way to kind of you know, string um, string the trip together and, and kind of tie some continuity across all of the sites.
Discuss the places you’ll visit with your teens before you go
[00:12:21] Matthew Gamache: So, you know, the, across the, we could touch on some of these more detail, but, you know, across the whole trip we were able to see cathedrals and Chartres and Dol and Bayeux, uh, we saw the Cluny Museum, the Unterlinden Museum, Guedelon Castle, the Hospices de Beaune, the Bayeux Tapestry, you know, a lot of just really unique, specifically medieval sites, which I think, you know, is good for conversation. We talk about it, we watched some shows and read some things before we got there.
[00:12:47] So, um, that was kind of a nice treat.
[00:12:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and it’s interesting that you have some of the early medieval like, uh, Hospices de Beaune was, was set up early in the medieval period and then you have the Bayeux Tapestry that’s late in the medieval per period. And thankfully, medieval is a thousand years. So, you know, there’s a lot of medieval in France.
Improvements in museography in France in the last decade
[00:13:08] Annie Sargent: And the more recent medieval we know quite a lot about, obviously the earlier medieval it’s. it gets to be a little bit, you know, well, we’re making guesses here, you know, but, but it’s always fun. It feels like, and I think we’ve discussed this on a preview in a, on a previous episode, it really feels like stepping into a, a time machine when you get uh, immersed in these sites.
[00:13:31] And have you noticed that the sites do a better job with uh, the way they present themselves? I find that everywhere I go now they have better technical ways to, to present the site. You know, like the, uh, the iPads with where you can just point the iPad somewhere and it’s going to show you what it used to look like, you know, all decked out with the tapestries and the colors and the furniture and all that, and lots of places have stuff like that. It makes it so much nicer.
[00:14:03] Matthew Gamache: I agree, and this is a big difference. So the last time we were in France, where was 2017, uh, and this time around uh, everywhere we went, there was some iPad we could use to help explain things. And of course, the Tapestry Museum is crazy. It’s really an amazing way to display it. And, and which, So that, that’s a whole different thing.
[00:14:20] But, uh, But yes, I agree a lot more uh, guided tours, you know, hand guided tours with, with iPads.
[00:14:25] Annie Sargent: Yes. And, I really think that museums in France are getting with it. I mean, we still have the dusty old museum that don’t, doesn’t want to change anything, but we don’t have very many of those anymore. It’s mostly, you know, younger people who get hired to, you know, these are people who have doctoral degrees in uh, museology, I guess.
[00:14:44] And, And they really know all the technical stuff you can do. And they do a fantastic job at this. And most French museums have plenty of budget, too. So, you know, they can, they can do fun things and so that makes it much easier to visit with uh, kids or teens. And even for me, I mean, honestly, I love it when we know when I point the iPad and it shows me what it used to look like.
[00:15:08] I’m like, oh, cool. You know, So, yeah, uh, I mean, it used to be you had to get the book with, you know, where you had the little plastic thing that you would put over it. You remember those?
[00:15:17] Matthew Gamache: Yep. Yep.
[00:15:19] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, That was a good start. But we’ve gotten better. We’ve done better. All right.
[00:15:23] So let’s talk about the, your favorite things and tell us about them and tell us why uh, other people should go there.
[00:15:29] Matthew Gamache: Right. Um, So as I noted back in 2017, we spent uh, four nights around Dinan and Brittany, and uh, two nights in the southern coast of Brittany, and we wanted to go back. Um, So this time we went back, stay in the same house in Dinan uh, for six nights, and really enjoyed it. I think of all the regions that we’ve been to in France, uh, Brittany has been our family’s favorite.
[00:15:50] And I think it’s uh, a lot to do with you have access to this beautiful medieval towns, um, great food, I really love crêperies. Um, I like cider. Uh, You’re near the coast, um, to get oysters and mussels to eat at the coast. Uh, You can go, there’s great walks and hikes along the coast. It, it, I really like, kind of just a general vibe.
[00:16:09] So when we were in Brittany, Um, we, we did a lot of walks along the river. We rode bikes along the river. Uh, We went to the uh, the northern coast and we found a um, uh, oyster and mussels farm producer, uh, right there, kind of situated between Mount St. Michel and Cancale. And they have a little shop where they sell a very limited menu of uh, mussels, oysters, uh, some pate, uh, and cider and fish soup. And we went there twice and just really enjoyed it. It, It’s uh, really casual. The food’s great. The prices are great. Uh, And then when you’re done, you just go on uh, a nice walk as far as you want to go, and, and it’s very beautiful and really kind of enjoyed that.
Finding great places to eat in Brittany
[00:16:49] Annie Sargent: Right, and so that was called La Dégustation TONNEAU and it’s in Le Vivier-sur-mer, so I’ll put the, I’ll put the link in the show notes, um, for that because yeah, that’s a great recommendation.
[00:17:01] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, and it’s just a charming town, uh, and had uh, a few shops right along the coast and including this, uh, this place where you can get, uh, get lunch at, and uh, lunch or dinner I guess during the season. And, uh, I, It was fantastic. I just really liked it and, it’s just a, it’s very casual vibe.
[00:17:15] But I think that one thing that, you know, if you go through the, our previous trips, it was almost exclusively, we were eating and, and cooking our own food, uh, largely because of food allergy restrictions.
[00:17:26] This time we did a lot more eating out, but we tended to go more casual these places like this, uh, small place on the side of the road, or, or, you know, uh, food carts and, and things like that.
[00:17:35] And that’s that’s more our style.
[00:17:37] Annie Sargent: And how did you find them?
[00:17:38] Matthew Gamache: Uh, Google.
[00:17:39] Annie Sargent: Okay. Okay.
[00:17:40] Matthew Gamache: I think just doing some, some, some research before the trip. Just looking at Google Maps and seeing what’s around and uh, scoping out that way, really.
[00:17:46] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and if you want the more casual places, probably they don’t even take reservations. So you just, you know, when you’re there, you just say near me and you look at what’s highly rated near you. And it, you know, Google has gotten smarter. They, They used to just display stuff in your own language, but now they, they show you more what locals think and things like that, so you can see it.
[00:18:08] You can have a broader perspective. Because it seems to me like uh, French people and visitors have a different idea of what’s a good restaurant, sometimes. Like, you know, uh, uh, so yeah. So it’s good to, to, to look at uh, different reviews in different languages and things like that. And I should say also that coastal Brittany and Brittany in general is really, really popular with French people for vacations.
[00:18:31] And so do not leave booking your apartment till the last minute because you won’t find any. Um, Especially with uh, climate change, the, you know, many places in France are getting warmer, I mean, as we record this, it’s like 40 degrees in Provence. Uh, And we’re recording, you know, uh, middle of uh, July. And it’s, I mean, the episode’s not going to come out for several months, but, you know, you have to understand that July and August, most French people would rather be in Brittany than in Provence because they don’t want to burn.
[00:19:04] You know, it makes for a much better vacation if the weather is in the seventies than in the hundreds. I mean, obviously, you know, that’s,
[00:19:10] Matthew Gamache: Yep, yep. That’s true for us as well. Yeah.
[00:19:13]So I. We,
Rose Granite Coast hike
[00:19:13] Matthew Gamache: While we were there, we took a, uh, a drive out to the Rose Granite Coast, which is, took us about an hour and a half to get there for it’s much further west than where we were staying in Dinan. And, uh, you know, It’s a hike along the coast that has uh, you know, a lot of large pink rocks.
[00:19:27] Uh, It’s very similar to uh, Acadia National Park in Maine. Uh, And, uh, Very pretty. Uh, And we were hoping to do that in 2017, but we got rained out, so we did it on this trip and it was definitely worth it. Um, I, It was an amazing hike and you know, we get, we had a picnic lunch and as we were sitting there, maybe eight or nine dolphins were, were there in the ocean that we could see and observe.
[00:19:47] was, It was pretty nice.
[00:19:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And how did you find the hike? Tell us how you found the hike.
[00:19:52] Matthew Gamache: you know, Just looking up Brittany Hikes. Uh, I had a book on on, uh, France Hikes, uh, so I saw it in there and then followed up online and got some reviews and it seems like the, you know, the, the hikes to do if you’re interested in seeing these rocks.
[00:20:02] Annie Sargent: It’s, It’s really not that difficult to find. I’m, I’m just asking you, because people were asking like, ah, how’d you find it? It’s really easy. You, I mean, You can Google it, uh, you can, you know, coastal path or um, voie verte or you know, terms like that will take you right there. Or you could just ask the local tourist uh, office, what’s a fun hike to do at this level of difficulty?
[00:20:23] And there’s also apps that will tell you, will list all the hikes at different Komoot is one of them. There’s a bunch of them. And you can just say, you know, this hi level of difficulty, this length, whatever. And it will give you what you want. So, um, so yeah, just, just do a little bit of research and you’ll be fine.
[00:20:39] You don’t need to spend days on this, it’s, it’s. In 15 minutes you’ll, you’ll find it.
Bayeux Tapestry, American Cemetery, D-Day Museum
[00:20:43] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, so that was great. And just the five full days that we spent in Brittany were just really a lot of fun. Um, But during the, that week, we took one day out of it, and went to Normandy and stayed in Bayeux, and, and saw the tapestry, and the American Cemetery and the, and the DD D-Day Museum. Obviously those two are uh, incredible sites, um, that were uh, really good.
[00:21:03] I felt like the, obviously the Omaha Beach and the D-Day Museum and those sites have been talked about a lot in the podcast, so I won’t get into too much here. But the, uh, the museum at the cemetery was extremely moving, and what I really liked about it is it just brought kind of the uh, individuality and personalities of the people who fought and died there to, to life in a really touching and moving way.
[00:21:24] Uh, and, um, All four of us really appreciated it. I’m glad that we went there now when the kids were older than in the previous trips. Because I felt like it was a, it was really impactful.
D-Day might be best saved when the kids are into their teens
[00:21:34] Annie Sargent: Yeah, I think D-Day, I mean, much younger kids are not going to remember much of that, um, if any, so probably yes. Over 10 is probably a, a, a good choice for bringing your kids there. Yeah.
Guedelon Castle: Watch Secrets of the Castle on YouTube
[00:21:49] Matthew Gamache: As we moved across the country from week one to week two, we stopped in Guedelon, uh, at the Guedelon castle. So for those of you who don’t know, this is a site where the French government uh, has kind of commissioned a group of people to build a castle, uh, as if it was the Middle Ages. So, uh, you have to source all of the materials, whether it’s clay, or wood, or, or, or water, or whatever from the site, and you have to use all the techniques that were, that were used uh, at that time. So it’s quite the project. Uh, It’s something like a 25 year project.
[00:22:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s been going on for a long time.
[00:22:21] Matthew Gamache: Yeah. Yeah, so the castle is, it seems like it’s about 80% built. Um, And it was really interesting and um, uh, I felt like it was fun, uh, but I would, if, if I were to recommend it to others, I would say it really helps to learn more about it before you get there. So we watched a show on YouTube called Secrets of the Castle. I think it’s like four episodes that really talks in detail about what they’re doing and how that is from the period and all of that stuff.
[00:22:49] If we hadn’t have watched that, I would’ve looked at it and said, okay, this is, this is fine. But a lot of it was in, all of it was in French. There really wasn’t much English, which, which of course is fine. Um,
[00:22:57] But I felt like we, we, yeah, we got a lot more out of it because um, we were prepared to, to understand what we were seeing.
[00:23:02] Because I think some of the, the amazing part of it goes into the details, like, to make a brick is a whole thing, right? You source the material, you need water, you need all these things. So when you look at the guy there who’s making bricks, uh, it, it, it’s a lot more meaning if if you, you kind of know all the detail and all the work that, that goes into that. That’s just one example.
[00:23:20] Annie Sargent: All the different levels and the different types of brick and they probably have different types of brick even there at Guedelon.
[00:23:28] Matthew Gamache: Right.
[00:23:28] Annie Sargent: So this, this was The Secrets of the Castle is about Guedelon, right? Or is it about castles in general?
[00:23:34] Matthew Gamache: No, it’s about Guedelon.
[00:23:35] Annie Sargent: Okay. Okay, cool. I’m going to have to watch that. Because it’s out of the way enough that even though I drive a fair bit around France, I’ve never made it there, because it’s just never convenient to go there. Like, you know, And I wonder if that’s where they, why they put it there to attract more people to the area?
[00:23:52] Uh, But it’s, it’s just not a place where you will just, ha Oh yeah, we, oh, there, it’s, let’s go, you know?
[00:24:00] It like it happens with a lot of stuff in France. Sometimes you drive along and you go, oh, I’ve heard of this. I want to see it. Uh, But Guedelon it’s not likely.
[00:24:08] Matthew Gamache: Nope, it’s, it’s actually quite inconvenient to get to. Uh, Just imagine the drive from Dinan to Burgundy as long as it is. And I think just the diversion to get to Guedelon, um, which looks kind of on the way on the map, added like an hour and a half to the drive.
[00:24:23] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:24:24] Matthew Gamache: So, so it is, it is a commitment to go there, so I highly recommend being prepared so that you get the most out of it when you’re there.
[00:24:31] Annie Sargent: Yeah, because you you, have to get off the freeway and, uh, and drive quite a long way. I mean, it looks like it’s between Orleans and Dijon, right?
[00:24:39] You think, oh, Yeah, between Orleans and Dijon, it will be easy. Yeah. But those roads are teeny tiny. You’re not going to go fast.
[00:24:48] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, and you know me, I like the country roads, but after an hour and a half of them, it was enough. Where is the place?
[00:24:57] Annie Sargent: I hear you. I hear you.
[00:24:59] All right. Wonderful.
[00:25:01] Matthew Gamache: Um,
[00:25:01] Matthew Gamache: So from there in Burgundy, uh, ironically, I think the, the thing that we enjoyed the most was uh, our day trip to the Jura region. So that’s not, we really enjoyed Burgundy. It was a very relaxing week. And um, because we stayed in a cottage that was associated with a bed and breakfast in this small town called Nantoux, uh, they had a pool and they had a boule court. And we had, we spent a lot of time doing pool and boule, uh, just to relax and, and uh, wind down from a very busy first week, which was great. And you know, we did bike riding in the vineyards, we we toured Beaune quite a bit, which was only 10 minutes away. Uh,
Arbois – home of Louis Pasteur
[00:25:35] Matthew Gamache: But the, the most engaging day, as I said, is we went out to the Jura region and went to Arbois, is a town uh, in, in, uh, uh, in the Jura. It’s about, it took us about an hour to get there and, uh, this is, uh, among other things, this is the home of Louis Pasteur.
[00:25:49] And they had a, just a really engaging museum there about his life and uh, you know, what went on in the home with respect to his science and all of that.
[00:25:57] Uh, And just a really nice small museum that uh, um, was kind of off the beaten path. Um, We went uh, for a really nice hike that uh, um, probably two and a half hours or so up into this uh, area where there’s some waterfalls and some interesting geology in the forest. And, And that was really fun. Um, We got to go to uh, buy some food at a, at a Jura uh, meat and cheese shop, which was pretty unique in that, uh, that this is where Comté cheese comes from.
[00:26:24] And they have this massive turntable full of Comté and you pointed to the one you want. And they spin the wheel and they, there’s, uh, it’s hard to explain, but they have like a laser on it and you.
[00:26:34] They cut based on where the laser is. It’s really unique. So we got a bunch of of cheese from there. Um, and, uh, yeah, And we bought some Jura wine, um, which is something that we’ve, we knew about going in. a, it’s, It’s got a little different taste to it than other wines, I think other white wines. Um, So that was fun. So that was just kind of an engaging one day in the Jura, which we didn’t really know much about. And I would recommend the town of Arbois, uh, for folks who want to check out something a little bit different.
[00:26:59] Annie Sargent: Yeah, we have, I mean, we’ve mentioned it a little bit on the podcast, but not very much. So really that’s, that’s a part of France, I know Elyse uh, lived there shortly, but I think if you, uh, and it’s kind of a wet part of France. But if you go in July, the weather is probably going to be nice and it, it sounds like uh, a part of France I should go explore. Because I don’t know it very well and I’m totally enamored with Louis Pasteur. Everything having to do with Louis Pasteur.
[00:27:25] Matthew Gamache: Oh, really?
[00:27:25] Annie Sargent: I would love it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m, I’m, I’ve read several biographies about him and stuff, so I, I really, um, and his wife, his wife was quite spectacular, you know, she was amazing. She, She did such a amazing like second fiddle, but without second fiddle there wouldn’t have been any Louis Pasteur, so…
[00:27:41] Matthew Gamache: Exactly. And, And that really comes out in the tour as well. The, the, This is another, like we said it, you know, they, they give you an iPad and you go through the rooms and they, there’s an audio tour that goes with it, and it was really well done. Um, Probably the best of, of the, of that type of thing that we saw on, on our trip.
[00:27:55] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s really good to know. really good to know.
[00:27:56] Matthew Gamache: Meaning like the best kind of audio-visual um, tour that we saw.
[00:28:00] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s fantastic. That’s, That’s really good to know. I, had, so I don’t think anybody had mentioned that before on the podcast, so thank you. That’s great.
[00:28:06] Matthew Gamache: No problem. So then getting back to Burgundy, Burgundy’s great. The cheese is great. The food is great. We got to, I guess, explore a little bit more wine than we have in the past. Um, And we were staying in this town called Nantoux, uh, which as I noted is about a 10 minute drive from Beaune, uh, very small town.
[00:28:22] We got to have kind of that small wine town feel and it was fun. And, uh, You really, you can’t beat the cheese there.
[00:28:32] Annie Sargent: Yeah.
[00:28:32] Matthew Gamache:Uh, But had the, the Delice de Pommard, the, with the, with the mustard seeds on the outside, we had that all the time, just about every day.
[00:28:38] Annie Sargent: Delice de Pommard is what it’s called?
[00:28:41] Matthew Gamache: Yeah. Yep.
[00:28:42] Annie Sargent: You know, that is, I’m going to have to Google it right now because I don’t de, I have not had this cheese. That’s a really interesting. Huh. And what is on the outside? It’s, is it like a…?
[00:28:57] Oh, it’s a mustard!
[00:28:57] Matthew Gamache: It’s mustard seed.
[00:29:00] So it’s a, It’s a soft cow cheese that’s kind of formed into a ball and covered with mustard seed. It’s very good. Uh, We also like Époisses, but it’s not nearly as strong as Époisses.
[00:29:10] Annie Sargent: Okay. Okay. Yeah. Époisses it’s like, oh, a bit much.
[00:29:16] Matthew Gamache: Yep.
[00:29:17] Annie Sargent: Oh, excellent. I will have to be on the lookout for this. Now that I’ve seen it, perhaps I’ll see it at the fromagerie somewhere.
[00:29:23] Cool. Thank you.
[00:29:25] Matthew Gamache: Yeah. So excellent. So good week there. And then as we moved on to, uh, then we moved on to Alsace.
[00:29:33] We’ve gone all around the country in these three trips, and, and I, I keep, one of my themes is like, you go to, you can see kind of a lot of western Europe in, within France boundaries itself.
[00:29:44] So here we’re now at the, kind of the German-French boundary, a lot more germanic things. Uh, We went into uh, Staufen Germany, uh, on our ride over there, uh, for, for lunch, which was fun. Um, So, yeah, just kind of a, just a real unique feel out there. Um, And I know it’s, it’s pretty popular with, with the Join Us in France community as well.
[00:30:02] So we stayed in, uh, I believe it’s pronounced Eguisheim, which which is the small town, just South Colmar. Uh, We were choosing between Colmar and Eguisheim. Uh, We chose Eguisheim. It wa uh, it was, It was really nice. It was fine. I think if we were to do it again, we would’ve stayed in Colmar, uh, just because I was concerned about parking and logistics in com, Colmar, but it was really, was a fairly easy city to manage.
[00:30:25] Annie Sargent: Oh yeah, in July it’s easy.
[00:30:26] In December it’s a nightmare. But in July it’s easy. Yeah.
[00:30:29] Matthew Gamache: You mean because of the Christmas markets?
[00:30:31] Annie Sargent: Yes. Colmar just quintuples in size in in, in December. And so everything is just totally like booked up and you can’t park, you can’t move. It’s ugh, you know? Uh, But the rest of the year it’s much quieter. And in January it’s, they shut down. Like it’s really funny. All the, All the stores, they’re just on vacation all of January, don’t even try to buy anything in Colmar in January.
[00:30:58] It’s closed. The whole town goes away. Yeah.
[00:31:01] yeah, Yeah.
[00:31:01] But you went
[00:31:02] Matthew Gamache: the
[00:31:02] Annie Sargent: Yeah, go ahead.
[00:31:02] Matthew Gamache: go ahead.
[00:31:02] Annie Sargent: No, no, I just, I was just going to say, to say, you went to the Unterlinden Museum, which is really interesting. I, I enjoyed that as well.
[00:31:06] Matthew Gamache: That’s what I was just about to talk about. uh, That’s a uh, real famous museum in Colmar. That’s famous because it has the uh, Eisenheim uh, altarpiece, which I’m probably mispronouncing, but, um, which is one of the more incredible pieces of art I’ve ever seen. Um, and it, it’s, it’s, it’s worth, Colmar is a beautiful place and it’s worth going to on its own right, but even if it just had this museum, it would still be worth going to because um, this work of art is incredible.
[00:31:28] It’s a, It’s a altar piece that’s kind of broken down for you. So you can see, um, kind of each panel separately with a, with a nice audio guide that goes with it. That, that, um, uh, Let’s see, I’m probably going to get the, the history wrong, but um, it, it was in a, it was originally commissioned for a hospital that focuses on um, a specific um, skin disease and uh, so, so, uh, the paintings are kind of, uh, the stories are told kind of in, in that theme, uh, which is pretty amazing.
[00:31:51] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it, it’s, it’s very vivid. The colors are so vivid. And an altarpiece was used to tell different stories. It’s like a storybook, a cartoon if you wish, but it’s much more sophisticated than a cartoon. But they would just open and close panels depending on what month it was, and the time of the year and the liturgy that was associated with that time of the year.
[00:32:17] And, it is just like vivid, like the, the monsters really look monstrous and the, and the happy bits are very happy. I mean, it’s just really interesting to see, and you could spend, and they break it down for you. So you, You see the actual piece, the, the whole altar piece. But then they have stuff on the side where you can see the different bits and what they represent and why they are important and when they were displayed.
[00:32:41] And so if you went to church, you, you wouldn’t see it fully, um, all at once. You would just, you’d have to go back, and back, and back, and back to see it all.
[00:32:51] Matthew Gamache: Yes. Thank you. That’s a much better description than, than what I gave for sure. That, that, that is, that is what it is. And, um, I, I thought it was, it was pretty amazing.
The Bayeux Tapestry
[00:32:56] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And you know, since the theme of your visit, well, you know, you wanted to look at a lot of medieval stuff. Well, that’s like one of the biggest treasures, you know, between the Bayeux Tapestry that you saw that we’re probably going to talk about in a minute. And this and this museum, you, you saw some of the jewels of the, of the middle ages right there.
How a visit to the Bayeux Tapestry takes place
[00:33:16] Matthew Gamache: Yeah. And if you want to go back to the The Bayeux Tapestry, um, you know, that was during our day in Normandy, and uh, um, just amazing. You ba For those of you who are familiar with it, you, you, you step in on a conveyor belt and yeah, you have an audio guide in your ear and the conveyor belt moves you along the, the, uh, the tapestry, which tells the story of… um,
[00:33:34] Annie Sargent: William the Conqueror
[00:33:35] Matthew Gamache: The Battle of Hastings.
[00:33:36] Yeah. And um, it’s just really interesting and really unique and uh, um, found that to be really, really fun.
[00:33:42] Annie Sargent: And uh, it’s unbelievable that somebody would just, that a group of women probably took the time to tell this story. And again, it’s like really vivid storytelling, but in a tapestry form. And nowadays nobody does tapestries. Like, you know, we, I don’t, I’m not aware of any major artists that produces tapestries to tell stories today, but it was huge back then.
[00:34:07] Matthew Gamache: That’s right. One of a kind. Um, while, While we were in Colmar, we also went to the Bartholdi Museum, uh, uh, who is them who uh, designed the Statue of Liberty. That was really good museum too. Uh, You know, not as good as some of the other things we’ve talked about, but um, uh, I found his, the story of his life to be pretty engaging.
[00:34:22] So I would recommend that as well.
[00:34:24] Annie Sargent: Very cool.
[00:34:25] Matthew Gamache: Yeah. Yep. Um, so. Uh, And one of the days we were in uh, Alsace, we went to Europa Park, which is a big uh, theme and uh, uh, amusement park, right across the border in Germany.
[00:34:34] And that was great. For the Americans listening, it’s like if you combine Epcot Center with Six Flags.
[00:34:40] So really great rollercoasters. And uh, the theme, it was thematically laid out, kind of like Epcot. You have like a Germany town, and a Ireland town and all of that. Um, It was really fun. Um, It was the middle of summer, so the lines were pretty long. Uh, uh, But you know, wasn’t, wasn’t that bad. Uh,
[00:34:57] In terms of the wait we got to do all of the, the best rides several times, and the kids loved it. I loved it.
[00:35:03] Thought it was, it was really good.
[00:35:05] Annie Sargent: It’s not too far into Germany?
[00:35:07] Matthew Gamache: So we were staying, as I said, in Eguisheim. Uh, It took us an hour to get to Rust, Germany, which is where it’s located.
[00:35:14] Easy drive. Uh, yeah, nothing.
[00:35:16] And, uh, yeah, So we were able to get there right when the park opened, left when the park closed. Um, I, Relatively speaking, it was pretty affordable relative to what I’m used to in the States, uh, including the admission and the, uh, uh, and the food you’re there.
[00:35:25] Um, Overall just an enjoyable, fun day. Uh, And I have to, and there are people from all countries there, that’s for sure.
[00:35:32] Annie Sargent: That’s good.
[00:35:33] So is it more geared toward teenagers or do they also have stuff for kids? For younger kids.
[00:35:39] Matthew Gamache: It’s got everything. So it’s got like your toddler section and then it’s got the super rollercoasters that go upside down and all that.
[00:35:45] So the the full spectrum.
[00:35:47] Annie Sargent: So it’s the size of a Six Flags kind of place?
[00:35:51] Wow. Yeah. This is not, this is not one I’ve been to. But you know, that’s, yeah. The, the, I like amusement parks like this, usually, I just haven’t gotten to that one.
[00:35:59] Matthew Gamache: uh, On our trips we like to do something like that, um, to. to keep the kids engaged.
[00:36:03] uh, And it’s different, you know, we’re with the, we’re, we’re with the locals doing, the, doing the local thing and, and it’s nice.
Renting bikes to visit Burgundy and Brittany was easy
[00:36:07] Annie Sargent: And then you rented bikes to do, to ride through Burgundy and Brittany? was that, Was that fairly easy to do and arrange?
[00:36:14] Matthew Gamache: Yes, it was. Uh, Brittany, extremely easy, actually, both places, extremely easy. Brittany was particularly easy because the bike rental place was a one minute walk from where we were staying. And uh, the ride along the, um, the Rance River was extremely flat and beautiful, uh, and very easy.
[00:36:29] Uh, The ride in, uh, In Burgundy it’s a little bit more involved. Uh, You know, we weren’t staying in Beaune, so we drove to Beaune, we rented the bikes there, uh, got to the bike path and then got up into the vineyard, which is a little bit more hilly. Um, It’s not, I wouldn’t say it’s real hilly, it’s just a little bit more hilly.
[00:36:43] Um, So a little bit more challenging, uh, for those of us who don’t ride bikes all that often, uh, but rewarding and, uh, and fun.
Walking through Paris on Bastille Day
[00:36:48] Annie Sargent: Wonderful. Wonderful. Okay. And we’re going to end on walking through Paris on the evening of July 14th. Uh, yeah, I want to hear what it’s like to spend July 14th, uh, Bastille Day in Paris.
[00:37:02] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, so we, we dropped off the car in Strasbourg and then took the, the train into Paris, and we arrived on July 14th and got in a taxi um, from the train station to our place. We were, We were staying in Montparnasse. Uh, And just that taxi ride in itself was hilarious because the. there was a lot going on in Paris and it was difficult to get through it.
[00:37:22] Um, So that was an experience.
[00:37:24] Annie Sargent: A lot of road closures, I bet.
[00:37:26] Matthew Gamache: Yes. Yeah.
[00:37:27] And yeah, taxi drivers in Paris are great. They know how to handle all this stuff and I just sit back and watch and uh, it’s actually quite a fun ride. Um, So then, uh, on that day, um, Yeah, we, we, we went to some, some neighborhoods, um, we went up to, to see where uh, Amelie, the movie was set or filmed. So that was neat. Uh, and, And then uh, we went out to eat in the Marais and then uh, we kind of meandered our way down from, you know, that northern spot down to um, central Paris by foot. And as we walked through it was like, you know, eight o’clock at night, or nine o’clock at night. And it was just really nice to see everybody out.
[00:38:01] Um, It was just a really uh, energetic vibe. Um, Obviously it’s the, uh, it’s a holiday so people are out, uh, hanging out. And uh, sometimes you catch a city in that kind of magical moment where you’re, um, you’re just walking through and it seems like everybody’s out having a good time and it’s really fun.
[00:38:16] Annie Sargent: That’s cool. Yeah. So obviously you missed the fireworks, which are usually on the 13th in the evening. Um, I’m not sure if that’s what they did this year, but typically it’s, it’s on the 13th, uh, and then the big, the, the, the big parade and stuff is on the morning of the 14th. So
[00:38:32] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, so we, we, we missed all that and that’s fine. It’s not really our thing anyway. Um, But like I said, it is really what we enjoyed was just kind of the vibrancy of seeing Paris in full swing there.
[00:38:42] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and you, and you could have uh, gone to um, the fireman’s balls, which are a big thing on July 14th that evening. They, They put on uh, dances, I guess, and people, you know, participate, uh, pay a little bit of money to, to get into the fireman’s balls. And they’re, they’re, they’re really fun and very traditional.
[00:39:01] So that’s another thing you can do. But, um, But like you said, just just being in Paris on July 14th is is typically, typically very fun. I know this year they had a massive amount of security, um, but that’s, uh, you know, it’s a big city, they need to have security. So, uh, there’s, There’s not much we can do about that, I guess.
[00:39:17] All right, anything else you want to, um, and so I want to mention that you listed all of your accommodations and all of that, and I’ll put all of that in the show notes for people who want to uh, look for your recommendations. Uh, And you also list some restaurants and the foods you liked. Uh, uh, you know, so I’ll put all, All of this will be
[00:39:37]uh, in your, in your um, guest notes. But
[00:39:39] It sounds like you had a wonderful time and that possibly you’ll come back to France, who knows?
[00:39:44] Matthew Gamache: Yeah, I think so. If, If I could just talk about uh, one more, a couple more things from that I, we specifically did because, because of Join us in France podcast episodes? I.
The Marie Curie Museum
[00:39:51] Matthew Gamache: So when we were in Paris, we went to the Marie Curie Museum, which I would not have known about if it wasn’t for your episode on the museum.
[00:39:58] And we we thought it was great. It was a good time. It was a nice museum to pair with the Louis Pasteur Museum.
[00:40:03] Annie Sargent: Very true. Yeah.
[00:40:04] Matthew Gamache: The big theme of scientists.
[00:40:06] Annie Sargent: Oh, and I bet the Marie Curie Museum is much, much smaller than the Pasteur museum in size, right?
[00:40:12] Matthew Gamache: Yes, it was small. Yeah.
[00:40:14] Okay. When we were in, uh, Al Sa, oh, This whole trip was amazing weather. Like we, I can’t believe how lucky we were with weather. It was the perfect weather every day. No rain, no extreme heat. Um, It was amazing. Uh, And when we were in Alsace we had one day, right? it was going to be in the nineties or Fahrenheit, and that was really the first time all trip that that was going to happen. And uh, we had some plans, but we kind of scrapped them uh, and decided to go up into the Vauges Mountains. Um,
[00:40:38] Based on, you know, the podcast that you and Elyse did on that region, it sounded like it would, we’d had some things to do up there and it would be cooler because it’s elevated.
[00:40:47] And uh, we, we had a great day. We drove up there, we did some um, uh, alpine luge, uh, activities. We went to a lake and hung out and uh, uh, had blueberry pie, which you recommended on your podcast, and it was, it was super. I really like, I love your podcasts that kind of go to places like that and explain kind of what people do there and what the feel is. And it really helps with, with um, having kind of a flexible trip plan, uh, when we’re in their middle of these trips. So I appreciate it.
[00:41:12] Annie Sargent: Oh, that’s wonderful and and indeed there. I mean, there is something to do in every part of France and even if you don’t know anything about it, just you know, when you’re there Google you know, what can I do around here? Or some query like that and you’ll find dozens of things. Or go to the tourist office.
[00:41:30] You don’t, I mean, Honestly, there are very few places in France where I would say, well this, this holds no interest, like anywhere is something, but some places have some really, really fun things that are very different from what you can do in the US, which is why people like it, I guess.
[00:41:48] Matthew Gamache: Yeah.
[00:41:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah. All right.
[00:41:50] Well, Matt, thank you so much for coming back on the podcast, for telling us about this trip, sharing some great ideas and uh, inspiration for other people to go off the beaten track a little bit in France, which is something uh, first time visitors typically don’t do, but there is so much to explore and so much to do all over that.
[00:42:12] It’s fantastic to, uh, to have you tell us about some of your favorites. Merci beaucoup Matt.
[00:42:17] Matthew Gamache: Thank you.
[00:42:18] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.
Thank you Patrons
[00:42:26] Annie Sargent: Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the show. Patrons get several exclusive rewards for becoming members. You can see them at patreon.com/joinus.
[00:42:43] Thank you all for your support of this podcast. It’s 10 years old almost, and some of you have been supporting the show for almost that many years.
[00:42:52] Thank you so much, you are fantastic.
[00:42:55] And a shout out this week to new patrons: Susan C. and Lloyd Dawber. To join this wonderful community of Francophiles, go to patreon.com/joinus. And to support Elyse go to patreon.com/ElysArt.
New Patreon Reward
[00:43:17] Annie Sargent: This week I published a Patreon reward exploring the reasons why Napoleon sold.
[00:43:17] This week I published a Patreon reward exploring the reasons why Napoleon sold Louisiana to the United States and what might have happened if he hadn’t. This is part of a French history series, call it The French History Brief. The series is like a mini episode about a specific event in This series is a mini episode, much like the podcast, but shorter, and it’s about a specific event in French history, uh, like uh, The history of The Burghers of Calais, The amazing statue by Auguste Rodin, The Black Death, how Louis the 16th couldn’t Catch a Break, and many others. Uh,
[00:43:52] And now on Patreon, you have a collection tab where you can see all of the French History Briefs. Uh, under uh, you know, it’s, It’s very easy to find them.
Personal Itinerary Consultant Service
[00:44:01] Annie Sargent: You can, of course, also take advantage of my expertise, uh, as your personal itinerary consultant. I offer two levels of service.
[00:44:09] The Bonjour service, where we talk, you ask me all your questions, I give you suggestions and you’re ready to decide, uh, and uh, you know, go ahead with whatever you are struggling with.
[00:44:19] You can also go with the VIP service where we talk also for an hour on Zoom, but then I send you a detailed document that outlines everything we discussed, as well as a summary of the best advice shared on this podcast for many years.
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The gare du Nord is a hot mess
[00:45:42] Annie Sargent: Okay, let’s talk about the Gare du Nord because, like I said in the intro, it’s a hot mess and there are some things you need to know. I believe that being warned against these scams that are prevalent there is going to make you be able to just see them coming and not fall for it.
[00:46:01] I’m going to read you a post from Reddit from an anonymous poster who said this, but this is last week October uh, 2023. Okay?
[00:46:11] I know that pickpocketing in Paris is a common topic and also overhyped, but we just had a rough experience and wanted to help others avoid similar. We took the RER from CDG, that’s the airport in Paris, Charles de Gaulle, to Gare du Nord, and transferred on Metro Line 5 there. Unfortunately, the Metro was unexpectedly packed. We were not prepared for this. And we suddenly,
[00:46:33] okay, I got to start up again on this because I got interrupted. I, so let me quote this, this anonymous poster, I know that pickpocketing in Paris is a common topic and also overhyped, but we just had a rough experience and wanted to help others avoid similar. We took the RER from CDG, Charles de Gaulle, that’s the airport, to Gare du Nord and transferred to metro line 5.
[00:46:33] Unfortunately, the metro was unexpectedly packed. And then in parentheses, he says, we were not prepared for this. Okay, I’ll have comments about that later. And we were suddenly surrounded. Both my companion and I could immediately feel people putting their hands in our pockets, but we could do almost nothing. We were so hemmed in. My companion grabbed one guy’s hand that was in his pocket and started squeezing. The guy started yelling as if we were the ones trying to assault him. There was enough of a commotion that uh, and we, There was enough of a commotion and we had reached the next stop. So the guys all got off, still acting as if we were the aggressors.
[00:47:12] In the end, they got nothing. Luckily, because our pockets were sufficiently deep and tight. Here’s my suggestion for others visiting, to prevent this. Put everything except your metro ticket in your roller bag, not the outside pockets, obviously. Nobody is trying to run off with your roller bag. Uh, Not true, not true, but I’ll, I’ll get back to that as well.
[00:47:35] So long as you don’t leave it unwatched, of course. By the way, here was the thief’s method. He had his hand in a black plastic bag and stuck his bag covered hand in my friend’s pocket. Had he been successful, the wallet would be inside the plastic bag when he pulled it out, thus appearing as if it was just his belongings.
[00:47:59] I hope this is helpful.
[00:48:00] Okay. All right. The first thing you need to know is that there has been a problem with this for a long time. The RER between the airport and the city of Paris is a problem because that goes across the poorest part of France. You cannot find places with lower income anywhere in France.
[00:48:24] So, obviously, this is an area where people who live there may not have the means to make a good living. Okay, let’s just put it that way. They, um, this, This RER, there’s two of them, there’s one that’s direct, which is the least bad, and there’s one that actually stops at lots of different stations. What happens when the RER stops at the stations is that there are people on the platform who just get in, grab whatever they can, and exit the train and the doors close and there’s nothing you can do.
[00:49:01] And they will grab your roller bag, they will grab your purse, they will grab whatever, your suitcase. They will grab whatever they can. Okay. So the, the RER that stops at all the stations avoid at all costs because they do this constantly. Now, because they do this constantly, the security uh, is trying to do something about this, but there’s so many, it’s hard to manage it.
[00:49:26] So, uh, because, um, because they’re trying to do something about this, it just pushed the problem a little further. So now they got on the metro, on Line 5, which they were surprised was… packed. Uh, I’m sorry. This is Paris. Okay. Have you, uh, maybe you haven’t been to Paris, okay, that’s, that’s fair. Paris, just like all the other big cities has a very busy Metro system.
[00:49:48] And depending on the time of day, it’s worse than others, but it’s often packed and people just, you know, crowding around you, they do this in groups, okay? It’s usually, anymore, it’s not just, you think it’s the gentleman pickpocket that’s going to come and be very uh, smooth. No, no, no, no, no, this is not it.
[00:50:08] This is like three or four people, sometimes female, sometimes male, sometimes white, sometimes black, it doesn’t matter, you don’t know who these people are. There’s a bunch of them. Um. And they will just cram you and they will grab your stuff and this bag of thing where they just put a bag in your stuff and then they look like, uh, this is pretty clever.
[00:50:29] I hadn’t heard of this one already. So what’s the solution to this? When you are arriving in Paris, okay, I’m going to sound like, uh, you know, like a broken record, but I have to tell you this again, and again, and again, especially if you’re not city savvy, and especially if you don’t think you could recover from a thing like this, because there are people who experience robbery when they arrive and then it spoils the rest of their vacation.
[00:50:57] Okay, the solution to this is do not take the RER when you arrive in Paris. It’s very simple. There are taxis. It’s a set price. You can look it up. I’m not going to tell you the prices right now because they change a little bit all the time, but it’s around 65 euros. So what you do is when you exit the airport, you just go, you follow the signs for the taxi.
[00:51:22] You go to the official taxi line because there are scammers at, in the airport as well. And you just wait for the next taxi. It’ll cost you 65 Euros, right now it’s 65 or less depending on exactly where you’re going in Paris. And there will be no thieves. Okay, and you won’t have to handle suitcases up and down stairs and with closing doors and things like that. Now I’m perfectly aware that there are city savvy people who can do this. Okay?
[00:51:55] I can do this. I don’t like to do it and I avoid it, but I can. There are most of us, especially people who come to a big city for the first time, are not going to be able to handle this sort of pressure. Okay. So save yourself trouble. It’s 65 bucks for heaven’s sakes. Okay. Just get on a taxi and, uh, and, and there won’t be any trouble.
[00:52:19] Now, because this is Reddit, there are comments and I’m going to read a few. Uh, uh, You know, some guy says, uh, good reaction and great that you didn’t let them impress you with their shouting. Yes, uh, them shouting at you, that’s a new one on me as well. Somebody else says, avoid rush hour if you really want to be brave.
[00:52:33] If you really, Another guy says, uh, avoid rush hour if you really want to brave the metro. Well, you know, how are you going to do that? Your plane lands, you’re going to wait for six hours until rush hour is over? That’s ridiculous. Okay, um, somebody, somebody says the plastic bag is uh, new to me. Yes, it’s new to me as well.
[00:52:52] Uh, And then somebody else says, uh, they will run away with your luggage if you don’t hold on to it tight. Uh, I’ve seen it happen with my own eyes. Yes. So have I. It’s happened to me actually, not in Paris, but in Villanova y la Geltru, uh, where I go frequently, but I was taking the train. Some guys saw that I had a laptop because like a fool, you know, this is like a little provincial train stuff. So I was waiting for my train I got my laptop out did a little something that I needed to do, put the laptop back in the bag, and what do you know, when I get in the train when it finally arrives, somebody grabbed my bag and ran out with my bag. And the And the train doors just closed and I couldn’t do anything about it.
[00:53:34] So I yelled really loudly. Another woman in English or in French, I can’t remember. Um, Another woman saw what was happening and she yelled at the security service that was on the platform and they ran after the guy and they actually recovered my bag. Okay? This was a miracle.
[00:53:53] So, um, don’t let this happen to you, because I don’t think there’s security people on the platforms in most places in Paris. Um, Okay. Another guy says: It’s not overhyped at Gare du Nord. When I lived a couple of blocks up the hill from that metro, the crowds, and pickpockets, and beggars were such a hassle, I would usually walk down the hill to the city center.
[00:54:17] Congrats on foiling them. Uh, You could have yelled pickpocket and everyone on the, on the train would have known who it was, but you know, yeah, yeah. Yell, yell is good, but, uh, uh, somebody else says, I highly suggest a small money belt. Yes, perhaps that’s a, that’s a, yes, perhaps that would be better than nothing, anyway.
[00:54:37] Um, Somebody says I put used handkerchiefs in one of my pockets. Always a pleasure to feel one of them putting their hands inside. Okay, somebody else, and this is another good uh, suggestion, he says tourist friends, please consider using the Roissy bus. An excellent suggestion, by the way, I always forget, but it’s cheaper than the taxi and it works really well.
[00:55:01] So this person says it’s safe, it’s cheaper than a taxi, it’s 15 euros when they wrote this. Reliable and will get you next to the Opera Auber station where you can call a taxi or use the metro to get to your hotel, all the while avoiding the crowds at Gare du Nord. And nothing in your pockets is a general rule in Paris metro RER.
[00:55:25] If you want nothing stolen, use a bag with zippers and keep it in front of you while using the metro RER. Yeah, I use a crossbody bag and everything is zipped up in there. Okay. And I, the most difficult time is when you first arrive because you, obviously you have your passport, you have all your stuff with you, but afterwards I just leave everything behind at the hotel or the apartment or where I’m, wherever I’m staying.
[00:55:49] Um, And also, again, it’s worth saying that replacing a passport is a huge hassle. It costs a lot of money, and a day or two of your time, because you’re going to have to stand in line at the American Embassy in Paris. And they are not friendly types. Having done this, I can tell you not friendly. Uh, So, um, uh, once you get to your hotel or apartment, put the passport away, just travel with your, either a passport card, which you can
[00:56:17] uh, order uh, from the official US passport service or your uh, driver’s license, because that’s official ID and it’s easy to replace. If somebody reaches in your pocket and gets your driver’s license. It’s not as big a deal.
[00:56:32] Let’s see. Let me look at the other. Um,
[00:56:32] Now I should say also that if you don’t have a lot of luggage with you, going through these big train stations is not as big of a deal because when you first arrive is really the big problem. Afterwards, eh, you just bring a little bit with you, you know, I use my, I pay for everything with my Apple Watch.
[00:56:54] If somebody takes my watch, okay, they don’t know the password, they can’t use it. Um, uh, when you’re, When you’re just touring around after you, you’ve settled into your hotel or whatever, uh, it’s not as big of a, of a deal, really.
[00:57:06] And what about people that have to go to Gare du Nord because they are going to get on the Eurostar to or from England or some other destination on train?
[00:57:14] Well, I would, uh, if, if I have luggage, I use Uber or a taxi. The end. You know, it’s just I just budget this it’s not that much money and it saves a lot of hassle. One excellent comment, somebody says my sister was nearly pickpocketed on the Paris Metro heading to Montmartre. It was a Saturday and the trains were crowded because they run less often, so the trains are always crowded, you can count on that.
[00:57:41] She had a crossbody bag in front of her but was holding on to the pole and didn’t have one of her hands on the bag. Another woman noticed the pickpockets, and started shouting. It was two young teen girls who looked Eastern European, and they just drifted off at the next stop. My sister has been a New York City subway commuter for years.
[00:58:06] And she was mad at herself, but at least nothing was stolen. We were all a bit sloppy.
[00:58:12] The thing is, when you first arrive, I know you don’t realize this, but you are not, you’re tired, you’re jet lagged, you’re not on your best, okay? Unless you’re some sort of special forces trained person, you know, if you’re a normal human being, when you arrive in Paris… you’re tired. So, uh, this is a very vulnerable time.
[00:58:33] And one last comment, somebody says, it’s not overhyped, you literally just almost got robbed yourself. How can you say it’s overhyped? And then this person says that Paris, and it’s not all of Paris, it’s, it’s some very specific spots in Paris. Montmartre is a problem. Gare du Nord is definitely a problem. Gare de l’Est is also a problem, but probably most of you don’t go there.
[00:58:57] So, um, just, uh, just put on your thinking cap, and then think, and then decide… that you’re going to get a taxi. If you have luggage, if you have all your stuff with you, it’s either an Uber, or a taxi, or Roissybus! Roissybus is also very, very good. And I always forget to mention it, but um, especially if you’re not staying too far from the Opera House, it’s an excellent choice.
[00:59:23] My thanks to podcast editors Anne and Cristian Cotovan who produce the transcripts. Next week on the podcast, an episode with Elyse Rivin about D’Artagnan and Alexandre Dumas. Great author, great book. I think you’ll enjoy the episode.
[00:59:39] Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together.
[00:59:45] Au revoir.
[00:59:46] 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.