Transcript for Episode 472: Planning the Perfect Multi-Family French Vacation

Category: Family Travel

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent:


[00:00:16] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 472, quatre cent soixante douze.

[00:00:22] 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: Planning the Perfect Multi-Family French Vacation

[00:00:37] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report with Jennifer Henniman about planning a group trip to France.

[00:00:43] I’ve organized many group tours, some small, some big, and it’s not something that comes easily, especially if it’s your first time. Jennifer and I chat about how to pull this off, so stay tuned, pro tips coming your way!

Podcast supporters

[00:01:00] 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 in my electric car.

[00:01:16] You can browse all of that at my boutique:

Bootcamp 2024

[00:01:22] Annie Sargent: And right now you can also join the bootcamp in May 2024. Come to Toulouse in May, hang out with Elyse and I for about 10 days. You’ll also be with a wonderful group of fellow listeners and francophiles for that time.

[00:01:37] You’ll improve your French because you’ll be taking classes every morning at your level, of course. We had such a good time in May 2023 that we wanted to do it again. There are only a limited number of seats. Once the bus is full, it’s full. To find out about the Bootcamp 2024 go to where you can read all the details and also reserve your spot.

No magazine section

[00:02:03] Annie Sargent: There will not be a magazine part of the podcast today because I am prerecording this intro well in advance on account on being on vacation in Utah to enjoy the snow, the wintry Christmas, and hang out with my husband’s wonderful family for Christmas.

Thank you Patrons

[00:02:19] Annie Sargent: But I do want to thank my patrons who keep this show going and invite you to join them and me, and become a patron. Lots of goodies for patrons every month.

[00:02:30] To join this wonderful community of francophiles, go to

[00:02:41] And to support Elyse, go to

[00:02:49] And if you’re thinking of booking anything, an itinerary planning session, or get my GPS self-guided tours of Paris at a discount, or secure your spot for the bootcamp, go to, it’s all there.

[00:03:05] My thanks to podcast editors Anne and Christian Cotovan who produced the transcripts and make it sound good and do an awful lot of work this week to help me get all these episodes lined up.

[00:03:18] And I want to let you know that the sound this week is a little bit different, my fault, not theirs. I forgot to check my settings before I hit record and they still managed to make it sound good.

Next week on the podcast

[00:03:31] Annie Sargent: Next week on the podcast, a short episode on Christmas.

[00:03:36] Happy holidays, you guys, whatever you celebrate. May you have a wonderful time with friends and family.

Jennifer Henniman Trip report

[00:03:52] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, Jennifer Henniman, and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:03:57] Jennifer Henniman: Bonjour, comment ça va?

[00:03:59] Annie Sargent: Très bien, très bien, et vous?

[00:04:00] Jennifer Henniman: Ah, très bien, merci.

[00:04:02] Annie Sargent: So, we are going to talk about something that is very difficult to do, which you did, and I want to know how you survived. You put together a trip for a family of, let’s see, I didn’t count, how many was it?

[00:04:17] Jennifer Henniman: There were 12 of us in total, 8 adults, 4 children, and really 4 families coming together for this trip in the end.

[00:04:25] Annie Sargent: It’s really for high school, my sister, and then two other high school friends, and all of our families that came together. We were all turning 50 within the last year. And we decided, you know, let’s do a big trip to kind of celebrate. And we wanted to go to France.

[00:04:45] That’s great. Yes, and the youngest kid was eight or something?

[00:04:50] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah, there is actually two 8 year olds, one who is just about 9 and the other who just turned 8, but two 8 year olds and two 13 year olds.

[00:05:00] Annie Sargent: Right. Okay, so, you know, big group. And did you stay together the whole time or did you split up at times?

[00:05:07] Jennifer Henniman: We split up at times. So, a few of us started, me and my sister’s family, we started together, in Troyes, and then a third family joined us to go up to Lille and the World War I sites.

[00:05:25] And then the fourth family joined us in Deauville and for the World War II. And then when we went to Provence to end our trip for the week.

[00:05:34] So we kind of grew as the trip grew. Afterwards, some stayed in Paris, and some saw Paris before. So we kind of just all met up in Deauville. But we were a pretty big group for the whole way.

[00:05:48] Annie Sargent: Yeah, okay. And just keeping track of who’s arriving what day and where are we meeting them and are we having dinner that night or not and blah, blah, blah. That’s just gets, you know, it adds complications to all of that. All right.

What worked really well?

[00:06:03] Annie Sargent: So let’s talk about the things that worked really well for your family, for your group.

[00:06:08] You gave me your 10 favorite things that worked out. And I want to hear about those, both in terms of why you enjoyed the experience and how, why it worked for a group in your case.

[00:06:21] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah. So the first thing was the World War I sites and going to ??? And Lille and visiting Vimy and Beaumont-Hamel, so World War I sites for Canadians. This worked out amazing for a couple of different reasons. One was that we based ourselves in Lille. And that one we were torn because my husband and I have done this area before.

[00:06:45] We’ve toured the sites and we loved Arras, which is probably a place where more people gravitate to if you’re going to go see the sites. But we had a half a day in Belgium to see the Canadian sites up in Belgium, and a full day in the Vimy area, and we knew that Lille is just perfectly located between the two, so it’s less driving time for the nine of us to drive all over to the different sites.

[00:07:11] So, basing in Lille was amazing, and it was my ‘coup de coeur’ of the trip, I would say. It’s the town I didn’t expect to love and I fell in love with, just the city, you know, not town, really, the city. It just had so much energy, and everyone was out on patios, and we just showed up, and I just loved the architecture, everything about it was just… very, very pretty. So, highly recommended as a place to base for World War I sites. So, that base worked out perfect.

[00:07:42] Annie Sargent: We should say that your trip was in June and July 2023, so that means that you had good weather.

[00:07:50] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah, we had great weather. In Lille, it was just such a lovely temperature at that time of year. And because the days are so long, you know, it’s really easy to be out and about, even with the kids. So thatwas great.


[00:08:03] Jennifer Henniman: The other thing about Lille that’s great is just the selection of hotels, right?

[00:08:06] Because we needed rooms that could fit, like the families wanted to stay together, so we needed rooms that could also accommodate having children, and not small children, like children in the room. And the hotels that we stayed at, the Novotel, their hotel rooms were perfect size for families, and great price. If you book well in advance, we, like, good deal, so it was, that part was really awesome, very reasonable.

Transportation for the group

[00:08:29] Jennifer Henniman: We also knew, you know, how are we going to get around in this area?

[00:08:34] I think that was one of the biggest things that we had to think about, because it’s not easy to move all of us, you know, to Vimy or to Beaumont-Hamel. So we ended up renting a van for nine, for the nine of us that were doing that portion of the trip. And we were very worried, we don’t have travel light, so for those families who are thinking, oh my gosh, I bring a lot of luggage, you know, myself and all my kids, the van was amazing, because it was built for nine people.

[00:09:04] It’s not an SUV where you’re trying to fit people in.

[00:09:08] Annie Sargent: So, what brand van was it?

[00:09:10] Jennifer Henniman: I don’t remember the brand,I can find out though.

[00:09:15] Annie Sargent: Yeah, if you can find that, I’ll put it in the show notes. I mean, but it was not an SUV.

[00:09:21] Jennifer Henniman: No, it was an actual nine person passenger van. And because of that, the storage for luggage in the back was amazing. It fit. It was built for having nine people’s luggage. It felt like we had our own little minibus. It was just very easy for us to get in and out, very comfortable for nine people to sit.

[00:09:43] And I think the only caveat there is, like, we had, my brother in law did all the driving with the van, which was amazing. He was also very comfortable driving a bigger vehicle. Andyou know, there was a few tight spaces, but you just have to be comfortable driving nine people around, so that would the one caveat, because it is bigger.

[00:10:03] But in Northern France, it’s not, the tight spaces aren’t as many as in Southern France. The roads are easy to drive, and so it wasn’t challenging from that perspective at all.

[00:10:15] Annie Sargent: That’s a very important point. If you’re going to Provence with a big old van, you will not fit anywhere. Provence is tight. Everything is tight. The streets, the parking, the everything is tight. They’re packed in. It’s very extensive land. They pack it in really, really close.

[00:10:35] Lille, I haven’t paid attention, but I’m sure it’s a lot roomier by comparison.

[00:10:42] Jennifer Henniman: It’s a lot roomier. The only thing in Lille was, because we had the big van, we couldn’t fit in underground parking, obviously, which is the majority, like, around our hotel, that seemed to be the majority of the parking. There was, like, an open parking lot right next to the hotel, which was perfect, but very expensive because it was meant to be short term parking.

[00:11:03] You could stay overnight. But you paid to stay overnight. But because we were splitting with three families, it was kind of worth it for us to just, you know, it was a small expense to us.

[00:11:14] Annie Sargent: Right. So if your van was big enough to not fit into an underground parking lot, you were bigger than 2 meters 10 tall, so you were probably, oh, it had to be a big old Mercedes, 9 person van.

[00:11:30] Jennifer Henniman: My husband texted me that it was a Renault Traffic Van.

[00:11:34] Annie Sargent: Oh, Renault Traffic, usually they fit in parking garages, but perhaps that one was particularly tall.

[00:11:41] Jennifer Henniman: It might have cleared it, you know, just cleared it. It was just under, I think it was around two meters high, so we just weren’t going to risk it, we were that, we looked like pig faces there. But honestly, driving around northern France, definitely compared to south, I would never suggest that van for south, but in northern France, it was easy driving.

[00:12:05] Annie Sargent: So yes, we didn’t go through all the places you went, but you went several places. You started in the North of France with World War II sites. And then you made your way down to…

[00:12:16] Jennifer Henniman: We started with the World War I sites, in Vimyand Beaumont-Hamel, and then we went to and based ourselves in Deauville for a few days and saw the World War II sites.

[00:12:27] Annie Sargent: So that’s Normandy. Yeah.

[00:12:29] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah, in Normandy. And then we all took our, we had our nine person van and the other family joined us with their own car.

[00:12:39] We all drove back to Charles de Gaulle and then took a TGV down to the south of France. And from there, we got our own cars and we rented a villa for a week, but we each had our own cars for that portion of it. But we started in the World War I sites, up in the north.

[00:12:56] Annie Sargent: So World War I, World War II, Provence.

[00:12:58] Jennifer Henniman: Exactly, World War I, World War II, Provence. Now, my sister and her family, and my husband, we did Troyes as well, for a couple of days at the beginning. So there was six of us for that portion right at the beginning, but the group trip really started with the World War I sites.

[00:13:17] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and Troyes is in what area? You know, it’s a shame, but I couldn’t tell you.

[00:13:23] Jennifer Henniman: It’s in the Champagne region. And it is about a little over two hours from Paris south, about an hour south of Epernay. So it is, you know, a little bit lesser known Champagne region actually, which is one of the reasons why we chose to go there.

[00:13:39] Annie Sargent: Okay. So it’s kind of far south from Reims. And congratulations for saying it right, by the way, because it’s TROYES. And you knew say Troyes and not Troyer.

[00:13:52] Jennifer Henniman: Troyes

[00:13:52] Annie Sargent: Good for you.

[00:13:54] Jennifer Henniman: Yes.

[00:13:55] Annie Sargent: Are you a French teacher or something? Or did you live in France?

[00:13:58] Jennifer Henniman: I’m not a… I speak French, yeah. I speak French. My husband’s French Canadian. He’s a French teacher here in Ottawa, so.

[00:14:06] I’m surrounded by French everywhere.

Canadian World War I Sites

[00:14:07] Annie Sargent: Okay. So, yeah, so you started in Troyes, and then you went to the Lille area. Okay. Right, let’s get back to our list of things that you enjoyed. The first thing you list is visiting the Canadian World War I sites in France, which include Vimy and Beaumont-Hamel, like you mentioned.

[00:14:29] Jennifer Henniman: And you think Canadians should really see those. Tell us why a little bit. They should see both of them, I think. Vimy, because it is so important from a Canadian history perspective, in defining our country. It also is just so unbelievably beautiful as a site, as a place to learn about what happened there, and there’s nothing more moving than you drive into the site and you see, you know, this land has been donated in perpetuity, from the government of France, and you just see the towns. There’s just something so unbelievably moving to, you know, hear about the history of Vimy and then to go see it and see how impactful it was to the area.

[00:15:12] And the site itself, it’s just so breathtaking in like you, it’s just gorgeous. And there’s lots to see there, you get to go in, you know, into the tunnels, and you can see some of the trenches, and there’s a lot of things to do, and of course cemeteries in that area. So for Vimy, I just think it’s like one of those sites that is important for defining Canadian history.

[00:15:35] Beaumont-Hamel, which is the Newfoundland Memorial, I think is important to understand more about the tragedy of war, like the just heartbreaking part of war, the unbelievable loss at the Somme.

[00:15:47] And this is really where my husband made us all cry a little bit, just telling stories about, you know, what happened that day. And what happened with the Newfoundland Regiment, who, you know, were devastated by the losses that happened. Everyone was of course, devastated by the losses that happened over the course of the Battles of the Somme.

[00:16:07] So, I think it’s important to see this beautiful site, Vimy, where we can be proud of what we contributed. And then also see the devastation of war around Somme. Those two sites in particular, we only did two, and that would be one tip that I’d have for group travel is, you know, really understand your group and how much you’re willing to pack in a day.

[00:16:31] There’s, you know, if you look at any of the standard tours in that area, there’s like four or five sites you’ll go see, and they’re wonderful, and if you have the time, they’re amazing to see them, but for a group we knew, less is more, let’s stay, spend the time at these two places, be able to have to help the kids ask questions, like, let them ask questions, absorb what’s happening, and take away instead of, we’ve covered off four or five things. And for us that was important.

[00:17:04] Annie Sargent: Yes, that’s vital. And especially when you have children in the group, or elderly relatives, it would be the same, you cannot rush from site to site in search for the best one. You have to decide ahead of time which is the best one for your group, and then go there. You know, less is more in the sense of you have more time to really tell the story, like it sounds like your husband is very good at explaining the history. And if you have someone like that with you, then obviously you need to just stay put, you know, absorb this part, and then move on slower.

[00:17:45] Jennifer Henniman: Totally agree. And Vimy, of course, they have guides who will give you wonderful tours of the tunnels and, you know, help you out when you’re there. But it is, yeah, if you, I would say taking the time at a few places,especially if you’re traveling with children or, like you said elders, it is important.

[00:18:01] And it also, right in between the two is the town of Arras. And that made for a really lovely lunch. Like, you know, it made a really nice day because we could, you know, one thing with our group is, we were not a go go go group. We like to sit and eat and talk and so we didn’t overplan it because we needed to leave time for us to really kind of enjoy another spot in France as well.


[00:18:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah. That’s great advice, don’t pack too much in and do select a good, I mean, Arras is a beautiful town and there’s plenty of restaurants. If you can go downtown, you know, you’re going to have, probably going to find a nice restaurant with a nice terrace. It was good weather. So, you know, that’s a lot more pleasant than rushing through the sites and eating a sandwich. Those are your two choices, really.

[00:18:52] Jennifer Henniman: It’s a trade off that you have to think about, of what you want your day to be, right? When my husband and I did it just the two of us, we packed in way more during the day and we spent longer time there, but it was just the two of us. So it was quite easy for us to kind of do that. When you’re a bigger group, you want to really think about, like, when are people going to like, hit?

[00:19:14] their travel wall and you don’t want to get there.

[00:19:16] Annie Sargent: It’s exactly the same when I’m planning a trip for a group, you know, when we do the bootcamp or when we’ve done groups before, I go first by myself and I just, I try to be as inclusive as possible just to see what it’s like. And then I can select, you know. So the first time you go, perhaps you’re not as selective or you could rely on other people’s selection.

[00:19:41] Like you, you’ve done it, it’s great to have your recommendations.

[00:19:45] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah. And my husband actually brings students on trips to France, to World War I and World War II sites all the time, so he really knows how to manoeuvre, like, what it will mean for a group. He put a lot of thought into, you know, what do we keep and what do we not do for the trip, which I think is quite helpful.

[00:20:05] So this is where I also would recommend a guide for some, depending on what people, especially for a group to think about, you know, having a guide for parts of it, just so that you get more context, you know, as you’re going and a guide to understand distances and what it takes to kind of see sites.

[00:20:24] Annie Sargent: Yes, and obviously it’s best if you can have read a book about the area or about happened in particular events or seen a movie perhaps, or, you know, get yourself. self-education always helps. I’m sure your husband has more than self-education in this regard, but even self-education helps tremendously.

[00:20:45] And then hiring a guide locally if you don’t have the time to do all the reading and all of that. Because you can talk to your guide before you get there and they can help you select something that’s appropriate for you. That’s very good.

South of France: Arles

[00:21:00] Annie Sargent: All right, let’s move on to the south of France here. Now we’re down to Arles and what I call Roman Provence, you know, Arles is a beautiful place for Roman ruins.


[00:21:12] Jennifer Henniman: I fell in love with this little town as well. Like I, the energy,we were only, we only stopped by for the day, you know, and it was only a smaller portion of the group. It was only, like three of us that went to Arlesfor that little tour around. But we went to go see the amphitheater and I was just like, I need to come back here.

[00:21:34] Annie Sargent: Mm hmm

[00:21:35] Jennifer Henniman: I didn’t expect the Spanish influence, I definitely love the Van Gogh aspect to it and the arts. It is just a lovely city.

[00:21:44] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s what’s cool about Arles is that it’s not super touristy, I mean, it is touristy, but not as much as other places in theProvence. And it is,they have a lot of absolutely stunning Roman ruins. Plus, they have a lot of Van Gogh stuff.

[00:22:00] Now Van Gogh only spent about 15 months in Arles, but they’re milking it for all it’s worth.

[00:22:05] Jennifer Henniman: They definitely are.

[00:22:07] Annie Sargent: Yeah, a good place. It’s a good place.

[00:22:10] Jennifer Henniman: It is, yes, and to what you said, it doesn’t feel touristy. We’d gone to a few towns, and it’s definitely very geared to tourists. This one felt like the shops were for the locals, and the, you know, the areas, it just felt a little bit more lived in, and I loved that.

[00:22:26] That made me say, you know, I would come back and maybe want a base in Arles, to do more adventures in the south of France, just because there were so many interesting restaurants, and it was a pretty city, but it also felt very much like a lived in city.

[00:22:40] I will fully admit that we jumped on the tourist train and we went into, we stayed at the Van Gogh Café, which it felt, you know, you’re like, oh, I’m eating at the Van Gogh Café in Arles, like, this is totally geared to tourists. I loved every minute of it.

[00:22:57] Because we could take a photo, say this is the painting and this is we’re sitting in the painting and that was really cool.

[00:23:04] Annie Sargent: Yes, yes, yes. Now keep in mind that Van Gogh had an amazing imagination, and what he painted is not exactly what you see, okay?

[00:23:12] He had a lot going on in his head. Yes, fantastic, great recommendation. Arles is, I think, not to be missed. And then they have the Roman Arlate Festival, which I think is in August, don’t quote me, check it, but there’s like two weeks in the summer where they do all sorts of like in costume events and fights on the streets and things like that and it’s called Arlate, the Festival.


Visiting the U.S. and Canadian World War II D-Day sites in Normandy

[00:23:43] Annie Sargent: And then your third favorite was visiting the U.S. and Canadian World War II D-Day sites in Normandy. Ah, so you did a private tour. Who gave a tour?

[00:23:54] Jennifer Henniman: Normandie Excursions was the name of the company that did the tour. They were great because, for a few reasons,they did a great job. One is, they had to figure out how to accommodate our group. They’re used to doing tours of eight people max. And they said, well, let us go, get the van that you need.

[00:24:12] And, you know, they kind of really figured it out from a custom tour perspective. They came and picked us up in Deauville, which is not super, you know, it’s an hour and a half away from Pointe du Hoc, which is the starting point for most of the U.S. tourists. So we were appreciative for that as well, that they accommodated, you know, we were staying.

[00:24:35] Annie Sargent: And the guide was great. He knew a lot of great history, obviously, he knew his stuff, andwas great with interacting with the group. So I thought, you know, that was really fun. I think the only thing about that tour, why, you know, it was number three on the list, which is still a little high, but it’s because it was a long day. But we tried to, we were pretty aggressive with our schedule in doing both US sites and Canadian sites in one day. Again, we pared it down a lot, but we still needed to at the end, you know, skip some of the sites, we were going to stop that. Yeah, obviously. and also you were staying in Deauville, which most people don’t do, you know, that’s three hours just driving, pretty much.

[00:25:21] Because between Deauville and Bayeux is probably 1 hour 20 minutes, or something. And like you said, you either start in Bayeux or in Pointe du Hoc or you know, or a place like that.

[00:25:32] Yeah, and that was another thing we’re thinking about the group, because my husband and I have done those sites too together, and we stayed in Bayeux and we loved it. But Bayeux is inland, and our group, they wanted to get a seaside resort experience, and well, there’s actually two reasons for Deauville.

[00:25:49] Jennifer Henniman: One was the seaside resort experience, in addition, so we had a full day of just relaxing and enjoying Deauville, like a breakof history tour.

[00:25:58] Annie Sargent: Very nice. Very nice.

[00:26:00] Jennifer Henniman: And it’s such a beautiful little place, I think the decision to stay there was awesome for us, even with the distance on that one day.

[00:26:06] And the other thing is, we had to get from Normandy back to Paris to get down south. And that meant, you know, getting up at, we wanted, we didn’t want to get down south late, so we had to get up at, say, 8 in the morning to drive from Deauville to get to Charles de Gaulle, to get the TGV, to get down. If we’d stayed in Bayeux, it added that extra distance to get to Charles de Gaulle, which meant trying to, you know, wake a group of 12 and get us organized that one hour earlier in the morning.

[00:26:39] We didn’t want to do that, and so we said, we’re okay with the distance on the tour day, and making combinations there, to have that little bit closer proximity to Paris, when we were all trying to load up all our stuff.

[00:26:51] Annie Sargent: That’s always a big challenge with a group. Even if everybody is, you know, really compliant, it’s difficult to get that many people moving.

[00:27:00] Jennifer Henniman: It is, and everyone was…

[00:27:02] Annie Sargent: Ah, you’re Canadians, of course you’re compliant!

[00:27:06] Jennifer Henniman: There was, you know, we were a mix Canadian Americans, but all along really, we all get along really well, and I think we all were very respectful of, like, you know, we can’t miss this train, or the tour starts at this time, so people did rally and get together. But regardless, like, you’re still going to have a few delays here and there, last minute bathroom breaks and things like that.

[00:27:27] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you drove your cars, your van and car, perhaps back to CDG, then you had to go to Gare du Nord? No, Gare du Lyon.

[00:27:41] Jennifer Henniman: We took the TGV right from Charles de Gaulle.

[00:27:43] Annie Sargent: Ah, okay, okay. Okay. So you didn’t have to do, okay. Oh, that’s smart. Yes.

[00:27:48] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah, and that’s one of the reasons why we did the pick. It was interesting because we were really trying to figure out where do we drop off this big van and another car, and none of us wanted to drive in Paris.

[00:28:00] So we said, you know, oh, like it worked out well for the itinerary. We’ll just pick up and drop off at CDG and take the TGV straight down from there.

[00:28:10] So that worked out great.

[00:28:11] Annie Sargent: Yes. If you go to Gare de Lyon, you’re going to have trains pretty much every hour going to Arles. If you do it from the TGV station at CDG, perhaps you have two or three in a day, but you time it right, it’s way easier.

[00:28:24] Jennifer Henniman: And I’ll say like my other trip for group travel is like we planned the logistics for the beginning part when we were coming and going. We researched that to the, I wouldn’t say to the minute but we did a lot of research on how are get from point A point B and back?

[00:28:44] Annie Sargent: Yes.

[00:28:45] Jennifer Henniman: And it was all planned. We booked trains super early, the moment they released the tickets, we bought the trains, we had researched the schedule, because, you know, we knew you have to move 12 people from one place to the other. It’s not going to be easy to do.

Beaux de Provence and Carrières des Lumières

[00:29:00] Annie Sargent: Your number four is Beaux de Provence and Carrières des Lumières. I could not agree more. That’s so beautiful.

[00:29:06] Jennifer Henniman: It’s amazing. And yeah, it’s just such a, like, I don’t know. Yeah, I’ve been there before. I just find that it’s just, you can’t go wrong by going there. The scenery is beautiful, even if you’re not that interested in the castle, but we still love the castle. There’s, the food was great.

[00:29:22] Everything about Les Baux was just such an incredible experience, and it was a chance to see, you know, a little hilltop town, and then the Carrières des Lumières, like, blew my mind, and I’d gone before, and I was like, it’s just so amazing.

[00:29:35] Annie Sargent: Yeah it’s so fun to just stand there and look and listen and open your eyes and experience. It’s just a full body experience almost because the music is loud and the images are bright and it is just so, so good.

[00:29:50] Jennifer Henniman: It’s so amazing, and I’d say, like, the kids, so thinking again of our group with kids, they loved it too, and I they thought it down in terms of, like, it was a half an hour, I think, one of the shows that we stayed to watch. So just enough time for them to, like, just be in awe, and then by the end, they’re ready to go, right?

[00:30:11] So it wasn’t, you know, okay, kids, now sit for two hours, we’re going to watch, you know, this art show, this beautiful, illuminative, immersive art show, because I think that would have been a bit too much. It was just the right amount of time spent there.

[00:30:26] Annie Sargent: Right. And the Chateau at Les Baux, I don’t know that it, you were probably there too early, but they also have stuff for kids at the Chateau at Les Baux, but it’s just during French school vacations, and you probably were too early for that.

[00:30:40] Jennifer Henniman: That’s interesting. Again, my husband and I had gone there before, we’d gone to a few of these places before, and we were like, oh, we expected to, we had seen, the catapults and everyone in costume.

[00:30:51] Annie Sargent: That’s just French vacation times.

[00:30:53] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah. But you know what? The kids loved the town. They were running around the castle, like different areas of the ruins and you know, and…

[00:31:03] Annie Sargent: Like you said, it’s your chance to see a hilltop village and castle, and it’s not the most scenic one in Provence, but it is pretty good. It is pretty good.

[00:31:14] Jennifer Henniman: It was good for touristy stuff too. It was like, every two seconds is a little shop. So…

[00:31:19] Annie Sargent: There is santon and stuff like that. Yeah.

Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine tour

[00:31:22] Annie Sargent: Number five is Châteauneuf-du-Pape, you had a wine tour. Tell us about that.

[00:31:27] Jennifer Henniman: It was great. We did, again, we did a private wine tour. So with, again, with a big group, you’re going to be able to get a private wine tour. It’s a good deal. It was fantastic. We had two guides, The main person, was Romain. Yes, yes, that’s it. He runs his own tours and he also has a little wine shop in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. So it was really nice. He had arranged, you know, he’s grown up in the area, so he knows and has relationships with the winemakers, so to me, it was a very different experience, and if you go to, say, California, or even some of the bigger wine producers in France, because we were, like, by ourselves in these wineries. Sometimes without even the winemaker, it was just Romain and us. Because of the size of our group, we had another guide with us who also does private tours on her own, and they help each other out when they have big groups, which is really nice, and they were just super knowledgeable about wine.

[00:32:37] And we got to go in the fields, you know, you see a little bit there, and then you got to see different styles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape which I think was really interesting for us.

[00:32:46] Because, you know, you tend to think, oh, this is like a really, a very specific style of wine, from the France region. And we tasted, you know, some of the younger winemakers coming up with some newer blends and things. That was very cool. And the place we went for lunch was just out of this world.

[00:33:04] Annie Sargent: Yeah. You sent me a list. Let’s see if I see it. Hostellerie des Fines Roches.

[00:33:09] Jennifer Henniman: That’s it.

[00:33:09] Annie Sargent: Hostellerie Château des Fines Roches.

[00:33:12] Jennifer Henniman: Yes, I mean you drive up, it’s just, you drive up to this castle, so that alone is impressive. And then the lunch, it’s a little bit more of a splurge, but it was delicious. So it just made for a really, really nice day.

[00:33:25] I have to say the kids were troopers. They did well through the whole day, even though this was very much more an adult day.

[00:33:32] Annie Sargent: Not for them, yeah.

[00:33:34] Jennifer Henniman: They did well. They didn’t complain. They did good.

[00:33:37] Annie Sargent: That’s great. Well done, kids. That’s great.


[00:33:40] Annie Sargent: Cassis. You went to Cassis, obviously. Lovely place. Good to go with kids. Did you do a boat ride in Cassis?

[00:33:47] Jennifer Henniman: We tried to do a boat ride, but it was very windy that day. So we, again, we had booked a private boat for the day, but they had actually said to us, you know, if we do take you, it’s going to be for only an hour, and it’s going to be rough, so we, again, we just, we made the call, you know, not worth it to, you know…

[00:34:10] Annie Sargent: Weather, weather.

[00:34:12] Jennifer Henniman: But that was okay because the town, of course, it’s so lovely that we just all explored the town and had a great time exploring town, had a nice long lunch, you know, we just had a nice day there down at the water.

[00:34:24] I would definitely want to go back and do, like, Calanques and get a…

[00:34:28] Annie Sargent: Yeah, there’s more to do, obviously.Yeah, but you know, don’t think you’re going to hike the Calanques with a big group and kids and stuff, perhaps some people do it, but they have to be used to this. They have to, it has to be something they do as a family, because this is not an easy, you know, walk in the park.

[00:34:44] Jennifer Henniman: No, no, and yeah, and that wasn’t, I think, know your group well, like, that’s not something I think our group would really want to do. We’d rather take a… take a long coffee in the morning, a long lunch, and do some shopping in between.

[00:35:00] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

[00:35:02] Jennifer Henniman: And enjoy, like, they did walk to the beach, but the water was quite cold. It was, you know, it’s the beginning of, end of June, beginning of July…

[00:35:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that part of the Med is always chilly. It is. If you want warm Mediterranean, you have to go south of Barcelona and then it’s warm. It’s lovely.


[00:35:20] Annie Sargent: Let’s see, Deauville is next. So you mentioned it already, so we’re going to go through this one fast. It is, it’s an adorable little town with some history as well.

[00:35:29] So it’s a good place. And French people go there a lot. Visitors, not as much, I don’t think. And it’s probably because most visitors from North America will go to the World War II sites, which happen to be closer to Bayeux, most of them, or Sainte Mère Église.

[00:35:51] But Deauville is, you enjoyed just the day you spent at Deauville.

[00:35:55] Jennifer Henniman: Yes, I think it’s, I hear that it’s like the Hamptons for Parisians, you know, weekend getaway. I could see totally why, and I would, it’s, to me, two, three days, we were there, three nights, two day, two full days, like two days, one of being the tour day and one just to chill and relax and enjoy the town.

[00:36:14] And it was really lovely for that. Enough time to wander the streets, do a little shopping, do a little, you know, it was a little bit too chilly and kind of rain, so we didn’t actually get go to the boardwalk, but I hear the boardwalk is quite lovely. And I’ll say the hotel we stayed there was awesome.


[00:36:32] Annie Sargent: It was, again, the Novotel, we like, love the, you know, Accor brand in Europe, and that Novotel Deauville was, the food was great, like, it was just so good. Yeah, this is worth expounding on a little bit. There are lots of visitors who have this idea that they need to go to a boutique hotel. And that’s fine. If there is one that you know and love, have at it. But, if you want a sure thing, with a certain level of service, Accor Hotels are better. Because you can expect to have the same kind of bedding, the same kind of pillows, the same kind of, you know, desk presence, the same kind of breakfast, the same, and it’s not always amazing.

[00:37:17] I mean, sometimes you just don’t, some people don’t love that, but you know what to expect. And that is very important, especially with a group.

[00:37:25] Jennifer Henniman: And with the kids and the facility. So for us, I think we quickly settled on, you know, something in the Accor brand because also it does have a European feel. The rooms are set up a little bit different. So while it doesn’t have the charm of, you know, a boutique hotel in that way, this hotel, you know, to me had the beautiful, the location was amazing right in front of the beach.

[00:37:51] It had, if it had been lovely, we would’ve been right there with a wonderful outdoor patio right in the front that we did enjoy quite a bit. And it had things set up playroom for the kids with an indoor pool, which the kids love the indoor pool, right? And to find an indoor pool in Normandy is, it wasn’t a deal breaker for us by any stretch, but it was a really nice perk, and they did use it. So, that to me was like, check, check, check.

[00:38:19] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:38:19] Jennifer Henniman: And you know, so, the boutique hotels were hard to accommodate a group our size. That was the other thing. We looked at a bunch of different options, but it was just hard to accommodate, like, what we needed from a room size and, you know, the different things.


[00:38:34] Annie Sargent: Okay, number eight is Lille and you mentioned it at the beginning. You really liked staying there, that you thought it was a beautiful town. I’m hoping to go to Lille laterto visit, because I have been there, but it’s been so long. I don’t really remember. I mean, when I see photos of it, I’m like, oh, yes, I’ve been here, but just too fuzzy in my head.

[00:38:54] Jennifer Henniman: I was impressed. Maybe because we had heard from a few people, you know, Lille, that’s not on the top of people’s list of places to go when on vacation. But like I said, as a base and as just the town itself I thought was really pretty. And the food was amazing. The food was amazing.

[00:39:13] Annie Sargent: To us, it’s the north of France, it’s the north of France, it’s like, it’s always rainy, always cold, we’re like, why would you go there, you know?

[00:39:20] Most French people have a bad attitude about Lille, but it is a beautiful city.

Exploring Roussillon area

[00:39:25] Annie Sargent: Number nine is exploring the Roussillon area, ha ha, yes.

[00:39:30] Jennifer Henniman: Yes, so that was something my husband and I kind of did together and this was, maybe to another group trip suggestion, is that for the south of France, everyone had their own car. And you know that was one of our premises, you need to give everyone space to the vacation how they like to vacation.

[00:39:47] So my husband are get up and go kind of people, we like to get up in the morning, explore a town, and you’ll see us by the pool at 3 o’clock. But others prefer sleeping or to enjoy their coffee in the morning, and they’ll explore later. Everyone on the trip, I would say was big win. No one was like, everybody, let’s, let’s all hand in, like, everywhere go has to be the same. I thought that was great.

[00:40:12] So this was one of the things my husband and I just did together because I really wanted to go to Roussillon. I was like, oh, I want to see it. The drive was so pretty from where, you know, where we were staying, it was only 40 minutes away.

[00:40:24] Annie Sargent: The roads are very, you know, you get these windy, beautiful little roadways there. Yeah, it is kind of, it’s quite scenic. And Roussillon is scenic.

[00:40:34] Jennifer Henniman: It is very scenic. It was very nice. It was busier than even, say, Cassis. Like it was busier than I expected. It was also market day there, so I think probably why.

[00:40:47] So, you know, there’s actually looks like a beautiful little hike, you know, in the town, which we didn’t do, because it was just people on people on people. So we said, you know what? We enjoyed the town, I liked walking around, and seeing all the sites. I love the drive there. But we’ll come back another day when there’s a little bit less people. Yeah.

[00:41:11] And so if people, you know, don’t like a lot of people, then also maybe not on market day.

[00:41:15] We didn’t know. We just showed up.

[00:41:17] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that happens.

[00:41:18] Jennifer Henniman: It was really funto see the market.

[00:41:20] Annie Sargent: Market attracts a lot of people. A lot of people.

Troyes and Les Riceys

[00:41:24] Annie Sargent: Sorry to rush you, but we do want to get to your, so your number 10 was Troyes and Les Riceys. So you like the architecture in Troyes. I’ve never been…

[00:41:33] Jennifer Henniman: It’s beautiful, and my husband can tell you the history way better than me, but it’s a very pivotal history in the Champagne region. They used to have a fair there where a lot of goods got exchanged from, you know, across the world. The architecture is just stunning.

[00:41:50] Annie Sargent: Yeah it was a rich market town, they’d probably have beautiful buildings, that’s usually what happens.

[00:41:56] Jennifer Henniman: Very different architecture than other parts of France that we’ve been to.

[00:42:01] So it’s a, you know, a smaller town, definitely off the beaten track of Champagne. But south of there is an area called Les Riceys, and we drove, it’s only about a half an hour, 40 minutes south of Troyes, and we went there and if you Google on a map, the Champagne houses, it’s literally all Champagne houses in this tiny little area, like you could walk from house to house.

[00:42:26] The only thing is we went on a Sunday and everything’s closed on a Sunday there off the beaten track. So that was the only thing about that area that I would say, you know, if I had, we were arriving and we were adjusting at that time. If I’d thought about it, maybe we would have stayed in Elne, if we, you know, really wanted to see more Champagne houses.

[00:42:49] But we were okay with just enjoying the architecture and trying one or two, you know, off the beaten path Champagnes, which we did. Yeah, so we loved that. So that’s like was like a little place at the beginning to go. And the only reason why it was further down the list was really like it because it’s not as touristy.

[00:43:08] Annie Sargent: Not at all.

[00:43:10] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah, it’s closed on Sundays and Mondays, actually, Sundays and Mondays.

[00:43:14] Even a lot of the restaurants, I was surprised that we have a lot of really, like, well, you know, rated restaurants, and they’re all closed on Sundays and Mondays, yeah.

[00:43:24] Annie Sargent: All right, so we’re not going to talk about the hotels and apartments. I will list them on the show notes if people want to know exactly where you stayed. Same with the restaurants. You listed your favorites. That’s all great.

Things you learned or wish you’d known

[00:43:37] Annie Sargent: But let’s talk about the, kind of the, what did you learn? What did you wish you had known ahead of time that perhaps things you haven’t mentioned before?

[00:43:47] We just talked about a couple actually. Les Riceys, everything was closed. And Epernai might have been a better choice. Okay. So something you wish you had known before, you know, perhaps, or that things you didn’t love as much.

Villa insurance

[00:44:06] Jennifer Henniman: Well, I wouldn’t say that, like, I have one piece of information that we found out before we left, but we didn’t realize, and that was villa insurance. Like, so, when you rent a villa in France, sometimes, in the contract, it’ll say you need to bring your own insurance for covering damages, et cetera. Which apparently, if you live in France, it’s something that’s part of your homeowner’s insurance, vacation rental insurance.

[00:44:35] In North America, that’s not a thing. So we ended up finding a company and I listed the name that does vacation rental insurance. And honestly, in the end, you know, while it was an unexpected expense, it was still something our group was like, it’s a good idea, you know, all of us are different families.

[00:44:51] If something does happen, it’s great have coverage for the whole family, for all the different families, if we needed to, you know, if an accident happened. So that was one thing. It doesn’t happen all the time. If you go through vacation rental companies or Airbnb, it won’t be there, but we rented directly from a woman who runs this villa in a very small town, and it was one of the things in the contract. I’ve seen a few villa contracts, and sometimes it was in, sometimes it was not.

[00:45:19] So that was, that’s one tip, that I would give, or one thing that we do a little bit different.

Research a soldier for the WW sites

[00:45:25] Jennifer Henniman: One other tip is that if you’re bringing kids to the World War sites, one thing that you can consider doing is actually have them research a soldier. So, my husband does this with his students when they go.

[00:45:42] So we did that with the kids on the trip, where they looked up a soldier ahead of time, knew a little bit about them, and then when you go to the American Cemetery, or Bény-sur-Mer, or Vimy, one of the cemeteries there, you could find the soldier, and leave, you know, a poppy, or just pay your respects.

[00:45:59] If you’re not going for family, if you don’t have family that you’re going to see, it’s a great way to kind of get the kids involved and easy to do.

[00:46:07] Annie Sargent: That’s great advice. And there are soldiers that are highlighted once you get to the sites as well, because they know that it’s good to bring it down. I mean, not that this soldier was that much more valorous. Is that a word?

[00:46:21] Jennifer Henniman: Right, right.

[00:46:22] Just to give spaces and give context and put some history behind it. So I think that was good.

Add extra time for bathroom breaks

[00:46:29] Jennifer Henniman: I guess the other thing is, and the other tip is, always add extra time for bathroom breaks. So, you know, that’s just… And I think the thing about when you’re thinking about a tour area is that the bathrooms, there may not be, you know, like five stalls or, you know, there may not be bathrooms.

[00:46:48] So that’s the thing, that’s the thing that may slow you down a little bit as a group because it’s one bathroom, or two bathrooms depending on where you’re going. So it’s not so much that we, I think we stopped more than a normal group or anything.

[00:46:59] Annie Sargent: No, but it takes a while every time.

[00:47:01] Jennifer Henniman: It takes a while, every time. So that was one thing that we realized as we were going through if we’re touring as a group, you know, we can just you have to just be prepared that, and factor that in when you’re kind of planning.

Choosing a Sim or eSim card

[00:47:15] Annie Sargent: And I like what you mentioned about Canadians and getting a SIM or eSIM for your trip because that’s so expensive in Canada. That’s hopefully going to change, but for now, that’s how it is.

[00:47:27] Jennifer Henniman: It is so expensive So I’ve heard a few people mention it about the SIM card on your podcast before and we did get the eSIM from Orange. My tip with that is that if you’re looking up eSIMs and you want to go with the actual provider like we did with Orange, just be careful when you’re Googling because there’s a lot of third party providers.

[00:47:49] So if you click on just the first link, you’re going to go to a third party provider for the SIM. It’s not necessarily bad. It’s not that you’re not going to get the right thing, but it’s just you’re going to pay a little bit more. And you’re getting it through them. Orange has a great travel SIM card, eSIM card that gives you a little bit of international calling, all calling in France, and lots of data.

[00:48:14] That was extremely valuable for us throughout the trip.

[00:48:17] Annie Sargent: And an eSIM is, you don’t actually remove your SIM card from your phone, but it’s kind of an app that you install.

[00:48:25] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah, there’s a whole step by step process. So the eSIM, you actually load the SIM, you know, virtually onto your phone, and you’re basically switching off your North American, turning on your France SIM. So you’re not physically removing the SIM card. When you sign up for it, Orange will give you step by step on what to do. You can set it up before you leave and just turn it off, or you can set it up when you’re on Wi Fi, when you arrive, you know, just want Wi Fi because you do have to connect to the internet to do some things. But yeah, it’s fantastic. What we did was we set it up before we left, right before we turned on airplane mode, we turned off our old sim, turned on our France sim, so when we turned off airplane mode, when we land, we were already on our France SIM card.

[00:49:14] So, that worked out great. And most of the people of the group did that.

[00:49:17] Even, you know, we were a mixed group of Americans and Canadians.

[00:49:20] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:49:21] Jennifer Henniman: The Americans did. My caution for the Americans is that you have to check if you can unlock your phone. In Canada, it’s law that your phones come unlocked now.

[00:49:31] But in the US, you could have a locked phone. If you have a locked phone, the eSIM or other SIM won’t help you. You just need to check before you go, on whether you can unlock it or not. If it’s not unlocked to start, you won’t be able to get it unlocked.

[00:49:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah, the only thing to be careful of is when you have an eSIM like this, you have a fair bit of data, but if you have people in your group who are used to streaming YouTube all day long, or TikTok all day long, it’s going to eat up your data very quickly. So, you know, just they have to get their own account and their own eSIM.

[00:50:07] Otherwise, I’m sorry, I watched TikTok for three hours this morning and we’re out of data for the day.

[00:50:15] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah, you can top up, but then you have to start paying top up. When we were researching it, we found there were providers out there, we didn’t get them. There’s providers that do unlimited data only, for a very reasonable price, but we wanted to have the phone capability, calling capability too. But for, maybe for a kid, you know, for one of the kid’s iPads, or like, you know, if it’s device, where they’re not going to be using telephone, you could consider, like, they seem very reasonable too. We just, we never use them for us.

[00:50:46] We have been talking a long time, we got to stop, but this was really, really excellent, and there’s more great stuff, like you talk about apps and other things in your document, but mostly it’s the SNCF app, the train app, that is, obviously, if you’re going to take the train, you need that. Yeah, it’s amazing. Yeah.

Wanderlog app

[00:51:02] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah. And you like the Wanderlog app as well, which I don’t know anything about. It’s a newish travel app where you can put all your reservations, all your itinerary into the app and the group can all sign up and…

[00:51:16] Annie Sargent: Ah, they can all see it.

[00:51:18] Jennifer Henniman: Yeah. So, there’s another app out there called TripIt that a lot of people, we’ve used before. This one’s a newer one.

[00:51:25] Annie Sargent: I’ve heard of TripIt.

[00:51:27] Jennifer Henniman: You’ve heard of TripIt? Yeah, TripIt it’s great. You can also do the sharing. This is another version of that. It’s a little bit more, I’d say, it has a lot, it’s trying to do a lot in one. So because it’s newer, not all the features, I’d say, are like, you know, top, the best, what I loved about it was you could really easily navigate through the itinerary, see all the reservations. We could, if someone booked something, we could attach it in, so we have the attachment of the reservation right there.

[00:51:54] So it was nice, the group could all jump in and see what we were doing every day, or what was booked for…

[00:52:00] Annie Sargent: Right, for that day. Yeah.

[00:52:02] Jen, thank you so much for talking to me. This was wonderful. And you know, you are ready to open your own tour company now.

[00:52:09] Jennifer Henniman: Actually it’s something I just love doing every day. Yeah, it is fun to..

[00:52:13] Annie Sargent: But you have to pay attention to details and you have to keep on top of things, otherwise you get overwhelmed.

[00:52:19] Jennifer Henniman: You do, and can I give one last tip?

[00:52:22] For us, planning group travel, you have to figure out what is the most important element of your trip, and start there, not necessarily chronologically, like book my hotel here, here, here, because the villa was the most important thing for us. We were going to be all under the same roof for a week, it was our 50th, it was very important that the accommodations met that kind of criteria which, you know, were not necessarily, like, there was a lot of different pieces we had to figure out.

[00:52:49] It ruled out a lot of villas.

[00:52:50] We rearranged our itinerary a few times until we found the villa that we really wanted. And then after that, all the other planning was a little bit easier. So the other thing for the group is figure out what’s important to you, whatever that may be, and start there and making sure everyone’s good with that, because everything else, like, once we had the villa, we could, you know, it worked.

[00:53:11] It worked.

[00:53:11] Annie Sargent: Yeah. yeah.

[00:53:12] You know, listeners, you’re very lucky. She found it for you and it’s going to be listed in the show notes.

[00:53:18] So there you go.

[00:53:19] Jennifer Henniman: Yes.

[00:53:21] Annie Sargent: Merci beaucoup, Jenny.

[00:53:23] Jennifer Henniman: Merci, Bonne journée.

[00:53:25] Annie Sargent: Au revoir. Bonne journée.


[00:53:32] 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.


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Category: Family Travel