Transcript for Episode 495: An Epic French Road Trip with a Yorkie

Category: Family Travel

Discussed in this Episode

  • Paris
  • Metz
  • Strasbourg
  • Amboise
  • Avignon
  • Arles
  • Nîmes
  • Saint-Tropez
  • Cannes
  • Nice
  • Carcassonne
  • Bordeaux
  • Saint-Emilion
  • Mont Saint-Michel
  • Giverny

[00:00:00] Annie Sargent: This is Join Us in France, episode 495, quatre cent quatre-vingt-quinze.

Bonjour, I’m Annie Sargent, and Join Us in France is the podcast where we take a conversational journey through the beauty, culture, and flavors of France.

Today on the podcast

[00:00:31] Annie Sargent: Today, I bring you a trip report about an epic French road trip with a Yorkie, with Richard Miller.

Richard and his wife Katherine took an unforgettable 50th wedding anniversary road trip through France, accompanied by their adorable Yorkie Pocket. From Metz to Saint Tropez, keep listening for tales of travel, adventure, and the joys of exploring France with a furry companion.

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 of France in my electric car. You can browse all of that at my boutique:

And Patreon supporters get new episodes as soon as they are ready, and ads free.

If that sounds good to you, be like them, follow the link in the show notes.

The Magazine segment

[00:01:31] Annie Sargent: For the magazine part of the podcast, after the interview today, I’ll discuss why you should not rent an electric car in France, unless you already drive an electric car at home, and are willing to do a bit of homework on the how we start the charge in France.

And for my personal update, I’ll share a brief recap of the wonderful Bootcamp 2024 that just finished a few days ago with a full episode about it coming soon.

Welcome and Introduction to the Anniversary Trip

[00:02:10] Annie Sargent: Bonjour, Richard Miller and welcome to Join Us in France.

[00:02:14] Richard Miller: Bonjour, Annie.

[00:02:15] Annie Sargent: How are you?

[00:02:16] Richard Miller: I’m very good.

[00:02:18] Annie Sargent: Excellent, wonderful to talk to you today about your anniversary trip to France, you went all around France, really, with your dog, so we have never done a thing like this, I want to hear all about your trip.

Traveling with a Dog in France

[00:02:31] Richard Miller: Well, this is our 50th wedding anniversary, and our 5th or 6th time to France, so we had been to France several times, we kind of knew the popular touristy things to do, and we did not want to do that this time. We decided to bring our dog because we were going to be gone a total of two months, it just made more sense to take her along.

She’s traveled with us before, she’s a good traveler, she did very good on the airplane, and she kept right up with us. I think that we walked, what, 170 miles during the trip or something like that, and she kept right along with us. She was a good traveler.

I think bringing a dog affected the hotels we chose. Some I would go back to dog, or no dog. And others, we would probably choose something different.

[00:03:14] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so your dog is named Pocket.

[00:03:17] Richard Miller: Pocket. Yes. She weighs nine pounds and she’s a Yorkie. So, you know, didn’t take up any room in the airplane, didn’t take up any room in the car that we rented. We had a little bed for her in the room, so she did very good.

[00:03:31] Annie Sargent: Yeah, and she traveled with you in the cabin of the airplane.

[00:03:34] Richard Miller: Yes, she did, under the seat in front of us. Before we left, we had to go through the US Department of Agriculture to get a health certificate to take her to Europe. And then we got to France, then we met with a veterinarian, and she now has a French passport.

[00:03:50] Annie Sargent: Yeah, very good. Yes, all pets in France have a pet passport that you’re supposed to bring with you whenever you go to the vet, or whenever you take your dog abroad. I must admit, I’m in Spain right now with my dog and I… didn’t bring her pet passport. Vets don’t seem to really, I mean it’s mostly to record vaccinations, is what it’s for.

[00:04:11] Richard Miller: Yes, yes. And we had very good luck with the vet, and so it was probably an hour out of our whole vacation.

[00:04:20] Annie Sargent: Right, right. And you mentioned in your document that you shared with me that veterinarian costs are much lower in France than in the US and I’ve noticed that as well.

[00:04:31] Richard Miller: Yeah, I think anything pet related was a lot cheaper. Food,you know, to get her another harness, anything pet related was probably 60 to 70% cheaper in Europe than it was in the US. I mean, it was very noticeably different.

[00:04:47] Annie Sargent: Yeah.Even 18 years ago when we moved our family from the US to France, I thought French vets were very inexpensive compared to the equivalent in America, and they have very similar training. I don’t think vets in France are any less capable than vets in the US.

[00:05:03] Richard Miller: It’s just the cost of veterinary school, in France it’s almost free. Once you get in, you know, you might have to pay for some books, but that’s it. It’s part of the national medical training stuff. We were very happy with, we saw two vets while we were in France and both were excellent.

[00:05:21] Annie Sargent: Right, and your dog’s not young and she’s 14 right?

[00:05:24] Richard Miller: Fourteen, yeah, she was fourteen when we traveled and, so she’s no spring chicken or anything like that. She’s a mature dog.

Trip overview

[00:05:30] Annie Sargent: Yeah. So when was this trip and where all did you go?

[00:05:35] Richard Miller: So, we left the US in April of2023, and we got back to the US in June of 2023. And as far as the areas that we visited, we landed in Paris, we did not stay in Paris, we stayed in Paris for the end of our trip. We went from Paris to Metz, my mother’s relatives came from Metz, so we wanted to go there and see that area.

We spent an afternoon in Metz, and went to the cathedral, took the little train ride, had a very pleasant lunch there. And then wedrove from there to Strasbourg. Love Strasbourg! That’s just a fantastic area! Loved it! Loved the area, loved the food, everything about it was tremendous.

[00:06:18] Annie Sargent: Right. So we haven’t talked about Metz a lot on the podcast because it’s not really a touristy town. Would you agree that…

[00:06:25] Richard Miller: Oh, it’s not touristy, maybe that’s why we liked it, because it was, it was not touristy. But the most touristy thing there was the mini train. And we did take that just so we couldtravel around and see the area, but it was a much larger town that I first thought it was going to be, so it was a fair sized city with a university, but it was a very enjoyable, very quaint, loved the cathedral.

When we were there, which was in April, the flowers were all starting to bloom and it was just really, really pretty.

Traveling from Paris to Metz, Car rentals

[00:06:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah, how did you get around? So when you landed in Paris by plane, obviously, but then how did you make your way to Metz?

[00:07:00] Richard Miller: We rented a car. I originally had rented a car, it was going to be a stick shift, a manual transmission, but when we got to the rental agency, they didn’t have that car. So we ended up getting a SUV, which was a bigger car than what I originally intended, butwhen we got in the car, we plugged in our phone, and Apple CarPlay came right up, and we plugged Waze in, and the address in Metz, where we wanted to go.

And actually Apple CarPlay and Waze worked the entire trip, no matter how much in the countryside we were, remote places, it worked perfectly. So we were never lost driving 2000 miles around France, we were never lost, and it was excellent as far as getting in and driving down the highway or in the small streets in any city.

[00:07:50] Annie Sargent: Did you purchase a French SIM card or how did you get data for this trip?

[00:07:56] Richard Miller: No, we justused our US carrier, never had a problem, and we never paid a premium for anything.

[00:08:02] Annie Sargent: So who’s your US carrier that doesn’t charge a premium?

[00:08:05] Richard Miller: T Mobile.

[00:08:06] Annie Sargent: I see.

So it was just included in your plan.

[00:08:09] Richard Miller: It’s included in our plan.

I called them beforehand, tell them what we were going to do, and they said, okay, everything is free for you, so we were able to make phone calls, send text messages and… And, I mean, when we were on the road driving, it was plugged in continually, so for hours.

And I never incurred any extra fee.

[00:08:29] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. Well, I mean, mapping is not data intensive. So, if you had been watching YouTube videos constantly, you might have. But you were just using mapping and things like that.

[00:08:42] Richard Miller: Yes. No, I mean, we could listen to,you know, our Sirius Radio on it and no problem with that.

[00:08:49] Annie Sargent: Wow. Yeah. So that’s fantastic. You see how, I mean, we’ve come a long way because I’m assuming you’ve had trips like this in years past where it was a lot more complicated in the past.

[00:08:59] Richard Miller: Oh, I remember when we first went to France, to take it back in the 1980s and, you know, we had a paper map we laid on our lap trying to figure out where we were going to go. And by 2023, it was very different.

One of the questions you asked was, was it stressful? And it wasn’t stressful. We were able to find our way around easily everywhere we went.

[00:09:17] Annie Sargent: So, you started with Metz and Strasbourg, where else did you go? So you went all around the country, really. Was this your purpose to just go as far as you could around France?

[00:09:27] Richard Miller: Yes, we wanted to see the entire country. We went from Metz to Strasbourg, then we went to the Loire Valley, we stayed in Amboise, we went to Avignon, we went to Arles, Nîmes, Saint Tropez.

[00:09:41] Annie Sargent: In that order?

[00:09:42] Richard Miller: Pretty much, yeah, yeah.

We went to, fromSaint Tropez, Cannes and Nice, we had to do a little bit of backtracking because we wanted to go back to the west.

Then we went to Carcassonne,Bordeaux, Saint Emilion, and then went up to Mont Saint Michel, then Giverny, and then we ended our trip in Paris.

[00:09:59] Annie Sargent: Okay. So, all right. There was some backtracking going on, but not too bad. Not too bad.

Yeah. So why don’t we talk about the, there’s two places that you mentioned that, like I said, Metz, we haven’t talked about very much. Sorry, I’m from the South, so I say the T, but in Metz, they don’t say the T. They say Metz and in the rest of the country, we say Metz.

[00:10:20] Richard Miller: Yeah.

Saint Tropez

[00:10:21] Annie Sargent: The other place that you mentioned that we haven’t talked about very much is Saint Tropez, so I would like you to kind of dwell on Saint Tropez when you get to it.

[00:10:30] Richard Miller: For us, Saint Tropez was famous because of, that’s where you picture the wealthy people hanging out. It’s a really cute little town. It wasn’t very big. When we got there, we found out, you know, this is probably early May, so the tourist season really hadn’t started yet. So we found a place to park that was easy.

We walked into town, just cute as could be, little shops, we found a restaurant that we ate at,near the harbor. Maybe the restaurant was a little bit touristy, but the food was good and the service was good, we enjoyed that. We could look out on all the yachts when we were eating. After we finished eating, and then we went on a boat ride in the Mediterranean.

And that was really interesting. We really enjoyed the boat ride out there. We saw the place where all the, you know, like Arnaud and all the people have their houses, and Brigitte Bardot, and all that. And the weather was absolutely perfect. It was probably sunny and 70 degrees, so it was just a beautiful day to be there.

[00:11:31] Annie Sargent: That helps, doesn’t it?

[00:11:34] Richard Miller: It very much does. You know, we took our dog, our dog went everywhere with us on the trip. There were only a couple of places that we couldn’t take our dog. And when that happened, I would go into a venue like Chambord, and then I would tour that, and my wife would go in, and I would watch the dog.

So, we kind of split that when we couldn’t both go into a venue. But Saint Tropez with the boat ride was fine. We all went on the boat ride together. And after that, my wife wanted to go shopping, because shopping in Saint Tropez is kind of the next level shopping. And I think I had written in the thing, I said, when we went to Saint Tropez that I expected to see, you know, movie stars and yachts and Rolls Royces.

Well, it was. We saw all three. We saw lots of Rolls Royces, lots of yachts and we saw the house where Brigitte Bardot lives. So, yeah. But, you know, my wife bought some clothes there. The dog and I walked around. We went into watch shops and looked at expensive watches And, you know, it was just, it was such a pretty town, and it was a much more of a laid back feel to it than some other places.

It wasn’t hustle bustle or anything when we were there. We hadn’t had any trouble finding a place to eat. We could go in, sit right down. Everybody was friendly. It was a very enjoyable thing. And any kind of upscale shopping you could imagine, we could find there. It was just really nice.

The view of the city from the Mediterranean on a boat was absolutely breathtaking, it was really, really special.

[00:13:03] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Well, and also in Saint Tropez everybody speaks English because it’s very upscale. So the shops, the restaurants, everybody, I don’t know how good your French is, but it might be very good. I don’t know.

[00:13:17] Richard Miller: Well, I would always start a conversation in French. And they could, I think, immediately tell that I wasn’t a native French speaker, and then, if they spoke English, then they would immediately switch to English, because that would just make the conversation more fluid. That was the case in almost every city.

Now, we get out into the countryside, where the English was probably not as prevalent, and then we would, I would speak in French, and we would kind of stumble along there, and it was probably more fun for me, and maybe, maybe it was fun for the French person, I don’t know. But I speak enough to get by, you know, ask directions andcarry on a minor conversation, so we did okay, yeah.

[00:13:57] Annie Sargent: Well, and you know, you don’t need, need French, but it’s always, it always helps like you said, especially in rural places.

Enjoying impromptu stops at markets and fairs

[00:14:04] Richard Miller: Especially we were driving along, if we would see like a street fair or an antique market, we could just stop, park, and walk through the street fair or the market and talk to people and, it was, that’s what we wanted to experience. We wanted to get out, meet people and kind of do the things that most tourists don’t get to do.

We really enjoyed that.

[00:14:25] Annie Sargent: Yeah. How much driving did you do any given day?

[00:14:30] Richard Miller: Probably the most was maybe 400 kilometers, something like that.

[00:14:34] Annie Sargent: That’s quite a bit.

[00:14:35] Richard Miller: Yeah, but the roads are, you know, we took the autoroutes going from, like we go from Strasbourg to Amboise, and you get on a major road and, you know, you just go. And the roads are terrific and there’s plenty of places to buy fuel, and have a lunch or whatever.

So it was just easy travel.

[00:14:54] Annie Sargent: Yes. I mean, you do pay for the freeways and they’re not cheap.

[00:14:59] Richard Miller: They’re not cheap, they’re not cheap, but you know, it’s very convenient.

[00:15:03] Annie Sargent: I really recommend people for the most part, use the freeways and especially if you’re going to do some of this, well, this trip with an electric car, just about every freeway stop in France has fast car chargers anymore.

[00:15:20] Richard Miller: Yeah. There are about 10 chargers per service area. So there’s ample charging possibilities.

[00:15:26] Annie Sargent: And some places bigger than that, like they just opened one in Toulouse where they put 26.

[00:15:32] Richard Miller: Yeah.

[00:15:32] Annie Sargent: Because they were just redoing it. So they just went a little bigger than they figure. And that same gas station only has eight gas pumps.

But of course when you charge a car, for the most part, you stay a little longer.

[00:15:45] Richard Miller: But even the parking lots have, you know, preferred parking for electric vehicles. Hotels have them, so that would be convenient.

[00:15:53] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah.

Tips for a Stress-Free French Vacation

[00:15:54] Annie Sargent: So, overall, this trip, so this two month trip, you mentioned that it was very pleasant and restful. So what’s the secret, in your opinion, to having a pleasant and restful trip through France?

[00:16:08] Richard Miller: Oh, it’s definitely planning. My wife and I did a lot of research on hotels and where we wanted to go.

Planning just made the thing so easy. Before we left the United States, we had reservations in every hotel we were going to stay at. So we knew where we were going to be, the day we were going to be there, how long we were going to stay, and for important venues like Chambord or something like that,we knew that we were going to be there on a certain day.

So when we did all that planning, there were no surprises, we weren’t anxious about finding a hotel for the night, anything like that. Now, we had a lot of time that was unplanned, like our trip to Gordes was unplanned. We just decided on the spur of the moment that we wanted to go there. So we were able to drive there and had a really pleasant day doing that.

But I think having the hotels planned in advance was probably the biggest thing that we did. We watched a lot of YouTube videos and read a lot of reviews online, and so we knew we were going to stay. And I think that probably 80 percent of where we chose were really good places. I think that contributed to, lack of stress. When we planned our trip, we knew where we were going to be every day. There’s a Rome to Rio app, so we knew how far we wanted to drive during the day. Like we wanted to drive, I think the biggest, longest we drove was 400 kilometers.

So we knew that we didn’t want to drive any more than that. So we could kind of plan where we wanted to stay. It also tells you what the tolls are going to be. So the toll cost was not a surprise. But I think advanced planning is really the key to enjoying it.

And then we know enough French to be able to get by, so we weren’t concerned about our ability to communicate in French when we had to do that.

[00:17:54] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. I assume you listen to the podcast, as well, trip reports and things like that.

[00:17:59] Richard Miller: Yes, absolutely. One thing I think I mentioned too before is that your husband’s podcast that he did on driving in France. That was very useful. It really is very helpful. At one point in time, we thought we wanted to take trains everywhere. And then we listened to one of the podcasts, I think it was a couple of ladies who traveled around by train.

That’s when we decided that we didn’t want to go by train, because we just wanted to have the flexibility of going wherever we wanted, whenever we wanted to, and driving was just better for us rather than take a train. So, listening to the podcast was very important, of things we wanted to do and things we didn’t want to do.

I don’t know how many I listened to, 50 or so podcasts.

But enough to… enough to, so we knew what we wanted to do and not want to do.

[00:18:45] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s very important because sometimes, but even if somebody was totally okay with, you know, taking trains and what have you, when they tell you what it was like, you’re like, okay, it’s okay for them, but it’s not okay for me.

[00:18:59] Richard Miller: Right, right. right. It just didn’t work with us. Yes, right. The amount of time we had gave us the flexibility. We weren’t on any time schedule other than what we committed ourselves to do. So we could take them, we wanted to spend four days in a place, we’d spend four days in a place. We wanted to only spend one day in a place, that’s all we had to do, and we could just pick up and go or do whatever we wanted to do.

[00:19:20] Annie Sargent: And how did you decide if a place was worth four days or one day?

[00:19:24] Richard Miller: Well, it was all research before we went. I wish that I had contributed or spent more time in Strasbourg. I would, I could have spent, I think we spent like four days there, but I could have spent a week there and that would have been great to do. And then there are other places, maybe like Bordeaux, I probably would have spent less time in Bordeaux.

But you don’t know until you get there.

[00:19:44] Annie Sargent: Yeah, it’s interesting what you said about Bordeaux, that it felt like it was a bit unkempt. Or I can’t remember how you put it, but…

[00:19:50] Richard Miller: Just seemed like a neglected city. You know, if you go to, and of course Cannes and Bordeaux are very different, but Cannes was so clean and vibrant and new, and Bordeaux just seemed like somebody forgot to do everything to it. It didn’t seem up to date. It just didn’t seemlike a place you’d want to hang out in.

[00:20:10] Annie Sargent: I wonder if that was to do with where you stayed. Let’s see, where was your hotel in Bordeaux?

[00:20:15] Richard Miller: We stayed at a Hilton in Bordeaux. Now, the Hilton in Bordeaux was absolutely great. It was probably one of the better hotels that we stayed at. It was very close to the river and the hotel was fantastic. But we walked from the hotel, like, to the central,where they had the water fountain and everything near downtown.

To me it was disappointing, driving through the city was, I don’t know, just, it was just seemed laden with graffiti and didn’t seem clean. So, going to that area, we should have stayed in Saint Emilion, rather than Bordeaux.

[00:20:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Saint Emilion is a very quaint beautiful little town and…

[00:20:53] Richard Miller: Yeah, we ended up doing a winery tour there, which was great. And drinking a lot of wine in that area. But that was a a really, really nice, nice area. We should have stayed there rather than Bordeaux.

[00:21:04] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Let’s go through your favorites, because I usually get to that faster in the interview, we didn’t get to it yet. Let’s see.

Strasbourg, Amboise

[00:21:12] Richard Miller: Well, Strasbourg was great. I mean, I would go back there in a heartbeat. You know, everything about it was fantastic. Loved the food, loved the architecture. We should have had more time to visit some of the areas around it. Loved Strasbourg.

We stayed in Amboise. Amboise was a really pleasant surprise. The Amboise Chateau was great.We went to the Leonardo da Vinci house there. The boulangeries were great. The hotel we stayed at was very, very nice. So I just really love that little town. From there, we went to Chambord, and our mistake there was we went on May the 1st.

Antique Market at Amboise on May 1st

[00:21:53] Richard Miller: And I think everybody in France was there that day. And they had this huge antique market outside, which, you know, you can’t take the dog into the castle, so we, my wife and I split up, she would go in, and I’d watch the dog. But walking through the antique market was an experience in itself, I mean, it was by far the largest antique market I’d ever been to. It was really neat, if I’d had, you know, people were buying, there were some picture frames I would have purchased, but I had no way to get them back.

So, that was really something.

So, Amboise, it was just a really pleasant surprise. Loved, loved that.

[00:22:28] Annie Sargent: In my opinion, it’s one of the better places to stay if you’re going to visit the Loire Valley. Now, if you’re going in, we’re recording this in February, if you’re going in February, in my opinion, you would do better going into a bigger city, such as Tours or Angers or something. But… between April and November really, Amboise is fantastic. Because it’s middle size, you have two chateaus, you have plenty of restaurants, you can rent bikes if you wish you can… you know. It’s central, as central as it gets for the Loire Valley because it’s a river. So, you know, it’s long and there is no central place to a river, you have to go along it and back and forth a little bit. But I think Amboise is definitely a favorite of mine anyway.

[00:23:21] Richard Miller: Yes, absolutely. I would go back there. And our hotel was right on the river and we could easily walk to the chateau, easily walk to the Leonardo da Vinci house. I mean, it was just so easy to get around. It was really, really nice.

[00:23:33] Annie Sargent: Yeah. They’re not even a mile apart, The Royal Chateau of Amboise and where Da Vinci was. It’s a very walkable city.

[00:23:41] Richard Miller: And then the drive from there to Chambord was, it was a very pleasant drive too. I mean, it was maybe an hour or something like that.

So it wasn’t, it wasn’t a bad drive.

[00:23:49] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so Chambord is further east, so this is when you were making your way back.

[00:23:54] Richard Miller: We just went there for the day and came back and stayed in Amboise again. But it was a good day trip.


[00:23:59] Annie Sargent: So where did you go from Amboise?

[00:24:01] Richard Miller: We went down Avignon.

[00:24:02] Annie Sargent: That’s a long stretch.

[00:24:04] Richard Miller: Yeah, it was, Avignon was okay.

We ate some really good food there. We found some really nice restaurants. Didn’t really care for the Palais des Papes too much.

[00:24:14] Annie Sargent: Really?

[00:24:14] Richard Miller: Well, my wife and I were both raised Catholic, we found the Palais very disturbing that the Popes are so greedy and money hungry.

It just was a real, it was a real religious turn off.

I mean, the architecture was certainly impressive, but from a historical, religious standpoint, it was very disturbing, I thought.

[00:24:38] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. Well, especially in those days. Oh, they were just not good, not good people for the most part. Not good people. No, no, not good people.

Roman Ruins and Disappointing Museums

[00:24:48] Richard Miller: And then we did some other day journeys. We went to the Pont du Gard, which was, that was pretty neat, I mean, that was quite impressive.

You know, how did they build that 2000 years ago? It was really something.

[00:25:00] Annie Sargent: Whatever they did, it worked because it’s still standing.

[00:25:02] Richard Miller: It did. Still standing. Yeah.

We went to Nîmes, went to the amphitheater there, and we ended up going to too much Roman stuff. I think you ought to pick one or two Roman things, do those, but you don’t need to see every Roman ruin in France. So, I would kind of, you know, not do too much of that.

[00:25:23] Annie Sargent: I tend to agree with you. Like it’s, we have so many and I know Elyse loves them. But I’m like okay, it’s, I’m starting to see like a pattern here.

This is what they did and it’s very interesting to know that a couple thousand years ago, there were people who were living that well and that invested in infrastructure so much, and developed a fantastic lifestyle and culture.

But you don’t need to see every Roman ruin, I would agree.

Navigating Narrow Streets in Nîmes and Reflecting on Van Gogh

[00:25:56] Richard Miller: So Nîmes was okay. It was maybe a little bit difficult driving into the city because it’s very old and narrow.

Very narrow and…

[00:26:05] Annie Sargent: Lots of one way streets. I hate driving in Nîmes I hate it with a passion.

And I can drive anywhere but I don’t like driving in Nîmes.

[00:26:12] Richard Miller: So we went there, you can say we’ve been there, but there’s no need to go back. We went to Arles because I’m a painter and I wanted to see, because that’s where Van Gogh spent some time.

We went to the Van Gogh Museum, but that’s a nevermind. That was a waste of my time to go there. I didn’t really care for it.

[00:26:31] Annie Sargent: Tell us why?

[00:26:32] Richard Miller: Well, there’s only one Van Gogh painting, and that’s one of his minor paintings.

The rest of the museum was like sketchesby different people, and it was okay, but… you know, not really my cup of tea.

[00:26:45] Annie Sargent: This is a very important lesson for everybody listening. This happens all over France. The famous painters, the local museums cannot afford a single one of them. It’s too expensive, too expensive to insure, too expensive to build a, you know, infrastructure that will keep the painting secure. So most minor museums in small French towns, if they tell you there’s a Picasso Museum or Van Gogh Museum or they might have one piece or even Toulouse Lautrec.

So the Toulouse Lautrec Museum in Albi is a bit of a exception, because they do actually have quite a few Toulouse Lautrec, because he gifted them, and they’ve hung on to them ever since.

But for people like Van Gogh, that did not make any such provisions because he was not popular or famous in his life, no minor museum can afford a Van Gogh. That’s just a fact.

And that’s not just in Arles, it’s anywhere.

[00:27:51] Richard Miller: There were some sketches that Victor Hugo did, but, you know, it was, I guess it was interesting to see, but the museum itself was not, it was kind of a waste of time to, to go there.

And Arles was just an okay town, and nothing, nothing special about it, so it was, I can say I’ve been there, but, you know…

[00:28:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah. I think if you’re going to go see one of these Roman cities, I think the Pont du Gard is a must.

[00:28:14] Richard Miller: Mm hmm.

[00:28:15] Annie Sargent: I think either Arles or Nîmes, you don’t need to see both.

[00:28:19] Richard Miller: I liked, we didn’t go into the Arles Coliseum, but we did go into Nîmes, and that was, it was pretty well preserved, you know, so of the two, I would say go to Nîmes and not Arles.

That’s, I think they’re, I mean, I think they’re both good, but I wouldn’t do both, because they’re too much of a good thing. And then we drove to, that’s when we drove down to Saint Tropez, which we talked about earlier, which was magnificent.

The drive there was interesting because it’s over mountains and the windy roads, and it was slow because of all the bicyclists, but scenery is very beautiful.

[00:28:54] Annie Sargent: You didn’t take the freeway. Maybe there isn’t a freeway?

[00:28:57] Richard Miller: Did not, we could not find a freeway there. It was all back roads, one lane going each direction, it was very slow, but it was a pleasant ride. We were in no hurry to get there. So it was, we were able to enjoy it.

[00:29:08] Annie Sargent: Yeah, so the Vaucluse where Avignon is, they have terrible roads. I’m sorry Vaucluse, you just do.

The Charm of Cannes and the Bustle of Nice

[00:29:15] Richard Miller: After Saint Tropez, we went to Cannes. And it was just a tremendous place, really loved Cannes. It was just, the hotel we had there was maybe the best hotel we stayed at, dog or no dog, I would go back there in a heartbeat, it was very nice.

[00:29:30] Annie Sargent: I’ll put all the hotels where you stayed and also your very astute remarks about the hotels in the show notes for this episode because I think those are very good recommendations.

[00:29:40] Richard Miller: I mean, we’d wake up in the morning, the street we stayed on was a very, I think I would call it upscale area, but they would wash the street and the sidewalks every morning, we’d go out and everything smelled fresh and clean. And there was a boulangerie down the street where we could go get, you know, I like pain au raisin, and my wife likes a pain au chocolat, coffee and everything. And it was, I think we spent 10 euro or something like that. It was pretty cheap. And then it was like a block walk to the Mediterranean. We went to see the, where they had the Cannes Film festival.

And just, we did a lot of walking there because it’s so easy to walk around and we would just stop and have a coffee someplace and lots of restaurants. And it was just a, it was just a fantastic place, if you had the money.

[00:30:30] Annie Sargent: Yeah, Cannes is a very nice town. It kind of skews a little older, but the fabulous thing about it is that the train station is right in the middle of the town and not very far from the sea so if you want to stay in Cannes while you’re visiting the Riviera, it’s very easy to get into the train and back in the evening and visit all the other areas.

Nice is not like that. Nice, the train station is much further inland and it’s a mile and a half or two miles to the beachfront from Nice, so makes it a little harder.

[00:31:08] Richard Miller: So, Cannes, I would go back to anytime. You would not have to twist my arm. It was, I’d go back there. Everything about it was great. The shopping was great. The food was great. The hotel was great. So scenic. It was just a wonderful place to be.

From Cannes we went to Nice, and Nice is a big city and a little bit more difficult to get around. The hotel we chose didn’t have their own parking, so we had to find public parking for that.

[00:31:35] Annie Sargent: Which is difficult in Nice.

[00:31:37] Richard Miller: Oh yeah, it was not easy.

Aix en Provence

[00:31:39] Richard Miller: Oh, I forgot an area that I meant to talk about was Aix en Provence. We did go to Aix en Provence, before we went to, I think before we went to Saint Tropez and Cannes, so Aix en Provence.

Now, that was a different town than I expected. I expected a smaller place. Aix en Provence is huge. And there’s 5000 restaurants, 5000 shops, terribly crowded, is not a leisurely place to go. I mean, it’s a younger crowd,everybody out to have fun and have drinks and everything, and parking was a real nightmare there, and we had a large SUV and finding a place to park was a challenge, I could not park in a lot where my wife and I could both get out of the car.

We had to park either one direction, you know, so close to another car or close to a wall so I could get out. And so she had to get out before I parked and she’d have to guide me into a space. So that was a challenge, but you know, I’m glad we went there.

You know, I don’t know that that’s a place I would go back to, I can say I’ve been there.

But so anyway, that’s Aix.

[00:32:47] Annie Sargent: Yeah, yeah. And it’s very lively.

[00:32:49] Richard Miller: Oh, very, very lively.

[00:32:51] Annie Sargent: But the main drag there is very lively and very fun, but it could be a little bit overwhelming.

Did you go to Cézanne’s atelier?

[00:32:59] Richard Miller: We walked past it, but didn’t go into it. So, no. My mistake.

[00:33:04] Annie Sargent: Yeah, should have. it’s very small but it’s interesting to see where he painted. Yeah.

[00:33:10] Richard Miller: So anyway, back to Nice, The best thing about Nice was walking up to Castle Hill. That was, it was a challenging walk, but the views from up there were amazing. You walk through the Old City to get there and then walking up to Castle Hill, we really enjoyed that.

[00:33:25] Annie Sargent: Yeah. Yeah. There is an elevator if you don’t want to walk, but it closes at 5 pm or something, so…

[00:33:31] Richard Miller: But the view of the city and you can see the airport from up there and it was, it was just a really tremendous view. Took some good photos from up there.

[00:33:39] Annie Sargent: And you can see the port on the one side and the beach, on the long stretch of beach on the other… yeah, it’s a fun place.

[00:33:46] Richard Miller: And then, some really good restaurants in Nice, because it’s a big city. But, the hotel we stayed at, I would not, probably wouldn’t go back there. It needed some, needed some TLC.

From the Vineyards of Bordeaux to the Crowds of Mont Saint Michel

[00:33:57] Richard Miller: And then from Nice, we drove to Carcassonne. I would say in general, we were a little disappointed with Carcassonne.

I think that some of your podcasts people really, really liked it.

To me, it was just very commercial, just shops selling, you know, medieval stuff. And then there’s another shop selling medieval stuff and another shop selling medieval stuff. So you know, is it well preserved? Absolutely it’s well preserved,

[00:34:22] Annie Sargent: It is very turisty and commercial, yeah.

[00:34:26] Richard Miller: So, we went there, we ate a meal there, and, you know, I can say we’ve been there.

[00:34:32] Annie Sargent: Yeah, But it is stunning to see it. If you haven’t, you know, that sort of imagination, you can imagine, you know, people laying siege to it and defending it and all of that. But it is, anymore, a place that attracts, especially if you go on a weekend in May or even June, there are going to be a lot of people there.

And in May and June in France, we have these many long weekends and all of France is out somewhere visiting.You know, everybody goes away for the long weekend and most of us will go to the nearest… fancy touristy thing that we haven’t seen before and so they get really overwhelmed.

[00:35:15] Richard Miller: Another thing we noticed, if you go during the week to any venue and almost any venue in May, there are buses and buses of school kids. That must be what they do, is they go on a field trip to, whether it’s Point du Gard, or Mont Saint Michel, or wherever, there are lots and lots of school kids, so…

[00:35:34] Annie Sargent: Year end school trips take place in May and June, early June. They are wonderful because the teachers get to, the whole year, they go, if you don’t behave, we don’t go on the school trip, you know, for the young ones it works. And it’s great because, you know, when you grew up in France, like I did, you get to visit places that perhaps your parents didn’t take you to or if your parents took you to it, you were like, oh, I’ve been here with my mom and dad.

[00:35:59] Richard Miller: Right, right.

Bordeaux and Saint Emilion

[00:36:01] Richard Miller: So, after Carcassonne, we went to, that’s when we went to Bordeaux.

[00:36:05] Annie Sargent: You skipped Toulouse.

[00:36:06] Richard Miller: Oh, we skipped, we went on the auto route and we circled Toulouse. But did not stop in Toulouse, so…

[00:36:13] Annie Sargent: Okay. It’s not the nicest sites in the city.

[00:36:17] Richard Miller: Well, it seemed, well, the area that we saw was very industrial, you know, so, yeah…

[00:36:22] Annie Sargent: Right over, I mean, right around the belt route, of course. Yes.

[00:36:26] Richard Miller: But we did not stop there, sorry, didn’t get to stop by your house and say Hi!

Oh well!

So then that’s, we went to Bordeaux, we wanted to do a wine thing, while we were there, so we ended up going to Saint Emilion, and we should have stayed in Saint Emilion, but great wine tours there, great wine, great food. The town is wonderful. You know, we spent a couple of days there. It was just really, really enjoyable, everybody was friendly, I mean, it was just a really nice place, so it’s a better place to stay and spend time, in my opinion, than in Bordeaux.

[00:37:02] Annie Sargent: Yeah, Bordeaux is a big city. Saint Emilion is a quaint little town. I’m sure they have perhaps what, under 5000 full time inhabitants anyway. So it’s not comparable.

[00:37:13] Richard Miller: But one thing, if you want to see some of the better wineries in that area, you probably have to make reservations months in advance. It’s not a place where you can just like, it’s not like Napa Valley, where you can just pop into a winery and take a tour. This is not that kind of area.

If you want to go to one of the major wineries, probably two or three months in advance, you need to make reservations. And I did not do that. We did take some wine tours, but we did not go to the top notch wineries that I would have preferred to go to because they were already sold out. So if somebody wants to go to Châteauneuf-du- Pape, you probably had to have reservations three months in advance.

[00:37:53] Annie Sargent: Right, so Châteauneuf-du-Pape would be near Avignon, but yes.

The Bordeaux Tourist Office offers a variety of wine tours that are just in buses, and so that’s the easy way to organize this. Just go to their website and book one of these tours. If you want to go with a private guide, if you want somebody private kind of setting, you can also do that.

There’s plenty of small wine tours that you can take around Bordeaux, or Châteauneuf-du-Pape or anywhere in wine country in France, you know. And some of these wineries are very, very fancy. Some of them are really, really, simple stupid, you know, it’s just the basic industrial wine producing equipment.

[00:38:35] Richard Miller: No, I think we kind of got something in the middle. And it was a very, we went, got to go down to the wine caves that were actually dug out by somebody 200 years ago. That was impressive to see. So just enjoyed that area a lot. So I would, that’s a good place to do a wine experience.

[00:38:51] Annie Sargent: And then you made your way back up after Bordeaux?

Mont Saint Michel

[00:38:55] Richard Miller: Yes. We went to Mont Saint Michel. Yeah. We found a place where we could see Mont Saint Michel in the distance from our hotel, it was maybe about a 10 minute car ride. We went, it was in May, during the week, and it was completely packed. I was amazed at how crowded it was. I mean, it was wall to wall people.

When we got there, we found out that Mont Saint Michel has its own kennel, so we were able to board our dog at the kennel there, which she would not have done well in the big crowd inside Mont Saint Michel. So, she was happy there. But when we got there, we walked to it, and then took the bus back, but we took the little bridge over to Mont Saint Michel from the parking lot, which is not a bad, it was a pretty day, and it was, weather was nice, it wasn’t a bad walk.

We got there, we got inside, and it was just like, packed, just so many people. So we ended up walking all the way up to the top andall the tours and everything, so we did our own self-guided tour and walked through. I don’t know when you would, maybe you’d have to go in February to avoid the crowd, but it was really, really crowded.

[00:40:00] Annie Sargent: Mont Saint Michel is difficult because if you go in February, the weather is going to be foul and it just doesn’t look nice in bad weather because the cloudy skies, low hanging clouds, it’s all gray, like it all looks gray. It’s not great. And if you go during the better weather months, it’s very packed. What I usually recommend people do is don’t try to go up the Mont Saint Michel in the morning, but rather start making your way up an hour before the last entry to the Abbey, because by then a lot of people have cleared up, at least most of the buses have left because most of those head back to Paris, or Bayeux, but mostly Paris. And so, that clears up a lot of people, so if you do this, and the closing, last tickets to the Abbey depends on the day, so just look it up and get a late entry to the Abbey. Plan an on hour to walk up because it’s steep, it’s cobblestone, you will probably, I mean, I need a couple of breaks.

[00:41:02] Richard Miller: Yes.

[00:41:03] Annie Sargent: So take your time going up, get there later in the day, and then it’s not quite as crowded. But it’s very popular. It’s very, very popular.

[00:41:12] Richard Miller: It was like one of those places, maybe like some of the Roman stuff. It’s like, how in the world did they build that? You know, you just can’t imagine that somebody could build that hundreds and hundreds of years ago. It was quite impressive.

[00:41:23] Annie Sargent: But they built it for pilgrims and for monks. They did not build it for millions of people to come through. And so the cobblestone streets are very narrow and you get a lot of bottlenecks. So that’s why it takes a while.

[00:41:39] Richard Miller: But having the bus and the bridge now makes, you know, the getting in and out of there easy, and you don’t have to worry about the tide or anything like that.

[00:41:47] Annie Sargent: Did you feel sad that you didn’t stay on the Mont Saint Michel?

[00:41:51] Richard Miller: No. I don’t know what that experience would be like, but so I can’t say that I missed it. We stayed at a place that had good food, it was okay, and it only took 10 minutes to drive there. So it wasn’t like, I don’t know that, it would have been anything that special.

[00:42:06] Annie Sargent: I typically don’t recommend people stay on the Mont Saint Michel just because they don’t want to drag their suitcases all the way up there.

[00:42:12] Richard Miller: No, we didn’t have to worry about that.

[00:42:13] Annie Sargent: It’s easier if you’re just walking yourselves up and not you and your stuff. That’s just me. And also, you cannot see the Mont Saint Michel if you’re on the Mont Saint Michel.

[00:42:24] Richard Miller: Right. No. Where our hotel was, we had a great view.


[00:42:28] Richard Miller: From there, we drove to Giverny. We drove past Bayeux. If I’d had one more day in my schedule, I would have stopped in Bayeux to see the tapestry. I would have really loved to see that, but… But I didn’t.

[00:42:39] Annie Sargent: It’s well worth it.

[00:42:41] Richard Miller: Yeah. But anyway, we went to Giverny, and like I said, I’m a painter.

So going to Monet’s garden was like the event of a lifetime for me. When we were there, it was so beautiful. It was just like everything I ever imagined and more. It was really, really nice.

We stayed at a hotel maybe 10 minutes away from Monet’s place and the hotel was great, it was fantastic. It was a small town and just everything about Giverny was pretty neat.

[00:43:07] Annie Sargent: And your hotel, you listed it here, it’s a beautiful place. It wasn’t too crowded the day you went? Because that can also get very crowded.

[00:43:14] Richard Miller: We ended up going a little later in the day, and I don’t know, maybe there were 10 or 12 people there. I mean, it was like we had the whole garden, we had the whole garden to ourselves. We could walk around and take all the photos unobstructed and spend as much time as we wanted.

It wasn’t crowded at all. Easy to park, easy to get into. It was, you know, really a pleasant experience and not crowded at all.

[00:43:38] Annie Sargent: Fantastic.

[00:43:38] Richard Miller: It might be different in July, but in May it was very pleasant.

[00:43:42] Annie Sargent: Yeah. And it’s a beautiful time for flowers as well.

Laundry Challenges

[00:43:44] Annie Sargent: All right. So we’ve been talking a long time. We need to wrap this up. do you have any advice for people who want to do a long… because this is like a long trip, you took two months, it’s leisurely. This is…

[00:43:56] Richard Miller: Well, my wife just told me, laundry.

So, when you’re gone a long time, your clothes get dirty. And, you know, getting laundry done through a hotel can be expensive. So, you need to, I think, set aside some time and do some investigation about getting your laundry done. Talk about stress, maybe the most stressful thing we had was when are we going to do the laundry? You know, are we going to be able to get the laundry done and get it back in time? So, we really need to take that into consideration.

If you’re gone a long time like we were, you need to get your clothes cleaned and make accommodations for that.

[00:44:31] Annie Sargent: Yeah. You probably need to plan a half a day… or most of a half a day, once a week or something?

[00:44:37] Richard Miller: Yeah, I think so. Yeah. If the hotel does it, it’s really expensive and they probably don’t do it like you want to do it. We did some laundromats and that was okay, but that just takes time, you got to take a half a day out of your day, then that’s what it is.

[00:44:52] Annie Sargent: Yes, and laundromats, some people have a hard time figuring them out, you don’t need to bring coins to a laundromat in France, they want your credit card, contactless is even better.

[00:45:04] Richard Miller: We had one experience with the credit card. So my wife was able to get the clothes washed, when she went to dry the clothes for some reason, then the bank decided not to… decided to deny that charge. So I wasn’t with her at that time. So she called me. I had to call the bank and try to tell them that it was a legitimate charge because if the clothes are wet, you need to get them dry.


[00:45:25] Richard Miller: But it’s things like that. Yeah. The other thing my wife mentioned is we were gone such a long time, we had to have different weather clothes. When we first got there, you know, we were wearing jackets and scarves and hats, but by the time we left, it was shorts and short sleeved shirts, and tennis shoes.

So, we had to take two sets of clothing, one for cool and one for warmer weather. So laundry and weather clothing.

[00:45:52] Annie Sargent: Yeah, that’s the practicalities that are really important. I mean, really, you need to think about those things.

[00:45:57] Richard Miller: That and pre-planning. Pre-planning, I think made it just less stressful. I wish we had known about the French holidays in advance, we might have gone to certain venues on different days.

[00:46:07] Annie Sargent: Yeah.

[00:46:08] Richard Miller: Going to Chambord on May the 1st probably wasn’t a good thing.

[00:46:11] Annie Sargent: May 8th is also a long weekend.

[00:46:13] Richard Miller: So know the holidays, know a little bit of French, make accommodations for laundry. I guess that’s all my advice.

[00:46:22] Annie Sargent: Well, Richard, thank you so very much. It was lovely talking to you. I’m sure lots of people will really enjoy listening to this because… it’s practical, you really got your hands wet and dirty, I guess is the term I’m looking for. And I’m glad you had a good time. Would you say this was a great anniversary celebration overall?

[00:46:40] Richard Miller: Absolutely. No, it’s probably the high point of 50 years, maybe other than our children being born, but it was, it was pretty good.

[00:46:48] Annie Sargent: Well, congratulations on 50 years and hopefully you’ll be back for 60.

[00:46:52] Richard Miller: Ah, hope so. Hope so. We’ll do another, do another trip around France.

[00:46:56] Annie Sargent: That would be wonderful. Merci beaucoup.

[00:46:59] Richard Miller: Merci, Annie.

[00:47:00] Annie Sargent: Au revoir.

[00:47:00] Richard Miller: Au revoir.


Thank you Patrons

Again, I want to thank my patrons for giving back and supporting the show. Patreon supporters get new episodes as soon as they are ready and ads free. If that sounds good to you, be like them, follow the link in the show notes. Patrons also get other exclusive rewards and you can see all of them at

New patrons

And a shout out this week to several new patrons, because I haven’t done this in a few weeks, Andrew Kandrevas, Thomas Davoren, Eve, Delmar and Jill Newman, Alexander L. Palenzuela, Liz Rutherford, Ellen O’Connell, Bradley Whaley, Dahlia Kanner, Megan Flaskamper, and Kathy.

Thank you all and to all my current patrons, it’s wonderful to have you on board in the community of Francophiles who keep this podcast going.

And to support Elyse, go to If you’ve been a patron for a year or more and you’re going to Paris, message me within Patreon and I’ll give you a free code to one of my VoiceMap Tours.

I will also offer a free tour code to new patrons who select yearly support at the $5 level.

Tours Reviews

There has been many new reviews of my self-guided tours on the VoiceMap app, let me share some of them.

Great tour. The GPS worked well and Annie is brilliant. Well, I picked that one because she says I’m brilliant. So I like it.

Fabulous tour. So easy to follow and great value for the money. The bus tours were charging 45 euros per person.

About my Latin Quarter tour: It was lovely to hear Annie guide me through the Latin Quarter after listening to so many podcasts before my holiday to France. The information was interesting, and the right amount. I went into some shops and bought some cheese, bread, and Muslim sweets. Haha. I stopped and had a glass along the way, as it was a beautiful afternoon. The final destination was perfect to people watch while I enjoyed the food I’d bought along the way. I would highly recommend. Thank You.

Another person says, Very local places to walk through and overall a very texturized experience of French life.

Someone who took all my tours in Paris wrote this after taking the last one. This was Montmartre in her case, or his, I don’t know.

We would have missed so much walking on our own. Plus, these tours are cheaper than the typical tip of an in person tour.

Also from someone who had to cancel our Itinerary Consult because there wasn’t enough time, I sent her a quick email asking if they had a good time and she responded: We had an amazing time, we bought two of your tours and loved it. I keep telling all my friends that this is the best way to travel. You are an amazing guide. I really enjoy your podcast. I will be coming back to France.

One last one: First VoiceMap use ever, and we thoroughly enjoyed your stories, your directions, and even your voice as we explored this amazing place.

Traveling from Australia makes this experience such an authentic French adventure. Thanks so much. C and L.

Wow, thank you so much everybody who left reviews and yes, my VoiceMap tours are an incredibly cost effective way to discover Paris and you can take them whenever you are ready, which is wonderful because when you travel things happen sometimes. You need an extra nap, you don’t want to rush and be ready for an in person tour. Well, this one you can do whenever you are ready.

My thanks also to Tamara Cocker for sending in a one time donation using the green button on that says ‘Tip Your Guide’. And podcast listeners get a big discount for buying these tours from my website. So head out to

Bootcamp 2024

All right. For my personal update, I want to give you a short Bootcamp 2024 update. It was fantastic. It was such a privilege to get to know 37 people who came to France to improve their French and see the Southwest.

Most of them, as you’ll hear when I release the full episode about it, said Toulouse was a wonderful surprise and they loved it.

Besides Toulouse, we also went to Albi, Mirepoix, we had a great wine and cheese tasting near Gaillac, at Canto Perlic. I cannot recommend this winery enough if you’re in the area. Stop at Canto Perlic in Gaillac, well, near Gaillac.

We also went to little known Saint-Bertrand-de-Comminges and we had a great pastoral experience, when the bus was surrounded by sheep.

We saw the Olympic flame come through Toulouse. We went to Pech Merle and Saint-Cirq-Lapopie where it rained cats and dogs, and Carcassonne. The weather has been overall very rainy in France this year. Apparently, 2024 is the second rainiest year for the last 65 years. A lot of rain. But we only got rained on really that one hour in Saint-Cirq-Lapopie.

Anyway, it was a very busy nine days because most of the participants also went to French class Monday through Friday, so there was not a lot of time to spare. But many still managed to do some shopping and visit museums and some attractions in Toulouse.

And you know what, after spending nine days with this group of wonderful people, it felt like family to me. I know that many of you say you’ve listened to me and Elyse for so long that you feel like we’re family, but the bootcamp is where the two of us get to know you and start feeling like you are family as well.

And it was wonderful. And we had a wonderful time. Wonderful group of people again this year. And you’ll hear the full report soon.

Now, I recorded my interview in a cafe that was particularly busy that day because the Olympic flame was coming through Toulouse, so hopefully Cristian, the wonderful person who edits the podcast, will perform a miracle again, and make the sound files, you know, usable. If not, I’ll call some of the bootcampers and we’ll chat again over Zoom.

Bootcamp 2025: It will happen but no details yet

Elyse and I will offer a bootcamp 2025, but I will not give you any details yet, or for probably several weeks, because we don’t know yet, we need to figure out what we’re going to do.

But it is going to happen for those of you who are hoping to join us in France for real in 2025.

Renting an Electric Car When Visiting France

For the magazine part of the podcast, I want to tell you why you should not rent an electric car, a full EV, when you visit France, unless you already drive an EV at home, and you are willing to jump through the hoops that it takes to pay for your charges.

A couple of boot campers arrived a couple of days early and they rented a car from the Toulouse airport. Sounds good, right? But they were told that the only car that was available was a full EV. They had no experience with driving an EV and clearly, the employee didn’t either because he gave them really bad information and things got hairy quickly.

A kind person got them out of their pickle, but they wasted a lot of time and they were very stressed for a few hours. I could not go rescue them myself because I was 200 kilometers away doing a day trip with other boot campers, so I felt really bad. I mean, they called me and I was trying to help over the phone, but there’s only so much you can do when you’re 200 kilometers away.

So here’s what you need to know. If you do not drive an electric car at home, please do not accept a full EV when you come to France. Once you drive electric at home, you will learn all the differences between the levels of charge, level one, level two, level three. You will understand that different chargers will get you pumped faster than others.

You will understand how a charge is supposed to go and it won’t be a big mystery if things don’t work because these ladies, I mean, they were like, well, it’s not working, but they had no idea why were they doing something wrong? Was the charger wrong? Was it the car? What was it? They didn’t know. So if you drive EV at home, you’ve done a few hundred charges.

You can probably, you have a good idea what’s going on. And you can talk to the people who are going to give you support as well.

But even people who drive electric at home need to know that most chargers in France do not take credit card yet. They will all upgrade to take credit cards eventually. But I would be surprised if it took less than two or three years, honestly. Some chargers are rolling those out. Most of them are not, at this time.

So how do we charge? Well, I charge mostly at home, but for the rest of the time, I use an RFID card that’s linked to my bank details. And I have several of these RFID cards. It’s like a charge card, you know, that you had in the old department stores, it just worked there, right? Well, it’s the same.

We have a charge card that just works to start chargers. And that RFID card doesn’t work at all chargers. Some of them, sometimes I have to swap cards, and I have a dozen of them, so it’s okay. You know, but I don’t expect visitors to have all of that. Why would you? Like, you’re just visiting, you don’t need all of this.

We can also charge using an app, but let me tell you, each one of these apps wants something different. Some of them, you forget to check a tiny box at the bottom and it, you know, you’ll spend a long time trying to just get the app to accept your credit card. So it just, it’s still clunky, okay?

I live in France, I mostly charge at home, like I said, I get home and I plug in and next morning it’s ready. But because I travel through France, I don’t mind jumping through all these hoops because you know, I do it once and then I’m good. But for you, a visitor, you don’t need to do this. Trust me, I cannot wait for the day when I can tell you that renting a full EV in France is easy and that you should do it.

I cannot wait, but we’re not there yet, and we might not be there for a while. As a rule, it is easier to charge on the freeway using a DC fast charger because most of these big machines take credit cards more and more. They’re getting upgraded faster because they charge more for them, for one thing, and they also get used a lot.

So there is phone support, including in English. My two bootcampers didn’t know this. They saw that their traction battery was going down and down, which it does if you’re driving at freeway speeds. And the guy who rented them the car just lied to them or didn’t know, I’m not sure.

They weren’t sure when the next service station would be, they didn’t know there wasn’t an advantage to going to a service station on the freeway. So they got off the freeway and they were trying to use a level two charger in a small town supermarket. So it’s good that we have them, but it’s not ideal when you’re trying to get back into the city.

It took them an hour to find someone who would help them figure it out. And the guy was not even an EV driver himself, he just helped them. And then they had to stay plugged in for two hours because it was a level two charger. Yeah. And I kept telling her, you need to find a charger with a cable attached.

And on the phone, she would say, but we have cables, the problem is not that we don’t have cables. I’m like, yes, yes, I know, but there’s a difference between when the cable is attached and when it’s not. And she, she didn’t get it. Why would she? She had never used an EV. Okay? So, don’t rent an EV yet.

If you want to tour around France in an EV, book a day trip with me. Voila! I don’t know what else to tell you for now.

My thanks to podcast editors Anne and Cristian Cotovan who produced the transcripts.

Next week on the podcast

Next week on the podcast, an episode about Coastal Wonders, an Historical Journey with Ken Ives. Ken shares his first time journey through the lesser explored northeast of France, emphasizing historical attractions, stunning landscapes, and unique culinary experiences. Highlights include the Opal Coast’s natural beauty, the relevance of World War sites, navigating the French healthcare system as tourists, because there are sometimes incidents. It was a great conversation.

[01:00:09] Annie Sargent:

And remember, patrons get an ad free version of this episode, click on the link in the show notes to be like them.

Thank you so much for listening and I hope you join me next time so we can look around France together.

Au revoir!


[01:00:23] Annie Sargent: The Join Us in France travel podcast is written, hosted, and produced by Annie Sargent and Copyright 2024 by AddictedToFrance. It is released under a Creative Commons, attribution, non-commercial, no derivatives license.


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Category: Family Travel